Ma Pi Leng Pass in Ha Giang – The most impressive mountain pass in Vietnam

You are here:

The Ma Pi Leng pass is the most impressive mountain pass in Vietnam at an altitude of 1,500 meters. It is located between Dong Van and Meo Vac, two cities in the far north of Vietnam in Ha Giang province, close to the border with China. It is the most amazing mountain road in all of Vietnam.

It lies along the asphalted national road 4C with the nickname “The Happiness Road”. The road was built in the 60s by a lot of workers, mainly ethnic minorities from the area. It took 11 years to finish the whole road.

It is known as the King of Vietnamese mountain passes. There are cliffs and abysses almost everywhere along the route and enough hairpin bends to get dizzy. The road along the mountainside has a romantic, breathtaking landscape that is ideal for motorcycling. The road to the top, considered “the Great Wall of Vietnam”, feels like a scene from a fairy tale.

Practical information

Location

The Ma Pi Leng mountain pass is located in Ha Giang province, on the highway QL4C between Dong Van and Meo Vac in northeastern Vietnam near the Chinese border. (location on Google Maps)

Is Ma Pi Leng pass dangerous?

The road over this pass is seen as one of most dangerous roads in Ha Giang. Some parts of the road are not well protected. However, the road itself is in very good condition. In very rainy or foggy weather conditions you need to be extra careful.

Ha Giang loop Ma Pi Leng Pass

Best travel time and weather

The best travel time for Ma Pi Leng Pass is during the dry season from October to February. However, this is also winter, so it can be very cold. You can expect rain and fog all year round because you are higher up in the mountains. Try to avoid these days if you have the time, because it is less safe and you have a chance that you will not see anything.

What to bring

There are a few places where you can get food and drink, but it is wise to bring enough drink yourself for the day. Since the road is high in the mountains, it is handy to put on some warm clothes and coat against the rain and wind.

What to expect

Just before and after the mountain pass there are a number of villages of ethnic minorities, who live as a kind of mountain tribe. Women who wear busy clothing in their traditional clothes and men who tend the cattle. But the biggest reason why Ma Pe Leng Pass is the most beautiful mountain pass in Vietnam is the impressive views of steep cliffs, high mountains, carved roads and the beautiful Nho Que river all the way down in the valley.

Ha Giang loop Ma Pi Leng Pass
Views on the Nho Que river below

There are a number of viewpoints where you can stop to view the amazing view and take photos. You can also stop at other places to take a photo, but when you stop on the road you have to watch out for other traffic, because this mountain pass is also the main connection between the cities of Dong Van and Meo Vac. Almost no tourist sights and facilities have been built such as temples and hotels, so this rugged landscape still looks very natural.

Ma Pi Leng Pass

By motorbike over the Ma Pi Leng Pass

From Dong Van to Meo Vac over the Ma Pe Leng pass is approximately 25 km. The best way is to drive the motorcycle over the pass, but this is not for everyone because the roads are dangerous. Certainly if you have no experience or are unsure it is not advisable to drive yourself. A good alternative is to fall behind an EasyRider. If you want to drive yourself, you can rent a motorbike in Ha Giang to do the entire Ha Giang loop or you can also rent a motorbike in Dong Van. Read more about driving a motorcycle in Vietnam here.

Ha Giang loop Ma Pi Leng Pass

Alternative transportation

You cannot officially drive in Vietnam without a valid Vietnamese driver’s license and it may also be better to take an alternative for safety reasons. Because a motorcycle is the best option, you can choose to be on the back of a motorbike of an experience guide. The big advantage of this is that you don’t have to pay attention to the road and you have all the time to enjoy the view. You can use an Easy Rider or an Xe Om (motor taxi), but arrange this well so that you definitely stop at the best viewpoints on the route. Other alternatives are a car or luxury minibus with driver. There are options to go with a group as a kind of tour, but it is not recommended.

Tip! On the back of a motorbike or private car

Check out our Ha Giang loop tour here and choose to go either by private car with driver or on the back of a motorbike with a professional guide/driver. Besides the pass you will visit many other highlights in the province!

Ma Pi Leng Skywalk

The Skywalk starts at the Happiness road museum. You can leave your bike or car at the museum and walk or if your experienced enough, you can ride over the skywalk by motorbike. The skywalk is in good condition, concrete, but narrow, even though in 2020 the Skywalk has been made a lot wider. It is very impressive to walk along the edge with big drops on some points. You are also able to see the main road from the Ma Pi Leng Skywalk.

Ma Pi Leng skywalk
The skywalk

Example itinerary

Are you planning to visit the pass during your trip in Vietnam? It is best to combine the pass with other highlights in this province in a form of a loop, that we call the Ha Giang loop. Below are a few itineraries how you can add the pass in your travel plan.

3 days

Day 1 – Ha Giang – Dong Van
Day 2 – Dong Van – Ma Pi Leng Pass – Meo Vac
Day 3 – Meo Vac – Ha Giang

4 days

Day 1 – Ha Giang – Yen Minh
Day 2 – Yen Minh – Dong Van
Day 3 – Dong Van – Ma Pi Leng Pass – Meo Vac
Day 4 – Meo Vac – Ha Giang

5 days

Day 1 – Ha Giang – Yen Minh
Day 2 – Yen Minh – Dong Van
Day 3 – Dong Van – Ma Pi Leng Pass – Meo Vac
Day 4 – Meo Vac – Du Gia
Day 5 – Du Gia – Ha Giang

Trekking at the Ma Pi Leng Pass

About halfway up the mountain pass you have a parking space with a viewpoint. From here there are also hiking trails along the mountains with beautiful views. There is a walking route of 2.5 km and one of 3.5 km. There are also people who choose to walk the entire distance or part of the mountain pass. In this case you walk directly on the public road, so watch out for other traffic. If you are interested in some longer trekking in Ha Giang, then the area around Dong Van is perfect.

Boat trip on the Nho Que river

What many tourists do not know is that there are a number of roads that wind all the way down to the river. Bear in mind that when driving, some of these roads are extremely steep with many hairpin bends. Luckely there is a service where locals take you down by motorbike, so you don’t need to drive by yourself any more.

Nho Que river
The road down to Nho Que river

Once down, you will come to the Nho Que river. On this river you can take a 1-hour boat trip for 300,000 Dong (around 12 dollar). It gives a powerful feeling when you sail by boat along the steep mountains and towering cliffs. Because Ma Pi Leng is high, it is regularly hidden in the clouds, but with a boat trip down the mountain pass over the river you often have good visibility. There are also kayak trips on the river, but these can best be arranged in advance at a local homestay or tour operator.

Nho Que river
Boat trip over the Nho Que river

How to get there

As mentioned before, Ma Pi Leng Pass is located between the towns of Dong Van and Meo Vac. If you are in Hanoi, you first need to travel from Hanoi to Ha Giang City. From there you can start your Ha Giang loop tour; either on the back of a motorbike or by private car. You can also rent a motorbike yourself, just be aware that driving through the winding mountains of Ha Giang can be dangerous and without the right paperwork you could be not fully insured in case of an accident. The road is easy to follow, as you continue from Ha Giang City on the QL4C to Dong Van all the way straight to the pass. It is best to do it in at least 2 days, but recommended to stay from 3 to 4 days if you would like to see more highlights.

Accommodation at the Ma Pi Leng Pass

There is are not many accommodation along the mountain pass: Ma Pi Leng homestay is one of the only places to stay if you would like to stay directly on the pass. Most tourists choose to stay in Dong Van and Meo Vac. These are the two largest places in the area, with enough offer in accommodation. Do not expect many luxury hotels and resorts, but mostly homestays and a number of basic hotels.

Other things to do around Ma Pi Leng Pass

The Ma Pi Leng Pass is more than 400 km from Hanoi. For that reason, it is best to combine a visit to the pass with driving to some other nearby destinations. Along the road from Ha Giang City to Dong Van you can find another stunning pass called the Tham Ma Pass. Along this road you also find the HMong King Palace and Sung La valley. You can also visit the most northern point in Vietnam at Lung Cu.

Share this post
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp
Share on email
Recommended tours in Cao Bang
Thac Ba Lake & Mu Cang Chai tour
From Saigon via the Mekong Delta to Cambodia
Mekong Delta homestay experience Can Tho & floating markets

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment