Where is Pu Luong & What makes Pu Luong special
As one of the most impressive tourist attractions of Northwest Vietnam, Pu Luong Nature Reserve has an area of more than 17,600ha of the pristine rainforest stretching from Mai Chau to Cuc Phuong National Park by two rows of gray limestone mountains running parallel, whereas in the middle are terraced rice valleys. North and Northeast of Pu Luong reserve is adjacent to Mai Chau, Tan Lac and Lac Son of Hoa Binh province. Stretching from the West to the South of the reserve is the Ma River. It begins the border point of Quan Hoa to Mai Chau district (Hoa Binh province) through Quan Hoa town, Thanh Hoa province.
Pu Luong Nature Reserve may attract tasteful tourists thanks to its outstanding beauty of imposing mountains, intact waterfalls, immense valleys of beautiful terraced rice fields, as well as rich biodiversity along with Thai and Muong ethnic’s cultural values. The locals here, who are living in small villages nested in the valleys, in their traditional house on stilts, are among the most friendly people in Vietnam. You can always be invited to their homes for a cup of tea, or joining on a dance after dinner on your way.
While nature has endowed this land with rich forests and limestone panoramas, it is the local’s works during thousands of years that has turned the mountain slopes to alluring terrace rice fields. An interesting combination of natural and man-made influence makes this breathtaking scenery become an ideal destination for nature lovers, who wish to escape the bustle of city life and enjoy the untouched charming land of minority groups of North Vietnam.
Best things to do in Pu Luong
Most tourists come to Pu Luong to trek. Trekking is the best way to soak up the natural splendor of Pu Luong as the mountains are covered with tropical rainforest, while the valley is a series of cultivated rice terraces. You may like to take a walk along the valley floor with the area’s flora and fauna, or to hike to the summit of Pu Luong Mountain, but you don’t need to wait long to hold your breath before the dramatic scene of rice terraces, hidden hamlets, shallow waterfalls, and plenty of those famous water wheels. Listening to the waterwheels and forest sounds, waving at farmers and grazing water buffalo, and snapping pictures of greenery and wildlife… By going trekking, you’re in for an exhilarating experience.
A really enjoyable and authentic way to explore the different regions of Pu Luong is by bicycle touring. With many biking trails, Pu Luong enables travelers to discover the town in its most authentic way. Idyllic valleys, unique terraced rice fields, and romantic mountains are the rewards for eager cyclists. The energetic ones can travel the remote tracks and steep valleys that follow a very scenic route. Similar to the hiking routes, there are also several for cycling with a difficulty range from moderate to advanced.
Go kayaking & rafting
Pu Luong’s river is a great place for kayaking enthusiasts, especially when the rainy season arrives. By kayaking, you can appreciate wonderful landscapes in a slow rhythm and understand local farming life along the river’s banks. A trip along the river gives the stunning scenery with the green farmland, eye-catching water wheels, simple stilted houses, and all-round beautiful riverscape. In addition to kayaking, there is also the option to go rafting on the simple bamboo rafts on the Cham River, where you may also experience fishing like the locals.
Go sightseeing at Kho Muong Village (and Kho Muong Cave)
Kho Muong is a valley located deep in the core zone of Pu Luong nature reserve. It’s less affected by human impact, so it retains its inherent wild and poetic features. This is home to 60 Thai households, with 230 people. Kho Muong village is separated from other villages in the region, about 2km from Thanh Son Commune People’s Committee. But the road to the village is not easy. The bumpy road is a challenge for many people who like to explore here.
Looking down from above, Kho Muong appeared with an amazing beauty. Especially the houses on stilts are located close to the foot of the mountain in the fields of rice, corn, and cassava. Surrounding the village is a vast green color of mountains and forests.
Thanks to what nature has favored, people know how to invest in building spacious houses to welcome tourists to visit. Coming to Kho Muong, visitors can admire the natural scenery, experience, learn the culture and customs of the Thai ethnic people, immerse in the rustic life, enjoy the traditional dishes of mountains and forests, such as Com lam, banana flower mannequin, bitter soup, corn wine…
Another attraction in Kho Muong Village is Kho Muong Cave, which is one of the most stunning caves discovered in Pu Luong Nature Reserve. Formed by limestone stalactites about 250 million years ago, the cave has a connection with the underground river system with a length of about 2.5 km. The river and stream system that flows in the cave is a common feature of the Kart rocky areas, which creates a connection between the valley by the flow of the streams.
Kho Muong Cave is also home to many bats. There are four species of bats reside in this cave at different times of the year. Going deeper into the cave, visitors will be able to see and admire stone blocks and stalactites with strange shapes. Such as human figures, trees, beast… full of different colors, blurry, all appear very vivid and unique. Entering a deep corner in the cave also has a very wide-open field that looks like a natural volleyball court. This is one of the most highlights of the bat cave.
Go sightseeing at Ba Muoi Village
Son Ba Muoi (also known as Cao Son) is three upland villages of Lung Cao commune, which is located on the top of Pha He, Pha Chien mountain ranges, running parallel to the majestic Pu Luong – Cuc Phuong mountain circuit. In fact, Son Ba Muoi is quite isolated from the outside, so far. There are many traditions of ancient Thai people, the stilt houses of which architecture is fascinating still retain the traditional mark, clearly showing the peculiarities not affected by those.
Son Ba Muoi is about 130km northwest of the city center and is called a miniature Sapa due to the year-round temperate climate, the average temperature in the year is from 18 – 22 degrees Celsius, sometimes the winter snow. Summer night temperature is also very low.
Go sightseeing at Hieu Village
Hieu is a Thai village located on the bank of the Hieu stream, which is originating from the Pu Luong peak, flowing tortuously across the village with hundred rooftops scattered along its both sides. Lying in the steep slopes of jagged mountains, Hieu village overviews stunning valleys with its natural waterfall running day & night;and ever-green terraced fields extending from thickly forested slopes to water edge of muddy river. Dotted in that beautiful landscape are small settlements of wooden houses on stilts where local BlackThai ethnics live from generations to generations.
This might be the one that has the most waterfalls in the area, which are five, each one is as beautiful as the other. So that the local residents didn’t mind to name them all as Hieu waterfall, and tourists couldn’t resist to visit here to witness the wonder, once they are at Pu Luong.
Go sightseeing at Don Village
Located in the middle of beautiful rice terraces in Pu Luong Nature Reserve, Don Village is the homeland of the Black Thai Ethnic Group, where there is peaceful and beautiful natural landscape. Coming to Don Village, tourists would be charmed by its picturesque scenery, comprised of endless terraced paddy fields and stilt houses peacefully nestling among the foothills under the cool shade of the dense forest.
Since the introduction of community-based tourism, an increasing number of tourists have come to Don Village not only to contemplate its untouched natural beauty but also to experience the local life by trying cloth weaving and tasting local specialties that are served with the sincere hospitality of the locals.
Go joining Doan Market
Doan has been the name of the market since the French colonial period in Lung Niep commune, Ba Thuoc district, Thanh Hoa province. This is the place to trade goods and meet the people of Kinh, Muong and Thai ethnic groups in the communes around the region with people in Tan Lac and Lac Son districts from Hoa Binh province.
What makes the attraction for tourists when visiting the market is the culture of buying and selling goods with equal value. Sometimes, they do not trade in money, for example, a chicken can exchange for two dozen eggs with a bunch of vegetables that both sides feel comfortable and happy.
Best food in Pu Luong
The Pu Luong cuisine is quite simple yet typical. Most of the delicious food in Pu Luong will be consumed immediately at where you are. People will prepare all these dishes according to the number of your groups, the fish meat is presented on the tray of leaves that can be eaten with rice or sticky rice. Pu Luong cuisine brings the distinct characteristics of Thai cuisine with grilled dishes, items, and spices with many mountains flavors.
Best time to visit Pu Luong
Pu Luong Nature Reserve experiences similar weather conditions to other locations from the North, with four distinct seasons. However, as a highland area surrounded by primeval forests, the climate in Pu Luong is quite pleasant even among hot summer days. The summer (June – August), it is hot and humid (mid-thirties) with more rain. In winter, expect misty conditions, low visibility and cool to cold conditions – especially at night. If you expect a perfect retreat in Pu Luong, below is your quick takeaway:
At the end of May and early June, it is the occasion to start a new crop of rice when terraced fields wear a layer of green, extremely beautiful.
September and October are the time when Pu Luong enters the season of ripe rice. That the time all the terraced fields on the hillside will turn yellowish, making Pu Luong more beautiful.
Mid-summer is also a good time to go to Pu Luong (although it is during the period of Northern rainy and stormy season). Because Pu Luong is in low land limestone area, with many tropical forests and few inhabitants. The weather here between summer days is still quite cool.
Best place to stay in Pu Luong
Pu Luong Retreat
The gorgeous traditional ethnic Thai-style bungalows, Pu Luong Retreat, seemed to be the nicest accommodation at Pu Luong and tasteful to boot. Nested on a hillside with dramatic panoramic views of magnificent mountain ranges, majestic rice terrace fields, and peaceful remote villages, Pu Luong Retreat is truly a microcosm of Northern Vietnam.
Being indulged in the atmospheric and romantic Pu Luong Retreat, you will catch an enticing scene over the valley which is covered with mist, making the glow of sunrise looming behind ranges of green mountains. A really romantic and fresh feeling will then make your day an impressive beginning. Furthermore, while staying at Pu Luong Retreat, you would be surprised how great life without modern disturbances would be: no air-conditioners, no televisions, no fridges… just you amidst the fantastic landscape and fresh air.
Pu Luong Retreat also owns high elevation and extensive ranges of the tropical evergreen forest, which is ideal for ecotourism. From what it is praised, Pu Luong Retreat is a perfect destination for a family vacation, groups, and couples.
How to get to Pu Luong
Pu Luong is about 150 kilometers from Hanoi and takes approximately four and a half hours to reach by car. Travelers can also hire private shuttles from Hanoi, with a stop in Mai Chau along the way. There isn’t a direct public bus from Hanoi but there are buses to Mai Chau from My Dinh bus station, where you can take a taxi for the remaining 90-minute drive to Pu Luong.
Pu Luong is always an interesting destination from North Vietnam that has many amazing things to witness. If you are considering to visit Pu Luong, we hope this guide of how to get a perfect retreat in Pu Luong will do justice. In case you look for your own travel agent, who can offer a wonderful and hassle-free trip to Pu Luong, then you may be in the right place.