Bursting onto the scene with the discovery of the world’s largest natural cave, Hang Son Doong (Hang Son Doòng), Quang Binh Province has become one of the top ecotourism destinations in Vietnam. Highlighting some of the best natural wonders of Vietnam, the province is a phenomenal destination where tourists can explore subterranean habitats.
Above ground, gorgeous limestone karsts emerge from that flat landscape. In addition to its natural beauty, Quang Binh Province has a storied history that stretches back to Vietnam’s earliest civilizations.
How to Get to Quang Binh
Quang Binh Province is a part of the North Central Coast Region in Vietnam. Stretching from the border of Laos to the North Pacific Ocean, this large province has a dynamic landscape that spreads from the flat coast to towering limestone karsts and verdant valleys.
Boats on the water in Quang Binh. Photo:
Tourism in the province is heavily reliant on the area’s natural wonders, as many travelers are eager to see famous places like the Phong-Nha Ke Bang (Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng) National Park. Dong Hoi (Dông Hói), the provincial capital, is a hub for tourists as it provides plenty of accommodation and transportation options.
Dong Hoi, the capital of Quang Binh, sits 499 km (310 mi) south of Hanoi. Situated on the coast, Dong Hoi has become a major urban area in the region. Driving or using the railway to get to this North Central capital city would take about 10 hours from Hanoi.
Since most travelers are on a time-limited itinerary, planes are a better alternative and faster way to travel with most flights completed in just over 1 hour. Bamboo Airways offers daily domestic flights from Hanoi to the Dong Hoi Airport with prices typically hovering around the $30 US dollar range.
Highway leading to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Photo: Anh Dinh
Backed by archeological evidence, humans have been living in Quang Binh Province for thousands of years. In 1926, Hoa Binh (Hòa Bình) culture was discovered in the western mountains and caves by Madeleine Colani, a French archeologist. Using various methods, tests concluded that artifacts such as ceramic vases and stone tools dated back to about 10,500 years ago to the Stone Age.
Fast forward a few centuries and the province was shaped by Vietnam’s famous Hung Kings. Under Le Trung Hung (Lê Trung Hưng), Quang Binh was ruled under the name Tien Binh (Tiên Bình).
At war against the Kingdom of Champa, Tien Binh was annexed by Vietnam and absorbed into the Dai Viet’s (Ðai Viêt) territory in 1306 A.D. when an arranged marriage between the Champa King and a Vietnamese Tran (Trần) Dynasty princess was ordered. With the marriage, the territory was reshaped so that the area around Quang Binh became Dai Viet’s southern border.
Annamite Mandarin in ceremonial robes in 1938-1947. Photo: manhhai
In the following centuries, the province would undergo many changes as new conflicts arose. In 1604, Tien Binh changed its name to Quang Binh and it consisted of three counties. By 1831, the province was called Phu Quang Ninh (Phủ Quảng Ninh) and it added the territory of Phu Quang Trach (Phủ Quảng Trach) to its area.
When the French began to colonize Vietnam, they forced Quang Binh to become a part of French Indochina. Throughout colonization and the Vietnam War, Quang Binh was known as the Binh Tri Thien (Bình Tri Thiên) Province. In 1990, Binh Tri Thien was split into its three original parts, which were Quang Binh, Quang Tri (Quảng Tri), and Thua Thien (Thửa Thiên) Provinces.
- Holding multiple world records, the longest underground river and largest natural cave are found in Quang Binh Province.
- There are five major rivers (Gianh, Ron, Nhât Lê, Ly Hoa, Dinh, Kiên Giang, and Son) in Quang Binh Province.
- About 936,607 people live in Quang Binh Province as of 2018.
Dong Hoi. Photo: Michael Anranter
Sitting at about the midway point on the coast, Dong Hoi is an impressive capital city that boasts over 12 km (7 mi) of white sand beaches. A center for various activities, Dong Hoi is used by the province as the administrative seat, transportation hub, business empire, and tourist destination.
A major city not only in Quang Binh Province but also in the North Central Coast Region, Dong Hoi is well-prepared to welcome foreign guests. There’s a lot to see and do in Dong Hoi, so tourists should plan to spend a few days exploring this lively city. Scattered throughout its urban landscape are beaches, churches, temples, markets, and historical sites.
Some of the most popular attractions in this North Central city are the Bien Nhat Le (Biên Nhât Lê) Beach, Bau Tro Lake, Tam Toa (Tam Tòa Church), Citadel Dong Hoi, Dai Giac Temple, Nhan Trach Hill, and the Dong Hoi Market.
Catering to the tourist crowds, Dong Hoi has an overabundance of quality accommodation options. Travelers can choose to stay in luxury resorts like the Vinpearl Quang Binh, Muong Thanh Luxury Nhat Le Hotel, Vinh Hoang Hotel, Muong Thanh Holiday Quang Binh Hotel, or the CKC Thien Duong Hotel.
Vinpearl Hotel Quang Bình. Photo: Vinpearl Hotel Quảng Bình
More affordable boutique hotel options include the Anh Linh 2 Hotel, Windy Hotel Quang Binh, or the Nam Long Plus Hotel.
Adding to the hospitable spirit of Dong Hoi, there are dozens of restaurants where travelers can refuel and relax after a long day of sightseeing. Serving a variety of local and international cuisines, some of the best restaurants in Dong Hoi are the 7th Heaven Restaurant, Earth Cafe, Geminai Restaurant, Oregano Pizza, and the Nha Hang Chang Chang Quan Restaurant.
Famous Places in Quang Binh Province
Covering an area of over 8,000 sq km (3,000 sq mi), Quang Binh is divided into 6 districts. Though there are many smaller divisions in the form of towns, communes, and wards, a few districts have become tourist hotspots. Le Thuy (Lê Thủy), Bo Trach (Bô Trach), and Minh Hoa (Minh Hóa) are three districts that have a steady stream of visitors throughout the tourist season.
Le Thuy District
A regular tourist destination, Le Thuy District sits on the southern coast of Quang Binh Province. With mountains, beaches, and rivers, the district is one of the best destinations for leisurely outdoor recreation. With a gently sloping terrain, visitors can hike and swim in various areas around the province.
Kien Giang Town in Le Thuy District. Photo:
The seaside sand dunes are a fun place to spend the day or visitors can relax in the hot thermal pools of the world-renowned Bang Mineral Hot Spring and Spa.
Bo Trach District
Bordering Dong Hoi City, Bo Trach District is home to the famous Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Technically shared between two districts, one of the main entrances to the park sits in Bo Trach District. Apart from the spectacular national park, the district also has 30 communes where visitors can connect with the locals to learn about their culture and lifestyle.
Additional attractions in Bo Trach besides are the Phong Nha Botanic Garden, Phong Nha Township, U Bo Mountain, and the Tu Lan Carving Center.
Minh Hoa District
Much more rural, part of the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park also sits in the Minh Hoa District. Not as touristy as Bo Trach, visitors can avoid the crowds as they explore the district’s amazing natural landscape. Communities in the district provide homestays for overnight guests and locals can be hired as a guide to take tourists to some of the best attractions.
Entrance to the Tu Lan Caves. Photo: Hugh Derr
Hotspots in the Minh Hoa District include the Tu Lan (Tú Làn) Caves, Hang Ruc Mon (Hang Ruc Mòn), and the Mu Gia Pass.
While Quang Binh Province’s claim to fame is Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, there are several other attractions that you should include on your itinerary. Showcasing stunning landscapes, most of the province’s top attractions are set in the great outdoors. From underground caverns to fresh springs and stunning islands, Quang Binh Province is an enchanting destination.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
Home to the world’s largest natural cave system, Hang Son Doong, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is Quang Binh’s top attraction. Strictly controlled by the Vietnamese government, most tourists won’t be able to visit Hang Son Doong as the waitlist is currently filled for the next 2-3 years.
However, next door to Hang Son Doong is the world’s second-largest cave, which is accessible by booking a tour with Oxalis Adventure. In addition to the massive caves, attractions in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park include ethnic villages, historical relics, and manmade parks.
Hang Son Doong. Photo: Brian Hancill
Ecotour excursions are one of the best ways to explore the above-ground terrain in the park, where old paths once intertwined with sections of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. In places like the Phong Nha Farm Stay, tourists can get hands-on with historical areas of the park and experience life in a traditional Vietnamese village.
Set on the Nuoc Mooc Ecotrail, Mooc Spring is a famous destination in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Deep in the mountains, local guides lead visitors down rugged paths and bamboo bridges. In the area of the springs, there is also a small lake with open-air gazebos. The Hai Eco Conservation Tour includes a stop to the Mooc Spring on its itinerary.
Bien Nhat Le Beach
Outside of Dong Hoi City, beside the mouth of the Nhat Le (Nhât Lê) River, lies the most famous beach in Quang Binh Province. Called Nhat Le, the beach stretches for miles with white sand and clear, blue water. Perfect for a beach holiday, visitors can eat fresh seafood meals in the local restaurants or lounge upon the hot sand.
Bien Nhat Le Beach. Photo: Thai_Truong
Close to Dong Hoi, Nhat Le Beach is easy to access. Additionally, tourism in the area is thriving and there are multiple resorts and hotels that sit on the beachfront.
Another destination in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is the Dark Cave. Part of the Chay River system, the cave has been developed for adventurous tourist activities like zip-lining, kayaking, mud bathing, and swimming. Tours operated by Oxalis Adventures include various packages to guests. With so many attractions, tourists can easily spend a full day just exploring the Dark Cave.
Vung Chua Island
Off the coast of Quang Binh Province, Vung Chua Island is a memorial-turned-tourist destination. A resting place for the late General Vo Nguyen Giap, Vung Chua’s beauty has also attracted visitors for recreational activities. The top attractions on the island include the General’s Tomb and Memorial as well as Tho Son Mountain.
Just offshore, a smaller island called Yen is a quick destination for bird enthusiasts. Rather barren, the island is a nesting ground for a few different bird species. There is a small village on the island, so staying overnight is possible.
Honoring the province’s natural features and cultural heritage, the most popular celebrations in Quang Binh Province are the Cave Festival and Boat Racing Festival. Typically held in June or July, the Cave Festival is a time for the province to showcase its network of underground caverns.
Paradise Cave. Photo: Edgardo W. Olivera
Embracing the nickname, “Kingdom of Caves”, the province comes to life during the festival as locals and tourists mingle. A busy time, all the caves in Quang Binh are open for tours and many services will discount their prices for the festival. In September on the Kien Giang (Kiên Giang) River, the Boat Racing Festival is held by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
Held prior to the rainy season, the festival honors the gods in the hopes of having bountiful crops for the season. Visitors are encouraged to participate in various activities and ceremonies that are held during the festival. The most popular activity during the festival is, of course, the boat races, which take place just outside of Dong Hoi City.
The weather in Quang Binh Province is typically mild, though it does shift between a dry and wet season. The hottest and wettest months of the year are June, July, and August. While tourism inland slows, many travelers will still head to the beaches outside of Dong Hoi to cool off. Inland, heavy rain floods many areas and most of the province’s caves are closed for safety.
Beginning in February, the dry season brings less rain and cooler temperatures. While the weather is better for holiday and New Year festivities, the peak time for tourists in Quang Binh doesn’t start until February. Phong Nha-Ke Bang’s caves are open and the drier weather is perfect for those that have booked an ecotour that includes outdoor activities like hiking or swimming.
Visit Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in the Quang Binh Province, Vietnam. Photo by: Mr & Mrs Backpacker.
Boasting some of the most unique landscapes and ecosystems in Central Vietnam, Quang Binh Province has risen from the shadows to become one of the country’s top tourist destinations. Famed for its caves, the province attracts millions of visitors every year. As tourism in Vietnam continues to grow, travelers should expect the crowds in Quang Binh to dramatically increase.
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