Son Doong: One of the Top 10 Caves Worldwide

Son Doong Cave in Vietnam's central Quang Binh province has been recognized as one of the top 10 caves in the world by the esteemed global magazine Timeout.


Son Doong, located near the border of Laos and Vietnam, is one of the largest natural caves in the world. Its enormous size makes it difficult to put into words, as described by global magazine Timeout.

Natural caves don’t come much larger than Son Doong, which is located close to the border between Laos and Vietnam. Photo: Oxalis Adventures

Son Doong, the largest cave in the world, holds three world records that contribute to its exceptional magnificence. This geological wonder, situated in Quang Binh province, Vietnam, is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, adding to its prestige. Join us in exploring this enigmatic marvel and uncovering its incredible wonders.

Son Doong is located within Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, an area of over 2,000 square kilometers that showcases dense jungles, meandering rivers, and vast underground beauty.

Son Doong, the largest cave in the world, holds three world records, making it a treasure trove of unparalleled magnificence. Photo: Oxalis Adventures

In addition to Son Doong itself, the national park is home to over 404 other Vietnamese caves waiting to be explored. Visitors can choose from a variety of cave tours, each catering to different fitness levels and interests. There are also opportunities for jungle treks, boat rides, and interactions with local communities.

About 2 to 5 million years ago, water from a river flowed through a limestone area buried along a fault, creating a massive underground tunnel. Parts of the ceilings collapsed, forming holes and giving rise to the cave arch of Son Doong that we see today.

In 1991, the discovery of Son Doong was accidental. Ho Khanh, a local seeking shelter from the rain, stumbled upon the cave while navigating through the forest. He later reported his findings to the British Cave Royal Association (BCRA), leading to its exploration in 2009. Son Doong’s immense size is attributed to its length of nearly 9 kilometers and volume of approximately 38.5 million cubic meters.

The cave’s majestic dimensions continue to astound, with its highest cave arch reaching a staggering height of 243.84 meters and its maximum width expanding up to 150 meters. To put this into perspective, imagine fitting a 40-storey building and 15,000 Olympic swimming pools inside!

Son Doong is not only enormous but also surpasses other notable caves in the vicinity, such as En Cave. As the third largest cave in the world, En Cave pales in comparison to Son Doong, which is about 5 times larger in every dimension.

The enormity of Son Doong is further highlighted when comparing it to other notable caves in the vicinity. Photo: Oxalis Adventures

The cave’s vast size and different chambers create diverse microclimates that shape the distribution of organisms and contribute to its unique ecosystem. Varying levels of humidity, temperature, and light provide distinct niches for various forms of life to thrive.

Son Doong’s enchanting stalagmite and stalactite system adds to its allure and reveals the cave’s formation story. Droplets of mineral-rich water have accumulated over millions of years, resulting in formations that reach heights of 70 to 80 meters. The stalagmites and stalactites in Son Doong are truly awe-inspiring.

Lush vegetation, unique flora, and fauna thrive in Son Doong. As you navigate the cave’s labyrinth, you’ll witness nature in unexpected places. It’s a humbling and awe-inspiring experience that reminds us of the power of nature and the resilience of life.

Son Doong is home to lush vegetation and unique flora and fauna. Photo: Oxalis Adventures

Visitors often describe the experience of being inside Son Doong as entering another world, reminiscent of the landscapes portrayed in the movie “Avatar.” Its ethereal beauty, combined with its immense size and unique features, makes it a truly extraordinary destination.

A tour of Son Doong is considered one of the most expensive and sought-after experiences in Vietnam, with ticket prices averaging around VND72 million (approximately US$3,000) per person for a six-day and five-night tour. Each tour accommodates 10 visitors and around 30 staff members who serve as safety experts, guides, assistants, chefs, rangers, and support personnel for carrying luggage, food, and camping equipment.

Charlotte Pho