Ban Gioc Waterfall – The Best of Northern Vietnam

Ban Gioc waterfall sits in a river valley full of jungle covered karst mountains and is the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen.  Oh yeah, plus Ban Gioc is the largest waterfall in Asia and 4th largest waterfall at an international border in the world!  Simply put, Ban Gioc is a must see destination for any nature lovers visiting Vietnam and Hanoi.

Ban Gioc Waterfall has 3 different cascades each with their own deluge of water.  It spans more than 300m (1000 ft) and is over 35m (115 ft) high, that’s longer than 3 football fields!  It’s the best place to visit in Vietnam’s Cao Bang province and I hope after reading this article and seeing the photos Ban Gioc makes it to the top of your to do list in Vietnam.

The waterfall is actually shared between China and Vietnam with the Quay Son River forming a border between the two countries.  When we arrived we were excited to see the view from some of the viewpoints on the other side of the river but quickly realized that wouldn’t be possible since they are actually in China!

Many people say the view is more beautiful from the Chinese side but as you can see it still looks amazing from here.  You can visit the Ban Gioc Waterfall from either Vietnam or China but can’t cross the border once you are there.  The Chinese side is called Detian Falls in case you’re planning you trip through China.

View of Ban Gioc/Detian Falls from China used with permission from Darren Peets

The ticket price for Ban Gioc is a modest 40,000 VND ($2) making it well worth the cost compared to some of Vietnam’s more expensive landscapes.  If you take the bus from Cao Bang it will drop you directly at the waterfall so you could see it right away or find a hotel first like we did.

Rainbows often form in the mist that comes off of Ban Gioc waterfall.  Even though they look quite close the rainbow is always just out of reach but makes for beautiful photos!  


Where to stay at Ban Gioc Waterfall

We couldn’t find anywhere to book hotels, home-stays, guesthouses or hostels online but decided to try our luck near the waterfall anyway and the good news is there were a few options with private rooms near Ban Gioc Waterfall for 250,000 VND and up

Sai Gon Ban Gioc Resort is directly opposite the entrance to Ban Gioc Waterfall.  Our Vietnamese friend said rooms there were 600,000 VND so we walked about a kilometer up the road to find a cheaper one.

Khach San Ha Vuong can be found on Google Maps and quoted us 400,000 VND per night

We stayed at Nhà Nghỉ Tùng Dương for 250,000 VND per night.  3 of our friends were able to pay 100,000 VND for a dorm bed too!   This was about 1 kilometer away from Ban Gioc Waterfall.


Best time to visit Ban Gioc Waterfall

The best times of year to see Ban Gioc depend on what exactly you want to see.  We had read that the monsoon season was perfect because there would be the most water and it was certainly amazing seeing it at full force!  The surrounding mountains were covered in greenery from the recent rains but by early September the rains had already slowed down which means we only had a few hours of rain between the two days we were there. 

The only drawback to the monsoon is that the water tends to get muddy.  For clear blue water you’ll want to visit Ban Gioc BEFORE the monsoon hits making March through May very beautiful. At the end of September and into October/November northern Vietnam can get some beautiful foliage and the waters will begin to clear up from the monsoons.  Nearby rice paddies will turn yellow and some of the deciduous trees will have changing colors. 

What it boils down to is there are many good times to visit Ban Gioc throughout the year and you shouldn’t plan your trip to Vietnam based on the seasons at Ban Gioc.  Whenever you have a chance to visit I’m sure you’ll find Ban Gioc stunning!


Getting to to Ban Gioc Waterfall

Ban Gioc Waterfall is off the beaten path and tough to get to but I’ve outlined the best ways to visit Ban GIoc below.  You won’t find many tourists and there is next to no English in the Cao Bang province.  The good news is you can still go to Ban Gioc many different ways.  Just make sure you budget some extra time in case things don’t go as planned.

Bus from Hanoi > Cao Bang –  (9 hours ~200,000 VND)  Reserve your tickets ahead of time and then get to My Dinh Bus Station at least 30 minutes ahead of time!

Bus from Ha Giang > Cao Bang – We saw this bus but I couldn’t find specific information on it.  I estimate the drive will be about 14 hours for ~300,000 VND

From Cao Bang to Ban Gioc – There are public and private buses from Cao Bang to Ban Gioc that take about 2 hours.  Prices range from 50,000-70,000 VND

Motorbike from Hanoi – this 2-3 day journey is sure to provide scenic views and some crazy roads.  We would have done it if we had the time but opted for the faster night bus.  Make sure you have some experience eon a motorbike because the mountain roads can be treacherous.

Tour from Hanoi – Group and Private tours are the easiest way to get to Ban Gioc Waterfall.  They typically take 3 days 2 nights and will stop at Ba Be Lake too but will be much more expensive than doing it yourself like we did.  Ban Gioc Waterfall tours are worth it if you are short on time and have a larger budget. Private tours cost over $700 with group tours ranging from $200-$400


 Traveling to remote areas comes with its fair share of risks.  I HIGHLY recommend getting travel insurance before coming to Ban Gioc Waterfall National Park.  Thankfully I didn’t need it while I was there but World Nomads gave me peace and mind in case anything did happen.

What to do near Ban Gioc Waterfall

Alright so you’ve taken a full day or 2 just to visit the waterfall.  You’ve seen it so now what?  Don’ worry there are 2 other amazing things to see and do near Ban Gioc Waterfall.  The first is a temple with the BEST VIEW of the waterfall and surrounding valley.  Chùa Phật Tích Trúc Lâm Bản Giốc can be found on Google Maps and is either a windy drive or steep 20 minute stair climb up but well worth it!  We went right after seeing the waterfall and stayed to watch the sunset.  Even if you miss sunset DON’T skip this view because I can honestly say it was one of the best landscapes I’ve seen in the entire world!  Let me repeat that for you because the viewpoint from the Ban Gioc Temple is one of the best in the world and should be high at your list of things to do in Vietnam!

From the top you’ll see a panorama of green mountains with a pagoda beneath you.  Off to the right the mist swirls above the largest waterfall in Asia as village farmland fill in the stunning valley.  From up here you can see all 3 cascades of Ban Gioc and we met the kindest old Vietnamese woman.  She gave us fresh fruit and happily posed for photos with us.  She didn’t ask for anything in return and reluctantly accepted 20,000 VND as a thank you when we insisted.

The Nguom Ngao Cave is another highlight of this northern Vietnam destination in Cao Bang Province.  At first we were skeptical about the cave but gladly paid the 40,000 VND ticket and in we went.  We were happily surprised at how large and amazing the interior of Nguom Ngao is.  Huge stalagmites and other beautiful rock formations fill your view as the cool cavern air provides a welcome relief from the sweltering jungle above.

Nguom Ngao is about 2 km from Ban Gioc Waterfall and a pleasant walk.  You can find it on Google Maps or hire a motorbike tractor taxi for ~20,000 VND per person

Nguom Ngao is well lit which means even your smartphone can take some cool photos but if you want to capture shots like these you’ll need to bring your tripod.  We had a lot of fun posing for cool shots and it made me nostalgic for my trip through Hang Son Doong.  The cave is much larger than expected and will take an hour or more to walk through so plan accordingly.

The only other thing we were hoping to do near Ban Gioc Waterfall was rent motorbikes and drive through the beautiful landscapes.  Unfortunately motorbikes are quite hard to rent in the rural villages.  The owner of our hotel said that she “knew some teachers that would rent them during school” but sadly we were there on the weekend.  If you want to drive a motorbike around here you’ll have to rent it in Cao Bang or drive it all the way from Hanoi.

Ban Gioc Waterfall Budget

If you have a larger travel budget than you can easily book a tour from Hanoi for a few hundreds bucks but if you’re like me and traveling a bit cheaper than don’t worry, you can still see Ban Gioc Waterfall!  The total cost for just 1 person to take a night bus from Hanoi to Ban Gioc and back again, spend 1 night near the waterfall, eat traditional Vietnamese meals and pay all the entry fees for everything I’ve listed here was about 840,000 VND and just under $40.  That was for 2 days and 3 nights (2 of the nights are spent sleeping on a bus which means even a cheap backpacker on a low budget can afford to see Ban Gioc Waterfall!

I hope this helped you decide to visit Ban Gioc Waterfall!  Feel free to comment below if you have any questions and be sure to let me know how your trip to this natural wonderland goes!

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Mike Still
Mike is a travel enthusiast, photographer and teacher. He loves adventure travel, meeting the locals and exploring new culture. As an outdoor enthusiast you can often find him hiking mountains or exploring forests trying to capture the beauty of mother nature. In 2013 he founded www.LiveTravelTeach.com as he left his home in America and has been teaching or traveling around the world ever since!

24 thoughts on “Ban Gioc Waterfall – The Best of Northern Vietnam

  1. Hi Mike,

    This is a stunningly gorgeous area.

    We visited Ke Bang National Park and saw huge caves in that area, then we headed north and spent 3 days in Ninh Binh, with its epic karsts and peaceful water, flowing scenery.

    Do you know they filmed parts of Kong Skull Island in Ninh Binh? What primitive scenery. Worked perfect for a throwback to the monster movie days, as those karsts scream mysterious, unknown, mystical region.

    Toss in tons of green and some super pristine surrounding mountains and streams, and you have a paradise that tickles your senses.

    This is definitely one of the most beautiful places I have seen too, right up there with pristine Fiji.

    Thanks for the eye-popping images and the inspired post Mike.

    Ryan

    1. Hey Ryan,

      Thanks for the comment. Sounds like I need to get myself to Fiji! I heard that they also filmed some of Kong Skull Island in the Tu Lan cave system near Phong Nha! There are just too many amazing landscapes to count in Vietnam.

      Mike

  2. This was such a useful post Mike. i have pinned it also. we are a family of 4 (two teenagers, mum and dad) going to SE Asia from Jan onwards and I am desperate to find places just like this. The ones where the other tourists don’t know about! The waterfalls and the caves look gorgeous. Your photos really do it credit. $40 for 3 nights too. So that would be $160 for the four of us. Thats made me feel better, I thought our $200 NZD per day budget was unrealistic… Thanks! Liz

    1. Liz,

      I’m so happy this post helped you plan your trip and thank you for pinning it. Vietnam would be a great place to travel to with teenagers and $200 NZD/Day will go a long way in Vietnam. Many backpackers live on $25 USD/day or less in Vietnam but for $35/day you can really enjoy yourself. This particular excursion is a great example of DIY travel to save money and is great for anyone willing to take public transit.

  3. We’re in Vietnam now and we haven’t been up there but the wet season seems to be here early. We’re not going any further north than Hue, there’s flooding and landslides. We’ll have to come back another time. Another typhoon is on it’s way to us, may hit us in Hoi An but more likely to track north again so this area I guess will remain off-limits for a while yet.

  4. This looks absolutely stunning and I must admit I had no idea it existed, thank you for sharing it! The temple particularly temps me: we have two kids and the steps up would be approached with a lot of moaning I am sure, but the view would make it so worth it! Thank you showing us this place

    1. I would LOVE to go back to Ban Gioc and visit during different seasons. Now you’ve got me with that mild ambition too!

  5. Wow, that’s massive. The fact the waterfall is a border between Vietname and China reminds me of Iguazu falls, which borders Argentina and Brazil. The Nguom Ngao cave is beautiful. That stalagmite in your first picture is massive, I’m glad there’s someone standing next to it or I never would have realised just how enormous it is. Is 40,000 VND a lot?

  6. What stunning landscape! I love your pictures. You managed to get such an amazing click of the rainbow. I have never been to Vietnam but in most of my researches, I did not come across this waterfall. Looks like the perfect offbeat adventure for me!

  7. Wow! Ban Gioc looks amazing! It reminds of a smaller scale version of Iguazu Falls at the border of Brazil and Argentina, but with an even more stellar backdrop. And the fact that there are caves to explore nearby has me completely interested!

    1. Kevin, you’re the 2nd person to mention Iguazu and I’ve always wanted to go. Maybe South America should be my next trip!

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