Cao Bang Vietnam Best Things to Do & Travel Guide 2024 

Nui Thung Mountain, Cao Bang

Cao Bang is one of the most stunning provinces in Vietnam. We know we say that about all the provinces we’ve visited in North Vietnam, but what can we say, North Vietnam has some spectacular landscapes everywhere you look.

Of course, all travelers coming here want to see the Ban Gioc Waterfall, personally one of the most breathtaking waterfall in Southeast Asia. However, Cao Bang Province is still an off-the-beaten-path adventure with many hidden gems, like the Nui Thung Mountain and the Phong Nam Valley

In this guide, you’ll find the best things to do and everything you need to know before visiting the beautiful Cao Bang Province in Vietnam.

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Is Cao Bang worth visiting?

Cao Bang is known for its stunning natural beauty, including the famous Ban Gioc Waterfall located in the UNESCO-recognized Non Nuoc Cao Bang Geopark. In our opinion, it’s a must-visit if you’re into stunning nature and scenic landscapes. Take a look at our YouTube video to see for yourself!

8 BEST Hotels in North Vietnam

North Vietnam has many amazing places to visit, each with its best places to stay. Here are some handpicked recommendations.

  • Ha Giang: Connect with adventurous travelers at the Lotus Hostel

Where is Cao Bang located?

Ban Gioc Valley View, Cao Bang

Cao Bang is located in the northernmost part of Vietnam, bordering China. It is a remote mountain province. The journey from Hanoi takes approximately seven hours by road.

Best Time to visit Cao Bang

Exploring Khau Coc Cha, Cao Bang, Vietnam

North Vietnam experiences a dry season from October to April, followed by a rainy season from May to September. We recommend planning your visit during the dry season, or even better, from late September to October or April to May, as these months generally offer warm and clear weather. Winter months can be quite cold, while summer months can be quite wet.

The best time to witness the rice fields is from late September to mid-October. During this period, the lush green fields of the rainy season transition into a stunning golden landscape.

5 BEST Tours in North Vietnam

Check out our handpicked tours in North Vietnam and tick off some must-see attractions.

  • Ban Gioc Waterfall: Explore Ban Gioc Waterfall and more in Cao Bang with this 2D/1N Tour
  • Hanoi Streetfood: Join a local Food Tour in Hanoi with visit to Train Street
  • Ninh Binh: Discover Ninh Binh on this small-group guided Full Day Tour from Hanoi

How Long to Stay in Cao Bang?

Nui Thung Mountain, Lake, and Cows, Cao Bang, Vietnam

We recommend planning at least 2 days to explore Cao Bang, though many visitors opt for just 1 day.

Also, consider combining your visit here with other North Vietnamese locations like Bac Son and Ha Giang. This way, you can make the most of your trip to Vietnam.

How to Get to Cao Bang from Hanoi?

Dragonfly in Cao Bang, Vietnam

You can reach Cao Bang City from Hanoi in different ways depending on your budget and interests. You can go by bus, by motorbike, or by private transport.

Cao Bang City is nothing special, but it serves as the perfect base to explore the region.

Bus to Cao Bang

The best option to get to Cao Bang from Hanoi is either a cheap sleeper bus or a more comfortable minibus, which takes 6-8 hours from Hanoi. We suggest using 12go for booking to ensure you get the best deal and to review the most highly recommended bus companies.

TRAVEL TIP: Opting for a sleeper bus not only saves you a night’s accommodation but also a full day of travel.

Riding a Motorbike to Cao Bang

Another good option is to rent a motorbike in Hanoi, just as we did. On the way to Cao Bang, we highly recommend you to stop at Bac Son to hike up to its viewpoint for breathtaking views. This route will take you around 7 hours. You can stop in Bac Son overnight and complete the journey in two days.

Private Cars to Cao Bang

If you arrange a private car with a driver, you will have more freedom and will be able to explore while driving to Cao Bang.

How to get around in Cao Bang?

Khau Coc Cha Pass, Cao Bang, Vietnam

If you’re seeking a convenient option and want to make the most out of your time, consider booking a tour.

For the most adventurous experience, we suggest renting a motorbike in Cao Bang or Hanoi and taking it up north. This provides you with the freedom to explore on your own.

While there are local buses available to travel around the Cao Bang Province, they are usually not the best option as they take a long time to reach the destinations.

How to get to Ban Gioc Waterfall?

Ban Gioc Waterfalls, Cao Bang, Vietnam

Again the easiest and most convenient way to visit the famous Ban Gioc Waterfall is by booking a tour.

If you don’t want to book a tour, it’s a 2-hour drive from Cao Bang City. You can either go by motorbike or take a local bus. Just ask your accommodation for information about the bus to Ban Gioc Waterfall.

Best Cao Bang Tours

To make the most of your Cao Bang experience, consider booking a tour online. Online booking allows you to easily compare reviews, itineraries, and inclusions.

Ban Gioc is far from Hanoi. Tours from Hanoi are a good choice if you’re short on time and want to skip the long bus ride on your own to Cao Bang.

Cao Bang Tour vs Do It Yourself?

We would say it depends on your skills, interests, and the time you have.

If you join a Cao Bang Tour, you’ll get the most out of your trip and time. You will experience the region with an experienced guide, who will take care of everything. You’ll have more time to enjoy. It’s great for groups, families, or solo travelers looking to meet new people.

If you explore Cao Bang by yourself without a tour, you will have more freedom to go at your own pace and schedule. But you’re also in charge of all aspects from renting a motorbike to planning and navigating your route, finding places for food, water, fuel, help if needed, and booking accommodations. It’s ideal for experienced motorbike riders and travelers. It’s usually the cheaper but more challenging option.

Best Hotels in Cao Bang

We recommend staying in Cao Bang, which is accessible by public transportation, and visiting Pidurangala from there.

Check out top-rated and handpicked accommodations near Pidurangala in different price ranges.

Best Accommodations in Cao Bang City

Budget:

Mid-range / Luxury

Best Accommodation near Ban Gioc

FOOD TIP: Bahn mi & Bakery – Phương Loan Kebab Thổ Nhĩ Kì

7 Best Things to Do in Cao Bang

The Ban Gioc Waterfall is absolutely breathtaking and hold the top spot. But keep scrolling to discover many other beautiful, hidden, and less-visited destinations.

1. Ban Gioc Waterfall

Ban Gioc Waterfalls, Cao Bang, Vietnam

The spectacular Ban Gioc Waterfall is the number one highlight in Cao Bang for all travelers, and it’s easy to see why. Standing at 30 meters in height and stretching 300 meters in width, it’s the largest waterfall in Southeast Asia and the fourth largest in the world. 

Situated 90 kilometers from Cao Bang City, right on the border with China, the Ban Gioc Waterfall is a breathtaking sight, composed of numerous falls and pools surrounded by jungle. To the left of the main waterfall, there is a smaller yet equally beautiful one. The entrance fee costs 50,000 VND (≈ 2€).

Ban Gioc Waterfalls, Cao Bang, Vietnam
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GOOD TO KNOW: drones are strictly prohibited at this place.

2. Phong Nam Valley

Phong Nam Valley, Cao Bang, Vietnam

Phong Nam Valley is the most beautiful valley we’ve ever seen. Mountains and rice fields surround it and a big river flows through it. Surprisingly, not many tourists have explored it yet. You can go for walks on the paths and see some really nice views.

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JUST SO YOU KNOW: This valley is on the border with China, we think that you need some kind of permission to visit it, it is best to ask the accommodation in Cao Bang before visiting

3. Nui Thung Mountain

cows infront of the nui thung mountain in cao bang, vietnam
view from Nui Thung Mountain, Cao Bang

Nui Thung Mountain, also known as Angel Eye Mountain, is an impressive mountain with a huge hole in it nestled in a hidden valley with small lakes. It’s a magical sight, especially during the golden hours at sunset.

Just in front of the Nui Thung mountain in the beautiful valley, there are tents set up for camping overnight.

You can enjoy Nui Thung Mountain from both sides. This is the common viewpoint. However, there’s another viewpoint that is incredibly beautiful and surrounded by many animals.

4. Me Pja Pass

Khau Coc Cha Pass View, Cao Bang, Vietnam

The Me Pja Pass is a thrilling mountain pass with a total of 14 sharp turns. It’s quite far from Cao Bang City, requiring a 2-3 hour drive. 

From the summit of the pass, there is a small shop where you can pay for parking and leave your bike there. From there, you can hike about 30 minutes to the viewpoint. From there you will see crazily curved roads carved into the huge mountains.

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OCTOBER 2023: The road is currently under construction. Hopefully, it will be completed by the time you visit. You can check the latest reviews on Google Maps to see if the work has been finished.

After learning that the Pass we initially planned to visit was undergoing construction, we decided to do what we enjoy most: we hit the road and went exploring. That’s when we stumbled upon this epic mountain pass, just a 20-minute drive from the Me Pja Pass. Here are the GPS coordinates: 22°52’45.1″N 105°49’15.8″E.

Khau Coc Cha Pass, Cao Bang, Vietnam

5. Phat Tich Truc Lam Pagoda

Ban Gioc viewpoint: Temples in foreground
Ban Gioc Waterfalls, Cao Bang, Vietnam

The Phat Tich Truc Lam Pagoda is a Vietnamese-style temple built on Phia Nhu Mountain. It can be reached by a short but steep climb up the hill, offering the best views of the entire Ban Gioc Waterfall.

6. Thang Hen Lakes

Thang Hen Lakes consists of 36 small natural lakes connected by underground caves. They are located in a beautiful valley and surrounded by limestone mountains and fields populated with horses and buffaloes. The entrance fee is 30,000 VND (≈ 1€) per person.

During the rainy season, the water level rises, forming one large lake with turquoise blue waters. Small wooden boats are available to take visitors on a scenic lake trip. 

7. Local Cultural Experience

In Cao Bang, many ethnic minorities, each with their unique culture and traditions, call this place home. If you’re interested in learning more about the local minority cultures, you can:

  • Visit the local villages and learn about their work. Two handicraft villages worth visiting are Phia Thap, where you can witness the traditional process of making incense from natural ingredients, and Pac Rang, a traditional blacksmith village where every household has a furnace and engages in forging various products such as knives, hoes, and shovels.
  • Stay in a local homestay. One option is to stay in Khuoi Ky Stone Village, a stone village with houses dating as far back as 200 years old with many homestays.
  • Explore local markets where people from different ethnic minorities gather together to trade and socialize. They offer fresh food and traditional clothing. Pac Mieu is one of the busiest markets in Cao Bang. To experience its vibrant colors and energy, visit on the 1st, 5th, 10th, or 15th day of the lunar month.

2 Days Itinerary for Cao Bang

Day 1

  • Ban Gioc Waterfall
  • Phat Tich Truc Lam Pagoda
  • Phong Nam Valley

Day 2

  • Me Pja Pass
  • Thang Hen Lakes
  • Nui Thung Mountain

Packing, Tips & Costs ​​

Phong Nam Valley, Cao Bang, Vietnam

After 2 months and 4000 km on a North Vietnam Motorbike Trip, we’ve put together the ultimate packing list, tips, and costs to help you plan your trip.

Where to go after Cao Bang?

Once you’ve enjoyed Cao Bang, there are more fantastic places in North Vietnam to discover. Here are some we’ve been to and highly recommend:

Depending on where you’re heading after Cao Bang, you might need to go back to Hanoi first and then catch a bus to your next stop. You can check on 12go to see if there’s a direct bus option. If not, plan your journey through Hanoi.

If you enjoy riding a motorbike, you could visit Cao Bang as extensions of the Ha Giang Loop or aa part of a larger North Vietnam Loop. Our motorbike tour in North Vietnam was one of the most thrilling experiences of our two years of travel in Asia. You can easily rent a motorbike in Hanoi for this adventure.

Conclusion

The Cao Bang Province has everything: mountains, forests, rivers, valleys, and waterfalls. Plus, it’s home to many ethnic minority communities. It’s the perfect destination for anyone seeking to get away from crowded areas like Sapa and Halong Bay. If you only have one day, make sure not to miss the Ban Gioc Waterfall, the Phong Nam Valley, and the Nui Thung Mountain (Angel’s Eye Mountain).

Have any questions or keen to share your own experiences? Feel free to leave a comment below!

Nui Thung Mountain, Cao Bang

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