Riding a motorbike through the remote mountain ranges of Northern Vietnam on the Ha Giang Loop is about as good as it gets when searching for an off the beaten path adventure. We had heard bits and pieces about this extreme motorbike loop and knew we had to check it out for ourselves when visiting Vietnam.
In a world of chasing the perfect Instagram photo (guilty!), it is getting more and more difficult to find authentic cultural experiences. However, the Ha Giang Loop is a wonderful opportunity to get off the beaten path and experience the real Vietnam. Riding around this remote circuit allows you to gain an unprecedented glimpse into the lives of the local communities and ethnic minorities that live here.
It was fascinating to see the local people dressed in their multi-coloured traditional wear as they spent the day hard at work in the fields. Their hard working nature was evident on the stooped older generations, permanently bent at the waist from years of intense labour and subjecting their back to heavy loads. This whole trip gave us an intriguing insight into a world that seemed far removed from our fast-paces western lifestyles.
The Ha Giang Loop in Vietnam is roughly a 375 kilometre circuit that winds through valleys and mountain peaks alongside the border of neighbouring China. Crazy roads, friendly locals and epic mountain views all combine to create one of the best adventures in Vietnam.
If riding a motorbike through some of the most stunning landscapes in Southeast Asia for four days sounds like your sort of jam, then check out our itinerary and travel guide for completing the Ha Giang bike loop.
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Ha Giang Loop at a Glance
- Day 1: Ha Giang to Yen Minh (90km)
- Day 2: Yen Minh to Dong Van (85km)
- Day 3: Dong Van to Du Gia (95km)
- Day 4: Du Gia to Ha Giang (100km)
Getting to Ha Giang
Most people will come to the Ha Giang Loop from Hanoi. The easiest and cheapest way to reach Ha Giang from Hanoi is to take a bus. Busses tend to leave in the morning and there are also sleeper busses which leave later in the evening. Journey time from Hanoi to Ha Giang is about 7-8 hours.
We booked all of our transport in Vietnam through Bookaway as we found them to always be the cheapest option.
Check out timetables and book your tickets to Ha Giang.
From Cao Bang
If you headed north to visit Ban Gioc waterfall as we did, then you will need to travel from Cao Bang to Ha Giang. This journey takes around 10.5 hours via a taxi and two busses. The first bus leaves from Cao Bang bus station at 05:15am.
To reach the bus station you will need to take a taxi from your accommodation to the bus station. From Cao Bang Eco Homestay, where we stayed in Cao Bang, it took around 15 minutes and cost us 100,000VND ($4.30 USD). This bus arrives in Bao Lam at 10:45am and costs 120,000VND ($5.17 USD) per person.
The second bus leaves Bao Lam at 12:00pm and arrives in Ha Giang around 3:45pm. Tickets for this bus journey cost 100,000VND ($4.30 USD) per person.
These are local busses and tickets cannot be bought online before hand.
Busses from Sapa to Ha Giang are less frequent. They run twice in the morning, at 08:00am and 10:00am, and once in the evening at 8:00pm. Journey time to Ha Giang is approximately 6-7 hours.
Getting Around the Ha Giang Motorbike Loop
Option 1: Drive Yourself
There are several ways to enjoy your Ha Giang tour. The first, and in our opinion the best option, is to rent a motorbike and drive yourself.
This gives you total freedom to follow your own itinerary and plan your own route. On a tour like this one, the freedom to stop when and where you like, take a detour that peaks your interest and immerse yourself amongst the locals is all part of the adventure. It also allows you to extend your trip if you are having a blast and want to see more of Northern Vietnam.
Motorbike vs Scooter
When renting a bike for the loop, it is recommended to take a semi-automatic motorbike rather than an automatic scooter. The semi-automatic bike is actually much better for the mountain roads as you can drop to lower gears for the steep uphill sections, and you can also use engine braking on long downhill sections to ensure you don’t overheat the brake pads.
Do not be too concerned if you have never driven a motorbike. Prior to the loop we had a lot of experience on scooters but neither of us had ever ridden a semi-automatic motorbike. The semi-automatic was quite simple and straight forward. After a quick lesson from the rental shop we felt comfortable on the bike and ready for the loop.
That being said, if you are not comfortable riding a motorbike, it is possible to complete the loop on a scooter. We met a couple along the route who were on two scooters. Their biggest complaint was that their hands got sore from hand braking rather than using their foot.
Option 2: Hire a driver
Some people may not feel comfortable driving on these roads as they can be quite sketchy. In the span of four days we met 10 different people who were in minor accidents while on the loop.
This is not to deter you, but to give you a heads up that these roads can be difficult and dangerous and should only be ridden if you’re completely confident. If you still want the motorbike experience, but are not confident in your own skills, you can hire a local driver and you can sit on the back as a passenger.
This is called an easy rider and gives you a similar experience without the worries of driving yourself. Ask your hotel about organising an easy rider to complete the loop.
How Dangerous is it Driving Here?
Honestly, we’d have to say it’s one of the more dangerous roads we have ever driven on. At our hostel each night there were several people with road rash scrapes along their arms and legs after having minor crashes.
Our aim isn’t to try and scare you away from doing the loop, it is just to make you aware of how dangerous it is. We were run off the road on one occasion by a car that came around a blind corner on our side of the road. It is just so unpredictable here and the roads are even worse when it is wet.
We don’t usually worry about danger when we head off on an adventure, but the sheer number of people that have accidents here made us want to mention it. Just be prepared to go slow and keep an eye out for crazy drivers. If you are confident in your abilities and drive sensibly you should have no worries.
It is important to have good travel insurance and keep in mind not all companies cover motorbike accidents. We recommend World Nomads and use them for all our travels.
Where to Rent a Motorbike and Rental Cost
There are quite a few places that rent motorbikes in Ha Giang, including most of the hostels and hotels. However, we definitely recommend going with QT Motorbikes and Tours. After reading reviews online we were confident that they had well maintained bikes that would get us safely around the loop.
This isn’t an area you want to cheap out on as you don’t want to break down in the middle of nowhere. Going with a company that had amazing reviews for well-kept bikes was a no-brainer for us.
We took the cheapest semi-automatic bike on offer, which was a Honda Blade with a 110CC engine. It cost 160,000VND ($6.90 USD) per day during the low season. Insurance is also available here for an extra 100,000 VND per day to cover any issues with the bike and to provide a replacement bike. However, being the budget travellers we are, we chose not to take insurance.
Having never ridden a semi-automatic before we were kind of sceptical, but the guys at QT gave us a quick lesson and we were pro riders in no time. We shared one bike for our Ha Giang motorbike tour and it was reasonably comfortable for the two of us with a small day bag strapped to the back.
The guys at QT were amazing from start to finish. They sat us down before we went and gave us a detailed run down of what our route should be, how long it should take and the main sights to see along the way. They provide you with a well laid out map plus loads more information and tips. We also extended our rental while on the road and they were incredibly accommodating.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to head north and complete the Ha Giang Loop is between March and May, the spring season, and from September to November, the autumn season. This time of year tends to be warm and dry in Northern Vietnam and you will avoid the extremely hot summer temperatures.
That being said, we completed the Ha Giang Loop in June and found the weather to be very pleasant. At this time of year, rain can be common but we were incredibly lucky and only had minor sprinkles.
The winter months between December and February are often cold and wet so it may not be the best time to travel in Northern Vietnam.
Ha Giang Loop Map
Below we have put together a map of our Ha Giang motorbike tour, including where we stopped each night. This route can be followed in either direction but we suggest that you head to Yen Minh first and complete the circuit in that direction. The majority of people follow this route so it will be easier to meet travel mates to ride with.
Budget for the Ha Giang Bike Loop
Due to its off-the-beaten path nature, it is insanely cheap to complete this motorbike loop. In fact, it was the cheapest 4 days of our entire trip in Vietnam. Below we have broken down our costs so you can get an estimate of how much to budget for this trip. Please bear in mind that these costs are for 2 people.
Total Cost Over 4 Days for 2 People:
Bike Rental: 640,000VND ($27.28 USD)
Accommodation: 530,000VND for 3 nights stay ($22.58 USD)
Food and Drinks: 1,020,000VND ($43.50 USD)
Fuel: 290,000VND ($12.36 USD)
Miscellaneous: 174,000VND ($7.42 USD)
Total Cost: 2,654,000VND ($113.14 USD)
Average Daily Cost for 2 People:
Bike Rental: 160,000VND ($6.82 USD)
Accommodation: 176,666VND ($7.53 USD)
Food and Drinks: 255,000VND ($10.87 USD)
Fuel: 72,500VND ($3.09 USD)
Miscellaneous: 43,500VND ($1.85 USD)
Average Daily Cost for 2 people: 663,500VND ($28.28 USD)
*As the loop took us four days and 3 nights, the three nights’ stay were averaged over the four days to provide the average daily cost for two people.
Where to Stay in Ha Giang
You will probably need to stay in Ha Giang the night before you start the loop and the night after you finish. Our recommendation is Bong Ha Giang Hostel. It is clean and comfortable, has air conditioned rooms and is right in the centre of town giving easy access to shops and restaurants.
Check rates and availability for Bong Ha Giang Hostel here.
Ha Giang Tour – 4 Day Itinerary
Four days is the perfect amount of time to complete the Ha Giang Loop. It allows you to take in all the best sights without rushing to get through everything. Taking 4 days will give you a full day of sightseeing each day without having to spend the whole day on your bike (your butt will thank you for this).
It is possible to complete the loop in as little as 2 days. We met a guy just before we left who did it in 2 days however he did say it was a lot of driving each day. Some people also stretch the tour out to 5 days and really take their time.
How long you take is entirely up to you, but we recommend a minimum of 3 days. Our itinerary can easily be altered to work with either a shorter or longer trip.
Day 1: Ha Giang to Yen Minh
Distance: 90 kilometres
Driving Time: 3 hours
- Bac Sum Pass
- Heaven’s Gate (Quan Ba)
- Lunch at Caffe Yen Ngoc in Tam Son
- Fairy Bosoms
Bac Sum Pass
The first stop on the Ha Giang Loop. It is around a 30 kilometre drive from Ha Giang to the top of the Bac Sum Pass. On the way here you will pass corn fields, banana trees and lots of little road side stalls selling fresh produce such as dragon fruit and bananas.
You start the first of many long roads up into the mountains when you enter into the UNESCO Geopark. As you climb the beautiful windy roads of the Bac Sum Pass, the view over the valley below starts to reveal itself. Pull over at the side of the road and take in the spectacular view of the valley below.
Heaven’s Gate (Quan Ba)
With the Bac Sum Pass on one side and the Tam Son Valley on the other, Heaven’s Gate offers insane views in both directions. There is a small restaurant on each side of Heaven’s Gate, each offering a different view into the valley below.
The vast Tam Son Valley boasts impressive karst towers amongst the rice fields and wild flowers. It’s worth stopping on both sides to take in the spectacular landscapes. Pick your preferred side to sit and enjoy an ice cold drink.
Caffe Yen Ngoc for Lunch and the Fairy Bosoms
As you drive down into Tam Son Valley you will get a great view of the Fairy Bosoms or Fairy Mountains, two symmetrical, rounded hills set in amongst the rice fields. Stop for lunch at Caffe Yen Ngoc for a delicious lunch. It’s easy to spot this place as it is the busiest restaurant in Tam Son and will be lined with motorbikes.
Once you have had lunch you can drive out to get a better look of the fairy bosoms. We threw the drone up to get an aerial perspective of this unique landmark that is said to resemble a fairy’s two bosoms.
Drive to Yen Minh
After leaving Tam Son you will drive along a large river. Once you cross the river the road splits into two. Google Maps was telling us to stay on the valley floor but there was a sign pointing upwards that said it would be 19km shorter to travel through the mountains.
We decided to take the shorter route and head back into the rocky mountain peaks. This road was full of tight hairpin bends and blind corners and took us passed more local villages. At the top of this mountain is another viewpoint with an epic view down to the valley below.
Continue on for another 15-minutes and you will start your descent towards Yen Minh. There is a viewpoint called view Lao Va Chai where you can take in the insane amount of rice terraces on all sides of the valley.
After this viewpoint you pass through a pine tree forest where you can see flashes of the endless rice terraces between the trees.
Where to Stay in Yen Minh
Homestay Phuc Anh is a great place to stay in Yen Minh. It is cheap, has air conditioned rooms and is in a great location.
Check rates and availability for Homestay Phuc Anh.
Yen Minh is a decent sized town that has ATMs, a gas station and plenty of restaurants.
Day 2: Yen Minh to Dong Van
Distance: 85 kilometres
Driving Time: 3.5 hours
- Tham Ma Slope
- Chin Khoanh
- Lung Cam H’mong Cultural Village
- Lookout on the way to Lao Sa
- H’mong Royal Palace
- Lung Cu
Tham Ma Pass
As you leave Yen Minh you start your ascent into the mountains straight away. You will pass impressive rice fields full of local women working. The communities here are amongst the most hard working we have ever seen – with some of the locals bent at a 90-degree angle just to carry the burden of their heavy loads.
The Tham Ma Slope winds through the rice fields and hugs the mountain side. At the top of the pass is a parking area where you can get stop to admire the view. You get a really good look at the crazy road you just had the pleasure of driving up plus there are lots of ethnic minority children here in their traditional attire.
This field of wildflowers is perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the valley below. It is a seriously beautiful place to enjoy yet another awesome mountain view. The lady who owns this land charged us 10,000VND ($0.43 USD) per person to enter her property but it was worth every penny of the small fee.
Lung Cam H’mong Cultural Village
This village offers an insight into how the local people live and work. We stopped briefly to have a look at the entrance to the village where there is a beautiful field of wild flowers growing. It felt a bit touristy so we decided to only spend a few minutes here before taking off.
Lookout on the Way to Lao Sa
If you’re feeling adventurous and confident in your driving abilities, you can take a slight detour up to Sung La and Lao Sa. The villages themselves were underwhelming but the view from the top of the mountain was worth the drive. One of the reasons we love taking trips like this is you have the freedom to explore the random, cool looking roads and create your own adventure.
This is the worst road that we drove on for this trip and you definitely need to be a confident driver to attempt it.
H’mong Royal Palace
To be honest, this is a leg of the trip you may want to skip. The old royal palace has an interesting history but isn’t particularly spectacular. With such a long day of driving out to Lung Cu you can save yourself some time by missing this stop.
The terrain changes here to much rockier and rugged terrain with less rice fields and more corn fields. This area of Ha Giang is known as the Rocky Kingdom.
A massive flag tower was erected in 2010 to mark the most northern part of Vietnam. Lung Cu is right on the Chinese border and offers amazing views of the surrounding rural villages.
Not that we would encourage anything illegal, but there is a spot marked on Google Maps where you can allegedly cross the border into China. We met a few people in our hostel who said they did it with no issue. So if you fancy a quick trip into China it is possible.
From Lung Cu make your way back to Dong Van where you will stay for the night.
Where to Stay in Dong Van
We stayed at Binh Minh Hostel which cost 200,000VND ($8.61 USD) per night for a double room with a private bathroom and air conditioning. It was right in the middle of town and just a few minutes to Roma Italian Restaurant where we had a pretty decent pizza for dinner.
Find rates and availability for Binh Minh Hostel here.
Dong Van is a large town that has ATM’s, a gas station and plenty of good restaurants.
Day 3: Dong Van to Du Gia
Distance: 95 kilometres
Driving Time: 3.5 hours
- Ma Pi Leng
- Meo Vac
- Nham La Viewpoint
- Drive into Du Gia
Ma Pi Leng
A stunning drive that hugs the side of the mountain and offers awesome views of the Nho Que River below. There are several points along this road that are worth stopping at. Our trip took so much longer than it should have as we just kept stopping to take photos and admire the incredible views.
You can grab some lunch in the town of Meo Vac. There isn’t much to see here but there are lots of restaurants to stop and grab a bite to eat.
Nham La Viewpoint
Once we left Meo Vac the roads started to get a little worse – lots of potholes to keep an eye out for. The rolling green hills you start to encounter reminded us loosely of Tuscany in Italy. It’s so vibrantly green.
The Nham La Viewpoint is situated in amongst the mountainous tea plantations. We left the bike by the road and went for a quick walk amongst the tea leaves to fully enjoy the surrounding countryside. We were surrounded on all sides by tea leaves and rice terraces as far as the eye could see.
Drive into Du Gia
The descent into the town of Du Gia was spectacular. We passed through more pine forests and along the precarious roads carved into the cliffs. The few kilometres before you reach Du Gia are spectacular. A crystal clear river winds through the vibrantly green rice terraces where the local people are hard at work.
We actually got a flat tire in the last town before entering into Du Gia. Luckily there was a mechanic open who changed our burst and warped inner tube for just a few dollars. This can be quite a common occurrence when completing the Ha Giang Loop.
Where to Stay in Du Gia
We stayed in Backpacker Garden Homestay which cost 130,000VND ($5.60) for the two of us to share a double bed in a dorm room with air conditioning. They also do an amazing family style dinner every night which costs 70,000VND ($3 USD) per person and is a great way to meet fellow travellers and have a taste of “happy water” – rice wine.
Check out availability and dates for Backpacker Garden Homestay in Du Gia.
Du Gia is the smallest and least well equipped town on the Ha Giang Loop. There are no ATMs here so make sure you have some cash with you.
Day 4: Du Gia to Ha Giang
Distance: 100 kilometres
Driving Time: 4 hours
- Du Gia Waterfall
- Huong Thuong Valley
- Lung Tam
Du Gia Waterfall
The last day of the trip started with one of our favourite places on the whole trip, the Du Gia Waterfall, which is a 15-minute drive from Du Gia town. Ask your guesthouse for directions to the falls as Google Maps takes you the long way round.
We followed Google Maps and somehow ended up on the back road to the waterfall and had to ride along muddy, rocky paths to get here. Not the easiest road to navigate but it’s always a good adventure to take the scenic route.
It is a beautiful little waterfall nestled in amongst the surrounding hills, far away from any form of civilisation. There were some local kids swimming and diving and they even took us to the top of the waterfall and showed us a 20-foot cliff jump. The kids flung themselves over the edge with no fear.
After about 45-minutes here we decided to leave as the final day is quite long. If we had managed to get out of bed a bit earlier, we definitely would have stayed for a couple of hours, sun-baking on the rocks and cliff jumping.
Huong Thong Valley
You drive right through the heart of the Huong Thuong Valley and passed many local villages bustling with workers in their traditional dress. The drive through the farmland on the valley floor is awesome.
Once you ascend out of the valley there is a great viewpoint looking back across the farmland you have just driven through.
You can stop in the rural village of Lung Tam on your way home to see how the traditional clothing of Northern Vietnam is made. We were strapped for time as we had booked a bus back to Hanoi that evening so unfortunately we had to skip this stop.
The final two-hour drive back to Ha Giang takes you along the same route you started on. You will pass through Tam Son and Heaven’s Gate once again and descend back down the Bac Sum Pass to Ha Giang.
Ha Giang Loop Vietnam Travel Tips
- Rent a semi-automatic motorbike – While it Is possible to complete the Ha Giang motorbike tour on a scooter, it is much easier on a semi-automatic bike. It’s very easy to learn and the rental company will give you a quick lesson on driving.
- Drive slow – The roads out here are quite dangerous. Take your time and watch out for the crazy local drivers.
- Pack light – Bring a small bag with enough clothes for a few days. You will have the bag strapped to the back of your bike so you will want it to be as small as possible.
- Get travel insurance – Be sure to purchase travel insurance that includes coverage for extreme activities such as this motorbike loop. We recommend World Nomads.
- Take 3 – 5 days – We highly recommend taking 4 days to complete the loop but try and give yourself a minimum of 3 days to make the most of the adventure.
- Wear proper shoes – We usually ride around in flip flops but the dangerous roads here mean you need to wear closed toed shoes such as trainers. You will have to put your feet down unexpectedly at least a few times on this crazy road.
- Download Google Maps offline – Reception is patchy up in the mountains so it is a good idea to download Google Maps for the Ha Giang province before you go.
- Fuel up when you can – Running out of fuel shouldn’t be an issue, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry as there is quite a distance between each gas station.
- Pack a rain poncho – Weather in the area can be unpredictable at the best of times. You are likely to get rained on at least once on your trip.
- Pack a sweater – It can get cold in the mountains, especially at night, so make sure you pack something warm.
- Make an adventure out of it – Take that random cool looking road, get off the beaten path and go explore. Half the fun is heading off on random roads and seeing where they take you. This is a general guide for your trip and you don’t have to follow it step by step.
Final Thoughts on the Ha Giang Bike Loop
Riding around the rugged and remote mountains of the Ha Giang province was an absolute blast. It always amazes us when we visit a country as well travelled as Vietnam that there is still the chance to really get off the beaten path and go on an adventure.
While the Ha Giang Loop is definitely growing in popularity, there really aren’t that many tourists along the way. We expected it to be way busier but we passed only handfuls of other tourists each day.
Along with the Poem Mountain hike in Halong City, this was our favourite adventure in Vietnam. It’s awesome to rip around some of the most beautiful and scenic roads in Southeast Asia on a motorbike and catch a glimpse at the authentic local lifestyle. We definitely recommend heading up north to experience the thrill of the Ha Giang motorbike loop.
Have any questions about the loop? Feel free to ask us in the comments.
*Please note, prices are a reflection of our experiences while traveling Vietnam in June 2019 and are subject to change. Prices quoted in local currency (VND) were the exact prices we paid and USD conversions are listed for your convenience.