Phong Nha is a Vietnamese national park where we can find the oldest karst mountains in Asia, dating back 400 million years ago. The National Park was established to protect one of the largest karst sites in the world, home to some 100 caves. Tourism in Phong Nha is not yet fully developed, since the surrounding caves were only opened to the public in 2011, and since 2003 the national park has been under UNESCO protection. The main event in the national park is the 500 m long street where most of the hostels, restaurants and shops are located.
Boat ride inside Phong Nha Cave
Phong Nha Cave is the most easily accessible and, according to many, one of the most beautiful caves in the national park. You can reach the cave by boat from the city center. To see the caves, it is necessary to buy a ticket and pay for the boat. The entrance fee will cost 150,000 VND (6.60 €), and for the boat 320,000 VND (12 €). Price is for the entire boat, which accepts 14 people. We recommend that you wait for the rest of the tourists before you buy your ticket and agree to share the cost of the boat ride.
The ride to the cave takes about 20 minutes. Phong Nha Cave is special because boat takes us one kilometer inside the cave. Halfway back they disembark us on a sandy beach inside the cave. On the way to the exit we can admire the beautiful Karst world with huge stalagmites and stalactites. On the way out, we board our boat again, taking us back to town.
Song Dong – the largest cave in the world
The cave Dong Song was accidentally discovered by a local resident in 2001, and it was explored in 2009 by the British group of cavers. The cave has been open to the public since 2013, but to see it, it will take deep reach into the wallet, as the entrance fee is $ 3,000. Song Dong Cave is the largest cave in the world so large that it has its own ecosystem and climate. The cave is 9 km long, 150 m wide and 200 m high. For a better idea, they say the cave is big as the whole Manhattan and that a two-deck plane could fly through it.
Paradise cave and Dark Cave
The National Park offers many caves to see. In addition to Phong Nha Cave, Paradise and Dark Cave are the most frequently visited by travelers. If you only have one day available, visit the Paradise cave. You can arrange the tour at the local agency, or you can choose a cheaper option and view the cave by your own. It will cost 250,000 VND (9.40 €) for a visit. For a more active tour of the cave, choose the Dark Cave tour, which includes ziplines, cayaking and swimming in the cave. It is not possible to visit this cave on your own, so book your trip with one of the many agencies. It will cost you about 350,000 VND (13 €) per person.
How to get to Phong Nha National Park?
Phong Nha is increasingly attracting tourists who visit it from all over Vietnam, so it won’t be a problem how to get here. We came from Ninh Binh by night bus and we paid 300,000 VND (12 €) per person for transportation. Bus leaves around 8 pm from Ninh Binh and arrives to Phong Nha around 4 am. Be sure that you will get off the bus in Phong Nha.
Where to sleep?
There are quite a few hostels and hotels on main street that offer accommodations. We stayed at Gold Plus Hotel and the room with breakfast cost us VND 230,000 (8.70 €) for 1 night. If you take the night bus to Phong Nha, you will arrive in the city around 4am, so if you book a room in advance, try to agree with the hotel for the early check into the room.
Where from Phong Nha?
Due to the rainy season and constant rain, we shortened our visit in Phong Nha to one day and preferred to go to Hue. In one of the many agencies we booked a transfer for which we paid 150,000 VND (5.60 €). No matter where you continue your journey (Ninh Bing, Hoi An, Hanoi, etc.), you will easily find transportation to desired destination.
How to explore the surroundings?
Our opinion is that renting an bike in Asia is ridiculously cheap, so we hired one here as well. For a daily rental, we paid 100,000 VND (3.70 €).
Our opinion on Phong Nha National Park?
To be honest, we didn’t make enough research to give a specific opinion about Phong Nha. The bad weather mostly contributed to this, as the rain did not and did not end. Because of this, we only visited the Phong Nha Cave, which is interesting, but (to us) nothing special as we have Postojna Cave at home county. A visit to the national park is definitely recommended for those who are attracted to the cave world. However, if you intend to compare the cave with our Postojna Cave, we are of the opinion that the Postojna Cave probably has no competition.