Dien Bien Phu

How to travel to Dien Bien for your best experience
Dien Bien Travel Guide – What to do, when to visit, and more…

About 500km from Hanoi, Dien Bien is the mountainous northwestern province of Vietnam, where the battle of century “Dien Bien Phu” became famous worldwide when the Viet Minh defeated the colonial French army in 1954. Sits in the heart-shaped Muong Thanh Valley, where ethnic minorities of Tay, Hmong and Si La people inhabit, surrounded by mighty and extensive mountains, the town is given a stunning scenery of winding rugged roads scything through thick forests and steep terrains with rice paddies dug in steps along the hillsides.

Frequently asked questions

About 500km from Hanoi, Dien Bien is the mountainous northwestern province of Vietnam, where the battle of century “Dien Bien Phu” became famous worldwide when the Viet Minh defeated the colonial French army in 1954. Sits in the heart-shaped Muong Thanh Valley, where ethnic minorities of Tay, Hmong and Si La people inhabit, surrounded by mighty and extensive mountains, the town is given a stunning scenery of winding rugged roads scything through thick forests and steep terrains with rice paddies dug in steps along the hillsides.


Dien Bien Phu, aside from historical values, is yet a beautiful, pristine and perfect off-the-beaten-track destination with incredible natural and enriched cultural beauties. If you are hungry for Dien Bien, let’s read on how to travel to Dien Bien for your best experience in this article.

1. Enjoy Dien Bien’s landscape and people
Experience the ride on great Pha Din Pass

On the National Highway 6 traveling to Dien Bien, you will go through the famous Pha Din, one of the great four passes in Northern Vietnam. The name originated from the language of local Thai people, in which ‘Pha’ means ‘Sky’ and ‘Din’ means ‘Earth’. The pass is where the sky and earth meet.

With a length of 32 kilometers, Pha Din Pass possesses a gentle beautiful green mountains and azure river. At the elevation of 1,600 meters above the sea level, you can enjoy the peaceful panorama view of rustic ethnic villages lying on the valley, nested behind the hills. This zigzag pass containing eight winding turns is suitable for adventurous travelers who want to conquer the challenge.

Trek through Muong Thanh – the largest rice field in Northwest Vietnam

Covered by Pu Hong Meo and Pu Hong Thai mountains, Muong Thanh valley is a spectacular place for admiring emerald rice fields and trekking across breathtaking trails. As the largest field in northwest Vietnam, Muong Thanh field is located just a few kilometers away from the city centre, spreading on 20 kilometers in length and 6 kilometers in width. It’s an ocean of rice fields before your eyes.

Muong Thanh field is nurtured by Nam Ron river, winding its way through the green rice fields, making a beautiful painting of Dien Bien countryside. Spanning Nam Rom River is Muong Thanh Bridge, the must-see attraction as it marked the collapse of the French colonists in Vietnam on the way of retreatment.

When visiting in the harvest season, starting from September, you’ll have a chance to see a wonderful sight of local farmers laboring on the field, smiling friendly with the visitors. Waving back, taking a photo with them, you will earn an extra happliness on the way trekking through Muong Thanh valley.

Visit Muong Lay – the valley of stilt houses

Muong Lay is some kind of legendary destination to local travelers, who wish to set foot on the most remote soils of the country. There is the azure Son La Reservoir run calmly by black roofed stilt houses along the riversides where ethnic minorities live. The most prominent indigenous culture in Muong Lay is White Thai people, with its iconic traditional costume and authentic tradition, that has become one of the most well-known attractions in Northwest Vietnam.
Come to Muong Lay, it’s a pity if you miss a boat trip on Da River or visit an ethnic handicraft village or homestaying in a Thai traditional stilt house. Muong Lay is the worthiest destination in Dien Bien, a gem in north Vietnam that is still untouched by tourism.

Boat at peaceful Pa Khoang Lake

The Pa Khoang lake is a famous natural site for tourists to relax and enjoy the natural beauties. With its total area of 2,400 hectares, a rich flora and fauna, Pa Khoang offers a unique and pristine getaway from the noise of the city. The lake is lying in the centre of mountains, in a place of beautiful natural sceneries. In spring, mist covers the mountains and small houses which create a mysterious picture. In summer, the weather is quite nice with blows of cool wind. During autumn and winter, the lake surface is just like a gigantic mirror, reflecting the blue sky and the grey mountains.

On the lake’s banks, you can discover the daily life of Thai and Kho Mu, who still follow traditional customs and habits of the ethnic groups, or try your hands at fishing, while letting your eyes enjoy the beauties of nature.
Dotted with steep hills, green mountains, and small houses, Pa Khoang Lake is definitely a romantic place for a boat trip when sunset is about to fall. The boat will take you to the islet lying at the middle of Pa Khoang lake which is given the name ‘Love Islet’ by the local people. On the islet lies a large garden of Japanese cherry blossom which covers the whole island with its dreamy pastel pink color. All make a peaceful and romantic picture that is attractive to all visitors.

Explore amazing Tham Pua Cave

It is an ancient cave, deep and wide, about 1,000 meters high with many narrow paths. Coming here, visitors have a chance to see in their own eyes a number of stalactites in various shapes which look like such animals as dragons, phoenix, lions, elephants, and beautiful orchids. The local people have found out many historical remains such as axes, stone pestle, and fossil bones. Tham Pua Cave is also the place where the decisive meeting for the Dien Bien Phu campaign was held on January 14, 1954.

Soak up the local culture at Ta Sin Thang fair market

Ta Sin Thang is not only a fair market but also a place for culture exchange and romance finding. Opening only once every 6 days, Ta Sin Thang market is a mini festival of the highland welcoming several ethnic minority groups such as H’mong, Thai, Zao and Phu La…. to come with their best clothes to trade goods, sharing stories, eat and even date. The busiest hour of the market is around noon, when the people start to gather around tables for lunch. Those who visit Xa Nhe market will love to enjoy local food, festive atmosphere and authentic cultural practice… things that make Dien Bien special.

2. Recall history at relic sites
Bunker of General of De Castries

Located in the center of Dien Bien Phu Garrison in A1 hill, French commander’s bunker is 20m in length and 8m in width, including rooms for both boarding and working. This is where the General De Castries was captured on May 7 1954, in the centenary battle of Dien Bien Phu which has been recorded and shown on TV by Vietnamese government every anniversary of Dien Bien Phu victory. This iconic bunker can be seen from any hill of the strong-point, and is the must-see site in Dien Bien.

Him Lam Hill

Considered as the great important point of defence, this place witnessed the first battle of the whole Dien Bien Phu Offensive on March 13 1954. On the first day of the offensive Vietminh poured down bombardment into the valley – a move French had not predicted because, tragically, French underestimated the skill of Vietminh and especially of Vo Nguyen Giap. On this day, Vietminh bombshells killed two French commanders. And two days later, French artillery commander, Colonel Charles Piroth, distraught at his inability to bring counterfire on well-camouflaged Vietminh batteries, committed suicide with a hand grenade inside his dugout. The victory in Him Lam Hill marked an important milestone and revived the morale of Viet Minh troops.

Victory Museum

Opened on the 60th anniversary of Dien Bien Phu Victory, the museum is the place that keeps most important documents and images related to the legendary battle. The museum’s outside design resembles the camouflage netting on the helmet of Vietnamese soldiers. These four themes of exhibition: Vietnamese resistance, the battle itself, international support and the consequence of this victory. These four themes are well displayed via the five sections, 270 objects and more than 200 paintings, photos of great historical value. Visitors should come to the museum to understand more about Dien Bien Phu Battle and ultimately the Vietnamese people in wartime.

1. Ka Du black chicken

Black chicken is a species of chicken only found in H’mong residence, with H’mong name ‘Ka Du’. Ka Du chickens are precious to H’mong people, always listed as a high value gift or procession. The black chickens are known for their delicious black meat, black bone, and even black organs. People eat black chicken for its nutrients and health benefits.

2. Nep nuong rice

Grown on stepped paddy fields, Nep nuong rice is a special rice in Dien Bien thanks to its favorable climate and a canal system which enables a regular water supply. The rice is sweeter, softer and more fragrant than other common kinds of rice. The locals use Nep nuong rice to cook some appetizing dishes such as sticky rice (xoi), rice round cake (banh day) and steamed sticky rice in bamboo tubes (com lam).

3. Khau Xen

Khau Xen is a traditional snack of Thai people in Muong Lay, a kind similar to prawn crackers but chewy and not as easy to crack. Khau Xen can be made from many ingredients: violet glutinous rice, white glutinous rice or mixed with Gac fruit to have yellowish color or made from cassava tubers. When fried, pieces of Khau xen will inflate and they taste really sweet on your tongue.

For most first-timers, we often suggest a 2-day & 1-night itinerary, which includes various activities of outdoor exploration and culture discovery, for your best experience while traveling Dien Bien.

Day 1: Pa Khoang Lake – Muong Thanh Valley

Visit Pa Khoang in the morning and have a stroll along the lake. Have a great sightseeing, meet some locals and book a boat tour to the center islet to visit the Japanese cherry garden. Then move to Muong Thanh valley in the afternoon to enjoy beautiful rice fields and stay with locals for a night.

Day 2: Victory Museum – Bunker of General of De Castries – Him Lam Hill

Take a tour to visit relic historical sites of Dien Bien to understand more about the famous battle that shocked the world and appreciate the peace we have now. Shop some souvenirs and taste some specialties before leaving Dien Bien in the late afternoon.

If you are a veteran backpacker, please feel free to manage the trip on your own and alter it when needed, else, we recommend you join a tour organized by a professional company that can free you from hassles and keep you safe throughout the journey.

Ideal time to visit Dien Bien Phu is spring or early summer which is from March to May. During this time, you can enjoy the beautiful cherry blossoms at Pa Khoang Lake and the festive atmosphere of Lunar New Year. May is also the month of Dien Bien Phu victory anniversary, a lot of events will be held to commemorate.


Another time to visit is autumn crossing winter, from September – February, when it’s harvest season for golden rice fields in Muong Thanh, with beach blossoms and wild flowers can be found everywhere.

From Hanoi, there are currently only two ways to get to Dien Bien, on road or on air.
By flight

Currently, Vietnam Airlines is the only airline to operate the Hanoi – Dien Bien flight. Time to fly to Dien Bien is only about 1 hour. Fare starts at $100.

By public bus
Buses to Dien Bien run daily at My Dinh Bus Station, which cost around $18 in the 10 hours journey.

Throughout this article, we wish you to have an idea of how to travel to Dien Bien for your best experience. In case you are looking for your own travel agent, who can offer a wonderful and hassle-free trip to Dien Bien, please feel free to let us know. We always commit our best to make it your once-in-a-lifetime journey.

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