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Beneath the Surface: Caves in Vietnam

There’s something about subterranean spaces that inspires an almost mythic sense of awe, and Vietnam’s impressive cave network evokes an especially intense sense of wonder at the power of nature. 

Vietnam’s limestone karst landscape is punctuated with many hidden caverns; cloaked in greenery, they jut from emerald waters, or sit flanked by terraces of rippling paddy fields, offering voyages of exploration for those who feel intrepid enough to step inside. Within their deep, winding interiors are stunning geological formations including stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones and colourful mineral deposits that have formed in darkness over thousands of years. 

Exactly how and where you delve beneath the surface is up to you: take a junk boat around the coast, board a sampan to drift along a river, kayak into dark corners, or clamber up to hidden entrances. Discover what lies inside, kitted out with only a head torch and the thrill of stepping into the unknown…

Boating in Halong region caves
Halong region landscape
Stalactites and stalagmites in Phong Nha
cavern in Phong Nha
Stalactites in Phong Nha
Ninh Binh landscape

Lan Ha Bay & Bai Tu Long

Situated respectively to the south and north of the famous (yet rather crowded) Halong Bay, these two lesser-known coastal waterways offer the chance to explore the region’s picturesque scenery at a more leisurely pace, with far fewer other boats navigating the waters alongside you.

Starting from a traditional junk, paddle out in a kayak to explore caves secreted between the jagged limestone islands. Enjoy a swim in the emerald waters, head ashore to quiet villages (some floating above the water) and relax on sandy beaches in secluded bays.

Ninh Binh

Sometimes referred to as ‘Halong Bay on land’, the rivers that run through the northern province of Ninh Binh are studded with looming limestone formations that interrupt the lush landscape. The crowds head for Tam Coc, but we prefer the quieter, less pressured environs of the Ben Dang River.

Take a leisurely sampan journey between impressive rock formations and caves carved naturally from the stone. At Thien Ha Cave, shafts of sunlight pierce the gloom as you explore on foot, and at times you’ll need to step into a small boat to follow the grotto’s internal waterways...

Phong Nha

Central Vietnam’s Phong Nha-Ke National Park has, at its heart, the extraordinary Hang Toi, or Dark Cave. This offers just what it says on the tin: a trek through an increasingly dark and eerie space, heading ever-further underground. The full extent of the cavern was only mapped by the British Cave Research Association in the early 1990’s and has been open to tourists since 2011.

As you step out of your kayak, the cave's entrance looms ahead, inviting you to venture in. There’s no lighting, so a head torch and caving gear for exploring on foot are essential. Follow sandy underground pathways as your senses gradually adjust to the cool, dimly lit environment, wading through water and navigating sections of cool, muddy terrain. All around you, illuminated in the torchlight, discover an otherworldly landscape of stalactites hanging like ancient chandeliers and stalagmites rising from the cavern floor.

We think you may like this journey…


From Phở to Paddy

Embark on a journey through Vietnam’s less-visited north - lush rolling hills, remote villages and friendly locals, with a side of morning noodles in Hanoi.

Price from: £2,190 US$2,490
Ideal length 14 days
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Vietnam journey

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