Kong Lo (Konglor) Cave is one of the most spectacular sights in all of Southeast Asia, but it remains fairly unknown, mainly due to its location in the middle of nowhere in central Laos, far away from the standard backpacker loop. Visitors can hire a boat to take them down an underground river through the 7km long cave and emerge on the other side. Once there, they can do a home-stay in a remote village, basically only accessible through the cave. If you’re interested, read about my experience taking a boat through Kong Lo Cave.
Best Time to Go
The dry season from November to March is the best time to go.
Getting to Kong Lo Cave
The nearest town is Nahin (Khoum Kham), located along Route 8 in central Laos. If you are traveling on the central Laos ‘loop’ by bicycle or motorbike, you will pass through Nahin.
If you are entering Laos from Vietnam through the Cau Treo border crossing, you will be traveling along Route 8 and you can let the driver know to drop you off at Nahin.
If you are coming from the north (Vientiane, Paksan), you will probably be on a bus heading south to Tha Khaek (60,000 Kip) or further. You’ll be traveling on Route 13 and you’ll need to get off the bus at the junction with Route 8 near Vieng Kham (Thang Beng). From this junction, take a songthaew to Nahin (25,000 Kip).
If you are coming from the south and heading north, you’ll get off at the same junction and you’ll take the same songthaew to Nahin. An easier option from the south is a songthaew directly from Tha Khaek to Nahin (50,000 to 70,000 Kip).
There are a few buses from Vientiane to Lak Sao. These buses turn at the junction and head down Route 8, so you can get dropped off in Nahin directly and save yourself the songthaew ride.
The cave is a further 30km south of Nahin. Another songthaew will take you there. If you arrived in Nahin on your own transportation, the turn off to the cave is marked and not too difficult to find. If you are having trouble, just ask someone.
Nahin has a few guesthouses, but personally, I would recommend staying right outside the cave. A little village has sprung up about 1-2km from the entrance and you’ll find several accommodation options there. The area is a bit nicer than dusty Nahin and you won’t have to tackle the 30km stretch of road in the morning.
The only place near the cave with an online presence is Chantha House, but luckily it’s the best option in the area anyway. There didn’t seem to be a shortage of rooms when we were there (2011), so you can probably just show up and find a room, but the new road leading to the cave may have changed that.
One of the villages on the other side of the cave offers home-stay options. They charge 50,000 Kip for a place to sleep (usually a thin mattress on a hard floor) and three meals per day. These villages are extremely rural with no modern amenities, but can be a great experience for those interested in seeing how people in this part of the world live.
If you are interested, just let your boatman know that you will not be returning. You’ll still have to pay the full fare and will have to pay it again when you leave. Once you’re through the cave, the boats drop everyone off by some snack shops. Look for the sign announcing home-stays in Ban Nathane. Take the dirt path to your left (when facing the sign) for about 2 kilometers. When you get to the village, they will know why you came.
Seeing the Cave
If you arrive at the cave by motorbike or bicycle, you will be required to pay a small parking fee. Boats through the cave cost 100,000 Kip each, which includes the entrance fee to the cave. They will only allow two people per boat (although you will see about ten Laotians squeezed into the same boat)
Make sure to wear sturdy footwear that can get wet. The boat will scrape the bottom at several points (especially in the dry season) and you will have to get out and wade while the boatmen drag the boat across the rocks. I wore regular shoes and had to wade barefoot, which is does not feel good on the sharp rocks. At one point, you will be let out of the boats to explore some of the rock formations up close. You really don’t want to do this part barefoot either. A strong flashlight could come in handy as well.
Unfortunately, the motors on the boats are extremely load and somewhat ruin the eerie atmosphere of the place. We asked our boatman to turn off the engine and just let us float downriver on the way back through the cave, which he agreed to do for a few stretches. It really improved the whole experience and I’d recommend asking if your driver could do the same. I’m guessing most wouldn’t have a problem with it. We gave him a tip for this, since we know that very little of the extremely steep ‘boat fee’ goes to the actual boatman.