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Cao Bang in 5 Days: A Northern Vietnam Motorbike Route

April 22, 2023
15 Min Read
VietnamRoad Trips
Golden rice fields of Cao Bang with mountains in the background.
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Cao Bang in 5 Days: A Northern Vietnam Motorbike Route
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October 20, 2023
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Planning a motorcycle trip to the beautiful Cao Bang Region? You’re in luck!


Our 5-day Cao Bang motorbike route will take you to some of the best places to visit in the province, including the breathtaking Ban Gioc waterfall. Whether you've already done the Ha Giang Loop or are seeking to avoid crowds, this itinerary offers a fantastic alternative. 

Our comprehensive Cao Bang travel guide provides a day-by-day breakdown of must-see attractions and recommended accommodations. Plus, we've included valuable tips to assist you in planning your next Vietnam motorbike route.

Riding a motorcycle through the winding roads and stunning landscapes of Northern Vietnam is an adventure like no other.

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Cao Bang Motorbike Itinerary From Hanoi

Here is a 5 day motorbike route that will take you from the busy streets of Hanoi to some of the most breathtaking landscapes of Cao Bang. If you're planning a 1 month itinerary in Vietnam, this road trip would be a fantastic addition.

In this motorbike itinerary, you will visit the serene Ba Be lake, witness the Ban Gioc waterfall, and have the opportunity to stay with several ethnic minorities, such as Tày, Nùng, and Mông.

Dramatic rock formations surrounded by rice fields in Cao Bang, Vietnam

Map of the Cao Bang Motorbike Route 

Here is a map of the 5 day motorbike itinerary starting from Hanoi that will take you to the Cao Bang Province. In this route, you will drive clockwise starting in Hanoi but you can also do it the other way around.

5-Day Cao Bang Motorbike Route Map

Day 1: Hanoi to Ba Be National Park

Driving Distance: 230km

Route: Hanoi - Thai Nguyen - Bac Kan City - Pac Ngoi

The drive from Hanoi to Ba Be National Park is long, so you might want to split it into two days if you have the time and stop at Bac Kan. Here, you will find plenty of places to stay and eat in the city. However, you can drive it in one day like we did but recommend beginning early in the morning to avoid driving in the dark. It would be a shame to miss it, especially since the views along the way are spectacular. 

The ride out of Hanoi is uneventful at first. Try to get out of the city as quickly as possible, but be cautious because there are many trucks on the road. You'll find plenty of small cafes along the way where you can stop by for some refreshments. 

Tip: The roads are also a little dusty, so make sure to wear a face mask or bandana. 

A road in Cao Bang with mountains in the background

You can stop by Thai Nguyen city for lunch. You’ll find a few eateries along the way but we had a delicious lunch at this local restaurant off the road. 

The drive from Thai Nguyen to Bac Kan city is beautiful and you will find tea fields on each side of the road along Tuc Trang. We even passed by a group of local women working in the fields along our way and they were happy to show us how they meticulously harvest the tea leaves. 

Green Tea fields seen from above in Vietnam

There is a rest stop near the mountain road where you can take a break. This region is well-known for its cơm lam, or bamboo-cooked rice. This is a traditional dish of ethnic minorities in Northern Vietnam's mountainous area. You can dip the rice in crushed peanuts as well as try the boiled duck eggs.

A Vietnamese woman pushes a cart with wood

On your drive from Bac Kan city to Ba Be National Park, you will pass by endless rice fields that will be bright yellow if you go before the harvest season, giving you a wonderful sight to see. We did our motorcycle trip at the end of October and saw a lot of rice fields that were still yellow. Some fields had already been harvested, while others had been burned in preparation for the following rice season.

Read More: Best Time to Visit Vietnam

Golden rice fields of Cao Bang with mountains in the background.

We especially enjoyed the rice fields and small villages along the Quân Bình area. If you have time, drive along the rural roads and take in the peaceful scenery of the rice fields. As you drive higher into the mountains, stop at this viewpoint to see the rice fields from above. 

As we left late on our first day, we were mostly driving in the dark and couldn't see much of the views from the viewpoint to Pac Ngoi Village.

Aerial view of golden rice fields with mountains in Cao Bang.

There are numerous homestays in Pac Ngoi Village where you can stay. This is an excellent location because it is close to Ba Be Lake and the small village is situated next to the mountain with views on the rice fields. Find all accommodations in Pac Ngoi Village here.

Aerial view of Ba Be Lake and surrounding rice fields with mountains in the background.

Day 2: Ba Be National Park to Cao Bang City

Driving Distance: 130km

Route: Pac Ngoi - Cho Ra - Na Phac - Cao Bang City

Start your day early so you can walk around the village and discover Ba Be National Park. After breakfast, catch a boat and have a relaxing time exploring Ba Be Lake. There are also plenty of hiking activities within the national park that you can do if you have more time to explore. 

Read: Guide to Visiting Ba Be National Park

Ba be lake in Vietnam

We recommend you start driving before lunch so you have more time on the road before it gets dark. There’s not much to see on the way to Cao Bang on this day but still a beautiful ride through smaller villages and fields. 

You’ll find endless rice fields along Cho Ra, a small village in Ba Be District. We even stopped to observe the local women harvest a type of rice used to make sticky rice and rice wine. This special rice can only be cut by hand. Despite the difficult harvest due to the strong wind that caused the rice to fall down, the women were all smiles.

A road in Cao Bang surrounded by rice fields seen from above.

Besides rice fields, you’ll pass through corn fields and sugar cane fields along the way. We saw women working on corn and drying them on the side of the road in Na Phac

They put the corn through a machine, but it can't get all the kernels out, so the women remove the remaining by hand, dry it under the sun, and use it to make corn wine. Some are also used to feed their animals such as ducks and chickens.

Two Vietnamese women sort out corn and smile at the camera.

The rest of the drive to Cao Bang consisted of mountain passes and smaller mountain villages. Most of the roads here are winding but paved making it a scenic drive. 

Tip: The temperature can be a little chilly, especially in the afternoon, so dress warmly and have your layers ready. 

A mountain road in Cao Bang with two motorbikes during sunset.

Once you arrive in Cao Bang City, there are many places to stay that provide basic amenities. There are also many restaurants within walking distance of each other. Find all Cao Bang City accommodations here.

One food specialty you shouldn’t miss when visiting Cao Bang City is the seven-flavor roasted duck. We didn't get to try it because we arrived late in the evening and decided to get a herbal bath and massage. Instead, we had a delicious hot pot accompanied by some Chinese beers, which are popular due to the city's proximity to the Chinese borders.

Cao Bang city with mountains in the background

Day 3: Cao Bang City to Khuoi Ky Village

Driving Distance: 120km

Route: Cao Bang City - Nui Thung - Phia Thap - Khuoi Ky

To make the most of this day, be sure to start driving early in the morning as there are several specific attractions to visit along the way to Kuoi Ky village. On top of that, the stunning views on the route are among the best in Cao Bang.

Three women carry vegetables in Cao Bang City, Vietnam

This day, you will be driving on winding roads between towering mountains, passing by picturesque rice fields, corn fields, and root vegetable farms that are used to make noodles.

One of the best things to do in Cao Bang is to visit the magnificent Nui Thung, also known as Angel's Eye Mountain, which will be your first stop.

A motorbike rides on a rough road in Cao Bang

The route takes you through corn fields and villages on narrow and rough roads, but the detour is worth it. It is unique because of its central cave, which gives it the name "Nui Thung," or "mountain with a hole," and is nestled among a picturesque valley of towering karst formations. 

Read: Nui Thung: The Angel Eye Mountain 

A mountain with a hole in it, known as Angel Eye mountain

Drive next to Phia Thap Incense Village, home to the Nung An ethnic minority, in Quoc Dan commune, Quang Uyen district. This village is known for crafting incense using only natural resources found in karst regions and following traditional methods that involve making it by hand. Spend some time walking around the village before continuing your journey. For lunch, you can stop by Quang Uyen town on the way. 

Read: Making Incense in Phia Thap Village

A woman makes incense in Phia Tap, Vietnam

Keep driving towards Khuoi Ky stone village where you’ll be spending the night and enjoying the picturesque views along the way. The village is home to the Tay ethnic minority, and the homestays provide basic yet comfortable facilities to make your stay cozy. 

During our trip, we stayed at Minh Khang Homestay, the oldest building in the ancient village. The 8th generation of the family runs it, and our host served us a generous dinner that included the famous seven-flavor duck and corn wine. She even sang a traditional song with a 3 stringed musical instrument called Din Tinh, which is made of pumpkin.

A house made of stones is converted into a homestay in Khuoi Ky Village

Day 4: Khuoi Ky Village to Bac Son

Driving Distance: 180km

Route: Khuoi Ky - Ban Gioc - Dong Khe - Bac Son

Explore the stone village early in the morning to see how the locals go about their day, from women washing their laundry in the water canals to farmers taking their buffalos out for the day. 

A house with corn laying to dry in the front at Khuoi Ky Village

We went for a drive to see the sunrise around this border area. The view of the river and the towering karst mountains was breathtaking. Then, we drove around the Gioc Rinh village, which is nestled between mountains and rice fields.

Big plants with mountains of Cao Bang Geopark in the background

For breakfast, our homestay prepared delicious noodles made from root vegetable and topped with mushrooms and chicken. Don't miss out on this popular local delight!

After breakfast, head next to Ban Gioc Waterfall which is a short drive from the stone village. Cao Bang's Ban Gioc Waterfall is a breathtaking natural wonder with a cascading waterfall, lush greenery, and stunning limestone cliffs. It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in Cao Bang so expect some crowds.

Since most of the tourists come to Ban Gioc waterfall from Hanoi through tours, we recommend visiting the waterfall either in the early morning or late afternoon for the best experience. Park your bike at the entrance and spend some time admiring the falls. You might want to take a boat to get a better look at the waterfall.

Read: Guide to Visiting Ban Gioc Waterfall

Ban Gioc Waterfall in Cao Bang, Vietnam

From Ban Gioc Waterfall, drive to Trung Khanh town and stop by the bustling Thursday market. It offers a variety of goods, including fresh produce, handmade crafts, clothing, and livestock. If you happen to visit Trung Khanh on a Thursday, it would definitely be worth checking out the market and experiencing the lively atmosphere.

A woman repairs shoes at Trung Khanh market in Vietnam

To break up the long drive from Ban Gioc waterfall to Hanoi, we suggest spending the night in Bac Son Valley, a beautiful stopover that many travelers recommend. Though we didn't take this route ourselves as we continued on to Ha Giang, it's a popular destination for motorbike tours in the north and definitely worth considering.

You can stop in Dong Khe, a picturesque town nestled between majestic mountain peaks and rice fields. You can visit the old fortress located on a hill and have lunch at the town center. 

A motorbike rides on a road surrounded by Cao Bang mountains

Spend the night in Quynh Son Village, which is home to the Tay ethnic minority. There are numerous homestays with traditional stilt houses where you can stay at the village. Find all accommodations in Bac Son here

Day 5: Bac Son to Hanoi

Driving Distance: 160km

Route: Bac Son - Hanoi

Spend your morning exploring the charming village of Quynh Son alongside the picturesque scenery and tranquil atmosphere before driving back to Hanoi. You can climb the Na Lay Peak, which takes about 30 minutes to reach, for a panoramic view of the Bac Son Valley. 

While there might not be any particular attractions to stop for on this day, you can take a break to capture some stunning photos or enjoy a quick stop at any of the cozy side-road cafes. Keep in mind that the cafes might only have strong Vietnamese coffee or instant coffee. 

You can stop by Thai Nguyen city again for lunch on your way to Hanoi. If you leave early, you’ll reach Hanoi in the afternoon and have time to walk around the old quarter. 

Two motorbikes ride on a road with mountains in the background.

Looking for things to do after your Cao Bang motorbike trip? Take a relaxing boat cruise to Halong Bay to unwind and recharge! 

Additionally, if you haven't had a chance to explore Hanoi's charming streets yet, here is our 2-day Hanoi itinerary that will take you to some of the best places to visit in the old quarter. Find all accommodations in Hanoi

Preparing for Your Vietnam Motorbike Trip

To ensure a seamless and enjoyable north Vietnam motorbike loop, careful planning and preparation are essential. Here are some important things to consider before embarking on your next motorbike adventure. 

A motorbike rides on a mountain pass in Cao Bang, Vietnam

1. Where to Rent your Motorbike in Hanoi 

Planning on a solo motorbike trip to Cao Bang? 

We recommend renting your motorbike from Rentabike with their extensive selection of automatic, semi-automatic, and manual bikes. Rent your bike now!

Tip: Ensure your peace of mind while traveling by obtaining travel insurance to cover emergencies. Take advantage of being our reader and receive a 5% discount on your policy at Heymondo, get yours today!

A motorbike with mountains in the background

For those seeking a local guide and driver, we recommend booking with our local friends from Ha Giang Hideaways

While most of the guides and drivers are primarily from Ha Giang, we've taken multiple tours with them throughout the North and found them to be extremely knowledgeable about the area. They even customized our tour to fit our preferences when we did the Cao Bang route. Book your tour with Ha Giang Hideaways here!

A woman on a road walks with buffaloes while motorbikes pass by.

2. Necessary Gear and Equipment

Protective gear such as helmets, jackets, gloves, and proper shoes are essential to protect yourself while riding motorbikes and scooters in Vietnam. You can get a helmet, elbow and knee protectors from the rental shop. Remember to choose gear that is both durable and comfortable. 

You may experience unexpected rainfall in north Vietnam, so make sure you pack your rain gear. Remember to bring a waterproof jacket, pants, and covers for your backpack and electronics. 

Golden rice fields surrounded by the mountains in Cao Bang, Vietnam

3. Important Documents 

To ensure your safety on the road, we strongly advise you to have a proper motorbike license in Vietnam, especially when tackling mountain passes in the north. It is not only important, but it is also required by law, and failure to comply can result in large fines. 

Apart from your license, also remember to bring your passport with you at all times in case you get stopped by the police on the road. 

Ready to visit Vietnam? Read our quick guide to Vietnam visa requirements! 

A motorbike with mountains in the background.

4. Route Planning and Maps 

Make sure you have proper navigation before you begin your motorbike loop to avoid getting lost. We recommend downloading Google Maps and Maps.me. 

Also, consider renting a motorcycle with a phone holder for easier navigation. Before you start driving for the day, plan your route and mark any stops you might want to make on your phone app.

A busy market in Northern Vietnam

5. Other Things to Pack

Apart from your personal items, such as toiletries, medication, and a first aid kit, remember to bring sunscreen and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun. Some parts of the route might be dusty, so pack some face masks or a bandana. Remember to pack light! 


Northern Vietnam is known for its stunning landscapes, so don't forget to bring a camera to capture your experiences and create lasting memories! 

Top Cao Bang Motorbike Tips

To help you make the most of your trip, here is our list of the top tips to ensure that you have an unforgettable and safe experience in Cao Bang.

1. Check the weather. Road conditions in the Cao Bang region vary greatly depending on the season. Avoid driving during the rainy season as it can be quite dangerous and always check the weather forecast when planning your trip. 

Read: Best Time to Visit Vietnam

Rice fields with mountains of Cao Bang in the background

2. Pack light. You don’t need much for your motorbike journey aside from the essentials. So make sure you avoid overloading your bike. 

3. Respect the locals. When visiting ethnic minority areas, it's important to be aware of etiquette and cultural considerations. Remember to always ask permission before taking any pictures. 

An elderly Vietnamese Nung An woman wearing traditional clothes sits for a portrait

4. Look out where the trucks are parked during lunch time. This is a tip we got from our local guide for where to stop for lunch. If there are truck-drivers eating at a restaurant, it is a sign that the food is good because these drivers know where to stop along the way.

5. Start your day early. To ensure a comfortable journey, aim to start driving early and take as many breaks as you need. It's also important to avoid driving at night, as it can be hazardous.

Looking for more tips to help you prepare for your trip? Read our 17 things you need to know before visiting Vietnam

Rice fields of Cao Bang with mountains in the background

And that’s the 5-day Cao Bang Motorbike trip from Hanoi! If you're looking for your next adventure, we highly recommend adding Cao Bang to your Vietnam road trip bucket list. 

Want to explore more of Northern Vietnam on a motorbike? Our comprehensive guide to the Ha Giang Loop is a valuable resource that covers everything from planning your trip to the best places to visit and stay along the way. 

Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.

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