Travel by car on the adventure of a lifetime, exploring the majestic limestone mountain ranges and picturesque terraced paddy fields of Vietnam’s unspoiled north-east region. This exciting 12-day trip is especially suitable for those travelers who love green eco tours or want to learn about the customs of the hill tribe people. Either way, you will take away a collection of memories.
DAY 1: HANOI – NGHIA LO
Depart from Hanoi to Nghia Lo, situated in Yen Bai province. Muong Lo (Nghia Lo) is considered one of the four famous “rice bowls” of North-Western Vietnam, next to Muong Thanh (Dien Bien), Muong Than (Than Uyen), Muong Tac (Phu Yen). Enjoy the scenic drive with spectacular views of roadside hills dotted with ethnic minority villages and palm shaded tea plantations.
Spend overnight in Nghia Lo.
DAY 2: NGHIA LO – MU CANG CHAI – THAN UYEN – SAPA
Continue your journey further north. The road takes you through Mu Cang Chai, famous for the terraced fields which have been listed as Vietnam’s national heritage. Admire the masterpiece of local H’mong people and take the chance to record as many frames as possible at this photogenic stretch. Continue to Than Uyen, home of the White Thai minority and known another “rice bowl” of the area. After lunch at a local restaurant in Than Uyen, proceed to Sapa, passing through an area inhabited by Blue Hmong, Thai, Dzao and Lu people and driving over the Lai Chau pass, the highest mountain pass in Vietnam.
Arrival to Sapa – a resort town founded by the French in 1922. Located 360 km from Hanoi, Sapa used to be the summer retreat for the French and is now a popular tourist destination for foreigners and locals alike. The area around Sapa has stunning vistas onto terraced rice fields and the region is home to a number of ethnic minorities, such as the Black H’mong, Red Dzao, Giay and Xa Pho hill tribe people. Continue your journey to the Topas Ecolodge, located 18 km from Sapa amidst rice terraces and surrounding ethnic minority villages. Accommodation at Topas Ecolodge.
DAY 3: SAPA – TOPAS ECOLODGE
Enjoy the day at leisure. Do some trekking on your own (organized trekking tours are available at surcharge) in the surrounding area, get in touch with the locals or just enjoy the breath-taking views onto the Sapa valley from your room. Accommodation at Topas Ecolodge.
DAY 4: SAPA – BAC HA SUNDAY MARKET
After breakfast, depart for the highland town of Bac Ha where you can wander through the district market, considered one of the most colourful ethnic markets in the Northwest. Flower H’mong, Phu La and Dao Tuyen minorities gather every Sunday at Bac Ha to buy and sell their handicraft products and fresh produce. A weekly rendezvous for the locals and men folks can often be seen wending their merry way home at the end of a day at the market. After lunch, visit Hoang A Tuong Palace which used to be residence of the local H’mong Lord. Enjoy a light trek to visit Ban Pho. The region’s famous corn wine is brewed here and named after the village. Accommodation at Sao Mai Hotel in Bac Ha.
DAY 5: BAC HA – HOANG SU PHI
We set off on a full day journey through Sin Man district to Hoang Su Phi. The rough but scenic route traverses a dense jungle before crossing over a pass and dropping down to Sin Man. You can see beautiful terraced fields in Sin Man and Hoang Su Phi districts. Along the way we may also encounter the Nung Ing, Tay, Red Dao, Dao Ao Dai, La Chi and Co Lao, just some of the many hill tribe groups who have settled in the area. Accommodation at Pan Hou Ecolodge.
DAY 6: HOANG SU PHI – HA GIANG
Continue your journey to Ha Giang. Enjoy the scenic drive with endless photo opportunities. Along the way, you will see many ethnic minority groups. Upon arrival to Ha Giang, have lunch and check into the hotel. In the afternoon, visit Tien Thang village on the outskirts of the city. This is an old and beautiful Tay ethnic minority village that well preserves the identity, cultural traditions and architecture.
Accommodation at Huy Hoan Hotel in Ha Giang.
DAY 7: HA GIANG – SA PHIN – DONG VAN
The remote region of Dong Van and Meo Vac is a land of rugged mountains and beautiful hill tribe villages which have remained unchanged for centuries. The Dong Van rock plateau has been enlisted by UNESCO as a World Geopark. Today we head northwest 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 the hill tribe people’s colourful costumes and the majestic mountainous scenery make this long and sometimes bumpy trip an unforgettable experience.
Accommodation at Cao Nguyen Da Hotel in Dong Van.
DAY 8: DONG VAN – MEO VAC – BAO LAC – NGUYEN BINH – BA BE LAKE
Today, the journey takes you through the rolling hills and the picturesque scenery to Ba Be National Park. We have time to visit Dong Van Town before continuing to Meo Vac which is inhabited mostly by the Lo Lo and Pu Peo ethnic minority people. They still retain their centuries old cultural traditions and are recognizably distinct from each other by their dress. The remoteness and the simple lifestyle of the area’s local people are highlights of Meo Vac. Living conditions are very basic here. Roads are bumpy and zigzagging through the mountains. But the journey is more than rewarding. Meet the locals and learn more about the life and culture of the Hmong, Dao, Tay and Nung ethnic minorities who make for the main population in this region. Surely, your presence will attract the locals’ attention as this part of the country still receives very few visitors. Depending on road and traffic conditions, we arrive in Ba Be by late afternoon or early evening.
Simple accommodation at a village home stay.
DAY 9: BA BE LAKE – CAO BANG
The legendary lake of Ba Be is just one continuous water body although the name means” three lakes”. Today we embark on a boat cruising down the Nang River which is the main water source of the lake. This exciting river trip will give us a taste of the tranquil countryside and an enjoyable exploration of the Ba Be National Park. We traverse en route the Poong Grotto before stopping at some nearby hill tribe villages and getting off the beaten track to the scenic Dau Dang Waterfalls. Afternoon drive to Cao Bang. Overnight at hotel in Caobang.
DAY 10: CAO BANG – BAN GIOC WATERFALL – LANG SON
Depart Cao Bang to Ban Doc Waterfall (Trung Khanh) and enjoy the very nice scenery with water reeling handmade by the Nung People, which brings water from the stream to the rice fields. Peaceful feeling will let you comfortable. Short trek to visit Ngam Ngao Cave, a big and yet unexplored cave with extraordinary natural stalactites (please wear appropriate shoes and shorts, since you most likely will get wet). Continue to Ban Doc Waterfall, which shares the river border with China. Take a boat trip to the waterfall, where you will meet visitors from China, who also come here to enjoy the atmosphere of the famous waterfall on the same river. Boxed lunch will be provided. Afternoon drive to Lang Son.
Overnight at hotel in Lang Son.
DAY 11: LANG SON – HA LONG
Drive to Halong bay through the lush of Red River vegetation. Arrival Halong bay pier and check-in registration, board our boat for a stunning cruise amongst towering limestone backdrop while enjoying lunch on board. The cruise will take you by exotic islets with shapes of Dog, Incense Urn, Sail, Fighting Cocks, which are naturally formed by process of erosion between the see water and limestone mountains. Arrive Surprise Cave a a visit and then explore Luon cave by bamboo a row sampan, this cave is a natural tunnel thrusts through a mountain’s foot and leads to an exotic lagoon surrounded by mountains covered by dense jungle. Seafood dinner and optional night paddle. Overnight on Halong Junk (twin A.C cabin).
DAY 12: HA LONG – HANOI
Our boat once again sets sail through breathtaking secluded Halong bay
A new day wake you up with joys and emotions in an early morning for watching sunrise on sea. Enjoy break fast and continue exploration. Visit Tortoise, Man’s head islands. Brunch onboard before returning to the wharf.
Time to head back to Ha Noi, ending the first part of our adventure.