Vietnam is known to many for its rich, cultural past and modern, towering cities such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), and Da Nang. As the world keeps opening, tourists are swarming to the cities to experience Vietnam’s unique mix of traditional and contemporary elements as they collide in the chaos of daily life.
Still, there is more to Vietnam than its great metropolitan cities. The world is awakening to the beauty that can be discovered in the country’s great outdoors, especially within its national parks.
With approximately 30 national parks to explore, Vietnam’s natural wonders are waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re looking to spend the day hiking, visit a waterfall, climb to the peak of the country’s tallest mountain, swim at a remote beach, or ride a motorcycle, there are plenty of options for you to choose from!
Here are among the top national parks in Vietnam, for you to add to your next adventure:
Cúc Phương National Park
Cúc Phương National Park is Vietnam’s first and largest national park. Established in 1960, it was dedicated by Ho Chi Minh as a reminder to his people that protecting their environment serves to protect their future.
Today, Cúc Phương is Vietnam’s proud centerpiece for conservation efforts. Park ranger’s guide guests through the rainforest, which lies on approximately 22,200 hectares of rainforest just outside of the capital city of Hanoi.
Home to an abundant amount of flora and fauna, inhabitants of the park include 97 species of mammals including the gibbon, Francois’ leaf monkey, the slow loris, and macaques. Over-hunting has jeopardized the spotting of tigers, but leopards and other jungle cats may still be seen in the shadows.
Cúc Phương also homes as many as 300 species of birds; 36 species of reptiles; 11 species of fish; 17 amphibian species; over 2,000 plant species, and thousands of types of insects. As a visitor, you may take a 2.5-hour bus ride from Hanoi and rent a motorbike or bicycle at the park headquarters to explore on your own.
In addition to hiking through the rainforest, there are two conservation centers, a rescue center, a botanic garden, and an observation lookout to explore.
Tràm Chim National Park
Tràm Chim National Park is a bird lover’s paradise! Located in Dong Thap Province, just east of the Mekong River, this national gem proudly houses 233 diverse species of Southeast Asian birds. If you plan on traveling in Vietnam when the rainy season comes to an end, from August to November, Tràm Chim should definitely find space on your bucket list.
While enjoying the birds and glorious outdoors, visitors can also take part in harvesting rice, fishing, swimming/bathing, and boat rides. Admire the country’s national flower, the lotus, while floating down the waterways and enjoying the beauty of the birds and breathtaking Vietnam landscape.
Khóm 4, Tam Nông District, Đồng Tháp Province, Vietnam
Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park
Designated in 2003 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park is located in north-central Vietnam in Quang Binh Province and is best known for being the location of the biggest cave on earth. In addition to the primitive forests and stunning underground rivers of this untouched area of Vietnam, the Son Doong Cave is a mind-blowing gift that was only discovered in 2009.
Visitors to Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park can explore the oldest karst mountains in Asia, jungles, underground rivers, and Phong Na Cave, but if you hope to explore Son Doong, be prepared. You will have to face almost a week of swimming, hiking, and trekking in the dark to discover the heart of this monstrous cavern.
For visitors hoping for a lighter experience, you can take a dragon boat to Phong Na Cave to discover glorious stalactite and stalagmite formations and view the amazing biodiversity of the area. While only a fraction of the park is open to tourists, the entrance is free.
Phong NHA, Bố Trạch District, Quang Binh Province 511860, Vietnam | phongnhakebang.vn
Phú Quốc National Park
Phú Quốc Island, known as“the Pearl of Vietnam,” is where visitors will discover Phú Quốc National Park. Located in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta Region in Kien Giang Province, this park is known for protecting many oceanic species in its land and sea areas. Phu Quoc is also one of the two places in Vietnam where the Dugong, a marine species on the brink of extinction, can be found.
Visitors to Phú Quốc National Park have seemingly endless opportunities to explore. From sightseeing of historical sites to admiring the many streams, forests, caves, beaches, coral reefs, and mountains, visiting Phú Quốc Island and Phú Quốc National Park is a holiday well spent.
A trek up Chua Mountain will provide tourists and locals with a panoramic view of organic, lush forests, crystal-blue seawater, and a seemingly endless skyline.
Huyện Phú Quốc, Kien Giang, Vietnam
Cát Tiên National Park
The Cát Tiên National Park is located about 150km from Ho Chi Minh City. Recognized by UNESCO as a biodiverse treasure, this park has seen its share of turmoil. Cát Tiên was greatly affected by the Vietnam War when Agent Orange was sprayed down as a defoliant that would cause foliage and animals to die.
Since then, it has recovered in many ways and now is home to an extremely vibrant biosphere and most known for the Siamese crocodile breeding ground of Crocodile Lake.
Despite the park’s deteriorating biodiversity and illegal poaching over the years, this national park still houses more than 1,610 various plants. Furthermore, there are 105 species of mammals, including clouded leopards, black bears, and Asian elephants, 351 species of birds, 120 species of reptiles and amphibians, and hundreds of species of butterflies and insects.
Cát Tiên National Park has breathtaking waterfalls and is a remarkable nature spot for lovers of photography and wilderness hiking, boating, and crocodile spotting.
Nam Cat Tien, Tân Phú District, Dong Nai, Vietnam | cattiennationalpark.com.vn
Ba Vì National Park
Ba Vì National Park is a perfect overnight escape from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi. This beautiful oasis is located just 50 miles west of the city and is great for anyone hoping to get a taste of the countryside. With impressive biodiversity and a minimal entrance fee, Ba Vi would be a great excuse to rent or buy a motorbike and hit the open road.
Ba Vì can be visited any time of the year. The flowering season is from May to July as well as November, meanwhile, the coolest temperatures occur during April and October. Winter may even offer you a glimpse of snow on the mountaintops far in the distance.
Because this area is used to tourists, it is easy to find a restaurant serving typical Vietnamese cuisines such as pho, bun cha, or banh mi. Upon arrival, you can even rent a tent, camp out for the night, and wake up to a crisp, Vietnamese sunrise.
Ba Vì, Hanoi, Vietnam | vuonquocgiabavi.com.vn
Ba Bể National Park
Ba Bể National Park is a tranquil location within the northeast province of Bac Kan. This region has a strong history of fishing, with the groups that live there today still trusting and depending on the land and lakes for their livelihood. Adventurers through this national park to meet the local people and to learn of their history and culture that has lasted for centuries.
Since there are three lakes in the region, including Pe Leng, Pe Lu, and Pe Lam, it would come as no surprise that Ba Bể translates to “three lakes”. On these waters, you can boat and fish or just sit back and relax along with the slow pace of the people and river.
Hiking through the park, visitors will discover glorious waterfalls, bat caves, tiny villages, and homestays where the Tay people gladly welcome travelers with authentic homestay experiences in their elevated stilt houses beside the lake.
Bố Lù, Ba Bể District, Bắc Kạn Province 23511, Vietnam | babenationalpark.com.vn
Yok Đôn National Park
Listed among one of the best national parks in Vietnam, Yok Đôn National Park is most known for its beautiful dipterocarp forests. By taking an adventure to this destination, visitors will not only enjoy the vast wilderness landscapes but also exhilarating outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain climbing, boating, village exploring, and most of all, riding elephants.
All in all, a visit to the park is a perfect Vietnamese cultural experience. Yok Đôn National Park is second in size to Cúc Phương National Park. It spreads across the provinces of Dak Lak and Dak Nong, as well as into Cambodia. Established in 1992, Yok Đôn is the only national park of its kind known to conserve dry, deciduous, dipterocarp forests.
Not only are flora and fauna plentiful, but you will discover 116 species of wood and more than 100 medicinal plants within the park. Wild elephants, guar, and water buffalo roam freely, deep in its forest. Don’t forget, a visit to Yok Đôn would not be complete without spending time in the M’Nong and other ethnic villages of the region.
Krông Na, Buôn Đôn District, Đắk Lắk Province, Vietnam | yokdonnationalpark.vn
Your Next Trip to Vietnam
Remember, on your next visit to Vietnam it’s your mission to leave the city. Hop on a motorbike and seek out the country’s best national parks. You may not have enough time to explore them all, but at least try one to experience a taste of the majestic wildlife, nature, and untouched countryside in Vietnam.