One of the unsung delights of Vietnam’s far north is beautiful Ba Be Lake, focal point of an eponymous national park that preserves a tract of superb limestone mountains and forest. Hills dotted with ancient pines surge from the glassy waters of the lake, providing sanctuary for a range of rare creatures, including the endangered Tonkin snub-nosed langur. Few visitors travel here outside the summer holiday season, ensuring a tranquil experience of this pristine area.
Excursion boats are on hand for leisurely trips on the lake to hidden waterfalls, caves and minority villages. The most popular excursion is the one into Hang Poung Cave, a 300-metre-long grotto which tunnels through the base of a mountain. The jungle area around the lake is also dotted with ethnic minority villages belonging to the H’mong, Dao and Tay, some of which hold attractive homestays.