Travel guide: Mu Cang Chai – the most majestic terrace of Vietnam


Every year, during grain season, thousands of flocks of tourists and photographers go to mountainous areas in Northern Vietnam for the most scenic rice terraces in the world. Mu Cang Chai (Mù Căng Chải), Yen Bai province, is one of most attractive destinations of all. Personally, I think Mu Cang Chai’s rice fields are even more beautiful than Sapa‘s

You will not only enjoy the majestic and beautiful terraces but also learn the unique and rustic life of H’mong ethnic group. A hard but warm-hearted life – a rare thing in the modern world. Mu Cang Chai’s highlights includemajestic rice terracessticky rice in Tu Le (xôi Tú Lệ)Tu Le hot stream and unique life of ethnic H’Mong. Read on to see what you should do to get the best trip!

In the article: Best time to visit | How to get to Mu Cang Chai | Itinerary by bus | Itineraries by motorbike | Hotels | Combine travelling 

Mu Cang Chai Vietnam Travel guide
Mu Cang Chai – Vietnam

Best time to visit Mu Cang Chai

The best time to visit Mu Cang Chai is from Mid-September to Mid-October during the season when rice fields are turning yellow and ready for harvest. This can be different each year (depending on weather),  so be sure to check out first. BUT from May to Sep is also no less impressive when the rice fields are green. 

You can travel to Mu Cang Chai for 2.5 days with motorbike, or 3 days by bus (overnight on bus). 

Get to Mu Cang Chai by bus from Hanoi

The Hanoi – Mu Cang Chai distance is 280km (about 180 miles), but the road is not very supportive for large vehicle so it often takes about one night  to get there. Consider some of the following bus firms that offer Hanoi-Mu Cang Chai ride:

1. Hung Thanh bus. Add: 162B Tran Quang Khai – Hanoi city, tel: +8443.9274.285. Leave from Hanoi at 7.45pm and arrive at 3.pm

2. Hai Van bus, from My Dinh bus station (at 20 Pham Hung street – Tu Liem – Hanoi) at 7pm. Tel: +84944.82.82.82 or +8443.7223.588

3. Hoang Anh bus, from Giap Bat bus station (on Giai Phong street – Hanoi) at 5pm. Tel: +84984.971.999 or +84912.317.515 

4. Anh Tu in My Dinh station, leave at 5.30pm or 6.45pm. Tel: +8498.6025.569 or +8416.9928.6488

5. Khanh Thuy leave from My Dinh at 7.pm, Tel: +84988.976.321 or +8497.6652.400

>> Check out hotels in Hanoi

Mu Cang Chai's terraces - Yen Bai - VIetnam
Mu Cang Chai’s rice terraces

Mu Cang Chai itinerary for 3 days by bus

Day 1: Get to Mu Cang Chai by bus (from the previous night) and arrive in late afternoon. You can choose to stay overnight in Tu Le (Tú Lệ) or Mu Cang Chai town for a taste of a mountain town.

Day 2: Spend all day to wander on the beautiful terraces, you should rent a motorbike to travel (ask from your hotel or contact: +8429.6263.064 or +84166.568.4574). The region with the most stunning terraces is La Pan Tan village (bản La Pán Tẩn), located on the route from Tu Le to Mu Cang Chai. To get there, you can rent a motorbike, or take a motortaxi (xe ôm) or bus from Tu Le or Mu Cang Chai to La Pan Tan town. And from there is a nice trek up the mountain.

Day 3: Catch a bus back to Hanoi

H'mong girl in Mu Cang Chai - Vietnam
A H’mong girl

Mu Cang Chai trip on motorbikes 

Motorbike is the best choice to for a Mu Cang Chai trip, on which you can easily travel to and stop at anywhere that you feel like to, which will be constant for sure. Some highlights in this itinerary: La Pan Tan terraces, Lim Mong valley (thung lũng Lìm Mông), Khau Pha mountain pass (đèo Khau Phạ – the longest mountain pass in Northern Vietnam). 

Especially, you should deeply go into La Pan Tan area. On the route, there’s a small trail along the valley, take that one and keep going. It will lead you to picturesque views (I found this place thanks to the help of a H’mong guy).

If have 2 days an a half on motorbike, there’re 2 itineraries: 

Itinerary 1 (2.5 day): 

Day 1: Ride to Nghia Lo (Nghĩa Lộ – a town located on the route from Hanoi-Mu Cang Chai) 190km or 120 miles from Hanoi. You should set out soon because night travelling by motorbike is not safe. 

Day 2: Explore the beauty of Khau Pha mountain passLim Mong valley, La Pan Tan then stay overnight in Mu Cang Chai town. 

Day 3: Visit the remaining attractions and back to Hanoi. 

Itinerary 2 (3 day):

Day 1: Go straight to Mu Cang Chai. For th rest of the day, explore Lim Mong valley and Khau Pha pass. Overnight in Mu Cang Chai. 

Day 2: Explore La Pan Tan village and stay overnight in Nghia Lo town. Don’t forget to try specialty snake near Mien Tay hotel. 

Day 3: Visit Suoi Giang (Suối Giàng) then back to Hanoi in the afternoon.

H'mong baby in La Pan Tan village - Mu Cang Chai
A H’mong baby in La Pan Tan village

Hotels and motels

In Mu Cang Chai

Remember to book early during high season.

1. Suoi Mo motel, my favourite, they have very cute double room. Tel: +8429.3878.643 or +84915.842.789

2. Moon motel, tel: +84293.878.929 or +8491.205.88.99 or +84165.6782.888. The motel has wifi connection, breakfast and motorbike rent service.

3. Son Ca motel, contact +84293.878.185 or +84988.981.675

4. Buu Dien guesthouse (Post Office guesthouse), contact Mr.Thanh  +84975.644.965 to book, or ask him for contact if you prefer homestay. 

In Nghia Lo town

This is big town so you have quite many options. Here are two of them to consider:

5. Nghia Lo hotel, Tel: +8429.3870.106 or +8429.3870.428 or +84985.563.563

6. Mien Tay hotel, Tel: +8429.3870.698 or +8429.3871.223

Hotel prices in Nghia Lo range from $8 to $10/double room. 

In Tu Le town

7. Hoang Quan motel has herbal bath service, very interesting. Prices from $8 – $10/double room. Tel: +84293.897.126

8. Xom Vang motel at beginning of Tu Le toward Nghia Lo – Mu Cang Chai, $9/double room. Tel: +84293.897.205 or +84918.177.325 or +8498.2385.440

9. Chuyen Dung hotel + restaurant is quite famous, $11 – $13 / double room. Foods in the hotel are usually sold out very soon, you have to order in advance. The restaurant is famous for sticky rice and chicken. 

10. Pho Nui motel, tel: +8429.3897.115 or +84986.308.761

Lim Mong valley in Mu Cang Chai - Vietnam
Lim Mong valley

Mu Cang Chai combo

You can have a longer trip, from 4 to 6 days, and combine 2 equally impressive places: Sapa + Mu Cang Chai. 

In Northern Vietnam, there’re 3 places that will ensure you a panoramic view of beautiful rice terraces: Sapa, Mu Cang Chai and Hoang Su Phi (Ha Giang).

Learn more: Sapa travel guide | Ha Giang travel guide

Travel guide: Mu Cang Chai – the most majestic terrace of Vietnam
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57 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Dat Hoang,

    Your blog is awesome with plenty of useful information and thank you so much for the info about Mu Cang Chai. Have been scrutinizing the web to find some info on how to get there and looks like noone really knows actually…
    My question is, do you think from sapa, i could catch the train back to hanoi and stopping at Yen Bai to catch a bus/coach from there to Mu Cang Chai? And then back to Hanoi.
    Is it plausible? If so, where could i find the timetable and fares?

    Thanks mate!

    • Hi Mary! Your journey is so interesting! You’re going to visit 2 places where have the most beautiful rice terraces in Vietnam.
      For your question: yes you can! I think you can catch a bus from Yen Bai train station to get Mu Cang Chai. The fare is about $5 / one and There are many bus trips / day.
      Hope my answer is helpful for you!

    • Hi Roy, sorry for late reply!
      For your question – April is not good because this is rainy season. You should visit in May or Jun. This perriod, people will be preparing cultivation.

  2. How come even agencies don’t know how to get there…I asked so many of them or looks like they advise not to as it’s apparently not safe :/ You think it’s all right yeah Dat Hoang. Sorry for this stupid question but im quite intrigued about what travel agencies are telling me! Thanks for your help.

    • Well Marry! Your journey is very interesting but also quite hard and not safe if you (a woman) travel Sapa and Mu Cang Chai alone and do not know our language. You should find a partner or simply buy a tour from travel agencies. There are many travel agencies having Sapa – Mu Cang Chai tour.

    • I usually go to Sapa from Mu Cang Chai by motobike, but you can also go to Sapa by bus, there are many bus going to Sapa from Mu Cang Chai through 32 highway

      • Thanks for your reply.
        I cannot ride a motobike, how can I go around Mu Cang Chai?
        Can you advise which hotel can speak english due to I called Suio Mo hotel but they can’t speak english.

        • The roads to go to villages are not good for big vehicles (like car), so if you can not go by motobike, I think you have to walk or rent a local to carry you.
          I don’t know any hotel that can speak English, I visited Mu Cang Chai twice and in both, I stayed at houses of locals. Sorry!

  3. Thanks for the great post! Was debating between going to Sapa or Mu Cang Chai this weekend and was wondering what the rice terraces at Mu Cang Chai look like right now? Thanks!

  4. Hi Dat!

    Love your blog! I found very useful information here. Do you think the 3rd week of july is a good time to go to Mu Can Chai?

    Thank you!

        • Hello Lisa!
          I couldn’t find the place I say “November is the best time to visit Mu Cang Chai”. I said “Time of grain season usually start from September 15 to October 20.”
          I visited Mu Cang Chai few times so I know the best period is the September 15 to October 20. The grain season might change between years but not too much, just few days.

          • Thank you SO much for the reply.
            Early October is best for me so good to know I can still see the terraces.

            Here is the comment about November :

            Dat Hoang says:

            June 2, 2015 at 2:55 pm

            Yes, it’s good time, sunny and cool rice terraces, but not the best time. The best is November.

  5. Bonjour, Mon nom est Carmen. Je suis du Canada. Je serai au Vietnam du 18 juin au 1 Juillet. Je suis photographe Amateur.
    Avant tout me rendre à Mu Cang Chai et Sapa. Et loger dans la Maison de l’habitant.
    Il serait agréable de m’y rendre avec un (e) partenaire de voyage.

    Voyage avant tout axé sur la photo.

    Soyez bien à l’aise de communiquer avec moi. J’aime aussi voyager en moto.
    Au plaisir.

  6. 66 years old italian man, single and independent traveller, i am planning a 6 weeks visit to north vietnam on next october-november period – my itinerary would be haNOI-YEN BAI-MU CANG CHAI-SIN HO-SAPA-BAC HA-HA GIANG-BA BE NATIONAL PARK-HALONG BAY-HANOI- MY QUESTION IS ONLY ABOUT THE FIRST LEG FROM HANOI (WHERE I WILL ARRIVE FROM BANGKOK ON NEXT 4 OCTOBER) TO SAPA (WHERE I PLAN TO ARRIVE ON SUNDAY AFTERNOON 11 OCTOBER AFTER VISIT SIN HO MARKET ON SAM DAY MORNING). I THINK THAT BOOKING A TRAVEL AGENT TOUR FROM HANOI TO SAPA FOR ONE WEEK WITH CAR,DRIVER,GUIDE WILL CAME VERY EXPENSIVE FOR ONE PERSON. FURTHERMORE I AM INTERESTED IN GOING OFF THE BEATEN TRACK, WHERE TOURIST DO NOT GO, REMOTE VILLAGES WHERE LIFE IS STILL TRADITIONAL AND, MOST IMPORTANT FOR ME, TAKING MANY MANY PHOTOS OF THE LANDSCAPES (RICEFIELDS AND RICE TERRACES) AND PEOPLE TRADITIONAL DRESS. FOR THIS REASON I WOULD LIKE TO INCLUDE IN MY ITINERARY THE BEST VANTAGE POINTS FOR MHY PHOTOS AND THE MOST BEAUTIUL VILLAGES WHERE I WOULD LIKE TO OVERNIGHT. COULD I DO THIS ITINERARY FROM HANOI TO SAOPA BY LOCAL TRANSPORT? COULD I FIND LOCAL GUIDES OR TREKKING AGENTS TO ORGANIZE MY TREKS TO EXPLORE THE YEN BAY REGION? ANY SUGGESTION WOULD BE VERY APPRECIATED – THANKS FOR YOUR COURTESY AND BEST REGARDS

  7. Hello!

    Please, do you know about any bus which is going from Mu Cang Chai to Hanoi in the morning or afternoon?

    Regards,

    Barbara

      • Dear Dat Hoang,

        thank you much for your response!!! There are buses even in morning? Cos our travel agency said there is non :-O

        It there something like a bus to La Pan Tan? Or is it possible to hire a taxi? I am not good in driving a moto 😀

        BTW. great blog!!!

        • La Pan Tan is a small and poor village so it’s hard to hire a taxi and also no bus, but can hire a vehicle that we call “hugged moto” (xe ôm). It’s cheap and very convenient!

  8. Hi Dat Hoang,

    I referred to the response to Babara in the conversation thread on July 14. I am also not very keen on riding a motorbike. Are there bicycle rental shops in Mu Cang Chai town for me to rent a bicycle and explore the area myself instead? If so, is it possible to ride a bicycle to La Pan Tan from Mu Cang Chai town, from your knowledge of distance and terrain. Will like to hear your input on it.

  9. Hello! Thank you so much for this great Information about Mu Cang Chai! We’re thinking about renting a motorbike, do you think a normal Scooter Is enough or should we Rent a Motocross?
    Thanks in advance for your help!!

    • Hi Franziska!
      I’m so sorry for my late reply. I was very busy with my work. For you question, Just normal scooter is enough, I rided it in Mu Cang Chai.
      Hope this answer is still helpful to you!

  10. hello. I want very much to visit this beautiful town, but we go to Vietnam in the end of february 2016. Do you reccomend to visit Mu Cang Chai on February 27th? I understand that the best time to visit is july or september but we have not such an option, so we now have to decide to go to that side or not at all. The most I am afraid off that there will be no rice at all, plain brown terraces and nothing about super mountain view.. couls someone help me? thank you.

  11. Good morning,
    I would like to photograph the Mu Cang Chai flooded rice fields.
    What’s the best time?
    Towards the end of May is a good time?
    It’s very hot? It’s raining?

    Thank you very much for your answer.

    P.s Sorry for my english, I’m italian.

  12. I planning to visit Sa pa and Mu cang chai. Most places on the internet , most of the accomodation are homestays. I really foind it intriguing and great but I am not sure how to find one. Can you please help me out

    Thanks in advance!!! Cheers!

  13. Hello,

    We would like to go to Mu Cang Chai (area) in May 2016. (My husband and I. late 40’s meduim fitness) Which towns can I google for information? I find it very hard to find information. This blog has been very helpful. I do not like to go by bus / prefer car (hire driver) as we can then stop for photos and if the road is too windy. (to rest)
    We would come from Hanoi… what would you reccomend. By train to nearer to pass ? (Sa pa Train) then by car ? So we can have a local driver / guide? who would we contact? and accomodation too? We would like to do some walk / trek 3 to 4 hours at a time. (to enjoy scenery and local life)
    Total trip maybe 4 to 5 days to and from Hanoi. (or nearer town)

    Thanks very much

    Josie

    • Hi Joise!

      I’m so sorry for my late reply! The time you ask is Tet Holiday – the biggest hoilday of Vietnam so I could not reply, sorry!
      About car with driver, you can ask the hotel you stay in Ha Noi for one. About local driver or guide, you can contact Viet Discovery, this is a big tour company in Sapa – http://www.vietdiscovery.com/
      Good luck!

      If you want to talk with me for more question and get replied sooner, you can add my Skype – Atomhoang. Thank you!

  14. Hello,

    First all, congratulations for your good blog! Very useful information.

    We (2 people) are thinking on visiting Mu Cang Chai area next september (from 2nd September). I have some questions and maybe you can help me.

    We will arrive Hanoi on evening 1st September, and 2nd is National Independence holiday, so, do you think we will be able to buy the ticket bus for next morning Saturday 3rd? I suppose maybe the ticket counters will be closed… Where I can buy the tickets? Is possible from internet in advance?

    Regarding to this Holiday, do you think is good to stay in Hanoi 2nd September? I read there is a big march (parade) in front of Ho Chi MInh mausoleum. I am worried about big crowds of people…

    Returning to Mu Cang Chai issue, I know there is 2 ways: 1) Direct bus to Mu Cang Chai (i think it’s bus Hanoi-Lai Chau) or 2) Bus to Yen Bai (bus Hano-Lao Cai) and then transport (van?bus? motorbike?) to Mu Cang Chai. What do you think is better, according to the state of roads, the duration of travel ?

    Do you know the timetable for busest Hanoi to Yen Bai, Hanoi to Mu Cang Chai, and reverse? I think there is a night bus Hanoi to Mu Cang Chai, starting in the evening, do you know what time arrive?

    Thanks in advance!

  15. Hi there,
    Very informative of your blog.
    I be heading to Vietnam in first week of May.
    May I know what would the view of Mu Cang Chai be for that time? Is it still covered with lush green or will it be all brown ready for the next planting season?
    Thanks! =)

    Cheers.

  16. Hello. I am wondering if i coud see the green terrace of Mu Cang Chai on April? I want to see the color ‘green’ haha 🙂

  17. Hello!!
    Thank you for all the great information you have shared on your blog!
    I only advise you to take out the information about the buses from Hanoi to Mu Cang Chai, because one of my Vietnamese friends called all those bus companies and none of them ride to this place.
    And I tried to buy my bus ticket in advance and as you mentioned, I could not buy it. They told me to be at the bus station at 4pm and apparently the bus leaves at 5pm. I hope it works that way.
    Safe travels to everyone!

    • Sorry for my late reply. I was so busy with job.
      I will check the information you provided. It’s a long time and these buses may be no longer work on this route.
      I’m so sorry and thank you for your feedback!

  18. hi
    i will go to hanoi on 22 june
    i have to choose only one rice filed city because we have a limited time
    which one is better sapa or mu chang chai or nghia lo?
    i travel with my quite old parents so i need to know which one is the best and convinient to walk around since i travel with my parents

    thank you

    • I think Sapa is better, it’s easier to reach with a foreigner, especially you travel with old parent. But if you’re looking for a quite and wild place, you should visit Mu Cang Chai. And Nghia Lo, nothing to visit in Nghia Lo, it’s just small town close to Mu Cang Chai.

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