The Best National Parks in Vietnam

Cát Bà National Park in Vietnam offers great hiking and lookout points
Cát Bà National Park in Vietnam offers great hiking and lookout points | © Daniel Greenhouse / Alamy Stock Photo
Sam Roth

National parks dot the landscape of Vietnam from the lofty mountains of the north to the white-sand isles of the south. Limestone peaks fall over meandering rivers, and snaking caverns twist into dense jungle canopy. This is nature at its best in Southeast Asia.

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1. Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park

Natural Feature

Amazing geological forms in Paradise Cave near Phong Nha, Vietnam. Limestone cave full of stalactites and stalagmites.
© Mikołaj Michalak / Alamy Stock Photo

Perhaps the most naturally stunning and well-preserved area in all of Vietnam, Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng is home to some of the largest caves in the world. The park, which shares a border with Hin Namno Nature Reserve in Laos, covers an area of nearly 900sqkm (347sqmi) and is often a stop for those following the Ho Chi Minh Highway. Gibbons and macaques roam the forests, yet it’s the sprawling karst cave systems that have earned Phong Nha a spot on the Unesco World Heritage list. Hundreds of miles of underground labyrinths run beneath limestone giants as they tower towards the sky.

2. Phú Quốc National Park

Natural Feature, Park

Tranh stream waterfall, Phu Quoc iland, Vietnam, Asia
© Andreas Rose / Alamy Stock Photo

A gem nestled in the northwest corner of the most popular and unfortunately most overdeveloped island in Vietnam, Phú Quốc is home to more than 1,000 species of plants and 200 species of animals. Increasingly rare old-growth forests run throughout the park, and dipterocarp trees climb to over 30m (100ft) in height. Hiking and camping are easily accessible from Gành Dầu village.

3. Núi Chúa National Park

Natural Feature

Vietnam, Ninh Thuan province, near Phan Rang, Nui Chua National Park, Binh Tien beach
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

Núi Chúa is set on the eastern edge of the Annamite Mountains, overlooking one of the cleanest and best preserved stretches of coastline on the East Sea. The region, like much of Vietnam, is best visited by motorbike and is fringed by one of the most beautiful coastal roads in the country. Within the confines of the semi-arid park, bears and primates roam the hillsides, while bats and birds soar through the skies. The shoreline is of particular importance as it’s home to the nesting grounds of a number of endangered turtle species.

4. Cát Tiên National Park

Natural Feature, Park

Early morning view of Crocodile Swamp deep inside Cat Tien National Park.
© Anders Blomqvist / Alamy Stock Photo

Cát Tiên is the closest national park to Ho Chi Minh City and an oft-overlooked gem. The lowland forests are the largest and most important in the country, home to gibbon, deer and wild boar. The nature trails are extensive and well maintained, and most can be completed without a guide and on bicycle. An excellent variety of lodging, from campsites to riverside bungalows, makes the park a great place to escape from the concrete madness of Saigon.

5. Cát Bà National Park

Natural Feature

Vietnam, Quang Ninh province, Ha Long bay, listed as World Heritage by UNESCO, junk boat in the bay
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

Floating in a sea of limestone peaks, Cát Bà serves as a focal point of iconic Hạ Long Bay. It should be a stop on any northern excursion. Much of the region resembles something out of Jurassic Park, as jungles shoot skywards into the mist. A number of beautiful treks of moderate difficulty lie in the confines of the park. Cát Bà is also home to the majority of the world’s remaining white-headed langurs.

6. Ba Bể National Park

Natural Feature

European tourists climbing on the rocks downstream of Dau Dang Waterfall, Ba Be National Park, Northeast Vietnam. MODEL RELEASED
© J Marshall - Tribaleye Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Ba Bể National Park is home to a number of ethnic minorities, including the Tay, Dao and Hmong, and offers travellers the opportunity to experience life in traditional homestays. The park is made of towering limestone mounts that crash down to pounding waterfalls before settling in Ba Bể lake, the largest in Vietnam. Trekking in the region is superb and can be arranged via most homestays or guesthouses. Cavernous limestone grottos, hidden along the water’s edge, should be explored by boat as well.

7. Yok Đôn National Park

Natural Feature

Feeding Wild Female Asian Elephant in Yok Don National Park, Vietnam
© Stefan Liebhold / Alamy Stock Photo

The largest of all the national parks in Vietnam, Yok Đôn also happens to be home to some of the last remaining wild elephants and leopards in the country. However, over the years, poaching and illegal logging have decimated their populations, dropping the chances of seeing one to pretty much zero. Nevertheless, the park retains an off-the-beaten-track feel and is seldom visited by foreign tourists. Guided day and overnight treks through the dry forests are a great way to see it all.

8. Cúc Phương National Park

Natural Feature

Vietnam, Ninh Binh Province, Cuc Phuong National Park, Ban Hieu, valley
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

Cúc Phương is one of the most accessible parks Vietnam has to offer, lying just over 100km (62mi) from Hanoi. The region can be explored on foot, motorbike or bicycle and is best travelled over two or three days. Minority villages dot the lands and can be visited on a number of guided treks. The park is also home to a vast array of flora and fauna, including some of the most endangered turtles in Thailand.

9. Côn Đảo National Park

Natural Feature

Dat Doc Beach, Con Dao Island, Con Dao National Park, Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, Vietnam
© Image Professionals GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

In a country experiencing rapid growth and popularity, it’s no real surprise that pristine natural areas are diminishing by the day. Côn Đảo National Park remains an outlier. Located 80km (50mi) out into the East Sea, this unblemished archipelago of green is reached by ferry from the Mekong or via plane from Ho Chi Minh City. The national park lies on the main island, Côn Sơn, and encompasses some of the most untouched coral reefs and white-sand beaches in the country. Endangered sea turtles nest along the shorelines, while the strange and friendly dugong, a cousin of the manatee, lounges in the clear waters of the park.

10. Bạch Mã National Park

Natural Feature

Stream and small waterfall. Bach Ma National Park. Vietnam.
© Oscar Dominguez / Alamy Stock Photo

Bạch Mã lies hidden just west of the imperial capital of Huế, near the central coast of Vietnam. Dilapidated French villas, overrun by pine forests, peer out through the wilderness as mile-high peaks float in the distance. The park is home to some of the most dense and pristine ribbons of jungle in central Vietnam.

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