The Hinboun river flowing out of a nondescript opening at the base of a towering cliff hints there may be something wondrous inside. It is in fact 7.5 kilometres of wonder—a river passage through solid rock, and travellers can traverse the entire length to the other side on an exhilarating boat ride. This is Konglor Cave, a highlight of Laos.
About Konglor Cave
Karst limestone caves are particularly appealing due to their unusual rock formations, but Kong Lor is no ordinary limestone cave. In fact, it was formed by the Nam Hin Bun River running through an entire mountain, sculpting the rock along its way. Inside, there’s a pool of water with an emerald-tinted glow that locals believe is sacred.
Visitors can hire a wooden boat and an experienced boatman who will negotiate the sprawling caverns. They’ll take you through massive passages with majestic stalactites and towering stalagmites. There are also narrow passages that require skills and intimate familiarity with the cave, the depth of the river, the strength of the currents, and, of course, the itinerary. Navigating the cave is usually performed in utter blackness, aided by only the feeble, flickering lights of headlamps.
Kong Lor Cave is still used by villagers to transport goods and, if visited at the time of harvest, tobacco as well. Located in Khammouane Province, in the geographical heart of Laos, it can be reached by following a rural road from Ban Khoun Kham or by taking a boat from Ban Naphouak.
The trip to Kong Lor with public transport is still somewhat complicated and requires endurance.
The way to Kong Lor from the north:
The easiest option coming from Vientiane is taking the direct Bus to the little town of Kong Lor, from where you can just walk to the caves. The bus leaves Vientiane at 10.00 am, costs 80.000 and needs roughly 7 hours. If you come by this local bus it will drop you off and park for the night at the Khonglor Eco Lodge.
For information how to get there from Tha Khaek or other smaller cities, read the section below…
The way to Kong Lor from the South:
To our knowledge there are no direct buses from Pakse or Tha Khaek to the Kong Lor Caves. From both towns you can get into any bus going north, since they all pass on their way up north an intersection in Vieng Kham (the intersection of Route 13 and Highway 8). Get off the bus there and try to ask for buses ( if not you’ll have to charter a Tuk-Tuk) to Ban Nahin. Bus rate is 20.000 Kip – it departs at 2 pm and takes 1 hour. A regular Tuk-Tuk will charge 25,000 kip per person to Ban Nahin. Sometimes Tuk-Tuks will accept taking you (if you are a group) for 50.000 Kip directly to Kong Lor.
From Ban Nahin (has several guest houses) departs a minibus (25,000 Kip at 3 pm to Kong Lo, but Tuk-Tuks should run hourly and cost the same for this one hour trip.
The way back: (Kong Lor – Ban Nahin – Vieng Kham)
Sometimes a minibus leaves at 10.30 am Kong Lo to Ban Nahin (25.000 Kip) and if enough people request it, it brings you directly to Tha Khaek for 75.000 Kip p.P. There also should leave Tuk-Tuks in direction Ban Nahim every hour from 10 am to 4 pm (with an exception at 12 pm).
The Tuk-Tuks start directly in front of the entrance to the caves but usually also pass the street with the guest houses where you can flag them down.
In Ban Nahim you get into a Tuk-Tuk back to the intersection in Vieng Kham (25.000 Kip) where you can hop on a bus to Tha Khaek (30.000 Kip – 3 hours), Pakse (90.000 – 12+ hours) or e.g. Vientiane (50.000 Kip 4-5 hours). All those buses run hourly and all southern bound buses stop also in Tha Khaek.