Northeast Vietnam – The Real Adventure

For most travelers, the Northeast Vietnam is all about Halong Bay. But far north in the rugged mountains are some of the country’s most intriguing destinations filled with winding roads, dramatic waterfalls and remote ethnic minorities. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of big cities, this region offers an ideal getaway for those who love nature and want something different.


Driving northbound about 280km from Hanoi capital, the first stop is Ba Be Lake or the blue mirror of northeast mountainous area. The lake, considered the largest freshwater lake of Vietnam locating in Bac Can province in fact is three interconnecting lakes in the middle of Ba Be National Park. It is set amid the tranquil scenery of towering limestone mountains, lowland evergreen forests, waterfalls, and natural caves. Its surrounding area is home to several tribes, mostly Tay people who still live on traditional stilt houses.

A typical trip on Ba Be often involves in many activities such as taking a relaxing boat on the tranquil water of the lake, visiting nearby waterfalls and grottoes, trekking through forest trail to visit ethnic villages. Last but not least is staying in a local homestay with basic set up but comfortable and clean. And don’t forget to sample some specialties made by the host such as freshwater fish caught from the lake and grilled on charcoal or sour shrimp.

From Ba Be, a long ride through winding roads with fresh atmosphere of the highland will take you to Ban Gioc waterfall at the border between Vietnam and China. The drive is simply scenic and you can see waterwheels, rice paddy and rural Vietnamese life on the way.  The fall is deemed as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Vietnam. Its expansive waters drop down from 30m high and span nearly 300m separated into three smaller falls by rocks and trees. The water volume varies considerably between the dry and rainy seasons. The roar of the waters hitting the cliffs can be heard from afar. At the foot of the waterfall is a large river, as calm as glass, surrounded by rice paddies.


Ban Gioc is best visited in September when its flow is full. The landscape becomes very impressive and peaceful, a riot of color of emerald water, the yellow rice paddies and lush forests. And you do not need to share the view with others, just you and the nature.

About 4km from the waterfall, Nguom Ngao cave is one of the most spectacular caves in Vietnam. Formed by an underground river, it was used to be a shelter for people during the Vietnam War with China. Despite being several kilometers in length, only the first kilometer covered concrete and illuminated by lights is open to tourists. Enter the cave, past huge stalagmite and stalactite outcrops look like a waterfall and chandelier through a vast 100m chamber.


Off the beaten path is to get closer to the nature and local way of life, to see the real things from a different point of view. During your journey to the Northeast, you will be experienced the authentic sights and sounds of the Vietnamese countryside, greeted by friendly smiles of local farmers and a sense of kindness akin to their custom. These places may be difficult to access but do not deter people from looking to get into the heart of Vietnam. The Northeast is the perfect cure to well-trodden paths, worthwhile for the unspoiled scenery, a look into rural Vietnam life, and for a stress-free. After all, you might not want to leave.

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