Have you ever dreamed of exploring a place surrounded by beautiful landscapes and home to a wide variety of wildlife? If so, then head to Vietnam’s Central Highlands! While Vietnam is known for its stunning natural landscapes, only a few tourists have actually ventured into the central region of the country. This area is close to Cambodia and Laos and home to the five provinces of Tay Nguyen and covers a vast area of 65,000 sq. km.
So if you want to get away from the hustle bustle of Vietnam’s major cities, consider visiting the Central Highlands. Aside from the stunning landscapes, the area is also rich in cultural heritage.
Brief History of the Central Highlands
For several centuries, the Central Highlands is home to the indigenous Degar people and some other ethnic groups belonging to the Cham Dynasty. The place is avoided by ethnic Vietnamese groups believing that it’s a savage place that’s home to many dangerous animals and tribes. But when the French started colonizing Vietnam, they took advantage of the Central Highland’s rich and fertile soil and started growing crops in the area. When the South Vietnamese government found out about it, they started colonizing the region, which is why the Central Highlands is now home to the Kinh tribes (ethnic Vietnamese).
Aside from the Kinh tribes, several ethnic minorities have considered the Central Highlands their home and have since been fighting in order to preserve their cultural identity. In fact, their struggles have resulted in numerous uprisings during early 2000, which explains why the place was considered off-limits to tourists. But the situation nowadays is more relaxed. Exploring the Central Highlands is safe, although it’s highly recommended to hire a local guide especially when visiting the remote villages.
Hiring a Local Guide and Acquiring Permits
As previously stated, the Central Highlands used to be off-limits to visitors due to the conflicts between the government and the ethnic minorities. Although the situation is so much better now, the authorities still keep a close eye on the area. Thus, the number of tourists who come here are often limited, making it a perfect destination for those who want to explore off-the-beaten paths.
Hiring a local guide is highly recommended when exploring the Central Highlands of Vietnam. The guide will also help you in acquiring the necessary permits, which is needed when visiting remote towns and villages. Although exploring the area of Kon Tum does not require acquiring permits, visiting with a guide who speaks the local language is a great way to learn more about the local culture.
What Places to Visit in the Central Highlands
The Central Highlands region is vast and each area offers different things for tourists to experience and explore. All in all, it has five provinces and you may need to spend more than a week to be able to explore all these provinces. But if you have limited time, you can simply visit a few places.
When visiting Buon Ma Thuot, tourists have to join pre-organized tours. The tour will take them to explore nearby villages. It’s possible to explore the area on your own but some of the hamlets around the area would require police permits, which you can only acquire through a local guide. But if you simply want to enjoy the stunning landscapes and sceneries, then a permit may not be necessary.
Adventurous travelers who want to trek the Central Highlands should head to Pleiku. This place is a great base for exploring the region’s ethnic minority villages. Some of these villages can be explored even without a permit. But for a more enjoyable experience, consider hiring a guide who knows the area well and is familiar with the trails.
Best Time to Visit the Central Highlands
The Central Highlands of Vietnam is great to visit all year round, thanks to its ideal location, which is up in the mountains. Here, the climate is always cooler and less humid compared to the other major cities in the country such as Ho Chi Minh. So whether you plan on visiting Vietnam in summer or winter, you can always include the Central Highlands on your itinerary.
Visiting the region is totally safe. Just make sure you follow the rules and be respectful of the local culture. Do not go around mingling with the kids and handing out gifts. Be very discreet and avoid flashing your expensive cameras and gadgets. The presence of police officers is very visible in the area so safety and security should not be a concern when visiting the remote towns and villages. Acquiring the necessary permits might be a hassle, but once you get there, you will realize that it’s really worth it. The Central Highlands is no doubt, one of the most beautiful places in Vietnam that are still not spoiled by tourism.