Pu Luong is a nature reserve around 4 hours from Hanoi city. The route to get there by motorbike is easy. Utilizing a wide and empty highway. Pu Luong remains off the tourist trail but is one of the most accessible places of jaw-dropping beauty close to a city.
Passing through Pu Luong when exiting Hanoi or entering Hanoi by motorbike is a far better route than the traffic through Ninh Binh. This article explains why you should be going to Pu Luong!
History of Pu Luong
Established in 1999, Pù Luông Nature Reserve is a reserve in the northwestern area of Vietnam. Situated in Bá Thuoc district of Thanh Hoa Province, North Central Coast region of Vietnam, the area covers 17,662 ha with ¾ of the nature reserve is primarily tropical forest, encompassed by three districts of Hoa Binh province including Mai Chau, Tan Lac & Lac Son. The area has two parallel ranges of mountains drawing a picturesque lush valley scattered with rustic villages of Thai & Muong ethnic minorities living in harmony. The name Pu Luong is Thai which means “the highest peak of the village” that points to the Pu Luong peak standing at 1700m.
Why go to Pu Luong
Pu Luong is the closest area to Hanoi to show off the spectacular yellow rice paddies in October. Year-round it is a stunning place, however. It is a place to get involved in local homestays or to relax in mid-ranged resorts in a stunning location. It has an atmosphere of world-class beauty that has somehow managed to avoid heaps of travelers. Mai Chau is also close by, which is the town that most tourists spend the night in.
Pu Luong is primarily an area for passing through on a motorbike journey. However, if you fall in love with the area, there will be hiking tours to be found.
When is the best time to travel to Pu Luong?
As a highland area surrounded by forests, Pu Luong’s climate is quite pleasant even on the hot summer days.
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 rice crop when terraced fields wear a layer of green, extremely nice and peaceful.
- September and October are the times when Pu Luong enters harvest season. During this time multi-layer terraced fields on the hillside will turn yellowish, making Pu Luong more spectacular!
- Mid-summer is also a good time to go to Pu Luong (although it is the rainy season). Pu Luong is in a low land limestone area, with many tropical forests and few inhabitants.
- By the end of June, all terraced fields bring a green shade. According to people here, for about 10 days, the rice will turn a brilliant yellow. That is also the time when Pu Luong attracts a lot of tourists.
Top things to do in Pu Luong Nature Reserve
Below will be a generic list of tourist activities to do in Pu Luong. However, when renting a motorbike, it is best to spend a day driving in circles with no real plan. Plot out a rough route and hit the road, the rest can be an afterthought.
One glance at the Pu Luong Nature Reserve, and you’ll see why the ethnic Thai people made this enchanting valley their home long ago. The slow pace in Pu Luong is a striking contrast to life in the capital just a few hours away. Endless mountains, fertile valleys, and pristine jungle are just a few good reasons to visit. Here are several ways to make the most of your time in this beautiful destination. With only 2-3 days, visitors can thoroughly enjoy all the beauty of Pu Luong.
Pay a visit to Kho Muong Village and Kho Muong Cave
Kho Muong is a pristine and rustic 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. The road to Kho Muong is not easy to drive. However, it is a challenge for those who love exploring here.
Another attraction in Kho Muong Village is Kho Muong Cave. 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.
Visit Ban Hieu & take a swim in Hieu Waterfall
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. Hieu Waterfall stands out in the green jungle deep inside Pu Luong Nature Reserve, about 25 km from Canh Nang Town in the central province of Thanh Hoa. Whoever sets foot here agrees that Hieu is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in central Viet Nam.
Check out our article on the beautiful waterfalls of Vietnam
From the top of Hieu village, it’s only a short hike through the rice fields before you’re showed with a series of dreamy waterfalls cascading down the hillside. Climb down and follow along to where the two streams meet and the pools become larger. This is the perfect spot to cool down with a quick dip, relax in nature, and explore different sections of the falls.
Conquering Pu Luong mountain
This is one of the peaks that trekking people in Vietnam and abroad often choose to conquer. Peak 1700m, it takes about 6-8 hours in good weather to reach the top. You can set up a camp on the top to eat and rest overnight, the next day you can go down the mountain.
Pho Doan Market
Pho 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.
Travel Son-Ba-Muoi Villages
Son Ba Muoi is 3 highland villages of Lung Cao commune. This place is about 130 km northwest of the city center. It’s like a miniature Sapa because of its mild climate all year round. The average temperature of the year is from 18 to 22 degrees C, sometimes snowy winter, summer night temperatures also drop very low.
Son – Ba – Muoi is also known as Cao Son area, located on the top of the Pha Hé and Pha Chien mountains, running parallel to the majestic Pu Luong – Cuc Phuong mountain circuit. Cao Son is located in the core area of Pu Luong Nature Reserve and adjacent to Ngoc Son – Ngo Luong Nature Reserve of Hoa Binh.
In particular, Son – Ba – Muoi is quite isolated from the outside, so it still preserves many practices of the ancient Thai people. The stilt houses still retain the traditional imprints, showing the specific characteristics that have not been influenced by the modern architecture from the outside.
What to Eat in Pu Luong
Eating in Pu Luong is quite simple yet typical, bringing the distinct characteristics of Thai cuisine with grilled dishes, herbal items, and spices with many mountain flavors. Most of the delicious food in Pu Luong will be enjoyed immediately at your homestay. Hosts will prepare all these dishes according to the number of your group members, the fish meat is presented on the tray of leaves.
In addition, Lam rice is also a dish that you should not miss when traveling in Pu Luong. Lam rice is made from new rice, both fragrant and flexible and cooked in bamboo forest tube. Enjoying Com lam Pu Luong not only gives you the feel the aromatic taste of fresh rice, but also the sweetness of the forest water and the cool aroma of forest bamboo also; all makes a very special flavor for this place.
Cổ Lũng Grilled Duck
When visiting Pu Luong, especially Hieu Village, it is definitely impossible to ignore delicacies made from Co Lung ducks. This is a purebred duck breed, so it always keeps its delicious tastes.
Ducks are processed into many different delicious dishes, but the best is the grilled duck. Ripe duck meat with brown skin, sweetmeat, and the most flavor is its own charming fragrance that visitors will never forget.