Also called Ba Be Lakes, this places has a very nice mix of water, mountains, caves and pretty homestays with beautiful views to the lake and rice fields. The lake is visited in a confortable boat trip but there are other options. The big caves are far less crowded than the ones in Halong Bay.
Another way to get around the lake is to rent kayak but you cannot get as far as with the boat, not a good option I think. Normal boats are better. The trekking + kayak is the most complete option with more adventure and exercise.
The village has not much to offer other than the view to the lake and rice fields from the homestay. Eating where you are staying is very common then explore the nature.
Where to sleep in Ba Be
- Minh Quang homestay and Ba Be Lake Homestay are the best ones and cheap.
- Mr. Linh’s Homestay: also pretty, more isolated and pricier.
Important: Mr. Linh’s Adventure, Mr. Linh’s Homestay, Ba Be National Park website (and Ba Be Tourism Center) are all own and run by the same Mr. Linh and family.
This doesn’t mean they are bad, just monopolist. They are very nice and take very good care of the guests -I even got sick and they were kind enough to give me special and free food as a nice gesture- but don’t waste time asking for tour in more than one of these places. They will give you all the same information and price, make sure to ask for the cheaper options -the non-guided tours- the guided ones are over priced.
Ba Be can be visited as part of the Grand Northern Vietnam Loop which is the best for adventure. It can also be done as a Hanoi trip. Organized tours sometimes combine Ba Be with Ban Gioc Waterfall which is a great option but not easy for agencies to get the amount of passengers they require for this tour or end up with an overprice custom made tour.
The classical way to explore the lake. It goes includes Puong Cave and Dau Dang Waterfall for the short version, then it also includes An Ma Temple with the full version. Wikiloc track.
You will get into a 12 passenger motor boat -800.000 VND [35 USD] split by the number of people in your group-. The full tour takes around 5 hours of which you will spend most of the time in the boat.
Guesthouse can help you arrange this for you as a charter service, make sure to ask for it and not the guided tour -full day guided tour is the equivalent selling at 50USD for solo travel or 20 USD/pp for 4 people-.
You will get into the boat in Bo Lu town near the Ba Be Tourism Center no later than 10am -better early but not so early- let the sun shine nicely before start the trip. Just relaxing on the boat and enjoying the lake is big part of the beauty.
This amazing cave is accessed by boat through the stream that passes through it. You will dock inside near the entrance then head on foot to the darkness to hear the amazing sound of thousands bats living in there. You can also take the short walk to the other exit of the cave for one extra view.
Dau Dang Waterfall
After leaving the cave you will go to the other side of the lake to land, eat lunch then take a few minutes walk to the waterfall -not very impressive in my opinion- but it takes only 30 minutes and come back.
An Ma Temple & panoramic view
On the way back you will make the last stop to visit the totally normal An Ma Temple skip if you have special plans.
From the docking place you can see a bridge that supposedly leads to the best panoramic viewpoint of the lake up in a mountain. The standard boat trip does not include the time to climb it -1 hour unclear if one-way or return time-. I recommend you to inquire about this before booking. Pay A little extra, skip other stops or rush then it should be ok. The guided tour includes this attractions but they hike down through a different path, reason to say it can only be done in the guided service. Just ask how long to hike up and down through the same path then ask them to wait for you.
Trekking + Kayak
They say it’s the best way of enjoying Ba Be, I doubt it. I do think it’s the the most complete option because you do some hiking, a night in a very rural village as well as a part on the water -the best section of the boat standard trips- in a two days experience.
The program start hiking through the northwest route -see map below- then spending the night in a rural village. Next day visit Dau Dang Waterfall on foot, at some point get on the boat or kayak to go Puong Cave. Coming back make a visit on the An Ma Temple then ending in Bo Lu by water. Apparently this itinerary does not includes the panoramic view but on the map you can see a trail doing that -the southeast trail-. Inquiere to include the mountain. If you know exactly what you want to do the seller can arrange it no problem.
Hua Ma Cave
Very nice cave and very little visited. High chances to be alone inside this 800 meters long cave. Recommended. -Entrance fee: 22.000 VND-
You will have to come here by bike -100.000 VND return for a motorbike taxi including waiting time-.
If you do the boat trip make sure to end before 4.00pm then you will have time to visit right after. Arrange with the guesthouse or excursion seller to combine the tours so the bikes will be waiting for you when you get off the boat.
This cave take less than 2 hours including driving time.
More to do
Lo Mo Cave: this 3km long of walkable area cave should be a great option to visit now that is almost untouched and you have to use your own headlamp inside. It was discovered recently, expedition tours started only in 2017. Check more info and pics on Ba Be National Park website.
Silk Waterfall: a waterfall near Hua Ma Cave that doesn’t look anything special on pictures.