Head to any of the ten below mentioned pristine national parks to please the nature-lover within you:
1. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2003, the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is known for containing the oldest karst mountains in Asia. Covering approximately 900 square kilometres, its well-preserved landscape is dotted with underground rivers, forests, caverns, cave formations and historic sites. Its best-known cave is the Son Doong Cave, which was discovered to be the largest cave in the world. The cave formations in the national park often contain mind-blowing stalactite and stalagmite formations. A few other notable caves are Phong Nha Cave, Dark Cave and Paradise Cave.
The national park is home to a great diversity of flora and fauna, having a majority of its landscape covered in forest. One can also see some common, rare and endangered species of animals, birds and reptiles. There are many activities to participate in for visitors, including guided tours, biking, zip-lining, trekking, camping, and much more.
Access to the national park is strictly controlled, and only a fraction of it is open to visitors.
Location: The national park is located in the Bo Trach and Minh Hóa districts of the Quang Bình Province in north-central Vietnam, about 500 km south of Hanoi.
Entrance fee: No entry fee. One is only required to pay for the specific attractions.
2. Phu Quoc National Park
Established in 2001 as a national park in the Phú Quoc island, the Phú Quoc National Park boasts an oceanic climate, abundant vegetation, diverse species and picturesque landscapes. The national park covers over half of Phu Quoc Island's northern region and is part of the Kien Giang Biosphere Reserve, which is a UNESCO designated site since 2010. Covering an area of over 31,000 hectares of land, the national park is divided into three zones: a strictly protected area, an ecological restoration area and an administrative, service and scientific research area.
The national park entices many locals and tourists in Vietnam, and offers them with magnificent sights to see, including several rare species of flora and fauna, birds, marine life and coral reefs. It is one among those very few places where one can find the Dugong, an aquatic species on the verge of extinction. Visitors can participate in some of the outdoor activities such as bird-watching hiking, kayaking, camping, trekking and river-rafting.
Location: The national park is located around 26 kilometres north of Duong Dong in the Phu Quoc Island of Vietnam. Visitors can Visitors can make their way to the Khu Rung Nguyen Sinh Forest Reserve, via Ganh Dau Village.
Entrance fee: No entry fee.
3. Cat Tien National Park
Located in the south of Vietnam, the Cát Tiên National Park consists of one of the largest of the remaining few lowland tropical forests of Vietnam. The national park consists of two main segments, namely Cat Loc and Nam Cat Tien, the latter of which contains the park headquarters. In 2001, the park was listed by UNESCO as the 411th biosphere reserve zone in the world.
The national park is home to large areas of grassland, bamboo and wetland, as well as several endemic trees and plants. One can also find some species of mammals, reptiles, fish, insects and birds such as gibbons, wild boar, deer, Siamese crocodiles, Germain's peacock pheasant, and the Orange-necked partridge. It also has its animal rescue centres, the Dao Tien Endangered Primate Species Centre and the Cat Tien Bear Rescue Centre.
The 72,000-hectare national park offers visitors with opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors by participating in hiking, cycling, camping, mountain biking and bird-watching. Early risers can also enjoy the experience of hearing the early morning birdsong and the cries of the gibbons echoing in the forest.
Location: The Cát Tiên National Park is located in the Dong Nai, Lam Dong and Binh Phuoc provinces of Vietnam, and is approximately 150 kilometres north-east of Ho Chi Minh city.
Entrance fee: VND 60,000 per person
4. Cat Ba National Park
Designated as a biosphere reserve World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2004, the Cat Ba National Park covers over 263 square kilometres in northern Vietnam. The national park is home to over 282 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, zooplankton, fish and corals, including the Cat Ba langur or the white-headed langur. It is classified as a critically endangered primate by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The Cat Ba National Park coincides with a migration route for waterfowl, who feed and roost on its beaches. Visitors can go hiking in any of the many trails available here, including a 6-hour long 18-kilometre trail up to a mountain summit.
Location: The national park is located in the Tran Chau commune in Haiphong city, and covers most of the Cát Bà island. The park headquarters are at Trung Trang.
Entrance fee: VND 40,000 per person
5. Ba Be National Park
The Ba Be National Park was set up in 1992 to protect the largest freshwater lake in Vietnam, the Ba Be Lake, as well as surrounding forests and limestone. The park, a hidden gem in Bac Kan province, boasts waterfalls, rivers, valleys and caves. This national park consists of rainforest area and is home to a variety of species of over 60 mammals, 100 fish, 230 birds and 500 plants. The park is also famous for its diversity of butterfly species, out of which over 350 species have been recorded.
Complete with picturesque scenery and rich biodiversity, one can also see some ethnic minority groups living peacefully in the national park. Visitors can witness their simple way of life and discover their culture while exploring the park. With some undiscovered routes, trekking paths, untouched terrain and plenty of activities to do, any adventurer is bound to feel like they are in paradise. The national park offers mesmerising spots to explore, such as the An Ma Temple, the Fairy Pond, the Widow's Island, the Puong Cave and the Lo Mo Cave.
Location: The national park is located in Bac Kan Province, about 240 kilometres north of Hanoi, and approximately 70 kilometres northwest of the capital B?c K?n.
6. Bach Ma National Park
A protected area near the imperial capital of Hue, the Bach Ma National Park is home to some of the lushest vegetation and pristine jungles in central Vietnam. Located on the Annamite mountains at the border between north and south Vietnam, it is one of the wettest lands of Vietnam. One can witness several different ecosystems and habitats in a moderate climate and is one of the best places for any nature-lover.
The area, previously a French-era hill station, attracted the French who built over a hundred villas here. Head here to catch a glimpse of granite mountains, several evergreen forests, grasslands, waterfalls and rich biodiversity consisting of a variety of species of plants and mammals. Over a thousand species of plants and over a hundred species of mammals, as well as nine different kinds of primates, can be found here. Hiking, climbing, and camping are the most popular activities when coming here. Visitors can even choose to stay in one of the several refurbished villas with unique French architecture at the national park.
Location: The national park is located in two districts, Nam Dong and Phu Loc, Thua Thien - Hue province. It is found at the end part of Truong Son mountain range (also known as the Annamite Mountains) stretching from the border of Vietnam at an altitude of 1.450m above sea level.
Entrance fee: VND 40,000 per person
7. Cuc Phuong National Park
The Cuc Phuong National Park is known to be Vietnam's first national park and the largest nature reserve in the country. Also considered as one of Vietnam's most accessible national parks, it can be explored by foot, motorbike or cycle. One can explore a variety of limestone formations, several caves, karst mountains and valleys here. The national park has a vast array of flora and fauna, as well as primate, pangolin and turtle rehabilitation and breeding centres.
The national park houses a large number of residents from the plant, animal and bird kingdom, including endangered langurs, Asiatic Black-Bear bears, Brown Hawk Owl, White-Winged Blue Magpie and hornbills. One can also find plants used for preparing spices and medicines, as well as some edible plants. The beautiful landscapes and pristine forests of the Cuc Phuong National Park make it an excellent option for any adventurous visitor.
Location: The national park can be found in the Nho Quan District in the Ninh Bình province of Vietnam. It is situated in the foothills of the northern Annamite Mountains, lying just over a 100 kilometres from Hanoi.
Entrance fee: VND 60,000 per person
8. Yok Don National Park
The Yok Don National Park is considered to be Vietnam's largest national park and boasts the famous Srepok river, and stunning scenery, landscapes and waterfalls. The national park, established in 1991, also contains four villages, where the M?nong, Ede and Lao people reside. Relatively less crowded than most national parks, the Yok Don National Park is perfect for people who wish to stroll through an offbeat path and experience the authentic culture of the place.
Its dry deciduous forests are home to over 800 species of trees, more than 450 species of birds, as well as about 80 species of mammals including wild elephants, bears, red wolves, monkeys and the endangered Indochinese tiger. A number of the mammals belong to the Red List, and many species have even been wiped out due to deforestation and poaching. The -park is especially famous among tourists for its elephant-back rides, which is also a tradition among several ethnic groups of the region. Some visitors also enjoy camping, trekking and fishing here. Another exciting activity for visitors is the Buon Don local cooking class, where a local family shows you how to cook a typical Ede meal, and it can also include a visit to the local market.
By the rules of the place, it is necessary for all visitors to be accompanied by a guide in the national park.
Location: The national park is located in Krong Na commune in the Buon Don district, Dak Lak province of Vietnam, about 40 kilometres northwest of Buon Ma Thuot city.
Cost: For a small group (1-4 people), the guide costs VND 500,000 per day.
9. Pu Mat National Park
Translating to 'High Slope' in Thai, the Pu Mat National Park is part of the Western Nghe An Biosphere Reserve. The national park offers several breathtaking views that attract millions of visitors every year, including the Kem waterfall, Moc Spring, Giang River, as well as a wildlife rescue centre. The national park is home to Kinh and the Dan Lai people, and Thai ethnic groups.
Rich in biodiversity, the national park is home to over 800 species of plants, more than 200 mammal species, as well as a vast array of bird, amphibian and reptile species. These include the Ussuri Dholes, Indian elephants, saola, Annamite striped rabbit and the largest population of northern white-cheeked crested gibbons in the world.
Location: The Pu Mat National Park is situated in the administrative areas of An Son, Con Cuong and Tuong Duong districts, in the Nghe An Province, in Vietnam's north-central coast region.
10. Con Dao National Park
This national park is a true testament to the beauty and pristine nature of Vietnam, consisting of protected marine and forest environments with a diverse ecological system. It is one of the only two such national parks in Vietnam. Located in the centre of an archipelago of 14 islands, the total area of the national park stretches from the island area to the surrounding sea.
Formerly known for being its French prisons and a dark past, today visitors can freely visit the 15 sites of still-intact prisons, torture chambers and ruins. At the Con Dao national park, one can find undisturbed coral reefs, white sand beaches, lush mangroves and tropical rainforests. Lucky visitors may even come across species of mammals, amphibians or reptiles, such as black squirrels, blue whales, dugongs or sea turtles. The rich biodiversity also consists of around 800 species of plants, including a variety of herbs, orchids and vines.
Don't miss out on exploring the pristine beaches, trekking and mountain-climbing here. For the more adventurous visitors, you can even go snorkelling and explore the colourful coral reefs in the sea.
You have to get permission before exploring the Con Dao National Park. The management office issues a free daily permit and a free map with a brief introduction of the park to you.
Location: The Con Dao National Park is a natural reserve area located at Con Dao Island, in the offshore area of Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province in southeast Vietnam.
Entrance fee: No entry fee, you may need to pay for some activities like snorkelling, and for permission to discover certain parts of the forest.
Things to Note before you Visit a National Park
- Plan enough time to explore the national park. Most national parks are spread over a vast area and spending one day does not always suffice. Don't forget to account for travel time!
- Choose attractions you are most likely to enjoy, rather than trying to do everything in one trip.
- Figure out whether you would like to explore the national park with a tour guide, or if you would instead go alone.
- Based on your budget, choose the best accommodation available.
- It's best not to go trekking alone. Also, ensure that that you start out early and return before it is dark.
- While packing, keep in mind to carry plenty of water and snacks. Other important things you can carry are your swimsuit, a map, anti-bug spray, sunscreen and snacks if needed.
Best time to Visit National Parks in VietnamVietnam is a great destination to visit, with the best of both worlds- its lush greenery and the busy city-side. Different regions of the country experience different climatic conditions at various points of the year, and therefore the best time to visit varies depending on your destination.
By the month of November, most of Vietnam experiences a relatively dry climate, and one can enjoy clear skies and sunny days. December is also a relatively good time for outdoor activities. January to March continue to experience warm and dry weather; however, some parts of the north may start to get slightly chilly in the evenings.
Towards April and May, the climate slowly changes to summer, with occurrences of humidity and rainfall. It is best to avoid planning a trip to national parks from September to October, as these are the wettest months of the year, with heavy rainfall and wind.
However because of the generally warm and diverse climatic conditions in Vietnam, one can plan a trip year-round. It's never a bad time to be in Vietnam! One just needs to take into consideration the climate of the particular region, as well as the pros and cons while planning a trip.
Finally, no matter which national park you choose, Vietnam’s national parks are its hidden gems and boast truly breathtaking landscapes and diverse ecosystems. Complete with natural undiscovered beauty and a peek into the authentic culture of the locals, the national parks of Vietnam are truly an ideal destination for any nature-lover. So pack your bags and get ready to explore!