Protecting Vietnam’s largest lake and multiple ethnic communities, Ba Bê National Park puts visitors up close and personal with the country’s natural beauty and diverse culture. Lined with limestone mountains and dotted with villages, this national park is full of lush green valleys, obscure waterfalls, and caves.
These stunning features make Ba Bê National Park an unforgettable destination. Travelers will enjoy exploring the land, connecting with nature, and experiencing the untouched wonders that Ba Bê has to offer.
Location of Ba Be Lake
Ba Bê is 150 miles (240 kilometers) outside of Hanoi in the northeastern province, Bac Kan. The national park protects nearly 57,000 acres of land, and being further away from large cities, Ba Bê is able to flourish.
Tucked into dense forests, vulnerable communities, such as the Tay, Dao, and Hmong, are able to thrive. Bo Lu Villages hosts the park’s tourism center and is one of the closest communities to Ba Bê. Meanwhile, the closest city to the park is Bac Kan and is 44 miles (70 kilometers) away.
History of Ba Be
The land around Ba Bê is ancient, with the formation of the mountains dating back 450 million years ago. Ba Bê Lake, which sits in the heart of the national park and is Vietnam’s largest body of freshwater, is estimated to have been created a little over 200 million years ago.
Vietnam established Ba Bê National Park in 1992 and for more than a decade, the park was fairly remote and had minimal infrastructure. An ecological research station opened in 2004, and the popularity of local guest houses helped drive tourists to Ba Bê.
Named after the lake, Ba Bê, when translated, the word “Ba Bê” means “three lakes”. While Ba Bê Lake is one body of water, most people segment the body of water into three parts – Pe Lam, Pe Leng, and Pe Lu.
What to Do at Ba Be National Park
Visitors who travel to Ba Bê will be met with a plethora of experiences. There are plenty of activities within the park that will open your eyes to Vietnam’s hidden gems. Trekking, boating, caving, and homestays are all popular activities in Ba Bê for those who wish to experience Vietnam’s pristine landscape and culture.
Ba Be Lake
One of the best ways to see the national park is from Ba Bê Lake. Visitors can book a boat tour to cruise out onto the lake and explore its impressive shoreline. Popular areas to visit on Ba Bê Lake’s shore are the An Ma Temple and Fairy Pond.
An Ma Temple sits near the water’s edge and it is open to visitors. Guests can bathe in the shallow water in front of the temple or enter it to learn about the traditions and customs of the local people.
In the third section of the lake, the Fairy Pond is a popular spot amongst fishermen and curious adventurers. A rumored favorite location for mythical beings, the Fairy Pond is another spot on the lake where visitors can safely swim and admire the view.
Streaming down from the overgrown forests, Ba Bê National Park is famous for its waterfalls. From raging white water to gentle trickles, guests are guaranteed to find various cascades as they venture throughout the national park.
Keep in mind that the falls will change drastically between Vietnam’s wet and dry seasons.
Two of the larger falls in the park are Dau Dang and Thac Bac. Dau Dang is nestled in a narrow gorge and flows through a series of jagged rocks. Visitors to Dau Dang can explore the falls from nearby lookouts or hike the numerous trails that lead to and from the gorge.
Much more staggered and secluded than Dau Dang is the Thac Bac Waterfall. Close to the Vang Village Hoang Tri commune, this waterfall sits at the entrance of the Hua Ma Cavern. Naturally flowing from the mountains, the numerous cascades have created small pools and beaches.
Access to the waterfall is provided by a set of staircases that wind up the steep sides of Thac Bac.
Caves and caverns
To unlock Ba Bê National Park’s secrets, you’ll have to go deep underground to do so. Throughout the Ba Bê National Park are numerous expansive cave systems, with Hua Ma, Na Phoong, and Lo Mo being three of the most famous caves within the park.
Close to the Quan commune, the Hua Ma cavern is well visited and loved by park tourists.
Discovered in 2004, the cavern in Hua Ma is one of the most intact caves in Vietnam’s northern region. Stalactites on Hua Mua’s ceiling are known for their dazzling array of shapes where guests have spotted the likeness of thrones, fields, and statues.
Na Phoong is close to Bo Lu Village and the local stream cuts through the heart of the cave. The main cavern has been made safe for tourists with stairs and walkways built into the floor. Guests tend to stick to the outer edges of the cave, as there is no infrastructure to safely explore much below ground.
Lo Mo Cave is one of Ba Bê’s newest discoveries, unearthed in July 2016. Guests will need a tour guide to enter Lo Mo, which can be arranged from the nearby villages. Inside the cave, explorers will follow an underground river as they creep past massive stalactites, flora, and fauna.
Caves and waterfalls aren’t the only hidden features in Ba Bê. Miles and miles of remote trekking trails await the bravest of adventurers. Traversing the peaks and heading into the dense jungle, trekkers in Ba Bê can see some of the park’s unexplored beauty.
Tours can be booked in Hanoi and will be led by local guides. With various trekking packages, there are options for travelers of all ages and abilities to explore Ba Bê’s enchanting forests. Overnight tours may include stays in some of the area’s most remote villages.
Cultures and traditions
One of the highlights of Ba Bê National Park is the preservation of local traditions and cultures. Numerous villages call Ba Bê their home and private tours or homestays can be arranged for guests who wish to learn a new lifestyle.
A unique opportunity, the visits to remote villages in Ba Bê are the best chance for visitors to experience and witness firsthand some of Vietnam’s amazing culture.
Plants and Wildlife
In addition to the amazing lake, waterfalls, forests, and caves, Ba Bê is home to an extremely diverse range of plants and wildlife. There are thousands of plant species within the park, including 182 genera of orchids; some of which are only found in Ba Bê. Several other plant species are also rare and listed on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Animals in the park include 1,105 species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, and birds, many of which are included on the Red List. Endangered animals that visitors would be lucky to spot include the European otter, Asian black bear, short, tailed pangolin, Owston palm civet, and pygmy slow loris.
How to Get There
Most travelers will venture to Ba Bê National Park from Hanoi. The park is 150 miles north of the city and the roads are well-maintained with open access. Tourists can arrange for a shuttle, car rental, private driver, or local transportation to take them from Hanoi to Ba Bê.
The closest major city to Ba Bê National Park is Bac Kan City. The city is about 2 hours outside of the national park and transportation can be arranged into the park or nearby villages.
For some travelers, staying in a local village is the easiest way to access the park. Ideal for overnight stays, the villages allow you to stay close to or within the park.
When to Visit
Tourists visiting Ba Bê National Park should pay attention to the time of year that they intend to visit the area. Being located in northern Vietnam, the national park’s coolest and driest months are from November to April. From May to September, the weather is much hotter and there is more rain.
The absolute hottest months are June, July, and August. While heat may be a deterrent for some, these summer months are also the park’s most popular, with many taking advantage of vacation time to visit Ba Bê.
Ba Bê is open to tourists year-round, however, if you want to partake in some serious trekking, it may be best to wait until the end of the wet season. Caves and waterfalls will easily flood in the wet season and may even be dangerous to explore. Visiting during the dry season ensures that guests will be able to access all the park’s features and enjoy great weather.
Extreme conservation and community efforts have ensured that Ba Bê remains an untouched paradise. Stretching into the far north of Vietnam, the national park is exciting, gorgeous, and inspiring. Guests will be welcomed by the local people and encouraged to explore Ba Be’s distinct beauty.
So, be bold and head into Ba Bê National Park, adventure awaits the brave!
Address: Bố Lù, Ba Bể District, Bắc Kạn Province 23511, Vietnam
Phone: +84 98 601 60 68