TOP NATIONAL PARKS IN VIETNAM TO EXPLORE

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Vietnam's National Parks

Vietnam’s natural beauty is truly something out-of-this-world, yet most travelers only scratch the surface of it. Look beyond the magical landscapes of popular destinations like Halong Bay and Ninh Binh and discover a world rich with virgin forests, steep mountains, hidden caves, and lush valleys.

Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, culture lover, or just looking to get off the beaten path, these top 10 national parks located throughout Vietnam are the perfect remedy to an incurable case of wanderlust.

Number 10: Ba Vi National Park

Due to its location just 60 km west of Hanoi, Ba Vi National Park functions as a great escape from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi for locals, expatriates, and travelers alike. There is even an 11th century shrine built to Tan Vien Son Tinh, one of four legendary immortals in Vietnamese mythology and the god of the mountain at the summit of Tan Vien Peak, one of three mountains the park is centered around.

The French started a hill-station here in the late 19th century, so in addition to hiking trails through pine forests and thickets of wild sunflowers, there are a number of colonial ruins to investigate as well as a glass greenhouse filled with over 1200 types of cacti.

Ba Vi can be visited as a day-trip from Hanoi, but it’s much better to stay overnight at one of two lodges, Ba Vi Resort or Melia Ba Vi Mountain Retreat.  

 

Number 9: Yok Don National Park

The largest national park in Vietnam can be found in central Vietnam, 60 km northwest of Buon Ma Thuot and reaching all the way to the Cambodian border. The region was incredibly famous for elephant taming in the past by indigenous tribes, most notably, the Mnong, who viewed the elephant as family and referred to them as sons, daughters, brothers and sisters. In the early 20th century, up to 30 wild elephants were tamed per year. Tragically, most of the Mnong were driven off the land in 1988 to create the park, which then fell prey to deforestation and illegal wildlife trade, meaning you’ll be hard-pressed to spot many animals in Yok Don these days.

That being said, there are still four ethnic minority villages existing within Yok Don National Park’s boundaries which offer unique cultural insights rarely experienced by travelers to Vietnam, such as cooking classes with a local Ede family, a scenic boat ride on the Srepock River, catch and release fishing, and of course trekking through the deciduous forest. It’s also possible to book guided day-treks and overnight camping treks with one of three English speaking guides. There is also a simple guesthouse at the entrance of the park.

Number 8: Bach Ma National Park

Often overlooked for the impressive UNESCO World heritage sites of Hue and Hoi An, rarely-visited Bach Ma National Park is an impressive array of lakes, waterfalls, mountains, and forests in the central region of Vietnam. Similar to many other national parks in Vietnam, Bach Ma got its start as a French hill-station in 1925, and little has changed since. 

Staying overnight in abandoned French villas is just one of the quirky advantages of exploring this region, although don’t expect much luxury as the villas are truly “off the beaten path”.  An estimated 65,000 tribal minorities live within the area, including a settlement called the Khe Su hamlet which can be visited during your stay.

Popular activities include trekking to Do Quyen waterfall, visiting Truc Lam Zen Monastery, swimming in five different jade-colored lakes fed by refreshing mountain streams and summiting Bach Ma Mountain at 1,450 meters where an impressive panoramic view of mountains, lagoons, villages, and the iconic Hai Van pass await. 

Situated 60 km south of the ancient imperial capital of Hue, Bach Ma is a perfect trip for the whole family as a day-trip to get out into nature, or as a stop on the way from Hue to Hoi An to have a break and picnic lunch.

Check out our action-packed adventures in Cat Ba National Park and Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park! Or, contact our trip designer to tailor-make an adventure just for you.

Number 7: Cuc Phuong National Park

Notable for its role as the first national park in all of Vietnam, Cuc Phuong was established way back in 1962. 60 km due east of Ninh Binh, it’s advised to visit as a day-trip from Ninh Binh as opposed to Hanoi to make the most of your time. Ninh Binh also has many different kinds of accommodation to choose from which are more comfortable than camping in Cuc Phuong. 

Home to ancient trees, prehistoric caves, a botanical garden certified by the botanic garden conservation international, an endangered primate rescue center, and a turtle conservation center. Or, brave the heat during April and May to surround yourself in a real life fairy tale during butterfly season. Whatever the case, activities such as trekking, bird-watching, kayaking, and staying overnight with an ethnic Muong family can always be arranged.

Number 6: Ba Be National Park

One of the most beautiful national parks in the country, Ba Be National Park is nicknamed “the Halong Bay of the mountains” due to its impressive limestone mountains surrounding the largest lake in Vietnam. Home to many ethnic minorities, there are plenty of opportunities to learn about local traditions and culture while trekking, cycling, spelunking, cruising the lake by small boat, and spending the night at family homestays built atop stilts on the banks of Ba Be Lake.

It takes around 6 hours by car or bus to reach Ba Be National Park from Hanoi, making it a very authentic, uncrowded experience for travelers willing to make the effort to reach it.

Number 5: Cat Ba National Park

One of the most popular national parks to visit in Vietnam due to its proximity to major cities such as Hanoi and Hai Phong, Cat Ba National Park is an archipelago of around 367 islands in the Lan Ha Bay region of the Gulf of Tonkin. The largest island, also named Cat Ba, is the only inhabited island with camp sites, hostels, hotels, and resorts available for booking.

One of the most famous villages on Cat Ba Island, Viet Hai, has a small selection of homestays to choose from. However the real challenge is getting there as Viet Hai Fishing Village is only accessible by sea or mountain trekking due to through road access. 

Cat Ba National Park is famous for its dramatic scenery of limestone mountains, mangrove forests, deep caves, and jade-green waters. It is also the only place in the world where the endangered Cat Ba Langur, a white headed monkey, can be found. Plenty of adventure activities can be undertaken here, including moderate-to-difficult treks, deep water soloing, rock climbing, kayaking, and cycling.

Another popular way to explore the region is by overnight cruise. Whether you’re a family looking for all-ages fun, a couple on a quest for romance, or friends on the search for a bucket-list entry, we’ve got you covered. Check out some of our Topas Originals, which always include two or three day voyages in Lan Ha Bay.

Number 4: Con Dao National Park

Remote and isolated, Con Dao National Park is spread across 16 islands in the Con Dao Archipelago, of which Con Son Island is the largest. With limited ways to reach the islands, (flights from Ho Chi Minh City or Can Tho vs. ferry from Soc Trang or Vung Tau), the region remains mostly untouched from mass tourism and rapid development experienced in much of Southeast Asia. The pristine white sand beaches are reason enough to visit, however there are both guided and unguided treks to participate in, through mangroves and lagoons to the tops of mountains.

The best diving opportunities in Vietnam are here, with colorful coral reefs surrounding the islands and chances to spot endangered sea turtles coming ashore, especially from July to September. Bay Canh Island’s Cat Lon Beach is just one of 14 breeding grounds for turtles and has the largest amount of turtles arriving to spawn eggs. 

Number 3: Nam Cat Tien National Park

Recognized by UNESCO as a world biosphere reserve, Nam Cat Tien in the south of Vietnam differs greatly from most national parks in the country. Instead of mountains, the area is comprised of low-lying jungles, wetlands, and vast grasslands teeming with wildlife. Expect a journey by road from Ho Chi Minh City to take between 4-5 hours, or conversely around 3.5 hours from Dalat.

Although trekking is the most popular activity here, the park also contains a primate rehabilitation center, bear sanctuary, and Ta Lai ethnic village, comprised of the Ma, Stieng, and Tay ethnic groups. As of late, more and more organizations choose to have their team-building events and school trips here. There are also quite a few lodging choices to choose from for those looking to stay a few nights, ranging from basic guesthouses and homestays to the chic Cat Tien Jungle Lodge.

 

Number 2: Pu Luong Nature Reserve

Just a four hour drive southwest of Hanoi, Pu Luong Nature Reserve is a highlight of the best aspects of top northern Vietnamese scenery—terraced rice fields, misty mountains, and remote ethnic minority villages. Often overlooked due to its more popular neighbors Mai Chau and Ninh Binh, the Pu Luong Reserve stretches from Mai Chau Valley to Cuc Phuong National Park and has a variety of accommodation to choose from in terms of price and experience wanted.

Join in adventure activities such as trekking through mountain passes, rafting down the Cham River, and off-road cycling. Pu Luong is also one of our key destinations for Vietnam Jungle Marathon, an exciting trail challenge combining athleticism with ethnic minorities and epic scenery.

If that sounds too extreme, don’t worry! Gentle cycling and hiking through the lowlands of Pu Luong are also readily available, as well as an option to simply do nothing and relax.

Number 1: Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

Home to the world’s 1st and 3rd largest caves in the world (Son Doong and Hang En respectively), it’s no wonder Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park in central Vietnam is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition to caves, Phong Nha Ke Bang has mountains, rivers, jungles, and valleys all waiting to be explored. Choose from experiences lasting for a half-day to expert-level spelunking expeditions that require you to camp overnight within the cave’s caverns. Or, if you prefer to stay above ground, check out the hiking, cycling, and kayaking opportunities.

This is one area you will want to plan your stay in advance, as most caves are inaccessible from late September to early December due to the rainy season.

In addition, expeditions to Son Doong in particular are capped at 1000 visitors per year, meaning tours are expensive (3000 USD per person) and sell out quickly.

If you don’t have 3,000 USD per person to spare but still want to explore the beauty of the subterranean world, why not visit Tu Lan Cave System with us? Made up of over 10 caves, Tu Lan Cave System was also featured in the Hollywood Blockbuster “Kong: Skull Island” in 2017. Or, sleep overnight in Hang En, featured in the 2015 film Pan, and the 3rd largest cave in the world! 

Phong Nha Ke Bang is a 3-4 hour drive north of Hue, so most travelers choose to base themselves in Phong Nha town, a few kilometers outside of the national park.

For the ultimate Vietnam adventure, combine the incredible cultural and natural beauty of Sapa and Lan Ha Bay with a caving expedition in Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park. With mountains, caves, and the sea, you can’t go wrong! 

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