An integral part of Vietnam’s Western Nghe An Biosphere Reserve, Pù Mát National Park has become the country’s most important endemic mammals conservation site. Five rare species, which include primates, deer, and rabbits, live within the park’s boundaries. Pu Mat’s rarest inhabitants are the white-cheeked crested gibbons, which have only been found in this part of the world.
Additionally, endangered mammals like the Indochinese tiger and Indian elephant also live in Pù Mát. The park’s rare inhabitants have garnered worldwide attention, causing researchers and visitors to flock to the park in order to observe its unique biosphere. Perfect for nature lovers, Pù Mát is ideal for homestays, trekking, and ecotourism.
Hugging the border with Laos, Pù Mát National Park is located on the north-central coast of Vietnam. A part of the Nghe An Province, the park is southwest of Hanoi. Driving from Hanoi to Pù Mát National Park would take about 6 and ½ hours, so those hoping to make this trip can opt to stay in Vinh.
Vinh is a major city in north-central Vietnam and has become a focal economic trading route for Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam. About 2 and ½ hours away from Pù Mát National Park, most visitors stay overnight in Vinh and arrange a tour of the park with local guides. Additionally, travelers may be interested in arranging a homestay in the Con Cuông Village.
Before Pù Mát became a national park, it was one of Vietnam’s Preservation Zones. In late 2001, the Prime Minister of Vietnam decided to upgrade it to a national park, protecting 221 acres of land in addition to thousands of plant and animal species. Translating to “high slope”, the “spirit forests” of Pù Mát are spiritually significant for locals.
With impressive mountains, dense forests, and gorgeous rivers the name is fitting for this national park. Unfortunately, poaching has become a major issue in the park and conservationists are always on alert, even going as far as asking visitors to keep an eye out for any hidden snares.
What to Do
Pu Mat National Park has plenty of attractions to visit, including highlights such as the Kem Waterfall, Giang River, and multiple ethnic villages. Heading away from the tourist areas often requires taking long treks through the forest, and while challenging, those who complete it are rewarded with unforgettable memories.
Tours and Local Guides
Being guided through Pù Mát is the best way to experience its untouched nature. Booking a tour will often put you with other visitors who are traveling from bigger cities like Vinh and the itineraries will often include all of the park’s significant highlights.
Hiring a local guide would be better if you prefer to have a private tour and many visitors prefer hiring one to avoid tourist crowds. With local guides, visitors can also partake in different activities like trekking to remote areas of the park.
In a similar vein to many national parks, there are dozens of trails in Pù Mát that can lead to amazing destinations. From paved walkways to single-file trails, this park has a trek to suit everyone’s preferences. Tours and local guides can lead visitors on the right paths to popular destinations.
Day tours will pick the shortest paths, but overnight trips might include a few full days of trekking through the forest. Popular overnight treks include homestays in ethnic villages, or time spent camping amongst the wilderness in Pù Mát.
Visit Traditional Villages
Thai, Tho, H’Mong, and Dan Lai people are all residents of the Pù Mát National Park. Most visitors will travel to a Thai village to experience the local’s unique culture and craftsmanship. Other popular activities include booking a homestay and learning about the villager’s traditional methods.
Meals are frequently shared during a visit to a village and com lam, a traditional sticky rice dish cooked in bamboo, is often served. Visitors who would like to share more than a meal can arrange to stay overnight in the village. Most villages will be able to provide accommodation, as long as your visit has been pre-arranged.
The Kem Waterfall is perhaps the most sought-after destination in Pù Mát National Park. About 12.5 miles (20 km) from the Con Cuong Village, the Kem Waterfall cascades from a height of nearly 500 ft (150 m). Visitors can only reach the waterfall by trekking through the forests.
A somewhat difficult hike, rain can make the narrow paths slick and muddy, however, the journey is worth it, and the waterfall is a superb reward. Trickling down from the mountain, visitors can enjoy views of the falls and cool off in the stream below. Fishing is allowed and boat rides are also available a short distance from the falls.
Important to locals as a fishing resource and a magnet for tourists, Giang River is the park’s top highlight. Easy to access, the river is open to swimmers, boaters, and fishers. If you’re planning on taking a tour, a boat ride down the river is frequently part of the itinerary.
Visitors on a less restricted time limit can learn how to fish from the locals or taking a swim along the banks. With green hills and limestone mountains towering above the Giang, the views can’t get any better. Mostly flat and gentle, visitors won’t be facing huge rapids, so everyone can enjoy a peaceful cruise on the water instead.
Plants and Wildlife
Thousands of plant and animal species live in Pù Mát National Park. Of the nearly 2,500 plant species, new variations are being discovered each year and currently, scientists are completing taxonomic work to discover new types of vegetation. In addition to the numerous plants, there are hundreds of animal species.
Most significant are the northern white-cheeked gibbon, saola, shanked douc, Truong Son muntjac, Assam macaque, Ussuri dhole, Indian elephant, Owston’s civet, Sunda pangolin, Indochinese tiger, and the Annamite striped rabbit. The elusive gibbon is the most critically endangered species in Pù Mát with only 455 northern white-cheeked crested gibbons left in the wild.
How to Get There
Located half a day outside of popular cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City makes it harder for visitors to reach Pù Mát National Park. Day trips from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh are impossible, so visitors will have to arrange a different plan to see Pù Mát. Alternatively, the city of Vinh, which is about 2 and ½ hours away from the national park, is the place that most tourists go to stay the night.
Vinh is a part of the same province as the park and it is a major city in north-central Vietnam. Flights from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City can be arranged to transport visitors to Vinh, and once there, tourists can book a tour or hire a private driver to take them to the national park.
When to Visit
There are three distinct weather patterns in Pù Mát National Park which cycle throughout the year. The coldest months are from December to March, which is when the temperatures drop, meanwhile, from April to July, the park will frequently be basked in sunshine. These are dry months when rain can occur though it won’t be in torrential downpours like the rainy season.
Coinciding with summer vacation, these months are the most popular time to visit Pù Mát. The drier weather is also a welcome relief to trekkers who want to avoid the mud. Finally, the rainiest time of the year in Pù Mát is during the months of August to November. August tends to be very humid and with the added rain, it can be downright miserable trying to hike through the park.
Moreover, boat rides may also be impeded by the rain. Some visitors choose to brave the wet weather, but most avoid the area.
Relatively untouched, Pù Mát National Park is one of the few places left in the world where visitors can experience nature at its finest. Home to many elusive animal species, Vietnam’s government is ensuring that the area will be preserved for future generations. A gem in the Nghe An Province, make sure to add Pù Mát National Park to your itinerary!
Address: Con Cuông District, Nghe An, Vietnam
Phone: +84 238 3873 374
Season: Year-Round | 8 AM – 8 PM | Best during the dry season