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Anushka Jain
Published: Sep 18, 2018 | 26 Views

Guide to northern vietnam: hanoi and the mountains beyond

Vietnam ranks as the 16th most geographically diverse nation of the world. However, its northern regions are the best way you can get to experience this.

1,722 kilometres of coastline, caves, bays, islands, mountains and forests- northern Vietnam is acclaimed for its geographic diversity.

Additionally, with more than 50 ethnic groups residing in its numerous and beautiful mountains, it has become a melting pot for different cultures.

If you’re looking for a culturally and visually enriching experience for your next holiday, don’t be in two minds about making Vietnam your destination especially, the north.

Places to go to in northern Vietnam:


i) Hanoi

Along with being Vietnam’s capital city, Hanoi is also it’s second largest.

Being a hub for travel agents determined to conduct business, Hanoi can help you connect to tourist spots around, as it is well connected.

Some of its attractions however, are its local beer Bia Hoi, which could be the cheapest in the world at only 0.4$. It is freshly brewed everyday hence it is easily available with local breweries.

Along with that the Vietnamese coffee, and Bun Cha are worth a try!

Popular Places:

The Hoàn Kiếm Lake-  

in the centre of the city, is a great place for relaxing evening walks.

The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long –

is one of the many defining structures of the city, and is a monument to the empires that have ruled Vietnam before it became the country we see today. Timings: It is open everyday between 8 AM to 7PM,

Location: Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh mausoleum-

The Ho Chi Minh mausoleum is near the imperial citadel.

It contains the preserved body of Vietnam’s revered communist leader- Ho Chi Minh, locally known as ‘Uncle Ho’. Visitors can see his body preserved inside a glass case.  

Timings: The museum is open on Tuesday, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 7:30 AM to 10:30/11PM.

Location: 2 Hùng Vương, Điện Bàn, Ba Đình, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam

Water Puppetry shows-

Vietnam is famous for its skill at water puppetry. Catch some exclusive shows in Hanoi, of this famous art as puppets dance and act in flowing water, steered by master puppeteers.

Sapa’s rice terraces

ii) Sapa

Sapa is another province of Vietnam that has some beautiful sceneries. It was created a resort for the French in the early 20th century, and now has some beautiful and markets.

Not only this, it also has Vietnam’s highest mountain- Mount Fansipan, at a height of 3,144 m above the sea level. All around, the hills contain beautiful rice terraces.

Popular places:

Mount Fansipan-

Although called the country’s rooftop,  its trek isn’t very harsh trek for people of decent fitness. But anyhow the views from the top are worth any struggle.

Timings: 6:30 PM – 11 PM

Location: Tam Đường District, Lai Chau, Vietnam

Muong Hoa Valley-

Part of the Hoang Lien National Park, it is spotted with hamlets of small minority communities living in those lush green landscapes. It is possible to interact and spend time with them by trekking with a guide, through the valley.

Ham Rong Mountain-

The Ham Rong mountain is spotted with beautiful gardens of over 6000 orchids, and various species of them. There are a lot of bamboos along the way, and from the top you can see a romantic, beautiful Sapa town, dipped in mist.

Local food of Ha Giang

iii) Ha Giang

The Ha Giang province is the northern most province of Vietnam, and has beautiful scenery. With winding rivers, open fields, geoparks and mountains, it also has lots of tribes living there.

If you plan on getting a permit from the immigration office in Ha Giang town, you could explore the farthest, most remote places.  So, you can also get a taste of its ethnic diversity through tours through there, exploring the food, art and local culture.

Popular places:

Dong Van Karst Global Geopark –

The most popular place in Ha Giang is the Dong Van Karst Global Geopark. The Geopark is UNESCO world heritage site as it plays host to Karst formations that are roughly 200 Million years old.

Timing: 24 hours open

Location: Lũng Thầu, Đồng Văn, Ha Giang, Vietnam

Lung Cu –

The northern most village of Lung Cu in the province is also worth a visit. The truly adventurous could give their Alcohol, made of Corn and Honey, a try and put up in a homestay with some of its locals, if they permit.

Local Markets-

The province has a lot of local markets being put up from time to time, one of the most popular among them are the Dong Van Market. Another, the Khau Vai ‘Love Market’ takes place once a year, and is also famous as local tribes set out to find the loves of their life during this bizarre set-up.

Timings: Varies as per the market; usually during the day

Location: Varied

Detian Falls

Detian falls-

The Detian falls fall between the Vietnamese and Chinese borders, in north western Vietnam. It is one of the largest transnational waterfalls in Asia. There are regular buses to take you to get to the Detian scenic Spot, from Nanning where there are a number of hotels.

Timings: 7:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Location: TL 211, Đàm Thuỷ, Trùng Khánh, Cao Bằng, Vietnam

iv) Quảng Ninh

The Quảng Ninh province is home to the spectacular Halong Bay. Beautiful and mesmerising, this province is one of the best places in Vietnam for seaside adventures.  Not only seaside adventures, activities such as rock and mountain climbing have also flourished in the province along the Yen Tu mountain and other areas.

Popular Places:

Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay

The crowning jewel of Vietnam, a UNESCO World heritage site, the Ha Long Bay is home to 300 islands. There are islands covered with forests, adding to its greenery, wildlife and of course, beauty. In addition to these features, there is also a fishing village to observe, and local markets for you to shop from.  

Bai Tu Long Bay

If you’re one for enjoying Ha Long’s scenery in solitude and solace, the Bai Tu Long Bay is an alternative. Being extraordinarily famous, the Ha Long Bay is full of tourists, just like yourself, all the time. Try Bai Tu Long to avoid them.

Sung Sot Cave

This cave in Quảng Ninh has multiple limestone stalagmites and stalactites, settled over hundreds and thousands of years. Now lit up by different coloured lights, the cave looks like a prehistoric dance hall.

Timings: 6:30 am - 6:30 pm

Location: Bo Hon Island, Halong Bay, Quang Ninh province, Vietnam

Yen Tu Mountain

Situated in the Uong Bi town of QuảngNinh, the mountain is 1,068 metres tall. Right at the top is a beautiful pagoda, amidst the clouds. Called the ‘Dong Pagoda’, it is symbolic of the ancient history of Buddhism in the country.

The walk from the assembly point to its peak is of 6,000 metres, and when one completes it, they are rewarded with a breath-taking view of the Halong Bay.

Timings: Open 24 hours

Location: Thượng Yên Công, Uông Bí, Quảng Ninh 100000, Vietnam

v) Ninh Binh

This province of Vietnam is rich with expansive paddy fields, with rivers running through them.

If one wants, one can get to interact with the villages along the paddy fields, and learn of their customs and cultures.

Popular Places:

Trang An

Trang An:

A system of caves and mountains, connected by a river, Trang An can only be accessed by water. Boat rides take tourists inside the caves, in the dark. It allows you to spend sometime quietly, moving softly on still waters, amidst nature.

Tam Coc:

Tam Coc is a very popular tourist destination. Mostly known for its caves, rivers, and greenery, tourists are taken on boats inside caves, where there are karst formations that have settled over the years. It is also known as Ha Long on land.

Cúc Phương National Park

It is Vietnam’s oldest national park, and one of the most diverse in terms of biodiversity. Spread across 200 Sq. Km, it has lakes and caves inside of it where, prehistoric tools used by the early man have been found. One could move around the national park on foot or on a bicycle. There is a lot of ground to cover, so tourists would have to walk quite a bit.

Timings: 8 AM to 6 PM

Location: Nho Quan District, Ninh Bình Province 432857, Vietnam

Hoa Lu

The ancient capital of Vietnam, it has great historical significance. It still contains fortresses, temples, and pagodas from when it was last occupied, 1,000 years ago.Some of the structures in fact, have been buried underground, which makes for interesting visits.

It also has an annual festival in the months of February and March.

Timings: 8 AM to 5 PM

Location: 1 phố Hoả Lò, Trần Hưng Đạo, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam

Tripshire Tip:

i) Most people in Hanoi travel on motorcycles. While the locals seem to  have mastered the art of avoiding them, tourists often find it difficult crossing roads where motorcycles zip through. Be extra cautious of them and stay safe.

ii) While you may find tour guides to help you find your way through Vietnam, do consider the locals as well. Especially people from the minority communities, who could guide you through their villages. This way you could rest assured your money has gone the right place as well.

iii) To enjoy all sights and landscapes better, we would suggest you to rent a motorbike.  As per experiences, motorbikes shall let you enjoy the weather and scenery much better. Moreover, you could stop wherever you like, and drive through rough, country roads going off the beaten track.

iv) All places are well-connected by buses and trains, from Hanoi. Check with your local guides or aides, to understand bus schedules and train reservations.

v) Explore the countryside taking ample amount of time with yourself.


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