Tu Lan Cave System

The area of Tu Lan lies 70 km away from Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park, next to the minority village of Tan Hoa, just past the fields of grazing buffalo and rapidly growing peanut and cornfields.

Exploring Tu Lan Caves System will see you trekking through remote, untouched jungle; crossing buffalo fields; being surrounded by giant, looming, limestone mountains on all sides; and plunging into deep, cool, underground rivers that wind gracefully through mountains and river valleys alike.

Aside from the beauty though, it’s the adventure of swimming through the river caves that makes this tour unmatchable to anything else around. As you swim through each cave, you’re surrounded by gorgeous limestone formations, seen only by the light of your headtorch, and the fading daylight of the cave entrance!

The rewards for this exploration include watching flurries of butterflies surround camp; sleeping under the stars in a tent,  with the breeze floating lazily around you; sitting by a campfire telling stories, singing songs, and drinking rice wine; listening to the beautiful waterfalls gush around you; learning (hopefully) the words to popular Vietnamese songs, singing national anthems, and playing games; eating barbecue pork, fresh fruit, springs rolls, and more; and venturing through areas that are almost completely unexplored, and boast some of the greatest biodiversity in the country.

Son Doong Cave Trekking

Discovery of Tu Lan

Tu Lan Cave System is comprised of over 10 caves in all, some of which were originally discovered and explored in 1992, and some of which were just found in the past couple years.

Hang Ton, first found in 1992 and explored more in depth in 2012, appears first on the horizon on a trek to this intricate cave system. Its dry entrance provides an outstanding view of the valley below, and promises many more adventures inside. A ladder inside leads to the floor of the cave, and from there the journey truly begins, where one must swim through the cave to reach the exit on the other side.

Of course, locals have been visiting some these caves for thousands of years as well.

Geology of Tu Lan Caves System

Because the tectonic plates in this region are always moving and bumping into each other, the mountains are still rising and moving up. The rivers continue to cut into the bottom of the mountain, carving new caves over time. Hence, the river caves that are at a lower elevation are much younger than the higher, dry caves as they were more recently created.

The river caves in this system such as Ken Cave and Tu Lan Cave are very young, only about 3 million years old. The higher, dry caves (dry Tu Lan and Ton Cave) are much older, and date around 5 million years old.

The stalactites and stalagmites are enormous and breathtaking. One of the caves in the Tu Lan cave system, Ken Cave, even had it’s beautiful formations featured recently in National Geographic by world renowned photographer Carsten Peter.

Famous Hollywood Film Location

One of the first blockbuster Hollywood films to shoot in Vietnam selected Tu Lan as one of the key locations. Logistically it was a tough setup but through the work of hundreds of foreign and local crew the area leading into Tu Lan was turned into the crash-landing site of a fighter plane with characters played by Samuel L Jackson and John Goodman. The two squared off beside the river before King Kong himself decided to get involved.

Oxalis is very proud to have been involved directly in arranging a number of aspects of the production including assistance with the location. Quite a number of our porters from the village of Tan Hoa, plus some of our guides were even hired by the team to support the cast and crew during the shooting days.

Also, recently a couple of other caves including Hung Ton and Rat Cave, were used in the Vietnamese film “The Immortal” By Director Victor Vu. This was a big hit in Vietnam and followed the journey of a man who mysteriously spent hundreds of years living in Tu Lan before being drawn out by love, though this is more a thriller than a love story!

Other tours to Tu Lan Cave System

1 Day – Tu Lan Experience

Our Tu Lan one-day tour is still voted the best adventure tour in one day offered in Phong Nha by guests on Trip Advisor, and travellers passing through Easy Tiger , Nguyen Shack or Farmstay. It is the original one-day adventure tour offered in Phong Nha and includes rock scrambling, about 50m swimming through a wild river-cave called Hung Ton, and up to 9 km of trekking through the lush jungles.

It costs VND 1,800,000 (USD 78) per person. This tour often books out in advance due to high demand. Please make your reservation before arriving in Phong Nha so as not to miss out on the experience.

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2 Day – Tu Lan Cave Encounter

The most popular overnight jungle and cave experience in Vietnam, with a 12km trek through the most gorgeous jungle and some of the most impressive wild dry and wet caves in the region, including Tu Lan Cave made famous by National Geographic.

On this trip you will swim up to 500m in a couple of river caves, witness outstanding cascading waterfalls underground and spend the night at our jungle camp beside a spectacular waterfall. It costs VND 5,500,000 per person (USD 239). Bookings essential.

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3 Day – Wild Tu Lan Cave Explorer

Our three-day trekking tour of Tu Lan is for those who want to take their time exploring, and have a bit more energy for the wild jungles of Vietnam. ON this trip you’ll overnight at two different jungle campsites beside stunning waterfalls, enjoy 3km of cave exploring through a number of caves, 1km of cave swimming and visiting some additional areas not included on our other tours.

In total it includes 17 km of jungle trekking and quite a bit of swimming, so bring your adventurous spirit. It costs VND 8,000,000 per person (USD 348).

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4 Day – Tu Lan Expedition

Our ultimate expedition of the Tu Lan region incorporating Hang Tien, the largest cave in the region. You will also explore all of the extraordinary caves in Tu Lan, including Kim Cave and Secret Cave that boasts phenomenal natural falls and karst formations inside these two unbelievable river caves. You will also complete a trek through Hang Tien Cave – famed for its vastness and magnificent formations.

Our secluded jungle campsites are spectacular, and with a small group size guaranteed, this is the perfect alternative expedition for those who are unable to do Son Doong Expedition, but still want a jungle challenge. It is recommended for those with trekking experience and a good level of fitness and stamina. It includes 30km of jungle trekking, 5 km of caving, about 800m swimming through caves and one abseil in a cave in the pitch black – highly adventurous!

The journey also includes an additional night at Chay Lap Farmstay after the tour to ensure you are well rested.  It costs VND 15,000,000 per person (USD 652).

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