Hang Son Doong: How to visit the biggest cave in the world

Quang Binh attracts tourists by the beautiful beaches, wonderful caves and friendly local people. Speaking of cave expedition in Vietnam, perhaps everyone thinks of Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park where owns hundreds of beautiful caves, typically Son Doong is the biggest cave in the world and it contains a forest inside itself.

Son Doong Cave - Hang Son Doong
The Gate at Son Doong Cave -Photo cropped from video of Ryan Deboodt

However, to travel to Hang Son Doong is not a simple thing. This post will introduce you some of the most essential travel experiences of Son Doong Cave, which can help you get a memorable journey.

Brief information of Son Doong Cave and tour to visit it

Son Doong Cave (Hang Son Doong) is located in Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park in Son Trach Commune, Bo Trach District, Quang Binh Province. Hang Son Dong is currently the largest natural cave in the world with an estimated length of 5km, a 200m height, and a width of 150m.

Son Doong Cave Map
Son Doong Cave to see from Dong Hoi, Quang Binh

In 1991, a local farmer Ho Khanh discovered the cave; however, until 2009, Son Doong Cave was known to the world for the trip of the explorers of the Royal British Cave Association.

Currently, Oxalis is only one company that is allowed to organize the Son Doong Cave tour for 3,000 USD per person to join a group of max 10 guests, all tickets to visit the cave need to be booked in advance. Although it has a high price, many adventurous tourists who love to explore nature and cave are willing to spend much money just to conquer the largest and most beautiful cave in the world.

This tour requires more from 25 people supporting the discovery including the transportation staff, a cave expert, and a guide. Each year, a few hundreds of tourists are limited to explore Son Doong Cave, because of the protection of cave nature, the big budget of the tour, and healthy requires to trek.

Short notes about Hang Son Doong:

  • Time for exploring Son Doog Cave: from January to August
  • Duration: 4 days / 3 nights (additional 2 nights at the hotel, before and after the tour)
  • Level of adventure: Difficult (30 km+) and only for guests who are physically fit
  • Number of tours: Departure weekly
  • Number of guests: Tour departure from 6 – 10 guests
  • Age limit: 18 years or older
  • Price: 69,800,000 VND = $ 3000/person
Hang Son Doong
Exploring Hang Son Doong – photo: @linhbaobui

The best time to visit Son Doong Cave

The company organizes a tour to Son Doong cave which is allowed to be exploited from January to August every year. The remaining months are rainy season in Quang Binh, so it is not safe to explore Son Doong cave.

According to the experience of visiting Hang Son Doong, the best time to explore it is from the end of February to April. This duration is the most beautiful time with cool and pleasant weather, which is going for trekking.

Prepare before traveling to Hang Son Doong

What should you prepare before going to Son Doong cave? That is a question that many guests ask us about this tour. There are some notes that you need to know.

The items are necessary, such as clothes and personal belongings. The most important point is that you need to train and keep good health and fitness. Journey to conquer Son Doong Cave is a hard level of trekking and walking in the forest, and overcome many hills, rivers and cliffs, which requires you to have a suitable condition.

Before taking part in this tour, health professionals will check your wellness by asking about your health status. You should answer these questions correctly.

To join the tour comfortably, before joining this conquest, you need to practice walking and running at least 10 km/day for about 3 to 6 months. All of these things aim to give you the best preparation for your fitness. And when you take the average speed to walk up the stairs of a 10-storey building and you feel alright, that’s when you can join the Son Doong Tour.

Hang Son Doong Cave Vietnam – the Biggest Cave in Vietnam
This photo is collected from internet.

Journey to explore the biggest cave in the world

After you’ve had the best preparation for your physical state, it’s time to start your journey to explore the fascinating Son Doong Cave. The van of the company can only take you to kilometer 39 of Ho Chi Minh road, and then from here, you will start your exploration to conquer Son Doong cave.

  • It is because the cave is located further in the primitive jungle, so to reach this cavern; you have to walk quite a long distance.
  • You will walk down the valley, through the village of Van Kieu ethnic group.
  • As usual, you will have lunch and rest here and then continue for the journey to En Cave (Hang En).
  • The group has dinner and spends overnight at En Cave to power up a difficult journey in the next morning.
  • Duration to explore all Hang Son Doong is about 4 days 3 nights with many difficulties, but the exciting and valuable discovery for people who love nature.
  • It’s amazing and also impressed with a mysterious and charming world that lives inside the cave.

You will admire the incredible stalactites, a primeval forest with extremely rich and unspoiled vegetation. The inside of the cave is a different life from the outside. You will discover the creativity of nature.

Top 5 highlights inside Son Doong Cave

  1. Son Doong is the largest natural cave in the world with a height of 200m enough to accommodate 40-storey buildings or dozens of big Boeing types.
  2. Eden garden in the ground: The landscape inside Son Doong creates an incredibly majestic scene with rivers, mountains and a forest with an immensely unique and diverse ecosystem.
  3. The Great Wall of Vietnam: The system of natural cliffs with a height of more than 80m makes this area known as the Great Wall of Vietnam.
  4. Large stalactite system: in Son Doong, the stalactite system resembles the strong giants with stalagmites up to 70m high and has different shapes.
  5. The biggest grotto pearls are found in the cave with a size larger than a baseball.
Hang Son Doong
Hang Son Doong is the biggest cave in the world. Photo: @bbaum.rtw

Some notes you need to remember when traveling to this cave

  • A tourist experiencing Son Doong cave does not need to carry anything. There are members of staffs who support you.
  • The travel office also prepares your tents to rest. A number of public toilets are also set up in the cave to ensure hygiene for visitors and the surrounding environment.
  • In order to have a perfect excursion, you need to comply with all the regulations set by the company.
  • If there is a problem occurred that makes the journey impossible to continue, travelers have to return, not to go on.
  • Normally, this nature tour has activities such as climbing, wading streams, some essential items, including soft shoes, flashlights, anti-squeeze drugs, and anti-fungal drugs.
  • Clothes should be light, easy to dr Thin warm coats are the most convenient for the night.
  • Should choose shoes for trekking, easy to drain because it will have to operate in a humid environment for a long time.
  • There is no bathing room in the cave. There is only a limited amount of water to eat and basic personal hygiene. If you want to be cleaner, you can bring a lot of wet towels and hand sanitizer with you.
Hang Son Doong Cave
A great photo inside Son Doong Cave – Photo: @yaurowen

Tips to take pictures in the dark cave

The techniques of taking photos in the cave are really different, because the environment of Hang Son Song is very dark, completely wild and wet, so in addition to cameras, lenses and brackets, visitors need to prepare big lighting systems of lamps.

“Flash types are just like fireflies, hardly bright enough to reflect the grandiose of the cave. The most effective way to shoot is to expose it with the support of many people to take the vast space without no natural light, “Anh Cuong shared.

These activities often consume camera batteries very quickly and certainly can’t just take a photo. You should carry them enough to get more pictures of your wish.

 When broadcasting live inside Son Doong cave to the United States, ABC TV show needs 150 people to carry goods and equipment for their work.

FAQ about Hang Son Soong

Why the price of Son Son Dong tour is quite high? 

$3,000 is high for a tour with 4 days and 3 nights (including 2 days for accommodation before and after the tour). It’s value to do this because $ 3,000 tour price has includes 10% VAT, 660USD visiting fee and forest environmental services submitted to the management board of Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park.

Each tour of Son Doong needs a lot of people to support tourists to make sure the safety, comfort, hygiene, and guiding.

Teh largest cave in the world - hang son doong
Swimming in Son Doong Cave – Photo: @linhbaobui

Does $3000 include airline tickets?

No, $3,000 is only the tour cost, excluding other expenses to Quang Binh. The guest must pay for airlines tickets, trains, or cars to travel to Quang Binh to start the tour. Thus, the total amount they have to pay for the Son Doong trip can be higher than this price depending on how far you will travel to this province.

If I cannot afford to tour, can I discover Son Doong cave by myself?

No, you cannot. Anyone or any groups who wants to visit Son Doong Cave without the permission of the management board of Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park are in violation of the law. If you cannot visit Son Doong Cave, you can visit the Paradise Cave or Phong Nha Cave instead.

Can I join a group when I am alone?

Although each tour is limited to 10 guests, you can join the tour if traveling alone. When registering to do a tour, please tell the tour operator!

How is the temperature in the cave?

On the way to travel to the cave, the temperature can be very cold from December to March (8-15 degrees Celsius) or hot in June – August (32-38 degrees Celsius). If it rains, the roads are slippery and full of mud. However, the temperature in the cave remains stable at 23 – 24 degrees Celsius and you should bring a light jacket.

How far will the group have to walk and climb?

The entire trip will be longer than 50 km, but this number is only approximate because you will have to climb up the mountains and cliffs, trekking in the trails, and cross the river.

Do I need to carry helmets, seat belts, or caving tools?

The company will provide you with a full range of caving tools, including helmets, safety belts, flashlight … You can bring a small flashlight to move at the campsite at night.

How does the group eat and spend overnight during the trip?

You are provided with tents, a thin mattress, and sleeping bags. Also, you should bring a small pillow to sleep comfortably

The tour company will serve a varied and full menu in the cave such as pork, beef, chicken, fish, rice and lots of vegetables. Food is stored in the best safe and hygienic condition. Guests must inform before wanting to bring more food.

Which outfit should I wear to explore?

You bring 3 sets of clothes made of dry materials. One of them is used for cave exploration and trekking (hiking) because it can get wet along the road. A set of dry clothes is used at the campsite and the last set to change. If you go in February – March, you need to bring more coats to keep warm.

What kind of shoes should be brought along during the trip?

The road is quite dangerous; visitors will wade in stages and climb over the big cliffs. Therefore, you should choose the type of boots that can be drained quickly (absolutely do not use shoes with waterproofing agents that will not remove, so your shoes will be heavier than usual).

If you have a pair of shoes with good grip, you should use it. Make sure the shoes can be used for 6 days of exploration. If you cannot find suitable shoes, the company can lend you a special type of special shoes, but you need to prepare shoe linings to protect your foot.

What type of backpacks should you wear?

You should carry a small backpack to contain cameras, water bottles, and personal drugs. The service staff will bring your entire remaining luggage. Dry or waterproof bags are not really necessary because you only cross the shallow streams.

How can I go to the toilet?

At each campsite, the servers will prepare a microbial composting toilet (using rice husks to eliminate bad smell and decompose quickly). Gel to wash hands is also available for the guests to use before meals and after going to the toilet, avoiding infection.

Which personal belongings should you bring?

You only need the regular items like insect repellent spray, deodorant spray, chrome powder (use when camping for foot keep it dry), anti-fungal medicine and shampoo which are friendly with environment.

Is there a place in the cave to bathe?

You will have a place to bathe at Hang En campsite (first and last night). There are also bathing places inside Son Doong, but you have to go further to get water. Guests can bring a small towel to use on the trip.

Do I need to check a good physical status to join the expedition?

Yes, in order to conquer Son Doong, you must register the tour and wait for your turn. The guests must pass two theoretical and practical tests of extremely strenuous physical strength. If you do not pass, you will not be allowed to participate in Son Doong Tour, because this is a hard adventure tour.

Do I need to buy travel insurance?

Yes, you should. The tour company will buy travel insurance for travelers, but the coverage has value in Vietnam (Vietnamese quality). Thus, you should purchase travel insurance from an international travel insurance company or from your country.

What type of camera and devices supporting photography?

You should carry your own kinds of devices such as digital cameras, GoPro, batteries … If you are a professional or semi-professional photographer, you will not regret bringing the excellent camera to take pictures for great moments. If you bring GoPro, carry a strap to attach it to the helmet.

You will have a lot of time to take pictures in Son Dong Cave, and it is easy to have beautiful photos here with the support of the expedition. Explorers should have enough batteries for cameras. And, protection covers your camera from sand and dust.

Can I charge a camera in a cave?

The best way is to bring extra batteries and make sure the camera is fully charged before you go. Many phones need extra chargers to take precautions.

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