Nestled on the heights of the dark mountains of northern Vietnam and still considered as an off the beaten track destination, Ha Giang offers a good alternative to busy Sapa to spend a few days in this wonderful area. Although you won’t see there the fantastic ricefields which gave its fame to Sapa, you will soon discover that Ha Giang has many other treasures to be explored…
Because Ha Giang is less famous and therefore less changed by tourism industries than Sapa, it is a bit more demanding to travel up there. You can still feel an exciting whiff of adventure when exploring around which gives the valleys such a fascinating touch. We fell in love with Ha Giang at first sight and will class it without hesitation as one of our favourite destinations of our 8 months trip in Asia.
So if you’re looking for a quiet place to visit, spared by massive tourism, if you are dreaming of a motorbike road trip in a breathtaking area, if you wish to meet local ethnic groups of ancient traditions, to evade on the paths of wonderful karst mountains or simply if you are curious to discover this mesmerizing area, here are a few keys to organize your journey.
You will find below the itinerary we followed for 6 days across the moutains around Ha Giang. The duration of your trip can be shorter or longer than that though, depending on your allotted time or on your way of travelling. As photographers and slow travellers, we generally take our time so six days were nice (but we could have stayed more). This is totally up to you!
If you don’t know about Ha Giang, but still you read this article up to this point, maybe you want to have an idea of what this place looks like and what it has to offer. If so, here you will find our travel photo-diary of Ha Giang, this fantastic place!
Ok, now that everybody is briefed on the subject we can start: and first here is a super-awesome map of the proposed mountain route!
Super-awesome Ha Giang map
Ha Giang – Tam Son : 58km
Tam Son – Yen Minh : 52km
Yen Minh – Don Van : 45km
Dong Van – Lung Cu : 25km
Dong Van – Ma Pi Leng Pass : 11,5km
Dong Van – Meo Vac : 22km
Meo Vac – Yen Minh : 48km
Very Handy tips
ATM : ATMs are available in Ha Giang, Tam Son and Dong Van, so no stress. You will easily find accomodation for 7-11US$ a night/pers and food for 3-6US$.
Bus : There is a bus station in Ha Giang. You will find regular trips from Hanoi. Price is 200 000 VND one way.
Motos and scooters rental: Ha Giang is full of them. The only difficulty is to make your choice. Personally, we choose QT Motorbikes & Tours where very reliable and helpful owner Quang Tan rented us brand new and well maintained motorbikes. His english is very good and he has hips of good informations to share on the area and can even guide you around if you need to. One of the motorbikes fell during our trip and he asked us for a very fair price to replace the part we’ve broken.
Sleep/Eat : You’ll find accomodations at every prices in Ha Giang, Tam Son, Yen Minh, Dong Van and Meo Vac. We particularly enjoyed Tam Son to eat, rest and sleep. That’s the place to go if you are looking for a good café viet’! Dong Van is quite a big town offering more facilities but it is also a lot more touristy. You can also find a few guesthouses in some eco-villages scattered in the area. There is a very nice one in Nam Dam, a pretty village belonging to the red Zao ethnic group, just after Tam Son.
Petrol : You will find stations in Tam Son, Yen Minh, Dong Van and Meo Vac.
Ethnic markets : Don’t miss the sunday markets of Dong Van and Meo Vac. There is also one in Yen Minh on Wednesdays and sundays. We really loved Lung Phin markets but you’ll need to find out when they happen (it’s not all the time on the same days). There are many markets in the area, you will certainly stumble on one when driving around. Don’t hesitate to stop, they are always quite enjoyable to visit!
Breathtaking lookouts : Well the whole area is beautiful. Still we can note down two mountain passes offering absolutely stunning views and they are Quan Ba Pass just before Tam Son and Ma pi Leng Pass, between Dong Van and Meo Vac.
Road condition: Well, it’s not that good… Warning! Be extra careful because people also tend to be drunk more often than not in the area which amplify road hazard. Download the app maps.me to have an offline gps with you anytime. It’s always useful! Beware though, on this map a big road is noted down between Niem Son (south of Meo Vac) and Yen Minh, but it’s actually more like a mountrain track and it’s poorly signposted. We learned it the hard way… On the other hand, the road from Meo Vac going through Lung Phin has just been redone so it is the best road around.
Seasons/Weather: Have a careful look at the forecast before going. Heavy rains and fog are quite common up there. Summers are generally fresh in the evening and winters can be quite cold! If you are lucky to visit during October, you will also be able to witness the wonderful pink blossoming of the buckwheat fields. Quite unforgettable!
Have a good trip guys!