Vietnam's Touring Mecca
The Ha Giang Loop is the best of what Vietnam has to offer. When is the best time to visit Ha Giang? It is quickly being overrun by tourism and the time to experience it is now. Many agree that this is the Vietnamese ‘Mecca’ for touring and with good reason. Stunning roads, beautiful passes and a rich cultural heritage all make this the premier destination in Vietnam. It takes a day to get up and one to get back. Add this to you needing 3-4 days in Ha Giang and you have your 5-6 day minimum requirement for the tour.
For most days, the idea is to not spend too much time on the bike unless you have to. The roads here are mountainous, thin and winding so you cannot drive fast or get far (safely). There are lots of places to stop whether they are small villages or historical sites. This means the mindset of mixing pleasurable driving with photo stops should be adopted.
Ha Giang Loop Route Map
Day 1: Hanoi - Ha Giang (300km, 6-7hrs)
This is a big long drive on the main road. You will need to start early to be able to get to the destination in good time. Also, book your accommodation so that you do not need to try to find somewhere when you are tired.
The route up to Ha Giang is the main road and is quite busy. However, now that a lot of traffic will take the CT route you are left on the smaller quieter road so it is not as bad as you might think.
After around halfway, although the route is busy it does become quite scenic and it is quite a pleasurable drive. You could split this into two days drive by stopping off at Vu Linh on the way as this is roughly halfway.
Day 2: Ha Giang - Yen Minh (100km, 4-5hrs)
Now you are in the hills. It may not look like it because you are in Ha Giang town but it doesn’t long at all to get out into the ‘wild’. The route up to Yen Minh will see you passing through lots of pf places to stop off such as Lung Khuy Cave.
The road is narrow, winding and mountainous so progress is slow. You really cannot get much mileage under your belt in these hills and it is doubly worse if the weather is bad.
Day 3: Yen Minh - Dong Van (via Lung Cu) (90km, 4-5hrs)
This is more of the same kind of road: narrow, winding and terrifying drop-offs. Again, plenty to stop and see on the route and a trip up to Lung Cu is very worthwhile. You will see plenty of Hmong and Dao people here, especially if it is a market day.
You will still be in the hills as you come into Dong Van which has mushroomed out of all proportion in recent years. Try to stay near the old market for the most authentic feel.
Day 4: Dong Van - Bao Lac (100km, 4-5hrs)
This day takes you through the famed Ma Pi Leng Pass. With luck, you will have good weather and be able to get good photos. The roads are still precarious and full concentration is needed. It is still hard to make the distance under these conditions.
Day 5: Bao Lac - Ba Be (160km, 5-6hrs)
Now that you hit the QL34 you will still have a wonderful road to ride. It will be slightly more open and you can make good time. This will wind all the way towards Cao Bang but you will turn off and head to Ba Be.
The road here is good and a pleasure to drive. Consider adding an extra night here as you will be tired and maybe dirty. You may need washing or you may need a rest from driving. Taking a boat trip or just hanging around the lake is not a bad option. There is plenty to do here.
Day 6: Ba Be - Hanoi (240km, 6-7hrs)
There are currently road works on the back road down to Hanoi, which is a shame as it makes this tough going. It is possible but make sure you have the right bike and that the weather is ok. Now, most people take the 279 and then the QL3 down to Bac Kan.
Taking this route is not the worst thing as it is fast. The first section is the road you took into Ba Be and then, you will move on to the ever-widening highway. This highway takes you out of the hills and on to straighter roads through the rice plains.
This is a long but manageable drive due to the quality of the road. However, do set off early enough to get back to Hanoi before rush hour traffic hits. Consider stopping for a break about 50-60km out of Hanoi just to give yourself time to get to grips with the traffic.
Information on the Destinations
Historically a strategic outpost for the French colonials, it is now the capital city of Ha Giang province which is rapidly growing in popularity. There is a massive influx of tourism in what was once remote and difficult to access region. There are some interesting sites but the real gems lie on the road ahead. There is plenty of access to hotels and food and possibly too much competition now.
You will find 22 ethnic groups represented in this city, however, the majority are Kinh and Tay, 55.7%.
This is a small town with several hotels and eateries best used as an overnight stop. It is quite sleepy but the influx of tourists means that new places are opening more often than we can keep up with.
It is a rapidly expanding town situated in the Dong Van Global Geopark. There is plenty of accommodation and food here. It can be very cool in winter due to the elevation so bring warm clothes. Here there are around 17 ethnic groups present though it will be hard to spot most of them.
A very small ribbon of a town focused on the local market. There are a few hotels here now and nothing much else.
One of Vietnam’s premier national parks. There is a wealth of accommodation here and due to its appeal to locals, it will still get booked up on holidays. There are several sites here such as Dau Dang Waterfall and fairy grotto. It is a good place to have a rest day from riding. The legend of the lake is similar to Noah’s Ark in many ways.
The Take-Away of the Ha Giang Loop
This Ha Giang Loop is the best thing you can do in Vietnam. Memories will last for a lifetime. However, it is not for the inexperienced. If you are new to riding, then get in touch to discuss what other tours are available. If this is definitely the thing for you then, get in touch to book right away.