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Hill Tribes and Caves: Hiking in Vietnam

Curving around Cambodia and Laos, its east coast reaching all the way up to China, Vietnam is a country of intriguing history and glorious and varied landscapes.

Curving around Cambodia and Laos, its east coast reaching all the way up to China, Vietnam is a country of intriguing history and glorious and varied landscapes. With some of the finest and most diverse treks and trails in the region be explored, a hiking holiday in Vietnam is an unforgettable experience.

Thanks to deeply ingrained indigenous cultures, especially in its remote highlands, combined with the colonizing influence of the French and a historic war that tore the land apart, Vietnam is a country worth exploring for its past, its culture and its stunning landscapes. Discover rolling highlands planted with coffee and rice, scale soaring peaks, visit hill tribes and plunge into a jungle within a vast cave; here are some of our hiking highlights in Vietnam:

Dalat city view, Vietnam. The architecture of Da Lat is mostly the style of the French colonial period
Dalat, Vietnam

Highlands and plantations

Explore the enchanting scenery in central Vietnam, where the landscape is green and verdant and the climate temperate and pleasant. The beautiful alpine city of Dalat – known as “Petit Paris” for its elegant colonial architecture left behind by the French elite who favored it as a holiday destination – lies in the highlands to the north of Ho Chi Minh and enjoys cooler temperatures than the big city. Surrounded by undulating green hills and soaring peaks beyond, it is a gorgeous launch pad for your hiking adventure.

Nearby Lang Biang mountain is a popular and relatively challenging climb and the views of the city below are well worth the trek. About a four-hour, leisurely drive north into the hills lies Buon Me Thuot, where a hike through wild forests along the Krong Ana River will bring you to the stunning Dray Sap and Dray Nur waterfalls.

A little to the south lies the rolling green sprawl of Yok Don National Park, through which scenic trails wind through lush plantations. Walk along the trail of the Srepok River and look out for muntjac deer and playful monkeys, as well as a number of species of birdlife including storks and hornbills.

Still further north, plunge even deeper into the countryside to the pretty town of Kon Tum, from where you can head out in search of what is considered some of the best coffee in the world.

Hike through the gorgeous highland scenery to the Trung Nguyen coffee village, where a perfect cup of deep-roasted, traditionally-made vietnamese coffee awaits you. Choose from the many variations, including egg and yogurt coffee, and savor the flavor as you soak up your stunning surroundings amid the pretty gardens, beneath the shade of the coffee trees.


Landscape view of rice terrace in Sapa,Vietnam.
Rice Terraces in Sapa

Rice terraces

For truly gorgeous panoramas, there’s no landscape to rival that of the rice terraces in the region of Sapa, right by the Chinese border. The town itself was established as a hill station by the French in the 1920s and these days, as its charms continue to lure an increasing number of travelers, it is developing into a bustling town. It is out in the surrounding countryside that the real beauty of Sapa is to be found. From the pretty capital of Hanoi, why not head north aboard an elegant sleeper train and wake up bright and fresh in the higher altitudes, ready to start your hiking adventure. Leisurely treks take you through the rice paddies, stretching for miles and still greener miles; see the locals working in the fields and walk through rural villages, nestled in the foothills of the towering peaks of the Hoang Lien Mountains. Among them is Fansipan, Vietnam’s highest peak and a favorite among hikers looking for a challenge. The trek takes up to four days, through forests inhabited by wildlife including monkeys, mountain goats and highland birds; the summit, often shrouded in cloud, makes for stunning and mysterious vistas. Hike to more unbelievable vantage points around beautiful Sapa including Heaven’s Gate, Vietnam’s highest stretch of road, located on the provincial border, or head up to Tram Ton Pass, past the “silver waterfall”. From these lofty elevations, you can enjoy spectacular valley and mountain views; don’t forget your camera.


Hmong women at Bac Ha market in Northern Vietnam.
Hmong women at Bac Ha market in Northern Vietnam.


For a sense of authentic Vietnam, plunge even deeper into the north, off Sapa’s more well-trodden paths and into the hills to meet the tribal communities who keep their historic customs alive. From Sapa town, make the journey to Tha Phin through Black Hmong and Red Dzao villages. Around the pretty town of Bao Lac are a number of communities whose traditions and style of dress are unique and distinct. Visit the Flowery Hmong and the Black Lo Lo in the surrounding hills and experience the bustle when the Red Hmong, Black Zao and San Chay communities come together in town for market day. Take the scenic journey along a high ridge to the east of Sapa and find your way through the Black Hmong settlements of Sa Seng and Hang Da, finally descending down to the Ta Van River. Through Sung La Valley, you can reach Lung Cam Tren Village and enjoy a performance of Khen music and dance performed by the incumbent Hmong people.

Son Doong, the World's Biggest Cave.
Son Doong, the World’s Biggest Cave.


For the most intrepid hikers, the ultimate adventure is an expedition to Son Doong, the world’s biggest cave. Just north of Hue, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park boasts gorgeous natural surroundings and within, your ultimate destination. Trek down into river valleys, framed by rolling hills and thick forests, and camp right in the jungle, beneath the stars. The journey to the cave is just the beginning of the adventures to be had: pass through its vast mouth and plunge in, descending almost 300 feet to explore its cavernous passageways; cross underground rivers and around spectacular stalactites to find your way to the “Garden of Eden”, a miraculous jungle growing within the cliff-like walls. Set up camp amid this jaw-dropping scene and spend the night within Son Doong, for an unforgettable experience.