Tucked away in a remote area of Northern Vietnam, the province of Cao Bang is bursting with beautiful dramatic scenery and landscapes like the gorgeous Ban Gioc Waterfall (also known as Detian Falls in China). Non Nuoc Cao Bang Geopark, where the falls are located, is still relatively uncrowded during the week, making this majestic waterfall even more impressive since you’ll feel you have the entire place to yourself. But don’t wait to visit – this unique area in Vietnam, with its stunning natural beauty, is drawing more and more visitors every season.
It’s easy to visit Ban Gioc Waterfall on your own with multiple transportation options to choose from. If you’re motorbike touring Vietnam’s North Loop, Ban Gioc Waterfall is also the perfect destination and stopover to explore. And even if you don’t have your own motorbike, public transport makes it super easy to get to the falls on your own so booking a guided tour to Ban Gioc is no longer necessary.
In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know to visit Ban Gioc waterfall and the surrounding area, including places to see and things to do around the falls. If you find yourself in Northern Vietnam, you’ll definitely want to add this off-the-beaten-track adventure to your Vietnam itinerary!
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A Complete Guide to Visiting Ban Gioc Waterfall, Vietnam
Why you Should Visit Ban Gioc Waterfall
Located in the northeastern part of Vietnam on the border with China, lies one of the most impressive waterfalls that I have ever seen. It’s one of the largest waterfalls along a national border and for me, it was the most stunning waterfall I’ve come across during my travels in Southeast Asia.
Ban Gioc Waterfall is simply breathtaking in person! Imagine multiple cascades of all sizes with jade-colored water flowing into the river below. Measuring at more than 800 feet wide, these massive falls are surrounded by lush tropical jungle.
Another thing that makes Ban Gioc Waterfall so interesting is its close proximity to China. In fact, it sits directly on the border of the two countries with half the falls in Vietnam and the other half in China. Visitors from both countries can take bamboo rafts for a closer look at the falls.
During the dry season the falls are split in two, but when the rain starts the river can form one giant waterfall. Both sections are connected with multiple bamboo bridges, giving the scene a rustic vibe. And when viewing up close via the rafts, you’ll most likely get wet due to the spray. On sunny days the mist creates tiny rainbows, making the views even more beautiful.
Even the views from the riverbank are absolutely stunning and once the rafts start darting across the water, the falls look even more impressive in comparison to the tiny boats. You’ll find many spots to sit along the banks of the Quay Son River and enjoy the scenery. And there are several treks around the falls that allow you to venture to higher grounds for impressive panoramic views.
Where is Ban Gioc Waterfall?
Ban Gioc Waterfall is ~205 miles north of Hanoi and about 55 miles from the small Vietnamese town of Cao Bang. Ban Gioc Waterfall is a part of the Non Nuoc Cao Bang Geopark, a UNESCO heritage site. Besides the waterfall, this park is also famous for its diverse landscapes, distinct hill tribe groups, and lakes. Non Nuoc Cao Bang Geopark alone includes 5 major rivers and over 40 lakes. The surrounding natural landscapes, limestone cliffs, and scenic countryside make Cao Bang one of the best places to visit in Vietnam.
Some tour agents in Vietnam will tell you that it’s impossible to get to the falls on your own, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. A few years ago, you needed a special permit to visit Ban Gioc Waterfall, but now the restriction has been lifted and you don’t need a designated guide to visit the area.
It’s easy to get to Ban Gioc Waterfall on your own and there are many transportation options available. From Hanoi, you can either drive your own motorbike or take a sleeping bus to Cao Bang, which is the largest city near the falls. Most visitors choose to spend the night in Cao Bang and use it as a jumping-off point for visiting the waterfall.
Bookaway.com is the best way to book bus and train tickets in Vietnam and you can check bus schedules from Hanoi to Cao Bang (and back again).
Where to Stay in Cao Bang
If you don’t mind staying a bit out of town then consider Luong Son Homestay Ecolodge. The bamboo huts are rustic but clean and comfortable. And the staff at this homestay are wonderful! They can also help by arranging a motorbike rental or guided tour of Ban Gioc Waterfall.
How to Get to Ban Gioc Waterfall
If you are comfortable riding a motorbike, a bike ride is one of the most enjoyable ways to get to the falls thanks to the scenic views on highway DT206. Motorbikes are available to rent from most guest houses in Cao Bang for around $10-15 USD per day.
Alternatively, many accommodations in Cao Bang can arrange a day trip to the falls by a hired car with a driver but this can be more expensive and taking a public bus is a more budget-friendly option. Several times a day, small local buses run directly from Cao Bang to Ban Gioc Waterfall and back again. From the main bus stop in Cao Bang, just look for buses marked “Thác Bản Giốc“.
When you’re ready to return from the waterfall you’ll need to head back to the main road to catch the bus back to Cao Bang. The last return bus is usually in the late afternoon, but this time can vary so be sure to ask when the last one is for that day.
If you choose to use public transportation to visit Ban Gioc Waterfall you should go in the morning. That way you’ll have plenty of time for exploring the falls without worrying about missing the last bus back to Cao Bang.
The entrance fee for Ban Gioc Waterfall is 45,000 VND (or around $2.00 USD) and if you choose to ride on the bamboo rafts it’s an additional 45,000 VND per person.
What to Bring
Ban Gioc is slowly growing in popularity but the location is still fairly remote so it’s recommended to bring snacks, a light lunch, and water. There are some food stalls at the entrance but they are somewhat overpriced so it’s better to bring your own.
You should also wear comfortable shoes for hiking and a change of clothes since you’ll probably get wet during your visit.
Other Sites Near Ban Gioc Waterfall
Since you are headed to the falls, you might as well make a day trip out of it and see some of the other sites that the area offers. To fully explore the falls, there are footpaths that lead further up the jungle to see the other tiers of the falls. Make sure you are wearing proper footwear. The paths are pretty steep and it’s probably best to only do these treks in the dry season considering how slippery the rocks can be.
Be sure to bring a sarong if you want to visit the nearby Truc Lam Phat Tich Pagoda, found opposite the falls. It’s a steep climb but once you reach the Pagoda, you’ll be rewarded with a great viewpoint – a panorama that looks straight down into the valley with a spectacular view of the falls.
Just a few miles from the falls is an impressive limestone cave full of stalactites and interesting rock formations. The Nguom Ngao Cave was once used as a hiding place for the Communist leaders of Vietnam. A long walkway leads through the cave which is beautifully lit making it easy to visit without a guide or flashlight.
When is the Best Time to visit Ban Gioc Falls?
Ban Gioc Falls are beautiful regardless of the season so the falls can be visited throughout the year. During the monsoon season, the falls are full and the water is transparent. However, heavy rains are frequent and it’s the busiest season to visit the falls so expect to encounter crowds. I visited during the dry season, which starts around September in Vietnam.
I liked visiting during the dry season since there was less rainfall and fewer crowds. At the end of the dry season, the dam of the Quay Son River releases water in the afternoon, which brings the falls up to a full flow so you will still be amazed by these beautiful waterfalls no matter what time of the year.
Now you know how to visit Ban Gioc Waterfall on your own! If you have questions, feel free to ask them below.
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Carrie Back – About the Author:
Carrie is a part-time travel writer and full-time globetrotter based in Southeast Asia. Her most recent adventures include working in the Bolivian Amazon jungle, surfing in Sri Lanka, and exploring Laos via a slow boat up the Mekong River. She’s a slow travel enthusiast and loves to write about her experiences abroad.