Vietnam is a land where the humble motorbike and scooter reigns supreme. From the streets of Ho Chi Minh City in the south to the rice fields of the north, millions of Vietnamese rely on these two-wheeled vehicles to do their daily business and get around. The northernmost province is home to arguably the greatest motorbike journey in Asia, the Ha Giang Loop: a fun three or four day route which can be experienced in a couple of ways.
Ha Giang City is located in the middle of the Ha Giang region and it’s here that the world-famous motorbike route begins. The Eastern Loop sets off towards the east and heads to Quan Ba, Yen Minh, Dong Van, Meo Vac and Du Gia, before coming back to Ha Giang City. This is the most popular itinerary and it suits travelers who are casual motorbike riders or those who want to go by scooter (presuming they don’t have a motorbike license).
The Western Loop is an entirely different experience. Not many tourists ride this route given the off-road paths and need to drive a manual motorbike. Yet, the remote landscapes and hidden gems that can be found in the west are nothing short of breathtaking! Experienced motorcycle riders should seriously consider this version of the Ha Giang Loop because it provides a unique way to discover the rugged beauty of Northern Vietnam.
Ha Giang Adventure is a tour company that specializes in motorbike trips in Ha Giang and they can organize everything for you, no matter which loop you take. Their team of travel experts all hail from the Ha Giang region and they know every little treasure that makes this area so special. Marveling at the landscapes is one thing but immersing in the culture is another, and this is where Ha Giang Adventure comes into its own.
Why Go with Ha Giang Adventure?
Before selecting which Ha Giang Loop route you would like to take, it’s important to consider the options of going independently or on a tour. Independent trips are great but often travelers miss out on the best local spots or cultural experiences that a company like Ha Giang Adventure can provide. No one expects you to be an expert in the Ha Giang region, so why not take advantage of Ha Giang Adventure’s local knowledge?
There are many benefits to booking with this operator. For starters, the customer service is excellent which is why Ha Giang Adventure has 5-star reviews on Tripadvisor, Google, Facebook and Airbnb. Their guides are made up of indigenous locals who love to welcome guests (from around the world) into their communities. Riding with them means you will be informed along the way with exciting facts and stories about rural Vietnam.
Secondly, you won’t feel like just another number on their tours because trips are either private (up to eight people) or done in public groups of up to six. The guides will be there for you throughout the Ha Giang Loop, ensuring your comfort and enjoyment levels stay high. Families, friends or couples frequently book the private motorbike trips, while solos (who wish to share the experience with others) opt for the small group tours.
Everything is included in the price which is another key feature. Motorbikes, helmets, covers, first aid kits, etc. are incorporated in the package – plus meals and accommodation. Guests stay in homestays of minority locals and dinners are shared together with the host family – a truly unique experience. The bikes for both loops have plenty of power to get you up and down those winding roads – a Honda Blade 110cc or Honda XR 150cc.
Ha Giang Loop Route: The Eastern Option
Now that you have determined whether you will ride independently or on a tour, the next step is to choose which Ha Giang Loop route suits you best. The Eastern Loop is the most popular option and it’s probably the one you have seen posted on Instagram or read about in books. It’s the classic route that lasts for three nights and four days, and traverses winding roads carved into the mountainside – stopping at lush valleys and rice terraces.
If you prefer well-trodden paths and consider yourself adventurous, but not too adventurous, this is the ideal route. The loop kicks off in Ha Giang City. Then it’s a lovely journey through picturesque villages and valleys to the Quan Ba district. If you are riding on your own, accommodation needs to be sorted in this area or you could go with Ha Giang Adventure and stay at a local homestay in a cozy neighborhood village called Nam Dam.
Day two and your next target is Dong Van. On the way you get the chance to ride through a series of charming rural villages, with the highlight being Lung Tam. Here they make hemp linen and you can see how it’s weaved and try rolling out cloth by utilizing traditional techniques. Afterwards, Yen Minh is en-route as well as reaching the extreme northern point of Vietnam where you can just make out the towns situated over the border in China.
The following day takes you across one of the most beautiful passes in the country, Ma Pi Leng Pass. With Ha Giang Adventure, not only do you get to ride over Ma Pi Leng but you can also take an incredible hike with countless photo-ops of stunning landscapes. Meo Vac and Du Gia are the next few stops, whereby most travelers stay overnight in Du Gia. From Du Gia the Eastern Loop finishes back where it all started, in Ha Giang City.
Ha Giang Loop Route: The Western Option
The Western Loop is a shorter trip overall of three days. This motorbike adventure is much more extreme than the Eastern Loop and only licensed or experienced riders are encouraged to go. That being said, you can always jump on the back with a driver provided by Ha Giang Adventure. The other option is to travel by car. However, you can’t really experience the Ha Giang Loop without having the wind blowing through your hair on a bike!
From Ha Giang City, the Western Loop starts by driving to the Bac Quang district. The roads progressively become more mountainous as you head to remote villages, plunging valleys and green jungles. The first overnight stay is usually at a local village, depending on what you have organized. For instance, on the Ha Giang Adventure Western Loop guests are welcomed into a homestay at Thong Nguyen – a village of the Dzao minority.
Hoang Su Phi is the next district that you ride to, a majestic area nestled in a valley near the Chinese border with very little tourism. The road there is windy and steep – not for the faint of heart. Kiou Leou Ti Mountain is one of the main attractions of this region but again getting there is a true off-road adventure which has its challenges. On the tour with Ha Giang Adventure, you can rest your head at night at a homestay or camp by the mountain.
The final day is all about slowly making your way back to Ha Giang City to complete the loop. Views along the way are magnificent, especially the terraced rice fields which are simply a photographer’s dream. The trip with Ha Giang Adventure gives you the opportunity of camping out in nature on your second night near the Kiou Leou Ti Mountain. A tent and sleeping bag is included in the price to ensure you remain nice and warm.
Tips for Riding the Ha Giang Loop
As you can see, both loops offer incredible adventures in the northernmost province of Vietnam. Most travelers will take comfort in the fact that the Eastern Loop has been enjoyed by tourists for several years, while others will love the feeling of getting off-road and camping out in nature on the Western Loop. A small minority might even be tempted to do both the eastern and western routes as the beauty of this region is never-ending.
Whatever you choose, one thing is for sure: the Ha Giang Loop will be your favorite Vietnam experience to date! Before you make plans, we suggest reading these tips to ensure everything has been considered for this ride of a lifetime. You might only get the opportunity to do it once and so you want to make sure that it’s done right. Here are some key tips to keep in mind for your Ha Giang trip – be it the eastern or western loop, or both:
- Check the Weather Forecast: Most tourists go from Hanoi to Ha Giang City and while you are there and preparing for your motorbike trip you should keep a close eye on the forecast. Nothing would be worse than riding in torrential rain for four days. If you see a window of good weather then make plans and go. The best time of year to visit is February to May as the mountains are blanketed in clouds and the flowers start blooming.
- Rent a Motorbike with 100cc or More: For those who like the idea of ticking the Ha Giang Loop off their bucket list on their own, without a tour guide, then definitely rent a motorbike with some decent power. 100cc would be the minimum, especially if you are carrying someone on the back. A 50cc scooter goes pretty slowly and the uphill sections will be even slower on these vehicles. Although, a scooter trip is still worth doing.
- Get your Motorbike License Just in Case: Technically you do need a motorbike license to drive a motorbike in Vietnam, however the police and local authorities rarely pull over tourists and generally accept that most of them won’t have licenses. Backpackers and travelers take their own risks when it comes to this and if something goes wrong, like being involved in an accident, then it can make an insurance claim much more difficult.
- Leave your Bags at a Homestay in Ha Giang City: Riding the Ha Giang Loop with all of your big backpacks and suitcases is nigh-on impossible. What most people do is leave their big bags at their accommodation in Ha Giang City for when they return and pack a smaller bag that can comfortably be worn on their backs for the motorcycle trip. The team at Ha Giang Adventure can sort this out for you, no stress whatsoever.
- Book with Ha Giang Adventure for the Best Experience: As already mentioned, Ha Giang Adventure is one of the best tour operators in the north and they can take an ordinary Ha Giang Loop journey and turn it into an extraordinary one. With their guidance and support you will stay at amazing local homestays, eat delicious authentic food, uncover hidden gems that not many tourists know about and make new friends for life.