Ha Giang Loop is a picturesque motorcycle loop considered one of the most authentic adventures in North Vietnam. A steep mountain, road, in some sections in bad condition, winding through the high mountain ranges in northern Vietnam in the province of Ha Giang, near the border with China. It stretches from here a stunning view of the valleys inhabited by local mountain tribes. To complete the loop on a motorcycle you need at least 3 days, provided the weather is good.
- Days to complete: minimum 3 days up to 5.
- Total Distance: 350 km (220 miles).
- When to go: from March-May and September-October ( during this period, the weather is stable, the temperature during the day is 18-25 degrees, at night 10-18 degrees and rainfall is light).
- Difficulty: Rather for experienced motorcyclists.
- What you could see: mountainous scenery with limestone karsts, Dong Van National Park (UNESCO), minority villages, the Heaven’s Gate pass, Vietnamese North Pole Lung Cu (the most northern point of Vietnam).
- Road conditions: Some stretches of road are very good, others are paved and with gravel, full of potholes and fist-sized rocks. Most of the time you go uphill, downhill or alongside of a mountain – with a deep gorge down the side.
Ha Giang is the name of the city and province, bordering the Chinese province of Yunnan. This is one of the poorest places in Vietnam, virgin and untouched by great industry and mass tourism. There is no doubt that Ha Giang is not a luxury place. The hotels are clean and comfortable, but basic. Usually, there is hot water and air conditioning, WiFi and TV. They often let you park your motorbikes in the lobby. Most towns have basic cafe’s that are adequate, and sometimes quite good.
How much does it cost?
- Bus ticket from Hanoi to Ha Giang: 190,000 VND (8,5 USD)
- Motorbike rental: 200,000 dong / day (9,5 USD)
- Accommodation in villages: ca. 100,000 dong / night (4,5 USD)
- Permit to travel around the northern areas: : 200,000-300,000 VND (9,5 – 13,5 USD). You can buy the permit in Ha Giang or Meo Vac through hostel you are staying or at the police station.
The most popular version of Ha Giang Loop begins and ends in Ha Giang. The route is 350 kilometers long and can be completed in 2 or 3 days. However, many people spend 4-5 days for it to avoid the rush and to stop on the way in the picturesque places, spending time with local tribes. There are also alternative routes for which you can extend the basic route. Distances are not large, however, due to road conditions and weather it is worth to leave early in the morning to admire the picturesque scenery in peace and without unnecessary rush.
An example of the itinerary:
- 1 st DAY: Ha Giang-Tam Son (Quan Ba)-Yen Minh: 100km (62 miles)
- 2 nd DAY: Yen Minh-Dong Van-Meo Vac (via Ma Pi Leng Pass): 70km (44 miles)
- 3 rd DAY: Meo Vac-Du Gia-Ha Giang: 180km
1 DAY (distance 100 km / 62 miles)
Ha Giang, a town surrounded by majestic karst mountains, can be reached by bus from Hanoi. The town has a good tourist infrastructure with plenty of accommodations and places to rent a bike. A winding mountain road awaits you, so it’s better to choose a semi-automatic or manual gearbox than automatic. Leaving the city, the great view stretches of green hills and a turquoise river in the valley. The road is narrow and winding, with a thin ribbon of asphalt in the middle, often with potholes. You take the next twists in the surrounding of the scenic karst mountains. The area is full of caves and soaring into the sky hills, like from a child’s picture.
In this section of the route, you can admire the famous pass, Quan Ba known as the Heaven’s Gate. The view is simply spectacular, with mountains encasing fields of rice paddies.
Going further along the QL4C road you will descend from the mountains into Yen Minh. Located in a valley, surrounded by hills, and quite a few rice fields in and outside the town, it is actually a nice little place. Thanks to the set up it is very easy to navigate here. The QL4C road runs through the city center. You find plenty of guesthouses and food places along the main road. Many people describe Yen Minh as a paradise of cave, grotto and pine forests. The town gives an opportunity for a little stroll to stretch your legs after a day on a motorbike.
2 DAY (Distance 70 km / 45 miles)
The North of Yen Minh the road keeps climbing and weaves through increasingly surreal misty limestone moonscapes. You can make the detour to the Vietnamese North Pole Lung Cu, the most northern point of Vietnam, to make the journey more interesting. In this stretch of the loop, you can admire the geological park inscribed on the UNESCO list – Dong Van Plateau, which consists of narrow valleys alternating with rocky mountain ranges. Over 80 percent of the surface is covered with limestone, including a high concentration of rocky peaks sitting over 2,000 meters above sea level.
Dong Van is the most touristy place on the route. There are many restaurants, tourist agencies, guesthouses and souvenir stalls. It is worth taking a walk to the old part of the city, nicely set and restored, consisting of 40 houses.
The section between Dong Van and Meo Vac is one of the best of the whole loop. There you can admire the spectacular mountains and the fabulously turquoise river in the valley. And all this riding along the edge of a very deep and steep gorge. Ma Pi Leng Pass is one of the most beautiful roads you can ride in Vietnam. The road was built by young people from 17 ethnic groups in the years 1959-1965. Hills, mountains, valleys and a winding road create a fantastic scenery. Kind of like a green Vietnamese version of the Grand Canyon.
In Meo Vac, it is worth to go to a morning market, which is less touristy than one in Bac Ha. It is not a market for tourists, but for the locals. There are hundreds of men and woman buying and selling everything from animals, clothing, rice, vegetables, corn wine and other day-to-day goods. Staying in Meo Vac you can go to a small Lolo village and observe the fast-disappearing tribe that inhabits the area. The Lolo are split into two groups: the black Lolo and the flower Lolo.
3 DAY (Distance: 180 km / 110 miles).
In the next section of Ha Giang Loop vast spaces, narrow roads, green rice fields await you. Beautiful views are not everything. Driving through many villages you can observe a bit of authentic mountain life.
The road is in good condition and almost created for riding a motorcycle, hugging the side of the mountains on one side, drops into valleys on the other side, and some nice up and downhill section. Du Gia is a popular stop during the tours of Ha Giang Loop. The sleepy town offers homestays and meals.
The road from Du Gia to Ha Giang seems short and simple. However, it is worth asking for details, due to the 10-kilometer section of a very rocky road. It is worth returning to the intersection by road 181, and then to Ha Giang by Quan Ba.
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