The most northern part of Vietnam is the Ha Giang province, bordering the Chinese border on the far north, a province full of limestone karst, strange-looking rock formations, valleys full of trees or rice terraces – a region full of dramatic scenery and contrast. And most importantly, a region where roads are winding down throughout the region and heading over passes – offering many opportunities to explore this beautiful region.
No train goes up that far into the north and there is no airport in that region. So the only options are taking the bus for an 8 hour trip from Hanoi , riding north with your own motorbike or organising a private tour. So it is not a place you should visit only for a couple of days. It deserves much more time.
The main centre for tourists to arrive is the capital of the province – Ha Giang town. This town has started to focus on these kind of tourists and offer enough accommodation, food places, and most importantly, plenty of shops renting out bikes.
And if you are not coming north with a private tour or hiring a private driver getting a bike is compulsory to see why more tourists head north – the beautiful surroundings full of stunning scenery, beautiful little villages and very friendly locals. This area is not overrun by tourists yet, so it is a great place to experience the real rural Vietnam.
Most people will do the so-called Ha Giang Loop – a multi-day motorbike trip to see the highlights of the region. That route covers the main tourists places Yen Minh, Dong Van and Meo Vac. Both Dong Van and Meo Vac are two little towns that are actually more than transit places – you could easily consider staying here for a few days to explore the surrounding areas.
In addition of these towns the Ha Giang province offers some of the most beautiful areas and most dramatic routes of Vietnam – like the Heaven’s Gate pass near Ha Giang Town, Dong Van Karst Plateau between Yen Minh and Dong Van and the absolute highlight – the Ma Pi Leng Pass between Dong Van and Meo Vac.Riding on this road you will think being on another planet – so beautiful, so stunning, but still feeling so remote in most sections.
And if you want to join the ride to a popular destinations for many Vietnamese, do not miss the Vietnamese North Pole Lung Cu – the most northern point of Vietnam.
The roads in this region are mainly in decent conditions, though there are sections with many potholes, so it is important to keep an eye on the road.
For me going to the far north will be the absolute highlight for any trip to Vietnam. it can be easily combined with trips to the Cao Bang province, and could keep you easily busy for 2 weeks. If you only want to cover Ha Giang I would take aside at least 6 days – 2 days for the day time travel between Hanoi and Ha Giang, and 4 days for the loop. The region really deserves this minimum of time. You won’t be disappointed.