If the only gondola you’re familiar with is the kind being paddled around the canals of Venice, then you’ve been missing out. In Vietnam, a gondola ride entails a comfortable and scenic ride in an enclosed cabin that will take you effortlessly to the top of the rugged mountainous landscape via a series of cables and stanchions.
A ride in one of Vietnam’s gondolas or cable cars not only liberates you from a whole lot of lower-body soreness but also saves you time traveling up and down the mountain. A cable car is a much larger form of a gondola, we mention both options below.
Here are among the top cable car and gondolas in Vietnam, in no particular order:
Fansipan Cable Car
One of the most popular of Vietnam’s gondola rides is also associated with its highest peak: Mount Fansipan. As the highest point in all of Indochina, it’s a natural candidate for a cable car system to bring tourists to the top without that pesky multiday hike.
This tram holds some impressive distinctions such as the longest nonstop 3 rope cable car system, greatest elevation difference on a 3 rope cable car system, and is highly regarded for its transport capacity, with the ability to transport 2000 guests an hour. While none of the above are the primary reasons people come to Mount Fansipan, it does mean you’re in for a unique experience.
From the base station in the Muong Hoa Valley, guests are whisked some 1400 meters to a station just shy of the top. The trip itself takes between 15-20 minutes, which will be filled with panoramic views of a swirling palette of green rice paddies, gushing waterfalls, and deeply-hued pine forests.
At the terminus, there are some steep staircases and hiking trails, or a funicular (a tram), that will take you to the summit for a rooftop view of the aforementioned Muong Hoa Valley and the Hoang Lien Son National Park. Temperatures are likely to be windy and brisk at the top, so make sure you bring a jacket.
While undeniably impressive, the view from the top isn’t the only draw to Mount Fansipan. A lovely garden with a large Buddha statue offers guests the opportunity for a moment of peaceful reflection to go along with the incredible views. There are also plenty of seats and benches to allow guests a leisurely way to explore the complex.
Getting to the Mount Fansipan cable car system requires either a tram, short taxi ride or a 30-minute walk from the center of Sapa, located in Vietnam’s rugged northwest. Tickets can be bought at the ticket office and are round trip, so hang on to them.
Located in the heart of Sapa is the massive, upscale Hotel de la Coupole (affiliate link), decked out in French Indochina décor. It’s a great place to spend the night in luxury and even day-trippers can take advantage of the spa and café amenities on offer.
The Tram boards right below the Hotel de la Coupole in Sapa town. You can purchase your roundtrip ticket and enjoy a ride to the start of the cable car up the side of the mountain.
Coming back down, it’s once again a scenic treat as you glide across the mountain toward the undulating curves of terraced rice paddies surrounded by massive peaks. Of all the gondola rides in Vietnam, this is considered one of the best. Take a ride on it yourself and you’ll understand why.
TT. Sa Pa, Sa Pa, Lao Cai 333100, Vietnam | fansipanlegend.sunworld.vn
Ba Na Hills Gondola
Once the site of a French resort town, Sun World Ba Na Hills is now an amusement park that draws tourists the world over, many of which come to see its Instagram star, the Golden Bridge.
Getting to the main attractions of Bana Hills requires a ride on one of its five cable car lines, which means that even when going from one attraction to another, you’re in for a great view. One of those five is considered one of the longest cable car lengths in the world at a whopping 5,771 meters, with a similar elevation difference as Mt. Fansipan, at 1,369 meters.
Ba Na Hills lies inland of the dynamic city of Da Nang, on Vietnam’s central coast. A popular departure point is located 45 kilometers away at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hoi An, a lovely market town where the Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese once converged to trade.
Due to its popularity, guests to Ba Na Hills are advised to arrive early to beat the crowds. Bear in mind that each gondola station leads to a different destination, so be sure you’re not waiting in line for the wrong one! For example, for the Golden Bridge, take the Hoi An Station at the base, meanwhile, to go directly to the top, opt for Suoi Mo Station.
Of course, while the views from the gondolas are an attraction in and of themselves, the real stars of Ba Na Hills are located at each station along the way. The famous Golden Bridge, known for its curved walkway and pair of giant concrete hands, appears in nearly every Instagram travel feed and is the park’s most photogenic spot.
Also not to be missed is the French Village, home to plenty of restaurants and charming architecture. Those looking for serenity will enjoy the gardens and religious structures scattered around the mountain, and your inner child will have a ball in the indoor Fantasy Park.
Central Vietnam has an array of world-class sites to visit, from the ancient capital of Hue to the aforementioned Hoi An and the impressive Marble Mountains. Ba Na Hills, while definitely a more “packaged” and commercialized attraction than the authentic cultural gems that surround it, deserves a spot on your itinerary as well, and as was noted, comes with a killer gondola ride as part of the fun.
Tuyến cáp treo lên Bà Nà Hills, Hoà Ninh, Hòa Vang, Đà Nẵng, Vietnam | banahills.sunworld.vn/en
Ha Long Bay Gondola
With or without a gondola system, Ha Long Bay, on Vietnam’s northern coastline, is one of the world’s most beautiful natural attractions. And while the best way to see this maze of towering limestone karsts jutting precipitously out of the water is by boat, fans of cable cars and their associated gondolas can now enjoy a view from above.
Thanks to the completion of a 2,222-meter cable line rising from Halong City across a stretch of water to Ba Deo Hill, visitors can enjoy stunning views while escaping to a great vantage point in this popular location.
The cable line supports just two gondolas, each looking like a double-decker city bus. Yet each can carry a world record 230 people, which makes this pair of gondolas capable of transporting up to 2000 people an hour.
As interesting as a journey in one of these massive gondolas might be, the destination is also worth the time and effort to get there. Atop Ba Deo Hill, which is part of the Sun World Halong Park, is a giant Ferris wheel that offers even more high-altitude views of Ha Long Bay.
Onsite, there is also a Japanese-inspired Zen garden, a wax museum, and down below, a public access beach welcomes tourists looking for a little sand and sun. As was the case with Mt. Fansipan and Ba Na Hills, the must-see attractions come with a built-in gondola ride that enhances the experience.
9 Hạ Long, Bãi Cháy, Thành phố Hạ Long, Quảng Ninh, Vietnam | seehalongbay.com
For those looking to get high off the ground and enjoy some expansive scenery, these gondola rides will do the trick.