A great route to the most mountainous region in the North of Vietnam will show you how imposing the nature of the country can be. You will meet with local people and get to understand the many differences in culture & way of life of the ethnic minorities living in Sapa, Ba Be, Ha Giang, Cao Bang, and Lang Son. We’ll then round it all out in the best way imaginable; a relaxing cruise in the gorgeous Ha Long Bay.
Meet and interact with local people: Red Dao, Black Hmong, Tay, Lo Lo, Pu Peo, …
Taste local food and stay overnight at a traditional ethnic group’s house
Trek from Giang Ta Chai to Su Pan
Visit Muong Khuong marrket
Visit Thac Ban Gioc – one of Northern Vietnam’s most incredible natural wonders
Visit Light and Dark Water Cave in Halong Bay, where you can do kayaking or bamboo boat rowed by local people
You’ll arrive early in the morning (roughly 5:30am) at the railway station in Lao Cai, a border town between Vietnam and Yunnan, China. From here we set out on a 38km drive along the winding roads through the mountains of Sapa, located at 1500m above sea level. If you’re lucky enough to be here on a clear day, you may even see the highest mountain in Vietnam, the Fansipan, while driving this route.
We’ll reach our hotel in Sapa in time for breakfast at 8am, before we start walking to Lao Chai village. Views of Muong Hoa Valley and its magnificent surroundings are great here, featuring stunning mountains and sprawling rice terraces.
After a picnic lunch on the way, you will continue through the valley to Ta Van Village to visit Dzay people, who are known to be some of the friendliest people in the region. The next village is Giang Ta Chai which belongs to the Red Dzao tribe where you will see some amazing scenery. Tonight you will stay overnight in a local house of a Dzay family.
Meal: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Accommodation: Local Dzay house
After enjoying breakfast with your hosts, you will begin the trek from Giang Ta Chai to Su Pan taking in more incredible views along the way. This really is an unbeatable way to start the day, surrounded by wild and beautiful natural landscapes and clean, fresh air.
In Su Pan, you will be able to meet local people who belong to the Red Dao and Black Hmong ethnic groups. After having time to meet with them and explore their village, you will begin the trek back to Sapa. This gives you one last chance to take in the breath-taking views of the mountain ranges and rice paddies. Dinner on your own and overnight in Sapa town.
Giang Ta Chai
Meal: Breakfast, Lunch Accommodation: Overnight in Sapa town.
(Note, title change for day 5, old one didn’t fit the content of the day)
Today is the most challenging in terms of trekking but also the most rewarding. After 2 hours of following a flat path, you will begin the dizzying climb up the mountain. You will follow a small track through a thick primary rain forest which can be quite challenging if it has been raining, but this is the only route for local villagers going to Xin Man. You will have the opportunity to see many wild giant butterflies in a rainbow of colours, flitting through the fresh mountain air.
Once we reach an altitude of about 2000m, an incredible vista of terraced paddies appears, decorating the rolling mountainsides. Weather permitting you will stop for a picnic lunch next to a waterfall and then continue on to Coc Dong Village, belonging to the Nung hill tribe, arriving in the mid-afternoon. You will stay overnight in the stilt house of a local family.
Photo of a terraced field
Meal: Breakfast, Lunch Accommodation: Local stilt house
We set out for the weekend market of Muong Khuong in the morning, which attracts a wide variety of minority groups such as the H’mong, Dao, Thu Lao, Pa Di, Tu Di and Phu La. The drive to Muong Khuong is about 2 hours, and then in the early afternoon we continue on to Bac Ha. Here we’ll stop for an overnight break, and we’ll enjoy a walk to visit the H’mong Kings Palace after checking in. Dinner on your own and overnight in Bac Ha.
Muong Khuong market
Meal: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Accommodation: Overnight in Bac Ha
Upon leaving Bac Ha we set off on a full day journey through Sin Man and Hoang Su Phi to Ha Giang Town.
The rough but scenic route traverses a dense jungle before crossing over a pass and descending down to Sin Man. This day is a real challenge for our driver as we travel by winding roads with many uphill and down hill sections. Along the way we may encounter the Nung Ing, Tay, Red Dao, Dao Ao Dai, La Chi and Co Lao, which are just some of the many hill tribe groups who have settled here. Dinner on your own, then overnight in Ha Giang.
People in Ha Giang
Meal: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Accommodation: Overnight in Ha Giang
The remote region of Dong Van and Meo Vac is a land of rugged mountains and beautiful hill villages which have stood unchanged for centuries.
Today we head north-west out of Ha Giang Town towards this northernmost tip of Vietnam. The former H’mong royal house at Sa Phin is a primary attraction of the region but the blend of hill tribe people’s colourful costumes and the majestic mountainous scenery make this long and bumpy trip an unforgettable experience. Dinner on your own, then overnight in Dong Van.
Meal: Breakfast, Lunch Accommodation: Overnight in Dong Van
This is set to be a wonderful day of trekking! Your tour guide will take you to Coc Toc Village where you can meet the Tay community, who have become very skilled at fishing in the lake and live on a diet that is very much centred on fish.
Next you will set out to cross Pe Lu Stream, before hitting some rough, steep terrain that will give you a little bit of a workout. As you gain altitude, though, you will be rewarded for your efforts with spectacular views of the verdant rolling countryside. Pressing on ever higher we will stop for a picnic lunch in a H’mong ethnic village, where your guide may introduce you to some of the local H’mong people.
We have time to visit Dong Van Town before continuing to Meo Vac which is inhabited by the Lo Lo and Pu Peo ethnic minority people.
They still retain their age old cultural traditions and are recognisably distinct from each other by their dress. The remoteness and the simple lifestyle of local people are a highlight of Meo Vac, although conditions can be very basic. We return to Ha Giang via Yen Minh using a shortcut, then dinner on your own, and an overnight stay in Ha Giang.
Ethnic minority people
Meal: Breakfast, Lunch Accommodation: Overnight in Ha Giang
An early morning start with a drive through the rolling hills and the picturesque scenery to Ba Be National Park. The roads are very bumpy and windy, however we will get a chance to meet the Hmong, Dao, Tay and Nung ethnic minorities who make up the main population of this region. We are sure to attract their attention as this part of the country receives very few visitors.
Depending on road and traffic conditions we arrive in Ba Be by late afternoon or early evening for dinner with a Tay family at their homestay in Coc Toc village.
Kayaking on Ba Be lake
Meal: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Accommodation: Overnight in Ba Be
Today we embark on a boat cruising down the Nang River which is the main water source of Ba Be Lake. This exciting river trip will give us a taste of the tranquil countryside and offers an enjoyable exploration of Ba Be National Park. We traverse the Puong Grotto before stopping at some nearby hill tribe villages and getting off the beaten track to the scenic Dau Dang Waterfalls. Again we’ll have dinner with a Tay family at their homestay in Coc Toc village.
Ba Be lake
Meal: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Accommodation: Overnight in Ba Be
The next destination on our trip is Cao Bang Town. After breakfast we set off on our half day journey past spectacular mountainous landscapes, with a mixture of steep terraced rice field and hill villages. Along the way, we can make stops at our leisure, to stretch our legs and take some wonderful photographs. The remainder of the day will be free to explore the town or simply relax. Dinner on your own, then overnight in Cao Bang.
Meal: Breakfast, Lunch Accommodation: Overnight in Cao Bang
Today we set out for one of Northern Vietnam’s most incredible natural wonders; Ban Gioc Waterfall. This breath-taking 300-meter wide cascade forms part of the Chinese-Vietnamese border, and here you can relax in this natural wonder with plenty of time to snap some photos. You’ll also get to board a bamboo boat and get right up close to the raging waterfall.
Next we’ll visit a local market where you get to experience the diverse cultures of the area, before hiking to Phat Tich Temple which aside from being a great cultural experience, offers some of the best views of Ban Gioc with China in the background. Next up with pass through several hill tribe villages before reaching the tranquil town of Dong Khe and That Khe. By late afternoon we’ll arrive in Lang Son, a border town all but destroyed in the recent Sino-Vietnamese war, but rebuilt into a thriving trade hub in the years since. Dinner on your own then an overnight stay in Lang Son.
Ban Gioc Waterfall
Meal: Breakfast, Lunch Accommodation: Overnight in Lang Son
The lively central market of Lang Son, we depart for Halong, truly one of Vietnam’s most impressive scenic sights. The drive is difficult at times as we travel through many mountainous areas.
The breath-taking scenery here is some of the best in Asia, and we’ll have some opportunities en route to visit the Tay, Nung and San Diu hill tribe people.
On arrival in Halong, the cruise leaves the harbor, you will enjoy lunch and be impressed by the beauty of the hundreds of karst islands on your way passing Halong Bay to Lanha Bay. Visit Light and Dark Water Cave, where you can do kayaking or bamboo boat rowed by local people. Dinner on your own, then overnight on cruises.
Ha Long Bay
Meal: Breakfast, Lunch Accommodation: Night on board
Today we embark on a sailing boat for an exploration of Lanha Bay to Cat Ba Island. This exciting five hour cruise provides a fantastic view of the bay which is dotted with some 3,000 limestone islands rising amazingly from the clear and emerald water. The limestone karst formations are littered with beaches, grottoes and beautiful caves, and using our small boat cruising through the multiple islands & islets, hidden beaches… also a short visit on bicycles to Viet Hai village, an isolated village in the very heart of Cat Ba National Park.
Along the way we will anchor for a leisurely swim in a secluded cove and an enjoyable visit to one of the many hidden grottoes beneath towering cliffs. After a seafood lunch on board we return to Hanoi.