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Mountains and National parks of northern Vietnam are suitable for trekking.
Beautiful sceneries – mountains, rivers, hills, caves, waterfalls, villages and ethnic minorities, nature. Almost everything you will see when you go into the some of favorite areas for trekking in northern Vietnam. Northern Vietnam has also 2 geoparks: Dong Van Karst Global Geopark and Non Nuoc Cao Bang Geopark written in UNESCO. Below this article you will find maps of the national parks in northern and southern Vietnam.
The area with the most beautiful treks is located near the Chinese border in the north (Sapa, Ha Giang, Cao Bang).
In northern Vietnam, you can trek almost everywhere where are a mountains. When you want to go on the difficult trails, it is recommended to hire a local guide.
The Best weather for trekking is in the months from October to March (dry season).
However, be aware that the weather can change rapidly in these months anywhere (hot, rain, sometimes the snow in the mountains).
It is not recommended to hike in the hot and rainy season.
Before you go on treks, think about this:
1. How long you will be traveling (some places and mountain villages are in remote areas)
2. Which places you want to see (mountains, national parks, ethnic villages, reserves …)
3. In what period you are in Vietnam (it is recommended to skip trekking during the hot and rainy weather)
What to take on treks into the mountains and parks in Vietnam?
- warm-quality hiking boots
- raincoat or waterproof jacket and pants
- cotton clothes
- flashlight / headlamp
- mosquito repellent, sunscreen
- at least something from the medicine cabinet, toilet paper
- tent + warm sleeping bag (longer hikes)
- very suitable is also GPS navigation (Google Maps + mobile phone)
But be careful, some trekking routes and roads in northern Vietnam are not well marked. In this case, you’d better to hire a local guide and go in a group. This local travel guide can show you some other interesting places that you will not find on the map and give more information about the area.
Favorite and suitable areas for trekking
and national parks in northern Vietnam:
- is one of the most beautiful places for trekking, you can explore the ethnic minorities and villages
- good climate and weather, rapid fluctuations of weather, 1600 meters above sea level
- starting point for trekking to the highest mountain in Vietnam – Phansipan (3143 m)
- five different ethnic groups live here: Hmong, Red Dao, Xa Pho, Tay and Giay
- Muong Hoa valley and Hoang Lieng Son mountains with ethnic villages and beautiful rice terraces
- suitable place for trekking (one day to several days)
- homestay accommodation with local residents
- between the Sapa and Lai Chau town – breathtaking pass – Tram Ton Pass (1900 m)
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- I recommend to take a local guide from the Hmong or Red Dao ethnic minority
- you must purchase a ticket into the some places (eg. Cat Cat, Tavan, Ta Phin)
- tickets are sold next to a tourist information center in the center of Sapa
- if you walk / drive into Tavan, Ta Phin, Cat Cat village, it is possible to buy a ticket at the checkpoint
- with a local tour guide you can go into the Tavan village without a ticket (trek around the Dragon mountain and Hau Thao village)
- local women from ethnic villages offer services and products on the street
- Sapa is tourist place, but there is very good availability of services
- read an article about homestay and villages in Sapa area
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2. Hoang Lien National Park
- park is about 15 kilometers from Sapa
- there is the highest mountain in Vietnam – Phansipan (3143 m)
- more than 2000 species of plants grow here
- ideal place for ecotourism and trekking
- one of the most important forested areas in northern Vietnam
- a lot of ethnic Hmong groups live here
- there are a a lot of villages with ethnic minority people
- in the rainy season there is bad terrain (mud, landslides)
3. Mai Chau
- favorite place for simple or complex tracks (lowlands, hills, mountains)
- favorite Pu Luong Nature Reserve and Pu Hu, a huge Hoa Binh Lake
- ethnic minority white and black Thais (white and black Thai)
- less touristic place, good service availability
- in the vicinity of many villages that can be visited (Van Lac, Van Mai, Pieng Ve, Hang Kia, Dong Bang and others)
- you can take a trip to the Moc Chau town (tea plantations, orchards …)
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4. Pu Luong Nature Reserve
- one of the newest parks in Vietnam, listed as a park in 1999
- beautiful place for light trekking and cycling
- begins at the edge of the town of Mai Chau
- ideal place for several treks
- endangered animal species – bears, leopards
- ideal place for birdwatching
- it is recommended to go there with a travel guide
- the possibility to use homestay accommodation of ethnic population (White Thais)
- detailed map of Pu Luong Reserve – download here
5. Ha Giang
- probably the place with the most beautiful scenery of northern Vietnam
- the villages with ethnic minority people (Hmong, Tay, Dao, Nung, Lo Lo, Giay, Pu Peo)
- most beautiful places: Dong Van Karst Global Geopark, Ma Pi Leng Pass, Meo Vac
- less-visited place, a limited choice of services
- the furthest place of northern Vietnam
- it is necessary to buy a permit for $10 when you want to visit Ha Giang province, can be obtained from the Immigration Office in Ha Giang or a police station in Meo Vac (applies to Dong Van, Meo Vac, Lung Cu, Bac Me)
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6. Dong Van Karst Global Geopark
- in the northern province of Ha Giang, shares border with China to the north
- approximately 80% are limestone and many fossils 400-600 million years old
- average altitude of 1400-2000 meters above sea level
- average annual temperature of 24-28 °C, winter temperature can drop to 5 °C
- a population of up to 17 ethnic minority groups
- first global geopark in Vietnam (more information about geopark)
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7. Bai Tu Long National Park (Ha Long Bay)
- beautiful sceneries on the sea and even on land, the northeastern region of Ha Long Bay
- 30 km east of Ha Long bay, less frequented tourist area
- park covers an area of land of 61.25 km² and water area of 96.58 km²
- 672 species of terrestrial plants and 178 species of aquatic flower
- 170 species of terrestrial animals, 119 species of fish, 132 species of invertebrates
- surrounded by giant limestone mountains
- the commercial port of Van Don
- important archaeological site of ancient Vietnam
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8. Cat Ba National Park (Ha Long Bay)
- Cat Ba consists of 366 islands, southeastern edge of Ha Long Bay
- the largest island in the bay, national park occupies half the area of the island
- it is home of highly endangered Cat Ba langur
- a wide range of natural ecosystems (sea and terrestrial)
- coral reefs, mangroves, lagoons, beaches, caves, limestone karst
- 20 species of mammals, 69 species of birds and 20 species of reptiles and amphibians, 11 species of frogs
- Cat Ba is a great place for hiking, trekking and outdoor activities
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9. Cao Bang
- Cao Bang province is a very mountainous region suitable for trekking
- you will find there the largest waterfall of Vietnam – Ban Gioc
- areas are suitable for trekking for several days
- the most popular hikes are in Quang Hoa district, in the eastern area of Cao Bang
- ethnic minorities Tay, Nung, Dao and Hmong
- less-visited tourist site
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10. Cuc Phuong National Park
- the oldest National park in Vietnam, established in 1962, 130 km south of Hanoi
- a large number of species of plants and animals (97 species of mammals, 300 species of birds, 36 species of reptiles, 17 species of amphibians, 11 species of fish)
- some trees grow to a height of 70 m
- lots of accessible caves, rare artifacts were found here
- the possibility of kayaking (Mac Lake, Quang Yen lake)
- the possibility of renting bicycles and motorcycles
- the best time to visit is in April and May, it rains here more than 200 days a year
- located about 40 km from the Van Long nature reserve (Ninh Binh)
- park offers night viewing trips
- official website Cucphuongtourism.com
11. Ba Be National Park
- you can enjoy a swim or a boat trip in Ba Be Lake
- the ethnic villages with minority people – homestay
- waterfalls, rivers, caves, forests and mountain peaks
- area is home to many ethnic minorities, mostly Dao and Tay
- the small villages around Ba Be Lake
- home to 330 kinds of butterflies, 550 plant and 300 animal species
- beautiful wooded area with a lake and beautiful treks
- park consists of three interconnected lakes, it is approximately 8km length
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12. Ba Vi National Park
- the smallest national park, 70 km west of Hanoi
- the main point of the visit is a mountain, 1200 m above sea level
- mountain in the park can be reached on foot (12 km) or by motorbike
- frequently visited of Hanoi residents, especially on weekends
- the best time to visit is on the weekdays
- available also cheap accommodation
13. Tam Dao National Park
- park with good access from Hanoi (80 km north of the city, Vinh Phuc province)
- combines the dense tropical rainforests and tropical forests in Southeast Asia
- the highest peak – Tam Dao North (1592 m above sea level)
- more than 20 other peaks with an altitude above 1000 m
- 70% of the park area is covered with natural and artificial forests
- more than 2 000 species of plants (904 species are considered beneficial to health for humans)
14. Pu Mat Nature Reserve
- a perfect place to visit if you’re traveling from Hanoi to southern Vietnam
- one of the most important places to protect the mammals in Vietnam
- high biodiversity and attractive place for eco-tourism, densely forested area
- area of Thai ethnic people, the opportunity of homestay accommodation
- the possibility of boating through the reserve
- nearly 2500 species of plants and 1000 species of animals
- 100 years old and 50 meters tall trees
15. Van Long Nature Reserve
- reservation is located only 20 km from the town of Ninh Binh
- excellent one-day trip if you stay longer in Ninh Binh
- a similar area as the Trang An and Tam Coc
- possible boat rides
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16. Xuan Son National Park
- park in the province of Phu Tho, 100 km west of Hanoi
- there are approximately 365 species of animals (gray langur, gibbon, bear, leopard, pheasant …)
- area with many caves, the longest cave is 6 km long
- 84% of the area is covered by forests, the park is rich in fauna and flora
- the possibility of using a homestay (ethnic minority Hmong and Dao)
- a tourist boom this park is still ahead
17. Ben En National Park
- not so large national park in Thanh Hoa province (40 km from Thanh Hoa city)
- good for the one-day trip if you stay longer in Thanh Hoa or Sam Son
- the large Song Muc Lake
- possible boat rides and kayaking possible
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18. Xuan Lien Nature Reserve
- the very large nature reserve, about 70 km of Thanh Hoa city
- various species of animals (gray langur, gibbon, pheasant …)
- not so visited area by the foreign tourist
19. Non Nuoc Cao Bang Global Geopark
- half of Cao Bang province occupies Non Nuoc Cao Bang Geopark (about 3000 km2)
- in April 2018 became the second geopark in Vietnam written in UNESCO
- 300 km north of the capital of Vietnam – Hanoi
- fossils, sediments, volcanic rocks and karst landscapes
- Ban Gioc Waterfalls, Pac Bo historical Site, Thang Hen Lake…
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20. Ta Xua Nature Reserve
- a popular place mainly by Vietnamese
- about 230 km from Hanoi, Bac Yen district, Son La province
- mountain ranges, nature, rice terraces, ethnic Hmongs
- popular place: Dinosaur spine (Sống Lưng Khủng Long)
21. Phia Oac – Phia Den National Park
- established in May 2018 in Cao Bang province
- covering 10 593 hectares (area at the Tinh Tuc town in Nguyen Binh district)
- about 77%, or more than 8 146 hectares, of the area is natural forest
Map of the national parks in northern Vietnam icon-angle-double-down
National parks in central and southern Vietnam icon-angle-double-down
Frequently asked questions about trekking in Vietnam:
How to book hike or tour in Vietnam?
- You can search and book a tour / hike in Vietnam easily online with Tourradar. With Tourradar you can book various tourist trips in northern and central + southern Vietnam.
What are the most popular areas for trekking in the north?
How to travel to Sapa from Hanoi?
- From Hanoi to Sapa you can get by bus/minivan (travel time is about 6 hours) or you can use sleeper train to Lao Cai city. Read this article: How to reach Sapa from Hanoi?
What is the highest mountain of Vietnam?
- The highest mountain of Vietnma is Fansipan. The height of the mountain is 3,147.3 metres. You can climb to this mountain on your own with tour guide or you can use Fansipan Cable Car (Fansipan Legend). The cable car is about 2 km from Sapa town, you can travel from Sapa town to the cable car by mountain train.
Which mountain pass in the north is the most fascinating?
- The most fascinating mountain pass in northern Vietnam is Ma Pi Leng Pass in Ha Giang province. It is about 5 km from Dong Van town and you can travel by motorbike / bicycle via Ma Pi Leng Pass to Meo Vac town.
How to explore national parks in Vietnam?
- It depends which parks you can visit. If you want to explore the largest parks in the north, it is better to have your own tourist guide. But some small parks you can visit on your own (e.g. Cuc Phuong, Van Long reserve, Ba Be park…)
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