The highlight in the most northern province in Vietnam, Ha Giang, is without a doubt the Ha Giang Loop – a 320km journey starting and finishing in Ha Giang. And nothing beats sitting on a motorbike and riding along mountainous roads – over passes, through valleys, passing rice fields and minority villages. The landscape will make most visitors wanting to stop every 5 minutes to take in the sights.
While the northern provinces are still off-the-beaten path, Ha Giang town offers the best tourist infrastructures in the province, making it the best start and finish point for the loop. You can reach Ha Giang by bus from both Hanoi and Lao Cai (near Sapa), though I would highly recommend to avoid any night buses for the journey north.
Due to some ascends and descends a semi-automatic would be better than an automatic. The roads are in some bits very good, in others sections they have plenty potholes and gravels. In addition animals (cattle etc) and locals will be on the road – so be aware of obstacles appearing suddenly in front of you. You do not want to injure a local – as it could result in prison time. Also, make sure you do not ride at night. Drink driving and animals on the road are just some of the risks and could lead to some serious accidents.
The loop could be done in 3 days, but I would recommend doing the loop in 4 or even 5 days to avoid rushing. I split the loop into 4 sections.
Each section can be easily done per day, but you could also incorporate section 3 & 4 or split part 4 into two section (enjoying a night in Yen Minh). It all depends how much time you have. If you arrive from Cao Bang start the loop from section 4 (excluding Ha Giang), followed by 2 and 3 if you do not want to cover Ha Giang town itself.
Please note that you still require a permit to travel through Ha Giang province. Most guesthouses in Ha Giang, Yen Minh, Dong Van and Meo Vac can get one for you, so there is no need to travel to the police station. They require your passport though – so best option is to get it on day of arrival.
- If you have the time do a four or five-day trip for the loop. This way you can do the loop without rushing and enjoying the beautiful scenery the area has to offer.
- While the distances do not look long, try not to leave too late, otherwise some of the parts feel rushed
- Most of the time the road is in a good condition, however sections have deep potholes that could damage your tyre or lead to a fall. Keep an eye on the road
- Yen Minh, Dong Van and Meo Vac all offer a variety of accommodation, fitting for backpackers and flashpacker
- You can easily find food places serving Pho and rice dishes with meat, though locals might take a break after noon when they close their shops.
- Finally – take your time. Some sections of the journey were so beautiful, you have to sit down and really appreciate it in my opinion. So do not try to rush the journey.
- For my personal experience of the loop visit my blog entry from May 2016
- If you want to incorporate the Cao Bang Loop follow the road from Meo Vac or Ha Giang south