Ultimate Guide to Sơn Đoòng Worlds Largest Cave
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The world’s largest cave was found in Vietnam, of all places. That is a truly beautiful country and a visit to Sơn Đoòng would be a once in a lifetime experience.
This is certainly not an easy trek – and if you are lucky enough to be one of the 1,000 people that are allowed to tour it a year, you are in for an experience like no other.
Ultimate Guide to Sơn Đoòng (Tours, Pricing, History)
This is the cave of all caves – and one that any true caver would be ecstatic to experience. If they can afford the ticket, besides the travel expenses. It is actually on my bucket list – if my name ever makes it into that elite list before I am too old to actually manage the trek involved.
What does Sơn Đoòng mean?
Son Doong is native to Vietnam and means “mountain river cave” as over 2 to 5 million years ago, a river eroded the area, and underneath the limestone was weakened, and the ceiling collapsed.
History – When was Hang Sơn Đoòng discovered?
Son Doong’s entrance was discovered by Hồ Khanh, a resident, back in 1991 while acquiring agarwood which is an expensive type of timber wood. However, while Khanh was on his mission, the rain began to fall, and he needed a place to shelter.
As he stepped against the entrance of the now popular cave, he heard a whistling sound – made by the wind and a rushing stream on the inside of the “tunnel.” This was more than enough reason for Khanh to turn away and not enter.
However, it was not until 2009 when a team of cavers from the British Cave Research Association decided to survey Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng. The little tour went from April 10th to 14th of the same year. But then it came to life when they discovered a large, tall, and interesting 600-meter flowstone-coated wall.
The wall was nicknamed the Great Wall of Vietnam, and in 2010, the team managed to walk straight to the end of the cave passage. The Son Doong Cave is situated in Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh province.
Fun Facts – The biggest cave on Earth
There are lots of fun facts you will love to know about Son Doong Cave and the interesting things you will experience if you decide to take a grand tour…
- Discovered During The Rain – We have to say if the rain wasn’t falling on that day, local farmer Ho Khanh may not have found this unique spot. In 1991, the farmer stumbled on the entrance to the cave as he was doing what he normally does to take care of his family.
- Missing For 15 Years – After discovering the cave entrance in 1991 and leaving when the rain ended, no one managed to cross that path again until 15 years later in 2006. Still, not much discovery was made during the research team’s tour, and it was Khanh who eventually found the entrance again a couple of years later.
- The Largest Cave – Can you believe Son Doong can hold as much as an entire block in New York City? Some sections go up to 200m tall and an average of 150m wide. Interestingly, the ground goes up to 38.5 million cubic meters and can store well over 68 Boeing 777 aircraft. Well, scientists believe it can hold a lot more as the full measurement of the cave is yet to be fully measured.
- Paradise In A Cave – Taking a tour of Son Doong will provide you more than a nature-filled environment of a cave setting, but rich vegetation like you have never seen before. Several biological landscapes with diverse forestry, which many expert cavers and researchers have likened to the Garden of Eden. The beauty is unmatched.
- The Tour Price Will Catch You – We are sure you have heard a whole lot about Son Doong and would love to visit, right? Well, the average price doesn’t really go under $4,000 US. Yeah, you saw that figure as it is! You have to book well in advance as not many people are allowed to be there throughout the year.
Sơn Đoòng Wildlife
When it comes to Son Doong, we can say the animal existence has been divided into two groups- those who live in the forest areas of the cave and those that live in the darker regions. A portion of the cave had collapsed, but it was not all doom and gloom as it ended up flourishing with greenery and more.
This forestry area became home to numerous plants and animals, similar to those in surrounding jungles and forests. This region has become the habitat for animals such as monkeys, birds, snakes, and much more. Not many researchers have gone through the cave immensely, so it is not clear to state all the species that live there.
The darker areas of the cave are home to species of the albino group and other endangered animals and critters. Not many researchers have done an extensive review of these animals. Still, one German caver and biologist, Anette Becher, has noted her closer look at the cave’s dark regions. It revealed animals such as woodlice, millipedes, and much more.
Sơn Đoòng Geological Formations
Going through Son Doong, you will see many interesting features that will make the experience unique and a standout. As you take the grand tour, you will come across a unique and very delicate ecosystem. What I find most intriguing is that this ecosystem has its own weather system with lots of limestone formations all around.
- Stalagmites and Stalactites – There are many stalactites and stalagmites in the Son Doong Cave, with the largest stalagmite measuring over 80 meters or 262 feet tall.
- Fossils – Going through the cave will show you how many fossils could be present in one environment.
- Dolines – Portions of the cave ceiling have collapsed over the years and have formed dolines. This has allowed foliage to grow in a section of the world’s largest cave.
- Jungle and Rivers – In other areas of the cave, you will come across a jungle and rivers with lots of misty clouds covering the area.
Is Sơn Đoòng cave open to public? – Sơn Đoòng Tours
After the first sheltering at the cave entrance in 1991, the next discovery came through in 2009. However, it was not open to the general public until 2013. Among the major attractions are the two huge dolines and the underground rainforests. Also, many people have come to respect nature’s work known as the Great Wall of Vietnam, which is a 90m high calcite barrier.
Going on an expedition through Son Doong is only possible through one major company, Oxalis, which was granted legal permission to conduct tours. The tour packages generally go for five days, and we have to say, it is only the truly determined, and those with willpower who will manage to go through the tour completely.
Seeing mostly scientific tours and research is conducted at this cave, not many permits are granted by the government each year. Interestingly, only 300 to 500 permits are issued each year, so if you are eager to get a visit, you have to exercise a lot of patience until your name is reached on the list. The tour will be accompanied by a visit through the only village close to the cave…the Bsn Doong ethnic village.
Getting to the cave is slightly challenging. You can expect to undergo roughly two days of immense jungle trekking on your tour. Bear in mind, you have to cross a river to get there, too! The tour on the inside consists of climbing, crawling, and swimming through underground rivers to get the most out of your experience.
To complete your journey, you will also get to camp out as part of the tour package…a great experience if you ask us.
You really get what you pay for and this is an incredible experience as you will be cared for by the cave guides, chefs, rangers, and porters. Your luggage will be kept safe as you journey through so you can get as much information and as many photos as you can.
Tours generally run from February to August once per week.
Sơn Đoòng Prices and Discounts
A visit to Son Doong Cave is a journey for those not so “faint at heart” as the cost can be a little drawback for many people. To book a tour with Oxalis Adventure, you need at least $3,000 to secure a package. Yes, it is that expensive but it is almost a week-long adventure!
They only allow 1000 people a year to tour through the cave, in groups of 10. $660 of that fee is the environmental service fee that will be transferred to the management of the Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park. Add in 22 porters, five safety assistants, one international tour guide, a cave expert, two cooks and a forest ranger who accompany every 10 people who take a tour – well, you can see where your money for this experience goes.
This cost would be in addition to air tickets and other minor expenses you might have. However, the good thing about paying this much is that it will be worth every dollar spent. Note, tax is already included in this amount.
Download our FREE Sơn Đoòng Cave Guide (Unofficial)
Where to Stay Near Sơn Đoòng
There are numerous places to chill out when you plan to visit the Son Doong Cave. But, there are always some cool spots worth hanging out that will create a lasting memory. When you book a trip to the region, here are a few of the top-rated places to lodge…
Phong Nha Lake House Resort
It features some of the most intriguing amenities, such as free parking on site, a business center, free WiFi, and other comfortable chill areas. You will also be graced with the likes of amazing living areas to include lake-view villas, dorm rooms, and bungalows.
The best part is only 10 minutes away from the legendary Son Doong Cave journey. It is the perfect spot to spend time with friends and family and bond and create memorable moments. This resort can be found in Khuong Ha Village, Hung Trach Commune Bo Trach District, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam.
Jungle Boss Homestay
Planning a trip to the Phong Nha Ke-Bang National Park and need somewhere to chill? Well, you will love everything about Jungle Boss Homestay as it was designed to create the perfect “home away from home” experience. The amazing amenities are like no other, with air-conditioned rooms, quiet sitting areas, free WiFi, and much more.
Also, their free breakfast offer is a great compliment you will love and enjoy. You can find this abode at Phong Nha Village, Son Trach Commune, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam.
Victory Road Villas
If you are looking for a place that creates a contemporary western style infused with local traditions, then the Victory Road Villas is the perfect spot just mere minutes away from the Phong Nha Ke-Bang National Park. With a backdrop of mountainous terrains and surrounded by local villages, you will get everything that the area’s culture has to offer.
The great amenities were designed to create luxury and comfort with king-size beds, amazing entertainment systems to keep you happy, and so much more. Your stay will give you the perfect view overlooking the calm “Song Son” river. It is located at DT 20 Victory Road, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, 510000, Vietnam.
Download our FREE Sơn Đoòng Cave Guide (Unofficial)
Sơn Đoòng Details
- Length: Son Doong Cave is the largest in the world – roughly 38.5 million cubic meters
- Time recommended: Tours generally take days to complete the entire cave
- Trail Type: Varies
- Difficulty: Extreme
- Kid-Friendly: Seeing the terrain can be difficult, it may not be possible to take your child along. Speaking with tour experts could give further details.
- Dog-Friendly: No
- Accessibility: Mostly walking from the parking area
- Fee/Permit: Base tour rate $3,000 (additional funding might be used)
- Hours: Depending on granted permission, it could go for days.
How to Get to Sơn Đoòng
Getting to Son Doong means you have to travel through the only known path – a village located inside the Phong Nha Ke-Bang National Park. Interestingly, the Ban Doong ethnic village can only be reached by foot as the closely surrounding area is covered with dense forestry.
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