Son La has prospered as a logical transit point between Hanoi and Dien Bien Phu. It’s not a must-see destination, but the surrounding scenery is impressive, and there are a few interesting diversions.
The region is one of Vietnam’s most ethnically diverse and home to more than 30 different minorities, including Black Thai, Meo, Muong and White Thai. Vietnamese influence was minimal until the 20th century, and from 1959 to 1980 the area was part of the Tay Bac Autonomous Region.
1. Son La City offers to the passer-by travellers and tourists a hot-spring and the infamous prison from the French’s times. Around the city, there are Black Thai Villages which can be visited on foot, by motorbike or by bicycle.
2,From Hanoi if you travel to Son La via Road No. 6, then you’ll be passing through Hoa Binh on mountainous roads. The road goes up all the way to Moc Chau Plateau which is over 1,000m above sea level with temperate climate all year round. Moc Chau offers huge potential for relaxing holidays, vacations to get away from the summer heat in Hanoi, bike tours and easy trekking tours.
3.Continuing further on Route 6 from Moc Chau to Son La, the road goes down all the way to Yen Chau. There are several valleys by the road side that you can have lovely photos of them from above.
4. It is quite flat from Yen Chau to Mai Son District and Na San, and Son La City along Route 6. The mountains on both sides of the road are still wild and lovely. There are lovely Thai villages at Na San that you can visit on trekking tours by AdventureGreen.
5/If you continue northwestwards past Son La City on Route 6, then the road goes up suddenly and the temperatures are quickly lower in Thuan Chau. The landscape changes also with higher mountains and more forests. Before you reach Dien Bien, you’ll have to climb the 32km mountain pass of Pha Din, one of the most breathtaking mountain passes in Vietnam with elevation more than 1,000 above sea level. Taking on a mountain-bike tour with AdventureGreen on this trip, you’ll get the full beauty of wild nature here.
6. From Son La City, if you decide to go back to Hanoi, then you can travel back on Route 6 to Co Noi T-Junction, then take Route 37 to Muong Khoa, Ta Khoa crossing the Da River. From here you can travel back to Hanoi or further to Yen Bai. This route is seldom taken by foreign travelers to Vietnam. At Bac Yen, you can follow a meandering mountain road going up steeply to Ta Xua where there’s a trekking adventure for you to adore the wild nature here. If having at the right time in the winter and spring, you can have stunning photographs of sublime clouds.
7. From Bac Yen to Hanoi, the landscape is quite lovely with a series of mountain passes, valleys and ethnic villages by the road side. You will be traveling past Phu Yen and the famed valley of Muong Tac. The last leg in Son La is Deo Khe between Son La and Phu Tho Province. You’ll pass Deo Khe, then descend into Thu Cuc where you join Route 32 back to Hanoi.
Asia Tour Advisor offers lots of trekking tours, hiking adventure tours, motorcycle tours and mountain bike tours to Son La and the North West of Vietnam. For mountain climbing, we can do it at Mount Pha Luong. For trekking, there are lovely paths around Ta Xua for you to take on. For biking, you can join us on a bicycle tour around Moc Chau or a mountain-bike tour to the North-West of Vietnam. For motorbike lovers, AdventureGreen offers inspirational motorbike adventures to Moc Chau, Son La and the North West of Vietnam. Let us make your adventure to Vietnam authentic and sensational!
As with the rest of the northwest, June through to September is wet season. Expect heavy rainfall and misty weather. Landslides are common and will slow you down outside town. Visibility wise, late September to October and March through May are the best bet. Evenings and early mornings can be cool to cold year round. If motorbiking, be sure to dress accordingly. The temperature can be cold on high passes yet hot in the valleys.
Characterised by a rugged, yet breathtaking, mountainous landscape, the steep slopes of Son La’s valleys are layered in hundreds of stepped rice terraces, while the lush valley bases are home to small and isolated villages. With a substantial population of minority groups, you’ll not need to look far to find people living a traditional lifestyle well away from the hustle and bustle of Vietnam’s larger, more urbanised centres.
For the vast majority of visitors, Son La is but a series of slow vistas taken out of a minibus window as they make their long winding trip from Hanoi to Dien Bien Phu and while the same-named provincial capital holds little of touristic value, it’s a classic “the pleasure is all in the getting there” type destination.
The same-named provincial capital itself is set at the halfway point between Hanoi and Dien Bien Phu. It was once the site of a sizeable French garrison during the French war, but today, aside from the ruins of the prison, the only evidence the French ever made it here is the baguettes and rich strong coffee. Most visitors give Son La a single night’s stay before continuing on elsewhere.