A quaint and compact urban area, Gia Nghia City is the capital of the Dak Nong Province. Recently upgraded from township to Class-3 city status, this Central Highlands city is home to a tight-knit community that lives nestled in the stunning Vietnamese countryside. Frequently uncrowded and with very limited tourist infrastructure, not many travelers venture to Gia Nghia.
Instead, the city is a place where travelers can have an authentic experience of rural life in Vietnam. Truly off of the beaten track, wide-open spaces, and luscious hills are everyday scenery throughout Gia Nghia. Additionally, travelers who do find their way to the city will fall in love with the easy-going atmosphere and friendly locals.
Compact Capital in the Central Highlands Region
Gia Nghia City is located along Route 14, which runs through the Central Highlands Region. Not too far from Gia Nghia (Gia Nghĩa) , the route splits east to the capital of Dak Lak (Dắk Lắk) Province, Buon Ma Thuot (Buôn Ma Thuột) City. About 2.5 hours northeast of Gia Nghia, Buon Ma Thuot is the closest large-scale urban area to the city.
The Buon Ma Thuot Airport is the closest destination where travelers can fly into the Central Highlands before heading southwest to Gia Nghia. Rather isolated, the only other major destination that’s somewhat close to Gia Nghia is Da Lat. Taking the winding mountain passes through the countryside, the drive from Gia Nghia to Da Lat takes just under 4.5 hours.
In the far south, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is 5 hours away driving. Not many travelers will make the journey from HCMC to Gia Nghia because of the distance and remote location of the Central Highland capital. Aside from using the airport in Buon Ma Thuot, the only way to reach Gia Nghia City is by road.
Foreign tourists should be aware that independent travel through Dak Nong Province is heavily restricted by the local government. Gia Nghia District, which includes the capital city, is the only place in Dak Nong (Ðắk Nông) Province where tourists are not required to have a local guide or visiting permit.
As a capital city, Gia Nghia doesn’t have an extensive history. Rather, the development of Gia Nghia and Dak Nong Province is all relatively new. Prior to 2020, Gia Nghia was Vietnam’s only town that was acting as a provincial capital. After 2020, growth in the city had expanded enough that Gia Nghia was declared a city.
However, Gia Nghia City’s status as an urban center for Dak Nong Province didn’t begin until 2003. One of the newest provinces in Vietnam, Dak Nong was created in 2003 when Dak Lak Province became too big. Split from Dak Lak, Dak Nong Province and Gia Nghia were created.
Ethnic culture in Gia Nghia City can be traced back to ancient history when the Champa Kingdom ruled over the area. In 1540, control of the Central Highlands Region was given to ethnic Vietnamese. Ruling for centuries, ethnic culture is an important part of Gia Nghia’s identity as many descendants still live in the province and Gia Nghia.
Evidence of this ancient culture has been found in the province’s Geopark, which was formed 140 million years ago and was once underneath the ocean. Evidence of human civilization in Dak Nong Geopark dates back to about 10,000 years ago as archeologists have found various types of weapons as well as musical instruments in the area.
Culture is very important to the local people and ethnic traditions have been fiercely guarded from outsiders. Although Gia Nghia is open to foreign tourists, much of Dak Nong Province is still closed to all foreign visitors. Looking to expand tourism in the city and province, locals have become friendlier to foreigners.
- The city covers an area of 286.64 sq km (110.67 sq mi).
- An estimated 61,413 people live in Gia Nghia City as of 2017.
- In Vietnamese, Gia Nghia’s full name is Thành phố Gia Nghĩa.
Sometimes described as a “less touristy Da Lat”, there aren’t many attractions in Gia Nghia City. Limited in choice, tourists in Gia Nghia will likely find themselves exploring the quiet city streets or remote countryside. Seeing foreigners in the city is still a rarity and many locals will be curious to interact with outsiders.
Of the limited tourist attractions, the most popular places to visit in Gia Nghia City are Doi Che (Ðối Chè) Garden, Thac Lieng Nung (Thác Liêng Nung) Waterfall, Nam Nung Nature Reserve, and the Ta Dung (Tà Dùng) National Park. Additionally, tourists may enjoy simply wandering the streets of Gia Nghia and exploring the local lifestyle.
Doi Che Garden
In the countryside outside of Gia Nghia City, Doi Che Garden is one of the best places to view the area’s beautiful scenery. Situated along the river and boasting rows of manicured leaves, the garden is a photographer’s paradise. In addition to the natural beauty, visitors to the Doi Che Gardens can learn more about local agriculture.
Tea is commonly grown in the garden, as are a variety of local flowers. The garden is open throughout the year, although the best time to go is towards the end of the year when the plants are beginning to bloom.
Thac Lieng Nung Waterfall
Less than 20 minutes outside of Gia Nghia City is Thac Lieng Nung Waterfall. Typically uncrowded, the waterfall features a single cascade that falls from a rocky overhang. At the base of the waterfall, a deep pool overflows into a stream. Incredibly green, beautiful, and secluded, the waterfall is a must-see for tourists in Gia Nghia.
Fed by the Dak Ninh Stream, the waterfall has run dry in previous years. Visitors who wish to see the waterfall at its best should visit Thac Lieng Nung during the rainy season. Being so remote, tourists are encouraged to hire a local guide in Gia Nghia City as they are great resources for information as well as transportation.
Nam Nung Nature Reserve
Covering 20,000 hectares, Nam Nung Nature Reserve is 45 km (28 mi) away from Gia Nghia. Protecting endangered evergreen forests, the reserve is renowned for its waterfalls, like Bear and Seven Floors, and horn-shaped peaks also called Nam Nung. Remote and secluded, visitors will have to hire a guide to take them on an intense hike to reach the stunning cascades.
Visitors can also take a guided hike to the summit of Nam Nung Mountain. Additional activities in the nature reserve include guided camping tours, bird watching, and wildlife observing. Tour guides are required for all visitors to the park, especially for those who wish to camp or hike to remote destinations within Nam Nung.
Ta Dung National Park
At the center of Ta Dung National Park is an extensive freshwater ecosystem and lake. Bearing the nickname, “Ha Long Bay of South Central Vietnam”, the national park is a unique destination where the landscape is split between mountains, a lake, and more than 40 islands.
Visitors to the park can partake in fun activities like boating around the lake’s various islands, hiking along the shore, or camping overnight under the stars. During the day, Ta Dung National Park is open to all visitors and guides are not necessary. However, for visitors who wish to camp overnight, joining a tour group is required.
Local guides can be hired at the main service center for both daytime and overnight activities. Camping tours are one of the most popular ways to enjoy the national park with local guide services providing all the gear and meals for an affordable price.
While there aren’t many attractions in Gia Nghia, tourists can enjoy strolling through the quiet streets. Local markets are great places to meet locals and peruse the local cuisine. Walking along the riverside and over the footbridges brings visitors close to nature, while still staying within city limits.
A limited commercial center provides some shopping options in Gia Nghia, but visitors shouldn’t expect to see big corporate stores set up in town. On the outskirts of town, a small amusement park has a roller coaster and a few other carnival delights.
With limited accommodation options and minimal tourist infrastructure, visitors will have to settle by staying in a local hotel or homestay. Hotels can be found in the city, meanwhile, homestays are common in the countryside. The best places to stay in Gia Nghia are the Hoa Yen Hotel, Hotel Sai Gon Dak Nong, Doi Che Gia Nghia Homestay, and the MeGarden Daknong.
Hoa Yen Hotel – Located in town, the Hoa Yen Hotel offers travelers the comforts of a modern design and amenities. Built a few years ago, the hotel includes free Wi-Fi, parking, and laundry service. Dog and kid-friendly, hotel rooms range from standard, double, or twin beds, with triple rooms available for families. All units are air-conditioned and have a private bathroom with a shower.
Hotel Sai Gon Dak Nong – Another property that’s in town is the Hotel Sai Gon Dak Nong. Designed for luxury and comfort, units at the hotel include options for deluxe suits, family rooms, king, single, double, and quadruple rooms. Kids are welcome to stay and pets too. All rooms have a private bathroom attached.
Many rooms at the Hotel Sai Gon Dak Nong have a balcony or terrace. The hotel’s restaurant also has outdoor seating options. Other amenities include car parking, Wi-Fi, and daily housekeeping. Staff at the hotel are on-site 24/7 and can help arrange for tours or transportation.
Doi Che Gia Nghia Homestay – Close to Doi Che Gardens and nestled amongst green gardens, Doi Che Gia Nghia Homestay has plenty of in-house facilities such as access to a kitchen, garden, BBQ, and lakeside waterfront. Providing access to a full house with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, the host family is more than happy to assist with arranging transportation or local tours.
MeGarden Daknong – Another homestay option is the MeGarden Daknong, where guests can stay in a private villa with a garden view. Outfitted with 2 beds and 2 bathrooms, the house is perfect for groups of travelers. While the house lacks a kitchen, guests can use the outside BBQ or request meals in their room. Provided for comfort, guests will have access to AC and free Wi-Fi.
Being such a small and remote capital, there aren’t any big chain restaurants or imported menus. Instead, tourists will be able to taste some of the best homemade and local traditional Vietnamese food. Serving staples like Vietnamese hotpots, noodles, spring rolls, and tasty desserts, Gia Nghia’s restaurants are often highly rated for their great food and friendly service.
A few of the best places to eat in town include the Banh Mi Chu Voi Con – GN, Cua Hang Yen Sao Hoang Gia, Seoul BBQ, and the Nha Hang Lodge.
Even as a small capital, Gia Nghia hosts a Brocade Festival every year at the end of November. Aiming to boost tourism and honor the local culture, the Brocade Festival showcases the beauty of the traditional craft. Weaving intricate pieces from jewelry to wall decor, festival vendors use local materials and traditional handcraft methods to make beautiful brocade displays.
Ranging in price, some of the brocade artwork uses rare materials like jade while less expensive pieces use wooden beads and bright colored fiber to make wearable jewelry. In addition to the numerous pieces of art on display, common activities during the festival include conferences, performances, demonstrations, and special ceremonies.
Getting around Gia Nghia is fairly straightforward because the city’s so compact, most of the touristy areas in the city are within a specific section, so tourists can easily walk between hotels, restaurants, and attractions. For those who want to explore outside of the city, local taxis are the best and most affordable way to get around.
Many hotels can also assist with arranging transportation while a few places may even include the use of complimentary bicycles. Local tours are another great way to get around as many companies will provide transportation for their guests. Again, hotels are a great resource to find quality tours and staff can assist guests with reserving a spot.
Tourism in Gia Nghia City is reliant on the weather. Many activities are dependent on the weather and whether visitors are in Gia Nghia during the wet or dry season. Tourism is limited throughout the year and visitors don’t seem to favor one season over the other. The wet season in Gia Nghia begins in May and lasts until October.
Heavier rain, high humidity, and hot temperatures may seem off-putting, but for many tourists, the wet season is the best time to see the area’s beautiful waterfalls.
Beginning in November, the dry season brings cooler temperatures and less rain. While some waterfalls may still flow during the dry months, which last until April, a few may be down to just a trickle. However, the dry season is a great time to explore nature in Gia Nghia City and take part in local festivals.
Unknown to most tourists, Gia Nghia City is an out-of-the-way destination. Working hard to become more developed for tourism and ready to open to foreign visitors, the city is constantly working to support new construction and attractions. For now, Gia Nghia is an isolated wonderland that quietly enchants its visitors.
Activities near Gia Nghia City