One of two national parks created in 2018, Phia Oac – Phia Den is the newest addition to Vietnam’s list of protected landscapes. Open for research and eco-tourism, Phia Oac – Phia Den is the first national park in the Cao Bang Province.
Protecting Vietnam’s magnificent mountain forests, this national park is a sanctuary for many of the country’s rarest plant and animal species. Relatively unknown, Phia Oac – Phia Den is ideal for trail-blazing travelers who want to unveil Vietnam’s mysterious beauty.
Phia Oac-Phia Den National Park is about 6 hours outside of Hanoi, in the Cao Bang Province, and protects nearly 26,000 acres of northeast Vietnam’s mountain region. Away from urban areas, Phia Oac-Phia Den is a remote haven for unique flora and fauna.
There are two popular base camps near the national park. Located 40 miles (63.8 kilometers) away, Cao Bang City is the largest urban settlement near Phia Oac – Phia Den, meanwhile, only 12 miles (19.4 kilometers) outside of the park is the small town, Tinh Tuc.
Established as a nature reserve a few decades prior, the Vietnamese government decided to award Phia Oac – Phia Den with national park status in 2018. The new national park title aims to not only protect the land but also establish funding for research, conservation, and eco-tourism.
Historically, Phia Oac – Phia Den has been a target due to its rare or luxurious resources. The park’s mountains and terrain have a mixture of karst and granite rocks as well as karst and non-karst formations. The cooler climate in Phia Oac – Phia Den has allowed rare plant species to thrive, many of which are now endangered due to their highly sought bark, leaves, and seeds.
The land around Phia Oac – Phia Den is known for its beauty. During the 20th century, French colonists were drawn to the grandiose landscapes in Cao Bang Province. Reaping the rewards of an untouched paradise, the French constructed many villas throughout the local towns that now serve as vacation houses for tourists.
What to Do
Being that there are minimal infrastructure and facilities, nature takes the main stage at Phia Oac – Phia Den. Left intact, the forests within this national park are thriving. Visitors have the option to take a hike through the green vegetation or explore the nearby town of Tinh Tuc. The close proximity to Hanoi makes Phia Oac – Phia Den the ideal spot for a weekend getaway.
Nestled amongst the green mountains, fields, and paddies, the national park’s closest town, Tinh Tuc, is well known amongst locals for its ore mines, which are open daily for tours. Aside from that, travelers won’t find an abundance of activities in the area as the town is not designed to house many tourists.
Visitors intent on staying in Tinh Tuc may find a homestay option, which is the best way to experience the village. Some local residents are happy to open their homes to foreign visitors and show them the beauty of Vietnam’s countryside.
Life in the Busy City
Worlds apart from the quiet nature of Tinh Tuc is Cao Bang City. Less than a two hours’ drive from the national park and much more developed than the countryside villages, Cao Bang City acts as a base camp for most tourists.
Awaiting guests in Cao Bang City is an array of restaurants, shops, hotels, and a large outdoor market. Home to 9 different ethnic groups, diversity is a staple feature in the city. With multiple lifestyles congregating in one place, Cao Bang City gives tourists the opportunity to explore various aspects of Vietnamese culture.
Cao Bang City’s central location within the greater province also provides tourists with easy access to some of the area’s natural wonders including the Ban Gioc Waterfall, nearby mountain caves, and the Thang Hen Lake.
Tour the National Park
While being remote has protected Phia Oac – Phia Den’s landscape and inhabitants, its isolation requires adventures to overcome difficult terrain to explore its wonders. Moreover, a maze of trails in the park makes solo or self-guided travelers less suitable.
Instead, guests who are serious about venturing deep into the park should hire a local guide. Having both experience and a wealth of knowledge, guides can direct guests to the park’s most stunning features.
Hiking in Phia Oac-Phia Den
Named after the park’s two highest peaks, Phia Oac – Phia Den boasts an intense mountain terrain. The steep paths and overgrown forests can be challenging, even for experienced hikers. If you’re looking for easier trails, you should opt for the lower elevation trails that are less strenuous. If summiting a mountain isn’t you’re thing, there are still plenty of areas to explore within the park.
Plants and Wildlife
Phia Oac – Phia Den National Park is a place where all forms of life thrive. Acclaimed for its biodiversity, this national park is a hotspot for researchers and nature-loving tourists.
There are nearly 2,000 species of plants and animals living in the park, including highly sought-after mahogany trees and medicinal herbs. Endangered creatures like Asian black bears, musk deer, and wildcats as well as various insects also roam wild in Phia Oac – Phia Den.
How to Get There
With the national park situated north of Hanoi, most visitors will travel from the capital to Cao Bang City, with a few choosing to further to Tinh Tuc Village. The only way to get from Hanoi to either Cao Bang City or Tinh Tuc is by road. Tourists will have the option of hiring a private driver, taking a public bus, or renting a vehicle to make the journey.
Overnight buses are an affordable option for budget travelers, but it can take up to 8 hours of driving time to reach Cao Bang City. Private drivers are the fastest way to travel from Hanoi to Cao Bang City, and they provide both excellent service and safety. Renting cars or motorcycles is another option, though not recommended for travelers who are wary of driving in a foreign country.
From Cao Bang City, travelers can arrange both public or private transportation into the national park. Tourists who book a tour with a local company will likely find that transportation to Phia Oac – Phia Den is included in their package.
When to Visit
Vietnam has two seasons – wet and dry. Generally, weather favors visitors during the dry season which occurs from October to April. In northern areas, like where Phia Oac – Phia Den is located, it can be quite cold in the winter months, with or without rain.
In the mountains, rain or mist can occur year-round. The difference is that the amount of rain in the dry season is much less than during the official wet season, which is from May to October. Most visitors will prefer to visit the national park during the dry season to escape the heat and humidity of summer.
The untouched landscape of Phia Oac – Phia Den National Park will dazzle you with its gorgeous views, luscious foliage, and unique wildlife. Home to karst peaks and verdant forests, Vietnam’s newest national park in Cao Bang Province truly stands out from the rest.
Address: Thành Công, Nguyên Bình District, Cao Bang, Vietnam