For those who want to get off the beaten path and escape the city noise, Thac Ba Lake is the ideal destination. Nestled in Yen Bai's captivating landscapes, this hidden gem boasts sparkling waters, picturesque mountains, and lush greenery.
1. Where is Thac Ba Lake (Ho Thac Ba)?
As the biggest man-made lake in Vietnam, Thac Ba Lake Yen Bai (also known as Ho Thac Ba) covers a large area of around 23,400 hectares. Located 130 kilometers west of Hanoi, this destination has a history that dates back to the 1970s.
The lake was formed in 1962 as part of a massive dam on the Chay River for the Thac Ba Hydroelectric Plant. Before that, there were hills, waterfalls, and forests in the area, but they were swept when the river’s water rose through the dam. Nowadays, only the hilltops remain visible above the water, resembling newly-created islands. The lake derives its name from one of the disappeared waterfalls.
Thac Ba Lake dam serves a vital role in Northern Vietnam’s energy production. Beyond that, it has also become a beloved destination for eco-tourism and outdoor enthusiasts. The tranquil waters here offer opportunities for boating, fishing, and various water sports, while the diverse ecosystem surrounding the lake beckons nature lovers.
>>> Are you a first-time traveler? Our comprehensive Vietnam travel guide will ensure your comfort and safety!
2. What to explore at Thac Ba Lake Vietnam?
2.1. Take a boat trip
One of the best ways to soak in the tranquil ambiance of Thac Ba Lake is by taking a boat trip. Cruising through the crystal-clear waters, surrounded by lush hills and scattered islands, is an enchanting experience. As the boat glides along, the rhythmic lapping of the waves creates a soothing symphony, allowing you to unwind in nature's calming embrace. Don't forget your camera, as the breathtaking vistas here are perfect for capturing the essence of this wonder.
2.2. Visit Thuy Tien Cave
For adventurous souls, Thuy Tien Cave awaits. Accessible by boat, this cave beckons explorers with its intriguing stalactite formations and fascinating history. It served as a base for Vietnamese forces during the war. Inside the cave, you will find a stair that leads to the top of the island. This is a perfect viewpoint to admire the surrounding scenery. Taking a guided tour is recommended to learn about the cave's history and all the legends associated with it.
2.3. Stop by Xuan Long Cave
Xuan Long Cave is another fascinating attraction near Thac Ba Lake. The cave offers a captivating interplay of light and shadows as sunlight filters through the openings, creating a magical atmosphere. It is said that if tourists enter Xuan Long Cave through the right entrance, they can immediately feel a warm sensation on their skin. Meanwhile, if they choose the left entrance, they can feel cool air blowing out from the cave. Venturing deeper, you will discover unique geological wonders that were shaped over millennia.
>>> Want to get off the beaten path and discover more hidden gems in the area? Check out our North Vietnam itinerary!
2.4. Climb Cao Bien Peak
Cao Bien Peak is the highest point of the majestic mountain range surrounding Thac Ba Lake. Thus, a trek to the peak will be a satisfying experience for outdoor enthusiasts. It takes approximately 3.5 hours traversing through dense forests to reach the top. Once there, you will be rewarded with a panoramic view of the lake and its green islands. Have a post-hike picnic with your loved ones on the summit and savor the breathtaking vista here.
2.5. Visit Ngoi Tu Village
To delve into the region’s cultural heritage, a visit to Ngoi Tu Village is highly recommended. Many ethnic minorities call this place home. The village exudes an old-world charm, with traditional stilt houses, ancient temples, and friendly villagers who will welcome visitors with open arms. Engage in the vibrant local life, learn traditional crafts, and witness age-old rituals that have stood the test of time here!
3. What to eat on a trip to Thac Ba Lake?
A trip to Thac Ba Lake offers wonderful opportunities to indulge in the rich and diverse flavors of the local cuisine. Here are some delightful dishes you should try:
- Freshwater fish: Since Thac Ba is renowned for its abundant fish, don’t forget to savor the local freshwater delicacies! Enjoy dishes like "ca nuong" (grilled fish), "goi ca" (raw fish salad), or "canh ca ro" (fish soup) for a true taste of the lake's bounty.
- Xoi ngu sac: Translating to "five-color sticky rice", this vibrant dish features sticky rice tinted with natural colors from various ingredients like pandan leaves, turmeric, and magenta plant leaves. It is usually served with shredded chicken or fried shallots on top.
- Thit lon cap nach: If you're adventurous and curious about the local delicacies, try thit lon cap nach, which is fermented pork made from free-range pigs raised by the locals.
- Com lam: Com lam is another popular dish in the region, consisting of sticky rice cooked inside bamboo tubes. This cooking method imparts a subtle bamboo aroma to the rice, enhancing its flavor. Com lam is often served with grilled meat or fish, creating a delightful and satisfying meal.
- Ga doi nuong: This mouth-watering dish revolves around the art of grilling "ga doi", or mountainous free-range chicken, which is known for its tender and flavorful meat. The chicken is marinated in a medley of fragrant herbs, spices, and local ingredients that infuse it with a delightful aroma and taste.
>>> Discover more Northern Vietnamese foods and let these delectable dishes tantalize your journey!
4. Tips for a memorable trip to Thac Ba Lake Vietnam
4.1. How to get to Thac Ba Lake?
To get to the lake, visitors traveling from Hanoi have several options:
- By train: There are regular trains connecting Hanoi to Yen Bai, which take around 5 hours. Once you reach Yen Bai City, you can take a taxi or motorbike taxi to get to the lake, which is about 35 kilometers (22 miles) away from the city center.
- By bus: Another way is to take a bus from My Dinh Bus Station to Yen Bai City. You can find various bus companies operating on this route.
- By private vehicle: If you prefer more flexibility and convenience, you can rent a car or motorbike in Hanoi and drive to Thac Ba Lake. The journey offers picturesque views of the Vietnamese countryside, making it a pleasant road trip.
If you want to travel on your own steam, most of the journey will be on the main roads. For the last couple of kilometers, however, the journey will take you through local villages. As you approach your destination, the roads will become noticeably rougher. Thus, it is advisable to travel during daylight hours.
4.2. The ideal time to go to Thac Ba
As with any destination in Northern Vietnam, the best time to visit Thac Ba Lake is during the cooler and drier months, which span from October to April. This period includes the seasons of autumn, winter, and early spring. With mild weather, lower humidity, and clear skies, autumn is the most ideal. Winter is also quite pleasant for visitors despite the cold, thanks to the dry weather.
The summer months (May - September) might not be the best time to visit the lake. This period experiences the rainy season with higher humidity and occasional downpours. The rains can lead to fluctuating water levels and muddy trails, which may hinder outdoor activities and sightseeing.
>>> Read more: Seasons in Vietnam: The Ultimate Travel Guide from A to Z
4.3. Suggested Thac Ba itineraries
To make the most of your visit, here are two itineraries that will show the best of Thac Ba Lake and its surrounding wonders:
4.3.1. Hanoi - Thac Ba - Hanoi
Day 1: Hanoi - Thac Ba Lake
- Morning: Depart early from Hanoi to Thac Ba.
- Afternoon: Set out on an enchanting boat trip to explore the tranquil waters of Thac Ba Lake. Visit the nearby Thuy Tien Cave for a spectacular viewpoint of the sunset.
- Evening: Stop at a local eatery to savor the freshwater fish caught from the lake, complemented by a delightful assortment of Vietnamese delicacies.
Day 2: Thac Ba Lake - Hanoi
- Morning: Rise early and trek to Cao Bien Peak. Enjoy a satisfying breakfast amidst the awe-inspiring scenery here.
- Afternoon: Spend the afternoon by the lake, engaging in tranquil activities like reading a book or simply enjoying the peaceful ambiance.
- Evening: Check out of your accommodation and return to Hanoi.
4.3.2. Hanoi – Thac Ba – Nghia Lo – Hanoi
Day 1: Hanoi - Thac Ba Lake
- Morning: Depart early from Hanoi. Savor a delightful lunch featuring regional Vietnamese dishes.
- Afternoon: Journey to Xuan Long Cave and unravel the mysteries as you venture into its depths.
- Evening: Check into your accommodation and have a restful night's sleep.
Day 2: Thac Ba Lake - Nghia Lo District
- Morning: Trek to Cao Bien Peak to witness the breathtaking sunrise over the lake.
- Afternoon: Continue your journey towards Nghia Lo, a scenic highland district in Yen Bai Province.
- Evening: Opt for a homestay with a local family in Nghia Lo for a truly authentic experience. Enjoy a home-cooked dinner and immerse yourself in their culture.
Day 3: Nghia Lo District - Hanoi
- Morning: Take a leisurely stroll around Nghia Lo, relishing the fresh mountain air and the simple charm of this highland town. Visit the local market and interact with the friendly locals.
- Afternoon: After lunch, depart from Nghia Lo and return to Hanoi.
Aside from Yen Bai, Vietnam boasts a wide range of other destinations to explore, such as Phu Quoc, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Da Nang, and Ha Long. Each offers its own unique charm, making the country an incredible treasure trove for travelers seeking diverse experiences.
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The allure of Thac Ba Lake lies not only in the breathtaking landscapes but also in the diverse activities it offers, from boat trips and cave explorations to mountain treks. Whether seeking adventure or peaceful serenity, this hidden gem provides an unforgettable escape from the bustling world. With its unique charm and natural beauty, Thac Ba Lake stands as a must-visit for those seeking an authentic travel experience in Vietnam.