Hanoi – the capital of Vietnam – has attracted an increasingly large number of visitors recently due to its unique contradiction between the old and the new, the past and the present, as well as the conservative and the modern. Most tourists in Hanoi also want to experience short trips away from this city during their stay, as the landscape in areas surrounding Hanoi is very diverse.
While Halong Bay and Sapa are the two most popular options for a weekend getaway from Hanoi, there are more lesser-known yet not less impressive alternatives. As a non-local who lived in Hanoi for one year and travelled extensively during that period, I’d like to share with you 3 of my most favorite destinations for a weekend getaway from Hanoi. Whether you want to quiet trip for relaxation or a healthy trip with chances to exercise, these destinations can all cater to your needs.
Travel to Moc Chau from Hanoi
Moc Chau is an ideal destination for anyone who wants to temporarily escape the searing heat of Hanoi’s summers. Situated 200km from Hanoi, Moc Chau is easily accessible by both cars and motorbikes. You can also take a bus to Moc Chau from My Dinh or Yen Nghia bus stations in Hanoi with the one-way fare from 130000 to 140000 VND.
Accommodation in Moc Chau
Moc Chau is a highland area, which is why its climate is milder and cooler than Hanoi’s all year round. Due to the town’s recent increase in popularity among travelers, Moc Chau’s tourism facilities have also developed quite fast. You can find many types of accommodations in Moc Chau, ranging from cheap homestays with locals to luxurious hotel rooms. Another interesting option for accommodation in Moc Chau is Moc Chau Arena Village – an area featuring deluxe cabin rooms in a local style.
What to do in Moc Chau
Moc Chau is most famous for its green tea hills. While the local green tea with its unique taste is a perfect holiday gift, tea hills in Moc Chau are also lovely places for photography. The 2 most popular tea hills for public visitors are the Taiwan Heart Hill (Doi che trai tim Dai Loan) and the Moc Suong Farm Hill (Doi che nong truong Moc Suong).
Moc Chau is also known for its beautiful flower farms and lovely fruit gardens. The availability of flowers and fruits here depend on the seasons. For example, plum flowers bloom all over the place in Moc Chau during the spring. In the winter, Moc Chau features gorgeous farms of winter cress. In the summer, plums are ready for harvest and can be purchased for a very cheap price at various plum gardens in Moc Chau.
While staying in Moc Chau, you can also visit other attractions here such as Ban Ang Pine Forest, Dai Yem Waterfall, Doi Cave and so on. Otherwise, just chill out and enjoy Moc Chau’s fresh air, lukewarm tea and cool weather for a relaxing weekend getaway from Hanoi.
Overview of Ninh Binh
It takes only 2 hours from Hanoi city center to get to Ninh Binh. Coaches from Hanoi to Ninh Binh run very regularly from Giap Bat, My Dinh and Gia Lam stations.
Escape the crowd in Ninh Binh
While Ninh Binh can hardly be considered a non-touristy destination for a weekend getaway from Hanoi, most people often spend only one day there for a boat trip across the caves in Tam Coc or Bich Dong. During my weekend stay in Ninh Binh in April 2016, I realized it was totally possible to have a peaceful weekend getaway in Ninh Binh that did not involve too many touristy activities. We stayed at Ninh Binh Hidden Charm Resort – a brand new 5-star hotel near Tam Coc. The hotel let us borrow bicycles for free, so we had a great time riding bikes across mesmerizing countryside landscape in Ninh Binh. On two sides of the road, we could see vast rice paddy fields complemented by rocks and mountains of different shapes. We also rode past the locals’ houses and observed how they herded their cattle. Not far from our hotel was Thung Nham Ecotourism Resort, where we could do bird watching from 40 different types of birds and taste delicious tropical fruits in their lovely fruit garden. It was overall such a healthy and refreshing weekend getaway from Hanoi for us!
Popular attractions in Thanh Hoa
Thanh Hoa is a province in north-central Vietnam and located only 150km away from Hanoi. The most famous attraction in Thanh Hoa is Sam Son beach. However, this beach is often overcrowded and full of overpriced services. For a relaxing and peaceful weekend getaway from Hanoi, I therefore recommend Pu Luong, which is a picturesque mountainous town in Thanh Hoa. There is a number of fascinating landscape in Pu Luong, such as beautiful rice paddy fields, small clear channels and spectacular mountains. There is quite a number of ethnic minority people living in Pu Luong, so you can get to know more about their unique cultures while staying here as well.
Authentic travel experience in Thanh Hoa
My favorite area in Thanh Hoa Province is Thach Lam Ward in Thach Thanh District. If you are looking for an area where both landscape and atmosphere are totally opposite to Hanoi’s, Thach Lam is the answer! The beauty of the rural scene here is simply stunning. On the way back to Hanoi from our weekend trip in Pu Luong, we drove past this peaceful area and decided to drop by. There was a group of local kids who were swimming and playing boisterously by a channel nearby. My boyfriend wanted to take a dip too, so the kids asked him to join them. The experience was so authentic that momentarily we forgot that we were just tourists.
So, to top it off…
So out of many options for a weekend getaway from Hanoi, Moc Chau, Ninh Binh and Thanh Hoa are my top 3 favorite destinations. While Moc Chau is great for relaxing, Ninh Binh will allow you to commune with nature and Thanh Hoa will surprise you with authentic travel experiences. If you are looking for some alternative experiences that are less touristy for your next weekend getaway from Hanoi, make sure to keep an eye on these three!