Butterflies crowding the national park for their spring breeding season

Time-Transcending Land of Mystery, Cuc Phuong
Visitors to Cuc Phuong National Park in Vietnam are driven by a desire to see butterflies taking over the entire world. To them, nature presents a quiet yet colorful banquet starring exotic flora and fauna of the Southeast Asian country.
“Is it possible to become friends with a butterfly? - It is if you first become a part of nature. You suppress your presence as a human being, stay very still, and convince yourself that you are a tree, grass, or a flower. … They are dainty little creatures that hardly exist at all: they come out of nowhere, search quietly for a few limited things, and disappear into nothingness again, perhaps to some other world…”

ー From <1Q84> by Haruki Murakami ー

Quiet scene at Cuc Phuong National Park

If you are slowly feeling you’ve had enough of the hustle and bustle of the dynamic Hanoi downtown, why not consider heading to some place tranquil and secluded? A 3-hour drive from Hanoi will get you to a land of mystery where you can be in communion with nature. It is Vuon Quoc Gia Cuc Phuong, the very first national park and the largest nature reserve in Vietnam.

Trees in the jungle at the park

National Park Tops World Travel Awards
Despite fewer visits by foreign travelers, Cuc Phuong National Park provides valuable information in the fields of biology, archeology, and geology, having both karst mountains created by limestone, water, wind, and time, and lush primeval forests. It plays a significant role in the country’s biodiversity and is one of the few remaining wildlife havens globally. Nearly 100 species of mammals including endangered langurs, 300 species of birds, 2,200 species of vascular plants, 450 species of insects, and 400 species of butterflies live in the park.
Last year, Cuc Phuong was chosen as the best national park in Asia by the World Travel Awards, which is deemed to be the Oscars of the tourism industry. Exploring the jungle grounds and caves, hiking the mountain trails, observing the ancient vegetation including the famous Thousand Year Old Tree, and communing with various animals that are part of the rare natural environment. These are the ways you can immerse in nature to fully enjoy the benefits Cuc Phuong National Park offers to its visitors.
For each step taken in the primordial forest, raw sensations detecting life energy, natural scents and sounds are awakened. Mosses covering every nook and cranny of the forest paint the whole space even greener. Layers of leaves densely filling the sky would only let sunlight pass from time to time. There, our tired souls can recuperate.

Butterflies during breeding seasons flock to Cuc Phuong National Park

Thousand Year Old Tree and Fluttering Butterflies
The most popular hiking route among tourists is the 5km roundtrip course to see the Thousand Year Old Tree. It takes around three hours. (From the park entrance to the starting point of the trail is about 20km. Park your car or motorcycle at the park center, and enter the trail on foot. The Thousand Year Old Tree can be found 2.2km from there.) You will inevitably feel humble to see the rugged, towering tree that is said to have existed over 1,000 years. How fleeting is human life in the face of grand yet quiet Mother Nature? 
Walking along the tropical forest where lush trees are blanketing the whole sky, you can easily feel like you’re losing the ‘sense of time’ like Aomame from Murakami’s novel <1Q84>: “Hundreds of butterflies flitted in and out of sight like short-lived punctuation marks in a stream of consciousness without beginning or end.”
You are surrounded by stunning scenery throughout the hike, but the most fascinating creatures by far are butterflies. In particular, in April and May, about 400 species of butterflies flock to the area, performing an amazing group dance. Some call it ‘the dance of the fairies’ while others name it ‘mysterious magic’. The fluttering butterflies form a sublime beauty that is completely otherworldly. The place where the Thousand Year Old Tree guards and fairies masquerading as butterflies perform a dance in harmony—how could you stay sober if you are part of this dreamy scene?

Caves hidden inside the park

Limestone Cave and History of Mankind
It’s not just an ancient flora or a wide variety of animals that time has engraved in Cuc Phuong. The Vietnamese national park also presents remnants of mankind from the early days. At various caves scattered around the limestone zone, traces of prehistoric human dwellings and animals are being found. Men are estimated to have lived in this area around 7,000-12,000 years ago. Stone hammers, bone spears, oyster shucking knives, along with caves with human life traces have been found. Scholars believe there are many more caves that haven’t been located. Stop by Dong Nguoi Xua(Cave of Prehistoric Man). The hike to the cave is rather steep, so prepare a flashlight for the trip.

Black-breasted leaf turtle, seen only in Southeast Asia

Red-shanked douc is a colorful one

Endangered Primates and Turtles
Cuc Phuong National Park has been dedicated to wildlife rescue and conservation projects involving endangered primate and turtle species. Thanks to these projects, hundreds of animals are being rescued and sent back to nature after rehabilitation. At the conservation center located to the left of the park entrance, you can learn how to care for endangered animals and experience the overall conservation work. If you are interested in showing support for the wildlife rescue program as a member of the global community, it will be a worthwhile visit. It may be one small step by you, but one after another, the little steps of people will become a big drive that can overcome the challenges that mankind and our ecosystem are facing.

Cuc Phuong National Park
From Hanoi, to get to Cuc Phuong National Park, you can choose to drive a car or ride a motorcycle. Even after arriving at the park, the trails are not the easiest to follow because the signposts on the trail lack accurate information. For these reasons, the park is known as an advanced traveler’s destination. Unless you have an extensive experience of wilderness exploration as well as an understanding of local transportation conditions and language, you will be better off joining a group tour for safety reasons.
The national park admission fee is 3,000 won. Add another 3,000 won to join the conservation center’s guided tour.

Location 8J85+MFX, Nho Quan, Ninh Bình

Where to Stay in Hanoi: LOTTE HOTEL HANOI
LOTTE HOTEL HANOI is located in the upper floors of Hanoi’s new landmark Lotte Center. Offering a fantastic view of the entire city of Hanoi, the hotel’s 318 rooms and suites are beautifully decorated using traditional Vietnamese patterns. Its restaurants entertain guests with mouthwatering dishes cooked with the freshest ingredients from Vietnam and around the world, and the rooftop bar is famous for its breathtaking view of Hanoi’s skyline.

Address 54, Lieu Giai St. Cong Vi Ward. Ba Dinh, Hanoi
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August 2022 Editor:Jung Jaewook
Writer:Jeon Haein

Where to stay?

  • August 2022
  • Editor: Jung Jaewook
    Writer: Jeon Haein
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