PHONG NHA CAVES

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30 January 2020

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Welcome to the guide to Phong Nha’s Caves. Beautiful caves and wild adventure awaits you in Phong Nha, Vietnam, the Cave Kingdom. Phong Nha’s Caves are some of the biggest, longest and most visually stunning in the world. Phong Nha is world renowned throughout for its adventure treks and caving exploration. The area boasts the breathtaking UNESCO heritage listed National Park, Phong Nha Ke-Bang. The National park and the areas surrounding Phong Nha are home to hundreds of caves, many of them now open for tourism, including the largest cave in the world, Hang Son Doong. Phong Nha Cave tours are a highlight of travel in Vietnam as many of them are protected and have been kept in their natural state. Phong Nha Cave tours vary in difficulty and price, so there is something for everyone when visiting the area.

In 1990, Deb and Howard Limbert, British Cavers, first came to Phong Nha in the hopes of discovering caves in the area. It was very hard to gain access to the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park area back then and they needed the support of Universities in Hanoi to get their team over. When they first arrived in Phong Nha, there was not much at all. Very little food, an impoverished and malnutritioned population that was coming out of a period of famine that caused the loss of a thousand lives. On the government’s insistence, they brought their own food on the journey. There wasn’t enough food in the area in those days to sell to visitors.

Back in the day, it took them a day to reach Phong Nha from Dong Hoi, and four days to reach Dong Hoi from Hanoi in an old yellow bus. They were the first tourists to come to Phong Nha-Ke Bang area and experienced a chaotic but welcoming reception. Back then there weren’t any roads or established paths. The area had wild tigers, guns bandits and bombs. Lot’s of UXO’s (Unexploded ordinance), Left behind after the “American War.”  Till this day there are still some tiger and cat sightings deep in Phong Nha national park, but they tend to stay away from the tourist trails that lead to the caves. Expeditions to explore the caves would take weeks and the British cavers continued to return to the area to map out their expeditions. Their team is responsible for the majority of the area’s cave discoveries.

Phong Nha Cave, Tien Son Cave

Phong Nha Cave is a majestic river cave and was the first cave in the area opened to tourists in 1997. Phong Nha Cave is seen by dragon boat – You arrive at the tourism centre to pay for your boat ticket and entrance fees to the caves, then local people will motor you up the river, where you will relax and enjoy the view of the stunning natural Karst Mountains and local river life. You will then be rowed through the cave.

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Phong Nha Caves

The second cave, Tien Son, is located above Phong Nha Cave. It is a smaller cave but has very interesting formations. Because of the 500 odd stairs to get up to the cave, you are afforded amazing views of the local area, and some peace and quiet as not everyone can be bothered making the journey! There are many drink stops along the way so we highly recommend our guests see this cave as it can be quite special to experience the cave with no one else around. It is very easy to visit Phong Nha Cave and the trip is a self-guided one. Guests staying with us should listen to the 9AM history talk to hear all about the caves interesting history and its vital importance during the American War.

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Tien Son Cave

Pro tip: The Phong Nha cave experience takes around 2 and a half to 3 and a half hours to complete, depending on whether you visit both caves. To visit the caves you need to go to the tourism centre in Phong Nha, buy a boat ticket, and pay the entrance fees for the caves.
Phong Nha Cave 150,000VND
Tien Son Cave 80,000VND
Boat Ticket 1 cave 360,000VND, 2 caves 400,000VND (boat price can be shared with up to 12 people)

8 Lady Cave

Tam Co Cave (The Eight Lady Cave) is located on Highway 20, which is part of the legendary Truong Son trail. This cave bore witness to the sacrifices of 8 volunteer youths during the American war and their sacrifices have become the symbol of patriotism. During the American War, the area was the target of fierce aerial bombardments to stop the northern reinforcements and disrupt supply routes to the southern front-line and marked terrible bloodshed of the volunteers during their attempt to keep the transport route clear.

On November 14, 1972, bombs dropped down on the area and a huge stone of 1000 tons collapsed onto the cave, trapping the 8 volunteers inside the cave. After nine days of failed attempts, the volunteers could not be saved and perished, entombed inside the cave. Today, Tam Co cave (Eight Lady cave) has become a spiritual tourism destination for travelers.

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8 Lady Cave

Pro tip: 8 Lady cave is free to visit but is located deep inside the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. You can visit the cave by doing a National Park tour which can be easily arranged at the Farmstay. You can also visit the cave via Easy Rider service or motorbike rental.

Paradise Cave

Thiên Đường Cave (Paradise Cave) is a cave in Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, 60 km northwest of Đồng Hới city. Thiên Đường Cave is located on an elevation of 200 meters above the sea level, near the west branch of Ho Chi Minh Highway. The cave was discovered by a local man in 2005 and the first 5km of this cave was explored by the British Cave Research Association in 2005, the whole 31km was explored and publicly announced by the British cave explorers.

This cave is 31km long, longer than Phong Nha Cave which had been considered the longest cave in this national park. The parameters of the cave reach 72m in height and 150m in width. The limestone formations are spectacular and mammoth and as you view them, many of them will start resembling different animals and even people. The British cave explorers were impressed by the beautiful and spectacular stalactites and stalagmites inside this cave and they named it Paradise Cave.

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Paradise Cave

Pro tip: Paradise Cave is open for tourism. You can visit the cave by doing a National Park tour which can be easily arranged at the Farmstay. You can also do a special 7km Paradise cave tour to reach a sunlit opening in the doline chamber of the cave. You can visit the cave by yourself via Easy Rider service or motorbike rental. 

When visiting solo, the entrance fee for the cave is 250,000VND, and electric buggies can be hired for 100,000VND to complete the journey from the ticketing booth to the base of the cave. From the base of the cave to its actual entrance, guests must climb 500 stairs, or take the accessibility ramps to zig-zag their way to the top. The basic entrance fee allows guests to walk 1km inside the cave in board walked and lit up areas of the cave. The 7km tour delves deeper and must be booked prior to visiting the cave.

Dark Cave

Hang Toi (Dark Cave) is located in Phong Nha Ke-Bang National Park. Situated conveniently as the last stop on the clockwise National Park Loop, it is the action-packed adventure cave of the national park. A visit to the dark cave will have you zip-lining over a river, swimming into the mouth of the cave, walking through the dark cave with a head torch to illuminate the way, having a mud bath and mud fight in the buoyant mud baths of the cave and then washing clean with a swim in the lake inside the cave.

You will then kayak back across the river to test your strength on the various obstacle courses and open zip lines. The Dark cave was discovered in 1990 and in 2014 the longest zip line in Vietnam was built at the cave.

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Dark Cave

Pro tip: Dark Cave is open for tourism and is the most entertaining Phong Nha Cave to visit. You can go to the cave by doing a National Park tour which can be swiftly arranged at the Farmstay. You can visit the cave by yourself via Easy Rider service or motorbike rental.
When visiting solo, the entrance fee for the cave is 450,000VND. There is a weight restriction for the zipline 40-90kgs. Take dark coloured swimwear to avoid having your bathing suit stained by the mud!

E Cave

E Cave is located in the Phong Nha Ke-Bang National Park and can only be accessed by doing the Abandoned Valley Tour. Found to be 736m long, among all the Phong Nha Cave tours, Hang E is a cave that is one long swim! During its complete length, only one resting spot can be found where you may get out of the water. The passage is usually 10-15m and 5m high which inevitably ends in a sump.

Hang E is the feeder to Dark Cave (Hang Toi) and both caves take an extremely large amount of water in the wet season when Hang Phong Nha river sink can’t take the volume of water. The river sink backs up and the water after rising over 15m in this huge river valley flows towards Hang E and both this cave and Dark Cave then become part of the Phong Nha Cave system. The main appeals of Hang E are the pristine river, the endlessly blue natural spring, and the total isolation you can experience here. It’s easy to spot the inspiration for its alternative name: ‘Water Palace’.

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Hang E Cave

Pro tip: To visit Hang E, book an Abandoned Valley tour from our friendly team. The Abandoned Valley tour happens to be one of the toughest one-day treks you can do in Phong Nha, with moderate to difficult terrain and a heavy focus on primary jungle trekking. You’ll cover 12kms of trail and swim in E Cave.

Hang Over Cave

Don’t be fooled by its name, Hang Over is a serious cave located deep in the Phong Nha Ke-Bang National Park. The cave was named Hang Over because during the first expedition one of the team members drank too much and had a very serious hangover… seriously.

To visit Hang Over you need to book a tour to Hang Pygmy, which is a 2-day 1-night adventure not for the faint-hearted. Hang Over used to be part of Hang Pygmy, but the cave collapsed and Hang Over’s entrances opened up. Light has seeped into the entrances of the cave, allowing the jungle to come to life amongst the debris of the collapsed cave.

Exploring the depths of this cave is not something that anyone should do alone, as its depths sprawl like a maze and it is easy to get lost. There are many eerie formations, stalactites, stalagmites, speleothems and pools that make up the otherworldly grotto found inside. Public access to this cave started in 2017, so it’s fairly new among Phong Nha Cave tours.

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Hang Over Cave

Pro tip: To visit Hang Over, book a Hang Pygmy 2 Day 1 Night tour from our friendly team. The Hang Pygmy tour is one of the wildest adventures you can have in Vietnam. For more information on Hang Pygmy, see its section below. It takes about an hour to trek through Hang Over cave, shortly after you reach Hang Pygmy.

Hang Vom Cave

The Hang Vom system consists of a dry cave and a wet cave. During the American war the cave was inhabited by locals who lived inside on platforms and enclaves at various heights. The cave was discovered in 1992 by British cavers and on the first expedition Cham writing was found on one of the walls of the cave. This lead the expedition to believe that local people knew about the location of the cave.

After speaking to local people in Phong Nha, locals were able to show the explorers the ideal route to reach the cave. Hang Vom was once considered one of the longest cave systems in the world at 31.4kms and is renowned for its beautiful formations.

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Hang Vom Cave

Pro tip: To get to Hang Vom, guests must book a 1 Day Hang Vom challenge or Hang Vom 2 Days tour with our Farmstay team. These two tours are quite challenging and are fully actioned packed. For more information please see the tour menu.

Tra Ang Cave

One of the most stubborn caves to get into due to its rugged extremely sharp and uneven opening leading into it. But once you’ve made your way inside the reward is totally worth all of the struggle involved in making it there.

Swimming in a subterranean cavern-like something out of Journey to the Center of the Earth, and it’s highly recommended that you’re above the age of 10 for this cave. It’s a bit tough for small children to move from boulder to boulder near the opening of the cave.

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Tra Ang Cave

Pro tip: To visit Tra Ang Cave, guests can do a National Park tour. The Ma Da Valley trek also visits the cave. The National park tour and Ma Da valley trek are both suitable for families. The National Park tour more so though. Contact our staff to start your adventure!

Elephant Cave

Elephant Cave is a dry cave that is visited along with Ma Da Valley. Located in the heart of the protected zone of Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, the Elephant Cave makes for a perfect trek of moderate difficulty. The hike to the entrance is a bit challenging but none the less rewarding.

The climb to the Elephant Cave is uphill and the most difficult part takes about 20 minutes of hiking through the jungle. After exploring and learning the history of the Elephant Cave, you will continue hiking through the jungle to reach Ma Da Valley. There, you will be rewarded with a chance to swim in Ma Da Crystal Lake, which will be a blessing after hiking in the heat. After this so necessary refreshment, you will continue your way to visit Tra Ang Cave.

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Elephant Cave

Pro tip: To reach Elephant cave, guests must do a Ma Da Valley trek. To visit Ma Da Valley please contact our team. The Ma Da valley trek is appropriate for families with children aged 12 and above. The trail is medium in difficulty and there is a lot of swimming throughout the day.

Hang Tien Cave

Hang Tien is one of the most visually stunning caves available for tourists among the number of other Phong Nha Cave tours. It has a ‘moon surface’ roof from thousands of years of water eroding the the cave. The cave is known as Fairy Cave and locals were very superstitious about entering the cave, from fear of spirits.

Hang Tien is located in Tan Hoa, 70km from Phong Nha and to visit you must go on a Hang Tien Discovery tour. The tour is of moderate difficulty and takes you to a lagoon where you go swimming before returning home.

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Hang Tien Cave

Tu Lan Cave System

Tu Lan Caves (Tú Làn) – a system of more than 10 wet and dry caves (Rat, Hang Ton, Ken Cave and others) located 70 km from Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, near the village of Tan Hoa. There are different routes to the Tu Lan Cave System that take 1, 2, 3 or 4 days. The route begins and ends in Tan Hoa Village, an hour and a half drive from Phong Nha Village.

The trek to Tu Lan is not easy and your tour will be filled with activities: you will visit the caves of Tu Lan, Hang Ken, Hang Kim, trudge through the wild trails in the jungle, swim under the waterfalls and in the caves, and spend the night in hammocks in the open air. On the entire route you will be accompanied by local English-speaking guides, as well as porters who will provide the camp with everything you need. As a rule, all porters are locals from Tan Hoa village where the route begins and ends.

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Tu Lan Cave

Pro tip: If you are limited to a two-week vacation, then you need to book a trip in advance and further adjust the rest of the program for these dates. You can visit Tu Lan cave system only as a part of organized tours. There is an age limit – children under 16 years old cannot participate in expeditions. Tours are available only from mid-November to mid-September (in October, caves are closed to the public). To visit Tu Lan, contact our staff!

Ruc Mon Cave System

The Ruc Mon cave system is one of the newest cave systems to be discovered in the area. One entrance is at the Laos border and another is near the entrance of the Phong Nha Ke-Bang National Park. The Cave stretches for 17km in length and was discovered in 2016.

The cave is named after the indigenous people who lived in it during the 1980’s. In 2017, the cave was opened for tourism and has dry and wet sections. The cave has 3 levels and ladders have been installed so tourists can explore inside safely.

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Ruc Mon Cave

Pro tip: To visit Ruc Mon System you have to book a tour and you can do so through us. Trips to the Ruc Mon cave system tend to lean on the more adventurous side, and require good physical fitness.

Hang Va Cave

Part of Phong Nha Cave System in Phong Nha, is home to some of the most unique formations on earth and is easily one of the most valued caves in the world. It’s located quite close to the famous Son Doong Cave “the largest cave in the world” and is thought to be part of the same system as well as they’re not necessarily connected but they share the same underground water flow.

After venturing into Hang Va we’ve been able to see that some of the stalactites and stalagmites in here are even more stunning than those in Son Doong Cave.

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Hang Va Cave

Pro tip: Can only be accessed with a tour and is considered one of the more difficult and challenging tour as it involves rock scrambling, bouldering and rope-traversing, 10km trekking, 3km caving, and wading through underground water!

Hang En Cave

The world’s 3rd largest cave Hang En aka Swallow Cave is located in Phong Nha -Ke Bang National Park is quickly becoming one of the must-see places in all of Vietnam. Not only will the size and natural beauty of it leave you astounded, but the price point to get to this one is about 1/10 of what you’d spend to make it to Son Doong!

This adventure will take you 2 days and 1 night to do with a stop in the minority Ban Doong Village, set amongst the limestone mountains leaving you in complete and utter awe, not to mention you’re in the picture-perfect jungle, with some of the most skilled porters made up of local jungle men! You must be physically fit and active to be able to do this as it can be a bit strenuous at times, so for that you’ll have to be aged 16+ to be able to be guided.

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Hang En Cave

Pro tip: A trip to Hang En is for many people, a highlight of their time in Vietnam. The campsite on the beach in the cave offers a stunning scene, photographers paradise!

Hang Pygmy

Hang Pygmy is the 4th largest cave in the world. It was named Pygmy because people look like ants when photographs are taken inside the cavern. The cave was discovered in 1997 and British cavers found evidence that the cave had been lived in. During the war there was a school inside the cave and the army used it as a base. The cave was the target of bombings and one bomb exploded inside the cave. No one was injured but a pig was killed and that night everyone ate pig.

Hang Over leads to Hang Pygmy and both caves are part of the Tiger Cave system. Hang Pygmy is deep inside the national park and the journey to the cave is one of the toughest and most arduous to attempt. Visiting Hang Pygmy is highlight of Vietnam, and one of the best caves to camp in.

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Hang Pygmy Cave

Pro tip: To visit Hang Pygmy, you must do a Hang Pygmy 2 days 1 night tour. You are required to sleep in the cave overnight. To find out more information about this tour please contact us. You can also check out our blog post on Hang Pygmy.

Tiger Cave System

The Tiger Cave is named as such because on the first morning of waking up in the cave, explorers found massive tiger prints near their campsite. The cave was discovered in 1997 by british explorers and tours started running in 2016. The Tiger Cave system is made up of Hang Over, Hang Pygmy, Tiger Cave and the Kong Collapse. Kong Collapse is an opening in the cave where the roof have collapsed, allowing for light to enter the cave and for the jungle to grow.

The system is found deep within Phong Nha Ke-Bang National park and is one of the most authentic treks available. The trek is very challenging and a high fitness level is required for the scrambling, abseiling and climbing. Very few people have visited these caves so you can expect to see wild untouched nature.

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Tiger Cave System

Pro tip: To visit Tiger Cave, you must join a Tiger Cave Series expedition, 3 days 2 nights. This journey is very challenging and ranked as strenuous in difficulty. To go on the adventure of a lifetime, contact our staff!

Son Doong Cave

The Largest Cave in the World aka “The Great Wall of Vietnam” Son Doong’s largest chamber is over five kilometers long, over 200 meters high and 150 meters wide.
Son Doong was discovered by a local in 1991. However, until April 2009, little was known about Son Doong (before the expedition of the British Speleological Association led by Howard and Deb Limbert). Locals were afraid of the sounds emanating from the cave (they were produced by an underground river), so they tried not to get close to it.

It is believed that the stalagmites with a height of 80 m, found here, are the highest in the world. Exploration of the Son Doong in Vietnam began in 2009-2010, and tourist groups began to be admitted only in 2013. The path to Son Doong runs through the village of Ban Doong and the neighboring Hang En “Swallow Cave”
Son Doong is not only famous for its enormous size, but it’s also a unique cave in Vietnam with its own ecosystem: light penetrates into it giving it a rich diversity of flora and fauna.

The expedition members spotted an intact jungle with the biodiversity untouched by humans and to honor the extraordinary natural beauty of the jungle, the cave experts have called it “the Garden of Eden”.

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Son Doong Cave

Pro tip:You can visit the largest cave in the world only as part of an expedition. To become a member you will need 4 days (3 nights) and 3,000 dollars. Another mandatory requirement is to be no younger than 18 years. Expeditions are held only from January to August in small groups up to 10 people and there is a waitlist, so book in advance.

For any inquiries about the caves and caving tours available in Phong Nha, please contact us!

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