Vietnam is more than just a stop on the Southeast Asian travel route. The country has a wide range of landscapes, offering adventurous souls an enthralling playground.
From the misty terrains of Ha Giang in the North to the rugged landscapes of Central Vietnam and the lush greenery of the Southern region, this travel guide will take you through some of the most exquisite, yet lesser-known places for hiking in Vietnam.
Sapa, Lao Cai
Nestled in the Hoang Lien Son Mountains, Sapa is a quaint town enveloped by a stunning landscape of lush mountains and rice fields.
The hiking routes here range from gentle walks through the rice terraces to more challenging treks to the summit of Fansipan, the highest peak in Indochina.
Each trek in Sapa is unique in its own way. Muong Hoa Valley, for example, is a trail that stretches around 14 kilometers from Sapa to Ta Van village.
It offers captivating views of mountains, rice terraces, and waterfalls.
This moderate-difficult trek is suitable even for novices, and local guides can help you find the best paths through the stunning landscapes.
While trekking, you can stop by the rustic Cat Cat Village, just 2 kilometers from Sapa. It’s a H’Mong ethnic village where you can get souvenirs and peek at local customs and traditions.
For Sapa trekking, don’t forget to stay hydrated and pack energy-rich snacks. Consider lightweight, moisture-wicking attire that will keep you comfortable throughout the day.
The best time to go hiking in Sapa is from March to May or September to November. These periods offer favorable weather conditions and stunning vistas as the terraced fields glow with vibrant colors.
Fansipan mountain, Sapa
Dominating the landscape around Sapa, Fansipan Mountain, often called the “Roof of Indochina,” stands at a towering height of 3,147 meters.
You can conquer this trekking destination in many different ways. But the easiest is to start from Tram Ton to the top and return in the opposite direction.
The average hiking time is about 2-3 days.
While this trek is challenging, it offers an incredible sense of achievement and panoramic views that make every effort worthwhile.
The trail to the summit takes you through dense forests, steep terraces, and rocky paths.
As you ascend, you’ll witness changing landscapes, from the tropical rainforest at the base to bamboo forests and then alpine conditions near the summit.
For the best views from Fansipan’s summit, plan your trek between October and April, when the weather’s cool, and the sky is mostly clear.
I highly recommend taking the Fansipan cable car on your way back for a different experience.
Keep in mind, though, that this climb demands stamina, and it’s crucial to pace yourself.
Good hiking boots and a trekking pole can be your best allies on the steeper stretches. Don’t forget warm clothing – temperatures at the top can be quite nippy!
Lao Than, Y Ty
Have you ever dreamed of walking amongst the clouds? If so, Lao Than Mountain, the ‘roof of Y Ty,’ is your trekking destination.
Hidden away in the Bat Xat district of Lao Cai, this lofty peak sits at an impressive altitude of 2800 meters.
It’s the perfect spot for those adventurous souls looking to combine a good hike with breathtaking cloud hunting.
There’s nothing quite like seeing the world cloaked in a soft, misty blanket from above!
The trip to the summit of Lao Than Mountain usually spans two days and a night. The trek is moderate to tough, winding through steep trails with gorgeous vistas waiting at every turn.
Remember, this isn’t a stroll in the park. Prior trekking experience can come in handy when attempting to tackle this mountain.
Make sure to pack plenty of dry food and hire a guide or join a trekking tour.
Mu Cang Chai, Yen Bai
If you’re a fan of hiking and breathtaking landscapes, put Mu Cang Chai on your must-visit list!
This place is known for its stunning rice terraces that cover over 500 hectares of mountainside – it’s like walking through a nature-made art gallery.
One of the best parts of hiking in Mu Cang Chai is seeing the local Hmong and Thai communities. From ethnic houses to colorful traditional dress, you’re in for a treat!
Mu Cang Chai is roughly a 280-kilometer drive from Hanoi. The drive itself is a treat, filled with incredible views and beautiful hill-tribe villages to explore.
But the real gem? The hiking! There are trails for all abilities, so don’t worry if you’re not an expert hiker.
A popular route is the trek to Che Cu Nha village. The views are phenomenal – think lush, green terraces that seem to ripple down the mountainside. The area near the main town is also beautiful, with rice terraces and vibrant local lives.
Here are some quick tips for hiking in Mu Cang Chai: start early in the day when it’s cooler. Wear sturdy hiking boots because the terrain can get slippery. Bring water, snacks, and your camera – you’ll want to remember these views!
And the best time to visit Mu Cang Chai is between September and early October. This is when the rice fields turn a stunning gold color for the harvest season. It’s a sight you don’t want to miss!
Located in Vietnam’s remote northern region, Ha Giang is an idyllic destination known for its striking landscapes and vibrant ethnic cultures.
This place is a dream come true for hikers, with stunning peaks, lush valleys, and colorful ethnic cultures.
If you’re up for a challenge, the UNESCO-listed Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark won’t disappoint. It’s a challenging hike, but with epic limestone mountains and plunging valleys to admire, it’s a thrill ride every step of the way.
As for packing, take waterproof gear for the tropical monsoon climate and a map or GPS for navigation.
Plan your Ha Giang trek between September and November for dry, pleasant weather and fields full of beautiful blooming buckwheat flowers.
Here comes an insider’s secret – Cao Bang. It’s off the typical tourist radar, making it a paradise for explorers!
Cao Bang is adorned with lush greenery, rocky mountains, and azure water bodies, making it an irresistible trekking spot.
The walk to the spectacular Ban Gioc Waterfall, one of the largest in the world and located on a national border, is my favorite. As the water cascades down from a height of 30 meters, it creates a hypnotic view that will leave you in awe.
My top tip: Don’t forget to bring a camera! This trek is filled with unforgettable vistas you’ll want to capture.
Aim to visit between August and October for the best views and moderate weather.
Ba Be National Park, Bac Kan
Prepare to have your mind blown by the diversity at Ba Be National Park!
Here, you’re not only hiking, but you’re on a journey through a remarkable ecosystem.
The trails lead through dense forests, around clear water lakes, and even to some fascinating limestone caves.
One of my memorable experiences here was bird-watching – the park is a haven for many bird species. So, if you’re a bird enthusiast, don’t forget to pack your binoculars.
Remember, while the park’s beauty is undeniable, the terrain can be a tad challenging. So ensure you’re equipped with sturdy shoes and plenty of water.
Visiting between April and October is a good idea as the weather is quite pleasant.
Cat Ba National Park, Hai Phong
Trekking in Cat Ba National Park was an absolute delight for me. It’s a haven for unspoiled forests, magnificent limestone mountains, and diverse fauna and flora.
The trails here take you through some of the most untouched regions of the park, making it a perfect destination for a tranquil escape.
One tip is to bring a pair of binoculars for bird watching – the park is home to a variety of bird species.
With comfortable weather and less rainfall, September to October is an ideal time for trekking here.
Mai Chau, Hoa Binh
For those who are new to hiking, Mai Chau is a gentle introduction.
The routes here, such as the Hang Kia – Pa Co – Cun Pheo – Xam Khoe – Mai Chau town trail, are less challenging but still wonderfully scenic.
My hike in Mai Chau was filled with peaceful moments, strolling through verdant rice paddies and getting to know the friendly locals.
Mai Chau is not just about the trekking experience. You also have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture of the Thai people who inhabit the region.
Staying in a stilt house, trying the local cuisine, and watching traditional dance performances were among my highlights during the visit.
I recommend trekking in Mai Chau from late September to early May when the climate is most comfortable, and the scenery is at its most vibrant.
Moc Chau, Son La
With its rolling green hills, verdant tea plantations, and blooming gardens, Moc Chau offers a refreshing retreat.
Hiking in Moc Chau, you’re treated to a wealth of trails, each with its own charm.
Among my favorites is the trail leading to Dai Yem Waterfall. It’s a comfortable hike, suitable even for beginners, and the waterfall is particularly beautiful in the rainy season.
For those craving a more challenging trek, the path to Pha Luong Peak is a must. It’s a tougher climb, but the panoramic views from the top are more than worth the effort. You’ll be rewarded with vistas of undulating mountains and valleys that stretch as far as the eye can see.
But the standout feature of Moc Chau, for me, is the flowers.
Visit from November to January, and you’ll find yourself amidst seas of blooming white plum and peach blossoms. Come in December, and the hillsides burst into color with pink buckwheat flowers.
And any visit isn’t complete without a stroll through the expansive tea plantations, their uniform lines creating a calming rhythmic pattern to the landscape.
Pu Luong Nature Reserve, Thanh Hoa
Pu Luong is a trekker’s dream come true, with rice terraces snugly fitted onto the contours of sprawling hills, bamboo forests, and peaceful villages.
The trek here offers an intimate glimpse into the lives of the ethnic Thai people.
The terrain varies, so do pack hiking boots with good ankle support. Also, remember to carry light rain gear – you never know when a light drizzle might enhance your picturesque trek!
The reserve is a delight to visit year-round, but for an extraordinary view of the golden rice terraces, plan your trek between September and November.
Cuc Phuong National Park, Ninh Binh
Cuc Phuong National Park left me intrigued with its mix of adventure and historical significance.
Here, you have the unique opportunity to observe a wide range of fauna and flora while exploring archaeological sites that date back thousands of years.
My hike through the park was filled with surprise encounters with colorful insects, melodious bird calls, and towering ancient trees.
One of the park’s highlights is the Endangered Primate Rescue Center, where you can witness conservation efforts firsthand.
The best time to trek is from December to April, when the weather is most favorable.
Remember to wear comfortable shoes, bring plenty of water, and, most importantly, respect the park’s rules to preserve its pristine beauty.
Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of my favorite hiking destinations in Vietnam.
This place is the real deal for nature lovers with its ancient karst mountains, underground rivers, and massive caves, including the world’s largest cave, Hang Son Doong.
Some of the crowd-favorite are the jungle trek to Hang En Cave or Botanical Garden. The overnight camping inside the third-largest cave in the world (En Cave) will be an experience you’ll never forget.
The trek is quite challenging, but the park’s adventure tour operators provide excellent guidance.
You’ll want to bring water shoes for this one as you’ll cross rivers during your trek. Also, pack a headlamp for exploring the caves.
The park is open year-round, but the best time for hiking is between January and May when the weather is dry.
Bach Ma National Park, Hue
Imagine trekking in a place where you’re surrounded by tropical rainforests, waterfalls, rivers, and diverse wildlife. That’s exactly what Bach Ma National Park offers.
Standing proudly at a height of 1500 meters, this former French hill station is a trekker’s paradise.
The trail that winds up to the summit stretches for 19 kilometers and demands a good level of physical preparation. Depending on your pace, the climb could take between 4 to 5 hours.
The path can be challenging due to its steep sections and tight turns. However, these demanding aspects of the trek are counterbalanced by the captivating natural scenery that unfolds as you ascend.
The higher you climb, the more rewarding the views. From lush valleys to playful clouds skirting the mountain peaks, Bach Ma promises a visual feast for those who undertake its trek.
The key to enjoying this hike is thorough preparation. Don’t forget to carry insect repellent. The park is known for its leeches, and, well, they love trekkers.
The best time to visit is between February and September when the park is at its lushest.
Chu Yang Sin, Dak Lak
Standing as one of the highest and most impressive ranges in Dak Lak, Chu Yang Sin is a hiker’s paradise.
This stunning mountain range, nestled within the bounds of Chu Yang Sin National Park and the districts of Lak and Krong Bong, is a symphony of interconnected peaks, each more majestic than the last.
The venture to the pinnacle of Chu Yang Sin is not for the faint-hearted – it’s a three-day, two-night trekking expedition that will take you to an elevation of approximately 1700 meters.
From the summit, you’ll see a sweeping panorama of the entire Langbiang Valley. The vista stretches so far that you can see all the way to Buon Ma Thuot on a clear day.
From your perch on high, the city seems like a patchwork quilt nestled amongst the towering mountains and the lush valley.
Lang Biang Mountain, Da Lat
Also known as the “Love Mountain,” Lang Biang in Da Lat is a must-visit for any trekker.
Apart from its historical significance and folklore, it’s the panoramic view at the summit that truly won my heart.
Gazing at the scenic beauty of Da Lat and its surrounding areas from the peak was a moment of awe and tranquility.
An interesting aspect of Lang Biang Mountain is its suitability for both a day trek and an overnight camping expedition.
The mountain is best visited from September to November when the weather is cool and pleasant.
Ta Nang – Phan Dung Route, Lam Dong
For adrenaline junkies, the Ta Nang – Phan Dung route is a dream come true.
The route goes through 3 provinces Lam Dong – Ninh Thuan – Binh Thuan, with a length of nearly 55km.
Requiring 3 days and 2 nights to complete, this trek challenges your stamina and endurance, but rewards you with stunning natural beauty and a sense of accomplishment.
Ta Nang – Phan Dung trek takes you through sprawling grasslands, dense forests, shimmering waterfalls, and towering mountains.
The sight of the sun rising over the hills, casting a golden glow over the landscape, is a spectacle you won’t easily forget.
The route’s difficulty level can’t be overstated. I recommend this trek for seasoned hikers or those with a high fitness level.
Also, it’s important to plan and prepare thoroughly for this expedition. Carry essential items like a detailed map, a reliable GPS device, enough food and water, a first aid kit, and camping gear.
The best time to take on this trek is between September and February, when the weather conditions are most favorable.
Cat Tien National Park, Dong Nai
One of the best trekking spots in Southern Vietnam is Cat Tien National Park in Dong Nai.
Enveloped in lush tropical rainforest, this place is a sanctuary for nature lovers.
From the footprints of wild elephants to the chirping of exotic birds, every step you take here offers a unique encounter with wildlife.
The 15-kilometer trail to Crocodile Lake is a must-do. The trek is moderately difficult, but with the right pace, it’s completely manageable.
At the end of the trail, you’ll find yourself in front of a serene lake with a beautiful jungle backdrop.
Don’t forget to pack a swimsuit – a refreshing dip in the lake is a rewarding way to wrap up your trek.
Black Virgin Mountain (Núi Bà Đen)
Next up is the majestic Black Virgin Mountain in Tay Ninh, or as the locals call it, Núi Bà Đen.
Black Virgin Mountain, revered as a religious site, offers a fantastic trek to its peak. As you hike up, you’ll pass through lush landscapes, ancient temples, and panoramic vistas of the surrounding plains.
You can also stop by the Ba Den Pagoda, which takes about 1 hour to hike from the base.
Yes, the trek can be challenging, particularly the last stretch, but the reward is a mesmerizing sunset from the mountain’s peak.
Also, consider a cable car ride for the way down. The aerial view of the landscape beneath is truly mesmerizing.
The best time to hike the Virgin Mountain is from November to March, when the weather is cooler and drier.
Con Dao Islands
While the white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters are a major draw, Con Dao also offers some of the most stunning coastal hikes in Vietnam.
For an unforgettable hiking experience, I recommend the trail that traverses the island through the Con Dao National Park.
Trekking through the dense mangroves, you’ll arrive at the spectacular Dam Tre Bay, an ideal spot for a refreshing swim and a relaxing picnic.
Be sure to carry lots of water and sun protection – the tropical sun can be relentless.
Why should I go trekking in Vietnam?
Apart from its globally acclaimed cuisine and friendly locals, Vietnam has many scenic destinations ranging from high mountains in the North to mysterious caves and national parks teeming with wildlife. Also, the cost of living in Vietnam is relatively low, making it an affordable option for many adventure seekers.
What is the best time for trekking in Vietnam?
The ideal time for hiking in Vietnam often depends on the region you’re planning to visit. The North, including Sapa and Ha Giang, is usually best from October to April. Central Vietnam, like Da Lat, is pleasant all year round, but the dry season (December to April) is perfect. In the South, such as Cat Tien National Park, the dry and cooler months between November and April are best for hiking.
What to pack for a hiking trip in Vietnam?
To make the most of your trek, equip yourself with appropriate trekking gear. Choose breathable, sweat-absorbent clothes and sturdy sports shoes for comfort. Pack essential items like food, drink, a tent, a sleeping bag, a first-aid kit, a map, a GPS navigation device, a flashlight, a backup charger, insect spray, and sunscreen.
Do I need a guide for hiking in Vietnam?
While hiking independently in some areas is possible, hiring a local guide can enrich your experience. They can lead you through complex trails, help you communicate with local communities, and educate you about flora and fauna. For more challenging and remote treks, such as those in Ha Giang or Phong Nha, a guide is highly recommended.
How physically fit do I need to be for hiking in Vietnam?
Your physical fitness should match the difficulty of the trail you plan to take. While there are many easy and moderate trails suitable for beginners and casual hikers, some routes, like the Fansipan Mountain trek or the Ta Nang – Phan Dung trail, require a higher level of endurance and fitness.
Is it safe to hike in Vietnam?
Yes, it’s safe to hike in Vietnam. Vietnam is safe, and the locals are friendly and helpful. However, you should stick to marked trails, keep an eye on the weather forecast, and make sure someone knows your hiking plans.
Do I need any special permits for hiking in Vietnam?
For most hikes in Vietnam, you won’t need special permits. However, certain protected areas and national parks may require you to pay an entry fee. If you’re planning to hike in remote regions or areas inhabited by ethnic minorities, you should have a local guide and may need local permissions.