Travel distance to Ha Giang from Hanoi is about 300 km, This is a highland region of forests and terraced rice paddies, with the mountains of Heaven’s Gate, Ma Pi Leng Pass, Rocky Mountain soaring in the background and much more best things to see and do in Ha Giang loop.
Located right on the border with China and spread over rolling hills, impressive karsts and green valleys, Ha Giang is known as Vietnam’s last frontier.
Since Ha Giang is not the easiest place to reach, it’s less busy and offers travelers the chance to explore Vietnam’s raw beauty in a way few other places still do. Nature-lovers and adventurers will love Ha Giang for its unsullied nature and the diversity of ethnic minorities living in the towns and cities connected by this area’s steep winding roads. Keen to get off the beaten path (in every sense of the word!) and see a lesser-known side of Vietnam?
Recommended Car Rental: Hanoi to Ha Giang transfer by a private car
Ha Giang – A Bit of History
With over 3,000 years of history, Ha Giang has some stories to tell. Home to a large number of ethnic minorities, this area has seen rulers from several different tribes including the Hmong and Dao tribes.
When the French came to set up one of the biggest military bases in northern Vietnam in 1886 they were soon met with resistance from the local people. Initial rebellions were quickly suppressed but the region always remained opposed to the influence of the French.
As Vương Chính Đức was accepted as the Hmong King in the early 20th century, the French made an effort to win him over to tighten their grip on the area. Initially, this worked, but Vương Chính Đức’s successor decided to support Ho Chi Minh in his quest for Vietnamese independence.
Today, Ha Giang is a quiet province in the northeast of the country. Ethnic minorities still make up most of the population and make this area an exciting and interesting place to visit from Hanoi to Ha Giang for travelers wanting to learn more about rural Vietnam and the country’s cultural diversity. Here things to do and see
The Best Time to Visit Ha Giang
Ha Giang experiences two main seasons: the rainy season from April to October and the dry season from November to March.
Apart from these seasons, Ha Giang offers a different perspective at different times of the year. For example, if you come between January and March, you will see the hills and mountains come back to life after their winter sleep. Peach and plum blossoms add dots of white and pink to the green hills, making for a wonderful view and beautiful scent.
In April, you can catch the Khau Vai Love Market, a special event which happens only once a year. On this day, vendors from all around the province come to sell their products in a flurry of color. Check when exactly it is this year as the exact date depends on the lunar calendar and changes every year.
From May to July, farmers irrigate their rice fields which turn a rich vibrant green as a result. Get ready for some postcard-worthy shots during this time of year!
In September and October, the rice ripens in the fields and is almost ready for harvest. At this time, the paddies turn yellow and weave through the mountains like golden ribbons.
November brings buckwheat blooming season. This is when the small, pink flowers in the fields create a beautiful contrast to the grey mountains and green forests around.
From late November until the end of the year, there is a chance of snow. Did you think you would find snow in Vietnam? Here in the north, it could happen! Even if you don’t catch snow, the province is beautiful in winter as thick mist floats around the hills and makes you feel like you’re in a whole other world. If you are traveling Hanoi to Ha Giang during this time, be sure to bring warm jackets, long pants, and good shoes.
Getting Around in Ha Giang
While distances from one town to the next are probably a bit too much by bicycle, it’s a fun way to get around in places like Dong Van. A bicycle is also a good way to explore the outskirts of a village and the surrounding rice fields.
To rent one, ask your hotel or hostel. They can suggest reliable shops where you can get a bike for a few dollars a day.
Getting from one town to the next in Ha Giang is easy and fun by motorbike. Streets are winding and steep, but generally well-paved so you can drive comfortably. If you’re an inexperienced driver, don’t underestimate these roads. You might want to consider getting a driver to be on the safe side. Today many adventurers do Ha Giang loop from Hanoi to explore the trail by motorbike
There are some bus companies operating Hanoi to Ha Giang city. Hence towns and villages in Ha Giang are reachable by buses. Once you arrive at Ha Giang bus station, you will easily find the next bus you need to get to Quan Ba, Yen Minh, Dong Van or Meo Vac, depending on what you want to see and do. Be careful to check the bus timings so you don’t miss the last one of the day!
Once you get to your destination, you can ask a xe om (local motorbike taxi) to take you to the sights you want to see. Make sure you know where you’re going ahead of time as many xe om drivers don’t speak English. Knowing numbers in Vietnamese will also be useful as it will help you negotiate rates.
Another good way to get from Hanoi to and around in Ha Giang is by private driver. To be sure you have someone waiting for you when you arrive in Ha Giang, book ahead with a travel agent in Hanoi. They have reliable contacts in the area and can help you plan your itinerary.
By Organized Ha Giang Tour from Hanoi
To avoid missing anything in Ha Giang, opt for an organized Ha Giang tour. If your alarm bells are going off and you’re refusing this idea because you don’t want to be carted around on a bus full of tourists, don’t worry. Of course, there are tours like that. But you’ll also find many providers who offer itineraries tailored exactly to your idea of the perfect trip.
Want to spend more time trekking than exploring markets? They will take you to the best trails. Want to see every ethnic market and stock up on intricate local handicrafts? They know where to go.
And the best thing is, these small companies are a great way to travel Hanoi to Ha Giang responsibly and make sure the money you spend stays with the local community instead of with a huge corporation based in the capital.
Recommended Tour: Ha Giang loop tour amazing 5 days
Where to Stay in Ha Giang
While Ha Giang is slowly getting more developed, the accommodation available is generally quite basic. Larger towns like Dong Van and Ha Giang city do have hotels, but guesthouses and homestays are more common. They may offer more basic facilities, but they give you a chance to interact with your local hosts and get a first-hand glance at their day-to-day lives. And when visiting a place like Ha Giang, that’s part of the fun though, isn’t it?
Best things to See and Do in Ha Giang
Ha Giang has so many incredible spots to visit, you could spend several weeks here without seeing it all. To help you choose which experiences to include in your itinerary, we’ve put together a list of some favorite towns and natural highlights for you to choose from.
If you’re going with a guide, show him the list of places you want to go to get some feedback about what’s doable in the amount of time you have. Maybe he’ll even have some other great suggestions that will make your trip even more special.
Read more: Ha Giang Tour with Locals
Thon Ta Village and Waterfall
While there is little to see in Ha Giang city, there are some interesting spots to visit close by. Thon Tha village is one of them. Only around 500 people live here but since tourists have been visiting for many years, there are plenty of nice homestays and many locals who speak English and are eager to be your guide.
A stop here is worth it as you’ll see how people live in this part of Vietnam. Many villagers run their own farm and live in traditional houses, renting out their extra rooms to travelers. This is your chance to sleep in an authentic stilted house, overlooking verdant rice fields and waving good morning to buffaloes when you wake up.
A short trek from town, you’ll find a beautiful waterfall which offers wonderful refreshment after a hike.
Khuoi My and Tai Con Linh Peak
If you’re looking for a great trekking experience, head to Khuoi My village on Tay Con Linh Peak from Thon Ta. If you set out early in the morning, you’ll get there by lunchtime and have plenty of homestays to choose from for a meal. Hosts are known to be very welcoming and eager to share stories about their history, culture and traditions, so feel free to ask!
As you walk the mountain paths, Ha Giang’s countryside will unfold before your eyes and offer breathtaking views of rice fields, forests and surrounding mountains.
Ma Pi Leng Pass and Heaven’s Gate
As you head east from Ha Giang to Dong Van, you will start to see the landscape change to what you’ve doubtlessly seen on postcards of Ha Giang. The endless rice paddies will slowly give way to the famous limestone mountains, deep canyons and rocky structures which make this province so unique. All of this is part of the Dong Van kart Plateau, a UNESCO-recognized geopark.
You will make your way towards Quan Ba Valley where you’ll see the famous Fairy Breast Mountains, two round hills set in the middle of a perfectly flat valley. If you have some extra time, you can go there for a hike and a visit. Many locals do, as they believe it brings good luck.
Further along the path, you will get to Ma Pi Leng Pass, an impressive area with endless views of the Nho Que River, its canyon and the mountains rising steeply on either side. Take some time to stop along this road and soak up the view… chances are you’ll meet a few other travelers and locals doing the same.
After a lot of driving, you’ll arrive in Dong Van, the largest town in Ha Giang province. It’s worth it to spend some time here as there are plenty of things to see and do in Dong Van. You can start by exploring the Old Quarter, Dong Van’s city center. It resembles a courtyard surrounded by traditional coin-roof buildings. Today, many of them have been converted into cafes and souvenir shops. This might come as a surprise, but the city is a popular stop among Vietnamese travelers who are exploring the Dong Van loop, so tourism in this area is more developed than in the rest of the province.
Once you’ve had enough of the town, you can climb a nearby hill to find the ruins of a French fort called Don Cao. From there you will also have breathtaking views of Dong Van and the surrounding countryside.
Not far from Dong Van, is Lung Cam Cultural Village where people from the Lo Lo, Hmong and Han tribes live together. Here artisans create beautiful local handicrafts like colorful hand-woven fabrics. Walk around and you can see them at work and maybe even learn how they make some of their masterpieces.
Around 90 minutes from Dong Van, another amazing sight awaits: Lung Cu Flag Tower. It’s a huge flagpole set very close to the Chinese border. You can climb up and enjoy stunning views of the green hills, jagged mountains and steep drop-offs from there. If the visibility is good, you’ll even get a glimpse of China!
Only a short drive from Dong Van is Sa Phin, the village home to an important historical site, the Hmong King Palace. It was built in the 1920s for Vuong Chinh Duc who was also known as the Hmong King. He was on good terms with the French during their colonial rule.
The palace is an interesting building with elements of European and Chinese style elements and was one of the most luxurious homes in the area. Richly decorated with beautiful carvings of flowers and decked out with the era’s most modern facilities, the palace was often the site of visits from dignitaries and important businessmen.
Today the palace is a museum and you’ll find some interesting pictures giving you an idea of the lives the owners led.
Close to Sa Phin, Sung La, another small Hmong village is worth a stop as well, as the flower fields here are popular with travelers. To help visitors get good selfies with flowers, some business-minded locals have set up plots with little ‘flower meadows’. There you can pose and take photos for a small fee.
For a real meadow dotted with wildflowers, just head to the outskirts of town. There you’ll have the whole place to yourself and can enjoy the smell of all the blossoms around you without the crowds.
As you make your way around the Ha Giang loop, Lung Tam village is a fun stop if you are interested in local crafts and artwork. On your treks and drives, you might have already seen marijuana fields along the way and wondered what the plants are for. In Lung Tam you’ll find out!
Here, a group of Hmong women uses hemp to make wonderful fabrics. They dye them with natural colors and print, batik or embroider them with different designs. You’ll be able to see every step of their production process and maybe even give it a try yourself!
Of course, there is also a gift shop where you can buy some of their work. Still need souvenirs? This is probably one of the best places to get them as the products are reasonably priced and you know the proceeds go to the women and their community.
Explore Local Markets
Towns around Ha Giang are known for their colorful, interesting markets. Usually, they take place in the morning on Saturdays or Sundays and maybe one weekday. To include at least one in your itinerary, ask your guide which market he recommends and time your trip in a way that gives you time to explore it.
Usually, people from several villages gather for a market, making it a melting pot of Hmong, Dao, Tay and other ethnic groups. They all come wearing their traditional dresses, so get ready for an unparalleled display of local fashion and textiles.
Markets are also the perfect place to try some more local food and see how some of your favorites are made.
Popular markets to visit in Ha Giang from Hanoi include the ones in Dong Van, Meo Vac and Tam Son. But of course, there are many others too. Just ask your guide or homestay host, and you’ll get plenty of options.
Local Food to Try
Naturally, Ha Giang has its own tasty foods you absolutely must try when you visit. Your homestay hosts will probably provide you with some local treats and others can be found at street food stalls and markets.
The cuisine in the north is quite different from anything you will have tasted in southern Vietnam or even Hanoi. Each tribe has their own specialties, so get your taste buds ready for a unique experience!
For a simple starter, try trung cuon, steamed eggrolls. Thin and delicate, they come alongside a tangy dipping sauce. On a cold day, you might want to go for chao au tau, a rich and nourishing type of rice gruel. It might not sound too appetizing, but its taste is yummy and surprising.
Thang Co is another dish you should try. It’s made of small bits of pork mixed with lemongrass and cardamom for a unique flavor. You’ll find Thang Co at many markets where it’s served with spicy chili flakes.
A favorite among tourists and locals is com lam bac me, sticky rice cooked in bamboo. The rice is soaked and seasoned before being filled into a piece of bamboo. Then it’s roasted over charcoal for about an hour. Both filling and tasty, com lam bac me is a great dish after a long trek.
Another specialty of the area is grilled algae. The Tay people are the experts at preparing it either grilled, steamed or fried.
Besides spectacular mountainous scenes with fantastic loops, Ha Giang is also famous for having special flea markets where you can go shopping and experience the ethnic culture at the same time. Actually, there are a lot of markets in almost every town in Ha Giang, but the cons are they’re open only on specific days with specific times. Like the central market of Dong Van town (or Dong Van market for short), it’s open weekly on Sundays from early morning with all the specialties from the local tribes.
Find the market in the middle of the ancient town of Dong Van to buy what you need and immerse in the bustling scenes of the locals.
Hoang Su Phi
If you think Ha Giang don’t have graceful golden terraced rice fields like Sapa or Mu Cang Chai, we gladly to let you know that Hoang Su Phi in Ha Giang has some of the most dramatic and scenic terraced rice fields in Vietnam.
Hoang Su Phi is a district in the western of Ha Giang Province coming near from Hanoi, at the foot of Tay Con Linh Mountain. Thanks to its geographic characteristics, coming to Hoang Su Phi during harvest season, travelers will have the chance to see the golden terraces covered in the white clouds.
The terraced fields has long been considered as the artworks of the locals’ hard work and no longer just agricultural cultivation. Hoang Su Phi offers breathtaking views of layers and layers of rice fields on mountain after mountain
*When is the best time to visit Hoang Su Phi? Late September and October is the best time to visit and to witness the terraced fields turning golden and the hard labor of the people during harvest time. You can do a Hoang Su Phi Ha Giang photo trip from Hanoi with a guide.
Dong Van Sunday Market
One of the must-do things to do in Dong Van is to visit the fair market that is held on every Sunday. Occupied at Dong Van Old Quarter, the market is a delightful highlight which turn the highland town vibrant and exciting from 5am to 10am every Sunday morning
The ethnic people, including Hmong, Tay, Nung and Hoa ethnic minorities stay true to their identity and tradition by dressing with their finest costumes to attend the weekly fair market. The event is a chance for local people to purchase their tribal goods, self-grown li, socialize, and eat good foods. It’s a very local, friendly atmosphere and you’ll find yourself enjoying the market in no time. So why not set your alarm and wake up earlier to join the one of the most important fair markets in North Vietnam? You won’t be disappointed
Ride Motorbike on Ma Pi Leng Pass
Riding motorbike on Ma Pi Leng Pass will bring you exhilaration, that’s how beautiful the pass is. However, we only recommend those who have enough riding experience to take on the challenge because the road leading up Ma Pi Leng is no joke. It’s winding, narrow and two-way
Ma Pi Leng means a bridge of a horse’s nose, describing the shape of its shape. Have long been ranked by locals, Ma Pi Leng is among the top 4 passes in Vietnam which are both beautiful and dangerous.
Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark
Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark is the main things to do in Ha Giang. Listed as a member of UNESCO Geopark Network, Dong Van features a vast area of limestone which covers most of the four provinces of Ha Giang. Located on the height of 1400 – 1600 meters above sea level, the geographical characteristics of Dong Van Plateau are just as dramatic as it can get with sheer mountain cliffs running to the horizon.
There’re huge mountains and deep canyons to be found here of which the highest peak is Mount Mieu Vac (1971m) and deepest canyon is Tu San (800m). The landscape at Tu San Canyon has become something you should look forward when climbing up Ma Pi Leng Pass.
One of the mysterious things in Dong Van Rock Plateau is the scripts found on many rocks – ancient letters but until now, the meanings to these letters are left unknown
Chieu Lau Thi Mountain
The Chieu Lau Thi Mountain is the third highest mountain in Vietnam and the second highest mountain in Ha Giang, after Tay Con Linh. Unlike Fansipan, there is no cable car here that will take you up easily. The climb is tough and tiring, but you will be rewarded with a beautiful view. There are hardly any tourists, but if you are planning to climb this mountain it is recommended to go with a guide
Short Guide To Du Già in Ha Giang Loop
Du Già is a small village located in a valley in Ha Giang province. It lays next to a river and it’s surrounded by beautiful, green hills. Du Già is one of the most common stops if you’re riding the Ha Giang loop.
What to do in and around Du Già
- Visit the Du Gia Waterfall: 5 kilometres from town there’s a small waterfall with nice pools to swim. The road is dirty but worth it: the scenery along the short walk to the pools is stunning.
- Check the local football court: Just some meters outside town you’ll find a football court. The views are beautiful. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a lot of locals playing. So if you do like playing football, don’t be shy and join them!
- Explore around: There are beautiful plateaus around. In direction to the waterfalls, if you keep straight instead of taking the small road on the left, you’ll pass through old, traditional houses surrounded by rice fields and magnificent hills. I especially recommend you to wake up early and explore these small roads after the sunrise: you’ll come across villagers of all ages walking to the fields they work in.
Where to eat in Du Già
QT Du Già Guest House: Awesome, abundant, shared dinners, including tofu with tomato, spring rolls, french fries, seasonal vegetables, omelette, fried chicken, fried pork and plain rice. Amazing! Don’t miss it if you’re staying there. Seriously.
Nguyen Quoc Restaurant & Coffee: Vietnamese dishes. The Pho with fresh noodles, both vegetarian and non vegetarian, is delicious.
Where to stay in Du Già
- QT Du Già Homestay: Traditional pillar house offering a dorm upstairs. Everything is very clean, and mattresses are huge and very comfortable. There are curtains between beds, so you do have some privacy. All mattresses have mosquito nets. Hosts are very welcoming and the food is abundant and great. Delicious vegetarian options available.
- Du Gia Homestay: Try this one if QT’s is full. It’s next door
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