If you’re planning to visit only one national park in Vietnam, other parks, like Bach Ma near Hue, should be higher up on your list than Ba Vi.
The main attraction at the park is the mountain itself, which rises to more than 1,200m above sea level. There’s a very good road leading 12km up to the summit. You can hike or cycle take a car or motorbike.
The road is narrow and twisty, the foliage, as you ascend the mountain, is green and pristine, and the atmosphere is serene. It’s worth going just for that wonderful feeling of relaxation that comes over you the higher you go.
Many of the trees in the park are marked according to species, but only in Vietnamese. Once at the top, two hikes ahead of you to mountaintop temples. Den Thuong is the easier of the two, at about 600 steps to the top.
The second goes to a temple honouring of Ho Chi Minh, called Bac Ho. We tackled the first on our most recent visit. The stairs get progressively trickier near the top, once you pass the first temple, to the smaller shrine above. The views from the top are excellent on a clear day.
Food and refreshments are available at the top of the paved road. Other hikes around the slopes of the mountain are possible if you’re here for more than a day or so.
Some lower-key attractions lie within the national park boundary surrounding the base of the mountain: several springs, a lake, and some waterfalls, all within a few kilometres and well marked.
Take a look at the map at the main entrance. There’s no real set-up to receive foreign visitors, so if you’re thinking of exploring the park properly, be sure to look into your options with someone knowledgeable in Hanoi before you arrive.
How to get there
Ba Vi is located 68km from the outskirts of Hanoi, and you'll have to budget a couple of hours just to get there, due to traffic. Head out of Hanoi to the southwest crossing the To Tich bridge onto Tran Duy Hung which becomes Duong Lang-Hoa Lac just outside the city limits.
From there, it's 30km to where the road ends. Take a right there, on Route 21, and proceed 26km to the village of Son Tay.
There you'll take a hairpin turn on the road towards Khoang Xanh and the entrance to the mountain is 10km further along. Resist taking the more northern route that leaves Hanoi on Cau Giay in Quan Cau Giay. The road is dreadful.
If you're travelling under your own steam, when you're done with the park, there is a road around the park which is reportedly quite beautiful which leads 100km to Hoa Binh. Again, take a look at the map at the entrance to the park to get a sense of it.
By bus, depart from My Dinh station or Kim Ma (No. 201 — it’s a local bus so might be a bit slow) for Son Tay and flag down a local bus from there toward Khoang Xanh. Or take local bus no. 214 from My Dinh which turns down the Khoang Xanh road. Alternatively try to book a xe om from Son Tay.
Entrance ticket: 60.000 VND