These destinations, located between 100 and 200 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City, offer affordable options for nature-based activities such as hiking and camping, providing an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. While not ideal for those who prioritize convenience, these places offer memorable experiences and can be on your list for the upcoming National Day (September 1-4).
Nguyen Hien, a tour guide with a Ho Chi Minh City travel agency, recommends a one-day, two-night trip to these five natural attractions.
Cat Tien National Park
Distance: 148 kilometers from HCMC
Cost: 1 to 3 million VND (40 to 125 dollars)
Cat Tien National Park is located in Tan Phu District, Dong Nai Province, which can be reached in about 3 hours by car or motorbike from Ho Chi Minh City. Covering more than 80,000 hectares in Dong Nai, Lam Dong and Binh Phuoc provinces, the park is rich in natural resources and biodiversity.
The park includes the Bau Sau Biosphere Reserve in its southern part, where the Siamese crocodile resides. This freshwater species is native to Southeast Asia. Covering almost 1,600 hectares during the rainy season, Bau Sau is home to 286 Siamese crocodiles. Bau Sau has gained global recognition as an Important Wetland under the Ramsar Convention.
Passing through Cat Tien National Park, travelers can fully enjoy the beauty of nature. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Thu
Exploring Cat Tien National Park over a two-day period costs less than 3 million VND. Depending on their preferences, visitors can choose to spend the night in a homestay, resort or camp before embarking on a forest trek.
Cycling is also a popular alternative to trekking to traverse the forest. Other activities at Cat Tien National Park include boat rides to spot crocodiles in the Bau Sau Biosphere Reserve, exploring ancient trees and spotting nocturnal creatures.
Cat Tien stands out as one of the few places in Vietnam where wildlife can be observed in its natural habitat. This destination is home to endangered animals such as red-faced monkeys, pig-tailed monkeys, black-footed langurs, yellow-cheeked gibbons and lorises, all of which are listed in the World Red Book of Species threatened.
La Ngau River, Dong Nai province
Distance: 192 kilometers from HCMC
Cost: 1-2 million VND ($40-82)
Situated upstream of the La Nga River and nestled amidst the Tanh Linh forest, the La Ngau River offers a serene landscape, ideal for those seeking a respite from the digital world. Visitors can participate in camping activities along the creek, engaging in pastimes such as swimming in the creek and kayaking.
It is recommended to get up early in the morning to enjoy the cool atmosphere before the intensity of the sun increases. Caution is advised in the afternoon as the water flow upstream increases around 5 p.m.
The La Ngau River flows through the Tanh Linh forest, forming an excellent camping destination. Photo by VnExpress/Bich Phuong
Camping options include spontaneous campsites or glamping services. Do Hieu, owner of Boo Camp in La Ngau, says there are only two officially approved campsites, while the rest are impromptu sites.
Full-service camping starts at around 650,000 VND ($27) per person per night, including meals. Reservations are required for the camping service. As the holidays approach, the availability of tents with a good view decreases.
Bu Gia Map National Park, Binh Phuoc province
Distance: 190 kilometers from HCMC
Cost: 1 to 3 million VND ($40 to $125)
Located in the northeast part of Binh Phuoc Province, Phu Nghia Commune, Bu Gia Map District, Bu Gia Map National Park covers more than 25,000 hectares. Within this expanse reside 105 species of mammals, 246 species of birds, and more than 70 species of reptiles, including rare and endangered creatures such as red-faced macaque monkeys.
Coming to the national park, visitors can go trekking, marvel at the groves of tall bamboos and legumes, and discover a range of tree species representative of the forest between the central highlands and the southeast region.
Hikers set up tents near Dak Ca stream in Bu Gia Map national park, Binh Phuoc province. Photo by VnExpress/Kieu Dinh Thap
Visitors can also explore the rescue center focused on the preservation and development of organisms. The center provides insight into the behaviors of primates and other animal species found only in the national park.
During their journey, visitors can camp near Dak Ca Stream and Dak Manh Lake, both of which have clear waters. Visitors also have the chance to enjoy dishes from the S’Tieng ethnic minority, such as bamboo tube rice, roast duck with macadamia leaves, banana wine and their own version of grilled chicken.
Organized tours of the national park are available for around 2.5 million VND ($105). Travelers should only bring their personal hygiene items beforehand. Another budget-friendly option is self-guided hiking, but it involves carrying your belongings and requires jungle experience, fitness and stamina.
Cape Mui Yen, Binh Thuan province
Distance: 237 kilometers from HCMC
Cost: 1-2 million VND ($40-82)
Located in Hoa Thang commune, Bac Binh district, about 4 kilometers from the Bau Trang sand dune, Mui Yen cape remains a wild destination of tourist facilities.
Characterized by gentle hills that extend to Hoa Thang Beach, the state of Cape Mui Yen and its location, approximately 15-20 kilometers from the residential area, make it a self-contained camping destination.
Cape Mui Yen offers visitors the opportunity to fully experience nature in its raw state. Photo by VnExpress/Bich Phuong
First-time campers can rent tents and camping equipment, with expenses totaling between 600,000 and 700,000 VND ($25 to $30) for a two-day package for two people. Visitors can either bring their own food or buy seafood from stalls in Hoa Thang.
Getting to Mui Yen involves traversing difficult terrain, including sandy slopes and paths covered in crushed stones and boulders. For a smooth journey, the ideal is to use a four-wheel drive car.
Dau Tieng Lake, Tay Ninh province
Distance: 80 kilometers from HCMC
Cost: 1-2 million VND ($40-82)
Dau Tieng Lake in Tay Ninh Province is a popular camping spot known for its unspoiled beauty, lush green meadows and fresh air. Rather than camping directly on the lake, many travelers choose to explore Hedgehog Island, in the heart of the lake. Although well known, the island lacks services due to the long boat rides, which makes it more appealing to those who enjoy exploration, nature, privacy and quiet.
View of Dau Tieng Lake from a passenger boat, with the imposing Ba Den Mountain in the distance. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Tuan
Arriving at Dau Tieng Lake, visitors can pick up the wharf at Bo Ho Junction, near Suoi Da Church in Duong Minh Chau Town. This platform is exclusively reserved for passengers heading to Hedgehog Island.
Parking for vehicles is available near the pier. From there, travelers can reach the island by trekking, on foot or by buffalo-drawn carts. It is suggested to keep the contact details of the boat driver for the return trip.
The inhabitants of the island offer dishes such as chicken, language fish, wild vegetables, sweet potatoes and roasted cassava. The cost is around 500,000 VND ($21) per person per night, covering round-trip boat rental for 10 to 15 people.