H¥mong women at the roadside around Dong Van, Ha Giang province, northern Vietnam, southeast asia
Christian Goupi/age fotostock
Bordering China and mostly populated by ethnic minorities, Ha Giang province is undoubtedly one of the country’s gems, yet it gets only a trickle of foreign visitors each year. Reasons for this include the distance (it takes a minimum of six hours to drive here from Hanoi, and there are no trains), and the need for a permit to access the more-remote (read more-beautiful) parts of the area. The scenery here seems taken from the pages of a geological fantasy: jagged peaks, rice paddies, twisting roads that improbably wind through the landscape. Highlights include the Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark and Heaven’s Gate—a viewpoint that looks down on a patchwork of terraced rice fields backed by row upon row of forested limestone hills. From its elevated position, you can take in a vista dotted with villages, home to the ethnic peoples whose lifestyles have little changed over the centuries.