Mu Cang Chai is home to some of Asia’s most beautiful cultivated topography. Rice terraces roll in ribbons around the hills with spectacular effect, attracting photographers, hikers and avid motorcyclists.
- About Mu Cang Chai
- Most beautiful rice terraces
- Other things to do
- Best time to visit
- From Hanoi to Mu Cang Chai
- Transportation in Mu Cang Chai
About Mu Cang Chai
Where Sapa and Ha Giang have many things to do, Mu Cang Chai mainly relies on the terraced rice fields paddies. But when the harvest season arrives, it is very popular, because who wouldn’t want to see the most beautiful rice fields in Vietnam in the best season.
Years ago, Mu Cang Chai was referred to as “The Forgotten Land in Vietnam” because of its remote location. Now it is more famous and loved by both domestic and foreign tourists. Although more touristy than in the past, this area still remains authentic with the excellent natural landscape and traditional way of life.
Besides enjoying the beautiful landscapes, you can also discover unique cultural features here, as well as the daily life of hill tribes. It is mainly inhabited by the Black Hmong, a subgroup of one of the largest ethnic minorities in Vietnam. Beautiful Hmong villages are spread throughout the region. Each offers a glimpse into a rich culture.
Most beautiful rice terraces in Mu Cang Chai
Mu Cang Chai is known for having some of the most beautiful terraced rice paddies in Vietnam, or perhaps Asia itself. People have worked diligently on this artificial miracle for years. If you want to see the most impressive terraces, visit the following places and viewpoints.
Che Cu Nha – highest terraced rice fields
The area around Che Cu Nha has very steep slopes and a good view of the terraced rice fields. This remote commune can be found around 25 kilometers from Mu Cang Chai. The road to the viewpoint of the terraced rice fields is just 2 kilometers, but very steep and quite dangerous if you go by motorcycle. But getting to the top of the viewpoint will be completely worth it, especially on clear days. You can enjoy stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains that are completely covered with terraced rice fields.
La Pan Tan – National Heritage
The most famous rice terraces in the area are those of La Pan Tan. These terraces are about 30 kilometers from the town of Mu Cang Chai and everyone who comes here wants to see them. That is not surprising. The rice terraces are very impressive. In addition, despite being the highlight in the region, they are not very busy yet. Certainly not when you compare that to Sapa. La Pan Tan’s terraced rice paddies have been ranked among the most beautiful in the world. In 2007, these fields, together with those in Che Cu Nha and De Xu Phinh, were labeled as national heritage. You will find here, besides the viewpoint, some small-scale accommodations and a handful of restaurants.
The road to the viewpoint is quiet steep. From the town of Nga Ba Kim, follow the road to the village. Turn right at the first T-junction to La Pan Tan Viewpoint where you can enjoy the whole panorama of golden terraced rice fields on all the mountain hills.
Mam Xoi Hill – most beautiful rice field hill
Mam Xoi, or Mam Xoi Hill (Sticky Rice Tray Hill), is located about 5 kilometres from La Pan Tan and is slightly smaller, but still very beautiful. The advantage is that this viewpoint is a bit closer to the main road. La Pan Tan is a bit further from civilization. The reason this hill is so famous is that the entire hill is made completely of terraces, so that the top of the hill has a round shape like a tray of glutinous rice.
On Ba Nha Bridge, there is often a group of locals offering travelers a guided tour to Mam Xoi Hill for around 50,000 VDN. There is also a H’mong costume rental service for those who want to dress up as H’mong people and pose with the beautiful backdrop. You can also take beautiful trekking here. Furthermore, you will find little or no accommodation or restaurants here.
Sang Nhu – Horseshoe hill
Sang Nhu Viewpoint is only 2 kilometers from Mu Cang Chai. The rice fields on Sang Nhu are mainly known by one hill called Horseshoe Hill. The terraces of the rice fields have the shape of a horseshoe.
Other things to do in Mu Cang Chai
In the city of Mu Cang Chai, you have the feeling that this place is really a highland city. It is located along the river, full of shops, restaurants and food stalls. A small market in the center, with a bridge over the river leading to the village of Kim Noi Village. In this Thai village, all houses are stilt houses, made of wood. The village is also known for its homestays and the weekend’s cultural activities allow travelers to join in, such as campfire and traditional Thai dancing. Other villages worth visiting are Ze Xu Phinh, Lim Thai, Sa Ren, Lim Mong and Hua Khat. Here you will find the real traditional life of the hill tribes, especially the Hmong minority.
Khau Pha Pass
The Khau Pha Pass is one of the most stunning and dangerous mountain passes in northern Vietnam. Khau Pha is located right after the town of Tu Le and is more than 30 kilometers long. If you drive over this pass, by motorcycle or by car, you go through a very beautiful landscape. Khau Pha literally means air horn because if you are lucky you will see the top like a horn rising through the sea of clouds.
Mo (dream) waterfall is the more visited waterfall in Mu Cang Chai, located in a small canyon. To get to the base of the Mo waterfall you have to hike for around 30 minutes and if you want to see the great view from the 4th level of the waterfall you have to walk a bit further. The waterfall is most beautiful during the rainy season when there is a lot of water falling down at a height of 40 meters.
The Pu Nhu waterfall is located near the village of Pu Nhu, about 10 kilometers from the city of Mu Cang Chai. The waterfall is 20 meters high in an beautiful rocky environment.
Best time to visit Mu Cang Chai
There are two most beautiful seasons to visit Mu Cang Chai. But it is certainly also worth discovering the region outside of these seasons, because then there is hardly anyone to be found; all the way compared to Sapa.
Harvest season in Mu Cang Chai
The best time to travel to Mu Cang Chai is around mid-September to mid-October. This is the time of the harvest season, the period when the whole valley has yellow colored rice fields. The most suitable time is from September 15 to October 10 of each year.
The irrigation water season is approximately between May and June. When the summer rains start to pour over the mountain, the water is directed from the mountains onto the terraces. The dry soil is softened and prepared so that the rice can be planted. This is also when farmers start plowing for a new crop. Therefore, in the mountainous terraced fields, rice can only grow one crop per year. It is wonderful to see how the fields of water reflect the environment.
When you visit Mu Cang Chai between the pouring water season and the harvest season, July and August, you will see the rice paddies in different stages, with green hues.
The annual paragliding festival in Mu Cang Chai takes place in September, organized by Vietwings Hanoi Club and the local government. Paragliding on Mu Cang Chai gives you the best view of the golden terraces below.
From Hanoi to Mu Cang Chai
Both traveling to and in Mu Cang Chai is easy and that is why most tourists choose to take a tour here. It is also best to do hiking and trekking with a local guide who can show you the roads and attractive routes.
There are direct buses from Hanoi to Mu Cang Chai. The price is from € 10 and the ride takes almost 8 hours. There are also luxury minibuses from € 14, which cover the same journey in less than 6 hours.
There are no direct trains from Hanoi to Mu Cang Chai. The closest and most convenient station is in Yen Bai. From here you take the bus to Mu Cang Chai.
From Sapa to Mu Cang Chai
Every morning there is a bus from Sapa to Mu Cang Chai, for $15. The bus ride takes about 5 hours. There is also a bus from Mu Cang Chai to Sapa.
Transportation in Mu Cang Chai
The best way to explore the rice fields is with a trekking tour. You can choose different day trips or multi-day trips, but in both cases it is highly recommended to go on a walk with a local guide who knows the region. You can arrange trekking tours through your local homestay or they are included in a tour starting from Hanoi.
Traveling in this region is very difficult, especially if you cannot ride a motorcycle. That’s why most people choose a tour. If you are an experienced motorcyclist, you can often rent a motorbike through your homestay. Keep in mind that the roads are not equally good everywhere and run dangerously through the mountains.
There are clean and simple hotels and restaurants in Mu Cang Chai town. For a unique and local experience, you can also stay in homestays spread across nearby villages.
- Mu Cang Chai Ecolodge – Located about 30 km from the city, Mu Cang Chai Ecolodge offers boutique bungalows and comfortable dormitory rooms.
- Hello Mu Cang Chai Homestay – This hospitable homestay is located in an impressive landscape with beautiful views.
- Mu Cang Homestay – Very nice Homestay with a very sweet helpful family.
- Indigenous homestay – Cozy family and a real local experience among the rice fields.