The Pu Luong Nature Reserve in Thanh Hoa province is a place still ignored by the main tourist routes. It is located about 130 kilometres from Hanoi. Pu Luong, according to the local language, means “the highest mountain peak” and even if it is not the highest altitude in Vietnam, the beauty of nature is at its highest here!
You will quickly understand why the native Thais settled in this enchanting valley a long time ago. The peaceful pace of Pu Luong contrasts with the hectic life of the capital a few hours away. Endless mountains, fertile valleys and pristine jungle are just some of the reasons to visit. Here are our top tips on what to do and where not to go in Pu Luong!
Other things to know about the beautiful region of Pu Luong
Pu Luong is a nature conservation area: The Pu Luong region is a protected area that is home to many rare and endangered plant and animal species. There is a wide variety of landscapes, including mountains, rivers, forests and rice terraces, making it an ideal place for hiking and nature discovery.
Local culture: The Pu Luong region is inhabited by many ethnic communities, including the Muong, Thai, Dao and H’mong. These communities have a rich and unique culture that is often preserved in the villages of the region. Visitors can experience their traditional way of life and taste the local food.
Rice Terraces: Rice terraces are an iconic feature of the Pu Luong region. These rice fields are built in tiers along the hillsides, creating natural beauty and spectacular views. The rice fields are particularly beautiful during the harvest season, which takes place from September to October.
Trekking and hiking: The Pu Luong region offers many opportunities for hiking and trekking, with trails for all levels of difficulty. Hikers can explore the forests, mountains, rivers and rice terraces of the area while enjoying the natural beauty of Pu Luong.
Local life: The people of Pu Luong are very welcoming and friendly. Visitors can experience their traditional way of life by visiting local villages, attending daily activities and participating in traditional festivals.
Activities in Pu Luong Nature Reserve
Kho Muong village and Bat cave (Kho Muong cave)
For nature lovers and adventure seekers, a trek to explore the remote village of Kho Muong, nestled in the wild valley of Pu Luong Nature Reserve, and climb to the top of the mountain at an altitude of 1,700 metres is a must-do experience that will be remembered.
Located just 10km from Pho Doan town, Kho Muong is home to 60 ethnic Thai households and is surrounded by lush green mountains covered in pristine jungles. Although access to the village is possible by car or motorbike from the main road, we strongly recommend an adventure on the buffalo trails for a 3-4 hour hike from Hieu or Don villages. Hiking enthusiasts will find this an ideal place to practice their passion.
Traditionally, local families made their living by growing rice and corn, but thanks to the bounty of natural resources, they are also turning to tourism. Visitors will be amazed by the Kho Muong cave, accessible via a 100-metre perched path. This cave is an impressive 2.5 kilometres wide, with many small spaces that go deep into the ground. Over millions of years, hundreds of limestone blocks have helped to create this natural wonder.
Also known as the bat cave (Hang Doi), Kho Muong cave is a natural habitat for these small mammals. Visitors can admire hundreds of stalactites and stone blocks with strange shapes and magical colours that create a mysterious and lively atmosphere.
Hieu Village – Hieu Waterfall
This traditional village is perched on a hill and offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding rice fields. Visitors can experience the daily life of the people of Pu Luong and enjoy delicious local cuisine.
To get there, especially when the rice is ripening, you will be amazed by the 25-kilometre drive from Cang Nang town to Hieu village. Indeed, the landscape is embellished with endless rice terraces with yellow and green colours on both sides of the road. Drive over a wooden suspension bridge to enter the village.
There are more than 100 houses scattered on both sides of the river creating a watercolour image that immediately catches your eye. The village is only one kilometre long but has up to five waterfalls, each with its own charming characteristics. Therefore, the locals give them the general name “Hieu Waterfalls”.
The waterfall and stream come from the rock cave of the Pu Luong – Cuc Phuong limestone mountain range, therefore the water is particularly cool and blue. The length of the waterfall is about 800 meters. From the viewpoint of the top, the stream is separated into two smaller ones in the body of the mountain, then they come together at the end. According to the locals, the stream never runs out of water.
The villages of Son, Ba and Muoi, located in Lung Cao commune, form a trio of small mountain villages, often referred to as “mini Sapa”. This nickname is due to the region’s temperate climate, which persists throughout the year, with an average temperature of between 18 and 22°C. However, due to their high altitude (1200 metres), the temperature can drop to -1 or -2°C in winter, and nights can be cool even in summer.
These three villages are also known as Cao Son, which means “high mountain” in Vietnamese. They belong to the core area of the Pu Luong Nature Reserve and are located near the Ngoc Son – Ngo Luong Nature Reserve in Hoa Binh Province. Nestled at the top of the Pha Le mountain range, they run parallel to the Pu Luong – Cuc Phuong range.
The remote location of these villages makes them difficult to access, which contributes to their rugged natural beauty and attracts travellers seeking a challenge. The traditions of the ancient Thai ethnic minority are still well preserved, including the traditional architecture of stilt houses. The latter is tangible proof that the region has not yet been too affected by outside influences.
Don Village is a small village located in Thanh Lam commune, Hoa Binh province, Vietnam. The village is home to the Thai ethnic minority and houses about 80 traditional stilt houses.
The village has gained popularity among tourists in recent years due to its wild and picturesque landscape, with lush green terraces as far as the eye can see and Thai-style houses nestling at the foot of the hill. Tourists can also learn about local traditional weaving, an age-old practice that is still alive in the village.
The village is also known for its distinctive flavours, which reflect the rural lifestyle of the area. Local culinary specialties include mountain bamboo, field duck, wild boar, mountain chicken and fish soup, among others. The people of Don Village are known for their warm welcome and friendliness to visitors, which makes the experience even more enjoyable.
The best time to visit Don Village is during the dry season, which runs from September to November. During this time, the rice fields are golden and the scenery is at its most beautiful. In addition, the weather is pleasant and the temperatures are mild. However, it is important to note that the weather in the mountains can be unpredictable and there can be showers even during the dry season. It is therefore advisable to bring a mackintosh or an umbrella. During the rainy season, which runs from May to August, roads can be muddy and difficult to access. Winters can be cold, with temperatures sometimes dropping below zero at night, so it is advisable to dress warmly.
In short, Don Village is a unique place that offers an authentic experience of Vietnamese rural life and Thai culture. Tourists can enjoy the picturesque landscape, discover fascinating local traditions, taste unique flavours and interact with friendly locals for an unforgettable travel experience.
Trekking Pu Luong
Pu Luong Pass is one of the most popular places in this mountainous region. It offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. Visitors can watch the sunrise or sunset and take breathtaking photos.
But did you know that this pass is also known as “the paradise among mountains”? The most magnificent scenery in the area is found at the top of Pu Luong. The most experienced hikers can attempt to conquer the summit at 1700 metres. This intense and exciting experience offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains and forests, as well as the stilt houses and terraces that stretch as far as the eye can see in the valley.
Of course, this hike is not for beginners and requires a good physical condition and adequate preparation. It takes about six to eight hours to reach the summit in good weather. But once you reach the top, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view that will stay with you for a long time.
If you don’t feel up to such an adventure, don’t panic! The Pu Luong Pass also offers many other hiking trails that are more accessible for beginners. In any case, whether you are a seasoned hiker or a beginner, the beauty of Pu Luong is an unforgettable experience not to be missed.
The best time to visit Pu Luong is from September to November, when the weather is drier and the rice fields are in full bloom, offering an even more picturesque landscape. But the region is pleasant to visit all year round, with a cool, temperate climate all year round.
Pho Doan Market
If you visit the place on Thursday or Sunday, don’t miss the Pho Doan market, famous since the French period. It is located in Lung Niem commune, it is the main place of commercial activities, buying local products of Kinh, Muong and Thai minorities from surrounding areas.
Pho Doan is typical of mountain markets with local products. You can find traditional silk costumes, wine in tubes, mountain vegetables and fresh fruits, …
Most of the time, local people do not use money to trade but exchange equivalent products with each other. For example, you can exchange a rooster for twenty eggs and a number of vegetables if both are satisfied. They hardly bargain at all.
Located 100 kilometres from Thanh Hoa City, following National Road No. 217 towards the highlands, tourists will see Muon Waterfall also known as Mo Waterfall, which means “exciting and dreamy” in Vietnamese. It rises 500 metres above the water level and originates from the top of the mountain at a height of 300 metres.
The Muon Waterfall is about 20 metres high and is located in a dense and lush forest, making it an ideal place to recharge your batteries in the middle of nature. To get there, you have to walk along a path in the forest for about 30 minutes from the car park. During the walk, you can enjoy the natural beauty of the Pu Luong area and discover a variety of plant and animal species.
The flow arrives in a wide valley, from where it descends to the hillsides, creating many successive layers of water as the white terraces.
Passing through these 43 levels of different sizes and heights with stone, water and forest trees, the stream falls into the Dai Lan River, then contributes to the Ma Giang River. Tourists can climb these waterfall slopes safely due to the typical stone features.
In addition to admiring the natural beauty of the landscape, tourists will listen to the love story related to the attraction, meet the locals and learn about the lifestyle and culture of the area. They are all friendly and invite tourists to come and have a pleasant experience here.
Taste the local specialties
Pu Luong’s cuisine is an explosion of flavours and colours. Using fresh and seasonal ingredients, the people of Pu Luong have created a unique cuisine that reflects their culture and way of life. Here is a Pu Luong culinary speciality not to be missed during your visit:
Banh Uot Thit Nuong: This delicious dish is a culinary specialty of Vietnam and is particularly popular in the Pu Luong region. It consists of thin steamed rice cakes filled with grilled pork, fresh vegetables and chopped peanuts. The whole thing is rolled in the rice cake and dipped in a sweet and sour sauce made of nuoc mam, lime, sugar and chilli. This dish is both light and tasty, and is perfect for a quick lunch or dinner.
Com Lam: This dish is prepared using glutinous rice that is steamed in split bamboo. Com Lam is not only a tasty dish, but it is also considered a symbol of Vietnamese cultural identity, especially in the mountainous region of Pu Luong where it is often prepared and served during important celebrations.
Ca rieu: This is a fish soup with fresh herbs and vegetables.
The people of Pu Luong are also known for their production of honey, tea and sticky rice. Pu Luong honey is renowned for its quality and unique taste, while tea is grown in the surrounding mountains and offers a subtle and refreshing flavour. Glutinous rice is a staple ingredient in many local dishes and is grown in the rice terraces of Pu Luong.
To experience the local cuisine of Pu Luong, be sure to try this and other traditional dishes during your visit. Local restaurants offer a variety of dishes made from fresh, local produce, and our travel agency can help you arrange an unforgettable culinary experience during your trip to Pu Luong.
Pu Luong Thanh Hoa Itinerary 01 days
Nang Cang City – Silk Weaving Lung Niem Village – Kit Village – Nua Village
Cang Nang City – La Han Bridge – Pho Doan Market – Son, Ba, Muong Village
Don Village – Bang Village – Doi Cave – Kho Muong Village
Gioi Pagoda, Ai Thuong – Ba Thuoc 2 hydroelectric construction – Dan Long Waterfall
Ong Pagoda – Phi Cave – Vinh Quang Lake – Hang Village
Itinerary Pu Luong Thanh Hoa 02 days 01 nights
Day 1: Hanoi – Mai Chau – Pu Luong Thanh Hoa: Hike through the villages and take a boat on the Cham River
Day 2: Discover Pu Luong Thanh Hoa: Take a walking tour of Kho Muong village and Doi Cave, learn about the culture of Thai ethnic minorities and check in to beautiful attractions.
Interprovincial tour in 03 days 02 nights
Hanoi – Mai Chau (Hoa Binh province) – Hieu Village – Don Village
Hanoi – Mai Chau (Hoa Binh Province) – Son, Ba, Muong Village – Nua Village
Hanoi – Mai Chau (Hoa Binh Province) – En Village – Hang Village
Hanoi – Cuc Phuong National Park (Ninh Binh Province) – Cam Luong Angelfish Stream – Hieu Village – Don Village – Kho Muong Village.
Luggage to bring
For a perfect trip to Pu Luong, it is essential to prepare thoroughly. It is important to wear comfortable, well-fitting walking or climbing shoes to fully enjoy the hiking trails and waterfalls. You should also bring extra clothing if you wish to bathe in the Hieu waterfall. For your safety and comfort, don’t forget to bring medication, sunscreen, antifungal and insect repellent if you plan to explore the forest.
It is also advisable to check the weather conditions before you leave. Make sure you fill up your tank before reaching Pu Luong, as it can be difficult to find petrol stations in the area. Finally, if you can’t find a reservation, don’t hesitate to ask to stay in a local house. The locals are friendly and welcoming and will be happy to show you their beautiful homeland.
Pu Luong Nature Reserve is a perfect tourist destination for travellers looking for adventure and discovery in the wilderness. Activities such as hiking, wildlife watching, visiting local villages and exploring the mountains are all unforgettable experiences that allow you to immerse yourself in the authentic life of this region.
In addition, the picturesque landscape of Pu Luong, with its mountains, rice terraces and traditional stilt houses, offers exceptional photography opportunities. Whether you are a nature lover, an avid photographer or simply looking for an off-the-beaten-track experience, Pu Luong Nature Reserve is sure to amaze and captivate you.