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The Best of Vietnam’s National Parks

Vietnam counts 30 national parks to its credit. Several of the parks that welcome foreign visitors stand out from the bunch for their impressive landscapes, diverse wildlife, and unique outdoor adventures.

For active adventures, and offering the same stunning scenery as Ha Long but with greater access to its lush, jungle-covered karsts and tranquil bay, Cat Ba National Park boasts a combination of hiking trails, soaring seaside cliffs, and a handful of caves, all of which serve as an idyllic backdrop for trekking, swimming, climbing, and cycling adventures. Though they’re not easily spotted, the island is also home to the Cat Ba langur, one of the world’s most endangered primates.

Fishing boats offshore from Con Dao. Photo © Dana Filek-Gibson.
Fishing boats offshore from Con Dao. Photo © Dana Filek-Gibson.

Set on an island with dual reputations for its heartbreaking colonial past and unparalleled natural beauty, Con Dao National Park is one of the country’s least-visited and best-preserved green spaces where history and nature intertwine. Devouring nearly all of Con Son, the largest island in the Con Dao archipelago, this park is home to 160 species of land animals as well as over 1,000 varieties of aquatic creatures, making it a worthy spot for hiking, swimming, diving, and snorkeling for travelers who make the time to reach this remote island.

North of Dalat, the rolling slopes of Lang Biang Mountain are but one part of the primitive Bidoup-Nui Ba National Park. The best hiking trails are on this mountain, as well as beautiful panoramic vistas of Dalat and the Central Highlands. Climb the challenging path up to the summit or take it easy at Rada Lookout below. Local guides lead visitors deeper into the forest for more off-the-beaten-track adventures.

Rada Point, a popular trekking destination on Lang Biang Mountain. Photo © Dana Filek Gibson.
Rada Point, a popular trekking destination on Lang Biang Mountain. Photo © Dana Filek Gibson.

Far and away a highlight among Vietnam’s already-captivating array of natural sights, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park boasts a maze of subterranean caves and chambers beneath its soaring limestone karsts. Down rivers and buried under mountains, these gargantuan caverns harbor a host of ethereal, mind-bending vistas that remain largely untouched by local tourism—at least for now. While not all adventures in Phong Nha are easy on the wallet—a foray into Son Doong, the largest cave on Earth, costs around USD$3,000—affordable, adventurous caving tours are now accessible to the average traveler, and tourism in the park is set to take off.

The waterlogged fields of Tram Chim National Park are perfect for bird-watching as home to over 230 bird species, including the six-foot-tall sarus crane, the world’s tallest flying bird. Navigate its calm waters by motorboat, winding through a series of narrow canals that burrow deep into the park’s flooded forests for a glimpse of Vietnam’s diverse bird life.

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