Pu Luong Nature Reserve located just 160km by motorbike South-West of Hanoi is just over the border of Hoa Binh province in Thanh Hoa province. Although not too far from Hanoi and very close to the more famous Mai Chau, Pu Luong is yet to become well known with tourists in Vietnam.
Pu Luong is up in the mountains and has many things to see and do when you are there. There is a number of waterfalls, a large cave, ricefields, a few rivers which offer bamboo raft rides and have large water wheel.
Getting to Pu Luong
Riding to Pu Luong from Hanoi takes about 4 hours, or a little less from Ninh Binh. You can arrive from the North heading from Hoa Binh using the DT440 and coming over the mountain pass which offers spectular view of the nature reserve but the road this direction isn’t in good condition. It has a number of sharp hairpins on a steep slope with many potholes and fallen rocks. This route isn’t recommended for people with only little riding experience.
The other way to reach Pu Luong from Hanoi or Ninh Binh is from the East along the QL217. Although this misses the scenic ride over the mountain from Hoa Binh, it is a much easier ride and also it is quicker, especially when coming from Ninh Binh.
If you are staying in Mai Chau, you can ride through Pu Luong in a day or sleep the night there. If riding through then you can make a loop clockwise via the QL6, DT440 and then the QL15C returning to Mai Chau from the South. This makes a very nice day of riding, although you will only get to ride through Pu Luong and enjoy the views. You will not have the time to explore much of what it has to offer.
Coming from the South you will reach Pu Luong via the QL16 and then the QL15C. You can either just pass the Southern part on your way to Mai Chau or stay in Pu Luong itself.
There are many places to stay in Pu Luong. There are some luxury resorts with swimming pool, homestays with a more authentic experience and many other options in-between. As such there is something on offer for any budget.
You will find most of the accommodation in 2 locations. 1 is along the QL15C with views over the nature reserve. Homestays and resorts are here. With being on the only main road through Pu Luong it is easier to get to these places and there are also buses that can take you here. The other location is set back into the reserve and harder to get to, but the ride to get there is nice. Most of these are near Hieu waterfall.
Finding and booking accomodation can easily be done on booking.com or searching on Google Maps for “homestays”. As there are many options in Pu Luong you don’t need to book any in advance. Booking in the morning for that night, however, is never a bad idea.
Food choices are slim as it is a nature reserve without a town. The best option for food in the evening is at your homestay or resort which can be booked in advance. They will prepare a home cooked dinner. For lunch on the way you can find some restaurants but the quality and options will not be that good.
What To Do in Pu Luong Nature Reserve
Kho Muong Bat Cave – Hang Dơi Kho Mường
The Bat Cave in Kho Muong village is a stunning and unexpected sight within Pu Luong. A short ride from the QL15C you can find Kho Muong village. You have to ride down to the village so that when you arrive you are surrounded by mountains on all sides. At the right time of year you will find beautiful rice fields here. As well as a few shops for snacks and drinks and even a football pitch.
The Cave itself is a large cave over 250 millions years old. It was formed from a river inside eroding the limestone over many years. The cave goes back 2.5km and you can explore much of this cave. Just make sure that you have a strong light with you. On the ceiling of the cave you can see the many stalactites. The deeper inside you get the clearer you can hear the water dripping from these. You will be able to hear some of the 4 species of bats that the cave is home to. Including both fruit and insect eating varieties.
You will be able to explore Kho Muong village for free while the Bat Cave has just a small entrance fee which is well worth it. The cave can be slippery, especially when it is wet so make sure that you have a proper footwear and a strong light when entering.
Dan Waterfall – Thác Đán
Dan Waterfall is a stunning waterfall in the South East of Pu Luong. The waterfall itself is not be that large, but the fall is high and can be seen from far away which makes for an incredible view. At the foot of the fall, there is a large pool which you can swim in. It is a great way to freshen up after a long ride.
Hieu Waterfall – Thác Hiêu
Hieu Waterfall is a much smaller fall but wider and with a larger pool to swim and relax. The waterfall is close to lots of homestays making it easy to visit. If you are staying here, it is a great way to end the day.
Down the river in the centre of Pu Luong is place for taking bamboo raft rides. There is a small fall, at the top of which the rafts are located. The river here is flat and calm making it ideal for the ride. The tickets are 70k VND per person. There is also a small swing seat here overlooking the river to relax and enjoy the view.
Pu Luong Waterwheels
The waterwheels are one of the most famous parts of the area. They can be found a little further south down the river from the Bamboo Rafts. These are very large waterwheels and still functional. If you come at the right time of year when the water is higher then you will see them working. When working the waterwheel feed water into the surrounding area to help with the rice fields. An easy to visit location when you are in Pu Luong.
Wooden Bridge Over the River Ma
Ma river is a large river cutting across Pu Luong West to East. One of the bridges going across the river is a unique wooden bridge that will surprise you. Don’t let the first appearance worry you, the bridge is solid and fun to ride across. You can head across this bridge when you are exploring the Southern part of Pu Luong.
Pu Luong Rice Fields
There is a number of different places to see ricefields in Pu Luong. The most stunning places to see this are next to the QL15C, you can see the location on the map below. As well as this there is ricefields in Kho Muong village. Whilst Kho Muong rice fields are surrounded by mountains on all side, the rice fields near the QL15C are set in the mountains with views all around. This offers a great view of the large mountains near Hoa Binh in the distance.
Coming from Hoa Binh you will also pass through some farmland. You will ride through farmland, where rice and vegetables are grown. It is a nice start to the ride through Pu Luong but no where near the same beauty as further on.
The best time of year to see the rice fields here are around April – May and October. Then the rice fields are ready for harvest and are at their highest and with the most colourful green.
Pu Luong Nature Reserve Summary
There is plenty of things to see in Pu Luong. With 2 nights here it makes a big difference to just passing through or just having 1 night. As always, in Vietnam you will find that you don’t have enough time for everything. If you want to see an non-touristy but naturally beautiful area with many different things to offer then you can’t get much better than Pu Luong. The fact that it is so close to Hanoi, Mai Chau and Ninh Binh, makes it more accessible than other less known places in Vietnam, somewhere that should be easy to include on many trips.
Below is a map highlighting the locations mentioned above.