Bac Kan, 188 miles from Hanoi, has a distinctive seasonal climate. Summers reach temperatures of around 35 degrees Celsius, while winters drop to a cooler 7-8 degrees Celsius.
The best time to visit Bac Kan is during the summer months, from May to July, when the weather is dry and temperatures are 3 to 5 degrees Celsius lower than in the delta and major cities.
Ba Be Lake
Ba Be Lake is one of Vietnam's largest natural freshwater lakes and is located within Ba Be National Park, 70 kilometers northwest of Bac Kan City, the provine's capital.
The lake comprises three interconnected bodies of water: Pe Leng, Pe Lu, and Pe Lam.
Ba Be Lake sits at an elevation of 145 meters above sea level, stretching over 8 kilometers in length with a maximum width of approximately 3 kilometers. Covering a water surface area of about 500 hectares, it has an average depth of 20 meters, with its deepest point plunging to 35 meters.
The lake is enveloped by limestone mountains, punctuated by subterranean streams and caves. Ba Be Lake teems with diverse freshwater fish species, including rare and endangered varieties listed in the Vietnam Red Book such as bangana lemassoni or bagarius bagarius.
Travelers to Ba Be Lake can explore its beauty via motorboat, kayak, stand up paddleboarding, or traditional dugout canoes. Additionally, trekking through the surrounding forest offers an enriching experience.
In Nam Mau Commune, the Long Tong festival, celebrated on the tenth of the first lunar month, provides a unique opportunity for cultural interaction. This festival serves as a ceremonial wish for good fortune and rain, symbolizing the community's aspirations for prosperity and happiness.
Bac Kan City
Bac Kan City serves as a central hub connecting tourists to districts abundant in tourism potential, including Cho Don, Bach Thong, and Ba Be. Within this region, numerous historical landmarks and nationally and provincially recognized scenic spots await exploration. These include Ang Toong Cave, Na Nooc Waterfall, Khuoi Cuong Relic, the French Council house, and the French ambassador's house. Spiritual and cultural attractions such as Co temple, Mau temple, and Thac Gieng temple also enrich the city's cultural tapestry.
Bac Kan has developed a synergy between high-tech agriculture and tourism, offering visitors opportunities to explore hydroponic vegetable and fruit tree cultivation areas, engage in experiences related to turmeric production and processing, stay in homestay accommodations linked to ethnic minority activities, visit yellow apricot tree orchards, and discover craft villages specializing in the creation of decorative and souvenir products crafted from wooden beads.
Sam Chiem Steppe
Sam Chiem Steppe in Hiep Luc Commune, Ngan Son District, approximately 30 kilometers from the heart of Bac Kan City, is a lesser known yet delightful destination for nature enthusiasts seeking a tranquil getaway.
Accessible by both motorcycles and cars along a mountainous trail, Sam Chiem enchants visitors with its lush, verdant hills. The landscape is a blend of grassy hills and forested areas, offering a refreshing climate with an average temperature below 30 degrees Celsius, perfect for outdoor activities and communing with nature.
Kim Hy Nature Reserve
Kim Hy Nature Reserve, in Na Ri District, approximately 80 kilometers from Bac Kan City, encompasses over 14,000 hectares, teeming with a diverse and rich ecosystem of flora and fauna.
The reserve serves as a habitat for endangered species like white-cheeked langurs, squirrels, and monkeys. Kim Hy also preserves valuable genetic resources of endemic plants, including the tsuga dumosa tree, which exists only in the northern mountainous region of Vietnam and two provinces in China, Guangxi and Guangdong. Kim Hy's terrain is also rich in mineral resources, notably gold.
Ban Chang Lake
Ban Chang Lake, situated in Son District along National Highway 3, stands 60 kilometers from the heart of Bac Kan City. This natural semicircular lake, ensconced within a valley, spans roughly 5 hectares in surface area.
Nestled in pine forests, Ban Chang Lake has a refreshing and cool climate. It offers various outdoor activities like boating, swimming, fishing, and camping, making it perfect for nature lovers and group outings.
Yen Duong bamboo forest
About 10 kilometers from Ba Be Lake, visitors will find Pu Lau bamboo forest in Phieng Phang Village, Yen Duong Commune, Ba Be District. On the way to Phieng Phang, travelers can enjoy the view of terraced fields and experience the culture and lifestyle of the Dao ethnic group.
Venturing through the bamboo forest takes travelers to the Pu Lau Waterfall, which tumbles down from a height of almost 100 meters over mossy rocks.
Tham Phay Cave
Tham Phay is approximately 2 kilometers from the center of Hoang Tri Commune. In 2016, a team of Vietnamese cave explorers, along with representatives from the British Caving Association, embarked on the first expedition to explore Tham Phay. Inside this limestone cave, an underground river system and stalactites, formed over 5 million years ago, await discovery.
As you venture more than a kilometer into the cave, you encounter two cave branches. The left branch extends deep into the mountainside, while the right branch delves into the heart of the mountain, with relatively deep waters.
Further exploration reveals an intricate terrain adorned with more stalactites. According to local knowledge, the cave extends for approximately 5-6 kilometers. Currently, authorities are evaluating Tham Phay Cave for potential tourism development, but it has not yet been widely opened to visitors.
Bac Kan has recently become a popular destination for camping enthusiasts. Notable camping locations include Ban Chang Lake in Duc Van Commune (Ngan Son District), Tan An Hill in Na Ri District, Lung Trang Hill in Ha Hieu Commune, and Phieng Chi Hill in Phuc Loc Commune (Ba Be District).
In the Ba Be Lake area, young people prefer four spots: the alluvial land at the end of the Leng River in Pac Ngoi Village, the spacious area near Ba Be Lake in Bo Lu Village (where the Ba Be Spring Festival is held), Lac Nga Garden at the end of Ba Be Lake, and Puong Cave. These places provide tent rentals, grilling options, and various outdoor activities like fishing, kayaking, and campfires.
Gio Pass, located on the border of Na Phac Town and Ngan Son District, lies 50 kilometers north of Bac Kan City. The pass's summit stands 800 meters above sea level and is often shrouded in clouds.
At the pass's summit, travelers will discover Deo Gio Village, a place to rest, enjoy the views, and buy local goods as they head to Bac Kan City or Cao Bang Province. Yet, the pass is also recognized as a difficult road, demanding careful driving through its winding path.
Cooc mo cake
Cooc mo cake, a traditional specialty of the Tay people, is a popular treat in Bac Kan and neighboring Tuyen Quang Province. This cow's horn-shaped cake is available year-round and can be found at various markets. Cooc mo is crafted from sticky rice and a mixture of black or green beans, wrapped in banana leaves, and secured with bamboo strips.
Khau nhuc (Stewed pork)
Khau nhuc is a dish that reflects the culture of the Tay-Nung ethnic communities in Bac Kan. This dish combines taro and pork belly, resulting in a flavorful and hearty delicacy. It's often served on special occasions such as Lunar New Year, weddings, and housewarmings.
Wormwood cake, famous in Lang Son, is also popular in Bac Kan. These green cakes, made with upland sticky rice for a fragrant and sticky texture, are easy to enjoy, cool, and not greasy. The distinct blend of wormwood leaves' aroma and sticky rice's sweetness creates a memorable taste. You can find sweet and savory versions of these cakes.
Smoked Chinese sausages
Bac Kan's smoked Chinese sausages are made from well-seasoned and robust pork. Notably, these sausages are marinated with a spicy and aromatic ginger variety that grows exclusively in limestone mountain areas. After preparation, the sausages are smoked or stored in kitchens for long-term preservation. The final product carries the scents of sunshine, kitchen smoke, ginger, wine, and clausena indica leaves, creating a distinctive and delightful aroma. This dish pairs wonderfully with local wine.
Bac Kan offers other signature dishes, such as grilled fish, Na Ri vermicelli, canarium fruit, and Shan Tuyet tea.
Travelers can take National Highway 3, which is a 3-hour journey suitable for both cars and motorcycles.
Alternatively, travelers can follow the Hanoi - Thai Nguyen Highway and then continue on National Highway 3, which takes approximately 2 hours and is suitable for car travel only.
Visitors can also opt for passenger buses departing from My Dinh station in Hanoi. There are bus companies that operate on the Hanoi - Bac Kan or Cao Bang routes. These buses often make stops at tourist destinations, such as Ba Be Lake.
For travelers coming from Ho Chi Minh City and southern provinces, the most convenient route is to fly to Hanoi and then follow the instructions above.
While there are accommodation options concentrated around Ba Be Lake, visitors can also find hotels and motels in Bac Kan City. Prices for one night's stay typically range from VND200,000 to VND400,000 ($8 to $16). Some recommended options include Phuc Anh Motel, Phuong Nam Hotel, Hung Van Hotel, and Nam Hotel.
Moreover, Bac Kan has limited access to ATMs and QR code scanning facilities, hence it is recommended that visitors ensure they carry sufficient cash during their visit.
Story by Tam Anh