Our Vietnam travel guide reveals how to explore the Mekong Delta, get out on the waters of Halong Bay, traverse this long country by train, and meet the hill tribes of the north, for an unforgettable Southeast Asian vacation.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
WHAT TO DO ON A VIETNAMESE HILL TRIBES HOLIDAY & WHAT NOT TO
Things to do on a hill tribes vacation…
Things not to do on a hill tribes vacation…
Our Vietnamese hill tribes Vacations
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.
HILL TRIBES TRAVEL ADVICE
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.”
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
More about Vietnamese hill tribes
This Vietnam hill tribes travel guide takes you beyond Vietnam’s cities and beaches to remote mountain regions that are home to the country’s minority peoples. Enjoy homestays, treks, cultural activities and the pleasure of meals shared with local hosts. Find out where and when to go, and who you’ll meet in our Vietnam hill tribes travel guide.