10 Best things to do in Phong Nha

Most of the best things to do in Phong Nha involve the famous caves of this national park. Whether you are very adventurous or looking for a more gentle walk, there are so many caves that there is always one that suits you. But even if you don’t like caves at all, this national park is worth a visit, because above ground the jungle and rivers are also very impressive.

1.Caving expeditions

The coolest activity is to visit the caves that are located off the beaten track. For this you have to walk through the jungle and in the unlit cave you will swim, abseil and climb while making your way with a helmet with flashlight.

There are dozens of caves where you can take such an adventurous expedition. The Hang Son Doong is perhaps the best known, because this is the world’s biggest cave. However, this is not for everyone, because the price to visit this cave is $ 3000 and takes several days. The Hang En cave that you can visit in 2 to 3 days is a good alternative as one of the most beautiful caves in the national park.

The Pygmy Cave, Tu Lan Cave and Hang Va Cave are a lot more adventurous. Expect a real adventure, with swimming and climbing through a complete dark cave. In the Tiger Cave there is 100 meter abseiling from a collapse roof inside the cave.

TIP: It’s worth noting that many of Phong Nha’s caves are inaccessible during rainy season (from October to December.) Try to visit at other times of the year if you can.

2. Camping

One of the other best things to do in Phong Nha is camping. If you are planning a multi day caving expedition, camping is already included.

The most impressive campsite is inside the Hang En cave, at one of the openings and next to a small pond inside the cave. It is also possible to camp in the Pygme cave. Campsites of other caving trips are often outside in the jungle, next to a waterfall or river.

Whether you sleep in a cave or in the middle of the jungle far from civilization, it promises to be a unique experience that you must have done at least once in your life.

TIP: It’s worth noting that many of Phong Nha’s caves are inaccessible during rainy season (from October to December.) Try to visit at other times of the year if you can.

3. Cave walks

If you don’t like so much adventure with long hikes through the jungle and swimming in underground rivers, you don’t have to worry. There are plenty of caves that you can visit from the road, which are lit inside and with paved paths so you don’t have to climb and scramble.

The two most famous caves are the Phong Nha cave and Paradise Cave. The last mentioned cave is the most impressive. Huge underground chambers with long hanging stalactites and standing stalagmites. Phong Nha Cave includes a river boat trip through the beautiful countryside of central Vietnam.

4. Water activities

Another adventure in this list of the best things to do in Phong Nha is the water activities. The park has a river and small sea rivers where various activities are possible, such as kayaking, swimming, floating bounce island and zip lines above the river.

The Dark Cave is the place where you can combine all these water activities with visiting a cave. You start with the longest zipline in Vietnam to the entrance of the cave. The unlit cave itself is completely made of mud inside, where you have to make your way through and ends is a real mud bath. You will eventually get clean again by swimming out of the cave, where kayaks are ready to paddle back to the start. In the river you can also use smaller zip lines where you can drop yourself in the water and floating islands.

A place with even more water activities can be found at the Suoi Nuoc Mooc eco trail. Here you will find various zip lines, hanging bridges and kayaks. It’s the perfect place for fun and cooling off on hot days.

5. Jungle trekking

Jungle treks are included in the multi-day cave tours, but you can also do day tours through the jungle. Phong Nha’s jungle is exactly how you’d imagine it or as you’ve seen it in movies. Walk through the forests and sometimes through low-lying rivers, surrounded by mountains and you might spot some animals. Of course it is best to go with an organized trekking tour, where an experienced guide will take you along hidden trails unknown to other travelers.

6. Drive around the park and countryside

The park above ground is just as impressive as the ground and a good way to see this is on a bicycle or motorcycle. Many accommodations in the park have bicycles to borrow for free and motorcycles are available for rent from 100,000 VND.

The roads take you deep into the jungle, but you can also explore the beautiful and expansive countryside surrounding the park. On the way through the park you can either enjoy the scenery, but you can also directly visit the caves that are located along the road. If you want to see more of the countryside it is best to head to the Ho Chi Minh Highway to Bong Lai Valley.

If you are an experienced cyclist, try taking a tour of the national park. Make sure you have a good bike and plenty to drink and eat, because there are no restaurants in the park itself.

Tip: For a more engaging experience, book a bike tour with local guides who can show you the limitless trails and introduce you to farmers and villagers. Alternatively, you can also take a motorcycle tour so that you can enjoy the scenery behind the motorcycle without breaking a sweat.

7. Make a boat trip

When you visit the Phong Nha cave you can enjoy a two half hour boat trip to and from the cave. Along the way you will sail through the beautiful landscape, with mountains, jungle, local villages of ethnic minorities and the countryside. Next to you in the river you will likely see a water buffalo washing and cooling itself. Even if you don’t feel like visiting a cave, this boat trip is worth it.

8. Minority villages

The national park is home to not only jungle and wildlife, but ethnic minority groups as well. There are small villages with houses made on stilts of the Bru Van Kieu minority in the park and just beyond. They mainly live on rice cultivation from burnt over land and in submerged fields. Hunting, gathering and fishing supplement are also an important source of food. They raise livestock and poultry primarily for religious offerings, then for their meals. They make baskets and palm mats as their second activity.

9. Botanic Gardens

The Botanical Gardens may sound a bit boring with all the beautiful scenery of the national park, but it is actually a poorly chosen name. Here you can walk alone through the jungle (without a guide), with an option for 3 different routes. There are also several places where you can swim in natural pools and there is a beautiful waterfall that you can visit.

10. Relax with a great view

If you don’t like all these activities, or if you just want to rest after a whole day of hiking or visiting caves, you can relax in a quiet place in the area. There are several cafes along the river where you can enjoy the view with a drink. There is also a coffee shop with a hilltop lookout called East Hill coffee. Of course you can also just book an accommodation with a swimming pool and great views of the countryside and the mountains of the park.

Dong Hoi – Dong Hoi is the closest town to Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park. It is approximately 45 km away. There are many comfortable and cheap hotels in Dong Hoi and on the beach. Some tour companies also include a pick up starting from Dong Hoi. having that said, it lacks of atmosphere and you are far from the stunning mountains and jungle, so if possible always choose to stay around Son Trach.

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