5 Reasons to Add Ba Be Lake to Your Itinerary in Vietnam

Jörgen Holmström

Have you thought about including the world’s only permanent freshwater karst lake to your itinerary? And if I told you it features an impressive cave with thousands of bats to marvel at? You can find that and much more at Ba Be Lake, one of the oldest national parks in Vietnam. Have you heard of it? Maybe not, as it’s off the beaten track. So let shed some light on this gemstone that you can include if doing a motorbike loop in Cao Bang, or a longer one including Ha Giang as well.

So here you have 5 reasons to add Ba Be Lake to your itinerary in Vietnam. Are you adventurous enough to consider it?

5 reasons to add Ba Be Lake to your itinerary in Vietnam

1. Its nature and flora are unique

Ba Be Lake lays between Ha Giang City and Cao Bang City, in Bac Kan province. The nearest town to take aim at is Cho Ra. This freshwater lake sits in the middle of a National Park and was probably formed some 200 million years ago. Its surrounding limestone mountains date back over 450 million years!

Ba Be Lake is part of a unique freshwater ecosystem. It became a National Park in 1992 and offers a diverse and unique flora, fauna, hundreds of species of fish and a surrounding of high limestone mountains, cave systems, rivers and waterfalls.

Are you a nature fan? Don’t miss 50 shades of green: blossoming in northern Vietnam.

Ranked as one of the topmost magnificent freshwater lakes in the world, it stretches 8 km long and 2 km wide at its widest spot. The lake and its landscape are a picturesque awe that is well worth inclusion on any natural lovers’ itinerary.

2. You can enjoy a pleasant boat ride

One of the favorite activities to do at Ba Be Lake is to take a boat ride. So the second of our 5 reasons to add Ba Be Lake to your itinerary in Vietnam is kind of a must. You can actually opt for a boat or a kayak. In any case, the green water of the lake stays always calm, so you’re in for a pleasant calm ride along the lake and its surrounding evergreen jungle. What is more, on a warmer day, this pristine water does certainly invite you to take a swim in the water. Your guide or boat handler sill surely know some good spots.

On a boat ride you’d also be able to reach several of the most popular spots, such as the Puong Cave and Dau Dang waterfalls. There are also several small islands to make a stop at. Widow Island (Po Gia Mai) is a small one, made of rocks wrapped by roots and perennial plants. It’s actually the island that holds the legend of the creation of Ba Be Lake.

5 reasons to add Ba Be Lake to your itinerary in Vietnam - boat

The legend

According to the legend, this island was the home of a considerate widowed woman and her son. A leper woman visited the area on a big festival, but the villagers welcomed her with hostility and shun. So the widow took sympathy of the woman and invited her for the night. In the middle of the night, the woman and her son were awoken by a load noise and found the woman having been replaced by a dragon. As morning dawned, the dragon went back to the leper, who revealed she was a fairy.

The fairy revealed she had come to warn the villagers of an upcoming disaster, but as no one had wished to listen to her at the festival they were deemed to suffer from this calamity. Due to their kindness, she declared that the widow and her son were the only ones to be spared the coming disaster. Before heavy rain flooded the whole area, the fairy gave them two pairs of rice husks. With these husks they could make two boats and rescue many villagers. The remains of that flood is the Ba Be Lake.

Related to this legend, you may also visit the island of An Ma. Here you find the An Ma temple, which, according to the legend, was built in honor to the widow by the villagers she saved.

3. There are exciting bat caves to explore

5 reasons to add Ba Be Lake to your itinerary in Vietnam - cave

If you are a cave-fan, there are several to explore in Ba Be National Park, but the most famous and most visited is Puong Cave in the north of the park.

Puong Cave is some 50 meters high and 300 meters long, with imposing and fascinating stalagmites and stalactites formations. However, the cave is maybe most famous for its large population of bats. It houses more than 10,000 bats of different species. While not always so easy to spot, you’ll hear their wings flapping, and you can’t miss the foul smell…

4. You can visit stunning waterfalls

If you’re into romanticizing waterfalls, there are a few to fall in love with around the Ba Be National Park. The all-year streaming Dau Dang waterfall is part of the Nang River, which gets blocked by rocks breaking its water into streams. These streams form a platform waterfall that cascades along a stretch of 1 km rapids with a thunderous rumble down the mountain.

5 reasons to add Ba Be Lake to your itinerary in Vietnam - waterfalls

There’s no shortfall of hikes on smaller roads or paths to explore by foot. Your homestay will surely give you some ideas if you feel uncertain to just park your bike and head out on any unknown path by yourself.

5 You can stay with locals and learn about ethnic minority groups in the area

Like in so many parts of northern Vietnam, numerous ethnic minority groups live in the area around Ba Be Lake. The Tay people make up the majority of them, and if staying at a homestay, it’s likely you’ll stay with a Tay family in one of their many stilt wooden houses. But there are also Muong, Dao, Black and Flower H’mong groups. And as I’ve said in other articles, don’t see them as photo objects but as humans with things to learn from, laugh and share your experience with. So the last of our 5 reasons to add Ba Be Lake to your itinerary in Vietnam refers to the possibility of an enriching cultural experience.

5 reasons to add Ba Be Lake to your itinerary in Vietnam - ethnic minority groups

Interested in learning more about these ethnic minority groups? Check our Info & Tips About Ethnic Minority Groups In Ha Giang, Vietnam.

Besides Ba Be being a great place to maybe park the bike for a day and rest your bum, you’ll definitely enjoy the hospitality and peacefulness of this area. You’ll be able to spend a night or two with local people, enjoy their home-cooked dishes, share stories with them. If you’re not in a rush, I suggest you take the time to just sit with a good book in a hammock on their veranda, taking in the view of the lake and listening to the birds singing and the children playing.

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Our Writer

Jörgen Holmström / Consultant

Long time friend of QT and his family, Jorgen is since many years a frequent flyer on Vietnam. Has spent most of his life in the humanitarian non-governmental sector, mainly in Kenya and Afghanistan.

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