- The Prestige and Status of Vietnamese National Parks
- Cuc Phuong National Park in Ninh Binh
- Cat Tien National Park near Ho Chi Minh City
- Ba Vi National Park in Hanoi
- Bach Ma National Park in Hue
- Cat Ba National Park near Ha Long Bay
- Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park
- Con Dao National Park on Con Dao Island
- 3 Honorable Mentions
Vietnam has 34 national parks scattered across the country and on island archipelagos. Some are large enough to span across a number of provinces. They all offer one of the most attractive features of traveling in Vietnam— unforgettable natural scenery.
- Cuc Phuong National Park
- Cat Tien National Park
- Ba Vi National Park
- Bach Ma National Park
- Cat Ba National Park
- Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park
- Con Dao National Park
The Prestige and Status of Vietnamese National Parks
Nine of Vietnamese national parks are ASEAN Heritage Parks and seven more belong in the Ramsar Convention as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar). One of them is a Natural UNESCO World Heritage Site, one is inside a Natural UNESCO World Heritage Site, and eight of them are the focal points for UNESCO Biosphere Reserves.
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Cuc Phuong National Park in Ninh Binh
Cuc Phuong National Park (Vườn quốc gia Cúc Phương) was the first park to be established in Vietnam and is about 55 km from the center of Ninh Binh city. One of the most biodiverse parks, it covers 250 km2 with all sorts of activities to be enjoyed in nature.
Along Cuc Phuong’s hiking and trekking routes, you can also go cycling, kayaking, and do animal spotting. The park also has equipment for rent, including for day camping or overnight.
Cat Tien National Park near Ho Chi Minh City
Cat Tien National Park (Vườn quốc gia Cát Tiên) is often overlooked, but it’s the closest national park to Ho Chi Minh City, only 150 km away. Cat Tien UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is home to the rare and endangered Siamese crocodile. It also has an abundance of deer, gibbon, and wild boar.
In its lowland forests, the trails are paved well enough to be done mostly without a guide. You can also experience local culture in homestays of the local S’tieng and Ma ethnic people. There are other more luxurious accommodations and you can rent mountain bikes at the park.
Ba Vi National Park in Hanoi
Ba Vi National Park (Vườn quốc gia Ba Vì) is a popular Summer getaway 60 km from Hanoi. Its trails are extensive, and ideal for an out-of-city hiking experience. Some trails are quite far apart and require transportation.
Ba Vi’s cactus garden and the ruins of an old French church are favorite camping, picnic, and photo spots for younger people. There are also hotels, inns, and resorts along the main road.
Bach Ma National Park in Hue
Bach Ma National Park (Vườn quốc gia Bạch Mã), just 48 km south of the historic city of Hue, is a fine addition to the old citadel. The hikes are fairly short and easy with drop-off points along the roads using park shuttles.
You can choose to conquer the tallest mountain in the park for its panoramic views, or trek to the meeting point of 5 Lakes for an alternative adventure. There are forest pools along the way for refreshing dips and some rest.
Cat Ba National Park near Ha Long Bay
Cat Ba National Park (Vườn quốc gia Cát Bà) belongs in the Cat Ba UNESCO Biosphere Reserve where you can see the endemic and endangered Cat Ba Langur. It’s on Cat Ba Island— a great middle-ground to Ha Long Bay only 25 km away.
The hikes can lead you to a hospital cave during the American War or the top of the tallest mountain on the island. The most popular trekking route will have you ride a boat or kayak across a lake to a fishing village.
Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park
Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park (Vườn quốc gia Phong Nha – Kẻ Bàng) is a World Heritage Site with some of the best caving in Vietnam. It’s a popular destination for people visiting Hue, Danang, or Hoi An, but there’s also the easy access point of Dong Hoi Airport.
With 400 million years of karst formations, Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park is home to amazing spectacles like Paradise Cave, Phong Nha Cave, and Son Doong Cave. In addition, you can visit the park’s botanic gardens, do some wildlife spotting, and relax in refreshing streams and springs.
Con Dao National Park on Con Dao Island
Con Dao National Park (Vườn quốc gia Côn Đảo) and its trails make it easy to explore the exotic beauty of Con Dao Island. The island is 250 km away from Ho Chi Minh City but it’s only less than an hour by plane or two and a half hours if you fly from Hanoi.
The hikes in the park lead through spell-bounding forests to pristine beaches. You can also go on eco-tours to watch sea turtles lay eggs or help release baby turtles into the sea. Con Dao Island was previously a notorious prison island.
3 Honorable Mentions
The honorable mentions are a little bit further away from the big cities but also have their own to bring to the table.
Phu Quoc National Park on Phu Quoc Island
Phu Quoc National Park (Vườn quốc gia Phú Quốc) has an abundance of nature trailing and there’s no entrance fee. It’s also recognized as a part of the Kien Giang Biosphere Reserve.
The park covers 70% of Phu Quoc Island which is included in the Mekong Delta Biosphere. Locals and visitors like to get on a motorbike and follow the roads on Google Maps. There are some springs to cool off and a mountain top for a physical challenge.
Tram Chim National Park in the Mekong Delta
Tram Chim National Park (Vườn quốc gia Tràm Chim) is a Ramsar Site to the North of the Mekong Delta, around 145 km or three and a half hours of driving away from Ho Chi Minh City. From February to May, while paddling through the lotuses, you may see the Sarus Crane on the IUCN Red List.
Ba Be National Park near Hanoi
Ba Be National Park (Vườn quốc gia Ba Bể) is another Summer getaway for people in Hanoi. It’s an ASEAN Heritage Park and a Ramsar Site 220 km or roughly 5 hours away from the center of Hanoi in Bac Kan Province (tỉnh Bắc Kạn).
Ba Be National Park is usually referred to as Ba Be Lake which is at the center of the park. Tours may include trekking the forest to karst caves, a waterfall, ethnic villages of the Dao, Hmong, and Tay. Local meals, homestays, and boat rides on Ba Be Lake are also popular.
The park has one to three days tours with pick-ups in Hanoi and a short stop at Thai Nguyen City. You can take a private shuttle bus straight from Hanoi, but from Sapa or Ha Giang it requires multiple bus changes.