Top 5 Nature Destinations Near Hanoi
Hanoi may be a gorgeous city of ancient architecture and heritage, but it is plagued by the modern problems of pollution and traffic congestion. After a few days of this, most visitors are more than ready to head out into the greenery surrounding the capital. Some of the ‘real Vietnam’ can be seen in Hanoi’s nearby nature attractions, which comprise the country’s mountain-flecked northern provinces. Indochine Cruise, a luxury cruise in Lan Ha Bay, presents the top 5 nature destinations near to Hanoi, spanning five different provinces accessible in just a few hours’ drive.
Lan Ha Bay – Hai Phong Province (135km from Hanoi)
Those surprised not to see Halong Bay amongst Hanoi’s best nearby nature attractions should brush up on Lan Ha Bay, the tranquil alternative to the touristic UNESCO Site. Much like Halong Bay located directly north of it, Lan Ha Bay is a world of mountains shooting out of the sea, with the same forested tops and silent, solemn nature as its much more famous neighbor. Here, however, a lack of crowding and noise allows the bay’s natural quiet and prehistoric ambiance to engulf the scene, stretching across caves, coves, beaches and islands indistinguishable from Halong.
Things to do in Lan Ha Bay
Kayak – Lan Ha Bay feels made for kayaking and many cruises in the region take advantage of this. Depending on what time you visit, the secluded areas of the bay can be almost completely silent, save for the sound of waves lapping the feet of rock towers. These mountains provide another angle of beauty when viewed from close range, as do hidden beaches which encourage docking and relaxing
Visit Cat Ba Island – Comfortably the largest island in Lan Ha Bay is one of the best nature spots near Hanoi in its own right. Cat Ba Island is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve due to its incredible abundance of caves, jungle and crystal sea. Viet Hai in the north of the island is an isolated village where the ancient approach to life prevails, while many of the pretty fishing villages around it are evidence of the hardy Vietnamese spirit. Cat Ba National Park provides wonderful vistas of the surrounding area and deep green tones unmatched by other northern Vietnamese nature attraction
Cruise in Luxury – Regardless of all the fabulous attractions dotted around Lan Ha Bay, many of the tourists who visit are content with simply relaxing onboard their cruise. Modern Lan Ha boats like Indochine Cruise are revelations in luxury and comfort, offering smooth sailing between limestone peaks with onboard spa, bar, lounge, and restaurant facilities. A complete absence of engine sounds means that passengers can relax atop the incredible sundeck or in their fabulous 5-star cabins in utter serenity.
Indochine Cruise is a new, 5-star luxury cruise in Lan Ha Bay. Our ship, route, and itinerary aim to provide our passengers with an un-touristic experience of a primeval seascape. Found out here how we do that on our 3-day and overnight Lan Ha Bay luxury tours.
Ta Xua – Son La Province (200km from Hanoi)
A name unfamiliar to most tourists in Hanoi is Ta Xua, yet just one glance at this cloud-topped mountain is enough to solidify its credentials as one of northern Vietnam’s best nature destinations. The potential of Ta Xua for breath-taking photos is enormous; each of the three peaks that form this range becomes clouded in mist in the early morning hours between December and March. During this time, Ta Xua is alive with Vietnamese locals seeking Instagram-friendly pictures, though foreigners doing the same are still quite the rarity.
Things to do at Ta Xua
Climb the Dinosaur’s Backbone – Ta Xua’s tallest peak is its most famous amongst locals, and also one of the top 10 tallest mountains in the country. That makes climbing this peak rather challenging, but those who make the ascent between 5 am and 9 am during the winter will be rewarded with a sea of cloud stretching from below their feet to the horizon ahead.
Capture the Moment on Camera – As mentioned before, Ta Xua is one of the most photogenic of all nature destinations outside of Hanoi. Even without its famous cloud, the range offers sublime views over the nearby mountain landscape of Son La and Yen Bai provinces. The nature in the lower section of Ta Xua is stunning and the smiling ethnic H’mong locals make for a beautiful touch of human culture for your photos.
Walkthrough the Apple Tree Forest – The H’mong ethnic group are masters of the mountain in northern Vietnam. In the Ta Xua mountain range, they live and grow apples at high altitude. The apple tree forest here is a beautiful selection of sturdy trees and a plethora of other natural delights such as bees, butterflies and vibrant flowers in bloom.
Mai Chau – Hoa Binh Province (150km from Hanoi)
Rustic Vietnam is best captured in Mai Chau, an area of hundreds of shades of green to the west of Vietnam’s capital. This valley has long been one of the essential nature-based destinations close to Hanoi and duly attracts a wealth of tourists looking to return to Vietnam of many centuries ago. Rice paddies, mountains, and forests account for much of the greenery of Mai Chau, but bolder colours are presented across the dresses of the Thai, Dao and H’mong, three ethnic groups who have lived and farmed in the idyllic valley harmoniously.
Things to do in Mai Chau
Trek and Cycle through Nature – The simplicity of Mai Chau’s gorgeous landscape is best matched with simple activities. Trekking and cycling along quaint village paths winds between Mai Chau’s emerald shades, passing wooden stilt houses belong to the prominent Thai ethnic group en route.
Hoa Binh Lake – Tipped for an increase in tourism in the coming years, Hoa Binh Lake is currently a beautiful destination largely overlooked amongst the paddies of Mai Chau. This is the biggest artificial lake in Southeast Asia, located in Mai Chau’s northern reaches and hosting boat tours in the long shadows of its Halong Bay-Esque sea-mountain backdrop.
Visit Chieu Cave – Not all of Hanoi’s nearby nature attractions are on full display. Chieu Cave is a cavern hidden at the end of a residential alley and a stairway of 1,200 stone steps, rewarding those making the effort to visit it with wonderfully cool air and gorgeous rock formations. The two floors and plethora of stalactites throughout Chieu Cave offer another take on Mai Chau and northern Vietnam’s limestone geology.
Ba Vi National Park – Hanoi Province (60km from Hanoi)
The closest natural attraction to Hanoi lies just within the capital’s home province. Ba Vi National Park demands a mere 1-hour drive to the west of Hanoi, where the city and its outer villages fade into gorgeous, hilly nature. This was one of the favoured spots of the French during their colonial period in Vietnam; the airy nature of its altitude offered refreshment from the capital and still does so today. Duly, local Vietnamese and expats in Hanoi make the most of Ba Vi in the summer months, when shady paths, evergreen forests, lofty mountain peaks, and waterfalls offer their most welcome break from the scorching heat.
Things to do in Ba Vi National Park
Find the French Ruins – Remnants of France’s colonial rule over Vietnam can be found in the mystical forest of Ba Vi. Several villas and churches were built amongst the trees, alongside a political prison for revolutionary Vietnamese citizens. The buildings’ various states of ruin are the result of them being left in a hurry, now acting as beautiful but eerie vestiges of a failed regime.
Climb up King Peak – At about 1,300m, King Peak earns its royal moniker as the tallest of Ba Vi’s three peaks. The mountain peak looms large in the background on a clear day in the capital and, during a clear day in Ba Vi, it offers a wonderful view of Hanoi and its surrounding nature attractions. Along the hike to the top is some of Ba Vi’s most wonderful nature and a smattering of mini views before the climactic panorama.
Swim at Thien Son Waterfall – Just to the side of the park’s main entrance, visitors looking to cool off can do so most effectively from Thien Son Waterfall and its accompanying water park. The multi-tiered waterfalls are usually quiet and sublime places to swim while surrounded by forest, though they can get busy during the holidays. The drive back downhill from the lofty waterfalls passes some of Ba Vi’s most incredible lake, mountain and vista scenery.
That was the top 5 nature destinations near to Hanoi, brought to you by Indochine Cruise. Both our 3 and 2-day luxury cruise around Lan Ha Bay can show you the best of Vietnam’s number 1 travel destination – Halong Bay – but on a route that avoids the crowds. See our itinerary here to see how we can offer you a pristine landscape in 5-star comfort.