In the past few decades, Vietnam has become a premier tourist destination, with vibrant cities, gorgeous beaches, and stunning landscapes drawing visitors from around the globe.
For those who prefer to trek in the wilderness, taking time to venture into Vietnam’s mountainous terrain will make you truly appreciate Vietnam’s raw beauty. While not in the same league as the Himalayas or the Alps, Vietnam does have some impressive mountains to see, scale, and conquer.
All of the country’s tallest mountains are located in Vietnam’s extreme northwest, in the provinces of Lai Chau and Lao Cai along China’s southern border. If you’re within the capital city of Hanoi, reaching these sites will require an overnight bus or train ride. While in the capital, take the chance to check out some of the tallest buildings in Vietnam as well.
So if you prefer your landscapes in a vertical format, here are the tallest mountains in Vietnam:
Mount Fansipan – 3,147 m |10,325 ft
Known as the “Roof of Indochina” Fansipan was already the tallest peak in Vietnam even before getting a 14 foot (4.3 meters) boost in altitude in 2019 when surveyors reevaluated earlier statistics.
This mountain lies within Hoàng Liên National Park, roughly halfway between Hanoi and the Chinese city of Kunming. In the past, summiting this peak required a strenuous multi-day hike, but thanks to a record-breaking cable car system, visitors can now skip the hard part and get right to the views that make this such a worthy attraction.
From its terminus in the Muong Hoa Valley, guests are ride up nearly 4 miles, which takes about 15-20 minutes, to reach the highest station. As the car ascends the peak, the swirling mosaic of greens and yellows from the rice paddy fields below will surely make this an unforgettable scene.
Arriving at the terminus, visitors will be greeted with a tranquil garden, providing some serenity as well as snapshots of the large Buddha statue perched on the mountainside. At this point, guests can choose between a funicular rail or a series of staircases to reach the summit, which is marked with a large metallic pyramid.
Not surprisingly, the view from the top is a sight to behold. The platform offers 360-degree views of cloud-covered peaks stretching out to the horizon; a perfect setting for silent contemplation or the ultimate selfie.
In an area that is already known for its amazing landscape, Mount Fansipan is the proverbial cherry on top of a visit to this natural wonderland.
Pu Si Lung – 3076 m | 10,092 ft
Vietnam’s second-highest peak, Pu Si Lung, lies so close to the border that if you fell off the wrong way, you’d end up in China. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but geographically, this mountain is right at the frontier between the two nations. It should be noted that one must first get permission from the Lai Châu Military Staff Committee before attempting to scale this mountain.
Pu Si Lung‘s remote location places it in an area with little in the way of infrastructure. The route is an arduous trek, lasting several days even for experienced trekkers. The slopes are steep, the drop-offs are dizzying, and heavy rains can make overnight camping a miserable and dangerous affair.
Nonetheless, the opportunity for authentic interaction with local villagers, the earthy scent of rich vegetation, and the satisfaction of reaching the top make scaling Pu Si Lung a thrilling life experience. Just make sure you’re dedicated enough to endure the intrinsic hardships of getting there.
Phu Ta Leng – 3049 m | 10,003 ft
Located northwest of Mount Fansipan, Phu Ta Leng is a more challenging peak to conquer than its big brother. As with Pu Si Lung, this trek takes several days, requiring explorers to camp overnight at a few locations. It is recommended to start the journey from Ho Thau Commune in Lai Chau Province.
From there, it’s a journey into the primeval rain forest and towering bamboo stalks on the way to the summit. The ascent of Phu Ta Leng is most famous for its rhododendron trees, which when in bloom (usually in March) offers a gorgeous splash of purples and pinks amidst the mostly green terrain.
At its upper reaches, trekkers can marvel at the terraced rice paddies in the valley below and bask in the triumph of taking in a view that few will make the effort to see.
Bach Moc Luong Tu – 3045 m | 9,990 ft
Straddling the border between Lai Chau and Lao Cai Provinces, Bach Moc Luong Tu is Vietnam’s fourth highest peak. Once again, reaching the summit requires a multiple-day journey far off the beaten path, far from the usual tourist routes.
A popular way to take on Bach Moc Luong Tu is with an organized tour, which handles all the details from transportation to and from Hanoi, to guides and porters, meals as well as camping gear and accommodations. Given the strenuous nature of the trek, it’s a rather good value to go with this option when all is said and done.
The summit of Bach Moc Luong Tu often allows for sweeping views of surrounding peaks, poking above a sea of clouds. Watching the sunrise or set along the way is truly a wonder to behold. For gorgeous panoramas without the crowds, this mountain is a great option for the avid explorer on the hunt for an authentic alpine experience on the short side of ten thousand feet.
The Trek to the Top
With all of the options listed above, the cable car ride to the top of Mount Fansipan notwithstanding, it is noteworthy that undertaking such a challenge is not recommended for those in poor health. The treks are strenuous, sometimes ridiculously steep, and are often far removed from the reach of any medical attention.
This is not to say that one must be in perfect health before taking on one of Vietnam’s highest peaks, but good judgment is highly recommended before putting oneself in a situation that could potentially be fatal.
However, for those fit and dedicated enough to rise to the challenge, a trip to the four tallest mountains in Vietnam’s otherworldly northwest will be the thrill of a lifetime. If you’re looking to add more adventure to your outdoor excursion, take a trip to one of Vietnam’s major rivers for a little fun by the water!