Northern Vietnam’s top tickets is the wildly popular Halong Bay, and nearby Cat Ba Island offers excellent hiking, biking and rock climbing. The karst connection continues into Cao Bang province – an essential detour are the sublime lakes of Ba Be National Park – and then west into Ha Giang, Vietnam’s emerging destination for travellers, which hugs the Chinese border.
Further west the landscape segues into towering evergreen peaks and fertile river valleys. This is the heartland of hill-tribe culture with markets enlivened by the scarlet headdresses of the Dzao, the indigo fabrics of the Black H’mong and the brocaded aprons of the Flower H’mong.
Sapa is a great base for hiking and stunning vistas of Fansipan, Vietnam’s highest peak. From this former French hill station, the fabled northwest loop road crosses high mountain passes to historic Dien Bien Phu, before crossing lush lowland valleys south to sleepy Mai Chau.
Best Places to Eat
Best Places to Stay
When to Go HaLong Bay
Jan-Mar Cool and drizzly; fog in Halong Bay and very cold overnight lows in Sapa.
May-Aug Tropical storms in the northeast, which may disrupt Halong Bay tours.
Oct-Dec The best time to be around Sapa and Halong Bay.