Cuc Phuong National Park is a fantastic destination to visit in Ninh Binh, Vietnam. Visiting Cuc Phuong, you can discover rich flora and fauna, see beautiful natural landscapes, and participate in several outdoor activities.
It’s an excellent choice for a weekend getaway, where you can both relax and have the opportunity to learn more about the surrounding nature.
In this travel guide, I’ll share useful information about Cuc Phuong National park, including the following section:
Best time to visit
Things to see and do
Best places to stay
How to get to Cuc Phuong Park
What to pack
What to eat
Other places to visit in Ninh Binh
About Cuc Phuong Park
Cuc Phuong National Park is the first national forest of Vietnam. The park covers an area of 25,000 ha, adjacent to 3 provinces of Ninh Binh, Hoa Binh, and Thanh Hoa.
With the characteristic of tropical rainforest, green all year round, Cuc Phuong has a rich flora and fauna, including many rare plants and animals.
Specifically, the park has 307 species of birds, 133 species of mammals, 122 species of reptiles, and more than 2000 species of plants. Therefore, it plays an essential role in protecting and preserving Vietnam’s rare and precious animals.
Opening hours: Cuc Phuong is open daily from 9:30 am to 11:30 am and from 1:30 am to 4:30 pm.
Cuc Phuong National Park has a tropical monsoon climate, with an average annual temperature is about 24.7 °C.
The best time to visit Cuc Phuong National Park is in the dry season, from December to May. At this time, the weather is cool and pleasant, suitable for outdoor activities.
On the other hand, you should avoid traveling in the rainy season because the road is slippy and there are many mosquitoes and leeches.
Below is detailed information on the weather and season throughout the year.
Cuc Phuong weather throughout the year
November to January is quite cold, so you pack warm clothes if you plan to visit the park.
January to April is the right season for bird-watching, such as pheasants, white magpie, pitta, and other birds.
Mid-April to early May is the butterfly season in Cuc Phuong.
From April to September, the weather is sunny and beautiful. However, it can be rainy and stormy, so check the weather before you go. If you intend to trek in the forest, avoid going on rainy days because the forest is wet and slippery.
Things to see and do in Cuc Phuong National Park
Explore the primal forest
There are several routes in Cuc Phuong park with different duration and attractions. While some paths you can explore by yourself, some courses require a park guide.
However, with the guidance of the tour guide, indeed your trip will become more interesting and meaningful.
Camping and overnight in the forest, Ngoc Son conservation area, and Pu Luong conservation area are attractive routes that many people are interested in.
Cycling through the forest
One of the exciting experiences in Cuc Phuong is cycling through the forest. You can see the surrounding nature at your own pace and have the opportunity to encounter difficult-to-see animals. It’s an excellent form of exercise too.
Visit the conservation centers.
Visitor Center, Primate Rescue Center, and Turtle Conservation Center are great places to visit and learn more about the park and its animals.
I find the Primate Rescue Center is the most exciting.
This is where many of the rarest primates are found in Cuc Phuong National Forest, such as White-butted langur, Ha Tinh langur, jet-black langur, Laotian langur, and Cat Ba langur. They also research primates such as foraging, living behavior, environment, and living space.
Currently, Cuc Phuong Primate Rescue Center is raising nearly 160 individuals of 15 rare primate species. After that, the center will release them back to nature.
Among them, the black-and-white-breasted langur is a beautiful and rare primate chosen as the Cuc Phuong National Park symbol.
See the thousand-year tree.
Cuc Phuong National Park has a rich system of plants, and one of the most outstanding trees is the thousand-year tree.
This 45m high and 5m in diameter has floating roots on the ground running about 20m long. The distance from the park gate to the tree is about 3 km.
See the ancient Sau tree
There are other trees you should see too. For example, the image below is an old Sau tree with spiky roots – a plant’s adaptation to its habitat.
The thick root system helps the tree stand firm, resist storms, and even grow on rocks.
Visit Nguoi Xua cave.
Nguoi Xua cave is believed to be inhabited by prehistoric humans as a residence and burial relic. Inside the cave are some remnants of prehistoric times.
Explore Con Moong Cave
Con Moong Cave (meaning “beast cave”) is a rock cave in Cuc Phuong National Park. Located near rivers and streams, the area has rich and diverse fauna, and flora, so ancient people chose it as a long-term residence.
The cave is wide and long, with two connecting doors. Con Moong Cave also has a relatively thick cultural stratigraphy, a very complex structure, and a successive interweaving of clay, mollusk shells, and streaks of coal ash.
Hike the Silver Cloud Peak
Silver Cloud Peak, or Dinh May Bac in Vietnamese, is the highest mountain in the Cuc Phuong forest with an altitude of 648m.
From the top of the mountain, you can see a panoramic view of the national park and Hoa Lu ancient capital, and Bai Dinh pagoda.
However, the way to the top of May Bac has many rocky slopes that are pretty difficult to go, so this place is only suitable for people with good health.
Please note that a park guide for this route must accompany you. The whole course takes about 4 hours.
See wildlife at night.
One of the most exciting activities at Cuc Phuong park is the wildlife night tour.
Depending on weather conditions, the park rangers organize exciting night wildlife viewing programs. You can see wild animals such as black squirrels, flying squirrels, roe deer, and small carnivores.
If you want to try this exciting experience, you can book at the central ticket counter area.
Visit Cuc Phuong Botanical Garden
Built in 1985, the garden has an area of 167 ha, including an area for planting trees, natural forest on limestone mountains, and an administrative area of the garden.
Currently, the Garden has 336 species of trees, including 210 species of Cuc Phuong trees, 85 species of trees from Vietnam, 5 species of imported trees, 20 species of fruit trees, 15 species of bamboo, 15 species of the areca palm, and 16 species of aphids.
Of the above species, there are 30 rare and precious species of Vietnam.
Cuc Phuong is one of the most diverse sites of bird fauna in the North of Vietnam, with 308 species discovered and recorded.
There’re many rare species such as the Red-headed Woodpecker, White Pheasant, striped-bellied tail, and many endemic species of Vietnam and Indochina.
Bird-watching is ideal from January to April and September to December. The best times for bird watching are early morning and late afternoon.
Go butterflies “hunting.”
Perhaps this is the most magical experience at Cuc Phuong national park.
At this time, Cuc Phuong has thousands of colorful butterflies, creating a splendid and poetic scene.
If you drive a motorbike or car deep into the forest, you should go slowly because a flock of butterflies may swoop right into your body or the glass of your vehicle.
Please note that butterfly season is from April to May, and they usually appear after the rains.
Observe reptiles, amphibians, and insects
You’ll surely see various animal species at Cuc Phuong National Park, including reptiles, amphibians, and insects.
Cuc Phuong is an excellent spot for camping during the day and overnight.
If you camp during the day, you can choose the flat ground under the tree canopy. For overnight camping, you can set up camp on the prepared cement squares.
While it’s free to camp during the day, you’ll have to pay a small fee for each tent for overnight camping.
Note: Please ask for permission from park rangers before camping.
Visit Muong ethnic village.
Cuc Phuong is also home to the Muong community with unique cultural features such as stilt houses and terraced fields.
Visiting Cuc Phuong, in addition to the above activities, you can also participate in kayaking on Mac Lake or Yen Quang Lake. The kayaking ticket price is 50,000 VND/person/hour.
Best places to stay in Cuc Phuong National Park
Cuc Phuong has three accommodation and dining areas: Park gate area, Ho Mac area, and Central area (Bong Hamlet). Each zone has accommodation or stilt houses with affordable prices and amenities.
Park gate area
This area has different types of rooms, from stilt houses, private apartments or guesthouses. Prices start from 200,000 VND.
It’s also a starting point for all activities and sightseeing programs such as tour guide service, night wildlife viewing, kayaking, and folk art show. They also rent out forest equipment and bicycles.
Ho Mac area
About 1.5 km from the garden gate, the Mac lake area is a quiet place, offering a fresh and relaxing environment. You can choose from private rooms and collective stilts. This is a suitable area for group activities, campfires, and cultural performances.
Forest center area
The forest center area (Bong Hamlet) is about 20 km from the garden gate. It has stilt houses, two-story houses, and apartments.
As this area doesn’t have electricity, the accommodation here only runs a generator for about 4 hours every night. If there are too few guests, they won’t run the generator.
Staying outside Cuc Phuong
If you prefer to stay outside Cuc Phuong park, Cuc Phuong resort is a good choice. It has bungalow-style rooms with comfortable beds, a swimming pool, and an on-site restaurant.
Cuc Phuong National Park itinerary
Here is a 2-day sample Cuc Phuong itinerary from Hanoi.
Day 1: Hanoi – Cuc Phuong
The morning departs from Hanoi and arrives at Cuc Phuong around 8 am.
After checking in, visit the entrance area and the surrounding area of the forest. Then have lunch and rest to prepare for the visit in the afternoon.
In the early afternoon, you can rent bicycles to explore the forest and visit Nguoi Xua Cave. Then continue to the center of the forest and visit the thousand-year-old Cho tree.
After that, visitors can stop by the turtle conservation center and primate rescue center.
Return to your hotel for dinner—end of day 1.
Day 2: Discover Cuc Phuong – Hanoi
Get up early in the morning for a forest walk and have breakfast.
You can also register for some tours to discover Cuc Phuong organized by the National Park.
In the evening, depart for Hanoi.
How to get from Hanoi to Cuc Phuong
Cuc Phuong National Park is 120 km south of Hanoi and 45 km northwest of Ninh Binh city.
Getting from Hanoi to Cuc Phuong Park
From Hanoi, follow National Highway 1A towards Ninh Binh, follow National Highway 1A to Gian Khau junction (Gia Vien district, 10 km from Ninh Binh city). Then, follow Highway 12 about 35km to the forest gate, and continue to the park attractions.
There are two ways to get from Hanoi to Cuc Phuong by bus. The bus travel time is about 2.5 to 3 hours.
Take the bus directly from Giap Bat bus station (Hanoi Southern bus station) to Cuc Phuong National Park. Duc Hanh bus (0912607066) departs from Giap Bat at 10 am, and Phu Duyen bus (0988118215) leaves at 3 pm. The bus goes straight to the park, so this is the most convenient option.
You can also take a bus from Giap Bat station to Nho Quan (the nearest town). Buses depart at 8 am, 9 am, noon, 1 pm, 3 pm, and 4 pm. From Nho Quan station, you can take a taxi or a motorbike taxi (Xe om). The distance from the station to the forest gate is more than ten kilometers.
Duc Hanh bus
Phu Duyen bus
There’s a daily bus departing from Cuc Phuong Park to Hanoi. The bus leaves Cuc Phuong National Park’s headquarter at 9 am for Giap Bat station and returns from Giap Bat station back to the park at 3 pm.
How to get from Ninh Binh to Cuc Phuong Park
From Ninh Binh, you can head in the direction of Trang An and Bai Dinh pagoda (15 km). From Bai Dinh to the park (26 km), take the road behind the parking of Bai Dinh, then follow the big concrete road to the park.
Cuc Phuong park entrance ticket
Entrance ticket price for the park:
Adults: 60,000 VND / person
Students: 20,000 VND / person
Children: 10,000 VND / person
What to pack for Cuc Phuong National Park
Here are some essential items that you should pack for Cuc Phuong Park:
Long-sleeved clothing: if you stay overnight, you should prepare long-sleeved pajamas because there are often many insects here! Also, wear long-sleeved clothes when hiking.
A thin sweater and raincoat to avoid cold and frost.
Personal medicine bag
Insect sprays and anti-mosquitoes
High and thick socks to avoid leeches
Hiking shoes, especially if you’re planning to explore some of the forest trails.
Personal flashlight to use when traveling at night and in the caves.
Sunscreen and sunglasses
Food in the forest is not much and plentiful, so you should prepare enough food for two days, especially for a trip with young children.
Water and snacks for hiking
Binoculars to enjoy the view
Picnic camping equipment: If you plan overnight camping, you should prepare to bring a few essential items such as tents, sleeping bags, and camping equipment.
Cuc Phuong park allows personal vehicles to go directly inside. So you can drive your car, motorbike or exercise with bicycles and enjoy the fresh air of the forest.
What to eat in Ninh Binh
Visiting Cuc Phuong, you shouldn’t miss the mountain goat dish, Ninh Binh specialty. Also, try the mountain snail dish, which is only available here.
There are also other delicious dishes such as grilled chicken, deep-fried perch, and Muong rice wine.
Other places to visit in Ninh Binh
There are plenty of things to see and do in Ninh Binh, and here are my favorite attractions.