The Best National Parks In Vietnam To Explore The Wildlife

21 Jul, 2022 | Travel Blog

Being favored by nature with rich biodiversity of both flora and fauna due to its tropical monsoon climate, Vietnam is ranked as the 16th most biodiverse country in the world. It would be a pity for any nature-lover not to visit at least one of the 34 national parks that this amazing land has to offer. 

From the lofty mountains covered by terraced rice fields in the North, lush jungles hidden inside gargantuan cave systems in the Central to the submerged in-land ecosystem with regenerating Melaleuca forest and open swamps in the South, here is our pick of the best national parks in Vietnam that you should not miss.

1. Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park

Starting off this list is the Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park - the most spectacular one, with some of the oldest and most complex limestone karst landscape in Asia. This 900-square-kilometer-area, largely covered by tropical forest, has extensive cave systems with hundreds of individual grottos, long underground labyrinths, waterfalls running beneath limestone giants towering toward the sky. Many rare species of animals and plants also call this park home. 112 species of mammals alone can be found here, including at least nine species of monkeys, such as macaques, langurs and gibbons.

This UNESCO World Heritage also harbors the Son Doong Cave - the world’s largest and highest cave passage regarding diameter and continuity, that was first explored in 2009. While Son Doong is only open for a limited number of visitors, you can still enjoy other adventurous activities such as kayaking, cycling and hiking to explore Phong Nha Cave, Hang En, etc.

Entrance of Hang En cave, the world’s 3rd largest cave

Quang Binh Province, Central Vietnam (500km South from Hanoi and 215km North from Hue City)

How to get there: 
Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park can be easily reached by train (on the Hanoi – Ho Chi Minh City railway line), by bus (daily from Hanoi, Saigon, Hue or Danang) or by plane (daily domestic flights from Hanoi and Saigon to Dong Hoi Airport).

Best time to visit: 
Dry season, between March and August when there is no flooding and the weather is perfect to explore all natural attractions. 

2. Cuc Phuong National Park

Cuc Phuong is the first national park of Vietnam. Spreading out over an area of 25,000 ha, Cuc Phuong is covered by tropical rainforest, dotted with prehistoric caves, botanical gardens and therefore has a high diversity of wildlife, including many rare plants and animals such as the clouded leopard, Delacour’s langur, Owston’s civet, otters, and Asian black bears.... 

Besides trekking or cycling through the forest, it’s highly recommended to pay the two conservation centers a visit: the Primate Rescue Center, and Turtle Conservation Center. While the Primate Rescue Center raises rare primate species and then releases them back to nature, the Turtle Conservation Center makes efforts on rescuing illegally smuggled wild turtles and breeding some of the most endangered species. 

Another highlight in Cuc Phuong is the national non-profit organization: Save Vietnam’s Wildlife. Founded in July 2014 by Nguyen Van Thai, the organization has made great efforts to save animals, especially the pangolin - one of the ten most endangered yet most trafficked wild mammal species in the world, from illegal trade; and monitor released individual and wild species. In 2021, the Goldman Environmental Prize, known as the Green Nobel Prize, honored Mr. Thai for his sustained and significant dedication to protect the natural environment. Spend a week in this center as a volunteer if you want to give a helping hand on saving the lovely pangolin.

Releasing a wild pangolin to its natural living environment (Image: Save Vietnam’s Wildlife)

Ninh Binh, Northern Vietnam

How to get there:
Just 120 km south from Hanoi and 45 km northwest from Ninh Binh, Cuc Phuong is accessible by bus (2.5 to 3 hours) or even by bike if you are a fan of cycling. 

Best time to visit: 
To avoid the rainy season in Northern Vietnam, you should visit the park from December to May when the weather is nice and sunny. The Butterfly Season from late April to the middle of May is the most beautiful time in the park when you can witness thousands of colorful butterflies overshadowing the sky. 

Colorful butterflies in Cuc Phuong National Park

3. Tram Chim National Park

Covering more than 7,000 hectares, Tram Chim National Park houses a system of huge mangrove forests, Melaleuca forest, moldy swamp and criss-crossing canals that nourish an abundant number of rare wildlife species. Most importantly, the park is inhabited by more than 233 species of birds, including nine globally threatened ones including sarus cranes, and the red-head crane, which makes it one of the most important bird reserves in Vietnam. The fish species also play an important part in enriching the park’s biodiversity, as well as balancing the ecosystem.

Apart from bird-watching, fishing, rice harvesting, visitors can also paddle on a small wooden boat through the canals and swamps dotted with lotus flowers, water chestnut, dog’s tooth grass and cajuput trees - the unique landscape that can only be found in Mekong Delta’s wetlands. 

Dong Thap, Southern Vietnam

How to get there:
From Ho Chi Minh City, Tram Chim can be reached by private transfer or by bus (3.5 hours).

Best time to visit: 
The dry season from January to June is the best travel time for bird-researchers. 
The water-rising season from September to December is yet the peak season due to the green scenery, blooming flowers and bird flocks. 

4. Ba Be National Park

For adventurous travelers, the subtropical Ba Be National Park is the best destination in the list for you. Boasting towering limestone mountains, plunging valleys, evergreen forests and Ba Be Lake - the largest freshwater lake of Vietnam, this park offers various activities such as trekking, mountain-biking to admire the pristine nature and explore its wild plant, bird and animal species. You can also take a boat tour or go fishing as the currents of the lake are very calm.

Ba Be is also an ideal place to learn about the ethnic minority groups of Vietnam, including the Tay, Dao and Hmong. Among all the other places, Pac Ngoi village of the Tay is the most beautiful one and definity worth a visit. Staying the night at a traditional stilt house is a great chance to experience the simple life of the locals.

Check out our "Northern Vietnam Odyssey" tour, we have already planned all the exciting activities here for you

Bac Kan, Northost Vietnam

How to get there:
Ba Be is 240 km north from Hanoi so the best way to visit is by private transfer, by shuttle bus or by local bus from Hanoi, Sapa, Cao Bang or Ha Giang.

Best time to visit: 
The pleasant weather in spring and winter (late October until May) makes it the best time to visit the park.

5. Cat Tien National Park

Lying just 165 km from Saigon, Cat Tien National Park is the perfect weekend destination for locals to escape the concrete jungle of the modern city. Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities here including cycling, motorbiking on nature trails or trekking deep inside the jungles to spot the endemic wildlife here such as bears, crocodiles, gibbons, deers and wild boars.

The path leads to the forest Nam Cat Tien, Vietnam

If you are a big fan of camping and truly a nature-lover, Cuc Phuong National Park is the ideal place for you, as you can go camping here for a whole week. Joining the guide of the park or local people, you can explore the depth of the jungle and the wild nature around us. A few nights at the park where you can treak the jungles, see extraordinary insects and colorful reptiles, is another exciting activity that visitors can enjoy in the park. 

A couple of Bar-bellied Pitta bird

Dong Nai, Southern Vietnam

How to get there:
From Saigon, it takes you about 3 to 4 hours by car to reach Cat Tien National Park.

Best time to visit: 
The best time to enjoy nature here is from December to July (during the dry season).

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