Northern Vietnam is the cradle of the Vietnamese civilization and hence, home to more historical and cultural attractions than other regions. Its shoreline and mountains also offer impressive landscapes. Its most popular destinations, Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Ninh Binh and Sa Pa, are also among the most visited in Vietnam.
There are quite considerable differences between the mountainous and delta areas in Northern Vietnam. The mountainous provinces bordering China have dramatic landscape, such as pristine subtropical forests, rice terraces and tea plantations. These provinces are less developed, with fewer industries and more ethnic groups. Notable tourist attractions are Ha Giang and Sa Pa.
The lowland and delta areas were traditionally farming areas, but the pronvinces around Hanoi (Bac Ninh, Thai Nguyen, Vinh Phuc, Hung Yen, and Hai Duong) are now largely industrialized. Toward the South China Sea are Ha Long Bay with hundreds of limestone karsts and caves, and Hai Phong, a major port and the third largest city in Vietnam.
- 1 Ha Long Bay with the islands of Van Don, Cat Ba, Quan Lạn
- Ba Be National Park - sceneric mountains and lakes
- Bac Ha - hilltribe markets near the Chinese border
- Bắc Kạn - place of the beautiful Ba Bể Lake, meaning three combined lakes.
- Co To Island
- Cuc Phuong National Park
- Dien Bien Phu - site of the French defeat in 1954
- Dong Dang - on the border with China
- Dong Van - Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark
- Bai Tu Long Bay
- Sa Pa - popular site for visiting indigenous tribes
- Tuan Chau Island
Cycling is a niche but growing activity in Northern Vietnam, progressively getting more challenging the farther you venture out of Hanoi. During your ride, you will be distracted by dense jungle, misty hills and mountains and gorgeous rice terraces. But to explore the region to its fullest, you ought to be an experienced peddler. If you are skilled and brave enough, make sure to ride along the jaw-dropping Mã Pí Lèng Pass between the towns of Dong Van and Meo Vac.
- Most local markets in the north of Vietnam take place on a particular day each week. For example, Dong Van Market and Can Cau Markets take place on Saturday or Sunday. The markets open at 5AM and close at 3 to 4PM. Ethnic peoples, such as the Hmong, Dzao, Tay, Lo Lo and Tu Di, go to the market from the early morning on by foot, horse and motorbike. They travel in families and groups of young girls and boys in their most colorful clothes. Even if don't sell all of their products, they still meet their old friends and have a chance to drink, chat or share their life stories. Some other markets are exceptional: They are “backward markets”! They take place every 6 days, calculated by the Lunar Calendar.
In the northern part of Vietnam the dangers are small. Just like every other country there are pickpockets and a few scammers, but this is your biggest worry from the locals.
If you visit the wild nature next to the Chinese border, not many animals are dangerous. But a few wild cats are seen now and then in the nature reserves, like the Asian golden cat.