Having heard nothing but great things about the extreme Ha Giang Loop in North Vietnam, I had to journey up into the mountains to experience it for myself. The Ha Giang Loop road is an unforgettable 3 days – 350km – round trip adventure that will lead you through majestic landscapes of pinnacle limestone cliffs, deep craterous valleys and ancient traditional villages. The Ha Giang region lacks infrastructure and it is far from westernised, though this ultimately helps to keep the place untouched and unspoiled.
WHERE IS THE HA GIANG LOOP & HOW TO GET THERE
Hanoi to Ha Giang
The Ha Giang Loop is located 310km north of Hanoi in the Ha Giang region. The best way to get to Ha Giang from Hanoi is to take a sleeper bus that takes around 7 hours for 200,000 VND ($9). You can choose to travel on the bus during the day or take an overnight bus. I recommend taking the overnight bus that leaves at 9pm from Hanoi and arrives in Ha Giang at 4am. This way you will save money on one night’s accommodation. The easiest way to book a bus is via your accommodation and they will organise for you to be picked up at the front door by the bus company.
Sapa to Ha Giang
If you are travelling from Sapa to Ha Giang you will have to take a 7-hour minibus that departs from the central bus station in Sapa town. Buses leave twice a day at 8am and 10am and the cost is 150,000 VND that is paid directly to the driver. Again, organise your bus the day before travel via your accommodation in Sapa and they will contact the bus company to reserve you a spot.
A hairpin road on the Ha Giang Loop
ARRIVING IN HA GIANG
When you arrive in Ha Giang on the bus, whether it be a 4am arrival from Hanoi or a 3pm arrival from Sapa, I recommend spending at least one night in Ha Giang.
I recommend this because it is likely that after a 7-hour bus journey to Ha Giang the last thing you will want to do is jump straight into the 3 days Ha Giang Loop adventure. Also, you will need to organise a motorbike rental and get a map with valuable information before setting off on the most epic experience you will ever have – The Ha Giang Loop.
HA GIANG ACCOMMODATION – BEFORE & AFTER HA GIANG LOOP
There a number of accommodations to choose from in Ha Giang though there is one place, in particular, that I highly recommend and that is the Truong Xuan Resort.
Thiet, the resort manager, made everything a breeze when I arrived. I was picked up from the bus station upon arrival and taken to the resort. He went out of his way to make sure I was set and ready to conquer the 3 days Ha Giang Loop. Thiet provided me with a map with clear directions, recommendations on where to stay, and must-see locations on the Ha Giang Loop.
If you are travelling with a lot of luggage you are invited to leave your big bags at the resort and just take a small daypack on your 3 day Ha Giang Loop journey.
There are 3 room options to choose from at Truong Xuan Resort. Each room has a large double bed or twin beds, tv, air conditioning, private bathroom, bar fridge, coffee table and an outdoor balcony.
Superior double room with a garden view: $26 per night
King room with a garden view: $35 per night
Deluxe double room with a river view: $40 per night
Click HERE to check availability and book in advance.
My river view room at Truong Xuan Resort
WHERE TO RENT A MOTORBIKE FOR THE HA GIANG LOOP
If you decide to stay at the Truong Xuan Resort, they have 15 different motorbikes to choose from that are available for rental to take you on your 3 days Ha Giang Loop journey.
5 x Semi-automatic scooters: $7 per day
5 x Automatic scooters: $9 per day
5 x 150cc motorcycles: $17 per day
Alternatively, there is another motorbike rental company in Ha Giang, you can head over to www.hagiangmotorbike.com and browse other options on their website.
For those who are not competent in riding a motorbike and would prefer to take a car around the Ha Giang Loop then this is also an option. You can rent a 5 seater car and an experienced driver to take you around the Ha Giang Loop for $130. To book the car option you can organise this quite easily via your accommodation.
My stallion – 150cc motorcycle for $17 per day
HA GIANG LOOP ITINERARY
DAY 1: HA GIANG LOOP
Before you take off on your extreme Ha Giang Loop adventure, be sure to have a full tank of gas, plenty of drinking water, sunscreen and closed in shoes. Then once you are all set up and good to ride, it’s time to get the show on the road.
The best and most recommended route to take is to head clockwise around the Ha Giang Loop and make tracks to Dong Van to spend the first night. I set off from Ha Giang at 8am and headed north into the mountains for what was the beginning of the most epic 3 days I have ever had.
The phenomenal scenery on the Ha Giang Loop
The journey begins on the Ha Giang Loop
An epic road cutting around the mountain
DAY 1: HA GIANG LOOP continued…
The distance between Ha Giang and Dong Van is 150km and it took me around 6 – 7 hours including stops to get there. The road started to wind higher and deeper into the pinnacle limestone mountains and after about an hour or two into the ride I was completely mind blown… mind blown at the sight of the mysterious landscapes that were unfolding in front of my eyes around every hairpin corner. I stopped at least 30 times that morning to pull out my camera and the drone to be sure to capture the beauty of it all.
The first viewpoint I came to on the Ha Giang Loop was Heaven’s Gate. There is a small car park and a cafe in the clouds, perfect for a short pit stop to stretch the legs.
There are countless incredible viewpoints that can be found along the 4C main road between Ha Giang and Dong Van, it’s just a matter of cruising at a slow pace to soak it all in.
Heavens gate viewpoint
Impressive limestone pinnacles
The road to Dong Van
DAY 1: HA GIANG LOOP continued…
I arrived in Dong Van at around 3pm with no accommodation booked as of yet. I had a quick look on the booking.com app on my phone and I was able to find a cheap hostel, Dong Van B & B, to spend the night. The cost for one night accommodation was 130,000 VND for a bed in a dorm room and breakfast was included. To book Dong Van B & B in advance you can click HERE to check availability and rates.
There were a few hours till sunset so I took this time to relax at the hostel and recharge my camera batteries before heading out again to shoot the sunset. I went into the city centre of Dong Van for an early dinner and then rode my motorbike to the top of a nearby mountain peak, making it just in time to watch the sun setting over the beautiful cityscape of Dong Van.
Back at the hostel, the staff invited me to join a family dinner of local cuisine for only 60,000 VND. I was still quite full from the meal I had only 2 hours prior to this but I couldn’t decline their kind invitation.
The food court in Dong Van city centre
Chasing the sunset
Made it to the top of the mountain to watch the sunset over Dong Van
DAY 2: HA GIANG LOOP
After a good night rest, I felt recharged and ready to continue the journey on day 2 of my Ha Giang Loop adventure. Before leaving Dong Van I went to check out the ruins of Don Cao French Fortress. Don Cao is a 5-minute ride from the city centre and there is a steep driveway that you can ride all the way to the top. Don Cao sits on top of the highest limestone peak in the Dong Van district offering 360-degree views at the top.
After exploring the Don Cao French Fortress I set off in the direction of Meo Vac, a small industrial village about 40km from Dong Van.
The steep driveway to the Don Cao Fortress
Rice terraces in Dong Van
Standing on top of the Don Cao French Fortress
The entrance to Don Cao Fortress
DAY 2: HA GIANG LOOP continued…
One of the best viewpoints I found on this day was at Mai Pi Leng, just 10km outside of Dong Van. You will see a small tea house on the corner of a sharp bend around one of the mountain peaks. Park your motorbike at the front and walk through the tea house to a spiral staircase out the back door. This will lead you down to a viewing platform that overlooks the impressive Song Nho Que River cutting its way through the valley and outrageous cliffs in the backdrop.
As I was driving through Meo Vac, a storm cloud started to form above me, so I stopped in at a small convenient store to take shelter out of the rain. I was told that Meo Vac was an optional place to stay for the 2nd night out here on the Ha Giang Loop but it felt very industrial and not that appealing to me so I decided to keep on going.
The spiral staircase down to the Mai Pi Leng viewpoint
The incredible mountainous backdrop at Mai Pi Leng
Overlooking the Song Nho Que River at Mai Pi Leng
DAY 2: HA GIANG LOOP continued…
At the end of the main road in Meo Vac, you will have to make a right-hand turn off the 4C road and on to the 176 road. The 176 will take you south-east and back in the direction of Ha Giang. The best place to stay for the 2nd night is Du Gia, a small village at the bottom of a valley between two mountains. The road towards Du Gia snakes up and over several ranges and the scenery just keeps getting more and more fascinating.
Again, I arrived in Du Gia without any accommodation booked and so I stopped in at the first hostel I saw, Du Gia Backpackers Hostel, and they offered me a private room for 100,000 VND including breakfast. If you wish to book this hostel in advance you can CLICK here to check availability and rates.
I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening at the hostel after the 6-hour ride from Dong Van to Du Gia. The hostel put on a dinner for us travellers that were staying there and the cost was 80,000 VND for a big feast of local cuisine.
On the road to Du Gia
Incredible landscapes just outside of Meo Vac
The last corner before arriving into Du Gia
A small stream divides two mountains
DAY 3: HA GIANG LOOP
Day 3 started off slow for me as I knew that the last leg of the journey back to Ha Giang was only a 2.5 hour ride from Du Gia. I had a big breakfast and a coffee at the hostel in the morning before setting off.
Before you leave Du Gia I highly recommend visiting the Du Gia Waterfall, a short 10-minute ride from the village. If you are using google maps on your phone, the Du Gia waterfall is very easy to find. You’ll find a dirt carpark at the end of the trail, park your bike here and hike along the edge of the running stream for 5 – 10 minutes until you reach the falls.
When I arrived there was a young child playing in the dirt and he then insisted that I should follow him up stream to the Du Gia waterfall. He played the role of my tour guide even though it was impossible to get lost. Before reaching the falls there is a number of rock pools and natural slides where there were a dozen local kids making the most of mother natures playground.
My local guide at Du Gia Waterfall 😉
The trail to Du Gia waterfall
DAY 3: HA GIANG LOOP continued…
The kids were showing off their skills by cliff jumping from the top of the falls into the deep rock pool below. I spent the best part of an hour here, swimming in the fresh water pools and cliff jumping with the locals! As I made my way back to the carpark the same young kid insisted to walk me back along the trail to my bike. I had a scrunched up plastic bag in my backpack and so I decided to pick up some rubbish along the way, doing my little bit for the environment. My good friend Jackson Groves came up with the idea of an ‘Adventure Bag’ and it means collecting a bag of trash whenever you are on a hike or on an adventure. As I started to pick up some rubbish off the ground, I was so amazed to see the young kid follow my lead and he started to pick up handfuls of trash alongside me and help me to fill the ‘Adventure Bag’. A great way to influence the kids and I invite everyone to join the movement and give back to the environment.
Mother Nature’s playground
Emerald pools at Du Gia waterfall
Drone shot of Du Gia waterfall
Natural water slides at Du Gia waterfall
DAY 3: HA GIANG LOOP continued…
I departed from Du Gia waterfall to make the 2.5 hour journey back to Ha Giang and complete the extreme northern loop. I started descending down a number of snaking roads through the mountain ranges and was silently wishing that the Ha Giang Loop would never end. The last 20km of the road before reaching Ha Giang was not the most enjoyable as they are in the process of resurfacing the road. It was a bumpy, slippery, gravel road that forced me to ride at a max speed of 30km per hour. This 20km stretch of terrible road was the only bad experience I had over the 3-day duration.
I arrived back to Ha Giang at around 2pm and I decided to stay one more night at the Truong Xuan Resort. The following day I took a 7-hour bus ride back to Hanoi. Of all the extreme adventures I have had on my travels over past few years, the Ha Giang Loop makes it to the top of my list and I highly recommend it to all!
Enjoying the last bit of the journey
Beautiful rice terraces and a freshwater stream
THE HA GIANG LOOP – THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
The main thing I would like to point out here is the condition of the road on the Ha Giang Loop. No matter what your skill level is as a rider, the roads on the loop are in excellent condition in some areas and also sketchy and dangerous in other areas. I can’t stress enough to pay full attention to the road and other road users take it slow and steady. There is no need to speed and be sure to make your self known on blind corners by sounding your horn.
The weather can be very sporadic in the Ha Giang region, so be prepared to experience all the elements on your 3-day adventure. Take a rain jacket in case it downpours and warm clothing for the cool temperatures at nights. I recommend wearing a long sleeve shirt or sunscreen when riding during the peak sun hours of the day, otherwise, your skin will get burnt to a crisp.
There are ATM machines in the bigger towns such as Ha Giang and Dong Van if you do need to take out some cash.
There are minimal petrol stations along the Ha Giang Loop but I recommend to fill up your tank whenever you hit the halfway mark just to be safe. I filled my tank twice over the 3 days, once in Ha Giang and once in Dong Van. I spent a total of 200,000 VND for two tanks of fuel.
HA GIANG LOOP MAP
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST IN VIETNAM
I hope you enjoyed reading this article and if you have any questions regarding the Ha Giang Loop, please drop me a comment below.
Happy Adventuring 🙂
PIN IT FOR LATER !!