It seems the exquisite French architecture has embraced this hill-station ethnic town. But it is the vast untouched wilderness that makes Sapa absolute heaven during summer months. Without a doubt, this verdant land of sweeping greenery draws an influx of adventure-seeking holidaymakers for its extensive network of trekking trails. Highlights include routes through Lao Chai village, Sin Chai village, Cat Cat village, and Y Linh Ho village.
Take up the challenge and beautiful spectacles of jade hued rice paddies, soaring mountains, and friendly Black H’Mong people wearing their traditional clothing payback. Camping is possible but affordable homestay is a better option to rest and greet locals. Round off your travel with a shopping spree for handicraft souvenirs or a sightseeing trip to notable attractions such as Fansipan Peak, Ham Rong Mountain, and Thac Bac Waterfall.
Length: 6km to 18km
Difficulty level: : easy to challenging
Season: March to May (dry season) and September to November for enjoying the terraces
Popular trek routes: Cat Cat village, Lao Chai village, Ta Van village, Ta Phin village, Y Linh Ho village
Sapa - Photo: @theoutofofficegal
If you attempt to hike on an off-the-grid trail away from the disorderly tourist hub in Sapa, Ha Giang is a definitely seductive alternative. Hikers in pursuits of indigenous culture and untamed corners of cascading rice fields, breathtaking valleys, and peaceful chalets can’t skip an impressive array of winding treks from Dong Van to Meo Vac, Vi Xuyen to Hoang Su Phi, Quan Ba loop walking, and Ma Pi Leng Pass. Significantly, the ascent to Dong Van summit gives a strong sense of remoteness and overwhelming.
If you’re lucky enough to drop by Ha Giang during the weekends, there are Dong Van Market and Khau Vai love market (on 26th & 27th of the third lunar month) to take home local products of Dao, Tay people and delve into the minority traditions. Although independent trekking is recommended, adventurers are supposed to lodge in very simple, ordinary local inns and homestays. Transportation conditions are limited too, so only real adventurous seekers could fit in this destination.
Length: 5km to 11km
Difficulty level: : moderate to challenging
Season: March to May & October to December
Popular trek routes: Dong Van town, Ma Pi Leng Pass, Vi Xuyen to Hoang Su Phi, Thong Nguyen loop trekking
Ha Giang - Photo: @k.h.i.n
Cuc Phuong National Park
As you ramble through tricky passages, the 17km long trail leaves you fascinated with spectacular views of flourishing dense rainforests and a treasure trove of fauna and flora. The two irreducible trails in Cuc Phuong National Park are Cuc Phuong primary jungle – Muong Hoa village and May Bac peak. Trekking here leads you through valleys and mountain passes. You’ll get to see Khanh village where Muong people live in traditional wooden houses on stilts. The entire village has been opened for homestay and you can slumber away. Also, manage your time to visit the Cave of Prehistoric Man, discover wildlife and bird-watching in Endangered Primate Rescue Center, and marvel at the 1000-year-old tree.
Leave your camping gear at home and rest in a cluster of bungalows, stilt-house homestays, and resorts in the Cuc Phuong National Park area.
Difficulty level: easy to moderate
Season: December to April
Popular trek routes: Cuc Phuong primary jungle – Muong Hoa village, May Bac peak
Cuc Phuong National Park: @radiate_infinitelight
Cat Ba Island
Cat Ba Island isn’t just about rugged limestone mountains and lush mangrove forests; it is arguably amongst Vietnam’s best treks where the sea meets the jungles. Hikers will traverse awe-inspiring terrains, secluded topography, and hospitable village. On the way, you can stop for lunch in Viet Hai Village surrounded by rural landscapes. As you continue meandering deep into the park, there are opportunities to catch sight of wildlife creatures namely macaques, langurs, civets, and various species of birds. Besides Viet Hai Village, seasoned travelers will also stand face-to-face with Trung Trang Cave and Hospitable Cave, the two most incredible caves on the island.
Those odysseys are very popular, especially in summer months; therefore, the off-season from October to April would be more appealing to those looking for a secret walking holiday in solitude.
Difficulty level: easy
Season: October to January
Popular trek routes: Kim Giao Forest – Ngu Lam Peak, Trung Trang & Uy Ban Grottoes, National Park HQ – Ao Ech – Viet Hai
Cat Ba Island - Photo: @aamir_chishty
Easy to strenuous treks in Mai Chau await backpackers to challenge themselves and look over incredibly diverse landscapes of gentle streams and descending rice terraces. The region boasts a criss-cross trekking network that is suitable for both beginners and experienced climbers. Brilliant hiking paths like Buoc Village, Hang Kia Village, and Cun Pheo village wind through an idyllic tangle of trees and the Thai & H’Mong ethnic people’s slow pace of life. Meanwhile, expert alpinists should strap on crampons and achieve a more difficult yet gorgeous stretch through Mai Chau Valley or Pu Luong Nature Reserve.
Apart from casual hiking experience, tourists have a chance to chill in the laid-back rustic atmosphere of Tra Day Village and Van Village. Additionally, Hoa Ban Plus welcomes tourists to stroll around and shop for hand-crafted souvenirs.
Length: 4km to 38km
Difficulty level:easy to challenging
Season: late September to early May
Popular trek routes: Buoc Village, Hang Kia village, Mai Chau Valley, Pu Luong Nature Reserve
Mai Chau- Photo: @celinedwaele
More than just a trek, Yen Tu is a popular pilgrimage site for thousands of Buddhist followers and mountaineers to soak up religious vibes of marvelous Buddhist temples and shrines dotted along the path. Climb up almost a thousand stairs pass steep slopes to reach the highest temple of Yen Tu mountain mange. High altitudes as you ascend to 6000m, your eyes will gaze upon the endless sunshine and scenic panoramic views from the top.
The whole walk takes less-experienced hikers almost a day with a mix of everything from a roaming Giai Oan Waterfalls to quiet Nuong craft village that specializes in making leaf hats and Dong Ho woodblock printing. Thus, not only does this journey open up an opportunity to learn more about Buddhism reliefs but also a part of Vietnam’s culture.
Accommodations include luxury resort, local inns and guesthouses for an overnight trip and food & beverages are also available on the way.
Difficulty level: moderate to challenging
Yen Tu - Photo: @k.h.i.n