Phong Nha Cave Tours: Explore Central Vietnam’s UNESCO Wonders

Get ready to unleash your inner adventurer in the wild heart of Quang Binh Province, Central Vietnam. 

Phong Nha, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a treasure trove of natural wonders, most well known for its exhilarating caving adventures. With a length of over 44.5 km, the Phong Nha Cave stands as the most famous system, with tour boats able to penetrate inside to a distance of 1,500 m, according to UNESCO. Additionally, the Son Doong Cave, first explored in 2009, is believed to contain the world’s largest cave passage in terms of diameter and continuity.

Phong Nha is one of the most exquisite escapes into nature with its karst mountains, rejuvenating rivers, and dense jungles that make you feel like you’ve stumbled into a real-life paradise. Or the movie set of King Kong! 

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Sunset in Phong Nha, Quang Binh. Photo by VIA Ambassador Etienne Bossot

Getting there is part of the adventure! How to reach Phong Nha

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A group of farmers on a field near Phong Nha – Ke Bang. Photo by VIA Ambassador Etienne Bossot
  • Fly from Hanoi or HCMC or any local Airport to Dong Hoi Airport and Taxi to Accommodation in Phong Nha.
  • Train to Dong Hoi and Taxi to Accommodation in Phong Nha. (Check the local train schedule in advance to maximise your time in Phong Nha)
  • Local Bus to Dong Hoi and Pickup from Accommodation in Phong Nha. (Ask your accomodation to help you book this)
  • Private Car from nearby Destinations (Hue, Da Nang, Hoi An) to the doorstep of your Phong Nha stay! (Your no fuss option)

No matter how you roll, Phong Nha’s calling, and it’s time to answer.

Incredible Caves in Phong Nha

According to UNESCO, there are over 300 caves and grottoes in the Phong Nha National Park, part of the larger Phong Nha region in Vietnam. These caves, many of which are yet to be fully explored, contribute to the area’s unique geological and ecological significance.

Key caves for Phong Nha tours

1. Phong Nha Cave

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Son river is the main way for passengers to go to Phong Nha cave. Photo by VIA Ambassador Etienne Bossot

Draped with magnificent limestone formations and boasting spectacular underground rivers, Phong Nha Cave has a rich history that dates back centuries. Its fame soared in the 19th century under the watchful eyes of French archaeologists. Stretching an impressive 7,729 meters, this natural wonder comprises 14 breathtaking grottoes and harbors a sprawling 13,969-meter underground river, proudly claiming its place among the world’s longest subterranean rivers. (Source: Phong Nha Cave – UNESCO World Heritage Centre)

Experience: Get lost in a mesmerizing, peaceful, scenic boat ride along the Phong Nha River. As you float through Phong Nha town, you’ll be surrounded by breathtaking karst mountains covered in lush vegetation. Take a deep breath of fresh air and enjoy the clear blue skies as you approach Phong Nha Cave. You may need to switch to a different boat, or the driver may turn off the engine and paddle through the underground cave system. 

Get there: Visit the Phong Nha Tourism Centre to get your ticket. Head to the jetty near the bus stop to book your dragon boat ride. 

Pro tip: The Phong Nha cave entrance fee is 150,000 VND ($7) per person. A boat is required to access the cave and can be hired for 360,000 VND shared between up to 12 passengers. Allocate at least 2.5 hours for a round trip.

2. Paradise Cave: Động Thiên Đường

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Thiên Đường Cave. Photo by Viet Sense Travel

Discover Paradise Cave in Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park. Unearthed in 2005 and explored by the British Cave Research Association in 2010, this natural wonder boasts vast chambers adorned with thousands of stalactites, creating an ethereal landscape.

Experience: Picturesque hike through Paradise Cave’s established walking paths, allowing you to marvel at the intricate formations of stalactites and other natural wonders. Discover the cave’s geological and historical significance through guided tours, enhancing your overall experience.

Get there: Paradise Cavelies in the National Park. It’s often included in Tour Packages. However, if you only wish to visit this cave alone, you can contact the Phong Nha Tourism Centre to plan your visit. For the extra adventurous spirit, you should drive along the loop on your motorbike and visit this cave alone. Here’s the Google Maps location to help you on your expedition: Google Maps link to Paradise Cave.

Pro tip: Wear comfy clothes and shoes to climb the stairs to reach Paradise Cave. Choose a tour or ask your accommodation for entrance options.

3. Dark Cave (Hang Tối)

Hang Tối (Dark Cave).
Hang Tối (Dark Cave). Photo by Quảng Bình travel

Experience the thrill of adventure at the Dark Cave Phong Nha, surrounded by the serenity of the turquoise-blue Chay River, which flows from deep within the mountains. The cave is encompassed by breathtaking limestone mountains, verdant jungle, stunning views of lush foliage, and captivating limestone formations on both sides of the riverbank.

Experience: Prepare for an exciting adventure through Dark Cave’s intriguing geological formations with ziplining, mud bath, and kayaking. Don your headlamps or torches, and brace yourself for an unforgettable journey through the cave’s dark chambers and underground river.

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Mud bath in Dark Cave. Photo by Explore Vietnam

Get there: Many Day Tours include the exciting Dark Cave adventure! However, if you prefer to venture by bike and visit it alone, it’s possible and extremely easy to find! You can take a scenic ride along what locals call the Phong Nha Ka Bang “Loop” to the Dark Cave and pay the entrance fee on arrival. There’s even a nearby restaurant to refuel after your adventures! Here’s the Google Maps Link.

Pro tip: there will be mud! Pack your swimsuit and sandals (white clothing is not recommended!) Don’t worry; there are lockers to store your belongings.

4. Son Doong Cave

This beauty holds the distinguished title of being the largest cave in the world by volume. This Phong Nha cave was discovered by Ho Khanh in 1990, its measurements were officially surveyed by the British-Vietnam Cave Expedition team, led by Howard Limbert, in 2009. With an impressive volume of 38.5 million m3, its status was solidified by the endorsement of esteemed geologists, including Dr. Tony Waltham.

In 2009, National Geographic declared it as the largest natural limestone cave globally. Later, in 2013, the Guinness World Records officially recognized it as the world’s largest natural cave.

Location: Situated within the Phong Nha National Park, Son Doong Cave is approximately 70 km northwest of Dong Hoi, the capital of Quang Binh Province, Vietnam. It is located a significant distance from Phong Nha Town, requiring a specific trekking journey to reach the cave’s stunning chambers.

Experience & Booking: Join the unparalleled Hang Son Doong 4-day, 3-night trekking journey to explore the wonders of the world’s largest cave in Vietnam for $3000. Oxalis is the only company licensed to facilitate this unique Phong Nha Cave Tour, allowing tourists to embark on an unforgettable adventure through Son Doong Cave, within the vast Phong Nha Cave System.

5. Hang Tien Cave: Fairy Cave

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Tiên Cave. Photo by VnExpress

Quang Binh province is a well-known destination for adventure enthusiasts, and this spot is a favorite. Lose yourself amid the towering mountains and dense forests while exploring the area. If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, trek through lush jungles, babbling streams, and rugged terrain before reaching the cave. The cave offers a glimpse of breathtaking stalactite columns without the need to venture deep inside.

Location: Hang Tien Cave is in Cao Quang Commune, Tuyen Hoa District, about 70 kilometers northwest of Dong Hoi City in Quang Binh Province. Even though it is not located in Phong Nha, it is still considered one of the major attractions in the Phong Nha region. The distance between Phong Nha and Hang Tien Cave is approximately 70 kilometers, and it takes around 1.5 to 2 hours to reach the cave by Car.

Experience: Experience the thrill of a lifetime as you embark on a trek through Hang Tien Cave’s enchanting terrain, boasting awe-inspiring stalactites. Prepare for a journey that includes hill climbing, refreshing swims in natural lakes, and exhilarating caving adventures, making for an unforgettable escapade into the heart of nature.

Pro Tip: Before embarking on the adventure in Hang Tien Cave (Fairy Cave), ensure you’re in good physical condition and equipped with all the necessary hiking essentials. For a safe and enjoyable experience, consider exploring the cave with a trusted tour operators like Oxalis Adventure, or Phong Nha Caves Tour Centre, known for their expertise in organizing guided tours in the Quang Binh Province. They can offer guidance and support throughout your journey, ensuring a memorable and secure exploration of the captivating Hang Tien Cave.

6. Hang Va Cave (Kingdom of Karst Cave)

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Hang Va cave. Photo by Oxalis Adventure

Hang Va Cave, discovered in 2012, is known for its unique tower cones and stunning cave formations, such as stalactites, stalagmites, and underground pools. Adventure seekers are in for an unforgettable experience at Hang Va.

Experience: The expedition involves a cave trekking tour and the use of safety equipment to navigate the technical sections. The breathtaking cave photography, fascinating geomorphological insights, and the opportunity to camp amidst the limestone mountains make this a must-visit destination for true explorers.

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Hang Va Cave (Kingdom of Karst Cave). Photo by Oxalis Adventure

Location: Hang Va, just 50m from the world’s largest cave, Hang Son Doong, suggests a potential hydrological connection between the two caves based on geological characteristics.

New Discovery: Recently, scientists at the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources unveiled the discovery of a new fish species, Speolapeo hokhanhi, endemic to the cave system in Quảng Bình Province. The species was found within the confines of Hang Va Cave, adding to the richness of the area’s unique biodiversity.

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Photo on a Speolapeo Hokhanhi

Pro tip: Oxalis Adventure Company is the only authorized operator in Quang Binh Province for the Hang Cave Va Expedition. This annual expedition is limited to 700-800 customers.

7. Hang En Cave

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Hang En cave. Photo by Andrew Svk

Nestled in the stunning landscape of Phong Nha National Park, this wonder was discovered by British cavers in 1994. Known for its vast chambers and captivating underground skylights, the cave features a large passage running through a limestone mountain, with three entrances that tower up to 110 meters high. Inside, you’ll find intriguing fossils, picturesque views, and a serene stream meandering through the cave. Hang En has garnered global recognition, appearing in publications such as National Geographic and The New York Times and even gracing the screen in the Hollywood film “Pan: In the Neverland.” Prepare to be enchanted by the sheer magnificence and natural beauty of this Cave.

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Photo by Thông Tấn Xã Việt Nam

Experience: Exploring Hang En Cave involves an exhilarating trek through dense jungle, lush valleys, and the Ban Doong minority village—a remote tribal settlement without access to electricity or roads. The journey includes an overnight stay at a campsite within the cave or the captivating minority village, providing an immersive experience. Please note that visiting this Cave is only possible through guided tours.

Location: Hang En Cave shares its location with the famous Hang Son Doong, both of which have been featured in a stunning National Geographic photo spread. Located within the heart of the Phong Nha National Park, the cave offers an unforgettable adventure amid the region’s breathtaking natural beauty.

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Photo by Oxalis Adventure

Pro Tip: Plan your Hang En Cave tour from Phong Nha between December and September each year to make the most of the 2-day and 1-night journey through the jungle, local villages and caves.

Book Your One Day Phong Nha Cave Tour With Vietnam Is Awesome

1. Tour Phong Nha: Tra Ang 1-Day Excursion

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Photo by guest from Tra Ang tour by VIA.

Check out the amazing Tra Ang Cave in Phong Nha with the Jungle Boss Tra Ang Excursion. Get ready to be blown away by the unspoiled beauty of the secluded Tra Ang Valley, where you can relax and enjoy the serene river landscapes and tropical rainforests. The trek is fairly easy, and you’re guaranteed to have an unforgettable experience!

Location Highlights:

  • Ho Chi Minh Trail: The Ho Chi Minh Trail was a vital supply network for the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War, transporting troops and supplies through rugged terrain and tropical jungles. Today, its historical significance and scenic landscapes attract tourists and adventurers.
  • Tra Ang Water Cave (Hang Tả Ông): Experience the joy of refreshingly swimming in the majestic waters of Tra Ang Water Cave, located deep within the Ma Da Valley. For the adventure, you will be provided with head torches and life vests to swim into the depths of this cave. Not for those who are afraid of the dark!
  • Tra Ang River: The Tra Ang River in Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park is home to diverse aquatic life and thriving ecosystems. Its clear, unpolluted waters support fish, mollusks, and more, contributing to the park’s rich biodiversity. This peaceful river provides an ideal setting for eco-tourism and kayaking, allowing visitors to connect with the park’s pristine wilderness. It’s also a vital water source for local vegetation, nurturing a variety of wildlife.

Tour Experience: Trek through the Ho Chi Minh trail, Swim through Tra Ang Cave’s darkness, Kayak along the tranquil Tra Ang River, delicious BBQ lunch in the lush greenery of Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park. Professional tour guide, porter team, and trekking gear provided. 

2. Tour Phong Nha: Elephant Cave & Ma Da Valley Jungle Trek

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Elephant Cave. Photo by Phong Nha Locals

Introduction: Want to explore deep and ancient cave networks, sparkling underground rivers and lakes, and the lush jungles and river valleys of Central Vietnam?

Location Highlights:

  • Elephant Cave (Hang Vòi Phượng): This 300-meter-long cave, known for its impressive 60-meter height, offers a spectacular view that rewards the adventurous trek through the jungles of Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park. Its Vietnamese name is Hang Vòi Phượng.
  • Tra Ang Water Cave (Hang Tả Ông)
  • Ma Da Crystal Lake is a stunningly clear lake surrounded by lush jungle and towering limestone formations. It offers a tranquil spot for swimming and relaxation, with pristine waters and captivating natural beauty.

Experience: Jungle Trekking in Ho Chi Minh Trail, Elephant Cave Exploration, Swimming in Ma Da Valley, Swimming into Tra Ang Water Cave (optional), Delicious BBQ Lunch surrounded by breathtaking landscapes. Professional guide, porters, and gear provided.

Beyond the Caves – Top Experiences in Phong Nha

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A farmer on his peanut field in Phong Nha, Quang Binh. Photo by VIA Ambassador Etienne Bossot

1. Relax and Play at Phong Nha Funky Beach: An absolute must-visit, offering an idyllic setting along the river just a short drive from the town center. The highlight? Witnessing the breathtaking sunset against the picturesque backdrop. This vibrant local spot promises exciting local activities, like crossing the thrilling monkey bridges, engaging in various water activities, learning to paddle local basket boats “Thuyền thúng,” and enjoying a refreshing swim in the invigorating river waters.

The “river beach” has a vibrant bar built from bamboo, which serves refreshing beers, coconuts, and authentic, fresh, and delicious Vietnamese dishes! The tasteful decor, funny signposts, inviting hammocks suspended over the tranquil river, and immaculate facilities (clean bathrooms with showers and changing rooms) make this an extremely memorable experience! It’s an ideal escape for families, large groups, or couples seeking a leisurely riverside retreat or light-hearted fun.

2. Take a joy ride: Hire a bike at Thang’s Phong Nha Riders (ĐT20, Sơn Trạch, Bố Trạch, Quảng Bình, Vietnam) and spend the day riding the Phong Nha Loop, stopping at Botanical Gardens and Dark Cave along the way! Additional sites along the way are: Ozo Park, The Ho Chi Minh Trial bridge, and the Paradise Cave Tour – which you can visit independently. See the route here.

3. Get Local and Visit the Hidden Gems of Bong Lai Valley: Drive through cultural landscapes and venture past The Duck Stop and The Pub With Cold Beer. The Duck stop has delicious Banh Xeo and interesting activities like swimming with Water Buffalo! See the Google Maps route here.

4. Relax & Unwind: At your homestay, farm stay, eco-retreat, or hotel. 

5. Get wild: Do a pub crawl if you want to be part of the backpacking scene.

6. Wine & Dine: Eat a fantastic local meal along the riverbank. Or if you’re feeling fancy? We highly recommend – Victory Road Villas Restaurant for the best wine list in town and delicious food. 

Phong Nha Cave Tours Conclusion

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A woman picking and selecting peanuts in Phong Nha, Quang Binh. Photo by VIA Ambassador Etienne Bossot

As you plan your adventurous getaway to Phong Nha, immerse yourself in the natural wonders and thrilling experiences this UNESCO World Heritage Site offers. The ultimate trekking and caving adventure with Vietnam is Awesome Phong Nha Cave tours on the Tra Ang 1-Day Excursion and Elephant Cave & Ma Da Valley Jungle Trek

For the independent sole, explore Phong Nha Caves like the Dark Cave & Paradise Cave as you cruise around the Phong Nha loop, soaking up the lush, impressive nature of this attractive destination. 

Phong Nha has a wealth of unforgettable experiences waiting for you to discover! The stunning karst mountains, serene rivers, and dense jungles make Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park a haven for nature enthusiasts and adventurers! If it’s a trekking adventure you craving, join a professional trekking tour to experience the impressive caves and discover the magical world of Hang En, Hang Va, Son Doong, or Tu Lan caves with Oxalis Adventure Company.

If it’s a cultural experience you’re looking for, visit our 7 Beyond the Caves – Top Experiences in Phong Nha. Or simply relaxing and unwinding at your chosen accommodation, soaking up the majestic nature of Phong Nha!

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A morning in Quang Binh. Photo by VIA Ambassador Etienne Bossot

Ready to visit Phong Nha? Here’s some more valuable resources for you:

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Written by Lauren Tracy
Content Ambassador - Vietnam Is Awesome
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Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, Lauren has been living in Vietnam for the past 8 years. Her passion for the travel industry and wealth of experience has led her to become the Content Ambassador at Vietnam Is Awesome.