Deep in the limestone mountains southwest of Hanoi, Pu Luong’s landscape of rippling rice terraces and thatch-roofed stilt villages is so perfect we’re tempted to keep it all to ourselves.
Picture vivid green rice paddies that trace the contours of the mountains, cascading down into valleys, where the locals work the fields in conical hats and live in stilt houses on the riverside. If that sounds like the idealized cliché of an Asian landscape, that’s because Pu Luong is the kind of place clichés were invented for. It really is that enchanting — and it’s still remarkably untouched by mass tourism.
Pu Luong is a nature reserve in the mountains about four hours’ drive southwest of Hanoi, its limestone crags and thick, tropical forest interrupted only by the thatched roofs of Thai and Hmong ethnic minorities and their fields of corn, rice and cassava. This is our favorite trekking destination in the whole country, and the scenery truly is superlative. Wander through fertile farmlands threaded with streams and lined with bamboo waterwheels, or challenge yourself with a longer trek into the mountains to explore limestone caves and waterfalls — either way you can easily walk for hours without seeing another tourist. Meanwhile, in the villages, sleep in bamboo-walled bungalows complete with private bathrooms, hot showers, and traditional meals made from fresh local produce.
Whether you come here to relax or to sweat it out on the mountain trails, we’d put money on Pu Luong being the highlight of your trip.