Part 2 of 2: The Ultimate
Ha Giang Loop Route

A Step By Step Guide to Motorbiking the Ha Giang Loop
By: Justin Del Boulter | Updated on 01/13/2020

So you want to do the Ha Giang loop? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Here I break down the Ha Giang Loop Route into a section by section guide. Not only do I provide you with the Ultimate Ha Giang Loop Route, but I also provide all the secret stops, best food joints, and coziest accomodations along the way. No need to pay for an expensive tour, this guide has it all. 

But First, If you haven’t read it, and you’re still planning your trip, you may want to jump back and read Part 1.* In part 1 I answer all the nitty gritty questions that you probably want to know the answers to; stuff like, budget, police traps, motorbike rentals etc.   

Jump Ahead:

How to use this route guide​

In this guide I have broken the Ha Giang Loop into 6 Sections. These sections can be done 1 day at a time, though many people will complete the loop within 3 or 4 days. I love exploring this area, so I usually give myself a week…or more 🤷‍♂️ (altogether I’ve spent 6 weeks here).  

Because many people will ride this route as a loop, rather than an A → B route, I have written this guide as if doing the Ha Giang Loop in a counterclockwise fashion, including points of interest along the way. For those riding through Ha Giang, I give a few route suggestions below.  

In this post I focus on the Ha Giang Loop Route, and all the stops between each possible overnight destination. If you’d like to dive deep into each destination, click on the destination name to be forwarded to the Destination Guide and Map. At the Destination Guide you’ll get all the tasty details, like local activities, food spots and accomodations. Yee.

Easter Eggs

Make sure to pay close attention to the maps I provide. On most of the maps I have included a few gems not directly mentioned in the guide. Some of these gems are clearly marked with an Easter egg, while others are tossed into the mix. I did this because some things are best left with a bit of mystery and adventure. But, be warned: some of these Easter eggs are tricky to get too. They may take some intermediate motorbike skills or hiking. Enjoy! 

3 motorbikers looking over a large clift towards towering limestone peaks

Route Options:
Classic Route vs.
The Ultimate Ha Giang Loop Route

The Ultimate Ha Giang Loop Route: 4 - 7 days

Ha Giang City → Nam Dam Village → Hop Tien Linen Co-op in Lung Tam Village → Đường Thượng Hemp Village → Du Gia (pronounced Zoo Zah) → Meo Vac → Ma Pi Leng Pass → Dong Van → Lung Cu → Yen Minh → shortcut → Tam Son → alternative scenic route → Ha Giang City

In this guide I breakdown what I like to call “The Ultimate Ha Giang Loop” Route. Along the way there are many awesome viewpoints, and short activities. There are a few side trips, shortcuts, and alternative return routes that provide great riding experiences. I have marked all of the alternative motorbike routes in violet on the “Ultimate Ha Giang Loop” route map. For the most part, I prefer the alternative routes because they get less traffic. However, many of the iconic Ha Giang photos are on the main route, so you may want to stick to the main routes the first time around.

The Classic Ha Giang Loop Route: 3 - 4 days

Although the Classic Route is beautiful, the Classic route experiences high traffic and is not as exciting as the route I consider as the best of Ha Giang. For your reference, the classic route typically goes like so…

Classic Route:
Day 1: Ha Giang City → Tam Son → Yen Minh →  Mau Due Intersection DT182 → Du Gia (pronounced Zoo Zah)

Day 2: Du Gia → Meo Vac →  Dong Van

Day 3: Dong Van → Lung Cu (optional) → Yen Minh

Day 4: Yen Minh → Nam Dam → Ha Giang

For those riding through, and not doing the loop:​

Here are 2 suggested routes for those cutting through the Ha Giang province to connect to another route. Whatever route you take, DO NOT SKIP THE MA PI LENG PASS! You’ll be missing out. 

Scenic Route Highlights: 2 – 3 Days
Ordered west to east

Ha Giang City → Du Gia → Meo Vac

        • Heaven’s gate
        • Nam Dam Village
        • Hop Tien Linen Co-op
        • DT 176 Du Gia to Meo Vac (amazing scenery)
        • Ma Pi Leng and Skywalk

Backpacker Route Highlights: 3 – 4 days
Ordered west to east

Ha Giang City → Du Gia → Yen Minh → Dong Van

The Backpacker Route takes you through the most iconic spots found in photographs, while offering overnight stops in high traffic destinations for more socializing opportunities.

      • Heaven’s gate
      • Nam Dam Village
      • Hop Tien Linen Co-op
      • Tham Ma Slope
      • Dong Van
      • Ma Pi Leng Pass and Skywalk

Section By Section Guide:
The Ultimate Ha Giang Loop Route 4 - 7 days​

Jump Ahead:​

Section 1: Ha Giang → Nam Dam Village

Section 2: Nam Dam → Du Gia

Section 3: Du Gia → Meo Vac

Section 4: Meo Vac → Dong Van

Section 5: Dong Van → Lung Cu → Yen Minh

Section 6: Yen Minh → Ha Giang

Reminder: On this page I don’t give details on each overnight destination. To get those details, click on the blue Destination names to jump to their respective guide and map. Enjoy!

Section 1: 2-3 hours
Ha Giang City Nam Dam

Only moments after leaving Ha Giang and heading up the QL-4C you will begin to notice that you’re crossing some kind of boundary where basic reality ends and adventure begins. The Ha Giang Loop immediately jumps into some breathtaking scenery.

Stop A: Buckwheat Flower Fields: Usually 5k ($0.21)

Boy standing in a field of pink flowers holding a red umbrella over his head

During the month of November these fields become carpeted with little pink and white blossoming flowers. For a small fee you can explore the fields and take some photos. 

Stop B: Heaven’s Gate

A great landscape of limestone peaks sprawling into the distance

45km into the ride you’ll come over a mountain pass and cross through what is appropriately called Heaven’s Gate. Many riders take a small break here to enjoy the view, and sip coffee or tea at the little coffee spot at the top. If you find yourself shrouded in fog, you may get lucky and catch a little break in the clouds after waiting a bit. Ask the coffee folks what they think about waiting. They will have a good idea of the weather situation.

If you don’t feel like waiting, you can try your luck at this spot during the return trip on the last day of the loop.

Stop C: Optional Detour: Fairy Bosom Observation Point

two breast shaped peaks sitting amongst a grand landscape of limestone mountains

An observation point that provides a stunning view of the Quan Ba District. A funny feature of the view is the 2 perfectly symmetrical cone shaped mounds. The rice fields that enclose them really add to the spectacle.  

After leaving the observation point, backtrack to the Cau Treo Suspension Bridge, and the small village of Nam Dam.

Stop D: Cau Treo Bridge

A sketchy, but awesome suspension bridge. After crossing the suspension bridge you will enter the small minority village of Nam Dam. Nam Dam is a good place to stay for a night. There is a nice waterfall here. 

Section 2: 2-3 hours
Nam Dam Village → Du Gia

Man riding a motorcycle through a limestone canyon

This section is 56km of very beautiful scenery, and truly feels like an adventure. During this section you’ll cut into the steep Karst peaks, ride over a small mountain pass, then drop into a secluded valley filled with hemp plants. Recently (12/2019) a large section of this road was resurfaced, so the riding should be great.

A hmong woman using a traditional loom to weave cloth

Go to this small workshop of hard working minority woman, and watch them hand make traditional linens and small souvenirs out of hemp stock. Occasionally, they will have a volunteer on staff that can speak english and walk you through the process. Just down the road they have a small market where you can purchase the handmade items.

The location on Google Maps is off a bit, so make sure to use the route map to find the exact location.

Stop B: Đường Thượng Village - Valley of Hemp

A valley full of hemp plants

If you ride slowly you’ll notice the sprawling hemp plants throughout the valley. Possibly one of the sources for the ladies at the Linen Co-op.

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Section 3: 3-4 hours
Du Gia → Meo Vac

A road snaking through tall karst peaks

There isn’t any crucial stopping points along this route. Rather, the whole route is one endless visual spectacle to be enjoyed slowly. This section of road snakes through the Karst Plateau, ascends and descends multiple passes while cutting through minority villages. This is the favorite part of the route for many folks! Something about it feels secluded, mysterious and genuine.

This section of road is a little bumpy at times, is pocked with potholes, and tends to get a lot of debris from water erosion and rock fall. As long as you’re not visiting during, or immediately after heavy rainfall the road should be passable for motorbikes and easy enough for all riders. Regardless of the season, you can always expect debris on the road.

Section 4: 1.5-5 hours
Meo Vac → Ma Pi Leng Pass → Dong Van

A massive limestone canyon with a large blue river flowing through it.

This bit of the route has become world famous for the mind-blowing scenery it provides as you snake alongside a steep canyon wall overlooking the turquoise Nho Qué river below. This section is very short, though there are many ways to savour the scenery and turn it into a half day or longer event.

This section of the road winds about the canyonwall, has many blind spots, and debris are common. It also experiences landslides during the rainy season. Take it easy, and try not to let the scenery distract you from the road. Remember that the bike follows the eyes. Stop when needed to avoid riding off the cliff.

Though this section of road is short, you may want to plan a full day in the area to explore the Ma Pi Leng Skywalk, and the single track roads in the nearby mountains!

Stop A: Grab a coffee or beer at Dong Van Bar Coffee

A great place to soak up some scenery of Ma Pi Leng Pass. Make sure to take the path that leads down to an awesome viewing deck. 

A hiking trail leads along a limestone cliff

If you really would like to take it slow and enjoy the world class views, you can hike, or ride a section of the Ma Pi Leng Skywalk Trail. The hiking trailhead starts on the west side of QL4C just south of the Dong Van Bar Coffee. I have roughly marked it on the route map, but you can easily find the trail on the Maps.Me app for an additional reference.  

The trail cuts into the cliffside, and climbs high up the mountain to a small pagoda, shrine, and viewpoints. After the viewpoints you have the option of continuing northward, until it drops down and reconnects with QL4C, or heading back down to the starting point.

Continuing northward past the viewpoints the trail will take you through some small mountain villages and crops. If you decide to walk the whole trail, rather than in and out, you may want to organize a bike waiting at either end of the trail. Walking along the QL4C may not be very enjoyable during high traffic.

The hiking trail is well built, with handrails and artificial steps for ease and safety on some sections, and has about 300 meters of elevation gain up to the highest viewpoint. After the viewpoint the trail meets up with a paved single track path that leads back to the highway. This paved section of the Skywalk is the only section that can be ridden. However, I suspect that the vietnamese government will put a stop to motorbike access in the near future. The Ma Pi Leng Skywalk is becoming very popular. 

A single path trail leading into the distance

Section 5: 4 - 6 hours
Dong VanLung Cu Yen Minh

In this section of the Ha Giang loop you will have the option of adding a few hours of scenic driving to your day by heading north to the Lung Cu flag tower. Along the route to Lung Cu there is stop where you can illegally cross into China through a hole in the border fence. Do at your own risk. I don’t recommend it. Taking the optional trip to Lung Cu will add about 2 hours of riding time to the loop.

This section of the route gets a lot of traffic, and with the exception of the road to Lung Cu, is decently maintained. Along the route there are a number of exciting hairpin passes, fun viewpoints, and interesting historical sights. 

Stop A: Lung Cu and the Lung Cu Flag 25k (~$1) entry and parking

The large Lung Cu Flag tower atop a mountain, with the Vietnam flag waving waving from the top

The highlight of visiting Lung Cu is the journey there. It’s a very scenic ride with multiple expansive views. Additionally, along the route there is a section of road that cuts very close to the Chinese border. At this spot you will find a hole in the fence and a trail where many people illegally cross in and out of china. I was told by a local that there are people who live in China, but work in Vietnam and use this hole on a regular basis.

Once you arrive in Lung Cu you’ll notice the massive flag and tower atop a hill jutting into the sky. The Lung Cu Flag tower is a monument of sovereignty, standing 33 meters high, with a colossal 54 square meter flag. The 54 meters represents the 54 ethnic groups of the Vietnamese people. 

To visit the tower you will likely have to drive around a boom gate. Usually there is a government official here that will wave you around. At the top of the mountain, you will need to pay a 25k (~$1) entry fee, then climb a few hundred steps to the top. 

*If you’re like me, and travel with a drone, don’t fly it here… The government officials in the area will swarm you very quickly. 

Stop B: Hmong Royal Palace 20k (~$0.83) entry fee

In the early 1900’s a H’mong King built this palace, which acted as a key hub of the opium trade. The design of the palace was influenced by chinese architecture, with terracotta tiled roofs, large wooden columns, stonework, and a central courtyard. It’s quite beautiful, and makes for good photos on a low traffic day. While you’re walking through the palace you will find the influence of poppy flowers in the decor and design.

Unfortunately, without a guide or someone to read the vietnamese signs it’s hard to gain in depth information about the structure.

Stop C: Tham Ma Slope and viewpoint

A very curvy road snaking through a tight canyon

At the top of this windy pass is a great viewpoint of the road that snakes off into the distance. When you come to the top of the pass there is a lower viewpoint, where many people stop and take photos with the flower kids. If you’d rather avoid the crowd, you can continue up the road to gain a higher vantage point. 

It is customary to tip the kids if you take photos of them or with them.

Stop D: Buckwheat flowers and flower kids (October - November only)

a group of little girls decorated with flowers

Just a few minutes after the Tham Ma Slope you will come to a patch of buckwheat flowers that surround either side of the road (see the map). Here you can pay a small fee to the land owners, and take photos in the field of pink flowers. Also, for a small tip you can take photos with the adorable flower kids. From my understanding, the small amount of money they bring in during the flower season is a large chuck of their yearly income, and help pay for schooling. If it’s important to you, you may want to give a little attention to each side of the road to distribute funds throughout the little community. From my understanding, each field is owned by a different family.

Section 6: 4 - 5 hours
Yen MinhHa Giang City

There are 2 ways to take this section. The classic way, is about 30 minutes longer, and winds through the mountains until it drops down and runs parallel to the Mien river where is cuts through a scenic gorge. 

The alternative route cuts through the mountains, up and over a pass, then down a series of steep switchbacks, where it reconnects back to the main route at the end of the gorge. The alternate route gets less large truck traffic, but is prone to landslides and rockfall. If you take the alternative route keep an eye out for debris. Either route is a nice ride. Really, the decision comes down to the desire to shave off riding time and possibly avoid some traffic. The alternative route is marked in violet on the route map.

Stop A: Yên Minh Observation tower

SUnrise over tall Karst mountain peaks in vietnam.

A few hundred meters off the road there is an observation tower that provides a nice view of the surrounding mountains.

Stop B: Lung Khuy Cave: 55k (~$2.4)

If you feel like taking a short ride through a very beautiful valley, and stretching the legs a bit, Lung Khuy Cave is worth a visit. 

The walk from the parking lot is a bit challenging, with a steep climb to the cave along a paved path. After a lot of time in the seat, it’s kinda nice to get the blood flowing. 

The cave is fairly big and nicely lit, with a raised platform that leads you through the beautiful speleothems. Deep in the cave there is a pinch point to squeeze through that leads to a final room. 

Alternative Route or Heavens Gate

A small village of wooden shacks in the Jungle

At this point of the ride you are now on familiar road, backtracking towards Ha Giang City. However, if you’d like to see something new there is a nice alternative route that winds through some lovely mountain passes and small villages. This route gets very little traffic, and is off the beaten path. 2 things to consider when deciding whether or not to take this route is that it skips Heaven’s Gate, and it isn’t well maintained. A very short section is prone to get a bit muddy. With that being said, it’s not very challenging. 

checkered-flag

And that’s all folks! 

Thank you so much for reading my guide to Ha Giang. I hope it was helpful, and provided you with useful info. Any feedback is much appreciated! Please comment below with any questions, road updates or feedback you may have.

Checkout the below guides and posts for more awesome content about Vietnam!
Also, don’t forget to join the group on facebook and Instagram. Please share any of your content and insights there!  I’ll be happy to reshare any good material and send people to your channels. 

Until next time, keep the rubber side down. 🏍 

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