PHONG NHA: VIETNAM'S STUNNING NATIONAL PARK
Phong Nha is the adventure capital you’ve probably never heard of. Why is it an adventure capital? Because of the massive caves ripe for adventuring, thick jungles ideal for bushwhacking, towering karsts suited to climbing, crisscrossing lanes ready for cycling, and winding rivers perfect for water sports.
So why haven’t you heard of it? Because much of this potential is yet to be realized. The exception is the area’s remarkable caves, many of which have been surveyed and are open to visitors. Since 2009, when Son Doong was rediscovered and crowned the biggest cave in the world, a huge selection of caving options has opened up.
Caving, Hiking, and Camping in Phong Nha
In Phong Nha you can’t go caving without a bit of hiking. Likewise, you can’t really go hiking without a bit of caving. The caves are so magnificent and numerous that walks through the jungle should include at least a peer inside one. But if you think caving (also known as potholing and spelunking) is about squeezing yourself down claustrophobic underground tunnels, then it’s time to broaden your horizons.
The volume of Son Doong, for example, is greater than that of Egypt’s Great Pyramid. Hang En and Pygmy Cave are the third and fourth largest caves in the world respectively and house spectacularly spacious campsites at the cave entrance. But there are still countless ways to get your hands dirty in tight spaces. The Tu Lan cave system and Ma Da valley boast wet caves through which you can swim, crawl, and slide.
Motorbiking, Mountain Biking, and Cycling in Phong Nha
You might come for the caves but don’t let that stop you from taking two wheels to explore the national park and surrounding countryside. A clear day in Phong Nha is picture-perfect, with a beaming sun that makes the rice terraces, jungles, and rivers pop with color. Two wheels is a great way to take in the scenery, which changes with each bend in the road. And there are different options depending on what you want.
Feel like getting muddy? Take a mountain bike and crisscross the rivers. Value speed over exertion? Rent a motorbike and see where it takes you. And if you just want something simple, hop on a regular push bike and see how much ground you cover. The roads are flat for the most part so you’ll never have too much to worry about.
Kayaking, Boating, and Other Water Activities in Phong Nha
Phong Nha may be far from the sea, but there’s still water everywhere you look. Typhoons batter the destination each year (usually in October) and a week without any rain at all is a very rare occurrence. This has created a landscape where rivers, streams, and lakes are found across the province, which not only feed the fields but also set the scene for watery adventures.
You can only access Phong Nha Cave by boat, while Dark Cave looks over a pond of fun-filled water activities. Alternatively, take a kayak to the river and craft your own experience.
Doing nothing at all...
People with time on their hands sometimes come to Phong Nha for a day – but stay for a month. Why? Because Phong Nha offers a real taste of the village life: slow-paced, low-rise, and feet-up (with beer in hand).
Much of the town is along a broad river with cafes and bars perfectly positioned for you to while away the afternoon with a book. Most of the town is walkable, though many accommodation options offer bicycles free of charge, so getting around is usually a leisurely affair. And when it all gets too hot, simply head to the river for a cooling swim.
Getting Off The Beaten Track in Phong Nha
Got an adventurous side? Phong Nha is where you can let it run wild. The countryside is lush, safe, and inviting, so you can head off in any direction and see what you come across. There are some remarkable experiences to be had nestled in the countryside.
Don’t be surprised when a local mom invites you in to chat to her children in English. Or when you find the best grilled chicken you’ve ever eaten. Or when you stumble across a farm that offers foot massages from the ducks (yes… that is actually a thing).
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