Ba Be National Park – Things To Know

1. Overview of Ba Be National Park

Ba Be National Park, also known as Ba Be Lake, is located in Bac Can Province, about 240 km from Hanoi. The park covers over 23,000 hectares of stunning natural beauty, including waterfalls, deep rivers, valleys, lakes and caves. The area is also home to many ethnic communities. Ba Be Lake is actually three lakes connected by wide channels and spans about 8 km in length. The lake’s surface is always calm and perfect for a relaxing boat trip downstream. In 2004, Ba Be National Park was recognized as an ASEAN natural heritage. Many incentives and joint venture programs have been implemented to promote tourism in the park. Ba Be National Park is a complex of rivers, lakes, and lowland evergreen forests on limestone mountains nourished by three rivers: Ta Han, Bo Lu and Leng. The park boasts high biodiversity with 1,268 plant species, including many valuable and rare species recorded in the Red Book of Vietnam and the World. The park is home to precious and rare species of timber trees such as “Nghien,” “Dinh,” “Lim,” “Truc Day” and “Lat Hoa.” “Truc Day” is a special bamboo species of Ba Be that often grows on cliffs, creating a beautiful landscape.

The national park is also evaluated by domestic and foreign scientists as the highest diversity and endemic center for orchids not only in Vietnam but also in the whole of Southeast Asia. The fauna and fish system is very rich with 470 species of vertebrates and 106 species of fish. The center of the park is Ba Be Lake, which is located at an altitude of about 178m above sea level with a length of up to 8km and a width of 500m. This is the largest and highest natural freshwater lake in Vietnam. Ba Be Lake is also considered “a natural mountain lake with significance benefit in Vietnam”. Ba Be means “three lakes,” and the Tay people call it “Slam Pe” (Pe Leng lake, Pe Lu lake and Pe Lam lake). Ba Be Lake is a continuous lake with countless small streams stretching nearly 8km from north to south. Because of its magnificence, Ba Be is sometimes referred to as “Halong Bay on land.” In 2011, the park was recognized as a wetland area of international importance, ranking third in Vietnam and 1938th in the world.

2. The legend of Ba Be Lake

Once upon a time, an old woman beggar came to the village. Wherever she went, she always said: “I’m hungry. Please extend your mercy.” But nobody gave anything to her, and they were scared of her and fled. Fortunately, there was a widow and her son who were not disgusted by the ragged and tattered beggar and let her into their house to eat and sleep. At midnight, the mother was suddenly awakened by the snoring of the beggar. As soon as she opened her eyes, she was petrified to see a large dragon sleeping instead of an old poor woman. The mother shivered but did not dare to cry, fearing that the dragon could swallow her and her son. At dawn, the mother did not see the dragon in the house; instead, the beggar woke up and got ready to leave. When saying goodbye to the widow and her son, the beggar gave the mother a package of ash and said: “Vicious people should be severely penalized, but I’ll help you – kind people. Sprinkle the ash around the house tonight.

If you want to go out, climb to the high mountain.” After that, the old woman took some patties from her pocket and said: “Bite the patties to take out the rice. Rice helps protect you from starving, and husk helps save your lives.” Having said this, the old woman disappeared. Doubtfully, they told their strange story to the villagers, but nobody believed them. That night, in the middle of the celebration, water spouted from the ground. In just minutes, everything was flooded with water. Magically, only the house of the widow and her son was affected. Remembering the advice of the beggar, the woman dropped the husk into the water, and it suddenly became a dinghy. They sailed to rescue the villagers, so nobody died. The place where the water spouted from the ground is now called Ba Ba Lake.

3. Best time to visit Ba Be

The best times to visit Ba Be Lake are spring and winter (dry season). The weather is pleasant in August and September, but it’s by far the most crowded season for the park. However, it’s still worth visiting Ba Be Lake during the green season.

4. How to get to Ba Be National Park from Hanoi

Ba Be National Park is located 240 km north of Hanoi in Bac Can Province. Visitors can reach Ba Be by driving for about six hours on the road, but the excellent scenery is definitely worth the trip! Travelers can take a local bus or ride a motorbike. For those who prefer privacy, booking a private car with Ba Be Voyages is the best choice for an ideal trip from Hanoi to Ba Be National Park.

5. Accommodations

If you’re looking for an authentic and enriching experience, a visit to Ba Be National Park and a stay with a local family in a homestay is highly recommended. There are several local minorities who operate homestay accommodations in a designated area of the park. These accommodations are simple, yet clean and comfortable, with private bathrooms. Some popular options include Ba Be Legend Hotel, Ba Be EcoStay Hostel, Ba Be Lakeview Homestay, The Sang Homestay, Quynh Mai Homestay, and Ba Be Green Homestay. Prices start at around 14 USD per person per night and include meals.

6. What to do in Ba Be National Park

– Sightseeing: Ba Be National Park in Ba Be District, Bac Kan Province is a fantastic starting point for a sightseeing tour of the northeast region. The park boasts a vast variety of flora and fauna, as well as interesting geology and landscapes to discover, such as Fairy Pond, An Ma Temple, and Dau Dang waterfall. 

– Kayaking: Kayaking on Ba Be lake is one of the best ways to explore the area. This activity is perfect for those seeking adventure, while guided motor boat tours are available for those who prefer to relax. Paddle through the islets to discover hidden caves and visit fishing villages. Get up close to the limestone karsts and find secret corners of Ba Be Lake and the Nang River. Kayaking also allows you to get closer to karsts and into caves that are not accessible by larger boats. Plus, the lack of an engine makes this an eco-friendly way to travel without causing air or noise pollution.
– Trekking and Hiking: Ba Be is widely considered by both locals and visitors to be one of the best trekking areas in Vietnam. The district is dominated by the Pia Booc mountain range, which reaches a height of 1527m. The scenery is impressive, with rich vegetation and stunning rice fields covering the mountains. Trekking is also an ideal way to meet locals and share experiences with them when you stop for a drink or lunch. A tour guide is recommended as they know the best routes through the park and can take you to the best spots while sharing stories about the park, its ethnic minorities, and its fauna.

– Biking: Exploring Ba Be by bicycle is a great option. Sports bikes can be rented in the area through your tour guide. The main roads around the national park are mostly in good condition and do not have much traffic. A one-day cycling trip around the park should enable you to visit attractions such as Hua Ma Cave, Thac Bac Waterfall, and some villages.

– Fishing: The local communities in Ba Be use ancestral techniques to fish on the lake. They fish from thin, long boats to catch shrimp and catfish. If you enjoy fishing, this activity can provide a private insight into the local rural life in Northern Vietnam and allow you to share fishing skills with the locals.

– Meet the ethnic minorities: There are three main ethnic minorities in and around Ba Be National Park: the Tay, the Dzao, and the H’mong. These communities range in size from small clusters of just a few split houses to larger villages. Pac Ngoi village is a must-visit destination in Ba Be. It is home to a large Tay community with more than 40 traditional stilt houses located on a mountain hill.

These traditional houses are well-preserved in Pac Ngoi, and the Tay culture is still practiced by the ethnic people. Another village worth visiting is Na Nghe Village, a small Dzao village where you can meet friendly and welcoming locals. The hike to the village is well worth it, as you will be rewarded with stunning views of the valley below after trekking through the wilderness with only the sounds of nature. H’mong communities tend to be more isolated but still have a strong sense of community.

– Long Tong Festival: The Long Tong festival is one of the oldest and most culturally significant festivals in Vietnamese culture. In the Tay and Nung languages, ‘Long Tong’ means ‘go to the field.’ This festival is a grand celebration that honors the first rice crop of the new lunar year. The ethnic people send their wishes and faith to the gods for a year of good weather, bountiful harvests, comfortable living, health, and happiness for all villagers. On the 9th and 10th days of the first lunar month, people from all of the ethnic minority villages gather on the river bank, dressed in their finest traditional outfits. The main activity of the festival is the worship of the God of agriculture. Exciting outdoor traditional games such as rice cooking contests and singing contests are also held.

– Taste local foods: The food specialties in Ba Be are another reason to extend your stay in the area. There are many delicious dishes to try, including “Lon Cap Nach,” which translates to “pig carried under the arm” due to the small size of the pigs. These pigs weigh around 10kg and are raised wild in the surrounding fields and forests, resulting in sweet and tender meat. Another delicious dish to try is “Com Lam,” or bamboo tube rice. A popular side dish is chayote served with sesame, which combines the mild sweetness of the green vegetable with the nutty flavor of sesame. During a feast, you will have the opportunity to try the local traditional rice wine called “Noc Suong.” All of these dishes may be part of the feast you can enjoy at your host’s table. There are also good local restaurants with prices ranging from $5USD to $15USD. 

Ba Be National Park has been featured in hundreds of newspapers, magazines, forums, and blogs, but nothing can prepare you for experiencing its breathtaking landscapes, crystal-clear water, and fascinating local lifestyle. From Ba Be Lake, you can continue your adventure by visiting nearby attractions such as Ban Gioc Waterfall, Nguom Ngao Cave, Pac Po Historical Site, Trung Khanh, and Phong Nam Valley in Cao Bang Province. Traveling to Ba Be National Park is a truly off-the-beaten-path adventure that few people include in their trip to Northern Vietnam. With Ba Be Voyages, you can enjoy hiking, swimming, and the homestay experience in one of the most beautiful parks in the country. Our Vietnamese travel consultants can also help you put together a personalized itinerary that includes transport and accommodation.

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