Are you interested in doing the Ha Giang Loop?
You’ve come to the right article as I’ve backpacked Vietnam and completed the Ha Giang Loop.
The Ha Giang Loop has become more and more popular in recent years, particularly among those backpacking in Vietnam.
It offers some of the most scenic views in all of Southeast Asia and creates memories to last a lifetime. The Ha Giang Loop is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
But there are lots of questions to be answered before setting out on the trip.
As a full-time traveller, with a lot of my blog content focusing on Vietnam, I have created this complete guide with everything you need to know about the Ha Giang Loop.
So let’s get right into it.
This article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one of these links, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. It helps me to keep my site up and running! Read my disclaimer for more information.
What is the Ha Giang Loop?
The Ha Giang Loop is a common road route in the very north of Vietnam, close to the Chinese border. It’s rapidly grown in popularity recently and is now considered by many a “must-do” in Vietnam.
Its name comes from the province the loop explores, Hà Giang, which is also the name of one of Vietnam’s northernmost cities and a key stop on the route. And the word “loop” describes the shape of the route, it’s almost a circular route.
The roads are so unique as they wind from side to side in a way that’s so extreme, it seems made up. But that’s part of the fun.
Ha Giang Loop’s biggest selling point is the views. Along the loop, you will get some incredible and breathtaking views of the mountainous north. With rice fields, green mountains, canyons and even some lakes and rivers making up most of the views.
And there are lots of stopping points where you can get authentic cultural experiences unlike those you may get in the more touristy parts of Vietnam.
Where is the Ha Giang Loop?
The Ha Giang Loop is in the north of Vietnam, pretty much as far north as you can get. It’s in the province of Ha Giang – hence the name – and is less than 100km away from the border with China.
If you aren’t familiar with Vietnam’s geography, the south of Vietnam is very much beaches and islands, whereas the north is more mountainous and filled with jungles.
When driving the Ha Giang Loop, you will be driving through the best mountain ranges north Vietnam has to offer, it’s truly an out-of-this-world experience.
Getting from Hanoi to Ha Giang takes approximately 5 to 6 hours, which is most likely where you would come from. There are lots of options and like most of the time in Southeast Asia, you can get buses there for pennies. That’s one of the reasons the Ha Giang Loop is so popular amongst those backpacking Southeast Asia.
How to do the Ha Giang Loop
There are a few options when it comes to doing the Ha Giang Loop. The two main options are to either go as part of a tour or do it yourself.
Most people who choose to do the loop themself will rent a moped or a bike and set off on their own itinerary. The rental companies are quite relaxed in Vietnam when it comes to checking licensing and insurance so many people risk riding a bike with no prior experience or insurance, resulting in many accidents and huge hospital bills.
But riding a bike is the best way to do the route, so it’s up to you if you want to risk it or not. What I will say is that if the police stop you and check your documents – or lack of documents – you will be made to pay a fine, and most of the time the price is at their discretion. But once you have paid the fine once, you don’t have to pay it again…
Other people choose to go as part of a tour. There are usually 3 main tour options. Firstly, ride your own bike. The same conditions apply as above. Secondly, sit on the back of a bike of someone who actually knows how to ride one and has a license. Or you can do the loop in a car or minibus kind of vehicle.
In my opinion, it’s always best to do it on a bike. It’s a more complete experience as you feel the wind in your face and get to be fully immersed in the mountains and nature. So if you don’t want to ride yourself, hop on the back with someone. It’s so much better than being inside a vehicle.
How much does the Ha Giang Loop Cost?
If you choose to take a tour of the Ha Giang Loop, you can expect it to cost about 4 million VND (£135 / €155 / $170). You can book a tour online if you want to be prepared and guarantee your tour, but it’s cheaper to book a tour in person in Hanoi or anywhere else in the northern part of Vietnam.
Doing the tour yourself, the price gets a bit more confusing, but it does work out cheaper. You can rent a bike for less than 200,000 VND a day, which is only £7 / €8 / $9, crazy cheap!
In terms of fuel, around 50,000 dong each day would be enough. Again, you can see how cheap it is.
For food and accommodation, it depends on how you like to eat and sleep. If you are on a shoestring budget, you can get by on 300,00 VND a day. If you have a larger budget, well the sky’s the limit but I’d be impressed if you spent more than 1 million VND daily.
The actual loop itself and most of the key stops are completely free, the viewpoints, etc. But some do charge an entry fee. It’s never more than 90,000 dong though, so it’s not too much in the grand scheme of things.
If you choose to do the tour yourself, budget at least 700,000 VND daily just to be safe. In other currencies, that’s £24 / €27 / $30 so it’s really not that expensive at all. It’s most likely cheaper than living at home. Imagine getting to experience something as incredible as the Ha Giang Loop for less than living in your house costs!
How long does the Ha Giang Loop Take?
Most people will spend 3-4 days doing the Ha Giang Loop. The total distance of the driving route is in and around 350 kilometres. So it’s up to you how long you want to spend driving it.
Some people will only take 2 days but in my opinion, this isn’t enough. You don’t want to rush through the route and drive all day, not stopping to take in the stunning landscapes, or spending an hour here and there in villages you drive through to speak to locals and get a feel for the Vietnamese culture.
Spending 4 days is the perfect amount of time. It allows you to take the route at a leisurely pace, driving for around 85 kilometres each day, meaning you have plenty of time to stop at viewpoints, attractions, and any other places you wish to spend some time.
The loop isn’t a race, it’s an experience. And there’s no point rushing and missing the opportunity to make memories that will last a lifetime.
Things to pack for the Ha Giang Loop
Since you’re setting off on a 3 or 4 day adventure, you need to make sure you have everything that you’ll need packed. You don’t want to find yourself needing something in the middle of nowhere. Don’t worry though- most villages do have places for you to buy some things if you forget the likes of a water bottle or something that would be common in shops.
It’s also worth noting that if you take a tour, you can leave the brunt of your luggage with things you don’t need for the tour at the company’s base. If you are doing the loop yourself, either find somewhere in Hanoi to leave it like a hostel, or you’re going to have to bring it with you.
To help you prepare, here’s a short packing list with everything you need to take on the Ha Giang Loop:
- Comfortable clothes: You’re going to be doing a lot of riding and exploring, so make sure you are comfortable. If you are riding a bike with no prior experience, you’ll probably not want to wear shorts…
- Clothes for all conditions: Although snow in Vietnam is very rare, if it occurs, it’s in the mountains in the north where the loop is. It can also get very misty, rainy and cold in northern Vietnam.
- Good shoes: If you are riding a bike you need proper footwear, flip-flops aren’t appropriate. You’ll also want to have something decent on your feet if you are hiking to a viewpoint or exploring a cave.
- A coat: As you can see from the picture below, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. It can get pretty chilly and misty in the mountains, and it rains a bit too.
- Headtorch: Small villages won’t have street lights so if you are out at night, you need a way to see where you are going. They also come in handy for exploring caves.
- Phone/Camera/GoPro: It would be a sin to drive the Ha Giang Loop and not take any photos or videos. It’s one of the most picturesque regions of the world, so be sure to capture it in any way you can.
- Hat/scarf/bandana: Or anything else to protect your face and neck from the wind and bugs that come flying at you while you are going 30 km/hr along windy jungle roads.
- Normal essentials: Anything else you would pack if you are going away for a few days. Toiletries, a towel, change of clothes, chargers, portable charging packs, etc.
Ha Giang Loop: Top Tips
Although it’s a wonderful trip, the Ha Giang Loop can have its bumps and challenges. But that’s what makes experiences like this worth it, right? Nonetheless, here are some top tips for completing the loop to help make your trip go as smoothly as possible.
✅ You need a Ha Giang Permit: To be able to ride past Ha Giang (the city) and particularly the parts of the loop near the Chinese border, you need a Ha Giang Permit. It’s included as part of a tour, or if you are renting a bike, simply ask the rental company if they can sort one for you. Or you can head to the Ha Giang Immigration Office and get one for yourself. They cost around 230,000 VND.
✅ Download offline maps: The mobile data in the mountainous regions of north Vietnam is very hit or miss. In some areas, you will lose connection completely, even if you have a Vietnamese SIM card. To help overcome this and avoid getting lost, download Ha Giang’s maps on Google Maps or maps.me so you can use the maps even with no signal.
✅ Have Google translate: As you are venturing out of the most touristy areas, English isn’t spoken as widely as it is in Hanoi or HCMC, so you’ll need a way to community with locals, particularly in small towns and villages. Again, make sure to download Vietnamese so you can use it offline. Be sure to learn some basics too though, like hello, thank you or goodbye in Vietnamese.
✅ The roads aren’t easy: Just a heads up, the roads aren’t the easiest to drive on. The quality of roads is less than desirable, and the windy bends make them pretty difficult, even for experienced riders. Not to mention the sheer drops on either side of some narrow roads with no barriers. Food for thought if you are debating whether to hire a bike for yourself.
✅ Get fuel when you have 25-30km left in the tank: The petrol or gas stations are approximately 25-30 kilometres apart from each other, so if you pass one and your fuel odometer is around the same, make sure to stop and top up. As I said earlier, the fuel is really cheap.
✅ Take photos of your bike: If you are renting a bike from a rental company, take photos of every angle of the bike before you leave their property. Many rental companies will accuse you of damaging the bike and try to get you to pay for repairs that you didn’t even cause. Taking photos avoids any possibility of dispute.
✅ Get an international driver’s license: Even if you have a driving license to ride a bike in your home country, it may not permit you to ride one in Vietnam. Check if you can get an international driving license. They’re usually pretty cheap and mean you are fully permitted to ride a bike in Vietnam (according to the law- not according to rental companies haha)
✅ Check the fine print of your insurance: If you are insured to ride a bike in your home country, you are probably covered to ride in other countries, but make sure to check. And also check the details on what cc of bike you can ride. Most allow you up to 125cc but often the bikes in Vietnam are higher than this, so see if you can get a bike within your allowance.
Ha Giang Loop Checklist
If you want a simple checklist of places to stop, here are the widely considered must-see locations. Of course, while you are driving, you are going to stop spontaneously for a beautiful view here and there, or in a random village you come across. But for simplicity’s sake, here are the must-stop places along the Ha Giang Loop.
- Ha Giang
- Bac Sum Pass
- Heaven’s Gate (Quan Ba Pass)
- Tam Son
- Lung Khuy Cave
- Quan Ba
- Yên Minh
- Sung La Valleys
- Lũng Cú Flag Tower
- Dong Van
- Ma Pi Leng Pass
- Nho Que River
- Mèo Vạc
- Bảo Lâm
- Du Gia
- Ha Giang
Ha Giang Loop Itinerary
Doing the Ha Giang Loop without a guide requires a strong itinerary. It needs to be realistic, with enough time to get from A to B, and enough time factored in for spontaneous stops along the way. To help you out, I have created the perfect 4-day Ha Giang Loop Itinerary which you can follow yourself for the ideal trip.
Note: You will of course stop at more places than this- this is just a rough guide. Also, when navigating the route, simply put the name of the destination into Maps and follow it except for the Passes. They are just routes and you will naturally go that way.
Day 1: Ha Giang to Yen Minh
Your first day on the Ha Giang Loop will probably feature the most stops for 2 reasons: Firstly, it has the most stops and secondly, the novelty of the experience will be new and you will want to stop all the time for photos and to admire the view.
Wake up: Ha Giang
The Ha Giang Loop begins and ends in Ha Giang, the city and the capital of the Ha Giang region in Vietnam. There are lots of places where you can rent bikes in Ha Giang so you will have no problems with that. Generally, you can explore Ha Giang the day before or the day after doing the loop, as you do not want to waste time on the first day exploring the city itself.
Destination 1: Bac Sum Pass
The Bac Sum Pas is the first major mountain pass (fancy word for a road that goes up a mountain) which you will encounter on the Ha Giang Loop. It offers the iconic winding roads from side to side and beautiful views too. If you haven’t already said it, the Bac Sum Pass will make you say “Wow”. It’s so scenic.
Destination 2: Tam Son
Tam Son is a small village along the Ha Giang Loop and it’s another must-stop. The main selling point about Tam Son isn’t the town itself – but don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely – it’s the hills that really make Tam Son a must-stop. There are two hills right beside each other (and lots of others around them) and they are nicknamed the “Twin Hills” or “Fairy Hills”, two very appropriate names. The view is magical!
Destination 3: Lung Khuy Cave
It’s up to you whether you want to visit Lung Khuy Cave or not. It costs only $2 to enter and allows an insight into a completely different world– underground. It’s fascinating to explore and it’s more than worth stopping. That being said, many people may choose to skip it if they have visited caves elsewhere. It’s a bit out of the way, and there’s a 20-minute walk from the car park to the caves. But if you have the time, it’s definitely worth doing!
Destination 4: Heaven’s Gate
Quan Ba Pass, nicknamed “Heaven’s Gate”, is the next major mountain pass on the route. And the name is more than deserved. The views are heavenly- it really is like you are exploring somewhere out of this world, it’s indescribable. There are lots of places to stop along this part of the loop, and it’s such a common stop that there are tons of cafes to choose from with views worthy of a postcard.
Destination 5: Quan Ba
After riding along the Quan Ba Pass, you will reach Quan Ba itself which is a beautiful area. There are lots of towns and villages to explore and stop in. You might even make friends with a local. One of the things I love the most about the Ha Giang Loop is that most people in this region of Vietnam don’t speak great English, yet you can still feel welcomed and accepted by locals and communicate in ways that don’t require speaking. It’s magical.
Some people choose to spend the first night in Quan Ba, others choose to push on to Yen Minh so it’s down to personal preference where you want to stop. I would decide in future though, as accommodation often books out in advance as there aren’t many options. This is especially the case in peak season.
Sleep: Yen Minh
End your final day by settling in Yen Minh, which is a pretty quiet part of the route but it makes for a great place to stay. There are lots of really nice homestay options and you can get a real feel for life in Vietnam as you spend the night in a local’s home. But make sure to be up and bright ready for another day on the beautiful Ha Giang Loop.
Day 2: Yen Minh to Dong Van
Wake up: Yen Minh
As I said, make sure to get up bright and early. If you feel up to it, if you can wake up and watch the sunrise, it’s incredible- this applies to sunrises and sunsets anywhere along the Ha Giang Loop. The region is so scenic that no matter where you are, the sunrises and sunsets feel magical.
Destination 1: Sung La Valleys
The first destination on day 2 is Sung La Valleys which is probably one of the few hidden gems I have included on this list. It’s a little bit out of the way and the road conditions aren’t particularly great since it is, quite literally, off the beaten track. But it’s more than worth it. No matter which direction you look, the views are breathtaking and there’s no better place for your first stop of the day.
Destination 2: Lung Cu Flag Tower
Next up is another big detour but an absolute must when doing the Ha Giang Loop, the Lung Cu Flag Tower is located on the Vietnam-China border and offers panoramic views in all directions, into both China and Vietnam. It’s the northernmost point in Vietnam and the flag tower is an iconic landmark too, which you can actually go up and get even better views. It’s not up for debate, it’s a must-do.
Sleep: Dong Van
Since the stops on day 2 are pretty out of the way and pretty far apart, it’s a day with more driving than stops – but of course, stop as and when you see fit – and you end the day by making your way towards Dong Van. On the way to Dong Van, there are lots of opportunities to stop and sit on rocks overlooking gorgeous valleys with the most Instagrammable of views you could ever imagine. In Dong Van, there are lots of homestay and hostel options to choose from.
Day 3: Dong Van to Meo Vac
Wake up: Dong Van
There’s actually quite a lot to see and do in Dong Van in the mornings, especially at the weekend. The market in Dong Van is spectacular and it’s a really cool experience to walk around yourself, or simply people-watch. You can also pick up some tasty breakfast before setting off for the day.
Destination 1: Ma Pi Leng Pass
The whole of the Ha Giang Loop, as you know by now, is incredibly picturesque. Beautiful. But the part that is often considered to have the best views is the Ma Pi Leng Pass. The river combined with the mountains is hard to beat. It’s also hard to let photos do it justice, so I won’t include one. You can use your imagination or wait in excitement to complete the loop yourself. But I will say it’s the epitome of the loop. It doesn’t get any better than this, simply, wow.
Destination 2: Tu San Canyon / Nho Que River
And speaking of the river, there are loads of opportunities to stop and get a better look at it. It’s quite popular for paddle boarding and canoeing. The Tu San Canyon offers the perfect place to stop and get down close to the river. You can choose to do a boat tour or something, it does cost money of course, but trust me, it’s worth it. It will be one of the best experiences you will get from completing the loop.
Sleep: Meo Vac
Spend your final night in Meo Vac, a bustling part of Ha Giang. There’s a lot going on despite being so small, and there are lots of places where you can find a homestay to spend the night. If you arrive early enough, there are also plenty of places where you can watch a mesmerising sunset.
Day 4: Meo Vac to Ha Giang
Wake up: Meo Vac
The market here is arguably even better than that in Dong Van. But if you can, try to go to at least one of them. Sure, you can go to markets elsewhere in Vietnam and get a similar experience, but few come close to these 2. They are a whole new experience. They’re hectic! But so worth visiting. But make sure you wake up early enough so you don’t spend too much of the day in Meo Vac- it’s your last day so you’ll want to ride as much as possible.
Destination 1: Du Gia
There are lots of places to stop between Meo Vac and Du Gia but there’s not a particular place that is a “must-stop”, but there are villages and viewpoints which you can stop at along the way. Nonetheless, Du Gia is often considered the final stop in the Ha Giang Loop, or the first stop – it’s worth saying you can do the loop in either direction.
You will find a lot of travellers in Du Gia, and most will be doing the route. It’s a nice place to stop and have a meal before heading to Ha Giang to finish it off. The drive between the two is quite long, but it’s, as you might guess by now, stunning. So make sure to take it in and admire the views as it will be your final stretch of road before finishing the loop.
Finish: Ha Giang
And just like that, your Ha Giang Loop journey will be complete. As I said, you may wish to spend a day or two in Ha Giang to firstly recover and secondly, enjoy what it has to offer. It’s a pretty neat place! I can tell you now it will be mixed emotions you will have in Ha Giang. You’ll be sad the loop is over but happy too. It’s hard to explain but you’ll understand.
Hopefully, you will have had a good time though. It’s hard not to!
Ha Giang Loop: FAQ
Below are some questions related to the Ha Giang Loop along with my answers.
Absolutely yes! Anyone visiting Vietnam should try and make their way north to do the Ha Giang Loop. It’s a once in a lifetime experience and you get some of the best views in all of Southeast Asia. The Ha Giang Loop is so unique and few things come close to it. Anyone and everyone will love it.
Yes, 100%. It costs next to nothing (approximately $30 a day all in) and provides you with some of the most incredible landscapes and views in all of Vietnam. Not to mention the memories you will make to last a lifetime. The Ha Giang Loop is indescribable and without a doubt worth it.
You can do the Ha Giang Loop by car but it wouldn’t be the same experience as on a bike. Doing the loop on a bike is the best way. It allows you to be fully immersed in the experience, feeling the wind against your face and smelling the freshness of the valleys- experiences you would miss out on a car. But for whatver reason if a car is your only option, then yes, it is possible to do the loop by car. They are public roads.
It varies depending on what part of the route you are on. In some areas, the road conditions aren’t the best and this combined with tight turns and weaving bends means that some drivers will find the loop difficult. If you have ridden a bike before, you will likely find it okay. Just don’t get too confident and start going too fast around the bends.
Ha Giang Loop: Conclusion
And there you have it, a complete guide to the Ha Giang Loop.
I would recommend it to anyone- it’s one of the best things you can do in Vietnam without a doubt.
Remember to enjoy the experience, take lots of photos and stay safe.
You’ll have the time of your life on the Ha Giang Loop. Enjoy! 🙂