Phong Nha and Tien Son cave tour – A magical Experience!
A Phong Nha and Tien Son cave tour is one of the best things you can do in Southeast Asia. No doubt about that. The Phong Nha and Tien Son caves belong to Southeast Asia’s biggest cave system, which is one of the two largest karst regions in the world. It has been discovered not that long ago and nowerdays it is one of the most fascinating places in the whole continent. Doing a Phong Nha and Tien Son cave tour needs to be on everyone’s list of things to do in Vietnam. That’s for sure. And as long it’s not that popular you should get there as quick as possible!
Before I start I quickly want to tell why I went on the Phong Nha and Tien Son cave tour and how it came to it. During my time in Vietnam I travelled through the whole country with my motorcycle that I bought in Saigoon.
Luckily the vendor, who sold “Foxy Roxy” to me, was from the UK and he told me where to go on my trip, because he went up and down the country several times.
Phong Nha and Tien Son cave tour was big on his list. He told me it is a MUST SEE and, if I’d miss out on it, I’d be an idiot 🙂
And to be honest, he was exactly right. He actually told me about the Son Doong Caves first, which is the largest cave on the planet. Found in 2009, an expidition now costs 3.000$+. It was not in my budget by that time and for many travellers it will never be. So I had to make do with the smaller versions. But that was not a dissapointment at all. In fact it was quite the contrary…
I ended up booking a guided trip. And if I can promise you one thing: You won’t forget this trip for a long time. I was fascinated to the core and I can definitely say:
It was one of the most amazing things I have done in my life so far!
Phong Nha and Tien Son cave tour – General information
A Phong Nha and Tien Son cave tour the best small budget choice, if you want to see what’s under the surface of Southeast Asia. There are heaps of different caves to go to. All of them have different sizes, lengths, hights, etc. But before I come to the details of the Phong Nha and Tien Son cave tour, I want to give you some general information first.
Generally all the different caves belong to the Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the districts of Bo Trach and Minh Hoa. This national park lies about 500 km south of Hanoi, which is the capital of Vietnam.
In total the Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park has more than 300 caves and grottoes, which is massive. The national park has a size of about 1.954 km². It’s located about 42 km west of the South China Sea and actually streches out till Laos. Surveys in 2009 found that the whole length of the cave system is about 126 km, while heaps of areas are still not explored at all.
The world famous Hang Son Doong cave, which is the showpiece from all the caves, has been found by an old Vietnamese man, who accidentally came accross the caves while he walked through the jungle. Nowerdays the whole area is mainly used for tourism purposes, but it’s also very highly protected, because it’s so special.
There are many trips you can do and they are all something truely special. At some of them you will be completely in the dark. Others include abseiling or even floating and kayaking. You can do adventure, expedition, photography and many other types of tours. The Phong Nha and Tien Son cave tour is a combination out of photography and adventure.
All the caves have developed over millions of years. You’ll can additionally do tours to wet or dry caves. Either option will be a different experience and with the Phong Nha and Tien Son cave tour you will get both. One is dry, one is wet. In any cave you’ll find ancient arenaceous limestones, which have formed over a long, long period of time.
How to get there
We drove to the Phong Nha and Tien Son caves by bus. It was a guided tour. I would not recommend to do anything else but that. I am not even sure, if it’s allowed to go on a Phong Nha and Tien Song cave tour on your own without a tour guide. Some places are not even reachable for normal visitors, because, to ultimately reach some caves, you have to take the boat for example.
The Phong Nha and Tien Son caves themselfs lie in the middle of the country pretty much. Most people either come from Hanoi or Dong Hoi. Don Hoi is the place where I started my Phong Nha and Tien Son cave tour from. It will take you about 1 hour to get there. The whole procedure is pretty convenient. The tour company picks you up in the morning and brings you back in the afternoon.
The weather in the area doesn’t really effect your Phong Nha and Tien Son cave tour, because you gonna spend most of your time in the caves anyway. Generally both caves lie in a subtropical/ monsoon area, which means that there is a wet (September to December) and a “dry” (April to September) season. In between you will find a mix of those two. When I was there we had a rainy day. Good weather obviously makes the drive and the boat tours a little nicer, but don’t worry, if you don’t get sunny weather. Most people get rainy weather as well. So you are not the only one 😉
Temperature is always very pleasent. It sets between 20°C and 34°C all year long, even though it’s a little colder and more humid in the jungle.
In my opinion the best options you have regarding accommodation are:
- Anh Linh Hotel
- Nam Long Hotel
- Moonlight Hotel
You’ll find all sorts of accommodation there, but mostly cheap hotels. You probably gonna have your own room with a king size bed and a bathroom. If you like, breakfast could be included. Otherwise you can just get something outside somewhere 🙂
Other than that, you also have the option to stay at:
- Homestays / Guest Houses
Tours to Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park are quite expensive in comparison to other attractions and tours in Vietnam. But in general the cost benefit equation is unbeatable. Depending on what tour you book and how you negotiate, the prices can vary. So it doesn’t need to be that expensive.
The Phong Nha and Tien Son cave tour for example only costs 580.000 VND (29$). Entrence fees, food, beverages and a guide are included.
300.000 VND of the 580.000 VND are for the boat rent, which can be divided through 14 people. So it can be way cheaper (300.000 VND). I payed about 600.000 VND in total, because I had the bus transportation included as well.
Accommodation usually sets between 8$ – 15$. Anything else is variable, depending on how long you stay in the area for.
Phong Nha and Tien Son cave tour – Highlights
Now let’s get to the details of the Phong Nha and Tien Son cave tour. Before I visited these two beautiful sights, I did not know how stunning caves could actually be…
Phong Nha Cave
Phong Nha Cave was the first cave I went to in Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park. This is the one you can only get to by boat. So, we took one of the typical old Vietnamese dragon boats and went to cave’s entry. It took about 20 minutes and during the drive we had an amazing scenery around us. Big foggy mountains, a raw jungle and some very small villages here and there. Along your way on the Son River you’ll maybe see some local bird species and kids spending time with fishing by the river. It’s very picturesque and peaceful.
Entering Phong Nha Cave
Once you get there you stay about 90 minutes. You can have a look at some parts by foot and some other parts of the Phong Nha Cave can only be reached by taking the boat a little further into the inner parts. The cave’s total length is about 7.7 km and it contains 14 grottoes as well as a 14 km long underground river. I had never seen a cave with a size like this before.
Old arenaceous limestone, which grow over millions of years and formed into something truely magical – Insanely pretty!
Phong Nha Cave is actually voted one of the world’s most beautiful caves with its incredible lake and underground river. Many parts are lighted up, so that you can see way more and take good pictures.
After the time was over, we drove back, had a delicious lunch and went on to the 2nd part of the Phong Nha and Tien Son cave tour 🙂
Tien Son Cave
The 2nd part of the Phong Nha and Tien Son cave tour was even better in my opinion. We visited the Tien Son Cave, which have been opened to the public in 2000 for the first time. You can go in and have a look at a limestone cave of pure beauty. The whole cave system is also full of lights, so that you are able to see the diverse limestone formations, that have developed over millions of years.
On your way to the Tien Son Cave you can already take some nice pictures of the marvelous Troung Son mountain range, countless of rice fields, evergreen valleys and pretty rivers that ultimately end up in the South China Sea. Troung Son is the place where both caves, Phong Nha and Tien Son, hide under 😉
The Tien Son Cave has a total length of about 980m. Tien Son Cave is about 35 million years old. Imagine that…!
Translated Tien Son Cave stands for “feary on the mountain” (as far as I got told 😀 ) and it has been discovered in 1935.
Entering Tien Son Cave
The Tien Son Cave has ceilings up to 25 high and is about 35 meters wide at some parts. It’s absolutely spectecular! The entry is located 100m above the entry of the Phong Nha Cave. You get there by walking for about 10 minutes after the bus dropped you off at a specific visitor station.
When you first enter the Tien Son Cave, you have to go down a huge staircase. The view from above will blow your mind already. It looks so cool 😀 Old stalgmite and talactite formations under spotlight everywhere you look. Once you are at the bottom of the staircase, you will probably be as fascinated as I have been. It’s crazy what mother nature can do. You walk into the cave on a wooden walk bridge for about 400m.
You will stay for about 90 minutes, just like in the Phong Nha Cave. At some parts of the Tien Son Cave you can see some veins on the ceiling glittering in gold and silver. Additionally you Tien Son Cave inhabits various magical stone columns, which leave all tourists speachless. A true paradise in my opinion. I can only recommend to use your time n the best way possible. Soak up as much of the beauty as you can and take lots of pictures. You probably won’t see something like that to soon…
Phong Nha and Tien Son cave tour – What I have learned
The Phong Nha and Tien Son cave tour taught me a couple valuable lessons again. This time I only pick out one, which I find to be very valuable.
Trust in other people
This might not seem like a revolution to you and it isn’t. It’s also not some over melancolic garbage I want to talk about. During my travels I saw, that putting trust into someone is very important.
I know this is quite hard sometimes, because we, as humans, get dissappointed by a lot of people in our lifes. That’s completely normal. Everyone has to deal with this and we all, indcluding myself, sometimes tend to only see the negative sides.
What I found
But what the Phong Nha and Tien Son cave tour showed me is, that you need to see the positive side in people way more and trust in them. Because if you do, most people give you back something very positive/ valuable.
I found that we actually get way more positive things from others than negative in general anyway. It’s always just a matter of perspective.
I could have not listened to the dude from the UK, who told me to do the Phong Nha and Tien Son cave tour. If I would have done that, I would have never been to this area. But instead I trusted him and did what he said. What was the reward in the end?
One of the best experiences I have had in my life so far. And I want you to have the same, so give the Phong Nha and Tien Son cave tour a try!
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