Vietnamese hill tribes map & highlights

From the Tay villages in Vietnam's far northeastern corner to the colourful Hmong villages where women dress in elaborate embroidered clothing, Vietnam's hill tribe towns and villages are a fascinating draw and it's possible to trek to many of these settlements, meeting local people along the way. Here's our choice of Vietnam's top spots for hill tribe vacations whether you're looking for tried and tested routes or off-the-beaten track escapes.
Ba Be National Park

1. Ba Be National Park

Ba Be National Park is a joy for nature lovers. A stunning patchwork of thick forest, lakes, waterfalls, caves and limestone mountains, with the highest peaking at 1,554m, the park hosts over 200 bird species, including the crested serpent eagle, as well as 65 species of mammal and 550 species of plant. The region is also home to 13 tribal villages, most belonging to the Tay ethnic group.
Bao Lac

2. Bao Lac

The small town of Bao Lac in Cao Bang Province is home to the Black Lolo hill tribe who are well known for their bright outfits and handmade bronze drums. Surrounded by fields and mountains, the town is laid back and welcoming and also puts on a lively weekly market complete with an impressive selection of traditional crafts.
Giang Ta Chai

3. Giang Ta Chai

Giang Ta Chai village is home to the Red Dzao people, known for their colourful embroidered tunics. It lies at the foot of the Fanxipan Mountain range and the surrounding countryside features terraced rice paddies, bamboo forest and waterfalls. The trek here from Sapa is 18km and there are plentiful homestays for those that wish to stay the night.
Ha Giang

4. Ha Giang

The frontier town of Ha Giang lies to the far north, close to the Chinese border. It’s an excellent base to explore the surrounding landscape – a quiet and remote area where limestone peaks, rice paddies, and sweeping valleys reign supreme. Spend your time trekking the countryside or visiting local Hmong villages.

5. Hanoi

Vietnam’s 1,000-year-old capital has an unexpectedly European feel, with balconied buildings, tiled roofs and tree lined streets. It’s also where many people begin their hill tribes journey. For an insight into the minorities’ traditional cultures, including their various styles of dress, visit Hanoi’s Museum of Ethnology before hitting the mountain trails.
Mai Chau

6. Mai Chau

Inhabited by the White and Black ethnic Thai tribes, the diminutive town of Mai Chau sits in a peaceful green valley 135km north of Hanoi. It’s surrounded by rustic local villages where residents live in stilt houses, and the women are known for their beautiful weaving so it's a great place to pick up souvenirs and textiles.

7. Sapa

Tucked away in the hills of the Chinese border, this former French hill station offers superb hiking, picturesque waterfalls and an introduction to Vietnam’s minority hill tribes. Listen to folk music in local homes, see traditional Tay and Dao dance, explore village markets and help local families tend to their gardens and domestic animals – all against the backdrop of Southeast Asia’s tallest mountain.


Things to do on a hill tribes vacation…

Getting out and about on foot or by bike without a car is important when it comes to gaining greater insight into daily life for Vietnam’s minority people. As you follow a local guide into all but inaccessible villages you’ll see that differences in dress, language, handicrafts, housing and working practices change subtly depending on group beliefs and natural surroundings. You’ll have the chance to stop and chat as you go, and really appreciate the gorgeous landscapes as you move at a slower pace. Another way to get better acquainted with the lives of Vietnamese hill tribes is to spend time immersing yourself in their way of life. Overnight stays reveal the quiet rural lifestyles and cultural customs that differ from one community to the next. Working with the local people, tending to the animals or plants for example, cooking, cleaning or doing maintenance will help you understand this culture in a way that’s impossible when you just pass through for an hour or two. Some of the hill tribes around these parts are incredibly talented artisans so make sure to buy local handicrafts while you are here. For example, the people around Mai Chau specialise in weaving brocade products and are happy to show visitors their skills, and the markets in places like and Ha Giang, Bao Lac and Sapa are a colourful sea of garments and jewellery, woven baskets and mats and bamboo paper.

Things not to do on a hill tribes vacation…

You’ll definitely be doing some walking, whether gentler strolls or hardcore hikes so don’t forget to bring suitable gear. This can make all the difference between a comfortable trek and one you wish would be over as quickly as possible. You should bring comfortable and supportive walking boots that have been well worn in, mosquito repellent, a torch or headlight, waterproof jacket with a hood and a microfleece jumper. Remember that the weather is unpredictable in the hills, and sunny days can quickly take a turn for the worse. Trekking or cycling around hill tribe villages and towns can be tough work and really require the assistance of someone with insider knowledge, so don’t try to go it alone. Our expert suppliers have done the hard work for you and will allocate you a reliable local guide who really knows the area and culture, will be able to help you out should any problems arise on the road. They also put money back into the local communities. There’s an overwhelming number of photo opportunities in the Vietnamese highlands, but please don’t take pictures of people without asking them first. The wonderful thing about a hill tribes vacation is that you’ll be spending time with local hosts, guides, artisans, farmers and cooks – so there will be plenty of time to chat to them and hear their stories before you bring out the camera.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Vietnamese hill tribes or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.


Our suppliers share their tips and advice on short safari vacations below
Nicola Marshall, from our supplier Intrepid Travel, shares her Hill Tribes travel advice:

When to go

“Each season has its own beauty but if travelers are trekking during autumn (which lasts from August to November) they will be amazed by the golden yellow terrace fields.”
Cultural Highlights

Cultural Highlights

A real highlight for travelers is interacting with local families to learn more about the culture and customs, as well as enjoying tasty food made by local ingredients. You should also try and see a music or cultural performance in the evening – it’s a fantastic experience.
Dos and don’ts

Dos and don’ts

Always respect the local culture when you’re traveling to the hilltribes, or any destination, and always ask permission before taking a photo of the local people. You should avoid attempting to change local culture or verbally criticising it. And never give gifts or money to local children.
What to buy

What to buy

Travelers can buy products such as jewellery or brocade fabric which are handmade by locals. They are sold at handicraft shops or even vendors along the trekking path.

Some tips from our vacation reviews

Be friendly!! We notice that Europeans especially seem to be wary of encountering the very people they've come to meet. Talk to them, say please and thank you, and SMILE!
– Sandy Snyder
Trust the operator to organise everything. They really looked after me & my requests.
– Anita Lowe
Written by Nana Luckham
Photo credits: [Page banner: Alpha] [Intro: Phong Nguyen] [Ba Be National Park: charlotteinaustralia] [Bao Lac: kimjongdae] [Giang Ta Chai: Wagner T. Cassimiro "Aranha"] [Ha Giang: Nhi Dang] [Hanoi: Richard Mortel] [Mai Chau: Tran Trung Kien] [Sapa: Joshua Eckert] [Things to do on a hill tribes vacation: yeowatzup] [When to go: Ajith Kumar] [Cultural Highlights: Sophie Pearson] [Dos and don’ts: Sophie Pearson] [What to buy: Arian Zwegers] [Sandy Snyder Quote: Ann Porteus] [Anita Lowe Quote: Sophie Pearson]