Throughout Vietnam, mountains are the backbone of the country’s topography. The rivers, jungles, and coastal plains, all in some way or another, owe their existence to the mighty mountain ranges that have created the contours of Vietnam’s landscape. The longest of these is the Ammanese Range, which serves as the curving spine of Vietnam’s “S” shaped form.
The tallest range, which also contains Vietnam’s highest peaks, is the Hoang Lien Son Mountains, located within the far north. A closer look reveals not only their impressive nature but also the natural wildlife and residents that call this stretch of land home.
Hoang Lien Son Mountains in northern Vietnam
The Hoang Lien Son Mountains are tucked away in the northwestern corner of Vietnam. Continuing with the analogy of Vietnam being shaped like an elongated letter ‘S’, the Hoang Lien Son Mountain Range would be located in the top left arc of the upper loop.
In geographical terms, this range is considered an eastern extension of the Himalayas and forms a natural border with the People’s Republic of China. The majority of the range falls within the provinces of Lao Cai and Lai Chau.
These mountains aren’t considered the “Rooftop of Indochina” for nothing! The tallest peak in this range is also the tallest in all of Vietnam: Mount Fansipan. Coming in at 3, 147 meters (10,325 feet), Mt. Fansipan offers amazing views from its summit, which thanks to a record-holding cable car system, can bring guests to its upper reaches in less than 20 minutes.
The second-place holder for the title of the highest peak in Vietnam is nearby Pu Si Lung, which only falls short of Mount Fansipan’s height by less than 75 meters. While not as accessible as Fansipan, it does offer great views and an authentic experience for those hearty enough to make the trek.
Rounding out the top 3 is Phu Ta Leng, known for its rhododendron trees and overnight camping to reach the summit.
Flora and Flora
The Hoang Lien Son Mountain Range is primarily composed of primitive forest, which results in lush, green slopes in nearly every direction. Boasting over 2000 species of plants, the flora varies with the altitude, ranging from bamboo and creepers to pine and other hearty trees.
Not surprisingly, the wildlife that makes its home in the Hoang Lien Son Mountain Range is suited for the forest’s varying altitudes and environment. There are larger mammals, like langurs and gibbons as well as several hundred species of birds, reptiles, and amphibians.
The majority of people who live in the Hoang Lien Son Mountains are ethnic minorities. The largest among them is the H’Mong people (if you’re reading this out loud, the ‘H’ is silent), who are spread throughout southwestern China, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.
Other ethnic minorities include the Xa Pho, Tay Giay, Kinh, and Dao. Due to being able to have authentic interactions with these colorful and ancient cultures, many people are drawn to the area.
Sights and Activities
Mount Fansipan is not only the tallest peak in Vietnam but also a sought-after tourist destination. While the aforementioned cable cars will whisk visitors up its slopes, you can still make the multi-day trek to the top. Furthermore, the mountain is also located within Hoang Lien Son National Park.
The primary tourism destination in the area is the town of Sapa, which is not only the starting point for a trip up Mount Fansipan but also a practical base of operations for guided tours and adventure activities in the region.
The town is popular for trekkers looking to scale the aforementioned mountains, as well as to take in the gorgeous green-laden contours of the rice paddies that put this destination on the map.
A visit to this region is also an excellent opportunity to witness the everyday cadence of the ethnic minorities mentioned earlier, who go about their business just as they have for centuries.
Location: Nothern Vietnam
Provinces: Lao Cai | Lai Chau
Length/Width: 180 km | 30 km
Highest Peaks: Fansipan | Pu Si Lung | Phu Ta Leng
National Park: Hoang Lien Son National Park