The remote province of northern Vietnam with the most beautiful scenery.
Ha Giang province (Hà Giang) in northern Vietnam is less frequented by tourists. 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.
Ha Giang is a unique place, that is 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.
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.
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.
Take a motorbike and drive through the fantastic areas of Meo Vac.
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.
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 market with ethnic residents every Sunday morning.
Meo Vac town 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.
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 (see map) 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.
Try to allocate at least 3 days to explore the province of Ha Giang.
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 here, ride cautiously 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.
🛂 Getting Your Permit in Ha Giang:
If you travel to the farthest places (and most beautiful – Dong Van, Meo Vac, Lung Cu …) in the province of Ha Giang, you will have to buy a permit. This permit can be purchased at the immigration office in Ha Giang town. This office is located on the street Tran Phu, 415a in the northern part of the town (see the map below this article).
Obtaining the permit is very simple. The officer is at the window, you hand him your 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 the motorcycle, he writes the reg on the permit. A permit can also be purchased at the police station in Meo Vac town.
👲 Ethnic markets in Ha Giang:
It’s a very good option 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, 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:
Ha Giang town is a long way 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 night or day bus from Hanoi to Ha Giang town. Bus stations in Hanoi – My Dinh and Gia Lam. A morning bus departs from My Dinh bus station around 8am and the night bus departs from My Dinh around 8pm and then arrives in Ha Giang next day in the early morning. The one-way bus ticket costs approx. $12.
2. From Hanoi to Lao Cai town by train and there take a bus to Ha Giang town:
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. There is no train connection in Ha Giang province.
How to get from Sapa to Ha Giang town?
You can go with one of the local buses from Sapa to the Lao Cai town. Take other a bus to Ha Giang town in Lao Cai. Unfortunately, I do not have verified information whether there is a direct bus from Sapa to Ha Giang. I recommend to ask in the hotel in Sapa, they usually have this kind of information. Do not forget to buy a permit in Ha Giang town !!!
Where to rent a motorbike in Ha Giang:
Lots of travelers rent a motorbike in Ha Giang town and then go to the far north (Dong Van, Meo Vac, Lung Cu …). Renting a bike for 1 day costs around $7-15. You can try for example Rentabikevn (Hanoi, Ha Giang, Da Nang – good reference), HaGiangMotorbike, Chothuexemayhagiang. There are contacts on their websites where you can find their premises. 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.
Weather in Ha Giang:
The best time to be in Ha Giang is in the dry season, in the months from October to April. It is not good to go to this mountainous area during the rainy season (May to September). The average temperature is approximately the same as in Hanoi. But in the mountain areas the weather can change quickly. However, the amount of precipitation in the rainy season is higher than in Hanoi. The roads can be very dangerous here.
🏡Accommodation in Ha Giang:
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 accomodate in Coc Pai, Hoang Su Phi, Tam Son, Yen Minh, Dong Van, Meo Vac, Bac Me. There are some cheap hostels and homestays.
📷 Places of Interest in Ha Giang:
• Noong lake (25 km from Ha Giang town)
• Sunday market in Ha Giang town
• Hoang Su Phi, Xin Man
• Thac Tien – Đeo Gio (Fairy waterfall)
• Yen Minh
• Dong Van Karst Global Geopark
• The valley of Quan Ba + Tam Son town
• Lung Khuy Cave (10 km from the town of Tam Son)
• Thien Phuong cave (7 km from the city)
• northernmost village of Vietnam – Lung Cu
• Lung Cu flag tower
• Dong Van and Meo Vac
• Đồn Cao viewpoint in Dong Van town
• The Hmong king’s palace (Vuong Chinh Sinh)
• Khau Vai love market (once per year)
• Ma Pi Leng Pass and Nho Que river
• Tham ma Pass
• sunday market in Meo Vac, Dong Van, Yen Minh…
• Male market in Dong Van
• ethnic minority villages (Pho Cao, Pho Bang, Sung La, Lung Cu…)