General introduction
Northeast of Vietnam includes 9 provinces in the North of the Red River Delta and those provinces are Tuyen Quang, Thai Nguyen, Bac Giang, Lang Son, Bac Kan, Ha Giang, Cao Bang, Phu Tho, Quang Ninh where are filled up with lime-stone mountains, massifs, waterfalls, terraced fields & streams.  The Northeast mountain area is also home of dozens of ethnic groups who still make living by traditional means like cultivating at terraced rice/corn fields, keeping cattle and poultry and fishing. Those ethnic minority tribes include Tay, Nung, Zao, H’Mong and the San Chi. In many areas in the remote areas of Ha Giang Province, there are numerous of hill tribes with population from several thousand people to only a few hundred members.

In addition, the name “Northeast” was released to distinguish from the Northwest and tours in the Northeast are particularly applied to adventure tours to remote and isolated areas where are difficult to visit. That’s why those areas are totally intact and unaffected by tourism. An adventurous tour through the Northeast of Vietnam provides travelers with distinctive opportunities to discover hidden corners and untouched areas. Mixing driving through spectacular sceneries with visiting to ethnic markets, hill tribe villages and historic sites, you will enjoy and experience the region's unique culture.

If you are looking for a memorable trip to an area rich in culture, agriculture and historic values, then the Northeast is the right place to go as you will not only witness the diversity in customs, lifestyles, and cultures but also enjoy the amazing landscapes. So let’s keep following our below Northeast Travel Guide to best plan your adventure.

adventure tour to the northeast vietnam

2. Attractions in Northeast Vietnam
Tam Thanh Pagoda: This is a stone cave, located in Tam Thanh Ward, Lang Son City, on a mountain in the shape of elephants prostrating on the green grass. Tam Thanh Pagoda complex includes 3 caves that lie halfway up the mountain and can be reached by climbing up 30 stone steps. Passing hundreds of years as well as the vicissitudes of the history, Tam Thanh Pagoda is more and more popular to tourists thanks to its inherent natural beauty as well as cultural values with many ancient statues and stone steles.

Bac Son Valley: Located in Bac Son town, Lang Son province, Bac Son Valley is praised as one of the most marvelous valleys in Vietnam like a green paradise on earth. It takes only around 160Km from Hanoi city and that’s why tourists always choose it as a nice escape from the bustle and hustle atmosphere. There are incredibly high mountains from 500 to 1200 meters and you can even climb 500 steps up to one of those mountains named Na Lay peak to enjoy the great panoramic view of the valley with endless rice fields. Best time to visit Bac Son Valley is during July and during November as those month will be the harvest season meaning that you can see the rice fields in their best beauty with yellow. Besides enjoying beautiful scenery, it is so easy to discover the daily life of Tay Ethnic group as they densely populate here.  

Ba Be Lake: Belonging to Ba Be National Park, Ba Be Lake in Ba Be District, Bac Kan Province is well-known as a fantastic destination to start your adventure tour to the northeast region. While traveling to Ba Be Lake, the boat trip to nearby attractions like Dau Dang Waterfall, Puong Cave, Tien Pond, etc is a must or you can choose to kayaks for more adventurous feelings or guided motor boat for easier trip. Ba Be Lake is actually formed by the mixture of 3 small lakes named Pe Lam, Pe Lu and Pe Leng. With hight of 145 meters above the sea level, the lake has an average depth of 20-25 meters and the deepest at 35 meters. Especially, the lake bed is limestone with millions of crags and crevasses that creates over a hundred of species of freshwater fish there. While paddling around the lake, you can see numerous large and small limestone islands jutting out from the lake surface as well as see local people fishing on the lake. For home-stay there, you can easily find a nice home-stay of Tay people that is just near from the lake and you can do some trekking around the village and deeper into Ba Be National Park.  

Pac Bo Cave: Pac Bo Cave is a historical site, around some 60km from the Cao Bang city and very close to the Vietnamese-Chinese border. Pac Bo Cave is where Vietnam first President – Ho Chi Minh lived from Feb 1941 after 30 years of living abroad to find the way to liberate the country. In that Cave, he made many important meetings of discussing the ways to bring freedom to Vietnamese.

Dong Van Plateau: Located in Dong Van Province, the Northern-most province of Vietnam sharing border with China, Dong Van Plateau draws more and more tourists to come and discover its primary beauty thanks to its spectacular and grandeur mountain scenery. This Karst plateau is one of the most unique Karst in Vietnam with black and magnificent boulders. They are formed in different sizes and shapes by environmental conditions and different stages of development. That distinctive plateau is home of many ethnic minorities like Mong, Dao, Lo Lo who create their own unique cultural and spiritual values. If you are lucky to be in Dong Van in Sunday morning, you can join their fantastic fair of H’Mong, Dao, Lo Lo who come from neighbor areas with colorful costumes. With all the above values, Dong Van Karst Plateau was the first geological park of Vietnam and Geoparks of the world to be recognized by UNSESCO.

Vuong Palace: Within Dong Van Karst Plateau, Vuong Palace, a century-old mansion, former home of a glorious royal family is truly a should-not-missed site. It was once the capital-house of Mong Ethnic people under feudal regime. It is where Vuong Family lived for many years as they ruled those areas for a long time. The first impression when you see that palace is its perfect combination with the nature and the rocky plateau. The Palace was built from stone, pine and terracotta tiles resembling China architecture during the Qing dynasty because of its curving tiled roofs. There are 64 rooms inside the Vuong palace that were all decorated with dragon, phoenix and bat motif – the symbol of royalty and prosperity.

Lung Cu Flag Pole: About 24 Km from the center of Dong Van District, Lung Cu Flagpole is a meaningful sites for tourists as its mark the border division between China and Vietnam in the Northernmost province. From its top, you can admire the panoramic view of the whole area.  

Ma Pi Leng Pass: Ma Pi Leng is well-known as one of the most dangerous passes in Vietnam with 20 Km length and 2000 meter hight, connecting Dong Van and Meo Vac. This pass is located at Happiness Road which was built from the 60s of 20th century by H'mong people. It is praised as Vietnam’s Great Wall where you can see rolling gray mountains, Nho Que River below and snaking roads cling on the the mountain slopes.

Quan Ba Twin Mountain: Looking really like two cherries dotted in the middle of rice fields, Twin Mountain symbolizes for crystalline beauty of nature and tectonic. It is really a great stopover on your trip to the Northeast of Vietnam.  

Ban Gioc Waterfall: To be praised as the largest and the most beautiful waterfall in Vietnam, Ban Gioc Waterfall attracts a lot of domestic and international tourists even it is nearly 300Km from Hanoi city. This Waterfall also marks an important geographic site that lies in the border between Vietnam and China. The waterfall is 30 meters high and 100 meter long divided into three falls by rock and trees. Water falling down on the stone is even compared to water columns as the thundering effect of the water hitting the stone platform can be heard from miles away. It is also very cool when reaching closer to the waterfall due to the water mist in the air. And you can see at the food of the fall is a beautiful river surrounded by precious kinds of flowers.  

Nguom Ngao Cave: Just 3 Km from Ban Gioc Waterfall, Nguom Ngao Cave is really an amazing cave that is primitive and totally intact and untouched by tourism effects. The cave was discovered in 1921 by local people and open to public since 1996 with the length of 2144 meters. Getting deeper into the cave, you can feel the remarkable cool temperature as well as admire stone statues cleverly created by Mother Nature of which many look really like human bodies, or forest plan, animals and flowers, etc.

vietnam northeast adventure tour

3. Top things to do in Northeast Vietnam
Trekking: Trekking in untouched hill tribe villages in the Northeast of Vietnam is really unlike to any trekking tour that you have experienced

Ethnic market: Ethnic markets in Vietnam are amazing and fantastic where gather ethnic people from nearby areas. They come there not only for trading agricultural products but also for making friends. They wear their beautiful and colorful traditional costumes and walk down from top of the mountains that make the scenery so magic and mystery.

Festival: There are a lot of festivals holding in the Northeast areas that preserve ancient cultures, custom and traditions as a living museum. The most impressive festivals that you can join while traveling in the Northeast are Spring Festival of Dao People, new house opening ceremony of Lo Lo people, etc. You can take part in dozens of games if you have chance to join a ethnic festival like Spinning tops, Tug of war, Stilt walking, Cock fighting/Buffalo fighting, Bamboo dancing, etc.

Catching photo: These scenic mountains are a perfect proposal for those who are fans of photography. Visiting to these untouched areas, you have various chances to create amazing photographs with spectacular sceneries, colorful hill tribe villages, fascinating ethnic markets and beautiful rice terraces. This adventure tour will connect you with the local cultures, break down the language barriers to look out for great shots and you will take home outstanding images of your journey.

vietnam adventure tour

4. Tour options in Northeast Vietnam:
The longer duration you spend in the Northeast, the more unique experience you get. Then, short trips are not advised because of long distance between tourist sites and you just can see a small part of those areas. As below, we provide you with best tour options in the Northeast of Vietnam.

3 days 2 nights:
Day 1: Hanoi – Ba Be Lake
Day 2: Ba Be boat trip
Day 3: Ba Be – Ha Noi

4 days 3 nights
Day 1: Hanoi – Bac Son
Day 2: Bac Son – Ba Be Lake
Day 3: Ba Be boat trip
Day 4: Ba Be – Hanoi

5 days 4 nights
Day 1: Hanoi – Ha Giang
Day 2: Ha Giang – Dong Van – Meo Vac
Day 3: Meo Vac – Cao Bang
Day 4: Cao Bang – Ban Gioc Waterfall – Nguom Ngao Cave – Cao Bang
Day 5: Cao Bang – Hanoi

6 days 5 nights
Day 1: Hanoi – Ha Giang
Day 2: Ha Giang – Dong Van – Meo Vac
Day 3: Meo Vac – Cao Bang
Day 4: Cao Bang – Ban Gioc Waterfall – Nguom Ngao Cave – Cao Bang
Day 5: Cao Bang – Ba Be Lake
Day 6: Ba Be – Hanoi

8 days 7 nights
Day 1: Hanoi – Thac Ba Lake
Day 2: Thac Ba – Ha Giang
Day 3: Ha Giang – Dong Van – Meo Vac
Day 4: Meo Vac – Cao Bang
Day 5: Cao Bang – Ban Gioc Waterfall – Nguom Ngao Cave – Cao Bang
Day 6: Cao Bang – Ba Be Lake
Day 7: Ba Be – Bac Son
Day 8: Bac Son – Hanoi

vietnam northeast adventure travel

5. Other tips
Road condition: Roads in the Northeast are so small and zigzag that seem to be a little bit dangerous. However, the allowed speed in those areas is only 20-30Km per hour so you should not worry about safety while driving there.  

Hotel accommodation: As the Northeast’s tourism hasn’t yet developed, luxury hotels are not available there. The popular accommodations are home-stay, guest-house and basic hotel that cost around 10 – 25 usd per person per night. If you are looking for hotels with high-end facilities, those areas can’t satisfy you, for sure.

Meals: As mentioned above, tourism hasn’t been developed in those mountainous areas, meals are served at local restaurants only with simple dishes like fried river fish, pork, vegetable and rice. Then you shouldn’t expect eye-catching and delicious cuisine there.

Interact with ethnic minorities: The ethnic minorities in the Northeast are not popular with tourists and then, you should be friendly and gentle while visiting to their houses or chatting with them. They are very hospitability but rude behaviors are not welcomed like aiming camera closely to their faces or shooting photos with asking for their agreement.

Warning: Many visitors choose visiting to those areas on their own and without helps from tour guides. It is really not advised as contacting with ethnic people is not easy like with Vietnamese. Furthermore, you just can enjoy the scenery without enjoy trekking to remote areas as only local people and tour guides are expert in trekking paths in those areas.

Northeast map