Trekking in Northern Vietnam

Trekking Northern Vietnam & Laos

Trip code
TVL001

From the steep valleys and rice terraces of northern Vietnam to the thick jungles and jagged karsts of Laos, this is a journey through some of the most majestic mountain scenery in Asia — bookended by two strikingly different historic capitals.

Be prepared to sweat it out as you conquer peaks and valleys, raft and kayak on rushing rivers, cool off under waterfalls, and hunker down for the night at rural homestays and jungle camps. This one’s for the adventurous at heart.

Pricing

Price based on 3* accommodation
From
A$6,500
pp

Key facts

13 days / 14 nights
Spend seven days trekking in different regions of Vietnam and Laos
Go kayaking on the Nam Ou River and bamboo rafting in the Pu Luong Valley
Learn about war history with a visit to the Vieng Xai Caves, where people once sheltered from American bombing
Contrast city life in Hanoi with the sleepy streets of Luang Prabang on two very different walking tours
Get up close and personal with wildlife as you meet the elephants of MandaLao and go for a night safari on the Nam Nern River
Go for a sunset cruise on the Mekong River in Luang Prabang
Spend the night at a local home and watch a traditional dance performance in a Thai minority village
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DAY 1 HANOI DAY 12-14 LUANG PRABANG DAY 2-3 MAI CHAU DAY 4-5 PU LUONG DAY 6 SAM NEUA DAY 7-9 NAM ET-PHOU LOUEY DAY 10-11 NONG KHIAW
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DAY 1 HANOI DAY 12-14 LUANG PRABANG DAY 2-3 MAI CHAU DAY 4-5 PU LUONG DAY 6 SAM NEUA DAY 7-9 NAM ET- PHOU LOUEY DAY 10-11 NONG KHIAW

There’s a lot of moving about on this itinerary, with transfers on foot, by boat, and even by two-wheeled tractor! You’ll also have several long drives with a private car and driver, but your patience will be rewarded with truly spectacular views.

What's great

This route will take you to remote destinations far from the usual tourist trail

Travelling overland, you’ll get to see the scenery change dramatically across Vietnam and Laos, encompassing jungle, rice terraces, broad, flat valleys and limestone karsts

You’ll also have the chance to experience town and city life with stops in Hanoi and Luang Prabang

This is an active trip, ideal for those who really want to get out and explore

You’ll get to stay in some unique accommodation, including an ethnic minority homestay and a “nest” hanging from the trees

Things to consider

Be prepared for lots of moving around — ten different accommodations in 13 nights doesn’t give much opportunity to settle

The treks on this trip are graded as moderate, which means they’re not too strenuous, but uneven terrain and lots of hills mean you’ll need a good level of fitness

Though you have a good chance of spotting wildlife in Nam Et-Phou Louey, sightings are never guaranteed!

You’ll be staying in some remote destinations with fairly basic accommodation, so be prepared for limited electricity, Wi-Fi and hot water for several days of your trip

Trekking in Laos is only possible during the dry season (October to June)

Pu Luong’s rice harvests take place twice a year, in May/June and October, so the best time to see those classic green terraces is April or September

The experience

Like all our itineraries, this one’s ready to be tailored just for you. Want more hiking? Fewer car journeys? A different country entirely? Whatever your ideal trip looks like, we’re ready to start planning.

Day 1

Hanoi

With one day in the capital, you’ve just enough time for our favourite alternative tour: a full-day crash course in the historical and cultural life of the city. Start with the maze of streets known as the Old Quarter, where the locals breakfast on pho and sweet iced coffee, then swing by the imposing Gothic Revival cathedral — one of the oldest French-built buildings in Vietnam. Today is more about daily life than tourist sites, so be prepared to head down unexpected alleys, mingle with commuters on a train ride, and drop in on a family who’ve lived in the same old colonial townhouse for generations. Be sure to get a good night’s sleep in preparation for tomorrow!

Vietnamese schoolgirls eating pho in Hanoi

Highlights

Explore the 36 streets of the Old Quarter, each one known for a different trade

Go for a local train ride to see life in different neighbourhoods

Taste your first bowl of pho, Vietnam’s national noodle soup obsession

Railroad street in Hanoi

Day 2-3

Mai Chau & Hang Village

Leave Hanoi bright and early for the four-hour drive through mountains and fertile scenery to Mai Chau — a broad, flat valley dotted with villages, surrounded by rice paddies and ringed with spectacular karsts. Ease yourself in with some light trekking in the valley on your first afternoon, then relax at a performance of Thai music and dance at your hotel in the evening. In the morning, you’ll drive further into the reserve and begin your trek to the minority village of Hang. Here, away from the more well-trodden parts of Mai Chau, you’ll spend the night with a Thai family in their traditional stilt house and get to know more about this unique minority culture.

Bridge to Mai Chau

Highlights

Walk through the ethnic minority villages of the Mai Chau Valley

Learn about Thai culture with an evening of traditional food and dance

Trek to the Thai village of Hang for a homestay with a local family

Balcony overlooking rice fields in Mai Chau

The finer detail

  • Breakfast every day
  • Ten lunches: one in Mai Chau; two on the trek between Mai Chau & Pu Luong; one at the Pu Luong Retreat; one on the way to Sam Neua; one on the Nam Nern Night Safari; two picnic lunches on the Nests trek; one by the waterfalls in Nong Khiaw; one at MandaLao elephant sanctuary
  • Eight dinners: one in Mai Chai accompanied by a traditional Thai dance performance; one at the Thai village homestay; two at the Pu Luong Retreat; one in Sam Neua; one campfire picnic on the Nam Nern Night Safari; one at the Nests camp; one in Nong Khiaw
  • One full-day experience: trek around the rice terraces of Pu Luong
  • Six half-day experiences: city tour of Hanoi; half day tour of Mai Chau; visit the Vieng Xai caves; explore Nong Khiaw by kayak & trekking; walking tour of Luang Prabang; visit the MandaLao elephant sanctuary
  • Two evening experiences: Thai minority dance performance with dinner in Mai Chau; shared sunset cruise on the Mekong River
  • Overnight trek from Mai Chau to Pu Luong
  • Overnight jungle stay in Nam Nern, Nam Et-Phou Louey with a night safari and jungle activities
  • Overnight trek in the Nam Et-Phou Louey NPA to the Nests
  • All entrance fees to sites included in guided experiences
  • All internal transport & accommodation

Day 1:
Car transfer from Hanoi airport to city (30 minutes)

Day 2:
Car transfer from Hanoi to Mai Chau (4 hours)

Day 3:
Car transfer from trek starting point (30 minutes)
Trek to Hang Village (3 hours)

Day 4:
Trek from Hang Village to Pu Luong (6 hours)

Day 6:
Car transfer from Pu Luong to the Lao border (3 hours)
Car transfer from the border to Vieng Xai Caves (1.5 hours)
Car transfer from Vieng Xai Caves to Sam Neua (2 hours)

Day 7:
Car transfer from Sam Neua to Ban Son Koua (2 hours)
Shared boat transfer from Ban Son Koua to Nam Nern in Nam Et-Phou Louey (1.5 hours)

Day 8:
Shared boat transfer across Nam Et-Phou Louey from Nam Nern to Muang Hiem (1.5 hours)
Day 9:
Car transfer from Muang Hiem to Ban Nam Poung (30 minutes)
Hand tractor (tok tok) from Ban Nam Poung to trek start point in Nam Et-Phou Louey NPA (1 hour)
Trek to the Nests campsite (4 hours)

Day 10:
Trek from the Nests back to trek start point (4 hours)
Hand tractor (tok tok) from trek start point to Ban Nam Poung (1 hour)
Car transfer from Ban Nam Poung to Nong Khiaw (5 hours)

Day 12:
Car transfer from Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang (2.5 hours)

Day 14:

Car transfer from town to Luang Prabang airport (15 minutes)

  • International flights
  • Meals not mentioned
  • Entrance fees to any sites not included in guided experiences
  • Tips for guides & porters