Trekking in Vietnam - Explore the Enchanting Landscape

Vietnam is known for its rich culture, mouthwatering food and breathtaking scenery. Something it is not known for is trekking. However, the connoisseurs of trekking will tell you that Vietnam is all but a perfect place to go trekking. Northern Vietnam offers a plethora of hikes through towering mountains while the rest of the country offers you trails through dense jungle foliage. 

1. Sapa

Sapa, Trekking in Vietnam

Best Time: March to May, September to November
Duration: 2 - 4 days
Difficulty Level: Easy, Medium, Hard

Sapa is considered the best spot for trekking in Vietnam for two reasons. Firstly, it is home to Mt. Fansipan, the nicest peak in Vietnam and the Indochina Peninsula. Secondly, Sapa has so many mountain trails that interconnect and overlap with each other that it gives you the opportunity to create a trail of your own, based on your experience level. Trekking through Sapa is a beautiful experience. The mountainous scenery coupled with the lifestyle of the local indigenous communities makes for some great stories. Sapa has three major trekking routes - the easy route is a two-day trek that takes you through Muong Hoa Valley and Giang Ta Chai. The medium route includes the Cat Ca village and a longer route to Muong Hoa Valley. The hard trek is scaling the mountain Fansipan and is advised only for trekkers with experience.

2. Cuc Phuong National Park

Cuc Phuong National Park, Trekking in Vietnam

Best Time: December to April
Duration: 1 day
Difficulty Level: Easy

Located a few kilometres south of Hanoi, Cuc Phuong National Park is the oldest National Park in the country. The primeval forest is home to a large variety of flora and is an ideal location for trekking in Vietnam. Scattered with a large number of trekking and hiking trails through the lush foliage of the Vietnamese tropical forests, the karst mountain climbs add to the thrill. There are a number of day hikes available in the park, both self-guided or with a skilled local guide.

3. Cat Tien National Park

Cat Tien National Park, Trekking in Vietnam

Best Time: May to July
Duration: 1 day
Difficulty Level: Easy

Located in the midst of three southern Vietnamese provinces, the Cat Tien National Park boasts of a well-preserved and varied biodiversity. The waterfall system and criss-crossing rivers are striking. Cat Tien National Park is the perfect location for a combination of wildlife watching and trekking in Vietnam. It is a favored location for wildlife enthusiasts as it plays host to a variety of fauna including gibbons, reptiles and even Tigers and elephants. The trails within Cat Tien park are not very famous amongst the general tourist population but trekking through these areas will undoubtedly give you a unique insight into tropical wildlife.

4. Ba Be National Park

Ba Be National Park, Trekking in Vietnam

Best Time: November to January
Duration: 2 - 3 days
Difficulty Level: Moderate

Centered around the largest natural lake in the country, Ba Be National Park is one of the most coveted destinations for trekking in Vietnam. The park lies in the midst of a gigantic limestone mountain in the Bac Kan Province. The trekking routes in this region are often multi-day treks and include a wide array of water based activities owing to the plethora of waterfalls, rivers and streams centered around the lake. The trails take you through dense wet jungles, and are advised only for those with considerable trekking experience. The tropical monsoon forests are home to a number of indigenous local minorities and trekking trails will often take you through settlements of these minorities and provide a rich cultural experience.

5. Mai Chau

Mai Chau, Trekking in Vietnam

Best Time: February to May
Duration: 1 day
Difficulty Level: Easy

Home to the ethnic White Thai and Black Thai population, Mai Chau possesses a certain degree of peace and quiet that cannot be achieved anywhere else. This province in the Hoa Binh District, inundated with gentle streams and green rice fields is the ideal location for casual treks and hikes that take you through minority settlements and up hills filled with paddy fields. The region is a criss-cross of trails and you can choose your own. If you are a beginner with no trekking experience you will find the hikes fun, but an experienced individual may find it slightly tame. Nevertheless, it is a great pass-time.

6. Cao Bang

Cao Bang, Trekking in Vietnam

Best Time: Feb to May
Duration: 4 days
Difficulty Level: Difficult

The Cao Bang trail is not only one of the hardest, but also one of the finest trails for trekking in Vietnam. The incredibly scenic hike takes you on a twisted route through karst mountains and deep gorges and meandering rivers. An unmissable stop along the way is the Ban Gioc Waterfall, the largest cascade in Vietnam. The trail takes you through Tay and Red Deo settlements and through the Coc Bo caves, famed for its revolutionary activity during the Vietnam War. The trail passes through many lakes and is a good idea to pack your swimwear.

7. Cat Ba Island

Cat Ba Island, Trekking in Vietnam

Best Time: October to November
Duration: 1 day
Difficulty Level: Moderate

Cat Ba is the largest island in the archipelago located off the coast of Northern Vietnam. The ocean and jungle meet here creating a unique and varied terrestrial and marine biodiversity. The Cat Ba national park is a popular 18 kilometre trail. The six hours upward hike is recommended with a guide as they will often take you to undiscovered crevices. The hike is worth the breathtaking view at the peak and you might even spot some unique wildlife on the way (macaques, rivets). It is the perfect hiking destination in the country for wildlife enthusiasts.

8. Ha Giang

Ha Giang, Trekking in Vietnam

Best Time: October to January
Duration: 5 days
Difficulty Level: Hard

The Ha Giang Trek is another trek in Vietnam that is not advised for the faint hearted, as the strenuous trek passes through several ridges, crosses several mountains and passes through several valleys. The highlight is the trek is the ascent to the highest peak of Dong Van, a border town. The summit offers awe-inspiring views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The trek continues from Dong Van to Meo Vac and then to Ma Pi Leng Pass and finishes with a descent into a beautiful deep valley with rocky mountains. There is also a stop-over at Hmong Palace, a Chinese Style mansion built by traders for the French Colonial Rulers.

9. Lang Biang Mountain

Lang Biang Mountain, Trekking in Vietnam

Best Time: February to June
Duration: 1 day
Difficulty Level: Moderate

Lang Biang mountain is the tallest mountain in Dalat and is a prime trekking location. Apart from being an excellent spot for trekking in Vietnam, Lang Biang mountain also is an excellent destination for a bunch of adventure activities such as rock climbing, camping and rappelling. The Lang Biang Mountain summit also offers spectacular views of the surrounding area including the Golden and Silver river streams and Dalat City area. The trek is a relaxed upward climb and is quite enjoyable.

10. Pu Luong Nature Reserve

Pu Luong Nature Reserve, Trekking in Vietnam

Best Time: February to May
Duration: 2 days
Difficulty Level: Moderate

For a quiet and rustic rural scenery, head to Pu Luong Nature Reserve. The reserve consists is two parallel hills and a deep valley between them. This serves as an exciting trekking destination. You will find picturesque rice terraces and limestone mountains and trekking trails that lead through these. One of the most unique parts of this trekking trail is that the mountains are best explored at night, as the moonlight lends an ethereal glow to the surroundings.

What to Pack When Trekking in Vietnam:

  1. Comfortable and well-worn walking shoes
  2. Waterproof Jacket with a hood
  3. A light jacket or jumper in case it gets cold
  4. Mosquito Repellant
  5. High SPF Sunscreen
  6. Torch or headlight
  7. Vietnamese Dong. Lots of loose change for souvenirs
  8. Power backup for your devices
  9. Hand sanitizer
One has the unique opportunity of exploring tropical rainforests and mountains while trekking in Vietnam. The landscape of the trek maybe through limestone mountains, rice fields, along the beach or through dense jungle foliage. Vietnamese treks can be culturally stimulating, physically enriching and are often described as life-altering experiences. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned veterans, your next trekking destination should be Vietnam!

This post was published by Sitara Kumbale

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