Paradise Cave in Phong Nha is a whimsical delight and the perfect budget half day trip from Phong Nha. Having only been discovered in 2005 and open to the public for a few short years, this cave is magnificently lit up and showcases some of the best cave formations in all of Vietnam, a definite must visit while in Phong Nha.
Getting There: 14 KM southwest of Phong Nha, the drive through the national park is stunning so if you can ride a motorbike definitely drive there and do it yourself, it’s much cheaper than doing a tour and you have the freedom to spend as long as you want exploring the park.
Costs: entrance fee is 250,000 VND, you don’t need a guide as it’s one route in and out.
Suggested Time: I visited early afternoon and was one of the only people in the entire cave, although I’ve heard tour groups arrive in the afternoons. The cave opens at 6.30am so if you really want the place to yourself arrive early.
Paradise Cave or Thien Duong is a 31 KM long cave system in the middle of Phong Nha National Park. Opened to the public in 2010 it is the longest dry cave in the world. A dry cave is essentially a cave with no water in it, simple enough right? The cave was discovered in 2005 when a local man foraging for bamboo heard howling wind and found a small opening. The cave was then explored by the British Caving Association and opened to the public a short time later.
Driving through the dense green surroundings, on the winding roads through the National Park is the perfect start to this caving adventure. Honestly the drive is surreal,
limestone karsts jetting out of the landscape, pristine turquoise water in the adjacent river and lush forests surrounding you.
Once you get to the entrance of Paradise Cave you purchase your ticket and then start the 2 KM trek through the forest. You can pay 60,000 VND to get an electric buggy (seating 4 people, so split the cost) ride to the base of the cave entrance but honestly the walk is very pretty and the most strenuous bit is the climb up the paved rampways which the buggy doesn’t go up anyway.
The entrance to the cave is incredibly nondescript and it’s no wonder it wasn’t discovered for so many centuries; you’ll find a small opening with a recently constructed wooden set of stairs leading down. Once you descend the stairs the cave opens out into a monumental cavern which is breathtaking; it only gets better the further down the stairs you go. The boardwalk takes you a kilometer through the stunningly lit cave, and the lighting beautifully accentuates the natural formations of stalactites.
The ceiling of the cave is up to 100 meters tall and at its widest stretches for over 150 meters. You are surrounded by thousands of ancient stalactites and stalagmites of all shapes and sizes. One of the most beautiful formations looks like a huge melted candle with a small pool of water at the base which perfectly mirrors the stalagmite above it. The shapes that have been formed over the centuries are truly phenomenal and the soft lighting in the cave further accentuates the earthy tones.
I spent my time in the cave walking around with my mouth constantly ajar in wonderment at the scale and beauty of the formations. It only takes about 15-20 minutes to walk along the entire boardwalk, but I spent well over an hour gazing at the beautifully lit rock formations.