Back Roads to Ban Gioc Waterfall
Ban Gioc Waterfall is the largest and most beautiful waterfall in Vietnam. Water crashes down 60 meters over 3 levels and stretches over 300 meters wide.
While plastered across the walls of countless tour shops in Hanoi, Ban Gioc Waterfall surprisingly remains an under visited destination.
Perhaps the day trippers stay away due to the popularity of Halong Bay, or simply that Ban Gioc Waterfall is just too far from Hanoi.
Regardless this is one of my favorite attractions in my huge Vietnam travel itinerary. I definitely recommend you make a visit.
Where is Ban Gioc Waterfall?
Ban Gioc Waterfall (also called Deitan Falls in China) is located on the Quay Son River, the Vietnam China border. This is in the far northeast of Vietnam in the largely rural province of Cao Bang. Think of it as being as far north as Sapa but head east for 400 kilometers.
The waterfall itself is located about 350km north of Hanoi. That means it is roughly 85km north east of Cao Bang city, or a 2 hour ride on the highway route.
Ban Gioc Waterfall Motorbike Loop
The best way of getting to Ban Gioc Waterfall is to ride your own motorbike from Cao Bang. With a motorbike you can take your time to experience the Vietnamese country side while visiting attractions along the way such as the Ngam Ngou Cave or the traditional Vietnam Homestay by Kieu Chinh.
There are two routes to choose from when riding a motorbike from Cao Bang to Ban Gioc Waterfall. Each route is unique and if you are feeling adventurous you can actually combine these both to make an extended loop from Cao Bang to ban Gioc Waterfall.
The easy option is the DT206 which follows a freshly sealed 2 lane highway after a left turn at the Quan Uyen intersection. The road winds back and forth up through the mountains with wide reaching bends which are comfortable to the beginner rider.
While the road is in a good new condition, it is also frequented by trucks heading up to the China border. Expect plenty of overtaking on risky hairpin corners or suck up the exhaust fumes for the next few hours.
For another rural motorbike loop read: Surviving the Thakhek Loop by motorbike
Approximately 5km before the Ban Gioc Waterfall you will pass a turn off for the Ngam Ngou Cave. Costing only 45,000 VND this is definitely worth a visit and should take no longer than 1.5 to 2hrs. The cave is well lit inside showcasing the various limestone formations.
The more adventurous option is the DT207 which is accessed by a right turn at the Quan Uyen intersection. This route follows a choppy, potholed and mostly unsealed road through the Vietnamese countryside.
While only an additional 20km in length it takes atleast 4-5 hours longer to complete due to the poor road conditions. Ride too fast and you’ll break your motorbike or yourself.
Along route DT207 you will see more buffalo than trucks. Small villages, sleepy streets and morning markets populate the route. Young children run rampant, elderly ladies serve up hot Pho noodle soup and buffalo till the earth ready for farming.
If going for the full loop option (route 1 and 2) it is unlikely you’ll make it from Cao Bang to Ban Gioc Waterfall and back in the one day. Plan to make your rest stop in the village of Thanh Nhat where you’ll find the small yet comfortable Minh Van Hotel. There are not many other options around.
Tours to Ban Gioc Waterfall
If riding a motorbike to Ban Gioc Waterfall is too much of an adventure then try a tour. Tours from Hanoi to Ban Gioc Waterfall generally run as 3 day packages and visit other local attractions on the way up such as Ba Be Lake and Ngam Ngou cave. Packages generally cost upwards of USD 100.
Alternatively if you’re already in the Cao Bang area try for a shorter day trip tour departing Cao Bang city. There are plenty of small tourist agencies around the riverside.
How much does Ban Gioc Waterfall Cost?
Entry to the Ban Gioc Waterfall is 45,000 VND (roughly USD 2.50). Tickets are purchased from a small side of the road ticket booth, where in typical Vietnamese fashion there is a “ticket checking station” located another 10 meters form the point of purchase.
Motorbike parking down in the waterfall area is an additional 10,000 VND (roughly USD 0.50).
If you’re keen to get a little closer to the waterfall it is possible to hop on board a raft boat for an additional fee. I did not bother with this.
Secret trail for climbing the waterfall
There is also a secret way of climbing up Ban Gioc Waterfall which involves hiking along a now closed trail. Head up to the left side of the main waterfall where you will see a small tiled shrine. Here you’ll have to look for a steep overgrown trail which climbs straight up the hill for about 15 meters. As you follow the trail for a few hundred meters you’ll reach the mid-level stream which gives an impressive view down over the waterfall.
If you get caught going up this ‘restricted trail’ you can just tell them it was The Lost Passport’s fault.
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