Having heard nothing but great things about the extreme Ha Giang Loop in North Vietnam, I had to journey up into the mountains to experience it for myself.
The Ha Giang motorbike loop is an unforgettable 3 days – 350km – round trip adventure that will lead you through majestic landscapes of pinnacle limestone cliffs, deep craterous valleys, and ancient traditional villages.
I have put together this complete guide from my own experience including how to get to Ha Giang, where to rent a motorbike, the best places to stay on the loop, and what to expect.
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WHERE IS THE HA GIANG LOOP?
The Ha Giang Motorbike Loop is located 310km north of Hanoi in the Ha Giang region, Vietnam.
HOW TO GET TO THE HA GIANG
Hanoi to Ha Giang
The best way to get to Ha Giang from Hanoi is to take a bus that takes around seven hours for approximately 280,000 VND ($12). You can choose to travel on the bus during the day or take an overnight bus.
I recommend taking the overnight bus which leaves Hanoi at 19:00 pm and arrives in Ha Giang at 3:30 am. This way you will save money on one night’s accommodation.
Sapa to Ha Giang
If you are traveling from Sapa to Ha Giang, you will have to take a seven-hour minibus that departs from the central bus station in Sapa town. Buses leave twice a day at 8 am and 10 am and the cost is 150,000 VND that is paid directly to the driver.
Again, organize your bus the day before travel via your accommodation in Sapa and they will contact the bus company to reserve you a spot.
A hairpin road on the loop
ARRIVING IN HA GIANG
When you arrive in Ha Giang on the bus, whether it be a 4 am arrival from Hanoi or a 3 pm arrival from Sapa, I recommend spending at least one night in Ha Giang before embarking on the Ha Giang motorbike loop.
I recommend this because it’s likely that after a seven-hour bus journey to Ha Giang the last thing you will want to do is jump straight into the 3-day adventure.
Also, you will need to organize a motorbike rental and get a Ha Giang Loop map with valuable information before setting off on the most epic experience you will ever have.
HA GIANG ACCOMMODATION: BEFORE & AFTER
Ha Giang has hundreds of accommodation options to choose from, so I have narrowed it down to a few of the best places to stay in Ha Giang to fit the needs of budget backpackers, luxury travelers, and everyone in between.
See the list of accommodations below that I personally recommend:
Luxury: Phoenix Hotel
The only 4-star hotel to stay in before and after the Ha Giang loop tour! The Phoenix features a restaurant and bar, garden terrace, and mountain views. There are double rooms available with spacious living, private bathroom, free wifi, and room service. Breakfast is also included for all guests.
Mid Range: Kiki’s House
Rated one of the best accommodations in Ha Giang! Kiki’s House features a restaurant and bar, terrace, free wifi, and close to nearby shops and attractions. They have family-sized rooms, double rooms, and dorm rooms available. Kiki’s House also offers motorbike rental upon request. Perfect place to stay for families, friends, and couples.
Budget: Lila Inn
The best budget accommodation in Ha Giang! Located right in the middle of Ha Giang city featuring a big yard in the front for guests to enjoy a drink on hammocks under the shade of Bang Non trees, air-conditioned dorm rooms with large comfortable beds, 24/7 reception with good security, motorbike rental service for the loop (including protective equipment, straps & helmet), free drinking water, free wifi and shared bathrooms. They also offer free transfers from the Ha Giang bus station and can help organize your bus tickets.
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Note: The accommodations listed above will be sure to provide you with a map of the Ha Giang loop route with clear directions, recommendations on where to stay along the way, and must-see locations.
Also, if you are traveling with a lot of luggage you are invited to leave your big bags at your accommodation and just take a small daypack on your 3-day journey.
WHERE TO RENT A MOTORBIKE
Most accommodations will likely have motorbike rental services or at least be able to point you in the right direction of where to get one.
Below is a list of scooters and motorbikes that are generally available for rent and approximately how much they cost:
Semi-automatic scooters: $7 per day
Automatic scooters: $9 per day
150cc motorcycles: $17 per day
There is a reputable motorbike rental company in Ha Giang that I know of and you can head over to their website hagiangmotorbike.com to browse rental options.
I also know that Lila Inn offers reliable scooters and motorbike rentals.
For those who are not competent in riding a motorbike and would prefer to take a car around, this is also an option.
You can rent a five-seater car and an experienced driver to take you around for approximately $130. To book the car option you can organize this quite easily via your accommodation.
BOOK A HA GIANG LOOP TOUR
The tour includes pick-up from Ha Noi or Sapa, the 3-day loop on motorbikes with a safe and experienced easy rider, off-the-beaten-track adventure, authentic experiences with the locals, and an exclusive kayaking tour on Nho Que River.
Head over to the Ha Giang Epic Tour website to see great reviews, the full itinerary, and to book online in advance.
My stallion for $17 per day
DAY 1: HA GIANG LOOP
Before you take off on your extreme motorbike adventure, be sure to have a full tank of gas, plenty of drinking water, sunscreen, and closed-in shoes. Then once you are all set up and good to ride, it’s time to get the show on the road.
The best and most recommended route to take is to head clockwise around the loop and make tracks to Dong Van to spend the first night.
I set off from Ha Giang at 8 am and headed north into the mountains for what was the beginning of the most epic three days I have ever had.
Scenery in the mountains
The journey begins
Extreme North Vietnam
DAY 1: CONTINUED
The distance between Ha Giang and Dong Van is 150km and it took me around six to seven hours including stops to get there.
The road started to wind higher and deeper into the pinnacle limestone mountains and after about an hour or two into the ride I was completely mind blown… mind blown at the sight of the mysterious landscapes that were unfolding in front of my eyes around every hairpin corner.
I stopped at least thirty times that morning to pull out my camera and the drone to capture the beauty of it all.
The first viewpoint I came to was Heaven’s Gate. There is a small car park and a cafe in the clouds, perfect for a short pit stop to stretch the legs.
There are countless incredible viewpoints that can be found along the 4C main road between Ha Giang and Dong Van, it’s just a matter of cruising at a slow pace to soak it all in.
Heavens gate viewpoint
The road to Dong Van
DAY 1: CONTINUED
I arrived in Dong Van at around 3 pm with no accommodation booked as of yet. I had a quick look at the booking.com app on my phone and I was able to find a cheap hostel, Dong Van B & B, to spend the night.
There were a few hours till sunset so I took this time to relax at the hostel and recharge my camera batteries before heading out again to shoot the sunset.
I went into the city center of Dong Van for an early dinner and then rode my motorbike to the top of a nearby mountain peak, making it just in time to watch the sun setting over the beautiful cityscape of Dong Van.
Back at the hostel, the staff invited me to join a family dinner of local cuisine for only 60,000 VND. I was still quite full from the meal I had only two hours prior to this but I couldn’t decline their kind invitation.
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The food court in Dong Van
Chasing the sunset
Sunset over Dong Van
DAY 2: HA GIANG MOTORBIKE LOOP
After a good night’s rest, I felt recharged and ready to continue the journey on day 2 of the adventure.
Before leaving Dong Van, I went to check out the ruins of Don Cao French Fortress. Don Cao is a 5-minute ride from the city center and there is a steep driveway that you can ride all the way to the top.
Don Cao sits on top of the highest limestone peak in the Dong Van district offering 360-degree views at the top.
After exploring the Don Cao French Fortress I set off in the direction of Meo Vac, a small industrial village about 40km from Dong Van.
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Don Cao Fortress
Rice terraces in Dong Van
Don Cao Fortress
The entrance to Don Cao Fortress
DAY 2: CONTINUED
One of the best viewpoints I found on this day was at Mai Pi Leng, just 10km outside of Dong Van. You will see a small tea house on the corner of a sharp bend around one of the mountain peaks.
Park your motorbike at the front and walk through the tea house to a spiral staircase out the back door. This will lead you down to a viewing platform that overlooks the impressive Song Nho Que River cutting its way through the valley and outrageous cliffs in the backdrop.
As I was driving through Meo Vac, a storm cloud started to form above me, so I stopped in at a small convenience store to take shelter out of the rain.
I was told that Meo Vac was an optional place to stay for the second night but it felt very industrial and not that appealing to me so I decided to keep on going to the next town which is Du Gia.
Mai Pi Leng viewpoint
Mountains at Mai Pi Leng
Song Nho Que River at Mai Pi Leng
DAY 2: CONTINUED
At the end of the main road in Meo Vac, you will have to make a right-hand turn off the 4C road and on to the 176 road. The 176 will take you south-east and back in the direction of Ha Giang.
The best place to stay for the second night of the Ha Giang Lopp is in Du Gia, a small village at the bottom of a valley between two mountains.
The road towards Du Gia snakes up and over several ranges and the scenery just keeps getting more and more fascinating.
Again, I arrived in Du Gia without any accommodation booked and so I stopped in at the first hostel I saw, Du Gia Backpackers Hostel, and they offered me a private room for 100,000 VND including breakfast. If you wish to book this hostel in advance you can Click Here to check availability and rates.
I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening at the hostel after the six-hour ride from Dong Van to Du Gia. The hostel put on a dinner for us travelers that were staying there and the cost was 80,000 VND for a big feast of local cuisine.
On the road to Du Gia
Incredible landscapes just outside of Meo Vac
Arriving into Du Gia
DAY 3: HA GIANG LOOP TOUR
Day three started off slow for me as I knew that the last leg of the journey back to Ha Giang was only a 2.5-hour ride from Du Gia. I had a big breakfast and a coffee at the hostel in the morning before setting off.
Before you leave Du Gia, I highly recommend visiting the Du Gia Waterfall, a short ten-minute ride from the village.
If you are using google maps on your phone, the Du Gia waterfall is very easy to find. You’ll find a dirt car park at the end of the trail, park your bike here and hike along the edge of the running stream for five to ten minutes until you reach the falls.
When I arrived there was a young child playing in the dirt and he then insisted that I should follow him upstream to the Du Gia waterfall. He played the role of my tour guide even though it was impossible to get lost.
Before reaching the falls there is a number of rock pools and natural slides where there were a dozen local kids making the most of mother nature’s playground.
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My local guide at Du Gia Waterfall
Trail to Du Gia Waterfall
DAY 3: CONTINUED
The kids were showing off their skills by cliff jumping from the top of the falls into the deep rock pool below. I spent the best part of an hour here, swimming in the freshwater pools and cliff jumping with the locals!
As I made my way back to the car park, the same young kid insisted to walk me back along the trail to my bike. I had a scrunched-up plastic bag in my backpack and so I decided to pick up some rubbish along the way, doing my little bit for the environment.
As I started to pick up some rubbish off the ground, I was so amazed to see the young kid follow my lead and he started to pick up handfuls of trash and help me fill the bag. A great way to influence the kids and I invite everyone to join the movement and give back to the environment.
Mother Nature’s playground
Emerald pools at Du Gia waterfall
Drone shot of Du Gia waterfall
Natural water slides at Du Gia Waterfall
DAY 3: CONTINUED
I departed from Du Gia waterfall to make the 2.5-hour journey back to Ha Giang and complete the extreme northern loop.
I started descending down a number of snaking roads through the mountain ranges and was low-key wishing the journey would never end.
The last 20km of the loop road before reaching Ha Giang was not the most enjoyable as they are in the process of resurfacing the road. (September 2018)
It was a bumpy, slippery, gravel road that forced me to ride at a max speed of 30km per hour. This 20km stretch of terrible road was the only bad experience I had over the three-day duration.
I arrived back in Ha Giang at around 2 pm and I decided to stay one more night in town. The following day I took a seven-hour bus ride back to Hanoi.
Of all the extreme adventures I have had on my travels over the past few years, this makes it to the top of my list and I highly recommend it to all!
Beautiful rice terraces
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
The main thing I would like to point out here is the condition of the road on the loop. No matter what your skill level is as a rider, the roads on the loop are in excellent condition in some areas and also sketchy and dangerous in other areas.
I can’t stress enough to pay full attention to the road and other road users take it slow and steady. There is no need to speed and be sure to make yourself known on blind corners by sounding your horn.
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The weather can be very sporadic in the Ha Giang region, so be prepared to experience all the elements on your three-day adventure. Take a rain jacket in case it downpours and warm clothing for the cool temperatures at night.
I recommend wearing a long sleeve shirt or sunscreen when riding during the peak sun hours of the day, otherwise, your skin will get burnt to a crisp.
There are ATM machines in the bigger towns such as Ha Giang and Dong Van if you do need to take out some cash.
There are minimal petrol stations along the way but I recommend filling up your tank whenever you hit the halfway mark just to be safe.
I filled my tank twice on the trip, once in Ha Giang and once in Dong Van. I spent a total of 200,000 VND for two tanks of fuel.
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I hope you enjoyed reading this article and if you have any questions, please drop me a comment below this post and I will get back to you as soon as I can.