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The Ha Giang Loop (pronounced Ha Zang) is a very popular motorbike loop in Vietnam’s extreme north, bordering China. It’s considered to have some of the most scenic and breathtaking scenery in the whole of Vietnam, packed with striking karsts, epic switchbacks, crazy steep gradients and rice paddies that seem to float on the side of vertical valleys.

This infamous loop has been on my (Sam’s) radar as a ‘must cycle’ ever since I got into touring. I’d heard so many mixed opinions on its difficulty. Some horror stories included pushing for hours, closed roads due to landslides and “impossible climbing”. But, the theme that was consistent with everyone I spoke to? – Ha Giang’s magnificent beauty! 

Quick Information

Distance & Elevation

  • The semi-loop we did was 233 kilometers 
  • 5,340 meters of climbing
  • 5,460 meters of descending
  • We averaged 38km per day

Time Recommended

  • 5-10 days depending on riding style if fully loaded 
  • 3-5 days if you’re going fast & light
  • We took 6 days with a day off in Yen Minh
  • We suggest taking it slow and really enjoying the scenery, people & energy.


  • Karst,
  • Limestone valleys
  • Rice paddies
  • Corn fields
  • Ethic villages
  • Rain
  • Crystal clear blue rivers
  • Mountain passes
  • Light – moderate traffic
  • More rain
  • Tourists

Road Considerations

  • Mostly paved with some rough gravel sections
  • Roadworks can cause road closures, depending on time of year
  • Some wet muddy sections but only for 3-5 km
  • Slippery and wet in places, especially when rice farmers splash wet, muddy water across the road. I (Sam) slipped and fell off due to this, which was good fun.

Important Considerations

  • Unlike the majority of SE Asia, it can get a bit chilly high up on the loop. I wouldn’t say it was ‘cold’ but if you’re camping, I’d suggest bringing some warm clothes. 
  • It’s pretty wet all year round, so wet weather gear is a MUST
  • Accommodation is plentiful and cheap. We camped 2 nights and stayed in home stays’ the rest of the time.
  • Yeah, some of the loop is hilly & challenging but we did the whole loop fully loaded (Sam 35kg/Bec 25kg) and we thoroughly enjoyed it.


As it’s a motorbike loop, most people will follow QL4C & QL34 the whole time to complete the full loop. However, we were en route to Laos and so opted for a semi-loop with extra riding before & after. We believe we saw the very best of the loop, including the technical riding and super crazy steep gradients. 

From Hanoi, we took a night bus to Cao Bang in the North East. Cao Bang is a sleepy little city framed by stunning mountains and a very special natural wonder. The world’s 4th widest waterfall – Ban Gioc. After the waterfall, the next day we headed towards the Chinese border and on towards the Ha Giang Loop.

Below, you’ll see our route for the semi-loop we did. If you’d like to see the extra section from Bao Lac to Cao Bang, which in truth, we actually preferred to the loop itself due to its remoteness and lack of people, you can find it here

Mymaps Link

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Komoot Link

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Our Ha Giang Highlights

Ma Pi Leng Pass

The Ma Pi Leng Pass is an approximately 20 kilometer long mountain pass, on the Ha Giang Loop, connecting the towns of Đồng Văn and Mèo Vạc. It is at an altitude of 1,500 m and has some of the most breathtaking scenery of the entire loop. 

As you make your way up the potholed winding roads, the mountains’ thick mist blankets the air. Keep pushing through the mist, up the mountain and you will be rewarded with the Nho Que river. This turquoise, serpentine river snakes through the valley separating Vietnam’s extreme north and China’s Yunnan province.

Rice Paddy Architecture

There’s something truly special and different about the rice paddy architecture in this area of Vietnam. We saw a lot of beautiful paddies throughout SE Asia, but right across Ha Giang the rice paddies look like nothing else.

Due to how sheer the mountains are in this area, the farmers have designed their paddies in a way that makes them feel as though they’re floating. These modular rice paddies sit in harmony with the mountain, curving around its belly and covering the landscape in its beauty.

Switch Back Heaven

The switchbacks cut through the mountains and while some are steep in sections, they tend to average at the 7-10% mark, which means you’ll spend 4-5 days in your granny gear – but that’s all part of it. 

Our favourite switchback was on the last day (just after Quyet Tien). We were descending for about 40km towards the city of Ha Giang (we started from the east remember) and it was fantastic. Magical scenery, towering mountains, rice and corn paddies everywhere, ethnic villages and of course, the dichotomy of feelings knowing that the loop was coming to an end. 


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