Since it’s not the easiest place to reach, it’s less busy and offers travelers the chance to explore Vietnam’s raw beauty in a way few other places still do. Nature-lovers and adventurers will love Ha Giang for its unsullied nature and the diversity of ethnic minorities living in the towns and cities connected by this area’s steep winding roads. Keen to get off the beaten path (in every sense of the word!) and see a lesser-known side of Vietnam? Here is our guide to Ha Giang!
The Best Time to Visit Ha Giang
Ha Giang experiences two main seasons: the rainy season from April to October and the dry season from November to March. Apart from these seasons, Ha Giang offers a different perspective at different times of the year. For example, if you come between January and March, you will see the hills and mountains come back to life after their winter sleep. Peach and plum blossoms add dots of white and pink to the green hills, making for a wonderful view and beautiful scent.
In April, you can catch the Khau Vai Love Market, a special event which happens only once a year. On this day, vendors from all around the province come to sell their products in a flurry of color. Check when exactly it is this year as the exact date depends on the lunar calendar and changes every year.
From May to July, farmers irrigate their rice fields which turn a rich vibrant green as a result. Get ready for some postcard-worthy shots during this time of year!
In September and October, the rice ripens in the fields and is almost ready for harvest. At this time, the paddies turn yellow and weave through the mountains like golden ribbons.
November brings buckwheat blooming season. This is when the small, pink flowers in the fields create a beautiful contrast to the grey mountains and green forests around.
From late November until the end of the year, there is a chance of snow. Did you think you would find snow in Vietnam? Here in the north, it could happen! Even if you don’t catch snow, the province is beautiful in winter as thick mist floats around the hills and makes you feel like you’re in a whole other world. If you are traveling to Ha Giang during this time, be sure to bring warm jackets, long pants, and good shoes.
What to See and Do in Ha Giang
Ha Giang has so many incredible spots to visit, you could spend several weeks here without seeing it all. To help you choose which ones to include in your itinerary, we’ve put together a list of some favorite towns and natural highlights for you to choose from.
1. Thon Ta Village and Waterfal
While there is little to see in Ha Giang city, there are some interesting spots to visit close by. Thon Tha village is one of them. Only around 500 people live here but since tourists have been visiting for many years, there are plenty of nice homestays and many locals who speak English and are eager to be your guide.
A stop here is worth it as you’ll see how people live in this part of Vietnam. Many villagers run their own farm and live in traditional houses, renting out their extra rooms to travelers. This is your chance to sleep in an authentic stilted house, overlooking verdant rice fields and waving good morning to buffalos when you wake up. A short trek from town, you’ll find a beautiful waterfall which offers wonderful refreshment after a hike.
2. Khuoi My and Tai Con Linh Peak
If you’re looking for a great trekking experience, head to Khuoi My village on Tay Con Linh Peak from Thon Ta. If you set out early in the morning, you’ll get there by lunchtime and have plenty of homestays to choose from for a meal. Hosts are known to be very welcoming and eager to share stories about their history, culture and traditions, so feel free to ask!
As you walk the mountain paths, Ha Giang’s countryside will unfold before your eyes and offer breathtaking views of rice fields, forests and surrounding mountains.
3. Ma Pi Leng Pass and Heaven’s Gate
As you head east from Ha Giang to Dong Van, you will start to see the landscape change to what you’ve doubtlessly seen on postcards of Ha Giang. The endless rice paddies will slowly give way to the famous limestone mountains, deep canyons and rocky structures which make this province so unique. All of this is part of the Dong Van kart Plateau, a UNESCO-recognized geopark.
You will make your way towards Quan Ba Valley where you’ll see the famous Fairy Breast Mountains, two round hills set in the middle of a perfectly flat valley. If you have some extra time, you can go there for a hike and a visit. Many locals do, as they believe it brings good luck.
Further along the path, you will get to Ma Pi Leng Pass, an impressive area with endless views of the Nho Que River, its canyon and the mountains rising steeply on either side. Take some time to stop along this road and soak up the view… chances are you’ll meet a few other travelers and locals doing the same.
4. Dong Van
After a lot of driving, you’ll arrive in Dong Van, the largest town in Ha Giang province. It’s worth it to spend some time here as there are plenty of things to see and do. You can start by exploring the Old Quarter, Dong Van’s city center. It resembles a courtyard surrounded by traditional coin-roof buildings. Today, many of them have been converted into cafes and souvenir shops. This might come as a surprise, but the city is a popular stop among Vietnamese travelers who are exploring the Dong Van loop, so tourism in this area is more developed than in the rest of the province.
Once you’ve had enough of the town, you can climb a nearby hill to find the ruins of a French fort called Don Cao. From there you will also have breathtaking views of Dong Van and the surrounding countryside.
Not far from Dong Van, is Lung Cam Cultural Village where people from the Lo Lo, Hmong and Han tribes live together. Here artisans create beautiful local handicrafts like colorful hand-woven fabrics. Walk around and you can see them at work and maybe even learn how they make some of their masterpieces.
5. Explore Local Markets
Towns around Ha Giang are known for their colorful, interesting markets. Usually, they take place in the morning on Saturdays or Sundays and maybe one weekday. To include at least one in your itinerary, ask your guide which market he recommends and time your trip in a way that gives you time to explore it.
Usually, people from several villages gather for a market, making it a melting pot of Hmong, Dao, Tay and other ethnic groups. They all come wearing their traditional dresses, so get ready for an unparalleled display of local fashion and textiles. Markets are also the perfect place to try some more local food and see how some of your favorites are made.
Popular markets to visit in Ha Giang include the ones in Dong Van, Meo Vac and Tam Son. But of course, there are many others too. Just ask your guide or homestay host, and you’ll get plenty of options.
Local Food to Try
Naturally, Ha Giang has its own tasty foods you absolutely must try when you visit. Your homestay hosts will probably provide you with some local treats and others can be found at street food stalls and markets.
The cuisine in the north is quite different from anything you will have tasted in southern Vietnam or even Hanoi. Each tribe has their own specialties, so get your taste buds ready for a unique experience!