Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is one great reason to start planning your next adventure to Vietnam. The highlight of traveling to Phong Nha, found in the central part of the country, is getting to see its overwhelmingly massive and complex cave formations. This natural wonder is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is part of a massive limestone karst area, considered as the oldest in Asia, and one of the World’s largest. If Ninh Binh is considered as Vietnam’s “Ha Long Bay on Land,” Phong Nha is known as “Ha Long Bay hidden under the mountain.”

I was glad I decided not to skip it. My visit to Phong Nha actually fit perfectly on my route from Central to Northern Vietnam. The place sat conveniently in the middle of Hue and Ninh Binh, which made it possible to squeeze in a full day tour of the Paradise Cave and Phong Nha Cave by going on overnight buses. It was the best-planned leg of my 2-week itinerary in Vietnam. Both caves were stunning! They were the most beautiful caves I’ve ever seen and are definitely worth going to Vietnam for.

Detourista Notes

I’ll be writing more about my experience and travel tips in Phong Nha on future updates. In the meantime, here are some quick notes you might find useful if you plan on going.

Getting there — The popular way that I read on guidebooks is to go via Dong Hoi, which is an awfully inconvenient route to go with. Take the bus that go directly to Phong Nha instead. They aren’t the most comfortable, but they will drop you off directly on the “main street” of town, which is lined with many places to stay, and a short walk away from the national park center. This bus route is offered by many of the major “open bus” companies that have outlets all over Vietnam. I booked my buses on two companies, known for their decent overnight buses. As I found out when the buses already came to pick us up, they have a bad habit of overbooking, and force unknowing passengers (like me!) to transfer to other less inspiring bus operators.

What cave tour to book — There are two kinds of cave tours that you can book in Phong Nha. The (1) sightseeing tours, which was the type that I booked, and the (2) adventure tours, which I would have loved to experience had I gone on a longer visit. The sightseeing tours are great for quick visits, it was perfect for me since I only had one full day to spend in Phong Nha. I was lucky to chance upon a tour that included both Phong Nha Cave and Paradise Cave, which are among the most impressive caves in the area. Paradise Cave is, by far, the more impressive of the two. The tour was operated by Phong Nha Discovery and was priced at VND1,050,000 per person, which included all entrance fees, transport, and a big lunch. If you have 3 days or more to spend in Phong Nha, I highly recommend getting an adventure tour that includes camping and a deeper exploration of the caves. The sightseeing tour only allows you to explore the area near the cave entrance. You could, for example, do an adventure tour of Paradise Cave, and then go to Phong Nha Cave, on your own, on the cheap boat tours organized by the national park center.

DIY or Guided Tour — You can go on a do-it-yourself tour, by renting a motorbike and going around the national park to visit the caves independently. Motorbike rentals go for about VND200,000 per day and fuel for, maybe, VND120,000 for the whole day. You would still need to spend extra to go inside the caves. Entrance fee to Paradise Cave is VND120,000 per person, and a tour to Phong Nha Cave should cost around VND100,000 (for a shared boat).

Where to Stay — There are a lot of excellent options listed at for places to stay at Phong Nha. If you choose to stay in the village center, you’d have the convenience of walking to the park center and around many options for places to eat and booking tours.

Previous DestinationHue.

Next DestinationNinh Binh.

You may visit my 2-week trip in Central and Northern Vietnam series page, the Vietnam page, or follow Marcos Detourist facebook page to check for new posts and updates.