Exploring Laos: 5 Must-See Caves and Caverns
Laos is well known as a tourist and adventurer destination for its beautiful waterfalls, temples, and caves. If you are interested in exploring caves, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better place to do it than in Laos.
There, you’ll find rivers flowing through immense limestone caves bursting with cultural and historical significance. Their beauty will take your breath away. In fact, the hardest part of exploring caves in Laos is choosing which to visit.
The 5 Best Caves in Laos
There are dozens of stunning caves, and you can easily find tours and treks that will guide you through them. Many of them are also accessible without expensive treks or large groups. If you want to make sure you see the absolute best caves that Laos has to offer, take a look at our list below.
These are the most beautiful and interesting sites you’ll find. If you’re a cave enthusiast, these should all be at the top of your travel bucket list.
1. Konglor Cave (Khammouane Province)
Konglor Cave is located in Phu Hin Bun National Park in Khammouane Province. The cave is regarded as one of Laos’s natural treasures, and it deserves the reputation. It is a dramatic 7 kilometer-long cave with the Nam Hin Bun River flowing into it. You can enter the cave on a small boat steered by an experienced Laotian guide.
Inside the cave, you’ll find ceilings as high as 300 feet, dramatic stalactites, and distinctive limestone formations. Inside the cave, it is totally dark apart from the lights of the boats and any headlamps you bring with you. This can make touring the cave spooky for some and exciting for others.
Going through the cave itself will take about 2 hours, and you should expect to spend longer traveling through the beautiful scenery of the Phu Hin Bun National Park to get there.
2. Tham Pa Fa or Buddha Cave (Na Khang Xang)
Tham Pa Fa, also known as the Buddha Cave, is famous for its contents of 229 bronze Buddha statues that date back to over 300 years ago. The cave and the statues were discovered in 2004 by a villager hunting bats, so it has only been on the map for the past 12 years.
The collection of Buddhas, which range from 15 centimeters to 1 meter tall, are truly impressive and provide a wonderful sense of Laotian culture and religion. The Buddha statues reside in an upper level of the cave. The lower level is filled with water, and you can canoe across it. Typically, you’ll need to hike to Tham Pa Fa to access it. You can find the Buddha Cave in Na Khang Xang, Khammouane Province.
3. Pak Ou Caves (Luang Prabang)
If you appreciated the Buddha statues in Tham Pa Fa, you’ll probably also enjoy the Pak Ou Caves. These two caves set into a limestone cliff where the Mekong and Nam Our Rivers join close to Luang Prabang.
They contain more than 4,000 Buddha icons, some of which are very old. If you visit as part of a tour, the guide will be able to tell you about the history of the caves dating back thousands of years.
Perhaps the best part of the caves, however, is the view over the Mekong River from the lower cave, which sits about 50 feet over the water. The upper cave, which houses most of the Buddha statue, is pitch black. You’ll have to climb up to it and bring a headlamp or flashlight with you in order to explore.
The Pak Ou caves are a popular tourist destination, so you should expect to see other people and locals offering tourist services. Accessing the caves typically involves a two-hour boat ride along the Mekong. As with much in Laos, the journey is a good part of the fun.
4. Vieng Xai Caves (Hua Phan Province)
Vieng Xai is an extensive complex of caves that served as shelter to over 20,000 people during the Vietnam War, when the U.S. bombed much of Laos. The complex was a veritable underground city, housing military barracks for Communist army forces, a hospital, shops, and more.
You can walk through these caves and get a sense of what living in them must have been like. There are organized tours and an excellent audio guide that will provide you with insight into this sad time in Laotian history.
5. Kao Rao Cave (Ban Nam Eng)
If you’re looking for a cave that’s off the beaten tourist track, Kao Rao is an excellent choice. The cave is about 3 kilometers long and features many limestone formations in interesting and beautiful shapes. You can walk through to take a good look at all the intriguing shapes.
Birds and bats have made the cave their home, so you can expect to see some as you walk through. Locals also believe that the cave is inhabited by a spirit, so your tour guide might perform a special ceremony to appease it.
© 2019 Sam Shepards