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Haikou is the capital of the Hainan province in China. It’s an island just off the coast of Vietnam and has a tropical climate. About 10.000 years ago it was an area full of active volcano’s. Today it’s possible to visit the Haikou Shishan Crater Cluster National Geological Park (Haikou Volcano Park) to learn about this period of time. There are rural lava villages and caves nearby worth a visit too. Join me on a day tour to the Haikou Volcano Park.
Haikou Volcano Park
The original idea was to take a bike and explore the Haikou Volcano Park that way. This would have been a long day with approximate 75 kilometers of biking. As the weather was a bit rainy during my visit in December I decided to make the tour by car. This of course saved a lot of time and gave me time to have a good sleep and breakfast. I stayed at the Hualuxe Haikou Hotel, a luxury hotel with Haikou Bay view. My private transported picked me up at about 10AM to take me to the volcano, my first stop at the Geological Park.
At the Haikou Volcano Park you can climb up to the rim of an extinct volcano. From there it’s an easy hike down the crater and ascend the other side. Inside the crater you will see lush green tropical vegetation. As said the day was cloudy, foggy and a bit rainy. This weather gave, however, a nice mystical view inside the crater.
While you walk up and down the crater you will see various exhibitions. There are two or three places where you can see the original lava flow. A small museum explains the history of the area. Just over 10.000 years ago, during the Holocene period, the area was an active volcanic region. This made the soils fertile and when the volcanos went extinct attracted farmers. There are tools, habitats and other artifacts of the farmers on display to give you an understanding of their life. Just before the crater rim is the crater’s Volcano God Temple. Locals worship here the volcano god. In total I walked up and down in about 2 hours. I took my time as finally I had a day where I didn’t plan too much.
Róng Táng Lava Village and Cave
At the Haikou Volcano Park, you have seen and learned about the geological history and the local people. Now it’s time to actually see how these people lived. Farmers settled and built towns from lava rocks. A unique appearance in Hainan. These towns are still in use today whether it’s meanly the elderly that live there. One village which I recommend you to visit is Róng Táng Village and its cave system. When you arrive the elderly will great you and ask for a small “entrance fee”. They don’t speak English at all. I do speak a bit of basic Mandarin but that’s almost of no use too as they speak a dialect which is a completely different language. First I explored the cave. One old man, I think around 90 years old, showed the way. He asked for a small fee, I gave him 30 RMB, which at that time was about 4 euro. I guess this was way too much as he at first had problems accepting it but I explained him it was no problem. He was very friendly and although he didn’t speak a word English he managed to “tell” us about the cave system.
Now let’s enter the caves. First I walked through a bit of jungle after which the dark cave appeared in front of me. My kids were with me and they were holding the torches, I did the photos. The old men showed the way.
These lava tunnels and caves exist throughout the geological park but many are closed for visitors. They were formed at the time when lava was flowing. The top layers would harden into solid rock. When the volcano stopped producing more lava the lave would flow out leaving the top sold layer behind and thus forming tunnels and caves. At some points cracks and holes formed. These make beautiful rays of light shine into the caves. The old men showed us the exit and escorted us to the entrance of the old volcanic town Róng Táng.
The rural volcanic villages around Haikou date back to the 12th and 13th century. They are completely made of volcanic rock. Today only the elderly remain and the young generation moved out to new towns. These villages are protected but what I could see at Róng Táng Village they do deteriorate quickly. Jungle is taking the rocks back. One of the other elderly locals showed us around the village. Small alleys are sometimes overgrown by jungle but there is an easy circle to walk. Some houses are still in use but the majority is empty. After a short walk I decided it was time to continue to the next town Mei Shé Village which has much more inhabitants left today.
Mei shè Lava Village
In Mei Shé village is different from Róng Táng Village in the sense that it developed. You will see new homes made out of lava rock. They are in use today by the descendants of the families that once founded Mei Shé. These new homes of course have a lot more luxury. One particularly interesting building is the gun tower built in 1927. It’s a five-story building used to protect the village in troubled times from bandits. Because the town is still in use today it’s more easy to explore the narrow alleys.
Staring from the parking lot, you can’t miss it, you can walk over a path into the jungle which looks like going nowhere. Keep walking for 300-400 meters and you end up at the other side where you can see a beautiful lava gate and parts of the lava wall. Well worth the trouble to get there.
There is one more village of interest, at least as per information of the concierge at the Hualuxe hotel. This is the Rúfú Village which is similar to Róng Táng Village but has some ruins of a pagoda made of volcanic rock. I didn’t visit this village myself.
If you visit Hainan I highly recommend spending a few days in Haikou. The Haikou Volcano Park and its rural lava villages give a great insight into the life if the local people. Other day trips I can recommend are to the Coconut Plantation & Mangrove Forest Park. A day in Haikou itself is also a great day as it’s a more laid back city compared to other big cities in China. Read my other stories about the Hainan Province for more inspiration.
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Did you visit Haikou Volcano Park too or do you have questions? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Love to hear from you!
Gallery Haikou Volcano Park
Click an image for a full screen gallery of more photos taken during this trip. If you like to use any photo for commercial, private or editorial use please contact first for permission and/or pricing.