Ban Gioc waterfalls are one of Vietnam's natural gems. As the largest waterfall in Southeast Asia, As Asia's answer to the Victoria Falls or Niagara Falls, Ban Gioc's pristine waters sit amidst insane natural beauty, making this a must-visit destination if you are in Northern Vietnam. Read on to discover the best way to visit this mesmerising spot!
Where Can I Visit Ban Gioc Waterfall?
Ban Gioc waterfall is in Vietnam and China as the waterfall straddles an international border: like the Iguazu Falls between Argentina and Brasil.
The Chinese side is known as the Detian falls, and collectively they are sometimes referred to as Ban Gioc Detian Falls.
On the Vietnamese side, Ban Gioc sits within the Trung Khanh district of Cao Bang Province, around 286km north of Hanoi. Most visitors choose to stay in Cao Bang town, which is 25km from the falls, from where they can make a day trip.
Fractured historical relations between Vietnam and China once made the border region a contentious location, and in the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese war Chinese forces used Ban Gioc as a crossing point into Vietnam. Fortunately, despite somewhat frosty relations today, you don't need to get any special permit to visit. But have your passport handy just in case.
Ban Gioc is one of our top waterfalls in Vietnam, how about the others? Check them out here
What To Do When Visiting Ban Gioc Waterfall
Ban Gioc waterfall is famous for its tiered falls, which are some of the widest on the continent. Water from the Tay Son river plunges over multi-tiered terraced cliffs that sit amongst luscious greenery and impressive karst peaks. You can enjoy the province of Ha Giang first before visiting Ban Gioc waterfall.
1. Find Your Picture Perfect Photo Spot
The path towards the falls goes through rice fields and a grassy bank, whereupon you'll meet the misty spray of the majestic Ban Gioc waterfall. There are calmer sections where the water flows gently over the edge, giving visitors a refreshing mist; whereas, at others, the deluge is immense.
Several picturesque viewing points lie along the tree and boulder-lined sides of the falls, giving you the perfect shady vantage point to take in one of Vietnam's most romantic spots. There is also a great aerial view from the newly constructed pagoda opposite the falls. Cameras at the ready!
2. Rent A Bamboo Raft For Closer Look At The Falls
To get closer to the action, rent a bamboo raft. For about 50,000 VND, the rower will take you right up to the main waterfall and around beautiful blue pools of water where you're almost bound to get soaked - either from the waterfall's spray or the irresistible urge to jump into the blue pools of water.
If you decide to go for a dip, be careful and stick to the shallow rockpool areas. You can also walk and get quite a close-up photo with the waterfalls in full flow.
3. Walk Around The Ban Gioc Waterfalls - At Your Own Risk!
If you want to get the best views of the waterfalls, head up one of the side paths leading to the higher tiers of the waterfall. The lush greenery and sheer scale of the falls - some 30 metres high and 300 metres wide - will have you in awe. But do bear in mind these paths are wild and filled with shrubs, and there are no handrails - so go at your own risk, and don't go when it's rainy!
4. Explore The Quay Son River & Nguom Ngao Cave
The Quay Son, a stunning 89km long jade-blue river, snakes its way down from China and along the border with Vietnam, before feeding the Ban Gioc waterfall. Flowing through spectacular limestone casts and rice terraces, the Quay Son river is a spot worth visiting in its own right. A kayak or canoe trip is a great way to see it.
Another site to check out before reaching Ban Gioc waterfall is Nguom Ngao cave, which is just 2km from Ban Gioc Falls. A breeze and an underground river run through the cave, which is full of beautifully twisted stalactites and stalagmites, making it the perfect spot to escape the summer heat.
How Much Does It Cost To Visit The Ban Gioc Waterfall?
The entrance fee for Ban Gioc Waterfall is 45,000 VND (roughly USD 2.50). This includes basic entry to the waterfall area.
To visit the Ban Gioc Waterfall on the Vietnamese side, tickets are purchased from a small ticket booth as you approach the area.
Other Ban Gioc activities like rafting and cave tours are separate tickets but cost roughly around the same as entry to the waterfall (around $3).
Can I Swim At Ban Gioc Falls?
Yes, you can but it is not advised. There are many signs in Vietnamese advising that swimming is dangerous. Those wanting to swim should stay close to the shore and wear a life jacket (available onsite). If you want to get up real close to the beautiful waterfalls, then book a raft tour!
How To Get To Ban Gioc Waterfall From Hanoi?
Hanoi to Cao Bang City Buses
If you're starting in Hanoi, you're best off using public transport. Get the bus to Cao Bang city, which is around 286kms away from Hanoi and takes between 8-10 hours and costs roughly 200,000 VND. These buses are coach style and not like the small local buses (which we don't recommend for this kind of journey).
To take the bus, head to the My Dinh bus station in Hanoi, where Hanoi to Cao Bang buses depart regularly throughout the day.
A sleeper bus is also available, meaning you can save time and money on an overnight stay. Seats on an overnight bus recline almost all the way and provide a very comfortable experience compared to the small local buses!
There are two major bus companies: Kim Dung Travel and Hung Thanh and bookings can be made direct or through trusted comparison websites such as Baolau.com
Cao Bang to Ban Gioc Waterfall
From Cao Bang, it takes about 90 minutes to reach the falls. It's best to arrange a Ban Gioc waterfall day tour with your hotel or a tourist company, which includes a privately hired car with pick up and return.
For a cheaper alternative, take the local bus, which leaves every 30 minutes from the Cao Bang bus station. Bus tickets cost about 60,000 VND.
If you're doing the Ha Giang loop or in the surrounding area on a motorbike trip and looking to get off-the-beaten-track, then Ban Gioc falls are well worth the visit.
Temperature in Ban Gioc Waterfall and Cao Bang Province
The average temperature at Ban Gioc Waterfall ranges from 30 degrees in Summer to lows of 11 degrees in January. Sitting in the mountains, the weather is often temperate and milder than lower altitude areas.
Due to its location in Northern Vietnam, Ban Gioc experiences four distinct seasons. Temperatures are cool and cloudy from November-March, and snow is not unheard of. This is also the dry season, which makes it a good time to visit - just as long as you bring a fleece or two.
Temperatures warm up in April, reaching their peak in July and August. Summer also sees the monsoon season hit the region, and heavy rainfall can cause flooding and landslides. You generally should be okay travelling in summer, but keep an eye on weather forecasts, which can change quickly in the rainy season.
Perhaps the best time to visit Ban Gioc Waterfall is from September-November. This period is the sweet spot - stable temperatures, humidity, and low rainfall make this the perfect time to go.
Peak Tourist Time At Ban Gioc Waterfall
When it comes to crowds, fortunately, mass tourism has yet to hit Ban Gioc falls. If you go there on a weekday when there are very few tourists, it'll feel like an oasis you've just discovered. Do try and avoid weekends and public holidays, however, which can get a little busy.
Where To Stay Near Ban Gioc Waterfall
Closest to Ban Gioc
Whilst most tourists stay in Cao Ban city, there is also limited availability of hotels around Ban Gioc falls, including:
The Saigon Ban Gioc resort: the closest hotel to the falls offers comfortable rooms for around 1,100,000 VND / night.
Motels Near Ban Gioc
For a cheaper option, head to one of the local guesthouses (nhà nghỉ in Vietnamese) in the area.
Ha Vuong Hotel and Kieu Thanh Nguyet Guest House offer simple but clean rooms for around 200,000 VND a night.
Stay Nearby Cao Bang
You'll find far more options in Cao Ban city, where most tourists choose to stay.
Cao Bang Eco Homestay: A budget-friendly choice, this homestay offers dorm rooms from around 120,000 VND / night.
LươngSơn Homestay Cao Bằng: a great option for those intrepid travellers looking to be more in touch with nature.
Khách Sạn Sông Hiến hotel: a more conventional and mid-range option, this hotel offers decent and clean rooms for around 5-600,000 VND a night
Food To Try From Cao Bang Province
Every region in Vietnam has its own special foods worth trying, especially food from Hanoi in the North.
The Cao Bang area is no different. Food in and around the waterfalls is tasty and basic - think food stalls selling simple rice and noodle dishes. These tend to pepper the roadside leading to the falls, so keep a lookout for them.
The Saigon Ban Gioc resort offers a decent range of quality Vietnamese dishes, but expect to pay a bit more. Cao Bang city has a host of restaurants, especially on Vuon Cam street and around Cho Xanh Market.
5 Must-try Dishes While Visiting Ban Gioc Waterfalls
1. Vit quay bay vi - roasted duck, seasoned with 7 flavours - garlic, ginger, pepper, dried onion, honey, tofu, and dried clausena. The duck is deliciously crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.
2. Trung Khanh chestnuts - Northeastern Vietnam has the ideal climate for chestnuts, and the Trung Khanh variety is great roasted, steamed or dried.
3. Banh Cuon - a famed dish in Northern Vietnam, the Cao Bang Banh Cuon (steamed rice roll) comes with a delicious pork bone broth and egg
4. Khao cake - made from glutinous rice and sesame, peanut, sugar and fat filling, the Khao cake is a delicious sweet treat that features heavily in the Tet (Lunar New Year) festival.
Think you know it all? Check out this food list to check!
Get To Ban Gioc Waterfall Before The Masses Do!
If you're in the region, Ban Gioc waterfall is a must-see along with other affordable places near Hanoi! The majestic waterfall is perhaps Vietnam's most underrated natural wonder, and it's only a matter of time before the masses of tourists find out about this long-kept secret. So, what are you waiting for? Get on that bus or motorbike!
Ban Gioc should be on your bucket list in 2022, wonder where else should be on it? check out Vietnam's 12 best places in 2022.
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