The Dong Van Karst Plateau is a well-known and popular destination in Vietnam that draws visitors from all over the world. Its sprawling limestone landscapes and breathtaking mountain views, along with the unique local culture, make it a must-see attraction. Come along with us and discover what makes this place so captivating!
Where is Dong Van Karst Plateau?
Nestled in Ha Giang, the Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark spans four distinct districts – Quan Ba, Yen Minh, Dong Van, and Meo Vac. This geological gem earned a spot in UNESCO’s Global Geoparks Network back in 2010, cementing its place as Vietnam’s premier geological park.
The park’s jaw-dropping landscape showcases an array of limestone peaks, intricately terraced rice fields, and charming traditional villages. Adding to its allure, the geopark is a melting pot of ethnic minority groups, each with their own fascinating customs and traditions. That’s reason why it’s a favorite destionation of the Ha Giang Loop.
How to get to Dong Van Karst Plateau?
Ha Giang City is a popular starting point for travelers who are eager to explore the natural beauty of Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark, along with other notable attractions in the province such as Quan Ba Twin Mountains, Lung Cu Flagpole, Dong Van, Ma Pi Leng Pass, Meo Vac, Yen Minh, and Hoang Su Phi.
Located about 320km away from Hanoi, the city can be easily reached by motorbike, local bus, or private car, taking around 6-7 hours of driving time. It is recommended to take a sleeper bus from Hanoi to Ha Giang to save your energy for the trip. Then you can rent a motorbike or join a Ha Giang motorbike tour to reach Dong Van.
After traveling approximately 150km on National Highway 4C, you will arrive at Dong Van Rock Plateau, another stunning destination that should not be missed.
What are the road conditions in Dong Van Karst Plateau?
The roads in Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark vary in quality. The primary road, QL4C (Ha Giang – Dong Van – Bao Lac), is generally decent, but some sections may be under constant repair, while smaller roads can be in poor condition.
Nevertheless, there are also secondary roads like the one from Dong Van to Lung Cu (via Mã Lé), which are in very good condition. Regardless, it is important to drive carefully throughout Ha Giang province.
What is the best time to visit Dong Van Karst Plateau?
It’s difficult to define what is the best time to do Ha Giang Loop or Dong Van Karst Plateau as each season has the unique charm. If you want to experience the pleasant weather and breathtaking views of the lush green rice terraces, the ideal time to visit Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark is from September to November and March to May. However, if you want to witness the enchanting buckwheat flower season, you should plan your visit between October and December.
What to do in Dong Van Karst Plateau?
You will find plenty of captivating sites to explore in Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark. From awe-inspiring natural and mountain landscapes to picturesque valleys, viewpoints, and ethnic villages, the geopark has it all. Below are some of the most interesting places that you must visit in Dong Van.
The mansion of Vuong Family
Located in Sa Phin Commune, about 14km from the town of Dong Van District, the Vuong Family mansion is a fascinating tourist attraction. Influenced heavily by traditional Chinese architecture, the mansion features pine woods, terra cotta tiles, and Chinese-writing decorations.
With 64 rooms spread over two floors, the mansion is adorned with carvings of dragons, phoenixes, and bats – symbols of royalty and prosperity. It was built by skilled craftsmen from Yunnan (China) and the best H’Mong builders over a period of 9 years starting from 1919.
The construction cost a whopping 150,000 silver coins, which is equivalent to 150 billion VND today. The Vuong Family’s Palace is a testament to the rich history of the H’mong ethnic people and is a source of great pride for them.
Dong Van Ancient Town
Exploring the culture, cuisine, and traditions of the local people while wandering in the old town is an incredibly enjoyable and exciting experience. Dong Van ancient town, which has been around for 100 years, boasts typical Chinese architecture with yin and yang symbols on its roofs and tiles and stone floors.
Dong Van Ancient Town has a collection of 40 ancient houses that are 100-300 years old. On every full-moon night, the street in the ancient town is beautifully lit up with lanterns of varying sizes and colors. Additionally, there are food stalls and cultural activities available on those days.
Dong Van Fair Market
A visit to the fair market held every Sunday in Dong Van is a must-do activity. Located in the historic Dong Van ancient town, the market transforms the highland town into a vibrant and exciting destination from 5 AM to 10 AM.
The market attracts ethnic people from H’mong, Tay, Nung, and Hoa ethnic minorities, who come to buy and sell goods as well as socialize and meet each other. The market is a lively and friendly local affair, full of color and surprise. Exploring one of the many markets in Ha Giang is sure to reveal many unique and fascinating things.
Lung Cu Flag Tower
Located approximately 25km north of Dong Van and just a few kilometers from the Chinese border, Lung Cu is a towering flagpole that was constructed in 2010 to signify the northernmost point of Vietnam.
The flag tower was designed after the flag tower in Hanoi, and serves to assert Vietnam’s position and sovereignty, while also honoring the bravery and patriotism of the people and soldiers in the border region.
The flag atop the tower measures 54 square meters, symbolizing the unity of the 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam. From the top of the flag tower, visitors can enjoy a stunning panoramic view of Dong Van District.
Sung La Valley
Sung La Valley, located approximately 20km away from Dong Van District, is well-known for its enchanting flower gardens, attracting a multitude of tourists with its quaint beauty, serene small log homes, verdant cornfields, and delightful buckwheat flowers.
Spring is regarded as the most stunning season in Sung La Valley, when numerous flowers burst into bloom, turning the entire natural setting of the typical karst plateau landscape into a splendid array of colors, making it an excellent spot for photography.
In the heart of Sung La Valley lies a tiny village named Lung Cam, consisting of 61 households residing in 100-year-old wall houses. Visitors can experience the local lifestyle, cuisine, and cultural values here. Furthermore, the village served as the setting for the renowned 2006 film “Pao’s Story.”
Ma Pi Leng Pass
One of the most scenic yet treacherous routes in Vietnam is Ma Pi Leng Pass, which lies within the Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark. With a length of around 20km and an altitude of roughly 1500m above sea level, the pass is renowned for its breathtaking views of limestone mountains, verdant forests, and vast blue skies.
Its name in the H’mong language, “Ma Pi Leng,” refers to its shape, which resembles a horse’s nose bridge. A trip to Ha Giang would not be complete without conquering this pass and marveling at the romantic landscape, especially the turquoise Nho Que River, which flows like a soft silk ribbon at the foot of the pass. Visitors can even take a boat ride or go kayaking to explore the stunning surroundings.
Khau Vai Love Market
Situated in Khau Vai Commune, Meo Vac District, the market is around 170km from Ha Giang City. Tourists can enjoy traditional games, exciting activities, explore the Meo Vac night market, and savor local specialties. Moreover, ethnic costumes, jewelry, and musical instruments are showcased at the market, and visitors can purchase some as souvenirs.
On the 26th and 27th day of the third lunar month, Khau Vai Love Market is held, which is one of the most famous and distinctive markets in Ha Giang. Ex-lovers meet at this market, which sets it apart from other love markets.
The event attracts many locals from different hill tribes, such as Nung, Tay, San Chi, Lo Lo, Dzao, and Giay. On this occasion, they wear their finest traditional attire and gather at the market to share their emotions with their former partners.
Husbands and wives attend the market together and then search for their ex-partners among the crowd. This market gathering is a temporary occasion that does not affect their everyday lives or relationships.
Dong Van Karst Plateau: Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the best time to visit the Dong Van Karst Plateau?
The best time to visit the Dong Van Karst Plateau is from September to November, when the weather is cool and dry, and the rice terraces turn golden yellow. However, the region can be visited all year round, with each season offering its own unique charm.
- How do I get to the Dong Van Karst Plateau?
The easiest way to get to the Dong Van Karst Plateau is by taking a bus from Hanoi to Ha Giang City, and then hiring a motorbike or taking a local bus to Dong Van Town. Alternatively, visitors can hire a private car or join a guided tour from Hanoi.
- Is it safe to travel to the Dong Van Karst Plateau?
The Dong Van Karst Plateau is generally safe for visitors, but it’s important to take precautions, such as wearing a helmet while riding a motorbike, staying hydrated, and following local customs and traditions.
- What should I pack for a trip to the Dong Van Karst Plateau?
Visitors to the Dong Van Karst Plateau should pack warm clothes, comfortable shoes for hiking, sunscreen, insect repellent, and a camera to capture the stunning scenery.
- What is the food like in the Dong Van Karst Plateau?
The food in the Dong Van Karst Plateau is a mix of Vietnamese and ethnic minority cuisines, with a focus on fresh local ingredients. Visitors can try local specialties such as Thang Co (horse meat soup), Banh Cuon (steamed rice rolls), and sticky rice cooked in bamboo tubes.
- Can I visit the Dong Van Karst Plateau independently or do I need a guide?
Visitors can explore the Dong Van Karst Plateau independently, but hiring a guide or joining a guided tour can enhance the experience by providing deeper insights into the local culture and history.
In conclusion, Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark is a gem of northern Vietnam that should not be missed. With its stunning natural landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and unique experiences, it is a destination that will leave a lasting impression on any traveler.