The Ha Giang Loop: A Four-day Road Trip
High in the north of Vietnam is a place where the road winds through jaw-dropping canyons and breathtaking mountain passes. The Ha Giang loop is a dream come true for adventures travellers craving the open road. Pack your gear, charge your batteries, and prepare for an adventure.
This four-day route follows the QL4C northeast from Hà Giang to Bảo Lâm, and the QL34 southwest from Bảo Lâm back to Hà Giang.
Credit: Vietnam Travel
Once you’re refuelled, continue on the QL4C towards Yên Minh. The road follows the beautiful Mien River before climbing through a tall canyon. Cruise though karst plateaus and mountain passes before arriving at Yên Minh, where you can settle in at a local hotel for the evening.
Yên MinhYên Minh, Yên Minh District, Ha Giang, Vietnam
Quan Ba Heaven Gate
Get an early breakfast in Hà Giang city before hitting the road. As you head north on the QL4C, the landscape quickly transforms into a limestone mountain range, covered with lush jungle. Soon you’ll reach the Dong Van Karst Plateau, a UNESCO Global Geopark. The highlight of this section of the trip is Heaven’s Gate Pass, where you’ll get your first taste of exhilarating views along with challenging, tight curves. Photo: @phoebe.hnh
Quan Ba Heaven GateQuản Bạ, Quản Bạ District, Ha Giang, Vietnam
tt. Tam Sơn
Cruising down from Heaven’s Gate Pass, you’ll arrive in Tam Sơn -- a town surrounded by jutting, forested hills -- just in time for lunch. Here the restaurants and road stalls serve classic Northern Vietnamese fare. And like anywhere else in the country, a great Vietnamese coffee is not hard to find.
tt. Tam Sơntt. Tam Sơn, Quản Bạ, Hà Giang, Vietnam
Chín Khoanh ramp
Enjoy a steaming bowl of pho for breakfast before you set off for Dong Van, taking the QL4C northeast. The steep road quickly rises above the tree line, revealing an otherworldly landscape of eroded limestone karsts with incredible views at every turn. Dốc Chín Khoanh (Nine Turn Pass), is a great place to stop and admire the sets of curved roads descending into the valley below. Stop in the Sà Phìn area for food and fuel.
Chín Khoanh rampPhố Cáo, Đồng Văn District, Ha Giang, Vietnam
A three-hour detour takes you to the Lũng Cú Flag Tower. The 360-degree views over the border into China are worth the effort. Back on the QL4C, you’ll have no shortage of stunning views on the way to Đồng Văn, where you’ll stay. Set aside time to visit a local market, either at night or in the early morning, and see the colourful ethnic minorities going about their business.
Lung CuLung Cu, Lũng Cú, Đồng Văn District, Ha Giang, Vietnam
Mã Pí Lèng
Today you’ll encounter what is arguably the most mind-blowing stretch of road in all of Vietnam. From Đồng Văn all the way to Mã Pí Lèng Pass, the valley floor drops far below as you wind your way through massive peaks and canyons. The only problem may be the number of stops you feel compelled to make, as every turn is full of picture-perfect views.
Mã Pí LèngMã Pí Lèng, Mèo Vạc, Hà Giang, Vietnam
Nho Que hydroelectric 2
For a quick detour, take a left off of QL4C at the bottom of Mã Pí Lèng Pass onto side road 193A. It’s a short but fun ride offering a closer look at the winding Nho Quế River below.
Nho Que hydroelectric 2Cán Chủ Phìn, Mèo Vạc District, Ha Giang, Vietnam
Start the last day of your trip with a simple breakfast and stock up on provisions to make the journey back to Ha Giang. From Bảo Lâm, take QL34 southwest towards Hà Giang. The road follows the Gâm River most of the time, making for an enjoyable drive along the valley floor. There will still be plenty of twists and a few passes but nothing as strenuous as before.
Gâm RiverGâm River, Vietnam
Stop in Bắc Mê for bite at one of the local food stalls. You’ll find fewer towns in the last stretch before reaching the city. Photo: @javigarlu