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Phong Nha is an absolute jewel of Vietnam making it a must-see places for natural beauty, but this gorgeous unspoiled landscape offers so much more. Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam, is where you’ll find the biggest caves in the world and there are several caverns for you to visit, easily.
In this post we’ll share information on visiting Phong Nha Ke Bang National park and caves, in particular, how to get to Phong Na, because it’s not so easy. We also five you some information on Phong Nha accommodation.
Tourism hasn’t had a huge impact on this part of Central Vietnam. We hope Phong Nha will retain its unique character because it’s currently a really special place to visit.
How to Get to Phong Nha
There are many ways to get to Phong Nha, depending on how much time you have, your budget and comfort requirements. Also, of course, depending on where you’re starting your journey..
How To Get To Phong Nha
Phong Nha is in Central Vietnam, some 510Km south of Hanoi, about 1000 Km north of Ho Chi Minh and 215Km from the city of Hue.
The closest airport to Phong Na is at Dong Hoi, but this airport in Dong Hoi City, is around 45mins drive from Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park. The nearest train station to Phong Nha is also at Dong Hoi.
Phong Nha is not the easiest place to get to which is probably why so many travellers overlook it. We travelled by minibus from Hue and returned to Hoi An from Phong Nha the same way. We simply didn’t have time to arrange bus and train travel.
Dong Hoi is the closest train station to Phong Nha and it’s some 45 Km away. Dong Hoi is on the main Reunification Express train line. To book train tickets in Vietnam we generally use 12GoAsia. From Dong Hoi there is a bus or you can arrange a taxi or other vehicle.
Buses, again, will take you to Dong Hoi. At Dong Hoi you’ll need to change to a local bus or arrange a taxi or private transfer. Check if your accommodation or tour will pick you up from Dong Hoi.
Dong Hoi has an airport as well as a train station. The only direct flights to Dong Hoi at time of writing were internal from Hanoi (HAN) and Ho Chi Minh City (SAI) But check this for yourself, flight routes do change and can be seasonal. I have heard that flights to Dong Hoi from Thailand may resume.
Phong Na From Hue
The easiest way to get to Phong Na from Hue, is to book a tour.
How to Get to Phong Na Caves From Son Trach
Phong Nha Village itself (more correctly, the town of Son Trach) has tourist accommodation, but there are also many lodging options in the surrounding countryside, you may find that your chosen hotel or eco lodge, or farmstay, will offer a shuttle service from Son Trach.
To get from Son Trach town to the caves you will probably go by scooter. You can hire your own scooter in Son Trach or from your accommodation, or you can easily arrange motorbike taxis to tour the park and caves. Some out of town accommodation providers run shuttle buses into Phong Nha Village ( Son Trach) and some will pick you up from the bus or train station.
How Many Days Should You Stay in Phong Nha?
I would suggest staying at least 2 nights in Son Trach or near Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park so that you have one full day to see one cave of your choice. If you plan to see more caves, add more days. If you can, stay longer, there is a lot to see and do in and around Phong Na and there are several caves and cave systems to explore.
Phong Nha Accommodation Near Phong Nha Caves
The caves are spread over a wide area so, depending on which cave or caves you decide to visit, “near” is hard to quantify. Paradise Cave and Dark Cave really don’t have accommodation nearby but Phong Nha Cave is quite close to Phong Nha Village. To get to Phong Nha Cave by boat you depart the jetty in Son Trach (Phong Na Village).
The boat ride from Phong Nha to the cave should take about 20 minutes on the Son River (Green River)
The world’s largest cave, Son Doong is hidden deep in the park and you’re unlikely to be able to see it unless you have plenty of time and a big budget. Hang Son Doon was discovered in 1991 and recently revealed to divers that it is even bigger than first thought.
Can You Stay in Phong Nha National Park?
Phong Nha Ke Ban National Park is virtually pristine and untouched by development. There isn’t much by way of accommodation within the park itself but plenty in the surrounding farmlands and in Phong Nha Town.
- Phong Nha Farmstay.Phong Nha Farmstay is famous as one of the original properties offering accommodation in Phong Nha. The farm stay started out as a budget backpacker place but has evolved into a comfortable rural guesthouse. They do have a family room and you’ll find this one about 8Km from Phong Nha Town on the edge of the Bang Lai Valley. See it here.
- Eco Cabins Resort Near Phong Nha This was our Phong Nha accommodation choice and honestly, we fell in love with this place. I promised the staff at this little gem of an eco resort hotel that I’d be back soon to live for a while. I can picture myself working, sitting facing the lake and enjoying the tranquility and rustic surroundings for weeks on end. We took the triple room you can see above but rooms for larger families are available. They have a swimming pool and restaurant with lake views and they’re very affordable. Check them out here. This company has a sister property in Phong Nha Town itself, see it here., this one is better suited to young backpackers and features open glamping units.
- The Best Hotel in Phong Nha Victory Road Villas was, at the time of our visit, the fanciest hotel in town. It was Phong Nha’s only real international hotel. It faces the river and has stunning views about a kilometer from central Phong Nha Town. It’s modern and recently built but the price is still affordable. They have villas suitable for families or groups as well as couples. You can take a look here.
- The Party Hostel Easy Tiger’s Original Hostel is the main party hostel in Phong Nha Village. It’s very popular and they don’t take their partying lightly. Check them out here.
- Staying in Bong Lai Valley Bong Lai Valley has plenty of Phong Nha accommodation too. Bong Lai Valley is dotted with farms, small villages and relaxed livestock and, a few famous local institutions. The Duck Farm is here along with The Bar With Cold Beer and the Wild Boar Eco Farm. (Phong Nha Swing Eco Farm).Bong Lai Valley is best explored by bike, be it a scooter or mountain bike. There are possibilities for walks here but guided hiking is advised due a possibility of unexploded munitions. Bong Lai Valley is under 10 Kms from San Trach ( Phong Nha Village or Town) Pepperhouse Homestay is here, so-named because pepper is a famous local product.
When To Visit Phong Nha
Avoid the annual flooding season if at all possible. Many parts of Vietnam flood between September and December and Phong Nha is known to flood. We were in the Hoi An floods one year and nearby Hue also floods. Water levels inside the caves can rise dramatically, some will close and tours may not operate.
February to September is generally the best time to visit Phong Nha. We visited in October. It was incredibly hot and we had some rain at that time of year.
Phong Nha took us by surprise. We’re not usually very interested in caves but the unimaginable size and beauty of the caves we saw was awe inspiring. The natural landscapes, lack of tourists and pristine nature of Phong Nha was something special in Vietnam. If you have time, try to get to see Phong Nha during your travels in Vietnam, it’s worth going to see..