Dong Van (Đồng Văn) is a small town at the northernmost site of Vietnam.
- I personally consider the far border north of Vietnam to be one of the most interesting areas for travelers and tourists. Right here in the northernmost part of Vietnam, in Ha Giang province, there is a small and also referred to as an ancient town – Dong Van. Dong Van is located in the district of the same name and is also part of the fascinating Dong Van Karst Geopark, where ethnic groups still maintain their ancient customs. It’s an important link and stop if you drive through Ha Giang province to the Ma Pi Leng Pass. A high mountain pass at the Nho Que River.
- Dong Van town in Dong Van District doesn’t offer some of the top historical spots, such as Ninh Binh or Hanoi, but you will still see remnants of history (and French colonization). There are also other smaller ethnic villages around the town, and the whole area lies nicely amongst the mountains of Dong Van Karst Geopark and homolithic hills, plus there are great and historic views of the wider area.
Historical houses almost 200 years old in the old square or even the market.
- Dong Van town itself is nothing special compared to other towns in the north of Vietnam, you might say, it’s the same as before. This is partly true, but here in the center of Dong Van is the old square (also referred to as Old town or Old square) where you can see historic houses that are 100 years old and some of them almost 200 years old. And immediately from the square, take a short hike to the viewpoint, which was formerly a French fort and viewpoint – marked as Dong Van Viewpoint – French Fort, built in 1925 (position here > Đồn Cao).
- Dong Van district is home to several ethnic groups / minorities such as Tay, Hmong, Dao, Lo Lo or other smaller groups. You will certainly encounter them often during your trip in Ha Giang province. The square in the center of Dong Van has now been practically converted into a commercial center, there are cafes, restaurants, homestay, but the architecture and the appearance of the houses is pretty much still preserved.
- Some of the houses have been repaired and maintained, of course, and some have been decorated in various ways, such as lanterns. Behind the square and in the square there are also some houses adapted to homestay for tourists and travelers. Which I definitely recommend staying here for at least 2 days, because from Dong Van you have to make a trip to the Lung Cu Flag Tower, about 25 km from this town.
Dong Van Sunday market – local produce and food + ethnic minorities.
- The town of Dong Van is also a famous place for its Sunday market. It is actually a unique opportunity where you can see different ethnic groups of people coming here and offering their products, crops and other things. But it’s also partly a kind of Vietnamese market, just kind of a mix of everything, food, but also different clothing both ethnic and different Vietnamese and Chinese copies.
- The market is open all week too, but not as crowded and big as on Sundays. There are plenty of different restaurants in town and accommodation is also quite wide. There is also an animal market near town, but I don’t know the exact location or day. There are also larger markets in other towns in Ha Giang province on Sundays.
From Dong Van to Meo Vac via the fascinating Ma Pi Leng mountain pass.
- Many travelers head to Dong Van as they drive to the Lung Cu Flag Tower and then continue over the high mountain pass of Ma Pi Leng to the town of Meo Vac. This pass starts about 5 km outside the town and is one of the most beautiful places in northern Vietnam and also part of the Dong Van Geopark. If you don’t go to these 2 places then quite frankly there’s probably not much point in just driving to Dong Van town and back.
- Just for example on a motorbike you have to continue through Ma Pi Leng to Meo Vac and then you can go as you like 🙂 maybe continue to Cao Bang, which I highly recommend. It’s also important to add that the whole province of Ha Giang is rather suitable for motorbike travel – definitely for the more experienced ones and or if you have your private transfer. Or move between towns by bus and rent a motorbike in town to explore the area.
How to get from Hanoi or Ha Giang to Dong Van town?
- From Hanoi to Dong Van you can take a bus, minivan, motorbike or private transfer. There is no airport or railway in Ha Giang province. There are also some local buses running between Ha Giang and Dong Van, the travel distance between these cities is about 160 km and the journey can take up to 6 hours. You can also travel by bus, minivan, or train + bus to Ha Giang from Hanoi (train only to Lao Cai city).
What is the best time to visit Dong Van?
- The best and suitable time to visit Dong Van in Ha Giang province is the dry season. Suitable months are September – November or March – May, summer months are not very suitable for this mountainous area, as if there are heavy rains, there is a risk of landslides on the roads and traffic can be problematic. If you are going to a mountainous area, be sure to pack warm and waterproof clothing in your backpack. Temperatures can be very low, especially in the evening, but not in the summer months. Temperatures can be pleasant in September to October and this is a good time to visit.
Where to stay in Dong Van?
- If you decide to stay here for a day, the town offers various accommodation options. Especially cheap guesthouses, hotels or even classic and touristic homestays in the area. Prices are low and there are practically no mega luxury resorts here. Of course, it cannot be ruled out that someone will build a luxury hotel or resort here in the future. You can also take advantage of some homestays at the Lung Cu Flag Tower, which is about 25 km north of the town.
Accommodation in Dong Van:
Accommodation in Lung Cu:
Questions + Tips – Dong Van town in Ha Giang province:
Where is the ancient town of Dong Van located?
- Dong Van town (Đồng Văn) is located in Ha Giang Province, Dong Van District, Vietnam. Travel distance is about 440 km from Hanoi and about 155 km from Ha Giang city. Dong Van town in Ha Giang Province is part of the UNESCO-registered Dong Van Karst Global Geopark.
What makes Dong Van interesting?
- From the looks of it, this is another typical town of northern Vietnam. However, it is also notable for its “Old Town or Ancient town“, the remains of which can be seen in the square in the form of 100-200 year old historic houses (now converted into commercial buildings, cafes) and also in the nearby villages around the town.
- The town was under French administration during the colonization period (from 1887) and the French army was also repeatedly attacked here by the local ethnic minority population sometime between 1903 and 1905. There is still a viewpoint / fort above the town, a bunker / fortress of the French (Đồn Cao) built in 1925.
How to get to the Đồn Cao viewpoint / fort above the town?
- The historic bunker and the Đồn Cao viewpoint can be reached on foot from the centre, 1 km away. The route is signposted, or use Google maps to navigate, it is very easy to get there from the town square. The walk is a bit uphill, but the view, if the weather is good, is really worth it.
Is Dong Van town also important for travellers and tourists?
- Yes, it’s also part of the so-called Ha Giang motorbike loop, which runs from Ha Giang town, through Dong Van and Meo Vac town and back by a different route to Ha Giang town. About 5 km after Dong Van town, the fascinating high mountain pass of Ma Pi Leng starts, which is simply a “must see” and it leads to Meo Vac town.
How to get from Hanoi and Ha Giang to Dong Van?
- There is no railway to Dong Van town and Ha Giang province has no airport.
- From Hanoi to Dong Van – by bus, minivan, motorbike or private transfer through Ha Giang city.
- From Ha Giang to Dong Van – by local bus, minivan, private transfer or motorbike.
- Search and book bus tickets from Hanoi to Ha Giang and from Ha Giang to Dong Van online at Baolau
When is the best time to visit Dong Van town in Dong Van geopark?
- Ha Giang Province is a mountainous province and the weather can change quickly. The recommended season for visiting Dong Van town is the dry season, i.e. e.g. autumn – spring. The summer months can be a problem, there is a risk of rain and roads can be damaged or there is a risk of landslides. If you go in autumn or winter, definitely have some warmer clothing ready.
How to get to Lung Cu Flag Tower from Dong Van town?
- Lung Cu Flag Tower, located about 25 km north of the town, can be reached by motorbike or private transfer. I am not aware of any public buses running there. Motorbikes are suitable for more experienced drivers in this province, drive slowly and carefully, some sections of the roads may be damaged.
What you can visit close to Dong Van town?
- You can travel on motorbike to Lung Cu and about 15 km from Dong Van town you can also stop and visit The Palace of Hmong Kings. This palace is located in Sá Phin village.
Where to rent a motorbike / scooter in Dong Van town?
- If you decide to come here by bus from Ha Giang, it is not worth staying only in Dong Van. The more experienced drivers should rent a motorbike and go to the surrounding area as well. At this point it is best to ask for a motorbike where you will be staying, i.e. directly at the homestay, hotel. If they don’t have one, they might be able to advise you where you can rent one.
Where to eat in Dong Van?
- There are plenty of small restaurants, cafes, bistros in the town center, no point in writing a list. There are various and stylish cafes and even small restaurants in the square in the historic part, prices are usually lower. You can also visit the town market and taste some freshly made meal.
When is the main ethnic market in Dong Van?
- The designated day for Dong Van’s largest ethnic market is Sunday and it is held just outside the city centre, usually at the site of the market (Chợ Đồng Văn). Sunday is actually the day where various ethnic markets and bazaars are held in other cities in Ha Giang province. They are interesting because people from different ethnic minorities in the area come here in their original costumes and clothes. The experience is usually very authentic.
Where to stay in Dong Van town?
- Dong Van offers a variety of guesthouses, budget hotels in the city centre and homestays. I recommend to try a homestay. For example, you can try Plum Homestay near Dong Van town and Lolo Ancient House near Lung Cu Flag Tower. Some historical houses in Dong Van Square are also remodeled as homestay for tourists.
Route map from Hanoi to Dong Van via Ha Giang town:
(Dong Van town is about 440 km from Hanoi if you will be traveling via Ha Giang town)