Favored by outdoor lovers who wish to escape the hectic lifestyle and immerse themselves in the magnificent beauty of nature, trekking is becoming an increasingly popular form of tourism to the wider public, even more so as the pandemic has drawn our attention to healthier, more sustainable lifestyles.
Located in a tropical monsoon climate, typical of that of mainland Southeast Asia, Vietnam is home to many natural reserves and parks with diverse landscapes as the country spans over degrees of latitude. As a result, these national parks make for great hiking trails, each with its own distinctive ecosystem, climate, and ethnic locals.
If you’re looking for a change from the usual mass tourism trips, go off the beaten track and into the wild as we offer you four destinations for a trekking trip to natural parks across all regions of Vietnam — perfect for beginners and experts alike.
Nam Cát Tiên National Park
As part of the 70,548-hectare UNESCO-classified Cát Tiên biosphere reserve that stretches across three provinces in the Southeast region of Vietnam, Nam Cát Tiên national park resides in Dong Nai province, roughly 150km north of the bustling Ho Chi Minh City. With its verdant tropical forest, the park boasts unique fauna, flora, and animals with more than 600 species of plants, 240 species of birds, and 50 species of mammals.
With an entry ticket of only VND60,000 per person, nature enthusiasts can embark on a relatively relaxing trail with navigation signs across the area, or rent one of the means of transportation available, including bicycles.
Fifteen kilometers into the reserve is the famous Bau Sau wetland area, recognized by the Ramsar Convention Secretariat as one of the 2,000 wetlands in the world, which shelters hundreds of endangered crocodiles, notably the “Critically Endangered” Siamese crocodile on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Plunging deeper into the greenery of Nam Cat Tien, one may catch sight of the 400-year-old giant Tetrameles nudiflora ancient tree, “the symbol” of Nam Cat Tien, and the plenty of waterfalls cascading down against a backdrop of lowland tropical forests, including Troi, Ben Cu, and Mo Vet waterfalls, where travelers can go kayaking or take a dip.
The spring-summer period from December to May next year is ideal for recreational tours to the park, as adventurers can expect a drier, less rainy season conducive to their trekking journey, and a chance to witness swarms of majestic butterflies in their breeding season.
Núi Chúa Nature Reserve
One of the most prominent areas for nature conservation in Vietnam, Núi Chúa, lies at the coastline of Ninh Thuan province, approximately 350km from HCMC. Nestled amid the mountainous promontory of Núi Chúa, Núi Chúa National Park was named among the World Network of Biosphere Reserves by the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB) in September 2021 for its unique and mostly unscathed biodiversity. Spanning over a 30,000-hectare area, the natural reserve rests atop a height of more than 1,000-meter above sea level at its peak Cô Tuy, before sloping down to sea level and projecting into the South China Sea.
Part of the reserve shelters and preserves marine biodiversity, with sea turtle nesting beaches and over 350 fragile coral species of great ecological importance. At the same time, the park is home to an impressive 20,000 hectares of primeval forests and a diverse range of fauna, flora, and animal species.
The dry and sunny weather of Ninh Thuận province, combined with the lowest rainfall in south-central Vietnam, results in the unique semi-arid vegetation and coastal areas here. With the inherently hot and dry weather almost all year round, trekking here is quite strenuous and physically demanding. Traveling from late August to September is recommended to get away from the heat.
Ideally, with approximately two days at the park trekking through the popular Đa Hang Hamlet - Lồ Ồ Stream trail, travelers may enjoy the less touristy, more tranquil part of the area and explore the long-preserved culture and traditions of the ethnic Raglai people.
Pù Luông Nature Reserve
Located in Thanh Hoa province in the North Central Coast of Vietnam, Pù Luông is just about 150km from the capital Ha Noi — around 4 to 5 hours by car. While the area is endowed with abundant natural resources, Pù Luông is unique for the quaint hamlets and villages of the ethnic Black and White Thai people, along with the meandering terraced rice paddies only seen in mountainous regions. Higher up in the mountains, Pù Luông flexes its biodiversity with a collection of flora and fauna scattered throughout the tropical rainforest.
“The highest mount of the region” in the language of Thai people, Pù Luông juts out at the height of 1,700 meters above sea level as one of the more challenging yet exciting goals that nature enthusiasts wish to triumph. Nevertheless, visitors can experience other hiking paths of varying difficulty and characteristics, from the short path across Bầm village, the detour through Đôn, Ngòn, Leo hamlets to cherish the peaceful and nuanced way of life of the locals, or the more trying Son - Bá - Mười path uphill to the peak of Pù Luông.
Plan ahead your trip to Pù Luông in the summer months to escape the boiling heat of the city and take advantage of the pleasant, peaceful summer here, or wait until around the harvest season of September to October to experience the golden autumn months of the area.
Ba Vì National Park
Ba Vì National Park resides within Hoa Binh province, 60-km west of Ha Noi as an ideal day trip destination as the park enjoys all four distinct seasons of the year. To meet travelers’ expectations for short weekend expeditions, the park has opened up more diverse trekking routes, with the shortest 2-hour trip through the most outstanding areas of Ba Vì.
The national park covers a vast area of roughly 9,700 hectares and Ba Vì mountain range with its three peaks, namely Vua, Tản Viên, and Ngọc Hoa at an average altitude of 1,200 meters above sea level. With its inherently temperate weather, Ba Vì is home to a wide range of endemic animals, tree species, and particularly 503 species of herbal plants.
The beauty of the park lies in the many mysterious ruined French architecture relics, notably the popular old church on Cote 800. At the same time, visitors can submerge in the fresh waters within the campus of the Thien Son - Suoi Nga resort, a complex of dreamy lakes, waterfalls, and streams.