Xuan Son National PArk
Xuan Son National Park is not a location commonly known by tourists visiting the North of Vietnam. This untouched park gives tourists an opportunity to experience rural Vietnam in its natural form. Located just 130km east of Hanoi, Xuân Sơn National Park offers the ideal escape from the chaotic city streets.
The park has become a more popular destination for Vietnamese holidaymakers over the last 10 years. A few locals have now opened their traditional stilt houses as homestays, offering hospitality for those wanting to stay overnight.
Unlike some of the more commonly known tourist destinations such as Sapa, Xuan Son is still very much untouched. The centre of the national park is completely removed from the outside world and feels a thousand miles away from modern civilization.
The vast park sprawls across an area of 150 square km and sits at the southern-eastern edge of the Hoang Lien Mountains. In 1986 the park was established as a nature reserve, protecting its natural beauty.
It is extremely refreshing to experience the simple life of the local Muong and Dao ethnic groups. A welcome reminder that not everybody is connected to the outside world by the internet or their mobile phone.
Arriving by Motorbike
The motorbike drive from Hanoi to Xuân Sơn National Park takes around 4-5 hours. Coffee breaks included. The journey itself is filled with incredible landscapes and views around every turn. Leaving Hanoi at 07:30am should see you safely arrive around midday. Once the long drive along the CT08 out of Hanoi is behind you, the journey really comes into its own.
Skirting Around Ba Vi National Park
The route takes you along the edge of Ba Vi National Park, where on a clear day you’re able to see the three mountain peaks. Following this is a long stretch of road lined with rice paddies.
For miles, you only encounter the odd farmer out in their paddy fields or walking their water buffalos. Already you start to feel the slow pace of rural Vietnam. Shortly after you start to notice a different type of crop, one that is not commonly seen in Vietnam. Tea plantations.
As the hills begin to build, the rolling tea plantations begin to show themselves, creating this extremely diverse and jaw-dropping scenery. In places, the plantations even resemble Sri Lanka. Truly stunning.
The final part of the drive consists of a winding road that begins to ascend into the rolling mountains and jungle. On a cloudy day, you’ll find yourself quite literally with your head in the clouds!
As you arrive at the very centre of the park, you are welcomed by the Muong and Dao ethnic groups going about their day to day lives. Their traditional homes on stilts sit on the valley floor and are surrounded by mountainous scenery and lush jungle.
Suggested Motorbike Route
In order to make the best of your drive from Hanoi, it is important to bypass the southern entrance to the National Park and opt for the road entering the park in the northeast.
By continuing on the QL32 past the main entrance to the park, you will be able to experience the rolling tea plantations around the edge of the park before driving into the mountains.
Then, when you decide to leave the park you can complete the loop around through back to the southern entrance. Just be aware it can get a little bit bumpy in parts!
What To Do In Xuan Son National Park
Ban Coi and Ban Lap Villages
The very centre of the park you’ll find the small villages of Ban Coi and Ban Lap. Both villages are inhabited by the Muong and Dao ethnic groups. The villages themselves are a wonder to stroll through. Surrounded by stunning mountainous scenery, they offer a serene atmosphere, feeling very isolated from the outside world. Children play in the flowing streams whilst the adults tend to their livestock and farmland. As the sun is setting, locals gather to play volleyball and drink cans of bia at the local Bia Hoi.
6km Hidden Waterfall Hike
At the centre of Bản Cỏi, you’ll find a road leading to a 6km hike to a waterfall, signposted from the main road. The hike itself takes you along a path next to the river toward the base of the mountains. The further you get down the path; you begin to notice flooding damage from the wet summer months. Due to this, sadly the path does not lead all of the ways toward the waterfall.
However, this doesn’t stop the locals using the stream as a path, so it shouldn’t stop you!
During spring and autumn when rainfall is low, it is possible to hike along the flowing stream to the base of the waterfall.
The park itself is filled with hidden paths and areas to explore. Tour companies do offer guided hikes in the park if trekking through the dense jungle is your thing. Trekking in Xuân Sơn National Park will have you hiking up to the peak of High Ten Mountain and walking long jungle trails into the depths of the trees. At the centre of it, all Coi Cave can be found deep within the park and offers a different type of setting to explore.
The pool near Coi Cave offers a fantastic opportunity to cool off on a hot day. You can swim here for free and there are swimming costumes for rent and a changing area. The locals have set up small stalls selling snacks that are renting inner tubes. It is a fun, friendly place.
Trekking in Xuan Son National Park can be challenging, so make sure you’re ready to get roughed up by the jungle!
Trekking could be something you do for a few hours or a few days. The park is vast, and if you decide to spend a few days, you’ll be able to ride up to smaller paths and really immerse yourself in the dense jungle. Be wary though, it’s HOT and sweaty.
Plus, you’ll need to keep covered up to avoid mosquitos.
Where To Stay?
Locals have opened their doors to travelers over the last decade, offering an opportunity for individuals to stay overnight in one Xuan Son’s traditional stilt houses.
Homestay Ky Tam and Homestay Xuan Son
Both homestays offer a comfortable place to rest for the evening for around 250-300k ($9-13). Booking can be a challenge, as neither have websites with an online booking option. However, both list their phone numbers online and can take bookings over the phone.
If you do have some issues communicated because of a language barrier, ask them to text you their email address. This way you can translate your request and send it via email.
Be sure to ask the homestay in advance if you’d like food preparation. This way you can sit down to a hearty Vietnamese meal (often with the family) when you arrive weary from your 5-hour journey.
Phone: 098 986 60 05
Address: Bản Lấp, Tân Sơn District, Phu Tho Province
Homestay Xuân Sơn:
Phone: 098 457 74 58
Address: Bản Lấp, Tân Sơn District, Phu Tho Province
Phone: 097 598 29 79
Address: Xóm Dù
If you enjoy camping, then this is always an option in Xuan Son National Park. There are plenty of places to set up camp and embrace the outdoors. Xuan Son is a very special place, a place where you can truly feel you are cut off from the pressures of the modern world. So jump on a bike, get booked into a homestay and crucially, turn off your phone as this can be a truly magical and immersive experience.