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Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is located in central Vietnam just a short drive from its closest town Dong Hoi.
Phong Nha is miles away from the city life we had been used to up until this point. The famous jungle covered mountains are everywhere making the scenery absolutely outstanding.
How to get to Phong Nha
Phong Nha, like most places in Vietnam that are popular with backpackers, is very well connected.
You can get sleeper buses from either Da Nang, Hue or Hanoi. You check the schedules on 12GoAsia or chat to your accommodation, a bus from Da Nang will take around 7 hours whereas a bus from Hanoi will take about 10.
The train is another option and this is the one we went for. Due to their long travel time the trains in Vietnam have sleeper carriages and seating. The tickets are priced in tiers ranging from hard seat, soft seat, soft sleeper, VIP sleeper.
We went for the soft sleeper, booking 2 bottom bunks, and were lucky enough to get the room to ourselves.
The bus takes 5 and a half hours from Da Nang and you can either book private transport ahead of time to get to Phong Nha which is 500,000 VND (£17) or you can use the public bus which is much cheaper, I think about (£3).
To book the train you can check the schedules here or speak to your accommodation as they can often arrange for you.
Top Tip: when they say 1st / 2nd floor when booking the trains they mean 1st floor – bottom bunk or 2nd floor – top bunk. I recommend always booking 2 bottom bunks as the top bunks are not very popular so there’s a good chance you’ll be travelling on your own in the carriage.
There is also an airport located in Dong Hoi and with the cheap domestic flights in Vietnam you can often travel with Vietjet for as little as £16. Head over to Skyscanner to check the live prices out now.
Where to stay in Phong Nha
After staying in some quieter places we fancied something with a bit more action so Central backpackers felt like the perfect choice.
Central backpackers are a well known hostel throughout Vietnam and are rated one of the best in Phong Nha.
We decided to stay here for our 2 night visit and it didn’t disappoint, the staff were extremely helpful and we got chatting to lots of people and had a good laugh.
Central backpackers offer shared dorms or private rooms, free breakfast, lunch & dinner in the restaurant, a swimming pool and plenty of games to keep you entertained.
If you are looking for somewhere a little quieter Sy’s Homestay is the perfect choice, located in Phong Nha just 5 minutes up the road from the main town.
The homestay has a swimming pool, comfortable beds, beautiful views surrounding it and you are able to use Sy’s kitchen and laundry services. There are also bikes available for use to make getting into town a lot easier.
Get yourself a scooter or hire a driver for the day and make your way down to Paradise Cave, locally known as Thien Duong Cave and as the Underground Royal Palace.
This place makes you sit in awe at what the natural world is capable of.
Top Tip: Scooting around in Phong Nha is very different to what you are usually used to in the Vietnam cities, the roads here are wider and much quieter.
Located about a 35 minute drive from Phong Nha centre Paradise Cave is the further attraction but not one to be missed.
When you arrive you park up and pay, scooters are 2,000 VND (7p) and cars are 5,000 VND (20p), then head towards the ticket counter, you have the option here to either walk to the cave or get an electric buggy.
Entrance to the cave is 250,000 VND (£9) per person which I did think was quite expensive but after being in the cave I think it was worth it.
I had read online that this was only a quick 10 minute walk so we decided to walk, however, this is not a quick walk and its very humid as you are walking through the jungle. If you do decide to walk be prepared as it isn’t as easy as you think.
Once you arrive at the electric car drop off point you then have to walk further up in order to reach the cave entrance, this again is a lot of work.
I recommend taking the steps if possible, they are harder and steeper but the path felt like it went on forever!
Finally at the entrance you’ll see some wooden steps leading down into a dark hole and you’ll ask yourself how anyone was crazy enough to discover this and willingly enter it.
Stepping down into the cave is a truly magical experience, it’s absolutely huge!
A wooden walk way has been built throughout the cave so you just follow this in until the end.
Throughout the journey you’ll see stalagmites and stalactites towering up above you creating interesting shapes.
As we visited the caves without and tour and in the afternoon the Cave was mostly empty which was so surreal
There were many parts along the path where we were the only people and we could sit in silence and admire this incredible piece of nature.
Paradise cave is 31.4km deep, but only a small part of it is open to the public, if you go alone you can spend as long as you like exploring it and really take your time.
Overall from leaving the car park to returning takes around 2/3 hours depending on whether you took an electric car up the hill and how long you take exploring the cave.
Phong Nha Cave
Phong Nha tourist centre is located very close to the main street in Phong Nha and is walkable from most hotels or hostels here.
Do not set your map to Phong Nha Cave for directions as the cave itself is not accessible by land, you can only reach it by boat so head to the Phong Nha tourist centre and here you can purchase your entrance tickets and pay for the boat.
Entrance to Phong Nha cave is 150,000 (£5) and the boats costs 500,000 VND (£17) per boat, if you are travelling on your own and would like to save some money I recommend hanging around to wait for a few more people to turn up and ask if you can share with them.
Once you’ve got your tickets and are all aboard your boat you will head down to the entrance of the cave, this journey takes about 30 minutes and is a very scenic one passing through villages and countryside.
Usually you can take a boat tour reaching about 1km inside the cave ,however, when we visited there had been so much rain that we weren’t able to get into the cave we could only access the first opening – the entrance they usually took was only about a foot big!
Top Tip: to avoid any disappointment on arrival you can check with your hotel or hostel in the morning to check if the caves are open. Note that they do not alter the price of the tickets if the cave is closed.
Once inside the cave we hopped off the boat onto a small sandy beach and headed up the steps.
The boat will then sail away but don’t worry, like we did, they are waiting for you by the cafe for when you’re ready to head back.
Phong Nha cave is very different to Paradise cave, its not as wide but is still huge and there are beautiful jade colours coming through the stone all around which give it a different feel.
The dry part of Phong Nha cave takes about 20 minutes to explore on its own and the whole trip took about 1.5 hours.
However if the cave is fully open then the overall time will be about 2/3 hours from start to finish back at Phong Nha Tourist Centre.
Should you book a tour of the caves or visit without?
I would recommended visiting Paradise Cave, Phong Nha Cave and Dark Cave alone as they are easily accessible by either scooter or taxi and that means you can have as much time as you life exploring.
If you hire a scooter the price overall also works out cheaper to do it yourself as long as you can find at least 1 other person to share a boat with to Phong Nha, as most tours start from over 1,000,000 VND (£35)
At Central Backpackers in Phong Nha they offer a full range of cave tour which we didn’t do as we worked out it would be cheaper to visit ourselves.
But if you would prefer to have everything arranged for you then speak to reception once you’ve checked in.
We were only there for 2 days so unfortunately we didn’t manage to experience all Phong Nha has to offer, some other activities you can get up to in Phong Nha are visiting The Duck Stop & try zip lining or. kayaking at Dark Cave.
Should you make time and add Phong Nha to your Vietnam itinerary? Yes absolutely! Phong Nha is very small but has lots to offer. I highly recommend staying for 3/4 nights in order to fit all of your expeditions in!
With love, Izzy ✨💛
Looking for more things to do during your stay in Vietnam? Then you’ll want to check out these posts: