Architecture,  Local Guide

The Stilt House – An Important Part of Vietnamese Vernacular Architecture

The stilt house is a traditional Vietnamese architectural style. Since ancient times, the construction of stilt houses of upland ethnic people is not only a solid shelter but also a place to protect people from wild animal attacks. In many ecological architectures today, we are still listing the stilt house as a form of preserving the identity of the nation.

An introduction of stilt house

A stilt house is a type of house built on columns above ground or water with the main purpose of avoiding animals. Different ethnic groups have different building styles of stilt houses depending on their living conditions.

However, in general, the material used for the construction of stilt houses is not much different, mainly wood, rattan, bamboo, vines which are exploited in tropical forests. These are simple materials but the stilt house architecture is designed with solidity due to the reasonable in structural ratio of the wooden frame. Often the roof of the stilt house is designed with a large slope with the number of roofs ranging from 2 to 4.

These followings are the most outstanding and unique types of stilt houses in two different regions that are certain to fascinate your Vietnam cultural tour.

Distinctive characteristics of stilt house by region

Northern provinces


Family members gathering around the cooking-stove placed in the center of the house (Source: Google)

Nowadays, tourists can easily spot a popular and familiar scene during their Vietnam cultural tour that is stilt houses gather together to form villages in many Northern mountainous areas such as Bắc Quang, Quảng Bình, Vị Xuyên, Hoàng Su Phì (Ha Giang Province) and so on. With the tradition of living and integrating with nature as well as protecting themselves against threats also from nature, many ethnic groups have devised ways of making stilt houses with materials available from nature wood, rattan, palm leaves, bamboo, vases, grass.

The traditional stilt house of ethnic minorities has a height of about 2 – 2.2 meters above ground level in order to prevent the attacks from wild animals. Besides, this special type of house is also used as food storage and a closed model with a cozy and convenient kitchen. The smoke from the wood burning stove during the cooking process that covers the food is of great assistance in avoiding worms and other harmful insects.

From the natural materials, ethnic people often build a large stilt house with 4 -5 rooms, even 7 – 9 ones if they are a wealthy family. The bigger the family is, the more complicated and grand the stilt house is. In addition, there are a lot of huge stilt houses which are able to hold up to a hundred people at the same time so that it is convenient to organize weddings, funerals and other traditional ceremonies.

A stilt house with a cooking-stove at the center helps to keep the house warm in winter while the height of it contributes greatly to the air circulation, indirectly reducing many diseases to widespread. According to the ancestors, a beautiful and standard stilt house has its back towards the mountains, facing the fields, in front of are fish ponds in order to create a harmonious feng shui structure.


A typical staircase of a stilt house in Northern provinces (Source: Google)

With the skillful techniques of the folk, instead of using nails and steel, ethnic people construct a steady and firm stilt house based on their unique methods of tying natural materials together. Hence, when in need of moving, they only need to remove each truss, pillar, and bring to other places to build. The construction of stilt houses cannot be the family’s own business and must require the help from relatives and neighbors, thereby promoting the solidarity and mutual assistance.

Central Highlands


The firm and solid architecture of a stilt house in the Central Highlands (Source: Google)

Similar to the stilt houses in Northern mountainous provinces, the ones in the Central Highlands are built with the help of the village community with natural materials such as bamboo, rattan, vines and so on.

To overcome the difficulties from the rain and sun, the Central Highlanders often designed their stilt houses in the north – south direction to catch the cool wind and avoid sunburn in the afternoon. Typically, there are many generations living under one roof so that stilt houses are constructed from 3 – 7 rooms depending on the number of generations. The stilt house is 5.6 – 7 meters in width and 3m in length based on the number of rooms inside it.

The construction of stilt houses in the Central Highlands demand a lot of time as well as labors. The columns, which are the main material of the house, are usually about 30-40cm wide and only superimposed on each other or grafted together to form a solid structure.


The traditional beauty that needs to be well-reserved (Source: Google)

The staircase in a stilt house of the Central Highland is made of a large wooden trunk with 7 hand-cut steps. On the left has a moon-shaped or female’s breast-shaped carving representing the nourishment while on the right is a turtle symbolizing the eternity. Furthermore, the Central highlanders love having engravings and familiar images of mountain people and animals on pillars and crossbars. These images show their devotion to nature as well as desire for a happy and prosperous life.

Experiencing a day living inside a traditional stilt house and exploring the local lifestyle and people promises you an unforgettable experience in your Vietnam culture tour.

Tuong Vi





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