Vietnam’s Northern highlands travel experiences to blow your mind

Hoang Su Phi, Ha Giang

The Northeast and Northwest regions in Vietnam are endowed with wild beauty, assemble of majestic mountains with many high massifs, limestone mountains, majestic waterfalls, and many caves of unique pristine beauty.

The beauty of remote areas is hard to reach but worth giving a try. If you are a person who loves to explore and experience adventure activities, this place is an ideal place for you. There’s nothing more wonderful and exhilarating than admiring breathtaking views at their best and experiencing outdoor activities right at those attractions.

Along with natural landscapes, a large and rich cultural and historical space is also a highlight in the Northeast and Northwest regions. The traditional customs, cultural life, and daily labor of the ethnic minorities living in this area now not only have a beneficial effect on the economic development in terms of agriculture but also on the development of tourism in Vietnam.

If you want to come to Vietnam and witness these beauties with your own eyes, then hopefully this post will help you get useful travel information and recommendations that you can use to have a perfect trip to the Northwest and Northeast regions of Vietnam.

Adventurous activities for travelers

Adventure tourism in these two regions includes a wide range of activities that visitors can part-take in.


“Fishing” in the cloud in Lao Than
“Fishing” in the cloud in Lao Than

Trekking is the most typical activity in the Northwest and Northeast thanks to their majestic mountain terrain and you will have the opportunity to satisfy your passion for conquest. You can choose a long or short route depending on your strength and stamina. Trekking always requires endurance because it is often tough to deal with. In the Northeast and Northwest, there are many mountain roads worth trying, but among them, there are 3 routes for trekkers who want something more adventurous and challenging: Putaleng, Bach Moc Luong Tu, and Lao Than. Although it takes a lot of risks, you will be satisfied by the breathtaking scenery here and the feeling of “touching the clouds” and above all, giving you the feeling that you have surpassed your limits.


Fansipan – The Roof of Indochina
Fansipan – The Roof of Indochina

Besides, mountain climbing is also a fairly popular activity. You will have the opportunity to set foot on the top of Fansipan of Sapa, which is known as the Roof of Indochina with an altitude of 3143m. Usually climbing Fansipan takes about 2-3 days depending on the weather and your physical health. The journey may be quite difficult, but the beautiful scenery will be the motivation to help you reach the top.

In addition, if your fitness is not good or you are not an adventurer, there will be an alternative choice for you because, since 2016, the cable car has been officially put into operation here and makes the dream of “touching the landmark Fansipan” of many people come true. In the Northeast and Northwest, besides Fansipan peak, there are several other mountains that you can consider such as Tay Con Linh, Pu Si Lung, Pu Luong, Ta Chi Nhu…


Nguom Ngao Cave, Cao Bang
A stalactite looks like an upside-down lotus in Nguom Ngao Cave (Cao Bang province)

The cave system in Vietnam is mainly located in the northern highland region because there are many limestone mountains with karst terrain. Caves in the Northeast and Northwest have a complex structure, a beautiful stalactite system with varied shapes.

Each cave has its beauty, its name, and interesting myths revolving around that name and cave. For example, the romantic love story of the Dragon god with a Hmong girl in Lung Khuy cave (Ha Giang), or the story of Ngu Dong Ban On in Moc Chau emitting the sound of gongs to share joy or condolences to the people in the village. The caves here exist in the spiritual life of ethnic minorities, they have a strong belief in the sacredness of these caves, so they always worship and protect them. Therefore, these caves will bring you sensory satisfaction in terms of sight and hearing due to their beauty and legends.

Other activities

Ma Pi Leng pass, Ha Giang
Ma Pi Leng Pass

There are also some other activities that you can choose from such as motorbiking, camping or paragliding. The Northwest region of Vietnam owns four challenging motorbike routes for adventurers, named “Four great mountain passes”, including Ma Pi Leng pass, O Quy Ho pass, Khau Pha pass, and Pha Din pass. Besides, if you have a craving for something more adventurous, paragliding is right for you and you will get the feeling of flying over the ripe rice fields in September and October. Or if you want something lighter, then go camping with your friends to “hunt clouds” in some mountains like Ta Xua, Ta Chi Nhu, Bach Moc Luong Tu,…

For your trip to take place to the fullest and safest, you need to practice before you set off. You can try jogging or walking every day to build endurance. In addition, you need to prepare equipment and clothing that are suitable for each activity and you should also bring some snacks or sweets. Note that for some activities like trekking, mountaineering, or caving, it would be great to have locals or experts to join and assist you in the trip.

Highland natural beauty

The natural beauty in the highlands of Vietnam changes with the 4 seasons, each season it puts on a different “shirt”.

The time of spring is the season of flowers from pure white to wild colorful. Summer is the season of fruit harvest and the first rice harvest. Then visitors can witness the season of water pouring over the rice fields, making them look like nature mirrors. Autumn is considered the golden season in the highlands when everything around is immersed in the golden color of ripe rice, weather, and scenery. You not only have the opportunity to enjoy the golden season on the ground, but you can even fly on it. Paragliding on the golden rice fields is gradually becoming very popular in the Northeast and Northwest regions. Come winter, when the cold covers the whole area with a thick coat of fog and smoke, dotted with red flames from the houses of the indigenous people.

Fly on the golden season
Fly on the golden season

In addition, the northern highlands are also endowed with waterfalls with both majestic and lyrical beauty. It is impossible not to mention the Ban Gioc waterfall in Cao Bang, which is likened to the “pure white silk strip” of Northeast Vietnam.

Ban Gioc waterfall


Dried buffalo meat
Dried buffalo meat

The northwestern and northeastern provinces are not only famous for the unique terraced rice fields, but they are also famous for various delicious specialties that you cannot find anywhere else in the world. The highlands of Vietnam are known for meats such as beef, pork, veal, etc., which are marinated, processed, and made very sophisticatedly to create mouthwatering dishes. On the other hand, if you are a vegetarian, there are many other options for you. The indigenous people are very creative when using highland vegetables and rice to make dishes such as a salad of “Don” vegetables, five-color sticky rice, green rice, grilled stone moss, etc. Your senses will be awakened respectively by the taste and aroma of the specialties here.

Ethnic minority

There are many ethnic groups in the northern highlands such as Thai, Tay, Muong, Dao, H’Mong… and many other ethnic groups, which are extremely rich and diverse in culture. Each group has a unique feature in daily life, labor, customs, and habits.

In economic production activities, although the highland areas have extreme living conditions, the people here have created various forms of cultivation. One of them is the system of terraced fields which can serve both agricultural production and tourism development.

Culturally, the nuances of culture are quite diverse. This can be seen in the aspects of houses, costumes, food, family and community relations, forms of social organization… For example, in traditional costumes, Red Dao women wear a variety of clothes, often wearing ao dai, skirts or pants, and embroidered clothes with vibrant colors.

Traditional dress of the Red Dao people
Traditional dress of the Red Dao people

Highland market

The highland market is not only a place to trade essential items for the life of ethnic people but also the place that best shows the costume culture, traditional games, food, and activities of each different ethnic group. The space of cultural diversity looks colorful and prominent.

Ban Phiet Market

The market is very lively with a variety of items from clothes, household appliances, food, herb, vegetables, and special highland agricultural products such as forging knives, woven baskets, woven fabrics,

The food stalls are also diverse and vibrant. Visitors can enjoy the typical dishes of the ethnic people such as five-color sticky rice, dried buffalo meat, apple alcohol…

There is a cattle market below, which sells many buffalo, cows, pigs, chickens, goats, and horses…. The most selling one is buffalo with huge size, black skin. Buffaloes are bought mainly as pulling and ploughing power for farmers.

Historical sites

During the war, the northeastern and northwestern regions of Vietnam used to have a significant role and now there are still a lot of historical sites to honor that. The historical site of Dien Bien Phu in Dien Bien province is a witness to the glorious victory of the Vietnamese army and its people in 1953-1954, and at the same time remembers the gratitude of the people of the Northwest in the war. They played the role of both the rear and the front line, transporting weapons and food for the Dien Bien Phu Campaign.

A1 hill historical site
A1 hill historical site

Moreover, there are many other historical sites such as Pac Po Cave, and Lenin Stream in Cao Bang province.

The trip to the northern highlands of Vietnam does not stop at an ordinary trip, but it has a meaning that covers all aspects of nature – culture – history – people – emotions and will bring you comprehensive 5-sensory satisfaction.

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