The Ban Gioc is undoubtedly the largest and most beautiful waterfall in Vietnam. It is 30 meters high and 300 meters wide with the water flowing from 3 levels. It is fed by the Quay Son River and is part of the Cao Bang Non-Nuoc Geopark, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The location is directly on the border of Vietnam and China, so you can see Vietnamese tourists on one side of the falls, and Chinese on the other. They both take rafts to get closer to the massive main falls of Bang Gioc. On the Vietnamese side, some other small waterfalls can be admired to the left of their big brother.
I visited Ban Gioc in March 2023, approaching on a motorbike from the town of Cao Bang, which is on the Vietnamese side and the post describes that experience.
The visit to Ban Gioc is another example when the destination itself wasn’t the only beautiful thing to see. The whole ride there, through the countryside filled with karsts, observing local minorities doing their daily work, was simply mindblowing.
At the moment of writing this article, the ticket to Ban Gioc Waterfall costs 40,000 VND per person. Motorbike parking is an additional 10,000 VND and going on a raft is 50,000 VND.
If you want to get closer to the falls, it can be done on the raft. The journey takes around 10-15 minutes and costs 50,000 VND. You will get the chance to take nice photos from different angles than those on the land plus you will feel the power of the falling water even more.
When to go?
The waterfall can be visited at any time of the year, but depending on the season, it can be more or less impressive. The good point is that it never dries up.
The wet season in the Cao Bang region lasts from June to September and the dry season from October to May. The wet season obviously means more water and more breathtaking views. However, the water gets a dark brown colour and you won’t be able to get too close on the rafts, at least if you plan to stay dry.
I visited at the end of March and Ban Gioc looked wonderful, even though the weather was cloudy and quite cold. The additional benefit was that it wasn’t as busy as it usually gets in high season. I was perfectly satisfied with my visit.
To sum up, don’t be discouraged to visit Ban Gioc in the dry season. It is a magnificent place and you will certainly like it. If you want to see the falls at their best, plan your trip at the end of the rainy season, around August and September.
How to get there?
Most people use Cao Bang as a base for a trip to Bang Gioc, and so did I. From there, you have three options: renting a motorbike, taking a public bus, or arranging a taxi. You may also think of joining an organized tour from Hanoi, which usually covers Ba Be Lake and other interesting sights en route.
It has always been my preferable way of travelling in Asia. There are a few decent rental places such as Green Riders House. Alternatively, you can ask for a bike in your hotel or homestay and certainly, they will help you to arrange one. Motorbike will give you the possibility to visit not only Ban Gioc Waterfall but also other attractions in the region, such as Núi Mắt Thần Mountain.
The minibus goes directly to the falls and costs 70,000 VND for the two-hour trip. It leaves frequently but I suggest asking about the current schedule at your accommodation.
It only makes sense if you travel in a bigger group. Always negotiate with the driver and ask at your accommodation what’s the appropriate price.
Where to stay?
I spent a night at GiaBinh Homestay in Cao Bang and it was easily one of the best homestays during my 5-month Vietnamese road trip. The room was clean, spacious, and nicely decorated. The host immediately made me feel at home and shared some useful tips about my next destination.
If you don’t want to stay in Cao Bang, there are also nice homestays in stone houses in the village not far from Ban Gioc Waterfall.
How long to stay?
Ban Gioc Waterfall and other attractions in that area can be easily discovered during a 1-day trip, especially if you travel on a motorbike. It’s also doable by bus but probably you need to limit the trip to the waterfall and nearby cave only.
Other interesting places in the area
I recommend making use of your day and doing a loop in that area. Start in Cao Bang and follow the road QL3 and then DT206 all the way to Ban Gioc. Then visit Truc Lam Phat Tich Pagoda and the Tiger Cave. After that head back on the road DT206 until Trung Khanh, where you take a turn off to the road DT211 leading towards Nui Mat Than Mountain and Thang Hen Lake. In the end, join back the road DT205 and then QL3 bringing you back to Cao Bang.
The itinerary can be easily done on a motorbike but you need to start early. If you travel by bus, probably you need to limit yourself to Ban Gioc, Truc Lam Phat Tich Pagoda, and the Tiger Cave which are all in the same region.
Truc Lam Phat Tich Pagoda
The temple was built on the top of the mountain opposite the waterfall, from where you can admire the beautiful panoramic view of Ban Gioc. It’s about15 minutes uphill walk.
Tiger Cave / Nguom Ngao Cave
The cave is located about 4km from Ban Gioc Waterfall, so can be easily visited even without a motorbike. It was created by an underground river and was previously used as shelter during the war with China in 1979. Today visitors have two options for the visit: a shorter one which takes about half an hour and costs 45.000 VND and a longer one, which takes about 1,5 hours and costs 195.000 VND. If you choose the longer one, the guide will accompany you and you will be provided with a headlamp, water shoes, and a reflective vest. The cave is wonderfully lit and after visiting the caves in Phong Nha, Tiger Cave or Nguom Ngao Cave was my second favourite in Vietnam.
Nui Mat Than / Angel Eye Mountain
The mountain is truly a hidden paradise. To get there, put Cao Bang Camping in your navigation. The narrow road through the village becomes a dirt road, leading down into an amazing valley. This mountain is also called the Angel Eye mountain, due to the huge hole near its top. There is a small waterfall to the right of the plain and camping is available. Must be an amazing experience, especially with the sky full of stars! In the rainy season, the lake is created in the central area of the valley, probably making it even more photogenic.
Thang Hen Lake
Located right next to Nui Mat Than Mountain. You can take a boat trip or simply sit down and relax by the water’s edge observing nearby mountains that are being reflected in the lake.
Small and calm city, without major tourist attractions but pleasant to walk around. It’s mostly an overnight stopover for most of the people heading to Ban Gioc Waterfall.
Pho Kim Dong Street is the place where locals hang out in the evenings and where you will find tasty street food. It’s also nice to stroll around the riverside of Song Bang.