The remote province of northern Vietnam with the most beautiful scenery.
Please read carefully this article if you want to still keep protected this beautiful area without the impact of mass tourism. Ha Giang province (Hà Giang) in northern Vietnam is less frequented by tourists, but the popularity is growing. Ha Giang is the place where almost 90% of the population are ethnic minorities with their own cultures and lifestyles. During the last 20 years, whilst other Vietnamese provinces and cities experienced economic development, Ha Giang was the place which seems to have stood still in time. The main reason for this has been the political situation and relations with China. This Ha Giang travel guide is one of the most read articles on this website.
Ha Giang is a unique place, for now still untouched by mass tourism.
The Chinese invasion of 1979 has been forgotten now, and the Vietnamese Government has financially helped with the construction of the new roads and infrastructure, and there are also some modest hotels. In Ha Giang town you will find any type of hotels and accommodation as well as homestay. If you continue to Dong Van and Meo Vac, the amount of accommodation on offer shrinks. Vietnamese tourism is gradually increasing, and in addition some foreign tourists are coming here and they are mostly excited.
You will see a lot of fantastic mountain scenery over the whole area.
…and starting with hills, valleys and villages and with the ethnic minorities (Hmong, Tay, Dao, Nung, Lo Lo, Giay, Pu Peo). The farthest and the most beautiful place of Ha Giang province is Dong Van Karst Global Geopark, designated by UNESCO as one of 77 sites with the important geological and cultural heritage. This geopark is littered with the ethereal karst formations that are nearly 400 million years old, and has twoprotected areas.
Authenticity, nature, beautiful mountains and no tourist crowds.
Ha Giang is still an authentic part of northern Vietnam, offering you untouched nature, fascinating mountain scenery and passes, but also areas that look like about 100 years ago. That is, different villages of ethnic people who occasionally look at you like martians (as tourists arrive, this is no longer the case everywhere, and people have become accustomed to foreign tourists). Mostly, do not expect rival minorities such as in Sapa.
Dong Van Karst Global Geopark is the home of 17 ethnic minority groups.
Ethnic minorities create a unique and rich cultural heritage of the area. Traditional practices and habits of these ethnic groups are very diverse and interesting, and they attract many travellers who have a chance to explore these unique aspects. The northern most place of Vietnam is the village Lung Cu which has the Vietnamese flag on Dragon mountain. Lung Cu is known for its many special foods and beverages. You can taste the alcohol made from honey and corn, or Thang Co soup, which is cooked from every part of the animal.
Ha Giang motorbike loop – drive through the fantastic areas of Meo Vac.
Ha Giang motorbike loop – it is a very popular motorbike trip in Ha Giang province. The best idea how to start your motorbike loop in Ha Giang is to rent a motorbike in Ha Giang town. Then you can travel by motorbike to the northernmost part of Vietnam. You can go to Meo Vac town from Dong Van town, through the mountainous area at an altitude of 1,500 meters. This area is one of the most beautiful that you can see in the Ha Giang province. If you manage your time to visit this city on Sunday, you can go to the Sunday Market, which takes place outside the city. People from the surroundings come here to sell their things, animals or food.
Looking for a homestay in Ha Giang province? Choose homestay on Airbnb.
There are plenty of ethnic markets in Ha Giang province, almost one in each town. One of the most interesting is Khau Vai “Love market“ 20 km from the city center, see the map. People from the ethnic minority Hmong, Tay and Lo Lo come here seeking a life partner or a change in partner! This market is held only once a year on the 27th day, third month of the lunar calendar. Watch the video from the “Love Market“.
Visit Meo Vac or Tam Son market with ethnic residents every Sunday morning.
Meo Vac town or Tam Son in the province of Ha Giang is an ideal place to visit the Sunday market, where ethnic residents sell mostly cattle but also dogs, goats and pigs. This market is not just for selling goods, but is also important for maintaining the social relations of the ethnic people. Ethnic residents (Mong, Tay) from distant areas around the town of MeoVac will meet there. Some people travel overnight on foot with cattle covering typically 20 km. The market starts every Sunday morning, its most busy from 7-10 am and you can taste local food and corn and rice alcohol.
Try to allocate at least 3-5 days to explore the province of Ha Giang.
Ha Giang is a huge province and definitely deserves a long time to visit, because there is always something to discover. A lot of travelers are riding a 3-day Ha Giang motorbike loop, but I think it’s good to spend at least 5-6 days for a larger survey. Distances between cities are longer, for example, 70 km and traveling on a motorbike can take a lot of time. And just to stay at the road and continue on, in my opinion, it does not make a sense.
You have to buy a permit for the remote areas in Ha Giang province.
This permit costs $10 and can be obtained at the Immigration Office in Ha Giang town (296 Trần Phú, see map, previous address was 415a Trần Phú) or at the police station in Meo Vac. Near the town of Ha Giang, 7 km to the south you can visit the Phuon Thien cave. It is a place of many monuments and many plum, pear, orange and apple trees grows here. If you go from Hanoi, the best way is to take the train to Lao Cai and then a bus from this city. The bus trip from Lao Cai to Ha Giang town may take up to 6 hours, so I would say the best wayfor sure is with a motorcycle.
The Hmong king’s palace (Vuong Chinh Sinh) in Sa Phin village.
On your way to the furthest north places in northern Vietnam – Dong Van and Meo Vac, visit the The Hmong king´s palace in Sa Phin. This unassuming palace is located along the road to Dong Van. However, it is very important for the local Hmong community. Residents of this area during the reign of Vương Chinh Đức together with Ho Chi Minh gained national freedom. The palace was used as a residence and fortress during Vuong Dynasty. You can also learn something about the history of Ha Giang province.
Noong lake – near to Ha Giang town. The lake with trees growing in the water.
If you stay in Ha Giang town for a while, you can visit the large freshwater Noong Lake. The lake is 25 kilometers south of the city, and in the monsoon period it may be 80 hectares large. A fascinating insight is that in the dry season, when the water depth decreases, the receding waters reveal trees growing in the lake. Local fishermen from Ha Giang catch fish and shrimp in the lake, and you can ask them for sailboat trips on the lake. Its no problem getting there with a motorbike.
Ma Pi Leng Pass – The Pass, which goes through the high mountains area.
After a few minutes drive from the city of Dong Van the famous road and mountain pass begins – Ma Pi Leng Pass. It’s probably one of the most beautiful roads you can ride in Vietnam. The modern history of the road started in the period between 1959-1965, when thousands of young people from 17 ethnic groups built the road, the construction process taking 11 months.Initially, the road was only for walking or horse teams, but later it was extended to cars and trucks. Hills and mountains create fantastic images but the roads are dangerous, ride carefully on a motorcycle.
Hoang Su Phi is a remote area in Ha Giang with beautiful rice terraces.
Hoang Su Phi in the province of Ha Giang is an area less frequented by tourists. But that does not mean it is not pretty. Through the entire area you will pass huge areas of rice terraces, unspoilt nature and ethnic villages. If you stay for a few days in Ha Giang, this place is definitely worth a visit, but you need to take at least two days. Hoang Su Phi is about 70 km from the city (see map), but to get there through the winding road takes a lot of time.
Hoang Su Phi – untouched nature, ethnic villages and cultural heritage.
There are several cheap hotels (Nha Nghi) in Hoang Su Phi town, or you can use a homestay with local people, just ask the people in the city. Also Panhou village ecolodge is on the way, with higher prices for tourists. Ethnic residents are composed of 11 ethnic groups (mainly Hmong, Tay, Dao and Nung). Hoang Su Phi lies at an altitude of about 1,000m, the weather is about the same as in Sapa, but does have more limited services.
Chín Khoanh Pass (Nine Ramps) – another fascinating pass in Ha Giang province.
During your travel in Ha Giang province you will pass a series of mountain passes and valleys. The well-known passes are already mentioned by Ma Pi Leng, Tham Ma but also Chín Khoanh (Nine Ramps), which is located about 40 km from the town of Yen Minh. Yen Minh is also a good place to stop or sleep. You will also pass the beautiful Tham Ma mountain pass about 13 km before the Chin Khoanh Pass.
If you travel to the farthest places (and most beautiful – Dong Van, Meo Vac, Lung Cu Flag Tower…) in the province of Ha Giang, you will have to buy a permit. Some hotels / homestays in Ha Giang also require this permit. They need to declare to the local government about any guests who stay in their accomodation. This permit can be purchased in Ha Giang Immigration Office. This immigration office is located in 296 Trần Phú – Ha Giang town (also marked in the map below this article). If you travel on motorbike to Ha Giang province, take also your motorbike in this office.
Obtaining the permit is very simple. The officer is at the window, give him your travel passport, he fills in the info from the passport and you pay $10. He gives you a permit and your passport back. If you arrive on a motorcycle, the police officer will want the registration number of your motorcycle, he writes the reg on the permit. A permit can be also purchased at the police station in Meo Vac town.
Ethnic markets in Ha Giang:
It’s a very good option and travel tip to visit a small or large authentic ethnic market in Ha Giang province. The best days for visiting a large ethnic market are Saturday or Sunday. Some markets take place in the working days in the week. It’s a great opportunity to see the people of ethnic minorities, who came here travelling many kilometers from their homes. They sell mainly fabrics, animals and food. Here is a little excerpt of larger markets in Ha Giang province, ethnic markets are named according to areas where they are held:
Ha Giang town – Sunday market
Quyet Tien, Quan Ba (Tam Son) – Saturday market
Quan Ba – Sunday market
Coc Pai – Sunday market
Lung Phin – Sunday market
Hoang Su Phi – Sunday market
Sa Phin – every 6th day
Pho Cao – every 6th day
Pho Bang – every 6th day
Ma Le (Dong Van) – Saturday market
Dong Van – Sunday market
Khau Vai Love market (26th and 27th of the third month of the lunar calendar)
Meo Vac – the largest Sunday market in Ha Giang province
How to get from Hanoi to Ha Giang town:
1. From Hanoi to Ha Giang by bus or private car/taxi:
Ha Giang town is very far from Hanoi (about 300 km) and the best and most interesting places are in Meo Vac and Dong Van. It is possible to use a sleeper bus or van/minivan from Hanoi to Ha Giang town. The one-way bus tickets cost approx. $9-18/pp and this way of travel to Ha Giang can take about 5.5-7 hours (day or night buses). You can book and buy bus tickets online > Cau Me, Grouptour, Quang Nghi, Hung Thanh, Truly Ha Giang, Good Morning Cat Ba and another bus companies. You can also book private car online.
sleeper tourist buses and comfortable vans and minivans
this is a top bus travel route from Hanoi to Ha Giang
recommended – book your bus tickets online and read the instructions!
2. From Hanoi to Ha Giang by train + bus (via Lao Cai):
A good option is also the night train from Hanoi to Lao Cai (visitors heading to Sapa or Bac Ha) and then take a local bus from Lao Cai to Ha Giang town. You can do a stopover in Bac Ha town and visit the Sunday ethnic market of the Flower Hmong
another way is to take a bus to Lao Cai and from Lao Cai you can take another bus to Ha Giang
How to get from Ha Giang to Dong Van town? By bus.
Dong Van – it is a northernmost town of northern Vietnam. There are some local buses from Ha Giang to Dong Van. Surrounding of the Dong Van town offers fascinating sceneries. The best way how to explore this area is to rent a motorbike in Ha Giang and travel on your own.
travel by bus from Ha Giang to Dong Van takes about 5.5-6 hours
Lots of travelers rent a motorbike in Ha Giang town and then go to the far north (Dong Van, Meo Vac, Lung Cu, Ma Pi Leng Pass …). To rent a motorbike for 1 day costs about $7-15. You can try for example QT Motorbike+Tours (in Ha Giang + Cao Bang). Another option is to ask at your hotel/hostel. There are contacts on their websites where you can find their companies. I recommend choosing a bit more of a powerful bike, not a scooter, for this mountainous area. A good choice is a semi-automatic bike. Before you set off, check and try your motorbike, check the tyres…Read more information about driving a motorbike.
The best time to visit Ha Giang is in the dry season, in the months from September to April. But it is good to know, the winter months (December, January, February) may be very cold. Recommended months > September, October, November, March, May.
It is not good to go to this mountainous area during the rainy season (June to September, landslides possible).
The average temperature is approximately the same as in Hanoi.
But in the mountain areas the weather can change quickly and the roads can be dangerous.
You will find a lower category hotels, guesthouses (Nha Nghi), but also offer of homestay accommodation in Ha Giang town. When you go with a motorbike you can accommodate in Coc Pai, Hoang Su Phi, Tam Son, Yen Minh, Dong Van, Meo Vac, Bac Me. There are some cheap hostels, hotels and homestays. Now it is not a problem to book your accommodation in this province online. The number of hotels in this province still growing. You can also use Airbnb, there are lots of typical homestays, wooden cottages but also hotels in different places.
Tay Con Linh (Tây Côn Lĩnh, 2427m) – the highest mountain in Ha Giang province
Ha Giang – Travel Map (+ Motorbike Loop):
Frequently asked questions about Ha Giang:
How to book bus tickets or private car from Hanoi to Ha Giang?
It is possible to book bus tickets or car from Hanoi to Ha Giang onBaolau or 12go.asia.
What is the travel time from Hanoi to Ha Giang?
Travel by tourist bus from Hanoi to Ha Giang takes about 6-8 hours.
Travel by private taxi or car from Hanoi to Ha Giang takes about 6-7 hours.
How to search and book a tour to Ha Giang province?
You can search and book a tour to Ha Giang province + motorbike loop at Tourradar. There are various tours + trips in northern and central + southern Vietnam.
How much does it cost to get from Hanoi to Ha Giang?
Travel by tourist bus or minivan from Hanoi to Ha Giang costs about $9-20/pp.
Travel by private car from Hanoi to Ha Giang costs about $120-215/car.
How to move in Ha Giang province?
The best way is to travel on your own, e.g. rent a motorbike. IDP is necessary if you want to rent a motorbike in Vietnam. You can book your motorbike in ha Giang online with Bikesbooking. It is good to know, roads in this mountains province are dangerous, drive carefully and slowly. There are also some local buses in Ha Giang province (eg. between Ha Giang town and Dong Van town…), but it is limited.
How far is Ha Giang from Hanoi?
Travel distance from Hanoi to Ha Giang town is about 300 km by tourist bus.
Where to go from Ha Giang:
You can continue to Dong Van, Meo Vac (the northernmost places in Vietnam), Bac Ha, Sapa, Cao Bang.