Are you looking for a perfect getaway to enjoy beautiful landscapes and adventure activities? Then, Mu Cang Chai in Vietnam is the place for you. This northwest highland town is popular for its picturesque landscapes, delectable food, and hot mineral springs. In this Mu Cang Chai travel guide, we’ll show you what to explore, where to stay, what to eat, how to get there, and the best time to visit this beautiful destination.
When to Go
Mu Cang Chai is beautiful all year round, but it is stunning during the planting and harvesting seasons, which occur in winter-spring. The planting season is from the end of May to the beginning of June when the rice fields are filled with water, reflecting the world like a mirror. The harvest season from September to October is the peak time when photographers and tourists flock to the region to witness the colorful scenery. In addition, the end of December is the season for wild peaches to bloom. Be prepared for hot days and cold nights by bringing a lightweight jacket.
What to Explore
There are plenty of exciting places to explore in Mu Cang Chai. Here are a few highlights that you shouldn’t miss:
Khau Pha Pass
Khau Pha Pass is a must-visit destination in the Mu Cang Chai region for adventure-seekers and nature-lovers. This breathtaking mountain pass is famous for its winding roads and panoramic views of the stunning rice terraces below. If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, Khau Pha Pass is the perfect place to experience paragliding during the annual “Flying over the yellow season” event, which takes place in September and October during the rice harvest season. Soaring over the rice terraces and Lim Mong valley is an exhilarating experience you won’t want to miss. Don’t forget to add Khau Pha Pass to your Mu Cang Chai travel guide itinerary for an unforgettable adventure!
Lim Mong – Lim Thai Valley
The Lim Mong – Lim Thai Valley is a picturesque destination in Mu Cang Chai that offers visitors a glimpse into the life of Thai ethnic communities. Located just below Khau Pha Pass, one of the four great peaks of Vietnam, the valley boasts panoramic views of endless rice terraces during the harvest season (September-November). Visitors can drive through the fields, witness the daily life of the locals in the peaceful village, and even take a break by the cool streams. For those who want to explore further, there are small paths sloping up the mountain that you can access via a suspension bridge. The Lim Mong – Lim Thai Valley is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking a unique cultural experience in Vietnam.
The terraced fields in Mu Cang Chai are a breathtaking sight to behold. These man-made structures cover over 2,200 hectares, and out of those, 500 hectares are designated as a national heritage by the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism. These terraced fields are the pride of the three villages of La Pan Tan, Che Cu Nha, and De Xu Phinh, and their sheer scale and beauty are what attracts visitors to Mu Cang Chai. During the rice harvest season from September to October, the terraces turn into a golden yellow hue, making for a truly mesmerizing view.
Tu Le Commune
Tu Le Commune is a charming destination that is worth a visit when exploring Mu Cang Chai. This small town, located just three kilometers from Khau Pha Pass, is renowned for its glutinous rice, which is used to make the delicious green rice flakes known as cốm. During the rice harvest season, the Thai people in Tu Le are busy preparing this delicacy, and visitors can witness the process and even sample the finished product. Accommodation options in Tu Le include motels and homestays in Mu Cang Chai, which range from VND100,000 – 400,000 ($4.26 -17.05) per night. In the evening, travelers can explore the local market and try a variety of Thai and other regional dishes.
Mam Xoi Hill
Mam Xoi Hill is a popular destination in Mu Cang Chai due to its natural beauty and stunning views. Located in La Pan Tan commune, the hill is shaped like a tray of sticky rice and offers a panoramic view of the surrounding rice terraces. The best time to visit is during the rice harvest season (September-October) when the terraces are covered in a golden hue, providing an awe-inspiring contrast to the surrounding hills. Travelers can take a leisurely walk along the trails, breathe in the fresh air, and take memorable photos of the stunning scenery.
Bamboo forest in Na Hang Tua village
Na Hang Tua village is a charming village in La Pan Tan commune, famous for its beautiful bamboo forest. The forest is located about 30 minutes walk from the village center and offers visitors a chance to immerse themselves in nature. The bamboo bridge that crosses over the stream is a great spot for a peaceful walk, and the sound of the flowing water adds to the serenity of the environment. It’s a great place to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
If you’re an adrenaline junkie, you must try the zipline swing in Tu Le commune. Located in Khau Pha Pass, it offers a thrilling ride over the rice fields, providing a spectacular view of the valley. The zipline is 100 meters long and 50 meters high, making it a great adventure for those seeking a rush of excitement. The ride costs around VND 100,000 ($4.26) and is definitely worth it for the breathtaking view.
Tram Tau Hot Springs
After a long day of exploring the stunning landscape of Mu Cang Chai, Tram Tau Hot Springs is an ideal place to unwind and rejuvenate. Located in Tram Tau district, about 45 kilometers from Mu Cang Chai town, the hot springs are known for their therapeutic properties due to the hot mineral water. Visitors can enjoy the hot springs in a private pool or a public pool for a fee of VND 30,000 – 60,000 ($1.28 – 2.56). The temperature of the water ranges from 40-70°C, which is perfect for relaxation and soothing tired muscles. It’s a great place to spend a peaceful afternoon.
Where to stay
Mu Cang Chai offers a variety of accommodation options for travelers, including hotels, resorts, homestays, and hostels. For those who want to immerse themselves in the local culture, homestays are a great option. Homestays offer visitors the opportunity to stay with a local family and experience their daily life, culture, and cuisine. Popular homestay options in Mu Cang Chai include Chez Hà homestay, Homestay Nha San Tu Le, and Homestay Ban Thai.
For those who prefer more comfort, there are hotels and resorts in Mu Cang Chai town, such as Mu Cang Chai Ecolodge, Mu Cang Chai Resort, and Muong Lo Hotel. These options offer amenities like air conditioning, hot water, and WiFi.
Mu Cang Chai Travel Guide: What to Eat
One of the highlights of visiting Mu Cang Chai is trying the unique local cuisine. A blend of Vietnamese and Thai flavors, the food here is sure to tantalize your taste buds. Here are some dishes to try during your visit:
- Grilled Fish in Bamboo Tubes – A signature dish of the region, this dish features marinated fish grilled in bamboo tubes, which gives it a unique smoky flavor.
- Sticky Rice – This glutinous rice is famous for its unique flavor and texture, and is often served as a side dish with other main dishes.
- Sour Bamboo Shoot Soup – Made with bamboo shoots, pork, and various herbs, this soup is a tangy and refreshing dish perfect for hot days.
- Buffalo Meat – Another popular protein source in the region, buffalo meat is often used in stews and grilled dishes.
For the adventurous foodies, Mu Cang Chai offers some exotic dishes like roasted field mice, crickets, and bamboo worms. While not for everyone, these dishes are certainly a unique culinary experience that you won’t forget. So, be sure to try the local delicacies during your trip to Mu Cang Chai.
How to get to Mu Cang Chai
Mu Cang Chai is a beautiful district located in the western part of Yen Bai, Vietnam. It is situated around 300 kilometers from Hanoi, and the only way to reach there is through Highway 32. If you plan to travel by bus, you can find buses at the My Dinh bus station in Hanoi, or you can opt for a private vehicle.
To make your journey comfortable, we recommend traveling with Bookaway, which offers a convenient and hassle-free bus service from Hanoi to Yen Bai. The trip costs approximately VND200,000 (US$8.60) per person, and you can enjoy comfortable seats, air conditioning, and complimentary Wi-Fi on board.
Once you reach Yen Bai, you can hire a taxi or continue your journey by bus to reach Mu Cang Chai. It is advisable to leave early in the morning to avoid traffic and reach there in time for lunch.
We suggest following this recommended schedule for your trip:
Day 1: Hanoi – Tram Tau Hot Springs
Travel to Tram Tau district, which is around 220 kilometers from Hanoi. You can take a bus from Hanoi to Nghia Lo town and then a taxi to continue to Tram Tau district. Alternatively, you can drive your own vehicle. Spend the day relaxing at Tram Tau hot springs.
Day 2: Khau Pha Pass – Lim Mong village, Lim Thai village – Tu Le Commune – Mu Cang Chai town
Visit the scenic Khau Pha Pass, Lim Mong village, Lim Thai village, Tu Le Commune, and Mu Cang Chai town. Enjoy the stunning view of the terraced rice fields along the way.
Day 3: Mam Xoi Hill – Mong Ngua Hill – Hanoi
Visit the Mam Xoi Hill and Mong Ngua Hill and then head back to Hanoi.
We hope this itinerary helps you plan your trip to Mu Cang Chai, and don’t forget to book your tickets with Bookaway for a hassle-free journey.
In summary, this Mu Cang Chai travel guide has provided useful information on how to get to the destination, recommended itinerary, and the attractions that await visitors. Mu Cang Chai’s breathtaking landscapes and cultural experiences make it a must-visit for anyone exploring Vietnam. From its rice terraces to natural hot springs, the region has something for every kind of traveler. Mu Cang Chai is a true gem that is not to be missed, and we hope this guide has inspired you to plan your own adventure.