Bac Ha highlights and travel guide

Updated in November 2023

Bac Ha at a glimpse

Discreet and authentic, the village of Bac Ha deserves a detour for a weekend

Where is Bac Ha:

Bac Ha is a city located in the province of Lào Cai, northwest of Vietnam. It is about 70 km from the capital of Lao Cai and 300 km from Hanoi.

Going to Bac Ha from Hanoi

To get there, just follow the road to go to Sa Pa, then join Bac Ha by bus. Allow 5 to 6 hours of bus between the capital of Sa Pa, from the bus stations in Hanoi: My Dinh, Gia Lam. It is also possible to take the train, in a soft or hard seat or air-conditioned bunk. Departure from Hanoi around 9, 10 pm and arrival in Sapa in the early morning around 5, 6 am.

The best time to visit Bac Ha

The best time to visit Bac Ha is in winter (from December to April), when the temperature varies between 19 and 25 degrees Celsius and you can go trekking (and shopping!) easily.

What to see & do

Essentially known for its sumptuous ethnic market, the Bac Ha area is also appreciated for its trekking trails through rice fields, giving a unique opportunity to visit a number of ethnic villages Hmong, Tay and Dzao, among others.

Where to stay

Choose from hotels such as Ngan Nga hotel, Huy Trung homestay or Bac Ha Eco Homestay

What to taste

The two signature dishes of the region are Thang Co, a horse meat stew, and the seven-color sticky rice of the Nung Din

Bac Ha Overview

Bac Ha's majestic countryside is equally as enchanting as its neighbour Sapa, but the peaceful town has somewhat escaped the over-development and has managed to retain its authenticity as a market town. This rural district doesn't have the modern comforts that can be found in Sapa, but what it lacks in that respect, it makes up for in character.

The town itself sits amidst towering mountains and rice paddies, and each week it is the home of one of the biggest ethnic minority market in the region. Each Sunday morning, as the sun breaks over the rolling mountains, hundreds of local people from the Black Dao, Red Hmong, Tay, Nung, La Chi, and other ethnic minority communities flock to the market creating an explosion of colour in the green valley.

Birds eye view of Bac Ha Valley.
Each community comes dressed in their finest traditional clothing, colourful and proud, ready for a day of trading and socialising. The hundreds of stalls are equally as captivating, row upon row of colourful handcrafted goods, each item the result of hours of meticulous handicraft. As well as the amazing textile products and colourful homeware on offer, locals trade livestock and fresh produce. The atmosphere in the market is lively and inviting, drawing the crowds into the colourful bazaar.
As well as the weekly markets, Bac Ha has some fantastic trekking opportunities. The immense, paddy-etched mountains are dotted with tiny minority villages and breathtaking views.

Bac Ha See and Do


Bac Ha Market

This Sunday market is Bac Ha’s big draw. There's an increasing range of handicrafts for sale, but it’s still pretty much a local affair. Bac Ha market is a magnet for the local hill-tribe people, above all the exotically attired Flower Hmong. If you can, stay overnight in Bac Ha on Saturday, and get here early before hundreds of day trippers from Sapa start arriving.

Bac Ha Market
Bac Ha Market is always filled with colour and life.
Flower Hmong women wear several layers of dazzling clothing. These include an elaborate collar-cum-shawl that’s pinned at the neck and an apron-style garment; both are made of tightly woven strips of multicoloured fabric, often with a frilly edge. Highly ornate cuffs and ankle fabrics are also part of their costume, as is a checked headscarf (often electric pink or lime green).

Vua Meo' Palace (‘Cat King’ House; h7.30-11.30am & 1.30-5pm)

The outlandish Vua Meo, built in 1921 by the French to keep the Flower Hmong chief Hoang A Tuong happily ensconced in style, is a bizarre palace constructed in a kind of 'oriental baroque' style on the northern edge of Bac Ha. It was being restored when we last past through town but should be fully open again by the time you read this.

Vua Meo Palace.

Can Cau Market (h6am-1pm Sat)

This Saturday market, 20km north of Bac Ha, attracts a growing number of visitors. Some tours from Sapa now visit Can Cau on Saturday before moving on to Bac Ha for the Sunday market. A few Bac Ha stallholders also make the journey to Can Cau on Saturdays. It’s still a magnet for the local tribal people though, including Flower Hmong and Blue Hmong (look out for the striking zigzag costume of the latter).

Buffalos being traded at Can Cau Market.
The market spills down a hillside with basic food stalls on one level and livestock at the bottom of the valley, including plenty of dogs. Locals will implore you to drink the local ruou with them. Some trips here include the option of an afternoon trek (for those still standing after ruou shots) to the nearby village of Fu La.

Hoang Thu Pho Waterfall

There’s a waterfall near Huang Thu Pho village, about 12km west


Bac Ha's Sunday market is firmly stamped on the day-trip agenda from Sapa – though it's hardly been trussed up for the tourists and is full of local flavour. But if you want to head further out to other markets, try these on for size:
Enjoy our Trekking The Hidden Trails of Vietnam 13 Days

Coc Ly Market (h8.30am-1.30pm Tue)

The impressive Coc Ly market attracts Dzao, Flower Hmong, Tay and Nung people from the surrounding hills. It’s about 35km southwest of Bac Ha along reasonably good roads. Tour operators in Bac Ha can arrange day trips here.
Coc Ly Market Local women buying fruit at Coc Ly Market.

Lung Phin Market (h6am-1pm Sun)

Lung Phin market is between Can Cau market and Bac Ha, about 12km from town. It’s less busy than other markets, with a really local feel, and is a good place to move on to once the tour buses arrive in Bac Ha from Sapa.

Sin Cheng Marke (h5am-2pm Wed)

This market, in the remote border area of Si Ma Cai, 40km from Bac Ha, is a vibrant and chaotic weekly hub for the local Nung and Thulao ethnic minorities who live in the surrounding villages.
We highly recommend some of the best tours below:
Trekking on Vietnam's final frontier 14 days 13 nights
1 reviews

Trekking on Vietnam's final frontier is an exciting tour which explores the very northernmost part of Vietnam. The tour brushes along the border with China, taking in the stunning views of the mountainous region. Mainly off the beaten path, this area sees few tourists and is the perfect place to discover undisturbed traditional villages and pristine countryside. Driving along winding mountain roads, you will stop to photograph the awe-inspiring vistas, hike stretches of beautiful land, take a river trip and meet plenty of local people.

Theme: Hiking & Trekking Tours
: Daily
Duration: 14 days 13 nights
Destination: Bac Ha - Ha Giang Province - Hanoi - Sapa
Suitable: Travel with friends
Trekking on Vietnam's hidden trails 13 days 12 nights
1 reviews

A great route of the most mountainous region in the North of Vietnam will show you how imposing the nature of the country can be. Along your Trekking on Vietnam's hidden trails, you will meet with local people and get to understand the many differences in culture & way of life of the ethnic minorities living in Sapa, Ba Be, Ha Giang, Cao Bang, and Lang Son. We’ll then round it all out in the best way imaginable; a relaxing cruise in the gorgeous Ha Long Bay.

Theme: Hiking & Trekking Tours
: Daily
Duration: 16 days 15 nights
Destination: Ba Be National Park - Bac Ha - Cao Bang - Ha Giang Province - Halong Bay - Hanoi - Sapa
Suitable: Active traveler
Bac Ha great hikes 3 days 2 nights

An adventure trek from Sapa to Bac Ha to experice the best of the region's market. Most colourful are the Flower Hmong people. This Bac Ha great hikes 3 days 2 nights will all be set against the stunning back of Bac Ha's rice terraced mountains and sweeping valleys.

Theme: Hiking & Trekking Tours
: At customer's request
Duration: 3 days 2 nights
Destination: Bac Ha - Hanoi - Sapa
Suitable: Travel with friends
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