Featuring a mountainous landscape, the Hoa Binh Province (Hòa Bình) is a blend of the best of Northern Vietnam. Showcasing epic landscapes, caverns, mountains, and a sprawling capital city, the province has a bold array of tourist itineraries.
More developed than some of the nearby remote areas, Hoa Binh has become a popular destination for those looking to venture outside of Hanoi.
Mountainous Province in Northern Vitnam
Hoa Binh is inland from the coast, and it is bordered by 6 provinces, including Hanoi. Within the province, 10 districts and 151 communes are spread throughout 4,590 sq km (1,772.43 sq mi) of land. The province is landlocked, though the mountainous terrain does harbor large bodies of water like the Bôi River.
Most travelers in Hoa Binh will come from Hanoi because the capital is located just slightly to the northeast. Travelers from Hanoi will have to head southwest from the city to reach the province. Hanoi is a mere 71.6 km (45 mi) from the provincial capital, Hoa Binh City.
Cars, buses, and motorbikes are the best way to travel to Hoa Binh. With private transportation, tourists should expect the drive to take 1 hour and 23 minutes. Public transportation can be slower and depending on traffic, it could take up to 45 minutes longer to travel by bus.
The Hoa Binh Province was established in June 1886, however, at the time, it was named Muong Province. Under the decree of Tonkin, the Muong Province split up the Muong ethnic majority areas. These areas included the provinces of Hung Hóa, So’n Tây, Ninh Bình, and Hanoi.
The division and creation of the Muong Province only lasted a few years. In 1888, the province was relocated and combined with the Phuong Lâm District. Under French authority, the area became known as the Phuong Lâm Province. In 1891, the Governor-General of French Indochina officially created Hoa Binh Province.
During the following decades, the province would continue to shift its boundaries and various districts were added or annexed from the city.
Aside from the creation of the province, Hoa Binh is most famous for its strong resistance to the French. The Battle of Hoa Binh took place just outside of the capital between French and Viêt Minh forces. With a strategic placement that provided armies with free movement throughout Northern Vietnam, the French forces wanted to take Hoa Binh for themselves.
At the end of a bloody battle, thousands were dead on both sides, however, the Viêt Minh were victorious in holding their ground. Today, the history of the Indochina War is still told in Hoa Binh and tourists can visit historical sites and see wartime artifacts while visiting. In fact, the rich history of the province is what makes it such an interesting destination.
- As of 2019, the estimated population of the Hoa Binh Province is 854,131 people.
- The three largest ethnic groups in Hoa Binh are the Muòng, Vietnamese, and Thái.
- The name Hoa Binh is derived from Sino-Vietnamese, and it means “peace”.
In line with many places in Vietnam, the name Hoa Binh is used for both the province and capital. Hoa Binh City is in the northern part of the province and is just 76 km (47 mi) from Hanoi. The capital city is also just 5 km (3.1 mi) away from the Dà River, which is where the second-largest hydroelectric dam in Vietnam and Southeast Asia was built.The city was erected using funds from the Soviet Union, which also influenced the local architecture. Travelers will notice that the city has a unique mix of Vietnamese and foreign architectural designs. With its Muong roots, Hoa Binh City is one of Vietnam’s oldest areas.
Known for its Hoabinhian culture, the city is beginning to draw in substantial tourist crowds because of the area’s history, landscape, and activities. The most popular tourist attractions in and around Hoa Binh City are the Hoa Binh Hydroelectric Dam, Kim Boi Mineral Springs, and the Muong Cultural Space Museum.
To get the full experience, tourists should plan to spend some time in Hoa Binh and support the local economy by staying in one of the city’s quality accommodations. As the largest urban area in the province, there are plenty of hotels, hostels, and B&Bs. Top-rated hotels include the Grand Hotel Diamond Palace, Sakura Hotel, Hoa Dao Hotel, and the AP Plaza Hotel.
Dining out is another way to explore more of the province’s culture. Visitors are encouraged to try the local delicacies which include dishes like lam rice, grilled fish, and grapefruit leaf rolls. Highly rated dining establishments in Hoa Binh City include Kate Tea 152, the Quáng Ngon Restaurant, Lâu Hiêu, and the Chu Gia Restaurant.
Famous Towns and Districts in Hoa Binh
With 9 districts and hundreds of communes, a few places stick out in the Hoa Binh Province. These areas include Kim Boi, Mai Châu, and Cao Phong. Each district has its own unique beauty ranging from verdant fields to grand caverns and powerful waterfalls. When traveling through the Hoa Binh Province, travelers should add these districts to their list.
Cao Phong District
Another rural district that has garnered tourist attention is Cao Phong, which is most well-known for the Thac Bo Cave. Backed by epic mountains and wide rivers, the district stuns with its natural beauty. Apart from Mai Châu, Cao Phong is where tourists go to explore the great outdoors. Visitors should also take a boat tour of the Quay Son River to get some Instagram-worthy shots.
Mai Châu District
Easily the most famous district in the Hoa Binh, Mai Châu attracts plenty of tourists because of the area’s amazing scenery and traditional villages. Located in the mountainous parts of the province, Mai Châu has both a low and high region.
The lowlands are covered in vibrant agricultural fields, which the rugged mountain ranges hide large caves and grottoes. The stilt houses found in the valley are traditionally built using bamboo and timber.
Kim Bôi District
A rural district, Kim Bôi has become a big destination in Hoa Binh because of the area’s delightful hot springs. Surrounded by nature and gentle waterfalls, the springs are a great place to relax after a long day. Visitors in Kim Bôi can also spend time exploring the local communes or hiking through the tropical forests.
With no large cities, travelers who are overnighting in the Kim Bôi district should arrange to stay at a guest house or hotel.
A cradle for Vietnamese ethnic culture, there are hundreds of tourist sites in the Hoa Binh Province, and visiting all of them in one trip is impossible. It would only be achieved by taking extended time to visit the area. For travelers who are on a limited travel schedule, determining what to see and do can be challenging.
The most popular attractions in the province are the Mu Waterfalls, Thung Nai, Mai Châu villages, Thac Bo Cave, and the Kim Bôi Hot Springs.
Nestled in the mountainous landscape and dense forests of the Hoa Binh Province are the Mu Waterfalls. Freefalling from great heights, the falls are a series of cascades that cut through the thick trees. At the base of the falls, the water collects into a small pool, which is safe for swimming. Visitors to the falls can take pictures on the rocks or swim in the river below.
Thac Bo Cave
A pilgrimage site for locals, Thac Bo Cave was built in 1431 to commemorate a Hmong woman, Dinh Thi Van, who led locals in a fight against foreign forces. Supporting Le Loi, the woman and her friend gathered food for the troops. Since then, the Thac Bo Cave has been both a spiritual and historic site. With tours offered daily, the massive and formations will leave you in awe.
Mai Châu Villages
Inhabited by the Tai Dam and Tai Kao people, the Mai Châu Villages are one of the province’s most visited tourist attractions. Homestays in the villages are popular and it allows visitors the chance to learn Vietnamese culture from the local people. Aside from getting to know the locals, the breathtaking beauty of the valley is guaranteed to make your jaw drop.
Kim Bôi Hot Springs
A great place to relax and unwind from the day, the Kim Bôi Hot Springs features hot spring pools that range from 93.2-96.8° F and draw their warmth from deep beneath the mountains. Fountains continually pull that water to the surface to ensure that the temperature always stays just right.
Modernized, the springs have been turned into a resort where travelers can sit back and soak their stress away.
Filled with water after the rainy months, Thung Nai is in the Cao Phong District of the Hoa Binh Province. A retreat for local and international tourists, the lakes of Thung Nai are lined with luxury guest houses, traditional stilt abodes, and resort-like areas. Great for outdoor activities, many visitors choose to camp, fish, canoe, and boat on the lakes.
Alongside Vietnam’s national holidays, Hoa Binh hosts a variety of local festivals that honor the Muong tradition. Held to preserve the people’s unique culture, popular celebrations include the Vai Communal House Festival, Gong Festival, and the Muong Bi Summer Festival. In addition, many of the local pagodas will host their own festivals throughout the year.
Usually, there is always something going on in Hoa Binh, so tourists can get hands-on experience with the local culture and traditions.
Much like most of Northern Vietnam, the best time to visit Hoa Binh is during the dry season. October to March, and even sometimes April, are when the monsoons aren’t pounding down, and with less rain and humidity, travelers should be prepared for cold weather, especially if they are visiting during the months of January or February.
For slightly warmer temperatures, visitors can visit in October or November. Though many travelers will welcome the colder weather because it allows them to visit and enjoy the province’s beautiful hot springs.
The Hoa Binh Province is special to Vietnam because of its preservation of ancient Vietnamese culture. Sheltering old-age traditions, travelers to the province should consider it an honor to see and explore the area’s cultural sites. With friendly locals and a beautiful natural setting, visitors will fall in love with this unique province and everything that makes it so special.
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