5 Reasons To Visit The Botanic Gardens In Phong Nha



Small waterfall and a wooden ladder in the Phong Nha Botanical Gardens

The Phong Nha botanic gardens are a popular nature reserve located in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Vietnam. This garden features three different hiking trails to viewpoints, waterfalls and a small swimming hole.

In this guide, we are going to show you everything you need to know about the botanic gardens in Phong Nha.

Our Phong Nha Experience

Man stopping in the middle of the road with two mountain bikes in vietnam
Mark with our bikes on the way to Phong Nha botanical garden

We spent 27 days traveling through Vietnam in October 2018 as part of our 18 month trip around the world. During this trip, we stayed in Phong Nha for a few days exploring multiple caves and the surrounding area including the botanic gardens. Read more about us.

To make planning easy for you, we’re going to walk you through how to get to the Phong Nha botanic gardens, what to expect for your visit and highlights along the trail.

Where Are The Phong Nha Botanic Gardens?

Nestled within Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam’s adventure capital has a secret weapon tucked away up its sleeve and it isn’t a cave. It’s a natural forest showcasing a beautiful botanic garden.

You can find the botanical garden located along Road No.20 Quyet Thang. This is approximately 8km (5mi) from the Phong Nha Tourism Center in town and it’s open from 7:00am to 5:30pm. If you’re looking for a unique place to visit in Vietnam, you should consider adding this to your itinerary.

One of the easiest ways to reach the botanic gardens in Phong Nha is to hire a scooter. If you decide to go this route, gas will cost about $3 for the day.

A petrol tank for filling up vehicles in Phong Nha
A petrol station in Phong Nha

The entrance fee for the Phong Nha botanical gardens is 40,000 VND ($1.65) per adult. Children under 10 are half the price and kids under 1.3m (4.3ft) will receive free entry.

Further Reading: Best things to do in Phong Nha

Most people come to Phong Nha to visit one of the popular caves such as Dark Cave or Paradise Cave. But here are the 5 best reasons visit the botanical gardens in Phong Nha:

1. Get A Workout

Woman cycling along a quiet road in Vietnam
Kristen riding her bike to the botanical gardens

Instead of renting a scooter, we propose you hire a mountain bike instead. Almost every hostel, hotel and homestay in Phong Nha will provide free use of mountain bikes.

The botanic gardens are close enough to access by mountain bike from downtown Phong Nha. Using the interactive map above for directions, it’s a total of 8.6km (5.34 miles) cycling one way.

That’s just over 10 miles for the return journey.

It’s a beautiful ride to the Phong Nha botanical gardens. There was not much traffic on the roads when we visited and it was a welcome break from the chaos we had previously traveled through.

You’ll pass gorgeous scenery as you enter Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, riding along empty narrow lanes passing water buffalo bathing in mud and cattle grazing on long grass.

A thick green blanket spreads out covering trees and smothering limestone rocks as far as the horizon. Sure, you’ll get these views on a scooter too, but you won’t have much time to enjoy the tranquility.

The Hill Is The Hardest Part

Woman cycling down a steep hill 10% gradient
Kristen about to hit the steep 10% grade on our way to the gardens

For the most part, you’ll be cycling along flat roads but it will get a bit more difficult as you get closer to the gardens.

There’s one particular stretch that is quite steep going with a 10% grade. But once you get to the top of the hill, you’re almost at the entrance and the reward is worth it.

Woman pushing her bike up a steep hill near Phong Nha
Kristen pushing her bike up the last hill

The heat and humidity got the better part of Kristen and she had to walk the last section of the large hill. But the good news is that on the way back, you’ll get to fly down the same hill you just climbed up.

Travel Tip: When going down the hill use all of your back break and half of the front brake so you don’t go over the handlebars.

2. Hiking

Man walking through lush green forest path in vietnam
Mark hiking through the lush vegetation

We guarantee you’ll be surprised by how pleasant the hiking trails are at the botanic gardens. To give you an idea, imagine walking through a thick forest with lush green trees surrounded by the sounds and smells of nature.

A combination of stone and dirt paths have been forged through vegetation and across streams so visitors can easily explore the gardens.

After receiving your entrance ticket, you will be given a map of the entire botanical garden. This map contains three sightseeing routes spanning 40 hectares and about 4km (2.5mi) of trails.

If you’re pushed for time, you can follow one of the shorter routes. However, if your itinerary allows, we suggest you take the longest route like we did.

A dirt footpath through botanic gardens with tree bent across path
The dirt path inside the garden

You will walk along paving slabbed paths, mud patches, typical forest ground, through streams and over rocks. At various points, there are rounded shelters with coned roofs in case of a sudden downpour.

You’ll also stumble across swings randomly placed throughout the gardens, don’t be afraid to have a go. There are signs with brief explanations of different plant species in the gardens but not as many as you’d think, being a botanic garden.

Rolling hills covered in a lush green blanket in Phong Nha-Ke Bang national park
Stunning hills inside the botanical garden

Certain sections of the trails can become quite steep at times so be careful with your footing, especially on the descents.

Towards the end of the trail, you will see completely unobstructed view of deep emerald green rolling hills blanketed in vegetation. Once you lay eyes on these hills, the view alone makes it worth your effort.

Which Route Should You Pick?

Thick paving slabs making footpath through forest
A stone path winding through the forest

Be sure to pick up a map at the entrance so you can see the layout of the gardens before you begin your hike.

There are suggested times for each route, but we found the estimate to be extremely generous and you probably won’t need as much time as they say.

Here are the three routes at the Phong Nha botanic gardens:

  • Route 1: This is a 40 minute round trip to Gio Waterfall and straight back again up the same path through a tree forest. Only do this if you really don’t have time for a longer walk.
  • Route 2: This path will take you further down to Vang Anh Lake with the smaller waterfall where you can swim and then stop at Gio Waterfall on the way back up. It’s a 1.5km (1mi) walk that will take you about an hour if you don’t stop for a swim.
  • Route 3: This is the best option. It’s a 3km (1.9mi) walk that allows you to see all the best parts of the forest including the swimming hole, some decent hiking through moderately exciting terrain, Vang Anh Lake and Gio Waterfall. It’s a big loop and will take about 2-3 hours.

Hiking Tip: We hiked route three and it took us about 2 hours. We stopped for many photos and took a quick dip in the lake.

3. Gio Waterfall

Gio waterfall cascading in botanic gardens Phong Nha
Gio Waterfall inside Phong Nha botanical garden

The Phong Nha Botanic Gardens are home to picture perfect 30m high Gio Waterfall. It’s not a soaring waterfall like Angel Falls and it’s not a powerhouse like Niagara Falls, but it’s surprisingly elegant.

Spread out across the width of the dark rugged rock are various pockets of water which cascade over individual parts of the rock. So what you see is more like a series of very small waterfalls merging together, resulting in a very picturesque waterfall.

Gio Waterfall was the main reason we decided to visit Phong Nha botanical gardens and it did not disappoint. But you will also find another smaller waterfall nearby.

Waterfall with small pool for swimming in near Phong Nha
Cascading waterfall in the gardens

If you decide to take the longer loop, you will be rewarded with a swimming hole. Here you will find a swing and a few ropes for those who want to be adventurous.

We spotted boulders at the far side of an empty but deep blue pool of water being pummeled by a waterfall. The pool looked safe enough so Mark took a chance.

After a few short strokes, the length of Vang Anh Lake had been covered. Mark pulled himself up onto the rocks and took position directly underneath the surging water of the falls.

The water was incredibly refreshing against the relentless humidity in the air.

An empty swing in front of swimming hole botanic gardens Phong Nha
A wooden swing over Vang Anh Lake inside the botanic gardens

We saw a few other visitors swim in the lake as well. So here are a few things we suggest you bring to the Phong Nha botanical gardens:

  • Hiking shoes
  • Insect repellant
  • Water and snacks
  • Comfortable clothes for hiking
  • Swim suit
  • Towel
  • Rain jacket

Hiking Tip: The longer loop was the immediate path to the left as we entered the gardens, but double check it on your map when you visit.

4. Nature And Animals

Water buffalo covered in mud in vietnam
A solo water buffalo covered in mud

On your ride to the botanic garden, you will probably encounter cattle feeding in the long grass. You might even see a curious water buffalo covered head to toe in mud along the way.

A sign indicating not to play with the wild animals inside Phong Nha botanical garden
A warning sign inside the garden

The Botanic gardens is a forest showcasing flora and fauna which provide pristine habitats for a variety of species of mammals and birds. We heard some wild primates but unfortunately didn’t see one in the wild.

There are 10 species of wild primates in the national park. About half of this number is made up of Macaques, Gibbons and Langurs which is what we probably could hear.

One thing we can guarantee you will see is plenty of colorful butterflies. They are found in numerous places all throughout the garden. You will also hear loud cicadas in certain sections which can be a little startling if you’ve never experienced this before.

River rocks and trees in botanic gardens
A beautiful section of the river in the park

National park rangers have numerous animal conservation efforts on site. There were a few monkeys and peacocks caged near the entrance when we visited.

It’s important to remember that Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park is home to some very rare species of primates. These animal rehabilitation acts have been supported by foreign government grants.

5. Price

Entrance tickets to Phong Nha botanic gardens
Our entrance tickets for Phong Nha botanic garden

The caves in Phong Nha are pretty expensive when you consider how cheap other parts of Vietnam are to travel through. But the botanical gardens are reasonably priced for the region.

Entrance to the Phong Nha botanic gardens costs 40,000 VND ($1.65) per adult. If you drive a scooter add on a further 4,000 VND (US$ 0.2) to cover parking. If you ride a bike, parking is free.

Two mountain bikes and scooters parked in the Phong Nha botanic garden lot
The parking lot at the Phong Nha botanic garden

We were the only people who did not arrive on a scooter. It not only saved us money, but it was an eco-friendly way to add some meaningful exercise into our trip.

If you’re hungry before or after you hike, there is an onsite restaurant. They will provide a tourist menu in english and the meals are quite cheap. We both ordered the rice and veggie combo.

A plate of rice and vegetables at the Phong Nha botanic gardens
Kristen’s plate of vegetable fried rice

Pros And Cons For Your Visit

Still on the fence about visiting the botanic gardens in Phong Nha? Here are a few pros and cons to help sway your decision:


  • The hike is beautiful and extremely peaceful
  • Your visit supports the local community
  • Waterfalls and small swimming pool are a bonus
  • Multiple hiking trails to suit different visitors
  • Not on the traditional Phong Nha tourist path


  • Can be very hot and humid (so bring lots of water)
  • If you are short on time, it will be difficult to visit
  • Extremely wet and muddy in rainy season

If you want to see comments from recent travelers, check out the Facebook page here.

Best Time To Visit The Botanic Gardens In Phong Nha

Man climbing a ladder in botanic gardens Phong Nha
Mark climbing the wooden ladder near the big waterfall

Phong Nha is located in north central Vietnam with two seasons from March to April and June to August which experience less rainfall compared to other times of the year.

June to August is extremely hot, but the ground is dry. This time of year you will find lush green vegetation and turquoise waters making this one of the best times to visit Phong Nha. However, if you are not used to the heat and humidity, March to April would be a good time to visit.

The wet season in Phong Nha occurs from October to December. This time of year is prone to heavy rains and sometimes flooding. But the temperature is still quite warm which attracts tourists.

When we visited in October, most of the trails were waterlogged, muddy and honestly quite dangerous. There were a few sections of climbing rocks and ladders that would definitely become treacherous in heavy rain.

In Conclusion

Many people go to Phong Nha to visit the numerous caves in the region. But the botanic gardens are a great option for those who aren’t interested in the caves or want to experience something different.

We enjoyed visiting the botanic gardens because they provided an easy hiking trail to beautiful viewpoints and waterfalls. This is a good place in Phong Nha for the whole family.

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We hope our guide to visiting the Botanical Gardens in Phong Nha helps you decide if this activity is worth your time in Vietnam!

Please let us know if you have any questions about the botanic gardens or planning a trip to Vietnam in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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