This post covers some great things to do in Phong Nha! It was one of my favourite spots in Vietnam, so hopefully, this list will help you make the most of it.
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Phong Nha was one of the most heavily bombed areas during the Vietnam War because it was part of the supply route from North to South Vietnam. People hid in caves during the day and did all the work at night, even farming.
It is now a peaceful place, surrounded by gorgeous nature and with a surprising amount of activities for tourists.
How do you get around Phong Nha?
Hiring an easy rider in Phong Na for one day was 11 pounds. I asked my hostel Easy Tiger to help. You can rent your own for less money, giving you more freedom.
Alternatively, you can borrow a bicycle from your hostel. This is only recommended for stops which are near the main town. Exploring the National Park itself – including key locations such as Paradise Cave – is recommended on scooters due to the long distances and hilly roads.
Things to do in Phong Nha
The cave was discovered in 2005 by the British cave association. 1km of the massive 36km cave is open to tourists. No list of things to do in Phong Nha would be complete without this mighty cave network!
This place has to be seen to be believed. I’ve seen a LOT of caves while travelling, and frankly? This one ruined all the others for me! It really is like walking into another planet – the most otherworldly place I’ve experienced. Unfortunately, I found it very hard to photograph – the scale of it is beyond what my camera can take in.
The limestone formations loom all around the wooden boardwalk, and the artificial lighting creates an increasingly mystical effect.
Entry: 250K per person
The walk up to the cave entrance is steep. It has a well-made sloping footpath or steps, but you can also get a buggy each way for 10K.
PHONG NHA-KE BANG NATIONAL PARK
Hiring a scooter or easy rider to take you around Phong Nha-ke Bang National Park is one of the most fun things to do in Phong Nha.
The loop is scenic and gorgeous! It’s a fantastic way to see some of Vietnam’s best landscapes, still untouched by the swarms of tourists surrounding other areas such as Ha Long Bay. Along the way, you can make stops at Paradise Cave, the Botanic Garden, the Dark Cave and more.
PHONG NAH CAVES BOAT TOUR
It was strange to think of people hiding in the caves during the war whilst bombers outside targeted the entrance to the cave. They even had to bring the supply bridges inside the cave during the daytime! The stalactites and stalagmites were incredible, like ominous giant jellyfish.
These caves are close to the main town – in fact, you may even be able to walk there from your hostel. So whilst it’s not as spectacular as the other caves, it’s still a beautiful spot perfect for when you have a couple of hours free.
DARK CAVE (HANG TOI)
This is a more ‘activity-based’ cave experience in which you zipline or kayak into the cave and walk through deep mud wearing a headlamp. Apparently, all that mud is good for your skin, though, who knows? They say only bring clothes you don’t mind getting ruined (nothing white).
The reviews are pretty mixed, with some calling it a tourist trap and others saying it was loads of fun. Maybe it depends on how fun you find mud.
Entry: 250K (low season) or 450K (high season)
PHONG NHA BOTANIC GARDEN
Entering through a jungle forest, Phong Nha Botanic Garden is wilder than any other I’ve been to. Most guests will pick from a short 1 hour or longer 3 hour loop from which to walk around the ‘garden’ – don’t expect any flower displays or cute fountains
There’s a waterfall you can swim in, but the descent is not via a proper footpath – instead, you’ll be scrambling over slippery rocks. I wasn’t really prepared this short but challenging hike down – you’ll need trainers or hiking shoes, not flip-flops. The viewpoint (pictured below) was very pretty.
Remember your mosquito spray for this activity or prepare to get bitten. 🙂 I also ate lunch at the restaurant here – just vegetable noodles.
GRAB A BICYCLE AND HEAD TO ‘DUCK STOP’…
‘Duck Stop’ is literally a place where a guy owns lots of ducks and gives feed to tourists, so the ducks all run at them. Sound weird? It’s one of the top-rated attractions in Phong Nha, with glowing reviews all around. If you fancy a giggle, it’s the place to go.
The activity is run by a local family and offers endless ridiculous photo opportunities.
Entry: 150K (includes a pancake and drink)
…& PUB WITH COLD BEER
At the same time, you can head to ‘Pub with Cold Beer’. Apparently, it got the name after some tourists got sick drinking beer with ice on a hot day (the water is not drinkable in Vietnam), so a fabled local one day bought a fridge! Thus, the Pub With Cold Beer was a must-visit for any tourists who fancied a drink.
Easy Tiger is a great hostel in the heart of Phong Na – and you can take advantage of it even if you don’t stay there. For people staying, it had a jungle theme and pool and loads of food options on sight. But best of all, every morning at around 09:15 they do a talk about everything there is to do in Phong Na – and everyone are welcome! They encourage backpackers to share costs, making it easy for me as a solo traveller. They will tell you all the activities and how to get to them, and the staff will provide maps along with the best places to hire scooters or bicycles.
TRAVEL SUSTAINABLY IN VIETNAM
To avoid using plastic bottles in Southeast Asia, I used to a Water To Go bottle.
The filters used in their BPA free water bottles are created based on technology originally developed for the NASA space programme. These provide safe water from any non-salt water source in the world.
Read more on their website – affiliate link – and use the code HAG15 if you like what you see to get 15% off.
VISAS FOR VIETNAM
Most travellers will require a visa to enter Vietnam which you can organise in advance. Check below to see your requirements. I personally used and paid for the iVisa service in 2020 and it’s a website I would genuinely recommend. I now have the below affiliate link set up with them: ivisa.com