The underground rivers of Phong Nha
Unesco World Heritage site since 2003, the remarkable Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park contains the oldest karst mountains in Asia, formed approximately 400 million years ago. Riddled with hundreds of cave systems – many of extraordinary scale and length – and spectacular underground rivers, Phong Nha is a speleologists’ heaven on earth.
Its collection of stunning dry caves, terraced caves, towering stalagmites and glistening crystal-edged stalactites represent nature on a very grand scale indeed. – Lonely Planet
The two main caves of the national park are surrounded by near-pristine tropical evergreen jungle but can be easily reached by taxi or motorbike from the town of Dong Hoi. I started off my tour at the Phong Nha cave, which can only be visited on a boat ride through the underground river system. Although it has a total length of 44km, only 1500m are open to the general public.
The impressive dimensions of Paradise cave
Paradise cave, or Thiên Đường Cave, is one of the most recent discoveries in Vietnam. The 31km long dry cave can stretch up to 100m high and 150m wide and has spectacular stalactites and stalagmites. To reach the entrace, you’ll have to hike for about 20 minutes. From here, a wooden footpath will guide you through the accessible parts of the cave.
If you only have time for one cave (half day), I’d recommend Paradise cave, which is one of the most unique places you’ll ever see. Stay at the Phong Nha farmstay to join an exploration tour into the inaccessible parts of the cave.