Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark – a spectacular place in the UNESCO list.
- Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark is a place you will definitely want to see and travel if you are in northern Vietnam. It is located in Ha Giang province and consists of 4 districts – Quan Ba, Yen Minh, Dong Van and Meo Vac. Right there you will see the most interesting mountain sceneries, nature, mountain passes (eg. Ma Pi Leng Pass), rivers and ethnic villages. The geopark covers an area of 2380 km² – Dong Van (460 km²), Meo Vac (577.6 km²), Yen Minh (785.2 km²) and Quan Ba (557.2 km²) and the altitude is as high as 2 265 m.
- Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark is defined as a nationally protected area containing a number of geological heritage sites of particular significance. Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark was written in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010 as vietnam’s 1st geopark and it is a home to 17 ethnic groups that create the unique and rich cultural heritage of this area. This place has recently become more famous thanks to the Ha Giang motorbike loop.
How to travel in Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark? You can travel by motorbike.
- You have several options for traveling in Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark. The ideal starting place is to begin from the city of Ha Giang and continue to the far north, then you can return. The best way for experienced drivers is to travel on a motorbike. This is a mountain area, so some sections can be dangerous and side roads may not be in good condition. The main road that runs through the geopark (QL4C) is generally in good condition, but there are also some sections that are not very well maintained.
icon-angle-double-right Drive carefully and slowly, roads are unpredictable!
icon-angle-double-right Do not drive there on the automatic scooter!
icon-angle-double-right If you can, avoid the rainy days (possible landslides)!
- In the monsoon season (summer months) there is a risk of landslides, so it is good to choose a suitable and dry season (autumn – winter), but you can travel on a motorbike throughout the year. As an international tourist you have to own an international driving license, you may be checked by the police and they will be requre this licence. Before you start your motorbike trip in Ha Giang check carefully current weather and also your motorbike.
What are the other travel options in Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark?
If you do not want or can not travel by motorbike, there are another ways to travel this geopark:
1. Professional motorcycle driver/tourist guide:
- You do not have to drive a motorbike if you can not or you are scared. Just hire a professional motorcycle driver/guide. You become a co-driver, you do not drive, you only sit and watch the scenery. These drivers know this place and sometimes they can partly adapt to your requirements. These trips can be provided by some motorbike rentals in Ha Giang town. You often drive a well-known “Ha Giang Motorbike Loop”, a well-known circuit in this province.
2. Tourist agency:
- There are various travel agencies that can arrange a multi-day sightseeing tour/trip in Ha Giang province. Minibuses/vans/limousines are often used for these trips. The advantage is, you do not have to worry about anything, these tourist agencies organize everything, the disadvantage is the higher price of these trips. A number of tourist agencies in Hanoi offer such trips to Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark.
3. Travel by local bus:
- You can also travel by local buses. But it’s not so easy as it may seem. You will always have to find out on site, when and if the bus will go. Ask at the hotel/guesthouse, often they have such information. It still works so that you can wait for the bus in the center of the town and stop by waving the passing bus. However, the numbers of buses are limited, drivers usually drive dangerously, and travel by bus can take a lot of time, buses often stop, unload and load various goods and carry other items. If the smaller buses are full – it is not really so comfortable.
- You can take a bus from Ha Giang to Dong Van town or from Ha Giang to Meo Vac.
What are the roads in Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark in Ha Giang?
- The main road – QL4C (Ha Giang – Dong Van – Bao Lac) – It is necessary to take the fact that it is a road leading across mountain areas, but this road is quite decent, but there may be sections that are under constant repair (eg. from Meo Vac to Bao Lac). Some smaller sections may also be damaged and there may be some holes. It is important to drive slowly and very carefully, everywhere in Ha Giang province. Secondary roads – these roads may not be in good condition and can be damaged. However, for example, the secondary road from Dong Van to Lung Cu (via Mã Lé) is in very good condition.
What is the weather and when to visit Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark?
- The same applies to Ha Giang Province (more here). It is a mountain area, it can be very cold in the winter months (but it is a dry season), in the summer months (monsoon season) – it may be more rainy. A good time to visit Dong Van Karst Geopark can be the autumn months (September – November), however, it can not guarantee accurate weather, it can change, I recommend to watch the weather before your travel.
What to see and visit in Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark in Ha Giang?
- In this geopark you can see a lot of interesting and fascinating places. It will be mainly fantastic natural and mountain sceneries, passes, valleys, viewpoints, ethnic villages, ethnic markets (especially on Sunday). Take a look at the detailed map of Ha Giang province, where most of these places are marked + “Ha Giang Motorbike Loop” motorbike trip. Ma Pi Leng Pass (+Tu San Canyon) – one of the most interesting places in Dong Van Karst Geopark.
The main tourist places in Dong Van Karst Geopark include:
1. Quan Ba – Tam Son town (Fairy Mountain – Co Tien)
2. Tham Ma Pass
3. The Palace of Hmong Kings in Sá Phin
4. Ma Pi Leng Pass (Tu San Canyon)
5. Lung Cu Flag Tower
6. Ethnic markets, ethnic villages…
Where to stay in Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark? Homestay or hotel?
- There are various local homestays, hotels or guesthouses almost in every small town or village. Dong Van Karst Geopark in Ha Giang province is a large area and you will be probably traveling in these 4 districts – Quan Ba, Yen Minh, Dong Van and Meo Vac. Ha Giang town will be your starting site for exploring geopark. You should definitely try to stay in local homestay – it is a great experience.
icon-info-circle FAQ + TIPS – Dong Van Karst Global Geopark in Ha Giang:
How to travel from Hanoi to Ha Giang (Dong Van)
- The only way (if you are not traveling on a motorbike or with a tourist agency) is to take a bus to Ha Giang town. In Ha Giang town you can rent a motorbike (or to buy some motorbike tour) or take a local bus to Dong Van town. Bus tickets from Hanoi to Ha Giang or from Ha Giang to Dong Van you can book and buy online.
- Book and buy bus e-tickets + schedule from Hanoi to Ha Giang on Baolau or 12go.asia.
Where is Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark?
How large is Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark?
- Geopark covers an area of 2380 km². 4 districts – Dong Van (460 km²), Meo Vac (577.6 km²), Yen Minh (785.2 km²) and Quan Ba (557.2 km²)
Is transportation in Dong Van Karst Geopark dangerous?
- If you are traveling on a motorbike – yes, some roads can be dangerous. In 2017 there was also a fatal accident of a Spanish tourist who drove in a fog and at an inappropriate speed, unfortunately he left the road and died. Drive carefully and slowly.
What to prepare and what to watch out in Dong Van Karst Geopark?
- I recommend to prepare a suitable time for a visit, if it is foggy or very rainy weather, I do not recommend to go there and try to choose another better day. Some road sections may be dangerous in rainy/foggy season. If you travel in the winter, get warmer clothes and a good motorbike.
I can not drive on a motorbike, what to do and how to travel?
- Another option is to use a local motorbike guide, tourist agency or local bus/minibus (buses are limited). A cheapest option of transport in Dong Van Karst Geopark is to travel by local bus, but sometimes it is not a good idea.
Which motorbike to choose for traveling in Ha Giang?
- In the province of Ha Giang, I recommend to choose a 110cc or better / semi-automatic or manual motorbike. I do not recommend to travel on a very weak automatic scooter.
Is it possible to buy some food/snacks in Dong Van Karst Geopark?
- Yes sure, in each town or village you can buy food, refreshments, drinks, mostly local cuisine. Western food in Ha Giang province is limited.
How old is Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark?
- Geoheritages date from the Cambrian (about 550 million years ago) to the present.
Is it necessary to have permitt to enter the Dong Van Karst Geopark?
- It is necessary to buy a permitt for traveling in Ha Giang province, read more information in the article about Ha Giang. But a lots of people visit Ha Giang without a permitt, but it costs only about 10 USD, so it is better to buy it.
Dong Van Karst Global Geopark – Information:
- Location: Đồng Văn District (Ha Giang province) – Vietnam
- How far is Dong Van town: About 430 km from Hanoi
- How to get from Hanoi to Ha Giang: Bus, van or motorbike
- Ticket: There is no admission (some viewpoints are charged)
- Tourist attraction: Geopark, mountains, nature, homestay, Ma Pi Leng Pass
- How to get to Dong Van: Motorbike, local bus, private taxi/transfer
- How large is Dong Van Geopark: 2380 km²
- Which districts: 4 districts – Dong Van, Meo Vac, Yen Minh and Quan Ba
- The highest mountain in Dong Van Geopark: Mieu Vac (1971 m)
- The deepest canyon in Dong Van Geopark: Tu San (800 m)
icon-map-marker Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark in Ha Giang – Map:
(Click on the picture for download this image, or see Google map of the Ha Giang province)