The mystery of Hang Tien Cave: inside the largest cave in Tu Lan

Have you ever wondered what secrets lie hidden deep within the heart of a massive cave?

Hang Tien, the largest cave in the Tu Lan cave system in Quang Binh, Vietnam, beckons adventurers with its enigmatic allure. With its colossal entrance, breathtaking rock formations, and compelling mystery, this cave promises a journey of a lifetime.

Read on, dive into the unknown, and discover what awaits inside Hang Tien, where every turn reveals a new wonder.

Overview of Hang Tien Cave

Hang Tien Cave is the largest cave in the Tu Lan cave system in Minh Hoa District, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam. The Tu Lan cave system covers an area of over 650 hectares in the primeval forest and limestone mountains of Tan Hoa Commune.

Located 70 kilometers northwest of the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Tu Lan comprises more than 20 caves spread across 8 valleys and mountain ranges, interconnected by an intricate network of underground rivers and caves.

Picturesque countryside landscape with karst mountains in Tan Hoa, Minh Hoa.

History of Hang Tien

The Tu Lan cave system was first explored by the British Vietnam Caving Expedition Team in 1992. Extensive surveys in 2010 led to a deeper understanding of the caves.

Hang Tien, the system’s largest cave, was initially surveyed and mapped by British Vietnam Cave Expedition Team experts in 1994. Hang Tien is divided into two sections: Tien 1 and Tien 2. The latter was discovered by local residents in 2015 and subsequently surveyed by cavers at the end of that year. By 2016, Hang Tien 2 had been fully explored, with experts discovering its length to be more than 2.5 kilometers.

It is believed that Tien 1 and Tien 2 may be connected by an underground river, contributing to the cave’s impressive total length of up to 4.5 kilometers.

Geographical and Geological Features

Hang Tien is exceptionally vast and elongated compared to other caves in Tu Lan.

While other notable caves, such as Rat Cave, Hung Ton Cave, and Hang Song Cave, have lengths of only a few hundred meters (280, 500, and 600 meters, respectively), Hang Tien’s combined sections reach up to 4.5 kilometers. Even the extensive Kim Cave and Ken Cave are shorter, measuring 1.2 and 3 kilometers, respectively.

Geologically, Hang Tien boasts a variety of rock structures, including towering stalactites and stalagmites, cave pearls, coral reef-shaped limestone, draperies (curtain-shaped limestone), and giant pools that fill with water during the rainy season. These features not only enhance the cave’s aesthetic appeal but also offer insights into its ancient geological history.

A large chamber inside Hang Tien Cave with giant stalagmites and stalactites.

Biodiversity in Hang Tien

Hang Tien’s biodiversity, though limited, is fascinating. The cave entrances are adorned with diverse flora, creating a lush green welcome. However, deeper inside the cave, plant life is scarce due to the lack of sunlight.

The fauna in Hang Tien primarily includes bats, which roost in large numbers about 200 meters from the main entrance. These bats are even active in the morning, their constant noise echoing off the cave walls and their guano littering the cave floor. Additionally, the cave hosts small insects, such as spiders, centipedes, and crickets, which thrive in the dark, humid environment.

Although Hang Tien is not a site where many species appear, the individuals here are very unique.

What awaits you in the mysterious Hang Tien Cave?

Hidden deep within the lush, untamed wilderness of the Tu Lan cave system, Hang Tien Cave is a geological marvel that exudes mystery and awe.

A massive entrance

The journey to Hang Tien’s entrance is itself an adventure, as the colossal mouth of the cave beckons explorers from afar. At 20-30 meters above the ground, the entrance is almost the size of a football pitch, measuring an astounding 50 meters wide and 100 meters high. Surrounded by thick foliage, this grand opening appears like a portal to another world.

The path to the Hang Tien’s entrance is not for the faint-hearted; it is covered with large rocks, remnants of ancient floods that flushed debris from the cave millions of years ago. Navigating this rocky slope demands determination and endurance, but the sight of the cave’s majestic entrance is a reward worth every effort.

The entrance to Hang Tien 1 is overwhelmingly large, allowing natural light to penetrate deep into the cave.

A waterfall from the cave’s ceiling

Within Hang Tien, the natural wonders continue to unfold. During the rainy season, a spectacular phenomenon occurs—a waterfall cascades from the cave’s ceiling. This transient waterfall, up to 100 meters high, is formed when rainwater collects atop the mountain and flows through a hole in the cave’s ceiling.

The sight of water pouring from such a height within the cavern is nothing short of mesmerizing, adding to the cave’s enigmatic allure.

During the rainy season, a waterfall up to 100 meters high falls from the ceiling of Hang Tien.

Rock formations resembling rice terraces

Directly beneath this waterfall lies a series of rock formations that strikingly resemble rice terraces. These terraces, carved by the relentless force of flowing water over millions of years, showcase the transformative power of nature. Originally sharp and high, these rocks have been eroded into smooth, layered steps that mimic the pattern of rice paddies.

The terraces are wrapped in a vibrant green blanket of vegetation, nourished by the water and microorganisms from the waterfall. This verdant covering adds a touch of life to the otherwise rocky landscape, creating a breathtaking scene at Hang Tien’s entrance.

The stone block that looks like a terraced field was formed through erosion over millions of years by the waterfall on the ceiling of the cave.

A gigantic tornado-shaped ceiling

One of the cave’s most impressive features is its tornado-shaped ceiling. At 100 meters, this swirling formation captures the imagination of all who gaze upon it. The ceiling’s spiral shape, reminiscent of a tornado, evokes a sense of both shivering trepidation and awe.

Geologists believe this unique structure was formed by the powerful force of water trapped inside the cave millions of years ago. As the cave’s entrance was much smaller in the past, large volumes of water during the rainy season became confined within the cave’s chambers. The movement of this trapped water caused the ceiling to erode and swirl, carving out the tornado-like formation we see today.

The tornado-shaped cave ceiling structure was formed by the erosive force of water trapped inside the cave millions of years ago.

A cold air vent at the entrance of Tien 2

After traversing through the magnificent features of Tien 1, explorers find themselves at an exit leading into a dense jungle. A short trek of about 15-30 minutes through this lush wilderness brings them to the entrance of Tien 2.

The entry to Tien 2 is relatively small, roughly the size of an adult’s wingspan, in contrast to the enormous entrance of Tien 1. Here, chilling wind flows out, much colder than the surrounding air, caused by the pressure difference between the cave’s interior and exterior.

Enormous stalactites, stalagmites, and more

The interior of Tien 2 is perhaps even more impressive than Tien 1. While Tien 1 is characterized by rocky terrains and sharp rocks underfoot, Tien 2 is covered in soft sand, resembling a beach during the rainy season. The chambers within Tien 2 are bigger at some points, offering better ventilation and a sense of openness.

The rock formations primarily adorn the walls, leaving a grand, unobstructed hallway through the center. Tien 2 boasts an array of spectacular formations: cave pearls, coral reef-shaped limestone, delicate draperies (curtain-shaped limestone), and an abundance of enormous stalactites, stalagmites, and columns. These features create an otherworldly landscape, like stepping into another subterranean realm.

Tien 2 possesses numerous cave pearls, coral reef-shaped stalactites, curtain-shaped stalactites and countless stalagmites and giant stone columns.

A restricted passage in Tien 2

Despite its allure, exploration of Tien 2 is limited. While the section mesmerizes, adventurers are not allowed to venture deeper than 600 meters from the entrance. Early expeditions have deemed the deeper sections too dangerous, with treacherous terrains and varying elevations unsuitable for all but the most experienced cavers.

Standing at this 600-meter mark, one can gaze into the forbidden depths, feeling a chill run down their spine. The view ahead is thrilling and daunting, with passageways stretching into the unknown, disappearing into the darkness that even the headlamp beam cannot reach. The enigmatic, restricted passages of Tien 2 amplify the cave’s sense of mystery and danger, leaving explorers with an irresistible urge to uncover the secrets that lie beyond.

How can you explore Hang Tien Cave?

Explorers and adventurers seeking to uncover the mysteries of Hang Tien Cave can embark on thrilling tours offered by Oxalis.

The Hang Tien Cave Day Trek (HT1) tour is a perfect introduction, offering a full-day adventure that provides a glimpse into the cave’s wonders. Alternatively, the Hang Tien-Tu Lan Discovery (HTL) is a seamless blend of the Hang Tien Discovery and the Tu Lan Cave Experience (TL1). In 2 days and 1 night, this tour takes you to Hang Tien Cave and several other impressive caves, like Hung Ton Cave and Rat Cave. Here, you can admire the astonishing stalagmites, stalactites, and cave pearls deep underground.

For a more immersive experience, the Hang Tien Endeavor (HT2) spans 3 days and 2 nights, allowing adventurers to delve deeper into the cave and its stunning surroundings, promising an adventure of a lifetime.

The ultimate adventure, the Hang Tien Exploration (HT3), extends over 4 days and 3 nights, offering the most comprehensive exploration of Hang Tien’s majesty, the breathtaking scenery of Tan Hoa Village, and the warm hospitality of Tu Lan Lodge, where explorers can rest and rejuvenate after their adventures.

Tourists can rest and recover at Tu Lan Lodge after a long adventure into the wild.

Is it safe to explore Hang Tien Cave?

Exploring Hang Tien is generally safe, though the trek can be challenging, especially for those unfamiliar with the rocky terrain. The journey involves navigating sharp, edgy rocks, which pose a risk of injury if not carefully managed.

The presence of bats and insects adds an element of adventure, but taking proper precautions is essential. Keeping your headlamp on at its brightest level ensures good visibility and helps avoid surprises from above or below.

However, the risks are significantly reduced when accompanied by a professional and experienced tour guide from Oxalis. These guides are well-versed in the terrain and safety protocols, ensuring a secure and enjoyable exploration of Hang Tien.

Tips for exploring Hang Tien Cave

Here are some essential tips to ensure a safe, enjoyable, and responsible exploration of Hang Tien.

Best time to explore

The best time to explore Hang Tien is during Quang Binh’s dry season when the ground is dry and less muddy. In contrast, the rainy season, especially from September to November, brings heavy rains and floods.

Nevertheless, because Hang Tien Cave is located at a high altitude, some tours are still able to operate during this time. During this period, the cave’s tornado-shaped ceiling appears at its best, with waterfalls pouring down, creating a magical, fairy-like atmosphere.

Equipment

Exploring Hang Tien requires proper equipment to navigate its challenging terrain. Essential gear includes rock climbing harnesses with adjustable leg loops for traversing chambers with elevated ground and zip lines for crossing deep water-filled chambers during the rainy season. Basic equipment, such as helmets with headlamps, is also necessary.

Fortunately, when exploring with Oxalis, all necessary gear is provided. Our professional tour guides and safety assistants ensure that explorers of all levels can confidently and safely venture into the underground world of Hang Tien without worrying about equipment.

Navigation

Navigating both outside and inside Hang Tien can be challenging for those unfamiliar with the terrain. The trails leading to Tien 1 and Tien 2 are often covered with sharp rocks, posing a risk of injury if you slip. Inside the cave, the chambers vary greatly in volume, width, and terrain. Some parts feature easy, sandy ground and wide passageways, while others are narrow with sharp rocks that can be hazardous.

Furthermore, exiting Hang Tien and reaching the nearest road involves traversing dense jungles with varying elevation levels, some with inclines up to 45 degrees.

However, navigation is significantly easier with a guide from Oxalis. We have tour guides who know the terrain well and can choose the safest and most efficient paths.

Photography

Photography enthusiasts will find Hang Tien a paradise. During an Oxalis tour, explorers are encouraged to capture the stunning beauty of the cave. Our tour guides always assist in selecting the best spots and poses, ensuring you get the most memorable photos.

Oxalis’ tour guides also serve as photographers upon request, helping you capture your cave adventure with high-quality shots.

Conservation

Exploring Hang Tien comes with a responsibility to preserve its pristine condition. Explorers are not allowed to touch rare rock formations or step outside the designated trails marked by contrasting-colored ropes.

Conservation is crucial to maintaining the natural beauty of Hang Tien and other caves in Quang Binh for future generations. By adhering to conservation guidelines, explorers help protect these natural wonders and ensure they remain unspoiled.

Bottom line

Hang Tien Cave, the largest in the Tu Lan system, dazzles with its massive entrance, unique rock formations, and mysterious passageways. With its challenging terrains, breathtaking scenery, and rich biodiversity, it’s a true adventure.

Start your journey to Quang Binh to explore Hang Tien, one of the largest caves in Vietnam. Embark on an unforgettable adventure and uncover the secrets of Hang Tien with Oxalis.

The Oxalis Experience.

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Whether you prefer long treks, camping in a cave, sleeping under the stars in the jungle, swimming underground in river caves, explore the huge dry caves or just taking an exploratory day trip, Oxalis Adventure Tours can provide the right amount of adventure just for you.

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