Vietnam's Northern Soul
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.
Transport in detail
All transfers will be by private car.
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, 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!
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.
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
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.
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
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
Logistics and journey times
Car transfer from Hanoi airport to hotel (30 minutes)
Car transfer from Hanoi to Ba Be (5 hours + sightseeing)
Car transfer from Ba Be to Meo Vac (6 hours + sightseeing)
Car transfer from Meo Vac to Yen Minh (2 hours + sightseeing)
Car transfer from Yen Minh to Hoang Su Phi (5 hours + sightseeing)
Car transfer from Hoang Su Phi to Bac Ha (3.5 hours + sightseeing)
Car transfer from Bac Ha to Hanoi (5 hours)
Car transfer from Hanoi to Lan Ha Bay (2.5 hours)
Car transfer from Lan Ha Bay to Hanoi (2.5 hours)
Car transfer from city to Hanoi airport (30 minutes)
What's not included
- 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