How to Explore all the Best National Parks in Vietnam

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Explore the best of Vietnam’s stunning national parks with our full guide, which traverses the country from south to north. Read more below.

misty hills and rice terraces of National Park in Vietnam

Visitors to Vietnam will fall in love with its natural beauty, which is best showcased in its 30 national parks. The authorities have invested time and money into regenerating forests and safeguarding their flourishing biodiversity, particularly after so much was destroyed in the 1960s and 1970s.

Now, community-run initiatives prioritize ecotourism and showcase the unique culture of ethnic minority communities who’ve lived off the land in Vietnam’s most remote corners for centuries.

Obviously, visiting all 30 parks in one trip would be impossible, so here is our list of the best national parks in Vietnam to help plan your adventure into nature.

Map of the best national parks in Vietnam

Con Dao National Park in Vietnam

green hills and still river reflection in Con Dao National Park in Vietnam

Start your exploration of Vietnam’s best national parks in the south. 

Just a short boat ride from Vung Tau, Con Dao National Park sits on the Con Dao archipelago. Only one of the 15 islands is inhabited. The rest only accept temporary visitors exploring their natural beauty.

The archipelago, sometimes called Con Son or Con Lon, is centered around Con Son Island. Under French and American rule, the islands became prisons, and the archipelago was once known as “Hell on Earth.” Now, it’s paradise.

Things to do in Con Dao National Park in Vietnam

This park is the perfect destination for a remote island trek. Alternatively, rent a moped or a bicycle to explore. 

However, I recommend booking a guided excursion. With a guide, you’ll learn all about the biodiversity of these serene places. Plus, they can arrange trips to other nearby 

islands like the popular Bay Canh Island.

Book an eco-tour to ensure your trip is sustainable and doesn’t impact the natural beauty of these precious lands.

To trek into the forests, you’ll need a permit from the national park headquarters in the main town on Con Dao Island.

Don’t miss out on visiting Bang Beach and Dat Tham Beach on the less-developed western side of the island.

Diving and snorkeling enthusiasts should explore the incredible underwater seascapes marked by stunning coral reefs.

Pro tip: Do not feed or interfere with the wildlife in any way. It’s against the park’s strict rules of conduct.

To experience a slice of history, walk from the main town of Con Son to visit Phu Hai prison. Many Vietnamese tourists visit the islands to pay their respects to the 20,000 prisoners who died fighting for independence.

How to get there

The best way to reach the park is by taking a ferry from Vung Tau. The three-hour ferry crossing might be a little rocky in stormy weather.

A slightly pricier option is a one-hour flight from Ho Chi Minh City or Can Tho. This is best for people who struggle with seasickness or want to save time.

Cat Tien National Park

rolling green hills of Cat Tien National Park in Vietnam

Once you’ve finished adventuring on Con Son Island, head north-east of Ho Chi Minh City to visit Cat Tien National Park. 

Home to one of the largest lowland tropical forests in the country, the park became globally famous in 1992 when rare Vietnamese Javan rhinos were discovered in the area.

Things to do in Cat Tien National Park

Animal lovers will be in heaven when visiting this area. 

Primates such as macaques, golden-cheeked gibbons, and langurs call the park home. Book a wildlife tour for the best chance of spotting them all.

The park has a primate rehab center that provides shelter to injured animals until they’re well enough to be released back into their natural habitat. Additionally, the Vietnamese chapter of Free the Bears, an NGO that rescues Asian black and sun bears from wildlife trafficking and provides them with a safe haven, is also located within the park.

For those who can stand the creepy crawlies, check out the park’s myriad insects and colorful reptiles. You’ll need an eagle’s eye to spot them!

Aside from trekking tours, take kayaking or boat tours to see the park from a different perspective.

I recommend renting a motorbike to explore parts of the park. That way, you can take on the adventure at your own pace.

For a dose of culture, visit the Ta Lai ethnic village to learn how the minority community lives off the land. Book a homestay in the area to experience their way of life up close.

How to get there

Either drive yourself by renting a motorbike in Ho Chi Minh City or book a bus to one of the surrounding villages.

If you’re uncomfortable traveling without a guide, the best way to arrive is by booking an excursion from Ho Chi Minh City.

Yok Don National Park

wooden walkway in Yok Don National Park in Vietnam

The largest national park in Vietnam, Yok Don National Park, covers 1155 square kilometers (446 miles) and touches the Laos border.

Thanks to its remoteness, this park is best reserved for those with an adventurous spirit. However, it’s so worth the journey. You’ll fall in love with its majestic natural beauty.

Things to do in Yok Don National Park

Swim in the Dak Lau stream, trek to the farthest corners of the Dak Lak Province, and enjoy a scenic boat ride along the Srepok River.

Visitors can even walk with elephants on half-day elephant safari tours. Thankfully, they don’t allow elephant rides and protect the animals from being taken advantage of.

Visit the Ede people, one of the country’s various ethnic communities, to see their stunning thatched-roofed houses nestled in nature.

Due to its remoteness, visiting the park with an expert local guide who can take you to all the best spots is best.

Book a homestay or guest house to fold your accommodation and exploration into one price.

How to get there

After visiting Cat Tien National Park, take a bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Buon Ma Thuot. Once in town, you can take public transportation to the park or rent a motorbike.

Alternatively, book a tour directly from the town to explore the park.

Bach Ma National Park, Vietnam

house in the hills of Bach Ma National Park, Vietnam

While in central Vietnam, it’s easy to pour all your energy into exploring the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Hue and Hoi An, but you cannot miss out on Bach Ma National Park.

It’s the perfect slice of green relief between city explorations. Few people visit, and you’ll regret being one of the people who skip over it on their way north.

The site hasn’t been developed much since the early 20th century, but this adds to its charm.

Things to do in Bach Ma National Park, Vietnam

Bach Ma has everything, from sweeping mountain ranges and vast lakes to forests and mesmerizing waterfalls.

A small collection of French colonial villas has been converted into guesthouses. Book a stay in one of these and enjoy trekking the various hiking trails that lead to gorgeous waterfalls and tranquil rock pools.

Take on a trekking expedition to Bach Ma Mountain for panoramic views of the area. Stop off at Truc Lam monastery for some serenity before swimming in one of the park’s five jade-colored lakes.

How to get there

Book a full-day trekking excursion from Da Nang or tour the park by jeep with a touring company from Hoi An.

It’s also a two-hour drive from HueDa Nang, or Hoi An for motorbike enthusiasts. 

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

man inside a cave of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Vietnam

The region of Phong Nha is a wonderland of spectacular natural beauty. I fell in love with it and wish I’d never left.

Rivers, jungles and caves make up the extraordinary landscape of this UNESCO-recognized national park. It’s also home to the world’s largest cave — Hang Son Doong — and more than 500 others. Tourists can visit 30 of these.

Things to do in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

Zipline across the clear-water lakes, take a mud bath in a dark cave, and you can even stay overnight inside a cave.

You can book a four-day expedition exploring all the park offers or just pop in for an afternoon.

Pro tip: Pick a cave or two you’d love to see, and then find a tour that fits your itinerary.

While it’s possible to visit the park solo, organize a tour to see the most magical parts of this unique area.

How to get there

Hop on a bus or book a minivan from Hoi An or Da Nang to reach Phong Nha.

Alternatively, you can book a flight or train that arrives in Dong Hoi and then take a taxi to Phong Nha Town.

Cuc Phuong National Park

still river in Cuc Phuong National Park in Vietnam

Cuc Phuong National Park is the oldest in the country and a top-day trip from Ninh Binh

Home to millennia-old trees and consecrated by Ho Chi Minh himself, the park is a treasure trove of prehistoric caves, ancient forests, wildlife conservation areas, and beautifully manicured botanical gardens.

Things to do in Cuc Phuong National Park

The park is ideal for trekking lovers. You can book multi-day expeditions and stay with the Muong people in stilt houses deep in the forest. However, remain on the path and follow your guide — it’s easy to get lost!

Cuc Phuong is also home to an endangered primate rescue center and a turtle conservation center. Both sites protect the area’s precious wildlife and add a touch of adorableness to this epic adventure.

How to get there

Take a bus from Phong Nha to Ninh Binh and book a day trip, or take public transportation to the park.

You can also take a bus from Hanoi to Nho Quan and rent a motorbike to drive the rest of the way.

Pu Luong Nature Reserve

bamboo waterwheels in Pu Luong Nature Reserve in Vietnam

Okay, so technically, Pu Luong Nature Reserve isn’t a national park, but its beauty means it has to be on the list!

It’s near Cuc Phuong National Park, so you might as well stop by while you’re in the area. This hidden gem has grown in popularity recently, becoming one of the country’s top ecotourism destinations.

Picture misty mountains, bamboo waterwheels, hamlets littered with wooden houses, and grand terraced rice fields. In love yet? You will be when you get there.

This reserve offers classic rural views of Vietnam. It is an ideal off-the-beaten-track destination for people wanting to escape the classic backpacker route through Vietnam.

Sustainable tourism is the name of the game here, and ethnic minority communities living inside the park play an active role in organizing homestays and trekking trips for visitors. 

Things to do in Pu Luong Nature Reserve

Book an overnight stay in Kho Muong or Ban Hieu to experience everything this site offers. You’ll make memories that last a lifetime.

Pick an excursion that includes a rafting trip down the Cham River to get lost in the jungle. 

Cool off in the waterfalls or a rock pool dotted throughout the park whenever the humidity gets too intense.

If you don’t have time for a full-day trip, rent a motorbike and drive through the sky-high mountain passes to marvel at the sweeping vistas on display. 

Or hire a bicycle to explore the center of the park.

How to get there

Drive yourself by renting a vehicle from nearby Hanoi, Mai Chau, or Ninh Binh. If you don’t want to drive, book a tour to get there.

Ba Be National Park

treehouse on the river in Ba Be National Park in Vietnam

Sitting between Hanoi and Ha Giang, Ba Be National Park is a stunning destination not to be missed.

Things to do in Ba Be National Park

Explore waterfalls and caves home to thousands of bats before trekking into the jungle to see more than 1200 species of birds.

Float on the lake for a sunset trip with stunning views of the villages circling the lake.

If water isn’t your thing, rent a bicycle to ride around the lake and enjoy the same incredible views of the surrounding mountains from dry land.

Book a three-day caving and hill-tribe trekking tour if you want to immerse yourself in local life.

The park is partially inhabited by the Tay people, one of northern Vietnam’s largest ethnic minority groups. They welcome travelers with homestay experiences in stilt houses by the lake.

How to get there

Book a six-hour bus from Hanoi to Ba Be National Park, or drive yourself.

Weather in Vietnam

cherry blossoms in Vietnam

Vietnam’s long coastline means it enjoys a range of weather throughout the year, with temperate and tropical zones. The county experiences two distinct seasons: dry and wet.

March to May is the best weather throughout the country, but there isn’t a bad time to enjoy this magical place. 

The wet season starts in June and ends in November. However, it’s mostly punctuated with short-lived showers, so you can explore between bursts. 

Temperatures vary from 4°C (39°F) in the northern mountains in winter to 36°C (97°F) in Ho Chi Minh City in the peak dry season. 

I’ve visited in dry and wet seasons and always enjoyed myself.

However, people who struggle in the heat should avoid visiting in the high summer, when temperatures can reach 40°C with 100% humidity.

What to pack for the national parks in Vietnam

wooden huts in Vietnam

Don’t forget to pack these crucial items for your trip:

  • Hiking gear
  • Lots of layers
  • A warm jacket for the colder climates
  • Reliable (and broken in!) trekking boots
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • Swimwear and towel
  • Hat and sunglasses

Don’t miss out on Vietnam’s National Parks

pathway in jungle in Vietnam

There are countless gems to explore and just as many reasons to fall in love with this diverse country. Additionally, all the transportation options make it so easy to get around.

Few people see more than one of the national parks in Vietnam, so step outside the norm and challenge yourself to visit some of the country’s most magical sites with this incredible itinerary. You won’t regret it.

FAQ

What is Vietnam’s best national park?

I think it’s Phong Nha. I still dream about the jungle-topped karsts looming on the horizon and the feeling of the cave mud cleansing my skin. You won’t regret a visit here, even if it can get a little touristy in peak season.

Is it expensive to visit the national parks in Vietnam?

It can be if you’re doing guided tours every time. Renting a motorbike will save you a lot of money. It’s also the best way to meet locals and see the country outside the tourist hotspots.

Is Vietnam safe to travel alone?

Absolutely! I’ve spent months in Vietnam alone and never felt unsafe. Plus, you can always meet people in hostels.

Where should I stay when visiting Vietnam’s national parks?

Opt for homestays or guesthouses if you want to learn more about local life.

Posted February 13, 2024
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Hannah Shewan Stevens
Hannah Shewan Stevens is a disabled and LGBTQ+ freelance writer, editor, and sex educator. She started out as a digital content producer before transitioning into managing press and communications for charities. These days, she focuses on feature writing for international publications, specializing in sex, relationships, and health. Since leaving the UK to travel full-time as a digital nomad, she has started to explore the world of travel writing. Primarily, she is passionate about shining a spotlight on issues and topics that are rarely given an opportunity to make headlines.
Image of the author Hannah