Of Viet Nam’s 89 million inhabitants, nearly 90% are Kinh Viet.  The remainder is made up of 53 ethnic minorities.  Most of the Viet originated from the Mongoloid race in Northeast Asia.  Many of the minorities only have a few thousand members, but maintain their distinct identities and languages.  Viet Nam’s 54 ethnicities can be grouped into eight linguistic categories.  The Viet consist of four subcultures, the Tay have eight with less than 4% of the population, and the Mon Khmer have 21 with less than 2%.  The five remaining categories fall under Pa Then: Mong (3), Kadai (4), Nam Dao (5), Han (3) and Tang (6).  The Viet mostly live in the coastal plains and delta areas.  The Tay inhabit the northern mountains, while the Khmer reside around the Mekong Delta near Cambodia.  The Han Hoa are also lowlanders.

Experiencing ethnic tribes’ culture has become an important part of visiting Viet Nam for many travellers.  Ethnic minority people are often the focus of responsible tourism activities.  Many tourism development projects in Viet Nam have been set up to support disadvantaged minority people.  The projects generally aim to provide an additional income and employment opportunity for the people through tourism. The responsible tourism operators in this e-guide support many of these development projects.

The most accessible ethnic minorities are the hill tribes that live in the spectacular mountains of the north and central highlands.  The Hmong and Dzao people are one of the largest minority groups and also one of the most colourful, especially the latter one.  Both tribes live in the North-western Mountains and can be encountered on a trip to Sapa.  The Muong is another fascinating minority group.  The Muong live mainly in Hoang Binh Province, just south of Hanoi.  A trip to Cuc Phuong National Park or to the Ngoc Son Ngo Luong Nature Reserve with one of the responsible tourism operators often includes a homestay experience with the Muong.