Contrary to bustle life in the capital just a few hours away, secluded from tourists flocking to Mai Chau or Cuc Phuong national park nearby, Pu Luong is a dreamy oasis in the northern mountainous area of Thanh Hoa province, where local people still make their livings in traditional ways. Hidden in the middle of the primeval rainforest and connected to modernization just by small and dusty roads, this secret retreat is even lesser-known to domestic tourists now. Though it doesn't have a convenient to access, the true beauties lying in the nature reserve, awe-inspiring landscapes and the unique culture of ethnic groups still easily blow you away once you set your foot here.
If you love Pu Luong at first sight, follow our travel experts' guide below to arrange your first-ever visit there!.
As Pu Luong is only 160km from Hanoi, you can get there after going along the National Highway No. 6 then turn to Route 15c, passing by Mai Chau then finally reach Pu Luong. It seems difficult to reach there even though you know that way as it is not located near the main highway and connected to the world only through the winding and steep roads. Hence, all you need is a local skillful and experienced driver and a good minivan, which could be easily arranged by Asianway Travel upon request. Don't hesitate to send us your request if you want to have a wonderful time here.
From Ho Chi Minh City or other provinces especially in the South of Vietnam, it is recommended to take a flight to Thanh Hoa, then transfer to a minivan to reach Pu Luong.
Nestled in the highland of Thanh Hoa but near Cuc Phuong National Park of Ninh Binh and Mai Chau, Hoa Binh, Pu Luong has tropical rainforest climate, which makes it much cooler and more pleasant than the cities or towns nearby even in the hot summer days.
Pu Luong takes pride in its stunning rice terraces, thus, there are two periods of time to admire the magnificent beauty of these fields.
Settled in the rural area of Thanh Hoa Provinces and bounded by the lush green forest as well as mountain ranges, Pu Luong is totally secluded place even for Vietnamese people. However, as a home to Kinh, Muong and Thai ethnic groups, it holds a diversity of culture, architecture, social norms and rituals as well as amazing activities. If you have 3-4 days in Pu Luong, try to experience all of the following things:
There are only a few accommodation choices like hostel or hotels or resort in Pu Luong as tourism is under development here, thus, it is best to stay in a homestay with Thai or Muong people. Most of their houses are stilt ones with thatched roofs, wooden floors raised by several pillars and used for multiple purposes from eating, playing, working to ancestors worshiping. Staying in a local people' house grants you a chance to witness their daily lives, try foods and drinks they make, know how they make a living or do religious rituals. In the harvest time, you could also take part in their parties or festivals that last from morning until night.
Besides admiring the magnificent landscapes gifted to this wonderland, let's take a closer look at their traditional way of producing rice on the terraces to appreciate this precious product after that. From plowing, cultivating, seeding to fertilizing and harvesting, choose your time to visit and do farm work at least for a day in a way that the locals do for centuries. That helps you to understand the ethnic culture in depth.
Never miss Don Street market when visiting Pu Luong as it is one of a few places in Vietnam in which people still barter their products for equal-valued goods from others instead of selling them for money. Normal goods in this market are local foods, cattle, vegetables, rice, wines, and their hand-woven clothes or scarfs. This market is periodically held on every Thursday and Sunday so make sure your plan fits it.
Thai and Muong people are renowned for their specialties with traditional flavors kept for centuries like grilled fish on leaves, colorful sticky rice, steamed or grilled chicken seasoned with Thai spices, bamboo-tube rice (rice cooked in a bamboo tube), roasted Co Lung duck, roasted Muong pig, wild banana flower salad, picked bamboo and so on.
Thus, never hesitate to taste their home-made dishes especially when you are invited or staying in their stilt house. It is even more interesting if you can learn their traditional recipes while cooking with them in homestays.
Pu Luong is dotted with isolated yet beautiful villages in the valley, on the way to Pu Luong Peak or on the top of some hills.
This village offers a wide range of stilt house and retreats with rice terraces right beside. As it is located near the main highway, you should choose to stay at this village and then just walk freely to explore it and meeting the locals there.
Deeply hidden in the core zone of Pu Luong nature reserve, in Kho Muong valley, this rustic village is hardly affected by urbanization. This serene village is the home to White Thai people who make a living mostly by planting rice, corn and cassava, thus, the rice terraces there are the most attractive one in Pu Luong. Besides the multi-layer rice fields, Kho Muong takes pride in its green forest and limestone hills surrounded. Spare a couple of hours to explore Kho Muong cave and the underground river system with a length of about 2.5 km right under it. You will be amazed by the glorious stone blocks and stalactites of all figures and colors.
For domestic tourists, this small land is called "a little Sapa" in Thanh Hoa provinces due to the rustic beauty, the high location and low temperatures throughout the year. Located on the top of Pha He, Pha Chien mountain ranges, this place is a challenge to even the locals to reach due to the winding roads and landslides especially in storm season. However, people can't help coming there to admire the majestic scenery of old villages hidden between the wildness and blooming flowers like plum or peach blossom.
This beautiful village is named after the stream running through it- Hieu stream which is originated from Pu Luong Peak. Unlike the above one, this village is famous for the giant waterwheels standing on the running water, surrounded by peaceful rice fields that turn yellow right in the harvest season. Breathtaking scenes in this village also include 5 waterfalls called Hieu waterfall that cool down the temperate in the whole area, especially in the summer.
If you are in love with handicraft, take a chance to join a class in Pu Luong to learn how to weave clothes, make baskets or bamboo furniture yourself. All the classes are taught by Thai people, who are famous for high-quality handicrafts for years. It is also one of the traditional things they still keep until now and pass down from generation to generation. The beautiful kinds of stuff will highlight the trip and help you understand thoroughly the culture of local people here.
In Thai ancient language, Pu Luong means "the highest peak", that means there are several magnificent trekking routes to Pu Luong. For short-time visitors, the short trekking loops of 5km is recommended as it covers the stunning spots on the way. More interestingly, at the end of the journey, when you reach the peak, you will have a panoramic view of Pu Luong nature reserve with mountain ranges, lush green forests, white streams surrounding the majestic rice terraces. Bring your tent to go camping there and have a lunch break on the top of Pu Luong.
For something a little bit adventure but still authentic, try to cruise down a Cham stream on traditional bamboo rafts and watch local farming life on either side. You can use paddles to make your bamboo "ferry boat" move faster or catch fish in the way that Thai people do for such a long time ago. After the cruise, take a short walk to admire the peaceful scenery with the giant waterwheels nearby.
Hieu waterfall is the nearest one in Pu Luong and could be reached when you visit Hieu village. Other waterfalls - May and Mo are quite far from the center of the town but offer more breath-taking scenes. May waterfall (or Cloud Waterfall) is symbolized by 9 water steps, which looks like a white scarf from above. Mo waterfall (Muon waterfall), one of the greatest waterfalls in Thanh Hoa provinces with 43 small streams and 500m tall, is well-known for a Muong people' ancient love story.
There is a number of trekking routes in Pu Luong but here are 3 most beautiful ones:
All of them pass through the rainforest, the serene villages with friendly people and marvelous rice terraces alongside.
These routes could be arranged with your homestay with a local guide but make sure to check the devices the provide before going.
If you want to stay in a luxury place but are still willing to experience authentic activities with local people in Pu Luong, you should spend several nights in Pu Luong retreat. With comfortable bungalows overlooking fantastic rice terraces and pristine valley below, 1 traditional stilt house, an open-air restaurant, an infinity pool, spa area, and a rock garden, it offers a sweet escape from city life and the opportunity to immerse yourself in the wild nature here. You can enjoy a day without doing nothing but lying down in spa area and see clouds flying out of the window, enjoy the glorious sunset on the infinity pool and mouth-watering food in the romantic restaurant.
If you don't have enough time to trek or hike, just arrange a cycle tour throughout the villages of Pu Luong. The roads there are built between the quiet farming hamlet of ethnic people, stunning rice terraces and clean streams, thus, it is quite steep and suitable for adventure junkies.
Normally it will take 2-3 days to explore the whole area of Pu Luong Nature Reserve, thus, you should include this secret hideaway with Mai Chau and Cuc Phuong national park to have a perfect adventure and culture expedition. Besides Pu Luong, there are still some stunning lesser-known destinations that near Mai Chau, Cuc Phuong, take a look: