Cao Bang is an immensely beautiful, sparsely populated frontier region of North Vietnam. This mountainous expanse sits on the northeast border with China and is home to many ethnic minority communities. Although the Ban Gioc waterfalls have become a popular attraction, this region is often overlooked by tourists which have meant its unique beauty and culture has been well preserved. The landscape here is typified by jagged mountains carpeted in thick vegetation, sporadic rice paddies, and thin winding roads. Typically the Vietnamese populations tended to avoid mountainous regions in favor of the better farmland in low-lying, flat areas. This meant that these remote and hilly areas were inhabited mainly by the ethnic minority communities and this is still largely the case in Cao Bang. The main groups living in the region are the Nung, Dao, Tay and H'mong. In April 2018, the stunning natural beauty of the region was recognized when UNESCO made the decision to include Cao Bang in their Global Geoparks Network, making it Vietnam’s second entry on the list.
Although Cao Bang feels as if it has been left to wild, mostly undisturbed by the troubles of modern-day society, the region has seen upheaval during the wars. Being situated directly on the border with China meant that Cao Bang was an area of contention between the two countries. It also played a significant role in the communist movement, acting as a base for the North Vietnamese revolutionaries and earning itself the moniker 'Cradle of the Revolutionary Movement.' For a time. Ho Chi Minh also took refuge in a cave in Pac Bo.
The area is beginning to garner more attention from adventurous travelers looking to get away from the overcrowded and over visited tourist areas and wanting to experience the rugged beauty of the frontier region. Because of its northerly location, Cao Bang is cooler than the rest of Vietnam with an average temperature of 25-28 degrees in the summer and 16-17 degrees in the winter. Some of the higher peaks sometimes see snowfall in particularly cold bouts. The cooler climes, rich forests and fresh air make Cao Bang a great nature escape which leaves visitors feeling refreshed and full of appreciation for the beauty of nature.
Cao Bang Weather
Cao Bang has a temperate climate with 4 distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn, winter. The average temperature is 25oC – 28oC in summer and 16oC – 17oC in winter. There is probably snowfall on high mountains such as Trung Khanh, Tra Linh.
Famous tourist destinations in Cao Bang
1. Ban Gioc Waterfall
Ban Gioc is the fourth largest waterfall in the world that is situated on a border between two nations, Vietnam and China. It’s also the most majestic and beautiful waterfall in Vietnam. It is more than 30 meters tall and it flows through many layers of limestone.
The waterfall is divided into two branches. The large branches have low elevation and flow over limestone steps. The smaller branches are higher up and cascade just like a young girl’s hair. Turquoise is the feature color of the waterfall in autumn. At the foot of Ban Gioc Waterfall is a wide and flat river with green grass and forests covering the banks. Tourists can sit on floating rafts on Quay Son River and observe local people fishing.
2. Nguom Ngao Cave – The Mysterious Beauty under the Ground
Just 2 km from Ban Gioc waterfalls, Nguom Ngao is one of the most wonderful grottoes in Cao Bang. The name “Nguom Ngao” means “the cave of the tiger” according to the language of Tay ethnic minority. The cave is about 3000 meters long with the height up to 60 meters taking 2 hours for a full discovery tour. This cave is famous for its colorful stalactites with the exotic shapes and sizes in which some of them can make eco as well. The stalactites were formed by the activities of water and wind in the limestone mountain through million years. Many of them have human, tree, flower or folkloric animal forms hanging down from the ceiling or standing in the floor creating an outstanding look that people would seldom see in their lifetime.
Nguom Ngao cave has a length of 2,144 meters, with three main gates. Nguom Lom gate is cool all year and hidden under rocks at the foot of the mountain, Nguom Ngao gate is a few hundred steps from the foot of the mountain, and Ban Thuon gate is behind the mountain, adjacent to the Thuon village of the Tay people.
3. Thang Hen Lake – The Masterpiece of Nature
Located in Quoc Toan Commune, Tra Linh district, Cao Bang province has an altitude of thousands of meters above sea level. And situated here is Thang Hen Lake, a beautiful lake among 36 lakes located in the mountains of Vietnam. Thang Hen Lake means bee tail because the lake looks like one from above. Its width is about 100 meters to 300 meters and about 500 meters to 1,000 meters depending on the water level. There is a large cave in front of the lake and water flows all day and night from it.
This lake has a beautiful landscape with green trees stretching out over the cliffs, shining down to the blue water, and bending around the valley of boulders. With a huge river and majestic mountains, you can enjoy your time in beautiful nature on the boat in the ripples of the lake and eat the traditional food and wine of the Tay people.
4. Pac Bo Relic – The Secret Heaven in the Mountainous Area
Pac Bo is a famous revolutionary relic, where Ho Chi Minh worked and led the revolution of Northern Vietnam. Before that, he visited many foreign countries such as France, Russia, and China to learn about communism. China was the last country he visited, after which he left for Pac Bo. He chose Cao Bang because most of the people were on his side and Cao Bang is adjacent to China.
There are many famous relics in this area which all mark a historical period of Vietnam:
Le Nin Stream is famous for its turquoise color and it looks like a long swatch of silk hidden in the green forest.
Coc Bo Cave has a narrow path leading to the other side of the border between Vietnam and China, and if you position yourself inside the cave, you can safely retreat on this path when the cave is exposed. You will also find an old bed which was once the working place of Ho Chi Minh during the war.
Cac Mac Mountain is in front of Coc Po Cave. It’s named after Karl Marx in Vietnamese, a thinker, and philosopher that has had a great impact on Ho Chi Minh’s career.
Khuoi Nam Shed is a place where Ho Chi Minh lived for four years. It is built in the style of the local ethnic minority stilt houses. It’s pretty small, only twelve square meters in area with two small rooms. The canyon leading to the shed was once covered in dense forest but it’s since been transformed into consecutive terraced fields.
House of Ly Quoc Sung is the first place where Ho Chi Minh stayed in this area before moving to Coc Bo Cave and Khuoi Nam Shed. It is also built in the style of the local ethnic minority stilt houses.
5. Phat Tich Truc Lam Ban Gioc Pagoda
Phat Tich Truc Lam Ban Gioc is the first pagoda built in the northern frontier of the country, on Phia Nhu mountain, Dam Thuy commune, about 500 meters from Ban Gioc Waterfall.
The pagoda was built in the style of Vietnamese architecture, including a three-door gate, bell tower, drum tower, steles, temples of national heroes, Hung Kings, guest houses, and a beautiful landscape.
6. Border Gates and Markers
In addition, there are many border gates between Cao Bang and China such as Ta Lung, Tra Linh, Po Peo, Ly Van, and Soc Giang. Not only that, out of the 1,971 border makers in the seven northern border provinces, Cao Bang has the most border markers (634 markers).
Therefore, you can visit them and check in as much as possible. With all the interesting places above, Cao Bang is really an amazing travel destination in the north of Vietnam. Pack your bag and get here as soon as possible. Keep reading our articles below to prepare for your next trip.
Best Time to Visit Cao Bang
In general, you can travel to Cao Bang at any time in a year. Each season has different weather as well as featured landscapes and attractions to explore.
Spring in Cao Bang (February to March)
Your wonderful Cao Bang travel should be on this occasion. The weather is cool in the daytime and a little bit cold at night with a minimal chance of rain making your trek and outdoor activities dry and comfortable. Cao Bang will offer you breathtaking scenery of green forests and meadows after a long chilly winter. Rice season of Cao Bang starts in February so you can see local farmers bending their hips on the terraces filled by water. In March, the whole terraces change into a lush green going with the deep blue sky, which is absolutely an unforgettable memory in your trip to Vietnam.
Summer in Cao Bang (April to September)
Cao Bang quickly heats up in the temperature of 25oC. The heat pairing with the humidity may make you exhausted if you are not used to this featured climate of the tropical area. Ride a motorbike is a great way to explore the amazing beauty of Cao Bang in the summer. The green rice paddies in the spring turn yellow and get ready to be harvested. How about supporting the farmer harvest the crop? It will be such an awesome experience.
At the end of summer, rain season starts in Cao Bang with regular downpours. However, they only interrupt your travel for 1 or 2 hours and then when clouds move on, you can continue your journey. Rains raise the water level in Cao Bang so Ban Gioc Waterfall is a must-visit in this season.
Autumn in Cao Bang (October to November)
The weather in autumn seems to be similar to spring’s which is moderate all day long. Rains do not occur as frequently as in the summer but are enough for hundreds of flowers showing their beauty and aroma. It is said the most beautiful moment of anything is the one before its death and that is true to Cao Bang scene before winter. Plan to visit Cao Bang on this occasion to have your own experience.
Winter in Cao Bang (December to January)
A gloomy winter is completely not what happens in Cao Bang. The chilly weather makes terraces, forests, mountains blue and dreary. When the snow comes to this land, Cao Bang wears a new outfit of a pure white. Discover the winter in a tropical country will totally bring you strong impressions.
What to Eat in Cao Bang?
1. Peng Ray
Peng Ray in Tay’s language means egg cake. It is a seasonal food for Tay community in Cao Bang. In April or May, Tay people usually go to the jungle and collect ant’s eggs, bring back and make a delicious cake with it.
The ingredients include flour, ant’s eggs, and fig leaves. This cake impresses visitors by the fat of eggs, the flavor of onions, and the fresh taste of fig leaves.
2. Sour pho of Cao Bang
Cao Bang Sour Noodle Soup is the specialty of Cao Bang. The noodle is ductile, which combines with the bacon fat, duck and other seasonings and herbs.
This food can make appetizers addicted after three times enjoying it.
3. Trung Khanh chestnut
Trung Khanh is a famous place which can provide the most delicious fruit in all country.
If you visit Cao Bang in late autumn, you will have an opportunity to try this food.
Festivals and Events
Long Tong Festival is one of the biggest Tay celebrations of the year. The festival takes place throughout many Tay villages in the north of Vietnam on the 4th day of the lunar year. The spring festival is a chance for the villagers to worship the god of agriculture and pray for prosperous crops in the upcoming year. People prepare offerings of food for the gods and then celebrate with a feast and lively traditional games.
Another Tay festival, held in the Dong Khe region of Cao Bang is Moi Me Trang which means Mother Moon Festival. This is another spring festival which brings the local villagers together to celebrate and pray for prosperity. In particular, this festival is a chance to ask the moon for luck. The celebrations start with a beautiful ceremony of traditional singing and flower offerings which are followed by cultural activities and games.
Useful Things to Remember for a Perfect Cao Bang Tour:
– A backpack is better than a suitcase. Most of your exploration is trekking adventure and mountain climbing so the backpack makes you free and comfortable.
– Sunscreen, insect repellant, raincoat, warm clothes, sports shoes, first-aids, toiletries should be packed in your luggage.
– Do not reach the border, you will get risk because the military will consider you as a transgressor.
– Roasted duck, steamed rice rolls, chestnut are delicious foods that you should try in your trip in Cao Bang.