Ha Giang landscape

Vietnam's Northern Soul

Trip code
VNS001

If you want to experience a different side of Vietnam, deep in the rural backcountry and far from the tourist trail, this itinerary is for you.

Stretching down through China from the snowy Tibetan Plateau, Vietnam’s northern mountains are vast, remote, and populated primarily by ethnic minority groups. This route eschews the classic destinations in favour of a deep-dive into that mountain world.

Pricing

Price based on 3* accommodation
From
2,100
pp

Key facts

13 days / 12 nights
Get an introduction to Vietnamese cuisine on a food tour of Hanoi
Go on a full-day trek through the Red Dao minority villages, rice terraces and tea plantations of Hoang Su Phi
Spend four days travelling through the north, stopping in minority villages, hiking in the mountains, and taking in the magnificent scenery
Enjoy two cruises on the lakes of Ba Be National Park
Go on an overnight cruise in the spectacular scenery of Lan Ha Bay
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DAY 11-12 LAN HA BAY DAY 1-2, 10, 13 HANOI DAY 3-4 BA BE DAY 5 MEO VAC DAY 6 YEN MINH DAY 9 BAC HA DAY 7-8 HOANG SU PHI
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DAY 11-12 LAN HA BAY DAY 1-2, 10, 13 HANOI DAY 3-4 BA BE DAY 5 MEO VAC DAY 6 YEN MINH DAY 9 BAC HA DAY 7-8 HOANG SU PHI

All transfers will be by private car.

What's great

This itinerary will take you well away from the tourist trail, introducing a different side of Vietnam

This is the ultimate road trip, introducing you to the dramatic scenery of the mountainous north

This trip covers some of Vietnam’s most beautiful landscapes, including rice terraces, dramatic mountain passes and limestone karsts

Things to consider

This is a remote region of Vietnam, so accommodation is quite basic in some locations

Northern Vietnam gets very cold in the winter, so this trip is best taken from spring to autumn

This is an active itinerary with some basic accommodation, so it’s not suitable for those with mobility issues

Remote destinations mean lots of long journeys, so think carefully if you don’t like spending time on the road!

The experience

This trip is about exploring one region of Vietnam in detail, but we can easily extend it to include other areas of the country. Let us know what you want to do and see, and we’ll design the perfect route for you.

Day 1-2

Hanoi

Before you head into the remote north, it’s time to hit the city — and in our book, there are few cities more exciting than Hanoi. For us, the best way to get beneath the skin of the capital is via its food culture, so we’ve included a half-day culinary tour to get you acquainted with the ins and outs of Vietnamese cuisine. Start at a local wet market, then head out into the streets to sample spring rolls and crispy pancakes for breakfast, before rounding it all off with a sweet iced coffee in the Old Quarter. The rest of your time in the city is yours to spend as you choose — and we’ll have plenty of suggestions to keep you busy.

Street vendors in Hanoi's Old Quarter

Highlights

Spend the morning sampling street food in Hanoi’s Old Quarter

Use your leisure time to explore Hanoi’s historic sites, including the Temple of Literature and Ho Chi Minh’s former home

If history’s not your thing, wander the French Quarter or head to West Lake for a different perspective on the capital

Hanoi's West Lake

Day 3-4

Ba Be

It’s time to leave the capital behind and head into the north, stopping for some background on Vietnam’s minority cultures at the Museum of Ethnology. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll arrive in Ba Be: a rainforested national park known for its beautiful lakes. This is the heartland of the Tay, Dzao and Hmong ethnic minorities, and the best way to explore it is by boat — cruising on the lakes and stopping to explore quiet temples, hidden caves, and some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Southeast Asia. While you’re here, you’ll get to learn about traditional culture first-hand as you stay at a simple guesthouse in a Tay minority village.

Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi

Highlights

Visit the Thai Nguyen Museum of Ethnology, packed full of information about Vietnam’s 53 minorities

Go cruising on the beautiful lakes of Ba Be National Park

Explore the caves and waterfalls of the national park

Ba Be lake

The finer detail

  • Breakfast every day
  • Nine lunches: one at a restaurant in Cho Ra town; one at a local home in Ba Be; one at a restaurant in Bao Lac; one at a restaurant in Dong Van; one at a restaurant in Ha Giang; one at a Red Dao village in Hoang Su Phi district; two in a restaurant in Bac Ha; one on the Lan Ha Bay cruise
  • Three dinners: two at Pan Hou Lodge; one on the Lan Ha Bay cruise
  • Seven full-day experiences: one visiting a museum, travelling to and exploring Ba Be National Park; one exploring Ba Be National Park; one travelling between Ba Be and Meo Vac; one travelling between Meo Vac and Yen Minh; one travelling between Yen Minh and Hoang Su Phi; one trekking in Hoang Su Phi; one travelling between Hoang Su Phi and Bac Ha
  • One half-day experience: food tour in Hanoi
  • Overnight cruise on Lan Ha Bay with activities
  • All accommodation
  • All entrance fees to sites included in guided experiences
  • All domestic transfers and transport

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

Day 3:
Car transfer from Hanoi to Ba Be (5 hours + sightseeing)

Day 5:
Car transfer from Ba Be to Meo Vac (6 hours + sightseeing)

Day 6:
Car transfer from Meo Vac to Yen Minh (2 hours + sightseeing)

Day 7:
Car transfer from Yen Minh to Hoang Su Phi (5 hours + sightseeing)

Day 9:

Car transfer from Hoang Su Phi to Bac Ha (3.5 hours + sightseeing)

Day 10:
Car transfer from Bac Ha to Hanoi (5 hours)

Day 11:
Car transfer from Hanoi to Lan Ha Bay (2.5 hours)

Day 12:
Car transfer from Lan Ha Bay to Hanoi (2.5 hours)

Day 13:
Car transfer from city to Hanoi airport (30 minutes)

  • International flights
  • Any necessary visas
  • Any lunches or dinners unless stated
  • Entrance fees to any sites not included in guided experiences
  • Tipping and personal expenses