Hiking in Mu Cang Chai - Our 2024 selection of tours

Mu Cang Chai, deep in the mountains of northern Vietnam, is a paradise for trekking and adventure enthusiasts. Its magnificent landscapes of rice terraces, carefully crafted by the H'mong people on the hillsides, make it a must-see destination for travelers in search of authentic, thrilling experiences.

Hiking & Trekking around Mu Cang Chai - Photo : Internet

Where is Mu Cang Chai and how to get there?

Mu Cang Chai, located in the eponymous district of Yen Bai province, is famous for its impressive rice terraces. Nestled at the foot of the Hoang Lien Son mountain range, at an altitude of 1,000 metres, the town is around 300 km from Hanoi.
The rice terraces, which cover more than 500 hectares in the communes of La Pan Tan, Che Cu Nha and De Xu Phinh, have been cultivated since time immemorial. In 2007, they were officially recognized as a national heritage site for their breathtaking scenery. The region is also home to several ethnic minority groups, such as the H'Mong, Dao and Giay.
Did you know? Legend has it that a giant descended from the heavens to shape the Mu Cang Chai rice terraces and provide a home for the local people. This story illustrates the deep bond between the Hmong and their land and their ancestral know-how.

Getting to Mu Cang Chai from Hanoi

There are several options:
By bus: This is the most popular and affordable way to get to Mu Cang Chai. Hanoi's My Dinh bus station is served by regular buses that take around 6 to 7 hours. Ticket prices range from 150,000 to 200,000 Vietnamese dong (approx. 6 to 8 USD).
By motorcycle: For the more adventurous, renting a motorcycle offers unrivalled freedom and flexibility. It takes around 5 to 6 hours to admire the magnificent scenery.
By private car: This is the most comfortable option, but also the most expensive. Allow around 4 to 5 hours' drive.

The famous terrace rice fields of Mu Cang Chai - Photo : Pixabay

What's the best season for hiking in Mu Cang Chai?

For hiking and photography enthusiasts, the period between September and October is undoubtedly the ideal time to capture the magnificent beauty of the north-western regions, where the rice terraces shine with a thousand lights. Along with the famous fields of Hoang Su Phi and Sa Pa also in northern Vietnam, this terraced setting of Mu Cang Chai has been honored as a national natural heritage site.
In general, the best times to visit Mu Cang Chai are in spring (April-May) or autumn (September-November), when the rice terraces are flooded and ripe respectively. The sight of the water-filled dikes, which resemble immense mirrors, is simply magical. During the ripe rice season, also known as the "golden season", the terraces are transformed into a shimmering, hypnotic kaleidoscope of golden hues, while the villagers are busy harvesting. Between these two seasons lies the growing season, during which the rice paddies display every shade of green, from the softest to the deepest.
Please note that from December to January, the rice paddies are in a resting period, i.e. they are not at their most beautiful.
Our recommendation: The weather in the mountainous region is quite unpredictable. If it rains overnight, it's foggy in the morning and then sunny during the day. It's best to bring light coats and raincoats because of the intermittent showers in the forest.
Depending on your interests, you may also choose to plan your Mu Cang Chai trek at the same time as one of the following events:
  •  Black Sticky Rice Festival: This festival takes place in June and celebrates the cultivation of black glutinous rice. There are buffalo races, traditional dances and beauty contests.
  • Harvest Festival: This festival takes place in October and celebrates the rice harvest. There is singing, dancing and food tasting.
  • Sunday market (6am - 2pm): This market takes place every Sunday in Mu Cang Chai. It's a great place to find fresh produce, souvenirs and local handicrafts.
As is often (always?) the case in Vietnam, Mu Cang Chai's Sunday market is not just a place to shop, it's also a place where traditions and folklore are alive and well. It's a veritable melting pot of cultures, where different ethnic communities come together. Here, the H'mong are in the majority, notably the H'mong Hoa and the H'mong Si (Flower Hmong and Red Hmong), but it's not uncommon to come across San Chay, Tay or Thai, each community recognizing itself by its traditional costume and contributing its customs and traditions to the local cultural heritage.

Mu Cang Chai a Paradise for the Trekkers - Photo : Pixabay

Accommodation and catering

Mu Cang Chai offers a variety of accommodation options, from comfortable hotels to homestays with local residents. These establishments offer a complete immersion in the local culture and allow you to sample traditional dishes cooked with local produce.
Mu Cang Chai's gastronomy is rich and tasty. You'll find local specialties like "xôi ngũ sắc" (glutinous rice with 5 colors), "thịt nướng" (grilled meat) and "lẩu cá tầm" (catfish soup), not forgetting the traditional "bánh dày" cake.

Hiking and trekking in Mu Cang Chai

Mu Cang Chai is a true paradise for hikers. Numerous trails criss-cross the region, offering spectacular views of rice terraces and ethnic villages nestling on the slopes of verdant mountains.

Our top hiking trails

Easy level

The Che Cu Nha - De Xu Phinh trek guides you through traditional H'mong villages, offering exceptional panoramic views of rice terraces.
The Mu Cang Chai - Kim Noi circuit is a medium-length loop of just under 15 km through diverse landscapes ranging from rice paddies to forests.
The Mu Cang Chai loop is a moderate-level hike that takes you through rice terraces and offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. The path is clearly laid out and easy to follow. It takes around four hours to complete the loop.

Intermediate level

Mu Cang Chai - Khau Pha Pass circuit: This is a medium to difficult hike of around 10 kilometers (4 to 5 hours' walk), but well worth the effort. The trail winds through rice terraces to the top of the Khau Pha pass. From here, you can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
Mu Cang Chai - La Pa Tan circuit: This is a more demanding hike of around 15 km (approx. 6-7 hours' walk), but well worth the effort. The trail takes you through rice fields to reach the summit of La Pan Tan. From here, you'll be rewarded for your efforts with a superb panoramic view of the surrounding area.

Difficult level

Mu Cang Chai - Tu Le circuit: verdant valleys, rice terraces and exceptional mountain panoramas await you. The hike covers a distance of around 20 kilometers and takes about 8 to 9 hours.
Circuit from Mu Cang Chai to Che Cu Nha: This is a moderate-to-difficult hike that takes in some of the region's most magnificent scenery. You'll pass through verdant valleys, rice terraces and breathtaking mountain views.  The hike covers a distance of around 25 kilometers and takes around 10 to 11 hours.
Climbing Mount Lung Cung: For more experienced hikers looking for a challenge, the ascent to the summit of Mount Lung Cung (2,913 m a.s.l.) is a must. Reaching an altitude of 3,049 meters, this summit offers spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and allows you to push back your limits. Prepare yourself for a thrilling experience through steep paths, rocky passages and abundant flora. Once you reach the top, you'll be treated to breathtaking views.

Hiking & Trekking in Mu Cang Chai with Mr Linh's adventures

Our Mu Cang Chai trekking program

A superb 4-day/3-night adventure, perfectly balanced between effort and rest in a picture-postcard setting.

Mu Cang Chai is a unique destination offering travellers an unforgettable experience. Its spectacular scenery, rich culture and varied hiking trails make this region a paradise for lovers of adventure and authenticity.
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