Ha Giang - remotest northern Vietnam

Ha Giang is one of those truly off-the-beaten-track destinations that we're constantly searching for. Only recently opening up to visitors, the region is home to cultures that have remained unchanged for centuries, amidst an awe-inspiring landscape of green valleys and misty hillsides. You’ll witness the traditions of some of Vietnam’s rarest ethnic minorities, including the all-important local markets, which serve as the colourful and essential hubs of an entirely offline society. 

What to expect at Ha Giang

If you’ve researched Vietnam or spoken to people who've visited the country, then you’ve probably heard of the north-west hill station of Sapa, once famous for its minority hill tribes but now sadly little more than a tourist trap. Ha Giang, close to the Chinese border in the north-east, offers a more remote, authentic and far less commercialised hill-tribe experience - in fact the region is still often referred to as ‘Vietnam’s final frontier’.

Having slipped under the tourist radar for so long, Ha Giang is now opening up. Visitor numbers very slowly increasing, and the community is catching up with modernity, but due to the significant daily drives you’re still unlikely to bump into other Westerners during your trip. It's certainly not an experience you’ll find in a common-or-garden Vietnam package tour.

This is a region of truly jaw-dropping scenery; winding roads are carved into the mountains, valleys seem to stretch for miles with layer upon layer of terraced rice fields.

With its emerald landscape and far-sweeping vistas, the journey between Dong Van and Meo Vac across the Mai Pi Leng Pass is particularly breath-taking. You'll get plenty of time to explore, following local tracks and trails, with treks available to suit most abilities. 

It’s all about the market days! Your trip will hinge around the weekly markets, an integral part of the region’s way of life, where the local hill tribes gather to buy and sell anything from fruit and spices to the family buffalo and bottles of maize wine. These colourful gatherings are also important social occasions where villagers meet up for a gossip and a bite to eat, and there’s a fantastic buzz to proceedings as the locals haggle for bargains.

Ha Giang's close proximity to China means that its people share their ethnicity and culture with their rural Chinese neighbours, adding a further interesting dimension to your visit.

Location: far into northern Vietnam

Duration: as long as you like

Accommodation: village homestays

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Lionel says..

'Go now – before news of the region’s scenic beauty trickles through to the masses.'

Important to note...

If you enjoy home comforts and are particular about your food, then this trip is not for you. Accommodation is in basic hotels or homestays with communal facilities; meals consist of simple local food served at small family-run restaurants. Not a burger or fried chicken in sight!

The best period to travel to Ha Giang is between October and April, in the dry season. We recommend avoiding travelling during the rainy season, which runs from May until September.