Find out absolutely everything you need to know about visiting Kong Lor Cave and the Village. Learn about how to get there, what to do, entry fees, where to stay and more at Tham Kong Lo which it is sometimes referred to as.
Kong Lor Cave was a highlight of my recent trip to Laos and unlike anything, I have seen in Southeast Asia so far. My expectations were completely blown away. Though Kong Lor is not the easiest place to get to and it will take a little bit of research. Luckily in this guide, I will tell you absolutely everything you need to know about visiting Kong Lor Cave, or Tham Kong Lo.
On my second trip to Laos, I wanted to get away from the main backpacker trail of Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Vientiane to explore some more of the countryside. That is when I came across the glory which is Kong Lor Cave and knew I needed to add it to my Laos itinerary.
Honestly, I highly recommend visiting if you are wanting to get off the beaten track in Laos and check out one of the best geological wonders of Asia. Though, let’s find out a little more about Kong Lor Cave and about the village itself. That way you can figure out whether it is of interest to you and how exactly to plan your trip there.
Kong Lor Cave & Tham Kong Lo: All You Need To Know
- What Makes Kong Lor Cave So Great?
- Getting To Kong Lor
- When To Visit Kong Lor
- Kong Lor Cave Entry Fee
- My Experience at Kong Lor Cave
- Other Things To Do In Tham Kong Lo
- Where To Stay In Kong Lor?
- What To Pack For Kong Lor
- Where To Go After Tham Kong Lo?
How I Book Cheap Transport In Laos: 12Go Asia
What Makes Kong Lor Cave So Great?
Considered one of Southeast Asia’s geological wonders Kong Lor Cave certainly has quite a reputation to live up to. It is approximately 7 kilometers in length, running straight through the massive karst mountains which line the countryside. The height of the cave itself is nearly 100 meters in parts, covered in impressive stalagmites and stalactites.
The Nam Hin Bun River runs through the length of the cave which is known to flood during the wet season. Our Stay Asia guide told us that it wasn’t until about the last twenty years that the locals in Kong Lor actually knew what was on the other side of the cave. Occasionally bits of bamboo, flowers, and leaves would flow out of the cave, but they had no idea where it was coming from. It wasn’t until a couple of brave men volunteered to row their boat upstream to discover the village on the other side.
Though depending on how many caves you have seen previously you might think Kong Lor Cave is overrated. Personally, this was the largest cave I have ever been in and really enjoyed the experience. Though Southeast Asia is home to some amazing and impressive caves and in comparison you might think Kong Lor is not worth the effort to get to. You can check out people’s latest opinions over on Trip Advisor.
Getting To Kong Lor
The unfortunate part of visiting Kong Lor is that is quite off the beaten track in Laos. It will take a day of public transport to get there. Though that is also the great part because it never gets overly busy. If this was located near to one of the main tourist towns in Laos it would quickly be overrun by visitors.
Vientiane To Kong Lor
The best way of getting to Kong Lor is if you are traveling South in Laos. This means you will be able to get there from the nearest city of Vientiane. You can take the daily bus from Vientiane all the way to Kong Lor. Nearly all tour agencies and guesthouses around Vientiane will have these tickets for sale. This is the only direct option.
It will be a local bus and as this is not a common route there will not be many other travelers on the journey, but you will be able to find others once you get to Kong Lor. This daily bus should cost around $12.00 / 100000LAK including a minivan transfer to the bus station. Expect the journey to take about 6 hours.
If for some reason this is not an option for you, there is one other option. You can take a bus to Thakhek, but ask the bus driver to let you off in a town called Vieng Kham. This is about halfway to Thakhek and is where there is a turnoff to Kong Lor. Obviously, you will need to keep an eye on your location with GPS on your phone. Depending on the time you can stay there the night or get a songthaew to take you the remainder of the way to Kong Lor.
A popular choice for those who are comfortable riding a motorbike is doing the Thakhek Loop. For this, you will need to travel from Vientiane to Thakhek. This journey is a popular one and there are numerous buses leaving per day from the capital.
Once in Thakhek, you can hire a motorbike from one of the many rental agencies. There are three main rental agencies which specialize in hiring to foreigners specifically doing the Thakhek Loop. These are Mad Monkey Motorbike Rental, Mr. Ku and Wang Wang Rentals. Expect to pay around $7.00 / 60,000LAK per day for the rental plus petrol which is relatively inexpensive.
The loop itself is around 500kilometers and generally takes travelers between 3 to 5 days to complete. Kong Lor Cave may be a highlight of the journey but is certainly not the only thing to do. You will stop at other attractions including other caves, natural springs, and waterfalls.
Side note: During our visit, we saw people doing the Thakhek Loop taking their motorbikes on boards the smalls boats through Kong Lor Cave so they could continue the loop on the other side. They no doubt paid extra for this, but it took numerous locals to get the bikes down the staircase, across sinking sand, and over little hills before they were on the boat. Once the tourists were out of sight the locals all said they would never do it again and how horrible it was to carry the motorbikes in the midday sun. Therefore please simply do the return boat trip and avoid bringing your motorbike with you!
When To Visit
The best time to visit Kong Lor is during the dry season from November- March. The earlier in the dry season you visit the higher the water levels will be within the cave.
I personally visited during the month of March where the water levels were fairly low, though it was still safe to visit the cave. On about 3 occasions we had to jump out of the boat so the driver could push the boat over the bottom. At most we only had to walk for about 3o seconds before we could jump back onboard. This might seem annoying, though over a 7-kilometer journey it was not a big deal. Also on the way back, as we were following the current of the water we only had to get out once.
Because of this, you might think it would be better to visit during the wet season, though this is certainly not the case. During this period the cave has been known to flood which can lead to extremely dangerous situations.
Kong Lor Cave Entry Fee
There are three different entrance fees you will need to pay to explore Kong Lor Cave. The first is the main fee to enter Phu Hin Bun National Park which is $0.23 / 2,000LAK. The second is the fee to enter the cave itself which is $1.15 / 10,000LAK. Though this fee is usually included in the price of the boat trip. The last is the price of the boat tour. A boat fits in 3 people (excluding the driver) and the charge of $11.50 / 100,000LAK can be split between the three people. My partner and I just hired it ourselves and paid $5.80 / 50,000LAK each.
So, there is $11.50 / 100,000kip for the boat, $1.15 / 10,000LAK to enter the cave (usually included in the boat ticket), and $0.23 / 2,000kip to enter the national park.
My Experience at Kong Lor Cave
We arrived at Kong Lor the day before and had a relaxing evening watching the sunset over the countryside. The following morning we had a relatively early start heading down to Kong Lor Cave at around 8.30am. At the entrance, we pay the national park fee before walking down through the trees to an opening on the Nam Hin Bun River.
Though, before heading down we stop at a small shack where we pay for our boat and get paired up with one of the drivers waiting nearby. We are given a life jacket as well as a head torch to help see in the pitch-black cave. Down the stairs, we cross a small bridge and follow a path alongside the sand to the entry of the cave. Once there we are ushered into a small wooden boat and get comfortable for the journey ahead not knowing what to expect.
We quickly lose the light coming from the front of the cave and into the darkness. The head torches make out the ceiling and cave walls, though the pitch-black water below is a scary sight. About 15 minutes in we pull into a small riverbank and notice a group from another boat going up a makeshift sand staircase. At the top stalagmites and stalactites and lit up. We follow the pathway through these insane creations of nature before descending down another staircase and into our waiting boat.
Following the cave further upstream it is crazy to think of being in darkness for 7 kilometers. A couple of times we need to get out due to low river levels, though it provides a good opportunity to stretch the legs. The driver obviously knows the route well as he preciously darts from the sides of the river.
After about forty minutes the cave walls begin to lighten and we soon see the exit. It is another 10-minute ride through the isolated jungle before we reach the small village. We are given twenty minutes to walk around, though in all honesty there isn’t too much happening here. The small restaurants offer food and drink whilst there are a couple of informational boards we kill time reading.
Back down on the boat, we head back inside Kong Lor Cave. It is equally as impressive returning the other direction and my mouth is open in awe. This way we do not need to get out as many times as the fast current pushes the boat over the low lying river floor. It also makes for a much quicker journey and soon enough we are back at the entry point and into the turquoise waters surrounding Kong Lor.
Outside the cave we have a swim in the river, cooling off as the midday heat beats down. A large rock is a perfect spot to practice our jumping off before heading back into the village to continue our journey.
Other Things Do
The main thing to do in Kong Lor is the cave. Though, there is still a couple of other things to do which you can keep you busy. As mentioned above we enjoyed going for swims in the Nam Hin Bun River. There are no swimming signs around where the fish seem to congregate, though the other areas are fine.
Some of the local guesthouses also provide bike hire to explore around the village. This should cost you around $2.30 / 20,000LAK per day. One of the popular spots to bike to around here is Tham Nam None. This is another cave in the area which actually spans a distance of 15 kilometers. Though, be cautious and do not venture in far. Some of the nearby guesthouses will set up special trips for you with a guide and equipment.
Where To Stay In Kong Lor
There are minimal accommodation choices available in Kong Lor as it is quite a small village. Though, there are still a handful of decent options.
I stayed in Thongdam Bungalows. Though unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like they are taking bookings currently. If you do happen to click on the link and it works, I do highly recommend them if you don’t need air conditioning to sleep. I know it is the low season as I am writing this so hopefully, they will open back up for the dry season.
Another good option is SpringRiver Resort. Starting at $15.00 for a double room the property is completely tucked away in nature and offers plenty of things to do. Seriously it is in the most amazing location!
What To Pack For Kong Lor
It is likely that you will be visiting Kong Lor during the dry season. Therefore you will definitely want lightweight clothing which is breathable. The sun here is intense so do not forget sunscreen as well. I highly recommend packing some swimwear as the river provides the perfect spot to cool off.
For your adventures inside of Kong Lor Cave shorts and a tee shirt will be fine. The temperature drops within the cave, though it is not enough for you to become cold. Definitely, do not wear jandals/sandals as they can easily float away into the darkness if you jump out of the boat in the shallows. Water shoes or sneakers will be the best choice.
In terms of technology I personally only brought my GoPro, though I highly regret not taking my DLSR camera. I thought that it might have not been safe to bring it and the river could’ve had rapids in some sections, but it was fine. If you have a waterproof bag then that would certainly come in handy in keeping your belongings safe.
Where To Go After Kong Lor?
You are best to continue traveling south after your visit to Kong Lor. The nearest city is called Thakhek and on arrival, you will easily be able to access public transport to other parts of the country. The journey from Kong Lor to Thakhek is 180 kilometers and will take you at least 5 hours. Around 6.30am a songthaew style local bus begins in Kong Lor and will take you all the way to Thakhek, arriving around midday. The cost is $8.50 / 75000LAK and prepare to get a numb bum on the wooden seat!
You can also choose to continue traveling directly onto Pakse by heading to the bus station in Thakhek. On arrival, there are a couple of afternoon bus departures which will get you into Pakse around 8pm.
If you do happen to miss the direct songthaew from Kong Lor to Thakhek, there is another which leaves at 7.30am to Nahin Lak. From there you will need to change to a different Songthaew which will take you to Thakhek. This is the same price as the first option.
How I Book Cheap Transport In Laos: 12Go Asia
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