5 places off the beaten track in Vietnam

5 places off the beaten track in Vietnam

It’s summertime with many facing the dilemma of overcrowded destinations across the country. Tourism hotspots such as Hoi An, Vung Tau and Ninh Binh will soon become inundated with visitors hoping to enjoy their holidays.

Fortunately, Vietnam’s unique topography offers untold amounts of picturesque landscapes to enjoy with relative ease. Here are five places off the beaten track in Vietnam to enjoy without concerns of endless traffic jams and large tour groups spoiling the peace.

Mang Den – Kon Plong

Nestled in the sparsely populated Mang Den plateau in the northern region of the Central Highlands is an area rich with nature, ranging from coniferous forests to refreshing waterfalls. Hidden among the greenery you can discover one of the leading attractions in the area, Pa Sy waterfall, a relaxing spot of tranquility among thousands of trees. Other natural landmarks in the region include Dak Ke waterfall, Dak Ke Lake and numerous plantations and forest walks to enjoy.

5 places off the beaten track in Vietnam
Pa Sy waterfall in Mang Den. 5 places off the beaten track in Vietnam

Visitors should also seize the opportunity to explore by motorbike during their trip in order to enjoy Mang Den Pass with incredible views of the mountains and ethnic villages as you enter and leave the town.

Many consider the area as a wonderful alternative to Da Lat, particularly due to the endless coffee shops with a view to enjoy as well. Although, it is perhaps more difficult to reach compared to the popular tourism spot, with the nearest airport in Pleiku 100 km away. However, the more arduous journey is certainly worth the effort.

Y Ty – Lao Cai

Traveling considerably further north now, you can find one of the best cloud-hunting spots in the country in the villages of Y Ty tucked away approximately 2,000 m above sea level. Hidden under the blanket of clouds are over 200 hectares of terraced fields exemplifying the incredible artistry of Mong and Ha Nhi people who have been living in Bat Xat, Lao Cai for many generations.

5 places off the beaten track in Vietnam
Clouds hang around houses in Y Ty, Lao Cai. 5 places off the beaten track in Vietnam

A visit towards the end of summer and the beginning of autumn will be rewarded with the ripe rice season before the harvest and the majesty of the mountains is plentiful with fields of gold traversing the rocky mountains.

Other highlights in the area include Green Waterfall and for adventure-seekers, you can also summit Lao Than mountain from the region. It is among the 10 highest peaks in Vietnam and has an altitude of 2,800m offering stunning views on clearer days.

Y Ty is just 70 km north of Sa Pa and can also be easily reached by private transfer from Lao Cai City after a train ride from Hanoi.

Da Bac – Hoa Binh

Many individuals in northern Vietnam have been fortunate enough to escape poverty in the last few decades due to increased tourism in some of the poorest regions of the country. Da Bac District in Hoa Binh Province is one of the best examples of how a community based tourism initiative supported by the NGO Action on Poverty has helped locals begin to operate homestays and welcome thousands of guests to an area of pristine beauty.

5 places off the beaten track in Vietnam
Homestays in Da Bac District, Hoa Binh Province. 5 places off the beaten track in Vietnam

The region is a hidden gem in Hoa Binh with adventurous jungle treks and natural landscapes waiting to be explored. Visitors can also enjoy more sedate activities such as cycling around local villages or relaxing boat rides on the lake that many of the homestays are situated around.

Da Bac is perhaps the easiest destination to visit on our list so far, located approximately 85 km west of the capital it can be conveniently reached via a motorbike or bus journey. You should consider this district instead of the more popular Mai Chau or Pu Luong nearby next time you’re planning a trip out of Hanoi.

Tuyen Quang

Northern Vietnam is littered with provinces synonymous with green mountains, scenic roads and ethnic communities. Popular places such as Ha Giang and Lao Cai welcome a continuous influx of tourists from across the globe every weekend, however, Tuyen Quang nestled in the center of Vietnam’s northern region is often passed through or skipped altogether.

5 places off the beaten track in Vietnam
Dawn on Na Hang Lake in Tuyen Quang Province. 5 places off the beaten track in Vietnam

Na Hang District, located in the northern part of the province closer to Ha Giang, is home to awe-inspiring limestone mountains and ancient forests with spectacular lakes to enjoy the calm atmosphere of the area. Within the primary forests visitors may also be fortunate enough to see langurs in their natural habitat within the Na Hang, Lam Binh nature reserve. Additionally, there’s also Mo Waterfall and My Lam natural spring to enjoy.

Similar to Da Bac, travelers to Tuyen Quang can take the public bus from My Dinh or Giap Bat station in Hanoi with a travel time of nearly 3 hours. Many should pay the bus fare of up to VND150,000 and enjoy similar serenity to Ba Be Lake without the crowds.

Bach Ma National Park – Thua Thien Hue

Central Vietnam is famous for its sandy beaches and soothing natural beauty. Established just 18 km from the coast is a former French hill station at a peak of 1,450 m that offers visitors in this region of Vietnam a change of scenery compared to the sound of waves. The cool climate originally attracted the French to the area when they started building establishments here in 1930, and I suggest you also make the short trip from Hue or Da Nang to enjoy a more favorable climate, as well as scenic trails and some of the best birdwatching locations in Vietnam.

5 places off the beaten track in Vietnam
Tourists trek inside Bach Ma National Park in Hue. 5 places off the beaten track in Vietnam

Visitors have the option of joining a tour to truly immerse themselves in the jungle and enjoy activities such as swimming in the clear water at the foot of cascading waterfalls, eating lunch surrounded by lush jungles and summiting Bach Ma peak.

You may also get to enjoy sights such as Five Lakes or Do Quyen Waterfall as you explore one of Vietnam’s quieter parks compared to more popular reserves such as Cuc Phuong National Park in the north.

The park is located just a few hours from either Da Nang or Hue via National Highway 1A, and you can look for signs directing on your journey there. Once you’ve paid the VND60,000 entry fee you’ll be able to explore the wonderfully diverse ecosystem that is home to over 1,700 animal species and 2,400 plant species. The area is often overlooked when people travel to central Vietnam, don’t make the same mistake as many others.