Phong Nha is inevitably one of the most popular travel destinations in Vietnam. It is home to probably the largest concentration of caves that have been formed over millions of years. It is the paradise for adventurers. It is littered with nature and offers a touch of jungle feeling. The locals are super friendly. Mass tourism has not yet arrived here. And it offers a feeling of having it all entirely for yourself.
On my two-week trip through Vietnam there were many destinations on the list, but none of them surprised me as much as Phong Nha. The real highlight of my trip was supposed to be Cat Ba Island, but unfortunately Halong Bay is so overrun by tourists and filled with construction sites that it is hard to remain in my memory as the highlight. But finally Phong Nha has mastered the competition and remains for me as the most beautiful location in Vietnam so far.
What can you expect in Phong Nha?
Phong Nha is a small community in central Vietnam and is a home-town for about 12,500 inhabitants. It is extremely rural and the people here live from agriculture and tourism. There is a kind of city centre here where life happens and where you can stroll around comfortably in the evening.
The hotel industry has not yet discovered this place for itself. Luckily. Because only for this reason you can find a lot of untouched nature and jungle-covered mountain tops in the whole area. I missed this postcard panorama on my whole Vietnam tour and finally found it here.
So far away from the action there is of course no Grab or GoViet. Moving around for the tourists is slightly more difficult. Or it just feels slightly more difficult for me, because after months of living in Ho Chi Minh, I have become comfortable by having apps and services for any case.
But it’s no big deal. One call to my homestay and the owners came by with two motorbikes and picked me up with my luggage. I still remember this first trip very well. Not only because the luggage went alone on one of the bikes ahead, but also because of the breathtaking landscape, which I could enjoy in the approaching sunset on the back seat of a bike.
For the first time I saw mountains covered with forests and a lot of land stretching far to the horizon. For the first time I saw the local farmers doing their daily work in the fields. And also for the first time I saw freewheeling water buffalos, where I even dared to approach one of them up to 1 meter.
What to do in Phong Nha?
Hiking is probably one of the most popular activities. Nowhere else in Vietnam I have found so much untouched nature. I could not miss this chance and hiked through the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park. I have written down my experiences in a separate post and you can read them here.
Caves and camping
Phong Nha is known for its countless caves, which offer the right choice for every kind of taste. Whether only for short trips, or rather as a sporty activity up to an unforgettable adventure, there is a cave for every case.
In one of my previous posts I reported about my short trip to Paradise Caves. If you are looking for more adventure you will find places like Elephant Cave or Dark Cave. There are also trips lasting for several days with overnight stays in tents. Tours can be booked through Klook or directly at Oxalis or Jungle Boss.
If you are looking for an alternative, you will certainly find it if you go on a kayak tour. Caves can also be visited by the river and the tour takes you off the beaten track. Trips along the beautiful Côn River including kayaks can be booked directly at Oxalis.
Riding a Motorbike
The notorious Ho Chi Minh Trail leads across Phong Nha and can be explored on your own by bike. Motorbikes can easily be rented in Phong Nha. It is best to ask your accommodation.
Which accommodation can I recommend?
The four days in Phong Nha I spent in Charm’s Homestay. The location was a bit off the center, but that was no problem at all. Instead I had a direct view on the Côn River and could enjoy delicious pancakes every morning and watch local fishermen harvesting seaweed.
Food and Drink
The stylish restaurant in industrial design immediately caught my attention. Striking both from the outside and the inside. The menu has a western touch and it was absolutely delicious. The owner is advertising with chosen ingredients in organic quality and pays attention to his ecological fingerprint.
Cool place with a warm and cosy atmosphere. The menu is purely vegetarian and really recommendable.
With so much compliment, my conclusion can only be positive. Phong Nha is and remains for me the place in Vietnam where I felt most comfortable and to which I am most inclined if there should be a resumption of the ”Adventure Vietnam”. The experiences made there were an enrichment for me. And after 14 days of travelling in a row I could finally relax. Every adventure needs a perfect finish.