Sitting at the head of the Red River Delta Region, Phu Tho (Phú Tho) is a province in Northern Vietnam. Strategically located at the confluence of the Red and Da Rivers, this northern province has been nicknamed the “West Gate of Hanoi”.
Important to the Phu Tho Province is the production of tea, dynastical connections, and the Xuan Son National Park (Xuân So’n). Additionally, the province’s proximity to Hanoi makes it a popular day trip or weekend vacation destination.
How to Get to Phu Tho
Uniquely, Phu Tho Province marks an area of geological transition for Northern Vietnam. Blending the mountains from the far north with valleys of the delta, the landscapes in Phu Tho are verdant and stunning. Boosting mighty peaks, rolling hills, and gentle plains, rivers also flow through the province, adding to its mystical beauty.
Covering an area of about 3535 sq km (1,365 sq mi), Phu Tho boasts a mixture of urban and remote destinations. Hanoi, the country’s capital, is the closest major city to the Phu Tho Province. To get to the provincial capital of Viet Tri (Viêt Trì), travelers will have to head 82 km (51 mi) to the northwest of Hanoi.
Driving by renting or hiring a car is a popular way to travel to Phu Tho and it takes about 1 and a ½ hours. Trains and buses are more affordable ways to travel, but the journey is slower and it can take over 2 hours to reach Phu Tho. The most convenient way to get to the province is by flying to the Noi Bai International Airport, which is roughly 56 kilometers (34 mi) from Viet Tri.
Lineage in this northern province can be traced back to the 3rd millennium BC. Known to historians as the Hong Bang Period, Phu Tho Province was a part of the first Vietnamese state called Xich Quy. Ruling for 18 dynasties and building the Van Lang Nation, the Hung Kings (Hùng) are a significant part of the local and national identity.
During the 3rd century BC, the province became the site of the Hung Temple Complex. Situated on top of the Nghia Linh Mountain, the complex is dedicated to the Hung Kings. Today, Phu Tho Province is considered to be sacred ancestral land and the cradle of the Lac Viet culture.
The birthplace of the nation, there are many historical sites in the province that honor Vietnam’s epic past. Though the Hung Temple Complex is the most famous historical site in the province, there are more than 150 significant sites in Phu Tho that preserve Vietnam’s history and traditions.
Older than civilization, the geography of the province is an impressive sight for many travelers. Featuring thousands of acres of natural forest and limestone mountains, tourists can dig deep for a rounded education on Vietnamese landscapes and culture.
- Phu Tho is one of the poorest provinces in Vietnam, with the average household earning less than $6 US dollars per person, per month.
- There are 11 districts, 1 town, 1 provincial city, 11 townlets, 248 communes, and 18 wards in the Phu Tho Province.
- Tea is the main crop and an important part of the economy in Phu Tho.
At the Hac Junction (Nga Ba Hac) of the Red and Lo Rivers (Lô), the city of Viet Tri is the capital of Phu Tho Province. The strategic location of Viet Tri on the river system has given it the nickname the “City of Confluence”. Seen for its potential development, many companies have invested in Viet Tri, which has significantly boosted the local economy.
Viet Tri City is the first stop for many travelers in Phu Tho. An industrial city, Viet Tri will likely surprise visitors with its various attractions. A hub for more than businesses and factories, tourists will have the chance to explore an important part of Northern Vietnam.
The city has many sites like the Binh Son Pagoda, Hung Vuong Museum (Hùng Vu’o’ng), and Golden Bridge Pagoda which are an integral part to the country’s history, culture, and identity. However, there are a few natural gems worth exploring too. In the city limits, Van Lang Park is one of the top tourist spots, boasting restaurants, hotels, and entertainment complexes.
Catering to business and leisure, travelers will have the option of staying at a variety of accommodations. From large resorts to mini-hotels, many properties have been highly recommended by previous guests. The top hotels in Viet Tri City are the Muong Thanh Luxury Phu Tho, Cross Vibe Viet Tri, Truong An Hostel, Sai Gon Phu Tho Hotel, Hotel Mini, and the Nha Nghi Moc Huong.
The city also has a mix of quality restaurants that serve mostly traditional Vietnamese cuisine, however, there are a few places that incorporated their take on classics like hamburgers, pizza, and pasta. Some of the best eateries in Viet Tri City are the Buffet Restaurant Seoul Bulgogi BBQ and Hotpot, Gogi House, Manwah Taiwanese Hot Pot, Thai Coco Restaurant, and the Pansy Restaurant.
Famous Places in the Phu Tho Province
Outside of Viet Tri City, most of the communities in Phu Tho are small and rural. With thousands of acres of untouched natural forest, this province is one of the most unique in the Red River Delta. Some of the best communities outside of the city to explore in Phu Tho include Ha Hoa District (Ha Hòa), Phu Tho Town (Phú Tho), and the Lam Thao District (Lâm Thao).
Ha Hoa District
A remote district, Ha Hoa has a mountainous landscape that’s famous for its epic trekking paths and beautiful scenery. The locals live in a small community, which has helped preserve the area’s landscapes. Homestays are popular accommodations here and hosts are happy to guide tourists on hikes through the forests. Additional attractions in the area include day visits to the district’s ethnic villages.
Phu Tho Town
The largest urban area outside of the provincial capital, Phu Tho Town has become a well-known tourist destination due to its hilly landscape. Bordering the town’s edges are fields of tea, which grow and bloom into a vibrant green hue. Great for learning about Vietnamese tea culture, tourists will also find that the historic and religious sites in the town are alluring.
Lam Thao District
One of the newer rural districts in the province is called Lam Thao. Boasting a river landscape, activities in Lam Thao are centered around the great outdoors. Aside from touring the small communities, tourists can hike and boat through the district’s landscapes. Tourists in Lam Thao should also consider spending time with the locals to learn about agricultural traditions.
Adding to the list of attractions in Phu Tho Province, there are a few must-visit places for tourists. Highlighting the culture and nature of this northern province, the best tourist attractions in the Phu Tho Province are the Hung Temple, Xuan Son National Park, Green Pearl Island Tourist Area, Long Coc Tea Hill (Long Côc), and Ao Chau Pond.
At the summit of the Nghia Linh Mountain, there is a complex that consists of several temples called Hung Temple. Each temple is dedicated to the Hung Kings who founded the country and created the first ruling Vietnamese dynasty. Locals believe that the temple was once the capital of Van Lang. Currently, the temples are the number one tourist attraction in the Phu Tho Province.
Green Pearl Island Tourist Area
For families, the Green Pearl Island Tourist Area is a fun park where parents can take their kids to enjoy the day. Attractions at the complex include a water park, roller coasters, and numerous playground areas. There are plenty of restaurants in the tourist area, so guests can refuel throughout the day. From Viet Tri, the park is 53 minutes to the southwest.
Xuan Son National Park
Boasting a series of caves, rivers, waterfalls and amazing limestone karsts, Xuan Son National Park protects the southeasternmost peaks of the Hoang Lien Son Mountain Range (Hoàng Liên Son). A mere 80 miles from Hanoi, this national park is an underdeveloped gem.
Visitors can arrange for a homestay with the locals and hire guides to take them to the caverns and through the forests. Highlights in the park include Ten Mountain, Ban Coi, and Coi Cave.
Long Coc Tea Hill
One of the most beautiful and unique areas for tourists to visit in Phu Tho is in the Tan Son District. Often shrouded in mist, green hills of tea emerge from the shadows as sunlight hits their peaks. The Long Coc Tea Hill stretches out over 700 hectares with most visitors planning their trip for the fall or winter months.
Aside from the hills where the tea plants are grown, communities in the area welcome tourists to sample and learn more about Vietnam’s tea culture.
Ao Chau Pond
Sometimes called the “Mini Halong”, Ao Chau Pond is a natural heritage site in Vietnam. Located in the Ha Hoa District, the pond has a picturesque landscape that is dotted with mountains and 100 islands of various sizes. With clear water, travelers will have the chance to spot rare aquatic species like the Golden Turtle or Trionychid Turtle.
Boat tours of Ao Chau Pond are the best way to explore the water and the numerous islands.
Culture is thriving in Phu Tho and to keep with ancient tradition, there are numerous celebrations held throughout the year. One of the biggest celebrations in this historic province is the Hung Kings Festival. Celebrations are held at both the Hung Temple Complex on top of the Nghia Linh Mountain and in the capital city, Viet Tri.
Beginning on the 10th of March, the festival kicks off with a grand display of fireworks. Multiple ceremonies are held including the Palanquin Procession and Incense Offering Ceremony.
As a northern province, Phu Tho experiences two seasons throughout the year. Though often divided into wet and dry, travelers visiting during the winter should be prepared to face colder temperatures. Generally, the wet season occurs during the summer months and the dry season happens during the fall and winter months.
Travelers who are interested in spending time exploring the area’s natural beauty should plan their trip accordingly. Tourists tend to favor visiting the province from November through March as this coincides with the dry season. Hiking during the rainy season is unsafe as trails have the tendency to wash out or flood.
With a long and glorious history, Phu Tho Province has long captivated the hearts of the locals. Now expanding its reach into the international realm, more travelers are hearing whispers of the province’s beautiful landscapes and ancient culture. A hidden gem outside of Hanoi, travelers will want to get to Phu Tho before it becomes overrun.
For now, this northern province remains a rustic, uncrowded, and gorgeous destination.
Activities near Phu Tho Province
- Ha Long (245km)
- Hai Duong (166km)
- Hai Phong (204km)
- Hanoi (84km)
- Ninh Binh City (180km)
- Thai Binh City (184km)