Containing the country’s northernmost point, Hà Giang is a remote province in Northeast Vietnam. The province’s location and mostly empty landscape have earned it the nickname of “Vietnam’s final frontier”.
While few visitors stay for an extended amount of time, the Hà Giang Province has become a well-known stopover destination for travelers leaving or coming to Vietnam from China. Those who do travel to Hà Giang will be welcomed by friendly communities and extraordinary views of the karsts, plateaus, and valleys.
How to Get to Ha Giang
Hà Giang Province’s location in Vietnam is as far north as it can get. The province meets Southern China’s Yunnan Province with the border stretching for over 167 miles (270 kilometers). There is only one city in the province with the rest of Hà Giang divided into ten rural districts. The provincial capital, also named Hà Giang, is situated near the center of the province.
Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city, is 175 miles (281 kilometers) to the south of the Hà Giang Province. Traveling by car is the most common way to get between the two destinations, however, it can take up to 6 and ½ hours. People who are in Southern Vietnam should expect to have a multi-day journey unless they choose to fly to a destination in Northern Vietnam to make the travel times shorter.
The most famous feature of the Hà Giang Province is the Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark, which spreads throughout four of Hà Giang’s ten districts. Protected by UNESCO, the history of the geopark and furthermore the province, dates back to 550 million years ago when the mountains and canyons were being formed.
However, recorded human history within the Hà Giang Province began only 30,000 years ago with the Tày Tu tribes. Since the late 18th century, the H’Mông people have been a dominant force in the region. Specifically, in Hà Giang the H’Mông lords have had a strong grasp over districts like Dông Van and Mèo Vac, which are both situated along the Vietnam-China border.
When the French occupied the province in the late 1800s, the H’Mông lords remained neutral. However, by the turn of the century, local tribes in the Hà Giang Province began to rebel against the French. The longest rebellion lasted from 1913-1915 and it was led by leaders of a local Dao clan.
Known as the White Hat Revolt, the rebellion was crushed by the French with many local Vietnamese killed or deported. Today, there are only a few traces of the French occupation left in towns like Dông Van or Mèo Vac. Instead, the local ethnic tribes have begun to thrive as they rely on selling local produce and goods.
In modern Hà Giang, the Vietnamese government recognizes that there are 43 ethnic groups living in the province. The H’Mông, Tày, and Dao are the three largest groups in the area. Of the 43 ethnic groups, each has its own subculture and language. Locals survive on the area’s rich soil, forests, and rivers. Typical industries within the Hà Giang Province are farming and fishing.
- From a survey completed in 2019, an estimated 854,000 people live in the Hà Giang Province
- There are 4 border gates in Hà Giang with Thanh Thùy being the largest
- Hà Giang is one of the poorest provinces in Vietnam because of the mountainous and remote landscape
Bearing the same name as the province, Hà Giang City sits on the bank of the Lô River and it is the provincial capital. Settled in the 19th century by Vi Xuyên, the town was further expanded during the Nguyen Dynasty. Though, it wasn’t until 2010 that the city was named as the provincial capital.
Uniquely, Hà Giang City is also the only city within the province, and it is the area’s largest urban development, although it lacks tourist infrastructure. There aren’t adventure parks, gardens, or even many museums in Há Giang because of the area’s high levels of poverty. Most prominently, the capital city is used as a hub for travelers who are visiting the province.
Visitors can take a tour of the local markets, nearby agricultural fields, or head off to more remote areas of the province. While there aren’t many attractions in Há Giang, there are a few good hotels and restaurants for travelers. The Khách Son Dinh Gia Há Giang is one of the nicest hotels in the city and it has very affordable rates.
For backpackers, the Há Giang Hostel is the place to go because rooms are inexpensive, and the communal areas are clean.
Most hotels in Há Giang are too small to have their own restaurant, but there will likely be a few options that are within walking distance from your accommodations. A few highly rated restaurants in Há Giang are the Central Backpackers Bar and Jasmine Coffee.
Famous Towns in Há Giang Province
Apart from Há Giang City, there are a few towns in the province that have become tourist destinations. Remote, the beauty of Há Giang’s rural towns is the reason why travelers choose to go by land over the border and through the area.
Dông Van is a mountain town in the Há Giang Province and a stopover destination for tourists who are traveling in or out of Vietnam through the border with China. The town has become one of the most visited destinations in the province because of its old town center, Lung Cu Tower, geological formations, Mã Pí Lèng Pass, and Flower Festivals.
Located to the east of Dông Van, Méo Vac gives travelers the opportunity to reconnect with Mother Nature as they explore Vietnam’s most remote terrain. Connected to Dông Van by the Mã Pí Lèng Pass, Méo Vac is a well-known destination for hikers and motorbikes who are eager to view the town’s extraordinary landscape.
Close to the town, there are also a few caves and ethnic villages that are open to visitors.
As one of the country’s most remote provinces, activities in Há Giang tend to be focused on the beauty and wonder of nature. The province is located far away from the busy cities and with various isolated villages, Há Giang is one place where visitors can nourish an authentic relationship with both the landscape and the local people.
Tour the Historic Sites
From the local ethnic groups to the times of French colonization, there are quite a few historic sites in the Há Giang Province. Dông Van and Méo Vac have leftover structures from the days of French colonization. Though, perhaps the most recognized site is the old fort that sits above Dông Van, which can be accessed by hiking.
In Méo Vac, the Chung Pua Village is a historic site that was built by the H’Mông people about 300 years ago.
Visit the Local Markets
Both the rural towns of Dông Van and Méo Vac have become well-known for their local markets. Selling local produce and handmade goods, there are various markets held throughout the week from Monday to Sunday. Dông Van and Méo Vac’s most popular markets are both held on Sunday.
Explore the Geopark and Mã Pí Lèng Pass
In reality, the Dông Van Karst Plateau Geopark covers most of the Há Giang Province. However, the best places to visit within the park are the areas around the towns of Dông Van and Méo Vac. The Mã Pí Lèng Pass is one popular spot in the geopark that frequently draws in a steady stream of visitors.
With the highest altitude recorded at 4,921 feet (1,500 meters), the summit of the Mã Pí Lèng Pass gives visitors amazing views of the karst mountains and valleys.
Flower Festivals and Love Markets are the special events that frequently draw outside visitors to the Há Giang Province. In February, Dông Van hosts a Peach Blossom Festival and in autumn, there is a Buckwheat Flower Festival. Both events are used to promote tourism in the province and give visitors a chance to learn more about the local culture.
The biggest special event in Méo Vac is the Love Market, which is held on the 27th day of the 3rd lunar month. Locals attend the market to find love and celebrate their traditions.
The high altitudes of the Há Giang Province mean that the area experiences 4 weather seasons, instead of just 2. Most of Vietnam has a wet and dry season, but in Há Giang the temperatures shift dramatically throughout the year. The best weather occurs from October until December because there is less rain and heat.
These months are also right before the temperatures drop for the winter. Travelers who are visiting Há Giang during winter will need to pack warm weather gear.
As one of Vietnam’s least visited provinces, tourism in Há Giang is still in the early stages. However, with less infrastructure interfering with nature, the province is one of the last areas in Vietnam where tourists can explore the untouched wilderness. Boasting a beauty unlike anywhere else, the Há Giang Province should be at the top of every adventurer’s travel list.
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