Guest Post: Hiking in Vietnam
by David Elliott
Vietnam has some outstanding landscapes to enjoy, and first-time visitors are often stunned by the sheer beauty and diversity of the terrain here. From the historic city of Hanoi in the north to the central highlands and rice fields and on to Ho Chi Ming City (Saigon) and the Mekong Delta in the south, Vietnam is perfect for hikers.
For an authentic holiday in Vietnam, choose from a range of opportunities that includes walking, rambling, hiking in the mountains and trekking through jungles. Some areas are better than others for hiking, so here are a few recommendations of the Vietnam for hikers to whet the appetite.
This outstandingly beautiful nature reserve has a great biodiversity and is rich in cultural interest as well. It’s located in Thanh Hoa Province and its main feature is two parallel ridges of mountains that run from northwest to southeast with a scenic valley between them. This is a gorgeous area of rice terraces, limestone formations and dense forests, with a number of established trails for hikers to enjoy the splendid views.
On the northwest border with Ha Giang and Bac Kan, Cao Bang is a very popular hiking area because of its unspoilt landscapes of gently flowing rivers, soaring mountains, lakes and waterfalls. The unspoilt jungles are home to a rich diversity of wildlife, and one of the iconic sights here is the impressive Ban Gioc Waterfall on the Chinese border, with tourist facilities at its base.
Cat Ba Island
This is the biggest island of an archipelago just off the coastline of North Vietnam. Half of it is actually a National Park, and the terrestrial and marine eco-systems make it a particularly rewarding and fascinating hiking hotspot. The jungle and ocean meet here to create a stunning natural habitat for a great many species, and there are a number of official trails across the whole of the island.
Cuc Phuong National Park
This is the oldest of Vietnam’s many National Parks, established back in 1962 and covering 25,000 hectares just to the south of Hanoi. The forests here are particularly lush and rich in exotic plants of all kinds, including ligneous creepers and parasitic species that make it something of a primeval Jurassic Park. As with the other National Parks of Vietnam there are visitor conveniences at tactfully placed intervals.
Be Be Lake and National Park
The largest natural lake in Vietnam forms the centrepiece of this National Park in Bac Kan Province. It’s nestled in the midst of an enormous limestone range of mountain which, of course, guarantees stunning features such as caves, lakes, valleys, rivers and waterfalls, making the Park a region of truly outstanding and diverse beauty, ideal for long hikes and picnic breaks.
For a spot of amateur anthropology and a peek into Vietnam’s distant but still living past, try a hike in Mai Chau, just over 100km out from Hanoi and home to two indigenous peoples, the so-called black and white Thai tribes, who make up the biggest ethnic population here. The scenery is awesome as well, with great views across the surrounding valleys and the tribal stilt villages, for a unique hiking experience.