Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park Complete guide for Wild and Nature explore
Phong Nha Ke Bang national park is one of the most popular attractions in Vietnam. This natural gem of Vietnam is home to some of the most stunning caves in the world, such as Son Doong Cave.
Why visit Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park?
The Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2003, covered 85,754 hectares. With this extension, the site covers a total surface area of 123,326 hectares (a 46 % increase) and shares a boundary with the Hin Namno Nature Reserve in the Peoples Democratic Republic of Laos.
The Park’s landscape is formed by limestone plateaux and tropical forests. It features great geological diversity and offers spectacular phenomena, including a large number of caves and underground rivers. The site harbors a high level of biodiversity and many endemic species.
The extension ensures a more coherent ecosystem while providing additional protection to the catchment areas that are of vital importance for the integrity of limestone landscapes.
Useful Travel Information & Tips
- TRANSPORT: The best way to truly experience Phong Nha is to set off on two wheels, be it a bicycle or a motorcycle. There are bicycle and motorbike rental services provided almost all over town. In most cases, the staff at your accommodation will help you out with this. If you are interested in exploring the national park by motorbike and do not have any previous riding experience, it’s easy to hire a local guide who can take you around (with you riding on the back of the bike). The most common form of taxi in Phong Nha is a “xe ôm”, or motorbike taxi. Most hotels and hostels know the number of a “xe ôm” driver if you are in need of a local taxi. Most drivers do not speak English.
- LOCAL CUISINE: The specialty of Phong Nha, in terms of food, is Thit Nuong (barbeque meat). You can find it almost anywhere in Phong Nha, with choices between chicken, beef, and pork. It is served with locally flavored chutney and the taste is absolutely lip-smacking! Apart from Thit Nuong, you can find almost every Vietnamese dish and plenty of Western options, thanks to the numerous restaurants and hotels in the area.
- DRINKING WATER: It is not advisable to drink tap water in Phong Nha. Along with the common risks of drinking tap water in a developing country, tap water in Phong Nha contains high amounts of limestone, calcium, and other minerals. Please drink bottled or boiled water.
- NIGHTLIFE & ENTERTAINMENT: The people of Phong Nha are big into entertainment and have a massive karaoke culture. It’s a unique experience to be part of a karaoke party after returning from a tiring adventure tour in one of the caves. This is an amazing way to let loose and end your day with fun and frolics! Phong Nha also has various hostels, bars and even has two cool nightclubs, namely Andy’s Disco Bar and Hair of the Dog, should you wish to put on your dancing shoes after taking off your trekking boots. Everything is quite cheap, and you can expect to spend about VND80,000 ($4 USD) per hour (excluding drinks).
- MONEY: Travelling to and spending some days in Phong Nha is relatively easy on the pocket, considering the kind of exquisite experiences you’ll have here. That being said, you’ll find ATMs here, namely the Sacombank ATM, Agribank ATM, and the Vietinbank ATM. These ATMs accept all international cards, so don’t sweat it. Some shops or restaurants accept card payments and might not have change for big notes – VND 500,000 – so try carrying small denominations of money while you’re out and about.
- MARKET: The market in Phong Nha is located along the main road, just between the Best BBQ Pork & Noodle Shop in the World and the Phong Nha Tourism Center. The market can seem a little chaotic, but it’s worth checking out, especially if there’s anything you need.
- Bring small bills with you, and don’t expect anyone to speak English. Everyone in the market is very friendly, but you can expect stares if you are a foreigner. Unfortunately, you can also expect that in some places you will receive a “foreigner price”.
- Feel free to bargain in the market and enjoy winding your way through the back where the freshest fruits and veggies lie. The market is best visited around 6 – 9 AM. It is open until about 11 AM, and then closes for a few hours until the afternoon. It opens again around 2 PM until about 6 PM (hours vary at different times of year and at vendors’ discretion). You will be able to find basic things such as hats, socks, flip-flops, raincoats and snacks, etc., but not proper trekking gear.
- SAFETY: Phong Nha is unlike any other place and your travel experience here will be the safest you ever had. The whole of Phong Nha is like one big family and everyone is extremely respectful and friendly toward tourists. The locals have your back at all times, and they’ll go to any extent to protect you and your interests in all kinds of ways. However, in the event of an emergency, here are the emergency telephone numbers (the country code is +84):
- 113 – Police 115 – Fire 114 – Ambulance
- Phong Nha Police Station: +84 (0)232 3677009
- Đồng Hới Police Station: +84(0)232 3822142
- Quảng Bình Immigration Office: +84(0)232 3828648
- MEDICAL CARE: Only very basic medical care is available in Phong Nha, mostly for common ailments. There is a small medical clinic located near the entrance of the town (no English spoken at the clinic). If you are in need of more serious medical care, you will need to move to Dong Hoi Cuba Hospital (1 hour transfer) or even Hue International Hospital (4 hour transfer). The locals will not let you feel alone in times of need, and they’ll make sure you get medical attention as soon as possible.
- Phong Nha Hospital (more like a medical clinic) phone number: +84 (0)232 3677047
- PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
- There are several major holidays in Vietnam:
- February 2 – 10 February 2019: Tet Holiday 2019 (varies from year to year depending on the lunar calendar)
- April 30: Reunification Celebration
- May 1: Labor Day
- September 2: Independence Day
- Please note that transportation is extremely difficult to arrange around major holidays, especially Tet. You must arrange up to one month in advance or you will be paying premium prices for private transfers or possibly end up getting stuck in town if you don’t have any transport arranged. There are plenty of accommodations and shops open around town during Tet Holiday and you’ll have an unforgettable experience if you are lucky enough to be invited into the home of a local family, which is quite likely to happen!
What is there to see?
Biodiversity Phong Nha – Ke Bang
The PNKB NP region is considered the largest standard sample of limestone ecosystems in Viet Nam. With 10 major vegetation types, scientists recorded more than 2,851 species of vascular plants, including 419 that are endemic to Viet Nam, and 755 species of vertebrates in 2012. Some 69 plant species were considered globally threatened and 127 animals, including 39 mammals, are unfortunately already listed as threatened in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List and the Viet Nam Red Data Book.
PNKB is also home to a variety of primates such as monkeys, apes and langurs. The region features 43% of total primates in Viet Nam and has the largest population of Hatinh langurs in the world – one of the endemic species in Indochina. The park has also a wide variety of orchids, including those that were considered extinct before they were found here. Since its recognition as a NP in 2001, scientists – in cooperation with the Cologne Zoo in Germany and the PNKB NP – have found several new reptilian and amphibian species in the region.
Vegetation and plant surveys describe the PNKB NP as a global center for plant diversity. Habitats such as primary mixed broad-leaved and coniferous forests on rocky limestone and primary forests on high mountains composed with silicate rocks are especially diverse and very rich in orchids including numerous endemic forms. PNKB might feature the highest diversity of orchids in Indochina. Ancient stands of a recently discovered endemic conifer, Calocedrus rupestris, represent an absolutely unique plant formation of global importance.
The area is also home to very diverse fauna. The park has 10 species of primates recorded, making it the most diverse site for primates in Viet Nam. Furthermore, it is an important bird area, featuring large populations of several restricted ranges and threatened species.
The PNKB NP area, together with Hin Nam No NBCA in Lao PDR, constitutes the largest protected area of karst habitat in mainland Southeast Asia. The biodiversity of limestone ecosystems under wet tropical conditions, including vast cave systems, are highly diverse.
Karst And Caves Phong Nha – Ke Bang
The National Park is situated in one of the largest areas of contiguous limestone karst in Indochina which also includes Hin Nam No NBCA in Lao PDR (Central Indochinese limestone). The limestone massif is located in a transitional zone between the northern and central Annamite Mountains. The topography of the NP is characterized by precipitous karst ridges, which rise to elevations of around 400m. Scattered among these ridges are narrow valleys and pockets of igneous rock formations.
This complex karst system, which is difficult to access, covers more than half of the project area. Slopes remain moderate in the 25 – 30% range apart from a few narrow alluvial valleys where rivers stay above the land surface. In the karst area, most rivers have dropped below ground level, forming long riverine cave systems. Soils are mostly feralites with poor to medium fertility, except in narrow alluvial bands in valley bottoms and in the Bo Trach lowland plain.
The PNKB NP region consists of karst formations that have evolved since the Palaeozoic age some 400 million years ago. On the surface, there is a striking series of landscapes, ranging from deeply dissected ranges and plateaux to an immense ‘polje’ – a large elliptical depression typical for karst regions. Many of these mountains are more than 1,000m high and underlying holes are sometimes several hundred meters deep. The limestone karst contains 17 major explored caves and some 300 smaller caves and grottoes, many of them with stalactites and stalagmites. The variety of forms is immense: dry caves, terraced caves, suspended caves, dendritic caves, intersecting caves, giant speleothems and unusual forms such as sub-aerial stromatolites.
In 2009, the potentially largest cave in the world, Son Doong, was discovered by the local farmer Ho Khanh, measuring around 7km in length, 150m in height (250m at some points) and 200m in width over most of its length.
The caves play an important role for the cultural heritage of the region. The oldest evidence of human occupation of the area is the Neolithic axe heads and similar artifacts found in some of the caves. There are some relics of the Ham Nghi King, the final King of the Nguyen Dynasty before the French colonial period, found on Maria Mountain in the North of the park. The Phong Nha Cave has long been a site of religious and touristic importance, with an old Cham Temple discovered in the cave which was a site for worship in the 9th and 10th century.
How to get to Phong Nha Ke Bang National park?
How to get to Phong Nha Ke Bang
The location of Phong Nha National Park is very convenient for travelers. You can easily get to Dong Hoi by plane, train, or bus.
How to go to Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park from Dong Hoi?
Phong Nha is located in Bo Trach, about 50km from Dong Hoi city, Quang Binh, Vietnam.
Most transportation methods will take you to Dong Hoi city center, so you need to take a taxi or private transfer from Dong Hoi to Phong Nha Ke Bang.
From Hanoi to Phong Nha
Traveling from Hanoi to Phong Nha Ke Bang by bus is one of the most common options. However, traveling by train will bring you more comfort because the distance is quite long.
You can also fly from Hanoi to Dong Hoi, and it’s easy to book direct flights with Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet, and Jetstar.
From Hue to Phong Nha
From Hue, you can take a train to Dong Hoi or a direct bus to Phong Nha, and the journey takes about 4 hours and 30 minutes.
From Ho Chi Minh to Phong Nha
Flying is the best way to travel from Ho Chi Minh to Phong Nha.
Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet Air, and Bamboo Airways offer regular service from Ho Chi Minh to Dong Hoi Airport, and the journey takes 1 hour 35 minutes.
You can also experience the scenic train ride from Ho Chi Minh to Dong Hoi.
Vietnam Railways offer daily trains from Saigon to Dong Hoi station, and the journey may take 21.5 hours to 25.5 hours, depending on the train.
Where to stay in Phong Nha?
When you think of traveling to Phong Nha, you’ll definitely want to spend your time in accommodation that accentuates your overall travel experience by bringing you closer to the symphony of traditions, food, people, and nature.
As you arrive in Phong Nha and look for a place to stay, you’ll be amazed to see the huge range of options to choose from. You can choose a hostel where you can kick back or a homestay where you feel like part of a local family or a hotel that treats you with the kind of luxury you need, or even a rustic resort accommodation that gives you the authentic Phong Nha travel experience.
Phong Nha travel is indeed special in this regard, as the accommodation will ensure an experience so extraordinary that you’ll want to spend the rest of your life here in the Adventure Capital of Asia. You would want to check out our top 10 hotels to stay in Phong Nha as well!
FARMSTAY & RESORT
Farmstays & Resorts in Phong Nha are not just accommodations, they’re a different experience altogether! Here, you get to soak in the warmth of Mother Nature and get closer to the culture, while enjoying the luxurious vibe of a resort. Some of these resorts are located slightly away from the town, to make sure you get the most peaceful experience. Imagine relaxing on a pool-side hammock, surrounded by fields and ethnic villages, with a drink in hand as you watch the sunset; the rustic resort accommodations in Phong Nha make this a reality.
You’ll fall in love with the beauty that envelopes the accommodation in Phong Nha. The most amazing rustic resorts in Phong Nha are Chay Lap Farmstay, Phong Nha Farmstay, Nguyen Shack – Phong Nha Eco Resort and Phong Nha lakehouse resort. The prices at rustic resorts are usually higher than hostels, homestays and hotels; however, the rates are quite reasonable and absolutely worth it.
For many people, a hotel is the first thought that comes to mind when thinking of accommodation while traveling, and rightly so! The hotels in Phong Nha are one of a kind and will give you the perfect taste of luxury and let you enjoy the tradition. Their prices are slightly higher than that of the hostels and homestays. The great news is, the way some of these hotels are designed and located, you’ll be very close to nature and can relax completely.
The top hotels in Phong Nha are Oxalis Home, Son Doong Bungalow and Victory road villas. These hotels will give you the best views to wake up to, along with unmatched comfort, professional staff, lip-smacking delicious food and fun activities like kayaking!
It’s normal to feel homesick every now and then if you’ve been wandering, this is where homestays step in and make you feel at ease when you’re away from home. Homestays in Phong Nha are extremely popular for their ability to make you feel at home and part of a family in Vietnam. You’ll get a great insight into the simple lifestyle of the Phong Nha locals, as you’ll be spending a lot of time with the local family hosting you.
Almost all homestays are very affordably priced. The best homestays in Phong Nha are Sy’s Homestay, Thao Nguyen Homestay, Tuan Garden House and Song Que Homestay. These homestays will let you be a part of the family dinners, share stories and laughter.
Phong Nha homestays are growing in number, with each offering quality services to guests. Among these wonderful homestays, there are some that stole our heart with their perfect location, facilities and things on offer.
Check out the newest nine Homestays in Phong Nha!
Hostels are a great accommodation option if you’re travelling with friends! Hostels in Phong Nha are known to have a really lively atmosphere and you’re always sure to find travellers with incredible and inspiring stories. You’ll easily find travellers here from different walks of life and also, you’ll also receive a lot of information about Phong Nha, like places to visit and things to do. The food and drink are always cheap and the staff at the hostels of Phong Nha are known to be the friendliest. The most popular hostels in Phong Nha are Easy Tiger, Gecko, Shambalaa and Mango Hostel. All these hostels have a wonderful reputation for giving customers a special and fun experience; moreover, they are very reasonably priced and easy going.
Where are the best places to visit in Phong Nha Ke Bang besides wildlife?
Phong Nha Ke Bang is home to several large and small caves, and it will take ages to explore all of them. However, you can visit some famous caves and areas during your trip.
Weather & climate in Phong Nha Ke Bang national park
The best time to visit Phong Nha is during the dry season (April to August) because you can see most attractions.
The water level may cover the cave entrance during the rainy season, and it can be dangerous to participate in activities.
The weather in Phong Nha, Vietnam
Like the North Central region, Phong Nha Ke Bang (Quang Binh province) has a tropical monsoon climate, hot and humid.
The average annual temperature is 23-25°C, with the highest temperature being 41°C in summer and the lowest possible down to 6°C in winter.
The hottest period is from June to August, with an average temperature of 28°C, while from December to February has an average temperature of 18°C.
Seasons in Phong Nha Ke Bang
There are two distinct seasons in Phong Nha: the dry and rainy seasons.
The rainy season
The rainy season (from September to March next year) is characterized by the northeast monsoon.
The average annual rainfall measured is 2,000–2,500 mm, with 88% rain between July and December.
The dry season
The southwest win influences the dry season (from April to August). However, due to the regulation of the East Sea, the climate of Quang Binh is quite chilly at night.
The average temperature of the dry season is 24-25°C.
The hottest months of the dry season are from June to August, and temperatures can reach over 41°C.
The rainy season coincides with the storm season.
Quang Binh province is often affected by typhoons. With flat and sloping terrain, there is often a sudden flood when there are storms.
How much is the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park entrance fee?
This is a list of ticket prices for Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park 2022.
a) Paradise Cave Entrance fee
- Adults: 125,000 VND per adult
- Children from 1.1m to 1.3m: 65,000 VND per child
- Children with height under 1.1m are exempt from sightseeing tickets.
Service of electric cars:
- 4-seat electric car: 60,000 VND/ 1-way or 100,000 VND/ round trip
- 6-seat electric car: 90,000 VND/ 1-way or 150,000 VND/ round trip
- 8-seat electric car: 200,000 VND/ round trip
- 14-seat electric car: 350,000 VND/ round trip
b) Phong Nha Cave Entrance fee
- Adults: 75,000 VND per adult
- Children with height under 1.3 m are exempt from sightseeing tickets.
- Phong Nha cave boat tour: 550,000 VND per boat with life jackets, carrying up to 12 guests, including children.
c) Tien Son Cave Entrance fee
- Adults: 40,000 VND per adult
- Children with height under 1.3 m are exempt from sightseeing tickets.
- Sightseeing boat for Phong Nha Cave and Tien Son Cave: 550,000 VND / 1 boat / 12 guests with life jackets
d) Mooc River fee
Ticket service package (Including Spring bathing, Kayaking, Life jacket, Paddle, and Rescue fee)
- Adult: 140,000 VND per adult
- Children: 70,000 VND per child
Tickets to visit:
- Adults and children from 1.3m or more: 40,000 VND per person
- Children with height under 1.3m are exempt from entrance tickets.
e) Chay River – Dark Cave fee
Below is the entrance fee of the Dark Cave.
- Adults and children over 1.3m: 299,000 VND per ticket (All services are included: zipline in Dark Cave, zip line river, games, kayaking, Mud bathing in Dark Cave …)
- Children (90cm – 1,3m high): 97,000 VND / person (no zip line swing, kayak use with parents). Includes: discovery and mud bathing in Dark Cave, discovery and safety equipment, underwater games (not including thrills)
- Children: Free (under 1 meter high, only use the children’s pool)
f) Phong Nha Botanical Garden entrance fee
- Adults: 40,000 VND per adult
- Children: 20,000 VND per child