Vietnam is a mix; it has an extensive coastline of well over 3,000 kilometres, lowland areas ideal for cultivation and highland regions, typically north of Hanoi and in Central Vietnam. This diversity means that typical Vietnam tour packages offer infinite variety and the natural environment plays an important role in any Vietnam holiday package. Whether your interest is bird watching, hiking or camping, you should aim to see the rural parts of Vietnam while you are there.
There are several parks in the Country and here is an idea of some of the best national parks in Vietnam:
Ba Vi National Park
This area was a hill station developed by the French to escape the hot weather in Hanoi which is just 50 kilometres away. The focal point arethe three peaks, all over 1,000 metres which can be obscured by clouds. Tan Vien, one of those peaks is a pilgrimage site with an 11th Century shrine to the Mountain God. There is lovely tropical rainforest and the Da River and tributary streams. Those who take the 30 hike up to the shrine find a reward; lovely views over the Red River.
There are plenty of birds and the orchid garden is stunning. If you want to stay in the park then the Tan Da Spa Resort is the place to book.
Tam Dao National Park
Another park in Northern Vietnam, Vinh Phuc Province, is Tam Dao. The flora and fauna are great while because the Park can have 4 seasons in the day, lightweight waterproofs are recommended. This is another region identified by the French as a lovely ‘’retreat.’’
Pu Luong Nature Reserve
Hanoi is 170 kilometres distant from Pu Luong which is the home of the Muong and Thai people. There are two mountain ranges split by a green valley in which the villages have been built. If you are walking in Pu Luong you can expect to get plenty of invitations to come in for tea.
The houses are built on stilts and after dinner, you would likely be invited to watch a traditional dance. Harvest time is late autumn when the Park is especially lush and green.
Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark
The Plateau is a minimum of 1,000 metres above sea level. It is a limestone region that has provided many fossils for the Viet Nam Institute of Geosciences and Natural Resources. Some are thought to date back over 420 million years. It is in North East Vietnam and is one of the poorest parts of the country economically though it is rich in other ways. There is a system of grottoes, over 100, with the most popular ones with tourists En Grotto in Van Chai, Kho My in Tung Vai and Rong in Sang Tung.
There are great rock formations, high passes and deep canyons. The Nho Que River winds through the Geopark and its corn fields. The local ethnic tribes are extremely friendly and there is no doubting the rich experience of meeting them during your Vietnam adventure tour.
Cat Ba National Park
Cat Ba is an island of Hai Phong, located within Halong Bay. Tropical rainforest holds a rich variety of birds, reptiles and mammals. The trails are well-worn with the popular hikes going to Frod Lake, Trung Trung Cave and Ngu Lam Mount.
You are free to swim if the weather is good enough and if you have time to stay, take a tent with you.
The Park also includes many small islands, mostly between 100 and 150 metres above sea level, limestone creations that have weathered over centuries. UNESCO recognised the value of the archipelago in 2004, protecting both land and sea and restricting development deemed unsuitable in a conservation area.
Cuc Phuong National Park
This park is 120 kilometres to the south of Hanoi in Ninh Binh Province. It was established in 1962 and hence is the oldest in the Country. The forests and grottoes are obvious attractions and it is a bird watchers’ paradise.
Because it is fairly remote, Cuc Phuong is rarely busy. You can take a cycle tour through the rice paddy fields, surrounded by limestone mountains.
The Endangered Primate Rescue Centre has over150 primates from endangered species though the release back into the wild is proving difficult. Close by there is a Turtle Conservation Centre which houses turtles recaptured from illegal trading.
Hoang Lien Son National Park
Sapa is the nearest town to this Park in the Northern Highlands. It is a region of forests with ethnic tribes living as they have done for generations. Vietnam’s highest peak, Fansipan at over 3,000 metres is within the Park. There are over 2,000 species of plants, many extremely rare, and several herbs of great value. The fauna includes black gibbon and silver cheek langurs, while hikers may also see eagles, red-crested pheasants as well as plenty of reptiles and amphibians.
It is a great experience to sleep with the sights and sounds of the Park and homestays can be arranged.
Phong Nha- Ke Bang National Park
This Park is famous for its caves, some of the most impressive in South East Asia, if not the world. It is a World Heritage site with the oldest limestone mountains on the Continent, 400 million years old. Visitors can take a boat trip both to and into caves. Phong Nha Cave is the longest while the recently found Son Doong is the world’s largest.
It has only been in the last couple of years that visitors have been allowed to visit Son Doong, and another recent find, Paradise Cave.
There are over 100 mammal species including elephants, plenty of birds and reptiles though it is questionable whether you will get a glimpse of a tiger any more.
Ba Be National Park
This Park in Bac Kan Province in North West Vietnam is beautiful; lush vegetation, limestone mountains up to 1,500 metres high and a lovely lake, Ho Ba Be, which is 7 kilometres long and 30 metres at its deepest. You can take a boat trip visiting caves, local villages and waterfalls.
The wildlife includes rare primates and bears with the colourful parrots a definite highlight.
Bach Ma National Park
Heading south from Hanoi, one of the top attractions is the ancient city of Hue, the capital during the Nguyen Dynasty in the 19th and 20th Century. Bach Ma National Park is in Thua Thien – Hue Province in the Annamite Mountains.
It is one of the wettest regions of Vietnam and is a mix of evergreen and tropical forests with high granite mountains to the west and the Coast to the east.
Cat Tien National Park
Cat Tien is 150 kilometres north of Ho Chi Minh City. Over 40 species that are listed in the World Red List of Threatened Species can be seen in this park which is a great example of bio-diversity.
You are free to explore the Park with maps available when you pay your entrance fee. You are allowed to camp and can hire cycles if you don’t want to hike. Another alternative is simply to paddle in the river.
Yok Don National Park
This is one of the largest parks in Vietnam, running alongside the Cambodian border. The Serepok River flows through the park where you can expect to see plenty of mammals. Wolves, leopards and tigers have been recorded here though it is more likely that you will see deer and monkeys.
Storks and hornbills are fairly common and keep an eye open for snakes. You can take an elephant ride within the Park as well as visit three of the four villages as well.
Phu Quoc National Park
This Park is on the island of the same name in the East Sea off the coast of Cambodia. As a result, it includes lovely forest on land and a large area of marine territory. There is a good variety of flora as well as different forms of coral offshore.
Fruit bats, silvered langur, small clawed otter slow loris, pygmy loris, crab-eating macaque and stump-tailed macaque are just a few of its endangered species. In the sea, there is a chance of seeing the extremely endangered dugong.
There is plenty to do; camping, trekking, swimming and diving as well as going to see historical sites and just the natural environment itself.
Can Gio Biosphere Reserve
This Reserve on the southern coast near Ho Chi Minh City covers an area where several rivers reach the South China Sea. The estuaries have extensive mangrove forests and beds of sea grass.
The last crocodile was seen in 1990 but there is plenty of other wildlife to see; dugong is possible but otherwise there are 18 molluscs, over 40 fish, crustaceans and amphibians.
Migratory waders fill the sandbanks and mudflats and the Reserve has become an important study area for all the reasons already described.
Con Dao National Park
This coastal park has marine and land-based attractions which hikers will certainly enjoy. They should have suitable footwear as protection to bare rocks but there are also sandy beaches.
Con Don Island is a military base so some areas are off-limits and you will need to register on entry. During the dry season, there is the chance of fire while in the wet season, you should check on trail conditions.
Avoid the monkeys which can be quite aggressive but there is other wildlife to enjoy; the black squirrel is endemic. Below the waves, you may catch sight of the rare dugong as well as green and hawksbill turtles and dolphins.
When it comes to things to do in Vietnam, visiting some of the national parks is a ‘’must.’’