Dong Van Karst Plateau
Dong Van Karst Plateau

Ha Giang Travel Guide

Ha Giang, the northernmost land of Vietnam, is characterized by fabled limestone mountains with karst formations and colorful ethnic minorities with untouched lifestyle and culture. Ha Giang is much shrouded in legend and is not touched by mass tourism.

Geography
Ha Giang is bordered to the north by China, to the east by Cao Bang Province, to the south by Tuyen Quang, to the south-west by Yen Bai, and to the west by Lao Cai. Ha Giang has a temperate climate and it's almost cool all year round in Dong Van Rocky Plateau.

Ha Giang Vietnam
The gate to Ha Giang Province

The terrain of Ha Giang is mostly mountainous with high concentration of mountain peaks more than 1,000m above sea level which includes:
- The Rock Plateau of Dong Van (or Karst Plateau of Dong Van) is located to the north of Ha Giang with karstic topography of which 90% is limestone. Dong Van is listed to the Global Geoparks Network.
- The mountainous terrain to the west with elevations from 1,000-2,000m above sea level is dissected by mountains and ravines, and with steep gradients.
- The terrain with low hills and flat valleys located to the south of the province accounts for a minor part of Ha Giang’s topography.

A road market near Ha Giang Town
A road market near Ha Giang Town

From the west to the east, The rivers in Ha Giang include:
- The Chay River starts its course in Tay Con Linh and Kieu Lieu Thi Mountain flowing from Ha Giang into Lao Cai, along the Chinese border, traveling southwards to Yen Bai and meets the Lo River at Doan Hung (Phu Tho Province).

The Chay River at Xin Man, Ha Giang
The Chay River at Xin Man, Ha Giang

- The Bac River is a minor river starting its course in Hoang Su Phi meeting with streams on its course to create the Con River at Quang Binh then discharging its water into the Lo River.

- The Lo River flows into Ha Giang from China via Thanh Thuy passing through Ha Giang City and Bac Quang District making its way into Tuyen Quang.

The Lo River at Bac Quang, between Ha Giang and Tuyen Quang Provinces
The Lo River at Bac Quang, between Ha Giang and Tuyen Quang Provinces

- The Mien River flows into Ha Giang from China right in between Yen Minh and Quan Ba, then makes its course southwards and discharges its water into the Lo River at Ha Giang City.

Scenic landscape by the Mien River in Quan Ba, Ha Giang
Scenic landscape by the Mien River in Quan Ba, Ha Giang

- The Nho Que River flows into Ha Giang from China via Lung Cu making itself most of the border between Ha Giang and Cao Bang and discharging its water into the Gam River at the borderline of the 3 districts of Meo Vac (Ha Giang), Bao Lam and Bao Lac (Cao Bang).

The Nho Que River at the sublime Ma Pi Leng Pass
The Nho Que River at the sublime Ma Pi Leng Pass

- The Nhiem River starts its course from streams in Yen Minh District (Ha Giang) and discharges its water into the Gam River at the same confluence with the Nho Que River.

Peaceful landscape by the Gam River at Bac Quang, Ha Giang
Peaceful landscape by the Gam River at Bac Quang, Ha Giang

- The Gam River flows into Vietnam from China via Bao Lac, then passing through Bao Lam (Cao Bang), Bac Me District (Ha Giang), making its way into Tuyen Quang. The Gam River discharges its water into the Lo River at Yen Son District (Tuyen Quang).

Dong Van Rock Plateau Ha Giang Vietnam
Dong Van Rock Plateau Ha Giang Vietnam

Ha Giang has a monsoon tropic climate with variations on high altitudes. The average temperatures are around 22-24oC and big difference between day time and night time (7oC). The temperatures in the Rock Plateau of Dong Van are much lower than the lower-altitude areas. Ha Giang is among the provinces in Vietnam with highest annual rainfall which is around 2,300-2,400mm.

Ha Giang is inhabited by 22 ethnic groups, many of whom maintain a very traditional culture and many lived an isolated life from the mainstream society until recently. There is a plethora of opportunities to encounter these people on your tour in Ha Giang which is certainly a major highlight of your experience.

12 Best Tourist Attractions and Things to do in Ha Giang

1/ Dong Van Rock Plateau
The Rock Plateau of Dong Van includes Quan Ba, Yen Minh, Dong Van and Meo Vac Districts. The center of the Plateau is Dong Van Town, 146km from Ha Giang City. Traveling in Dong Van, we'll have an illusion of getting lost in heaven of rocky peaks covered in clouds. The peak of Dong Van is Lung Cu which is 24 km from Dong Van Town and which offers panoramic view of the whole plateau with mountains and ravines. Dong Van Rock Plateau has 90% of the surface covered in rocks.

Quan Ba Limestone Forest, a part of Dong Van Rock Plateau, is 46km from Ha Gang Town. With an elevation of 1,000m, Quan Ba offers unreal fabled world of towering limestone mountains.

Impressive mountainscape at Quan Ba, Ha Giang
Impressive mountainscape at Quan Ba, Ha Giang

 

Serrated ridges at Lung Ho, Yen Minh, Ha Giang
Serrated ridges at Lung Ho, Yen Minh, Ha Giang

 

Ethereal limestone mountains at Ho Quang Phin, Dong Van, Ha Giang
Ethereal limestone mountains at Ho Quang Phin, Dong Van, Ha Giang

 

An amazing road snaking amid limestone mountains at Thai Phin Tung, Dong Van, Ha Giang
An amazing road snaking amid limestone mountains at Thai Phin Tung, Dong Van, Ha Giang

2/Dong Van Old Town
The Old Town of Dong Van has a quaint atmosphere. The town was formed around 1887, after the French colonialists took over Ha Giang and set up their administration in the area. There are old-styled houses with quite unique architecture. Having a walk in the Old Quarter of Dong Van in the early morning or late afternoon brings you some peaceful and relaxing moments. 

Dong Van Old Quarter, Dong Van District, Ha Giang
Dong Van Old Quarter, Dong Van District, Ha Giang

3/Dong Van Market
The Market of Dong Van with gatherings on Sunday morning is a great experience to know about local ethnic groups. Ethnic people in the region of the Dong Van Plateau would flock to town for the Sunday market on Saturday night or very early morning on Sunday. They come here for trade, for socializing and for looking for a potential lover. They are well dressed and all look so gorgeous.

Tay ladies at Dong Van Sunday Market, Ha Giang
Tay ladies at Dong Van Sunday Market, Ha Giang

4/ Vuong Family Residence
Vuong Family was the King of the H'mong People and there's still a residence of the Vuong Family 15km from Dong Van with ancient Chinese architecture. The residence is in the Sa Phin Valley on a peace of land which has the shape of a tortoise. The residence is built with wood and stones and the architecture is certainly a real gem of arts in the Rock Plateau.

Vuong Family Residence in Ha Giang Vietnam
Gate to the Vuong Family Residence

5/Meo Vac Sunday Market
Not as beautiful as the Sunday Market in Dong Van, Meo Vac Market is certainly a lovely place to know about locals’ life. There are several vantage points around the township of Meo Vac that you could get great photos of the town from above.

Meo Vac Sunday Market
Meo Vac Sunday Market

6/Ma Pi Leng Pass
The mountain pass is certainly awe-inspiring with craggy mountain peaks and real deep ravine which could send chills down your spine at the first glimpse! You may like to know that this is the most breathtaking and the deepest canyon in Vietnam. The green Nho Que River at the bottom looks like a thin thread from the road on the pass.

Ma Pi Leng Pass Meo Vac Ha Giang
The sublime beauty of Ma Pi Leng Pass Meo Vac Ha Giang

 7/Khau Vai Love Market
This is an amazing market, 200km from Ha Giang Town, surrounded by limestone mountains. People come to the market not for trade but for meeting with their former lovers or soul mates that they failed to get married to. Nowadays many come to find their new ones. The rock formations at Khau Vai definitely offer great shelters for privacy! The market is once a year only, on the 27th of the 3rd lunar month.

Hmong Children at Dong Van Rock Plateau
Hmong Children at Dong Van Rock Plateau

8/Lung Cu
If you are in Dong Van Plateau then do not miss a trip to Lung Cu in the northernmost territory of Vietnam. Climbing the Lung Cu Flag Tower, you’ll have captivating views of the thousands of limestone mountain peaks around you. The Flower Lo Lo Village at Lung Cu is certainly worth a visit.

Lung Cu, Ha Giang
Arid land at Lung Cu, Ha Giang

9/Pho Bang
Pho Bang Township is home to a Chinese community in the Dong Van Plateau. There are lines of houses leaning against the rugged rock mountains which makes it more like in a wild West movie. Wandering on the street and trying to take as many photos as you can, you’ll be pleased with what you have at the end of the day. Pho Bang is 30km from Dong Van Town.

10/Pho Cao
Pho Cao is 30km from Dong Van Town. Pho Cao is famed for the sensational buckwheat flower fields and the ethnic market that is in session once every six days. The market of Pho Cao is surrounded by towering rock mountains all around which make the scene just more spectacular.

11/Hoang Su Phi
Hoang Su Phi offers mesmerizing beauty of rice terraces, steep ravines and mighty deep rivers. If having time, a photography tour to Hoang Su Phi is recommended. There are chances for challenging adventures to climb Kieu Lieu Thi Mountain or to trek through the dense forests of Tay Con Linh Mountain Range. The ethnic market on Sunday Morning is a wonderful opportunity for photography and understanding the ethnic groups in the region.

Golden rice terraces at Hoang Su Phi, Ha Giang
Golden rice terraces at Hoang Su Phi, Ha Giang

 

A breathtaking view of golden rice and mountains at Hoang Su Phi, Ha Giang
A breathtaking view of golden rice and mountains at Hoang Su Phi, Ha Giang

12/Xin Man
Xin Man, which is adjacent to Hoang Su Phi, offers forests and Nam Dan Ancient Rock Field (16 km from Xin Man's center). The road from Xin Man to Bac Ha (Lao Cai) is a high mountain road with spectacular landscapes.

A panorama of Xin Man Town (View from above)
A panorama of Xin Man Town (View from above)

Travel and Tourism and tours in Ha Giang
Ha Giang is home to a number of ethnic minorities many of whom live a separate life from the mainstream society and most of whom maintain a very traditional culture. Many of these communities can only be visited on a 2-3 day trekking tour. The nature on the treks are stunning and unreal.

Ha Giang is not touched by mass tourism and the area is still in lack of infrastructure for tourism. There are only a couple of hotels in Ha Giang City, Dong Van Town and Meo Vac Town which are decent in amenities. As of writing, Ha Giang is best suitable for the adventure travellers, artist and nature seekers.

Do keep it in mind, however, that the whole Karst Plateau of Dong Van is a real beauty itself and everywhere you turn, the landscape is beyond sensational. There is no need for certain to chase any touted tourist attractions. If you could bypass luxury, then you will surely have a great trip here. The temperatures are always cool and your time could be just relaxing!

Paradissa Travel offers a number of relaxing sightseeing tours and adventure tours in Ha Giang including soft adventure tours by car, motorcycling tours, trekking tours. For shutterbugs, Paradissa has special photography tours to Dong Van Karst Plateau and Hoang Su Phi Golden Rice Terraces, please contact us for further information.

Accommodation
There are hotels ranging from standard to 2-3 star standards in Ha Giang City, Dong Van and Meo Vac. Simple hotels and guest houses are available in most districts. There are villages offering homestay with basic facilities: Nam Dam Village (2km from Tam Son Township in Quan Ba, Dzao People), ...

Getting around
Ha Giang Town is a pristine valley surrounded by mountains and can be explored easily on foot. Alternatively you may want to get around by taxi motorbikes which are ubiquitous in town.

Getting there and away
Ha Giang is 320 km north of Ha Noi via road No.2. The road conditions are fairly good travelling through Vinh Phuc, Phu Tho and Tuyen Quang Provinces.