If you are looking for a quick getaway from Hanoi's hustle and bustle to experience real wilderness, Cuc Phuong National Park is an excellent choice. Cuc Phuong National Park is a large natural park with a diverse ecosystem and a conservation site for endangered species. It is also home to the Muong ethnic minority, who have a distinct culture.
1. Where is Cuc Phuong National Park Vietnam?
- Address: Nho Quan District, Ninh Binh Province
- Cuc Phuong National Park entrance fee:
- Adults: 60,000 VND
- Students: 20,000 VND
- Children above 5 years old: 10,000 VND
- Children under 5 years old: free
Cuc Phuong National Park spans an area of 22,000 hectares. It is spread out over three provinces: Ninh Binh, Hoa Binh, and Thanh Hoa. It is approximately 130 kilometers away from Hanoi and 55 kilometers away from Ninh Binh City. About 70 percent of the total area belongs to Ninh Binh Province.
Cuc Phuong National Park was established in 1962 and is Vietnam’s first and largest national park. It is the habitat of a wide variety of flora and fauna, including a dense forest full of millennia-old trees, botanical gardens, and a plethora of birds, mammals, reptiles, and colorful butterflies. Two animal sanctuaries are also located here.
To be specific, Cuc Phuong National Park is home to 307 bird species, 133 animal species, 122 reptile species, and over 2,000 plant species.
2. What can be found in Cuc Phuong National Park?
2.1. Cuc Phuong Museum
Cuc Phuong Museum is one of the must-see places in Cuc Phuong National Park tours. It comprises over 13,000 exhibits of flora and mushrooms; 450 exhibits of mammals, birds, reptiles, and frogs; 4,000 exhibits of insects; and 300 exhibits of minerals, fossils, and ancient artifacts.
2.2. May Bac Peak (Silver Cloudy Peak)
At an altitude of 648 meters, May Bac Peak is the highest peak in Cuc Phuong National Park. It offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the park's forest and lowlands, as well as the historic capital Hoa Lu and Bai Dinh Pagoda. The trail to May Bac Peak is one of the most exciting hiking trails for intrepid travelers.
2.3. Prehistoric caves
A trip to Cuc Phuong National Park will never be complete without a visit to the majestic caves amidst the forest. Cuc Phuong's rocky outcrops are the locations of priceless paleontological and anthropological remnants, such as a petrified sea reptile that dates to between 200 and 230 million years ago. The numerous mountain caves also contain the remains of prehistoric people who lived in the forest around 7,500 years ago.
- Prehistoric Man Cave: A habitation of primitive humans who lived in Ninh Binh between 7,000 and 12,500 years ago. Here, you will also find two newly found ancient tombs, Neolithic bones, and evidence of stone tools.
- Con Moong Cave: In the language of the Muong ethnic people, “Con Moong” means animals. There is a large, animal-shaped stone at the entrance of the cave. This cave was once inhabited by ancient people and is a significant archaeological site.
- Trang Khuyet Cave (Crescent Cave): This cave is nestled deep in the forest. The entrance to this cave is shaped like a waning moon when viewed from afar.
2.4. Hundred-year-old trees
Another highlight of Cuc Phuong National Park is its large number of ancient trees.
- Dang ancient tree: With a height of 45 meters, a circumference of 5 meters, and a 20-meter-long root system on the ground, this tree has lived for a very long time and draws people with its imposing appearance.
- Thousand-year-old tree: This is the oldest tree in Cuc Phuong National Park. It has a height of 50 meters, a diameter of 5 meters, and its trunk is large enough to be circled by the arms of at least 20 adults.
- Sau ancient tree: With an appealing shape resembling a solid wall, the Sau tree is a great spot for you to rest under its enormous leaf canopy, given its 45-meter height and 10-meter-tall root system.
2.5. Conservation centers
2.5.1. Cuc Phuong Botanical Garden
This is Vietnam's first botanical garden. It opened in 1985 as part of a system of national parks and protected areas. As one of the three botanical gardens in Vietnam that are on the list of International Botanical Gardens, this place aims to maintain genetic resources, rare plants, and establish a semi-wild, protected area for wildlife release programs.
2.5.2. Endangered Primate Rescue Center
The Endangered Primate Rescue Center was founded in 1993 as a result of the cooperation between the Frankfurt Zoological Society and Cuc Phuong National Park. This place is home to more than 180 primates from 15 different species. Some of these primates are very rare, like the Cat Ba Langur, Delacour's Langur, and Grey-Shank Douc Langur. The center helps the animals get ready to live in the wild again by giving them semi-wild environments.
2.5.3. Turtle Conservation Center
This center was founded by the Fauna and Flora International in 1998, and administration was handed over to Cuc Phuong National Park in 2001. The Turtle Conservation Center is the cornerstone for the preservation and conservation efforts of tortoises and freshwater turtles in Vietnam. In addition, it helps raise awareness about the serious threats to turtles.
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3. Guide to your first ever Cuc Phuong National Park tour
3.1. The ideal time to visit Cuc Phuong National Park
Cuc Phuong National Park features a tropical monsoon climate. The average temperature here is about 24.7 degrees Celsius.
The national park is at its best during the dry season, which lasts from December to May. In this period, the weather is cool and bright, perfect for outdoor pursuits. In contrast, during the rainy season, the roads become slick, and insects and leeches are more prevalent, so it is best to stay put then.
Below is a summary of Cuc Phuong weather and travel conditions in its most beautiful season.
- From November to January: Dry and cold. Winter clothing is necessary.
- From January to April: Dry and sunny. This is the ideal season for bird-watching.
- From Mid-April to early May: The butterfly season in Cuc Phuong National Park. However, there is a likelihood of rain, and the roads will be slippery, making it dangerous to trek.
>>> Read more: Vietnam weather - the best time to travel to Vietnam!
3.2. The best way to get to Cuc Phuong National Park
Cuc Phuong National Park is an ideal destination for a quick getaway from Hanoi. Travelers can reach there by bus, motorcycle, or car.
3.2.1. By bus
Taking a bus from Hanoi to Cuc Phuong National Park is the best option for those on a tight budget. Bus fares vary depending on the type of bus you board, but it normally ranges between 100,000 - 150,000 VND.
Many bus companies offer pick-up services, while some only pick up guests at Giap Bat Bus Station. You may need to take a taxi or a mototaxi to get to Cuc Phuong National Park from Ninh Binh, as some buses only drop you off at the city center.
3.2.2. By private car
Renting cars is more expensive but more comfortable, especially for foreigners who are not familiar with Vietnamese roads. It is unquestionably a superior option when you travel in a large group, as you will not need to worry about being squeezed on a crowded bus.
3.2.3. By motorbike
Traveling by motorbike is the preferred choice of adventurous travelers. You can easily search for the route on Google Maps to get to the entrance of the park. It will take about 3 - 3.5 hours to go from Hanoi to Cuc Phuong National Park by motorbike.
3.3. Top not-to-be-missed experiences in Cuc Phuong National Park
3.3.1. Cycle around the forest
Cycling is among the most exciting things to do in Cuc Phuong National Park. You can explore the surroundings at your own leisure and have a chance to encounter hard-to-spot Cuc Phuong National Park animals.
3.3.2. Go kayaking
Kayaking on Mac Lake and Yen Quang Lake is a popular activity for visitors to Cuc Phuong National Park. You can float on the lake and take in the stunning natural environment at only 50,000 VND/hour. If you are traveling in a large group, you can organize a kayaking race, which is sure to liven things up.
3.3.3. Butterfly watching
The swarms of butterflies that gather in the park around late spring and early summer are one of the most famous attractions of this place. As the habitat of more than 400 species of butterflies, Cuc Phuong National Park is a perfect location for butterfly watching.
3.3.4. Go Cuc Phuong National Park trekking
A Cuc Phuong National Park hike is the highlight of this destination. Travelers may spend days hiking in the park's dense forest, taking advantage of the many fantastic trekking options available there. You can find ancient trees, caves, and hamlets of the Muong ethnic people along popular hiking trails.
You can ask for a Cuc Phuong National Park map from the park rangers to locate the trailheads. Still, a guided tour is the best way to make the most of any hike. There are also longer hikes, such as those to Ngoc Son Nature Reserve and Pu Luong Nature Reserve, as well as overnight treks and camping expeditions.
3.3.5. See wild animals at night
Taking a wildlife night tour is one of the most intriguing things to do in Cuc Phuong National Park. Depending on the weather, the park rangers will arrange fascinating animal watching activities at night. Many wild animals, such as black squirrels, flying squirrels, roe deer, and tiny carnivores, can be observed. Tourists can make reservations for this thrilling adventure at the central ticket booth.
3.3.6. Camp in the forest
The national park is an ideal location for camping. During the day, you can camp on the flat ground beneath the trees. If you wish to camp overnight, set up your tent on the designated cement areas. Daytime camping is free, but there is a nominal cost for overnight stays.
3.4. Extra tips for your trip to Cuc Phuong National Park
3.4.1. What to pack
- Long-sleeved clothing, a thin sweater, and a raincoat
- Insect repellent
- Thick, high socks (to avoid leeches)
- Sneakers or hiking shoes
- Hats, sunglasses, sunscreen
- Water and food
- A good camera
- Camping tools
3.4.2. What to eat in Cuc Phuong National Park
During your Cuc Phuong National Park tour from Ninh Binh, aside from taking in the beauty of nature, do not forget to try the local specialties. Below are some must-tries that you should not miss out on:
- Goat meat
- “Com chay” (scorched rice)
- Grilled chicken
- Mountain snail
- Muong rice wine
3.4.3. Where to stay in Cuc Phuong National Park?
Regarding Cuc Phuong National Park accommodation, there are three main locations for lodging: the Park Gate area, the Ho Mac area, and the Central area (Bong Hamlet).
- Park Gate area
There are many different kinds of rooms in this area, such as stilt houses, apartments, and guesthouses. Rentals begin at 200,000 VND. This area is also the starting point for all tourist activities, including guided tours, wildlife observation at night, kayaking, and folk shows. In addition, forest-trekking equipment and bicycles can be rented here.
- Ho Mac (Mac Lake) area
Around 1.5 kilometers away from the Park Gate area, the Mac Lake area is a tranquil spot with a refreshing and soothing atmosphere. There are private rooms and shared stilts available. This location is conducive to group activities, campfires, and cultural performances.
- Bong Hamlet (the center of the forest)
It is about 20 kilometers away from the Park Gate area. Due to the lack of electricity at this location, the accommodations here only run a generator for approximately four hours every night. They won't turn on the generator if there aren't enough people staying.
Cuc Phuong National Park and other tourist attractions, like Trang An Complex, Bai Dinh Pagoda, Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, Mua Caves, Tam Coc - Bich Dong, Thung Nham Bird Park, etc., have made Ninh Binh an appealing location for Vietnam travel. The S-shaped land is also home to several fantastic destinations, such as Phu Quoc, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Da Nang, and Ha Long, to name a few. With its stunning natural settings and vibrant culture, Vietnam is undoubtedly an ideal place for your vacation.
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Thanks to its exceptional diversity of flora and fauna, breathtaking natural scenery, and rich culture, Cuc Phuong National Park in Ninh Binh has been a popular tourist attraction for visitors all over the world. A trip to Cuc Phuong will allow you to leave all your worries behind and immerse yourself in the tranquility of nature. Do not hesitate to add it to your Vietnam itinerary, as what it offers will not let you down.
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