Picture it: you’re walking through a cool, dark space, cautiously following the dim shine of your torch. The reverberation of your steps is mixed with the soft gurgle of water and the melodic chatter of swifts and bats, fluttering past above your head. Suddenly, you stumble across a dome-like grotto, and boom: turquoise waters, white sands, and rugged rocks come together to form a breathtaking and unforgettable image.
Of course, I’m talking about what it’s like to explore Vietnam’s Hang Son Doong River Caves, which I think are among the most extraordinary natural wonders that our planet has to offer. If you’re looking for a low-cost and endlessly adventurous holiday, grab your backpacks, your worldwide travel insurance, and see what Vietnam has in store for you. Here are my insider tips for embracing your inner explorer and discovering its natural scenery.
Ho Chi Minh Trail and Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
To reach the caves, most guided tours (which are essential, by the way!) will take you along the mountainous Ho Chi Minh Trail, a pathway that connected North and South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. This historical path winds its way up to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park; these 400-million-year-old limestone mountains are Asia’s oldest and are an incredible sight to behold. If you’re lucky you may even spot some of the area’s 23 animal species that are among some of the rarest and most endangered in the world. Given the park’s extensive history and stunning flora and fauna, it’s not surprising that this must-see site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site today.
Phong Nha Cave
On to the main event: making the most of your worldwide travel insurance and experiencing some amazing adventures. There are many river caves to discover, each differing in size, ambiance and conditions (some are easy to explore, while others are more challenging). Phong Nha Cave is perhaps the most popular among tourists, who cannot get enough of its sun-lit grottos, imposing rock formations and gentle, deep-green waters. For additional excitement, many tours also let you take a 330-step trek up the nearby Tien Son Cave’s exterior, enabling you to enjoy panoramic views and see the ninth-century altars from the Cham’s kingdom.
Hang Toi Cave
If you’d like to venture off the beaten path, I highly recommend Hang Toi. Roughly translated this cavern’s name means ‘Dark Cave’, which perfectly describes its severe conditions. Inside Hang Toi you’ll experience darkness like never before, but it offers its courageous explorers the opportunity to take their idea of adventurous to a whole new level. This cave is particularly well-suited for backpackers, with its zip-wire, kayaks and even a mud bath. While you should only venture inside if you’re an experienced hiker/climber (and never without a helmet and worldwide travel insurance!), your efforts will be rewarded with fantastic views – you may even start to wonder if this place is even real.
Hang Son Doong Cave
Last but certainly not least, I have to mention Hang Son Doong, otherwise known as the ‘Mountain River Cave’. What’s so special about this particular cave, you ask? For one thing, it’s the biggest cave that has ever been discovered, enclosing a lively river and jungle. Today the cave’s seemingly extraterrestrial world is so popular among daring travellers that you may be on a waiting list for as long as two years, giving you plenty of time to prepare for this demanding quest by building up your stamina and, of course, investing in worldwide travel insurance.
If ‘inexpensive’ and ‘a little bit risky’ describe your ideal holiday, look no further than Vietnam’s Hang Son Doong River Caves. However, don’t let your inner daredevil loose without taking the necessary precautions. Not only should you never enter the caves without an experienced guide, but you should also make sure that you have the correct insurance policy. With InsureMore’s worldwide travel insurance you’ll be covered for any eventuality, enabling you to approach your adventure as and safely and with as little stress as possible.
Patrick Chong is the Managing Director of InsureMore, an award-winning team of specialists in global single trip and annual travel insurance policies. Besides offering great deals on worldwide travel insurance policies, Patrick also collects and shares the best free travel competitions to help his clients get the most out of their holidays.