Stalactites, stalagmites and columns at Konglor cave, Laos

Konglor Cave: Photo Blog + Complete Guide

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The most stunning cave in Laos is the Tham Kong Lo, also known as the Konglor Cave, a 7 km long cave that is formed from karst limestone over millions of years. Captivating nature enthusiasts, this place can be reached by boat from Ban Natane to the Konglor Cave and back. 

We suggest you continue reading the blog to understand the communities living here, their history, geographical formations found in this region, how they were first discovered, their journey so far, and other information before visiting here. We’ve covered the basics in this blog so that your trip will be much more enriched when you visit the region. We’ve also covered other important information for travelers like the timings, expenses you would hand, the dress code, etc. 

A Complete Guide to Konglor Cave

Before Discovery

It is believed that the villagers of Konglor and Natane knew of the existence of the other village but were unaware of the underground path connecting one another. The path above the mountain was utilized for commuting between the two villages. This trek required close to six or seven hours and could prove quite demanding to get through the five passes on the path. 

The locals believed in the existence of spirits inhabiting the cave, making it a venture that no one dared to uptake. This fear of entering the cave, due to the peculiar stories that surrounded it, continued for a long time.

First Journey Through the Konglor Cave

The stalactites and stalagmites at Konglor Cave

The villagers believed that the flowing water they could see originated in the mountains. But when they saw a fleet of ducks and other objects floating by, they wondered if a river tunnel ran through the mountains.

In the 1920s, there was an expedition undertaken by 5 volunteers to cross the cave on a boat. They embarked on this journey by rowing a bamboo raft and carrying traditional Kabong torches made of rotten wood soaked in yang oil and wrapped in leaves. When this raft got jammed between rocks, they carved a canoe from a log, with the sides made smooth so that it slid over the rocks easily. 

Three days later, they saw the light at the end of the tunnel. They discovered an uninhabited forest. They spent three months exploring this part of the forest and still encountered no one. Walking further up the valley one day, they encountered people planting rice by the hillside. They met King Phanya Siangsaa, who had lived there “since ancient times.” 

The Ban Konglor villagers had agreed to have an archery competition to decide who could keep the cleared forest land. The competition rules were that each side would shoot three arrows into the cliff face, and the archer whose arrow stuck to the rock would win the contest, thereby getting ownership of the land. When the Phanya Siangsaa villagers shot three arrows, none stuck to the rock. 

It was decided that the Konglor men would shoot the next day as it was too dark. That morning, they collected wax from the nest of small stingless bees called the Mangkhisout and had the tips of each arrow fixed with a small amount of wax. When they shot the three arrows in the heat of the day, the melted wax made each stick to the rock. 

The Konglor and Siangsaa people agreed that the Konglor would cultivate the flat land for paddy farming, while Siangsaa would tend to the hillside fields for growing hill rice. This collaboration proved successful, paving the way for new times.

Konglor Cave Through the Years

Boatman waiting at Konglor cave

By 1960, motorized wooden boats were developed and used to navigate between the villagers of Konglor and Natane. This drastically cut down transport time to an hour. To this day, motorized wooden boats transport freight, motorbikes, and equipment to the village and Natane Valley. Experienced boatmen pilot these boats.

In 2018, a new electric motor model was under research and development to better preserve the inside of the cave and reduce the noise and pollution caused by this engine. 

The 4 Concretions Found in Konglor Cave

The columns at Konglor cave
  1. Stalactite
  2. Stalagmite
  3. Columns
  4. Draperies

Activities in Konglor-Natane

The Konglor-Natanen Ecotourism Association (AEKN) oversees all cave visits and area activities. It has approximately 400 members, including boatmen, guides, homestays, and restaurants. Since 2008, AEKN and the French association Tétraktys have collaborated to develop and preserve the natural site. Every KIP spent is evenly distributed within the community, supporting site infrastructure, promotions, new activities, and preservation tools.

How to reach Konglor Cave?

Konglor cave entrance

Thakhek, located 180 km away, is the nearest town to Konglor Cave. Most foreigners visit the cave while exploring the Thakhek Motorbike Loop. If you’re short on time, you can opt for a day trip from Thakhek.

Public transport to Konglor Cave from Thakhek is unavailable. You’ll need to hire a taxi or two-wheeler to reach the caves. Simply mark Konglor Cave on Google Maps and follow the directions. Drive cautiously as the paved road is only moderately good, and bridges between Na Hin and Ban Konglor are made of wooden logs.

Where to Stay?

 

You’ll find various accommodations in Thakhek. We opted for a cozy garden room with mountain views at Thongdam Guesthouse near Konglor Cave. Here are some other recommendations nearby.

Where to Eat?

As tourists frequent the Konglor Cave, many eateries have been opened recently. Most accommodations also feature their own restaurants, offering a variety of Lao dishes along with fresh juices, noodles, fried rice, and meat dishes.

ATMs and Petrol/ Gas Stations

A few ATMs in Na Hin, located 45 km away, are unreliable. It’s advisable to withdraw enough cash beforehand, as cash is the preferred mode of payment in this area.

Gas stations are also available in Na Hin. One gas station about 13.6 km from Konglor Cave is not marked on Google Maps.

Parking Availability

There is a large parking space close to the ticket counter. You can park your vehicles here for free.

Network Connectivity

Both Lao Telecom and Unitel offer decent network connectivity in the area. However, there is no signal inside the cave while navigating by boat.

Dress Code

Opt for comfortable attire such as a T-shirt and shorts, as pants may get wet. It’s best to wear sandals or slippers since you’ll need to dip your feet into the water at various points. Also, remember, swimming suits are unnecessary as swimming in the waters of the Konglor Cave is prohibited.

Boat Services

Konglor cave ticket counter

For visitor safety, access to the cave is only available through the Konglor boat service. The Nam Hinboun River inside Konglor Cave can have varying water levels, from low during dry seasons to strong currents in rainy seasons. For safety reasons, the boat service is suspended in very low or very high water conditions. Each boat can carry 2-3 passengers and a sailor. During dry seasons, passengers may need to disembark, cross rapids on foot, and re-board the boat later.

  • Cost: 200000 KIP (10 USD) per person for a round trip. Bringing a motorbike or bicycle to Natane costs 500000 KIP (25 USD) per boat one way. One way from Konglor to Natane: 600000 (30 USD) for a large bike and 350000 (17.5 USD) for a bicycle. Only cash payments are accepted.
  • Timings: 8 AM to 5 PM
  • Duration: The boat ride takes about 2 hours for a round trip. The cave exploration takes roughly half a day.

Some adventurous travelers transport their motorbikes by boat from Konglor Cave to Natane. There are no paved roads from Natane to Thakhek, only rough dirt roads with bumps. Despite the bumps, the route passes through villages and waterfalls, offering an enjoyable ride. However, we advise against this route for families with children or elderly travelers.

The Journey Through the Konglor Cave

Boats at Konglor cave entrance

Once you’ve purchased your tickets at the counter, walk about 100 meters through the forest to another counter. Show your tickets to the officer who will collect them and assign a boatman to you. Most boatmen speak mainly Lao and limited English.

Get acquainted with your boatman. He’ll provide you with a life jacket and a head torch. While the cave is lit around the rock formations, the pathway is dark, so having a good torch is helpful. 

Cross the Nam Hinboun River via the bridge and walk alongside it to reach the cave entrance. The boatman will help you onto the boat and start the engine. After about 10 minutes, the boat will make its first stop.

The walls of Konglor cave

As the lights come on, you will understand the marvel of the cave’s beauty. Explore the stalactites, stalagmites, and columns. The rocks shimmer like diamonds, creating a breathtaking sight.

The glittering rocks at Konglor cave
The huge Konglor cave formation

Afterward, return to the boat for the next stop, just 5 minutes away. Follow the lights and admire the stunning formations. Trust us and take your time to appreciate the cave’s magnificence.

Weaving at Natane village Laos

When you exit the cave, your boatman will be waiting. Continue your boat ride through the darkness and small rapids. Eventually, you’ll reach Natane Valley, where you’ll have 30 minutes to explore. 

After your exploration, head back the same way, except for a brief stop to cross a rapid. Enjoy the scenery as you glide through the caves; before you know it, you’ll reach the cave entrance again. The Konglor-Natane Cave is a natural wonder and an unforgettable experience in Laos.

The natural beauty of Konglor cave
Draperies and column rock formations
Konglor cave beautiful rock formations

Hiking from Konglor to Natane

Above the cave lies a trekking path winding through the stunning Karstic landscape connecting Konglor and Natane villages. A guide is required for hiking here, and you can hire one from the ticket counter at Konglor Cave. Wear sturdy trekking shoes and carry at least 2 liters of water for the journey.

  • Best time to trek: October to March
  • Duration: 5 – 6 hours one way
  • Difficulty level: Difficult
  • Trekking Fee: 800000 KIP per person for 1-2 people and 600000 KIP per person for 3-10 people. The price includes the boat fee on the way back.

Other Caves Nearby

Tham Nam Non Cave is situated near Kong Lor, and if you have time, check it out. We would also love to answer any questions you have. Leave them in the comments section, and we’ll answer them for you.

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