World Heritage PhongNha-Ke Bang National Park, with its karst mountains, underground rivers, historic sites, extensive caves and unspoilt jungle, ispackedwith opportunities to hike, bike, paddle or simply relax in one of Vietnam’s most spectacular and interesting regions.

Biking the Bong Lai Valley

Grab a quirky hand-drawn map from either the PhongNhaFarmstay or the Easy Tiger hostel, and spend a day exploring the Bong Lai Valley. Meandering tracks and back roads made for mountain bikes weave through local villages and along sleepy rivers, passing by an ever-expanding array of laidback attractions. Lunch on grilled chicken with peanut sauce at the Pub with Cold Beer, or spend a relaxing afternoon in a rustic riverside shelter at the Wild Boar Eco-Farm.

Meeting the challenge of Hang Toi

Kick off a visit to Hang Toi (Dark Cave) with a soaring zipline flight above a forest-shaded river, before a brief but bracing swim into the mouth of the cave. Natural light soon fades as visitors are led further into the cavern, through narrow passageways filled with a mini-ocean of gluggy mud, before soaking and swimming in the underground waters of ThuyTienlake. Upon exiting the cave, it’s a short and very scenic kayak paddle back to the Dark Cave’s main jetty.

Hiking the jungle above the caves

Join a jungle hike with one of the region’s excellent local trekking guides. Hai’s Eco Conservation Tour involves a day exploring the jungle and a visit to PhongNha’s Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre. You’ll find the friendly Hai at his relaxed Bamboo Cafe in the town of Son Trach most evenings. Another trekking option is with Dzung of Jungle Boss Trekking, who runs a one-day tour around the Ho Chi Minh Trail, also visiting the remote Abandoned Valley area of the national park.

Relaxing by the river

After active days underground or trudging through the jungle, a more relaxed pursuit is to spend a few hours at the NuocMoocEcotrail. A series of linked walkways and bamboo bridges winds through a forested limestone labyrinth of pristine pools and turquoise springs. Kayaking is available on a small lake, and there’s a rustic rope bridge – a bit of a thrill after a lazy lunch in one of NuocMooc’s open-air gazebos.

Camping underground in Hang En

Located close to renowned Hang Son Doong, Hang En is currently regarded as the third-largest cave on the planet. One-night/two-day tours give travellers the opportunity to camp at a spectacular riverside location within the cave, and visit the remote ethnic minority village of Ban Doong. Fossils up to 300 million years old have been found in the cave, but present-day wildlife includes thousands of swifts, which dart amid the diffuse shafts of sunlight projecting into Hang En’s giant cavern.

Being one of the first to explore Hang Va

Discovered in 2012, and only opened to visitors in 2015, Hang Va is the newest underground adventure in the PhongNha region. Leading caving outfit Oxalis runs two-day/one-night adventures that include travelling along an underground river in the nearby Hang Nuoc Nut cave. After overnighting at a jungle camp near Hang Va’s entrance, visitors explore the cave’s spectacular partially submerged stalagmite field. Bring a sense of adventure – ropes and harnesses are used extensively during this experience.