Formerly a French hill station, the triple-peaked Ba Vi Mountain (Nui Ba Vi) has been attracting visitors for decades and remains a popular weekend escape for Hanoians. The limestone mountain is now part of the Ba Vi National Park, which has several rare and endangered plants in its protected forest, mammals including two species of rare flying squirrel, and bountiful bird life.
There’s an orchid garden and a bird garden, and hiking opportunities through the forested slopes. A temple dedicated to Ho Chi Minh sits at the mountain’s summit (1276m) – it’s a difficult but beautiful 30-minute climb up 1229 steps through the trees. Fog often shrouds the peak, but despite the damp and mist it’s eerily atmospheric – visit between April and December for the best chance of clear views down to the Red River valley and Hanoi in the distance.
Ba Vi National Park is about 65km west of Hanoi, and the most practical option is to visit as a day trip with a guide and/or hired vehicle from Hanoi, which should cost around US$70. There has been some confusion between attractions near Ba Vi town – which is well away from the park boundaries – and Ba Vi National Park. Make sure your driver/tour operator knows you want the national park.