Ba Be Lake Travel Guide
Ba Be Lake is located in Bac Kan province and covers an area of 500 hectares and spread over 8 km to provide the largest naturally occurring lake in northern Vietnam and home to some quite stunning landscapes. It is well-known for its national park that is rich in villages of Tay ethnic people and thick tropical forest to make a perfect destination for kayaking on the lake itself and trekking the surrounding area.
Beyond the striking scenery, Ba Be has plenty of cascading waterfalls, awesome caves and inspirational rock formation that are well worth visiting. Plus, for the travellers on the Vietnam travel packages interested in natural diversity there are over 400 plant species and more than 50 animal species.
Most of the area that surrounds Ba Be Lake is inhabited by Hmong, Dao and Tay ethnic minorities.
Even thought the stunning beauty of Ba Be Lake is certain to not disappoint, it is quite a distance from Hanoi (approx 250 kms north). A visit to Ba Be can easily complement a trip to the Ha Giang and Cao Bang provinces, which are close the China border.
The actual lake is part of the Ba Be National Park and helps to feature a biodiversity reservoir and a geographical science centre
The preferred time to visit Ba Be Lake on the Vietnam holiday packages is throughout the dry season, which takes place in the spring and winter. On average, the temperature during this time is approx 22° C. Also, the climate is pretty cold in the early mornings and nights, so it is practical to wear extra layers of clothes for this time. The wet season isn’t the best time to travel because the lake regularly floods.
How to get there
The most practical travel option to reach Ba Be Lake is via car and taking a route that passes the Thai Nguyen tea plantation. This route makes it possible to stop at other destinations such as Yen Bai province before reaching the lake.
Alternatively, a bus service is provided from Hanoi to Phu Thong via Bac Kan or Thai Nguyen. On arriving in either of those two destinations, the onward journey (approx 18 km) is completed by motorbike.
Where to stay
Ba Be National Park has several designated homestay areas which are run by the local minorities. Even though this accommodation is quite simple, it is still comfortable and clean with shared bathrooms. One of the best villages for the homestay on the Vietnam adventure tour is Pac Ngoi village which has about ten home stays for the travel to relax while having access to the necessary facilities.
Other options include the state run guesthouse which is quite old and located near to the entrance of the National Park. But for the travellers that want to experience the more authentic stay, it makes sense to get a lot closer to the locals and stay in one of the simple homestays. They are great for the traveller that wants to experience the pleasant local atmosphere and enjoys nature.
The homestays are easily reached by boat, although it is also possible to reach some of the homestay style accommodation by vehicle. Most of the homestays include meals and costs in the region of $15 per night.
An alternative to the traditional homestays is a visit to Mr Linh's homestay which is a large wooden house with a pan leaf roof and located in a beautiful setting next to the lake. Most of the rooms on the first floor include a balcony which makes it possible to get a fantastic view of the local paddy fields.
Eat and drink
Ba Be Lake is great for delicious and very fresh specialties. Most of the food is locally sourced with sticky rice coming from the terrace field, vegetable grown in the forests, chicken breed on the hills, shrimp fed in Ba Be lake, and fish caught from the spring, as well as bamboo sprouts and suckling pigs.
If planning to travel through this area, it can benefit to pack mineral water and snacks because there is not much in the way of grocery stores or food restaurant in the village.
Things to see and do
Ba Be National Park
Established in 1992, Ba Be Lake is part of the Ba Be National Park and the eighth largest national park in the country. The park is filled with stunning scenery that consists of limestone mountain peaks that reach 1554 m in height to low-lying valleys that are surrounded by thick forests, caves, and waterfalls, with the larger lakes taking up a lot of the space at the heart of the park.
The majority of the park is made up of rainforest that is rich in plant species with an estimated 550 different plants named throughout the region. Plus, the local villagers are given government subsidies in return for not cutting down the trees. It is full of wildlife, including endangered species like the Vietnamese salamander, four kinds of turtle, 100+ species of fish, 350 types of butterflies, and 60+ mammals (which are rarely seen). The region is great for the birdwatcher with a chance to spot the oriental honey buzzard and the crested serpent eagle. Hunting is prohibited in the park, but local villagers do have an agreement to fish.
This region has nearly 13 active and thriving tribal villages which are split between ethnic minorities like Hmong, Dzao and Tay. Entry to Ba Be National Park is subject to an entrance fee which needs to be paid at the checkpoint located on the road leading into the park.
A visit to Ba Be makes it possible to explore one of the finest trekking regions in the entire country. A vast area of the district is taken up by the Pia Booc Mountain that stands in the region of 1527 m in height. Ba Be trekking on the Vietnam private holidays is appreciated for the rich variety of fauna and flora, the Na Nghe Mountains, carpeting paddy fields, and ethnic minority people. A trek with the guidance of a local guide can help to find the best viewpoints and hidden gems, while also making the trek that much safer and enjoyable.
One of the most enjoyable ways to experience the awe-inspiring beauty of Ba Be Lake is hire out a kayak and go paddling. A kayaking adventure can easily include visiting fishing villages, discovering hidden caves, and paddling through the islets. Plus, it is possible to really get up close to the limestone karsts, while also exploring the areas that are rarely visited by the tourists. Plus, the kayak with no engine or noise is a true eco way to travel and easily reaches that places the large boats aren’t able to reach.
If planning to go out on a kayak it is essential to get kitted out with the proper gear such as suitable clothes and a life jacket. Also, pack useful items like water, insect repellent, dry bag for electronics, sun glasses, sun cream, hat, etc.
Beyond, the kayaking trips, it is also possible to organize a boat trip on the Vietnam family vacation with a local guide who will take the tourist out across the lake and explore the sights like the limestone caves, the waterfall, the fairy pond, and a giant bat cave. Hiring a boat for 4-6 hours is relatively cheap ($15-$20) and it is usually possible to take as many passengers as will fit on board. The view of the lake and surrounding scenery is culturally fascinating, serene and breathtakingly beautiful, yet provides a perfect place for all kinds of activities and adventures.
Similar to going on an adventurous trek, Ba Be Lake and the surrounding area is great for exploring on a bicycle. There are plenty of places that have sports bikes to hire out and cost in the region of $10 per day. The majority of the roads are kept in a good state of repair and easy to navigate with little in the way of traffic. A day-trip is more than enough for a bike tour, which can include a few villages, Thac Bac waterfall and Hua Ma cave.
Alternatively, a motorbike taxis or car hire is possible to arrange in Ba Be. A really good way of exploring the national park is to use the motorbike taxis because the drivers are very knowledgeable and able to travel to the best possible spots.
Tasting local food
Ba Be has a variety of specialities that make it worth visiting while experiencing Vietnam travel for the different eateries to taste the local food. Some of the popular dishes include barbecue meat and fish with a varied range of noodles, bamboo tube rice, dumplings, vegetables, eggs and more to create a great feast.