Phong Nha Cave
The complex karst formations stretching throughout the surrounding Ke Bang National Park were formed approximately 400 million years ago, making them the oldest in Asia. Part of this system, Phong Nha Cave (675 110; admission 30, 000d, charter boat 100, 000d; 7am-4pm) is the largest and most beautiful cave in Vietnam. Located in the village of Son Trach, 55km northwest of Dong Hoi, it was designated a Unesco World Heritage site in 2003. It’s remarkable for its thousands of metres of underground passageways and river caves filled with abundant stalactites and stalagmites. In November and December the river is prone to flooding and the underground cave may be closed.
Phong Nha means Cave of Teeth, but, unfortunately, the ‘teeth’ (or stalagmites) that were by the entrance are no longer there. Once you get further into the cave, it’s mostly unspoiled. In 1990 a British expedition explored 35km of the cave and made the first reliable map of the underground (and underwater) passageways. They discovered that the main cavern is nearly 8km long, with 14 other caves nearby.
Getting there & away
From Dong Hoi head 20km north on Hwy 1A to Bo Trach and then turn west for the 30km to Son Trach. Some hotels in Dong Hoi offer tours, but a cheaper option is by motorbike.
The actual cave entrance is 3km by river from Son Trach. The one-way ride takes about 30 minutes and gives a great glimpse of the life of river people. Overall, it takes about two hours to visit the river cave, or about four hours with a trip to the dry cave too.
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