Trek in Dong Van Plateau Karst Geopark in Ha Giang
Trip code: HG8A, 8 days/ 7nights
(Hanoi – Ha Giang – Trek – Dong Van – Hanoi)
Dong Van Plateau Karst Geopark is a framework for this unique trek and is located in Vietnam’s northernmost province of Ha Giang. The area lies between 1000-1400 m above sea level and covers an area of approx. 574 km2, covering 4 districts of Quan Ba, Yen Minh, Meo Vac and Dong Van. The area is assessed by UNESCO to have considerable importance for science in particular geology (rock diversity, fossils, etc.). The terrain of this trek consists of two absolutely different kinds in which the first trekking areas are among thousands of cone-shaped rock mountains, connected by trails over mountain passes. This area is extremely rich rock – actually mountain peasants in some areas have major challenges in finding fertile soil to grow between the rocks and storing water for drinking through out dry seasons (from October to April). Meanwhile, the second part of the trek is among fertile land where dominated by fresh rivers and streams, rice terraces, green orchards and vegetable gardens. On the Geopark, there are hundreds of villages inhabited by different ethnic minority groups whose cultures are well-preserved and very typical. Among of them, you will have opportunities to see the White H’Mong, Red Dao, Co Lao, Lo Lo, Tay and Giay people. You will also experience nights in packed tents, on the floor in village schools as well as in local houses.
Day 1: Drive north to Ha Giang province (-, L, D)
Today you drive from Hanoi up to a northern province, namely Ha Giang. The infrastructure is not fully developed in northern Vietnam, so there is no alternative mode for your car. The ride will last most of the day, so you will have a lot of opportunity to observe everyday life in Vietnam mountainous and countryside areas while driving. The ride is through the hectic and vibrant cities, but you also witness the activities in the fields along the roads. We will of course set appropriate intermediate stops for lunch and photograph. In the late afternoon, you will arrive to the city center of Ha Giang where you will stay the next in a local hotel. Your dinner will be served in a local restaurant in the city.
Approx: 8 hours driving
Day 2: Transfer from Ha Giang to trekking point. Trek through White H’Mong villages (B, L, D)
In the morning, it will take you three hours to drive from Ha Giang to the starting point of the trek. Here, you will meet your team of porters who carry some of your luggage as well as trekking equipment such as tents, sleeping bags, food, etc for the trek. The village’s inhabitants in this area will undoubtedly consider this rarity with great interest as their very first times seeing foreigners. Today’s hike will take you through the White H’Mong area and in total you will pass 5-6 villages. The landscape consists mostly of rocks, corn fields and bamboo bushes. You will have lunch along the way, perhaps near the “Kho Chua” grotto, or “wind cave” as it means in the H’Mong language and spending your night a local school in one of the H’Mong village.
Approx: Grade 3 of 5 – 3 hours driving/ 4 hour trekking
Day 3: Trek through White H’Mong, Red Dao and Co Lao ethnic minority villages (B, L, D).
After breakfast, you will leave the White H’Mong village and move on for a full day of hiking. Soon you will find the rhythm and the good feeling of a long trek. This morning, you will pass three villages of Red Dao minority group and two others belonging to Co Lao minority. After lunch, you will move into the White H’Mong area again. All local minorities have their own languages and few of them can speak common language, the Vietnamese. Far from everyone speaks Vietnamese; however, our local guide from Ha Giang must translate from tribal language to Vietnamese as our guide from Hanoi can translate into English. Meanwhile, all minorities in the region are farmers who work hard on stones and rocks to earn their living. In this area, water is in short supply during much time of the year and this, coupled with the massive spread of rocks, makes it impossible to cultivate rice. Maize is the main crop here and maize wine has therefore here replaced traditional rice wine. Your lunch will be served en route and dinner at the overnight village of the H’Mong.
Approx: Grade 4 of 5 – 9 hour trekking
Day 4: Trek through dense forest, Co Lao villages (B, L, D)
After a start of half an hour walking, you will see a tiny village with traditional dark yellow mud houses of the H’Mong, magnificently dotted in the middle of black rock valley. You will descend to the village for exploring the culture before making a big ascent through rock mountains then among a primeval forest. Within one hour walking on stone trail in the forest, the view oppositely changes with the green covered a vast area and when you manage to get out, another spectacular village belonging to the Co Lao group appears in front. After visiting the village, you continue on village path, ascend on stone trails again over some rock mountains or through some rock fields via the villages of the H’Mong. The last effort of today is a long cross on a rock ridge, dotted by two corn-shaped mountains in the middle of a below valley. The cross is at its lowest point; meanwhile the rock trail offers magnificent view over valleys and villages. At its top, there are spacious spots beside local corn fields for a short break. You then continuously descend at the other side of the mountain on a well-arranged stone trail. A hidden H’Mong village in which you will spend overnight is located right at the other valley bottom.
Approx: Grade 4 of 5 – 9 hour trekking
Day 5: Leave rock areas for dirt terrain with green gardens and fields (B, L, D)
Over the next few days, the landscape and nature change significantly. From being dominated by rocks and with limited water supply, the landscape gradually opens up and reveals the wealth of peasants in an area with plenty of water in the form of streams and rivers. If the trek in the morning is still on the same terrain of rock mountains, fields and valleys as before, the long descent after lunch is toward and on an absolutely different terrain with dirt paths, rice terraces, rivers and green forests. From Ma Pi Leng Pass, you have an excellent view towards China in the north and Nho Que River lying deeply in the valley bottom. As you reach the Tay village located nearby the river, it is surrounded by lush gardens, where all sorts of fruits such as bananas, papaya, oranges, etc and vegetables are grown. Tonight, you will stay overnight in a local school of the Tay village.
Approx: Grade 4 of 5 – 9 hour trekking
Day 6: Trek among rice terraces, through Tay and Giay minority villages (B, L, D)
Today’s trek will be on dirt paths, through some villages of the Tay and Giay ethnic minority groups. You will have more opportunities to explore the beauty of landscape dominated by rice terraces, high mountains and fruit gardens. The first part of the trek is on a dirt path set by the river on one side and numerous bushes and orchards on the other. The track is then sometime with big ascents to villages located on mountain side. You also take a descent through a banyan tree jungle in which most giant banyans have become a big pride for the locals. Walking on dirt path through the jungle and then descend on trails running among rice terraces, you will arrive at the overnight village whose corn wine has become well-known national wide. The local Giay family will welcome you to their home and specially pride to introduce local products like corn wine and vegetables.
Approx: Grade 3 of 5 – 7 hour trekking
Day 7: Trek to northernmost point in Vietnam. Transfer to Dong Van town (B, L, D)
You can walk up early to explore the village in which most of the ancient houses are still in traditional styles with clay walls and tiled dark roofs. You then continue on dirt paths, walk in jungles and descend to a river. The trek continues with a river-cross with the regular level of water is beneath your knees. The trail is then continuously uphill and through a H’Mong village on the middle way. The scenery becomes more and more magnificent with endless rice terraces, some rivers and dozens of high mountains within your views. You then cross a dense jungle and ascend among rice terraces to another Giay village. From the village, you continue descending to another stream on trails among rice terraces. This time, the cross seems to be very easy on dry days. Once again, you ascend from hills to hills, then through pine forest. Eventually, you arrive at Lung Cu Flag Tower which marks the absolute northernmost point in Vietnam and thus the border area with China. After visiting the tower and an area display house nearby, you will get on your vehicle for a transfer to Dong Van town for a check-in a local hotel.
Approx: Grade 3 of 5 – 7 hour trekking/ 1 hour driving
Day 8: Drive from Dong Van back to Hanoi (B, L, -)
You may wake up early today to explore Dong Van town where there is an ancient market with old houses having existed for hundreds of years. However, you should also start your drive early because it will be a long transfer from Dong Van town back to Hanoi. After a breakfast at the hotel, it will take you around 4 hours on rough winding road from Dong Van to Ha Giang city then another 8 hours to Ha Noi on roads with better conditions. The mountain roads, especially the first part are really imposing. Your lunch will be served in a local restaurant on the way. You are supposed to arrive at Hanoi when it already gets dark.
Approx: 12 hours driving
Note: The ride today is very long, with the estimation of 12 hours through the distance of 500kms. If your time is abundant, we advise one extra night stay in Ha Giang City (after 4 driving hours) and then take another 8 hour ride from Ha Giang back to Hanoi. Therefore, the trip is extended to 9 days and the new price will be revised.
- English speaking guide
- Accommodation in local hotels in Ha Giang City and Dong Van Town (01 deluxe double room)
- H’Mong porters and motorbike (to carry food and luggage)
- All needed transport with AC vehicle
- All indicated meals (B as breakfast; L as lunch; D as dinner)
- Drinking water
- Sleeping bags and mattresses
- Mosquito net
- All entrance fees
- Overnight fees in local schools and villages
- Personal pocket money
- Drinks and Beverage
- Travel Insurance
- All other services not indicated above
Notes for the trip:
- The trek is really off-the-beaten track, the available local services are still simple; however, the area is definitely worth an adventure.
- The trekking area is close to Vietnam-China border, your passports and some copies are required to be checked sometimes. Please be understandable and ready for those!
- The trek is, as said in the overview part, mainly on rock trails with the 4th grade (9 trekking hours, from 25 to 30 kilometers per day). Hence, you are required to be professional and well-prepared (health condition).