Vietnam is already well-known for its cuisine, beaches, ancient history, and diverse landscapes. It has also emerged as one of the world’s leading caving destinations in the last decade.
The UNESCO-protected Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, also known as the Kingdom of Caves, is located in central Vietnam’s Quang Binh province. Last year, the region welcomed over 3.9 million visitors, representing an 18.2 percent increase over the previous year.
Below are caves in Vietnam tourism.
Son Doong and Hang En
Son Doong, the world’s largest cave, within caves in Vietnam tourism, currently spans 38.5 million cubic meters (about 1.35 billion cubic feet) – so large that it has its own jungle inside.
Following the recent discovery of an underwater tunnel connecting Son Doong to the neighboring Hang Thung cave, it may be 1.6 million cubic meters larger than previously thought.
Oxalis, in collaboration with the British Cave Research Association, has exclusive access to the cave, bringing small groups of six to ten people on four-day treks every year during the dry season, which runs from January to August.
First day, tourists climb for about an hour through the jungle before stopping for lunch in the village of Ban Doong.
After a few more hours of trekking, the group camps inside Hang En Cave (Vietnam’s third largest), where you can swim in underground rivers and refuel with Vietnamese cuisine.
The following day, hikers continue on to the remote Son Doong Cave, where they will don safety harnesses and use ropes to descend an 80-meter-tall rock wall.
After entering the cave, visitors spend the next two days exploring its ancient fossils, underground jungle, stalagmites, and underground rivers.
The journey culminates in an epic scramble up the “Great Wall of Vietnam,” an 80-meter-tall rock wall that requires a combination of fumbling and cordage and ladder climbing.
“This is not your typical stroll. There are numerous river crossings, beautiful jungles, mountain ranges, and cliffs all around, and plenty of wildlife… including pervasive birds and monkeys “Limbert says “Many people regard the scenery as breathtaking as the cave itself.”
Hang Va and Nuoc Nut
On the first day, you’ll walk two kilometers to Nuoc Nut cave, which contains an incredible underwater river.
A 100-meter swim through the river passage leads to the entrance to Hang Va cave, where visitors can spend the night.
While the cave expedition is more accessible than Son Doong, it is still a journey with plenty of possibilities to hike through dense jungle foliage, climb over rocks, traverse subterranean rivers, and admire surreal stalagmite and rock formations.
Hang Va, in particular, is famous for its incredible stalagmite field.
“It has over 100 rare calcite layers of rock known as tower cones,” Limbert says. “They’re largely submerged termite mounds — and they’re extremely rare!”
Tu Lan Cave System
“A lot of people who come for the movie, but they find the scenery to be even more beautiful than they imagined,” Limbert says.
“Because all of the campsites are near lakes or waterfalls, it’s ideal for swimming in the summer. On our Tu Lan tours, you enter one cave, exit into another part of the jungle, and then enter another cave.”
One of the most popular excursions within Tu Lan is a two-day tour through Hang Tien (or the Cave of Fairies), which is named after enchanting rock formations that resemble terraced rice paddies and magical swirling patterns that appear on the limestone walls.
The tour takes visitors on a jungle trek through two caves (Hang Tien 1 and Hang Tien 2) before entering the massive, dry caves, which are 5.5 kilometers long and 100 meters tall at their peak.
Paradise Cave is another highlight of Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park (also known as Thien Duong Cave).
In 2005, a local discovered the entrance, which was just a hole in a rock hidden behind dense foliage.
The British Cave Research Association soon after wanted to explore the cave’s living spaces and made a comment on its grandiosity and elegance, later opening it to visitors.
It has become one of Vietnam’s most popular tourist attractions, thanks to the otherworldly stalactites and sculptural columns that cascade from the cavern ceiling like waterfalls.
The size doesn’t hurt either: at more than 31 kilometers in length, the limestone cavern is large enough to house a jumbo jet.
There are two ways for visitors to experience it: a one-kilometer walk through a network of lighted wooden stairs or a nighttime expedition that contains a seven-kilometer hike.
“What I like about caves in Vietnam tourism is that each one has its own personality,” Nguyen says.
“The journey is an important aspect of the experience. It’s sometimes more about how you get to the caves that makes it truly unique — perhaps you walk, hike, swim, or boat there. It enhances the experience.”
This is especially true of Tam Coc, which means “three caves” in Trang An. This trio of caves – Hang Ca, Hang Hai, and Hang Ba – can all be reached by rowboat from Van Lam village.
Hang Ca Cave is the longest of the three caves, measuring more than 120 meters in length, while Hang Ba is the shortest, measuring only 45 meters.
“It’s very pleasant and easy to reach because you just take a boat through the caves,” Nguyen says.
“The best time to visit is from March to May, when the farmers are growing rice in the field — it’s a lovely sight, just a sea of brilliant green and yellow.”
Sung Sot, also known as Surprise Cave, is the most well-known. The cave was discovered by French explorers in 1901 on Bo Hon Island in Halong Bay.
The cave is 10,000 square meters in size and has an amazing variety of stalactites, many of which change the form of flora and fauna.
“Often these boat rides are including Sung Sot on the itinerary, halting by the entry and allowing you off for a couple of hours to start exploring.”