Son Doong cave(Vietnamese: Hang Son Doong) is world’s largest cave, located in Son Trach, Bo Trach District, Quang Binh province, Vietnam. It is found by a local man named Ho Khanh in 1991 and was recently discovered in 2009 by British cavers, led by Howard Limbert. The name “Son Doong” cave means “mountain river cave”, It was created 2-5 million years ago by river water eroding away the limestone underneath the mountain Where the limestone was weak, the ceiling collapsed creating huge skylights. Son Doong cave is more than 200 meters wide, 150 meters high, and approx 9 kilometers long, with caverns big enough to fit an entire city street inside them, twice as large as Deer Cave in Malaysia (currently considered the world’s largest with 90 meters wide, 100 meters high and 2 kilometers long). Son Doong cave was classified as the largest cave in the world by BCRA (British Cave Research Association) and selected as one of the most beautiful in the globe by the BBC news.
Son Doong cave is hidden in rugged Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh province near the border with Laos, the cave is part of a network of 150 or so caves, many still not surveyed, in the Annamite Mountains. It is very difficult to travers. During the first expedition, the team explored two and a half miles of Son Doong cave before a 200-foot wall of muddy calcite stopped them. They named it the Great Wall of Vietnam. Above it they could make out an open space and traces of light, but they had no idea what lay on the other side. A year later, they have returned—seven hard-core British cavers, a few scientists, and a crew of porters – to climb the wall, if they can, measure the passage, and push on, if possible, all the way to the end of the cave…
Son Doong Cave – Map
After Son Doong cave exploring trip, in the presence of scientists DHKH School of Natural landforms (Prof. Dr. Vu Van Phai, Dr. Nguyen Hieu), the American Cave (Dr. Darryl R.), biologists from Newzeland (TS. Annete B.) and the Institute of Geography, Institute of Science and Technology of Vietnam (Nguyen Huu Tu CVC., MA. Vu Anh Tai), cave explorers (Howard L., Deb L., Paul I ., Robine GS, Jonathan S., Howard C.) filmmakers (Chairman James K., Patrick K. director, Simon R. cameraman, assistant cameraman Dan E., Paul R. audio) and journalists (writers Mark D., Carsten P. photography, photography assistant, Robert S.) of TV channels and magazines, National Geographic (NG). Along with the participation and assistance of 23 local people including Mr. Ho Paul – who discovered the cave paint line, officials of the national park of Phong Nha – Ke Bang (Mr.Hien), Immigration Department Quang Binh (Mr. Ocean) and the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism (Mr.Long). Son Doong cave Map is outlined by Dr.Nguyễn Hiệu:
Son Doong cave Map – outlined by Dr.Nguyễn Hiệu
Width : > 200 meters
Height : 150 meters
(The largest chamber of the cave is judged to be 250 meters in height)
Length : approx 9 kilometers
Son Doong cave is hidden in rugged Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh province near the border with Laos. It takes explorers 6 hours of walking through a 10 kilometer long forest path from Truong Son Highway to reach the mouth of Son Dong cave.
The nearest town is Dong Hoi which is 65km away (55km driving & 10km trekking).
To get to Dong Hoi you can travel by air, car, train from either two big tourist hubs Hanoi & HoChiMinh City, or from smaller hubs Hue and Hoian
Dong Hoi Airport is located 6km north of town. There are daily flights from/to Dong Hoi
Hanoi – Dong Hoi: 06:10 – 07:40
Dong Hoi – Hanoi: 08:20 – 10:00
HCMC – Dong Hoi: 10:00 – 11:35
Dong Hoi – HCMC: 12:25 – 14:00
There are daily open-tour buses from both Hanoi & HCM running through Dong Hoi Town
Buses to all destinations zip up and down Hwy 1A, including open-tour buses between Hanoi and Hué. It’s easy to leave an open tour bus in Dong Hoi, but more difficult to arrange to be picked up from here.
From the bus station on Tran Hung Dao street you can catch services south to Danang (5 hrs, 6 daily) via Dong Ha (2 hrs), and north to Vinh (4 hrs).
It’s possible to get a bus to the busy Lao border at Lao Bao (3 daily) and directly to the Lao city of Muang Khammouan (11 hrs, twice weekly) passing through the little used Cha Lo/Na Phao border crossing (7am-5pm) situated between Don Bai Dinh (Vietnam) and Na Phao (Laos). The buses leave from Dong Hoi at 6am on Mondays and Fridays, with the return journey leaving from Muang Khammouan at 7am on Wednesdays and Sundays. It is not possible to arrange a Lao visa at this border.
Car & motorbike
Dong Hoi is on Hwy 1A, 166 km north of Hue, 95 km north of Dong Ha and 197 km south of Vinh.
You can hire a car or rent a bike from any travel agent in Hanoi, HCMC, Danang or Hue
The train station is located 3km from Hwy 1A. Take Tran Hung Dao street until it crosses a bridge. A signpost directs you to take the next right, then take another right and then the station is directly ahead.
The Reunification Express heads to destinations that include Hanoi (9 – 12 hrs, 6 daily), Vinh (3½ to 9½ hrs, eight daily), and Hue (2½ to 5½ hrs, 8 daily).
The best time for caving Son Doong
The coast area of Quang Binh has tropical climate and is divided into two distinguished seasons. The dry season (from March to August) has a maximum temperature of 40o C and the colder, rainy season (August to January) has temperatures that can go down to 19o C. In higher areas (on mountains, highlands) the temperature is generally cooler.
From March to August will be the best time to explore Son Doong Cave, especially between March and April when the temperature is more pleasant, though rainfalls are still likely. During the rainy season, between September and January rain is more frequent and can be heavy.
Dong Hoi Hotel (2-star)Located in the center of Dong Hoi city, It’s nearby Nhat Le Beach, railway station, bus station, just 5 minute go to by car and just 5 minute walk to the market, super market, with safe and large parking. The hotel has 40 well-equipped guestrooms, the restaurant seats 500 people. Room rate from $15 to $25
Add: 50 Quang Trung St., Dong Hoi City, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam
Tel: (84-52) 822289; Fax: (84-52) 828117
Huu Nghi Hotel (2-star)
Located in the center of Dong Hoi city, It’s nearby Nhat Le Beach, railway station, bus station, just 5 minute go to by car and just 5 minute walk to the market, super market, with safe and large parking. The hotel has 40 well-equipped guestrooms, the restaurant seats 500 people. Room rate from $15 to $25
Add: 22 Quach Xuan Ky road, Dong Hoi town, Quang Binh province, Vietnam
Tel: (84-52) 822567; Fax: (84-52) 822463
Nam Long Hotel (2-star)
By the Nhat Le river, 0.6 km from Nhat Le beach, 0.7 km from Central Postoffice, 2.5 km from Railway Station, 100 m from Highway No 1. Nam Long Hotel includes 10 standard rooms from 15 to 20 m2, 8-10 USD/ night with hot water, cable TV, free wifi internet, air conditioner.
Add: 22 Ho Xuan Huong st – Dong Hoi city- Quang Binh Province, Vietnam
Tel: (84-52) 821851; Fax: (84-52) 829774
Cosevco Nhat Le (3-star)
The first three star hotel in Quang Binh province having the service of hotel, restaurant, tour operators…We’d like Cosevco Nhat Le to become a familliar address of yours when coming to Quang Binh
Add: 16 Quach Xuan Ky road, Dong Hoi town, Quang Binh province, Vietnam
Tel: (84-52) 840 088; Fax: (84-52) 822 180
Saigon Quang Binh Hotel (4-star)
Saigon Quang Binh Hotel is a newest 4 star international hotel with 95 luxurious guest rooms, facilities and services that meet to the requirement of both leisure and business travelers. Room rate from $50 to $110
Add: 20 Quach Xuan Ky St, Dong Hoi city, Quang Binh province, Vietnam
Tel: (84-52) 822276; Fax: (84-52) 822404
Sun Spa Resort (5-star)
Sun Spa Resort is set in the picturesque Central Vietnam city of Dong Hoi, some 150 kilometers to the North of Imperial city of Hue and on the banks of the legendary of Nhat Le River. Room rates from $75 to $180.
Add: My Canh, Bao Ninh, Dong Hoi, Quang Binh province, Vietnam
Tel: (84-52) 842999; Fax: (84-52) 842555
Dong Hoi is a bit lacklustre on the food front. Numerous interchangeable restaurants serve up com, which literally means rice, but implies a meal of meat, soup and vegetables centred around a big bowl of the white fluffy stuff.
Here more than elsewhere, a foreigner ordering ‘chicken and rice’ may find themselves surrounded by more bowls of food than they can possibly eat and then being charged a hefty sum, so be wary.
Locals point us to one place that stands out from the pack in terms of price and quality: Binh Van, on Highway 1. It’s about a kilometre south of Cua Dai (Long Bridge) but worth seeking out. It’s run by a couple and their children: the wife, Van, is the head chef, she’s always full of smiles, and her husband, Binh, is the resident host, and he’s usually…well, full of rice wine. The meals here were absolutely soul-satisfying. Little English is spoken, so bring a phrase book.
Pickings are slim on the western food front as well. Right near the Quang Binh gate is Cafe QB (which stands for Quang Binh, of course) and across the street is another incarnation, QB Teen. It’s run by a friendly staff of young gals, and serves a small but eclectic selection of freshly made dishes of foreign origin: hotdogs, pizza, roasted and fried chicken, along with (for some reason) excellent Korean kim chi. Sushi is also sometimes available.
If you head to the market, there are several cafes that have vendors out front selling sandwiches made from Chinese-style roast pork and cucumber–cheap and delicious.
Binh Van Restaurant: Highway 1, 1 km South of Cau Dai, Dong Hoi. T: (052) 825 596, (0915) 017 559; F: (052) 825 596.
Cafe QB and QB Teen: 03 Le Loi, Dong Hoi. T: (052) 824 694. Hours: 07:00 to 22:30.
The best trip is 3-day-tour departure from Dong Hoi with 2 nights camping in En Cave (2hr walking from Son Doong Cave) and around 6-7hr exploring inside Son Doong Cave. It is possible to explore only a part of the cave with support from local support team including local guide, porter and forest rangers.
2-day-tour can also be arranged with 1 night camping and only 3hrs exploring inside Son Doong Cave.
For detailed itineraries please view our tour section
What gears you should bring
Though the local support team can walk or jump easily on rocks inside the cave and need no caving gears that does not mean you can do the same as they do. Bring with you basic caving gears like helmet, booths, head lamp,…anything you would need for a serious caving adventure.
You are expected to encounter some water inside the cave thus it is wise to packed your belongings in waterproof backpack.
The camping is equipped with tent & sleeping bag and will be upgraded with air mattress soon.
Leaches could be the biggest nature obstacle as you trek through jungle and at the campsite thus anti-insect repellent is a must-have.
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