Destinations: Hanoi - Duong Lam - Nghia Lo - Mu Cang Chai - Sapa - Bac Ha - Ha Giang - Dong Van - Meo Vac - Bao Lac - Ba Be - Cao Bang - Bac Son - Halong bay - Ninh Binh - Hanoi
Highlights: Moon Garden Homestay, terraced rice fields, ethnic markets, Dong Van Karst Plateau, Ba Be Lake,Ban Gioc Waterfall, Bac Son Valley, Halong Bay, Tam Coc in Ninh Binh
Brief North Vietnam Tour in in Depth
Day 1: Hanoi – Moon Garden Homestay (50Km – 1.5 hours)
Day 2: Moon Garden – Nghia Lo – Mu Cang Chai (230Km – 5.5 hours)
Day 3: Mu Cang Chai – Sapa (190Km – 5 hours)
Day 4: Sapa – Y Linh Ho – Lao Chai - Ta Van
Day 5: Ta Van – Giang Ta Chai – Bac Ha (90km-2hours)
Day 6: Bac Ha – Ha Giang (170Km – 5 hours)
Day 7: Ha Giang – Dong Van (150Km – 4.5 hours)
Day 8: Dong Van - Nho Que boat trip - Trekking - Dong Van
Day 9: Dong Van – Bao Lac – Ba Be (230Km – 7 hours)
Day 10: Ba Be – boat trip – Cao Bang (130Km – 3.5 hours)
Day 11: Cao Bang – Ban Gioc – Cao Bang (190Km – 5 hours)
Day 12: Cao Bang – Bac Son (200Km – 4 hours)
Day 13: Bac Son – Halong (180Km – 4 hours)
Day 14: Halong – Ninh Binh (110Km – 2 hours)
Day 15: Ninh Binh – Tam Coc – Hanoi (110km - 2 hours)
This is a fantastic and adventurous tour to the Northwest and Northeast of Vietnam that includes all highlights of these untouched mountainous areas. Start from the lovely and delightful Moon Garden Homestay before heading to the paradise of terraced rice fields in Nghia Lo & Mu Cang Chai that are praised as one of the most majestic terraces in the world. Sapa – a charming mountainous town in the Northwest is surely an amazing site to discover where is filled with not only rice terrace fields but also colorful ethnic groups and unique lifestyles. The next stop is Bac Ha ethnic market with busy trading scene forming by ethnic people coming from nearby areas who come to the market for selling, buying and making friends. From here, we turn to the Northeast, Ha Giang – the entirely untouched and intact area that you will only see a few tourists. These places offer spectacular landscapes of rolling steep mountains, a beautiful waterfall named Ban Gioc, an iconic cave named Nguom Ngao, a large fresh water lake named Ba Be, a magnificent valley named Bac Son and of course, a mysterious and marvelous bay named Ha Long.
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08:00 Pick up at your hotel and take a short drive to Ky Son Village that is around 50Km from Hanoi city center. On the way, we stop to visit Tay Phuong Pagoda – one of the oldest pagodas in the North with beautiful and charming architecture.
10:00 Arrive at Moon Garden Home stay in Ky Son village. Welcome drink with local fresh green tea. Free time for discovering Moon garden Home stay and Ky Son village by yourself (local market, kindergarten)
11:00 Cooking class
13:30 Hand Spa- Enjoy having your fingers dipped in a fragrant lime bowl and the traditional herbal hand massage. Then, free time for relaxing or further conversation with the host family about local snacks, sharing cultures, and learning about traditional customs. If you want to learn Vietnamese, one of the family members can teach you.
15:00 You can have choice of a short ride of 6 km or a long ride of 12 km round trip:
Short ride: Take a bicycle ride to discover the Ky Son, Tam Son, Van Minh, and Cham farming communities to and stop at any home you like for a cup of tea. Visit the kindergarten (if open). Chat with local people about their daily life and farming. You can help with plowing or making rice beds, transplanting seedlings, harvesting rice (or cassava, corn, sweet potatoes...) depending on the harvest season.
Long ride: Take a bicycle ride with local guide to discover the Ky Son, Tam Son, Van Minh, and Cham farming communities, Duong Lam ancient village and visit Mia Pagoda, Mong Phu Communal House... Then bike ride back along the ritual paths of Thang thac village to discover the Ngo Quyen tomb, Phung Hung temple.
18:00 Return to the Moon Garden for happy hour. While waiting for your steam bath to be prepared, you can enjoy our local drink and taste some of the local products such as maize, sweet potato, cassava, peanuts… (depending on season) or some traditional desserts.
18:30 Traditional, refreshing steam bath with fragrant herbs (Lemon grass, pomelo leaves, holy basil leaves).
19:15 Observe the evening Buddha worship.
19:30 Dinner; Then, enjoy your foot bath in warm water with ginger, salt and mugwort medicinal herbs before bedtime, which brings you a deeper sleep.
7:00 Joining Yijinjing traditional exercises
8:30 Free time: You can make yourself at home relaxing on the hammock in our garden, taking pictures with Vietnamese traditional clothes, chatting with people, or further discovery of the Ky Son village and the surrounding area.
10:00 Leave Ky Son for one of the most beautiful rides in your Vietnam adventure tour through amazing terraced rice fields. The first part to Nghia Lo passes through stunning mountainous landscape, featuring with fertile hilly area covered with green tea plantations, the mountains get higher and higher. Along the way you can see thick forests cover high mountains. Spending time walking through a narrow and long valley, we meet three tribal setting their villages in different ways which reveal their traditional customs and living style.
From Nghia Lo, we head for the second part to Tu Le and Mu Cang Chai. The road ride today offers a lot of time exploring the area for real mountainous life of the local ethnic minority people. Fancy a trekking tour along a trail which connect villages to villages, meeting different tribal people such as White Thai, Black Zao, Red H’mong…who seem very surprise, staring at you for the first moment and turn out very friendly and inviting you to their homes in which you will be hosted with tea or home made wine.
Overnight in Mu Cang Chai.
A wonderful morning starts with breakfast and a cup of tea or coffee in the paradise of rice terraces.
8h30: You depart to visit terraced fields are recorded as national heritage. We will go about 12km to reach the point of walking. All the beautiful things of Mu Cang Chai are waiting for you at the top, after a 1 hour climb we go through the Hmong people where you will meet innocent children, met hardworking women , All will welcome you with a friendly smile, in this village you can visit the traditional home of the indigenous people and learn the customs. You continue on the trail until you see the whole terraced fields that have been recorded as national heritage. This beautiful place has been CNtraveler magazine rated as the theater of golden rice.
Then, we will visit La Pan Tan village located on the top of the hill where you can see the beautiful terraces.
Around noon, drive to Sapa and visit the picturesque "Heaven Gate" and Silver Waterfall on the way.
Check in on arrival. Overnight in Sapa.
After breakfast, we will do one of the most beautiful Sapa Trekking Tours with the drive to visit Y Linh Ho, Lao Chai and Ta Van village of the Black H'mong and the Day people where you can enjoy fresh air, amazing scenery of the imposing mountain range, trek down the world's most beautiful terraced rice fields, visit some local family on the way and learn unique culture and life of these ethnic groups.
Tonight, you will stay at the charming Sapa Clay House – a kind of luxury homestay with private bungalows.
After our breakfast, there’s more time to look around and experience life in Ta Van. We then, continue our trekking in the valley through a bamboo village, stopping for a picnic lunch at an appropriate spot along the way, this is a local food shop at the food of a waterfall and the famous ratan bridge.
After lunch, we head up the side of the valley to the main a small village of the Dzao people called Giang Ta Chai, learn about the local life, then back to the ratan bridge and go up to the main road where the car picks up us to Bac Ha to overnight because we will visit Bac Ha ethnic market on Sunday early morning (the next day).
From Sapa to Bac Ha: more than 90km. If you stay in Sapa, you can miss many interesting things in Bac Ha ethnic market because the local minorities often go to the market very soon from 5:00am.
This late afternoon, we will bring you to visit Ban Pho village where you can take a short walk around the village where Flower Hmong, Tay and Nung minorities live.Enjoy an hour long horse carting trip from Ban Pho village to Na Hoi village.
Then back to your hotel for overnight.
After having breakfast, we will visit Bac Ha ethnic market – the most interesting ethnic market in Sapa are and open on Sundays only. The markets in the Northern Vietnam are always the colorful meeting places for the hill tribes, spotlight for any Sapa Tours and of course, your unique Vietnam Tours experience. Minority people come down from the mountains to sell their products, or just for catching up on the latest news, gossip, drinking away troubles or seeking for lover.
We wake up early today to experience the real life of ethnic minority, they trek to the market to buy their local products.
The market was very crowded, local products for sale or barter are carried on horseback. You will have 2 - 3 hours to explore the markets, enjoy the atmosphere and have fun trying out your trading skills with the friendly local people.
After having lunch, we will drive to Ha Giang. Arrival Ha Giang in the late afternoon, we will check in at Ha Giang resort
Overnight in Ha Giang
After breakfast, we head toward the most remote part of the north. Northern Ha Giang Province has some of the most picturesque and varied scenery. Our drive will take us over high passes and we can view deep valleys along the entire journey. We’ll stop along the way at The Vuong Palace, the beauty of Chinese-style architecture. This was the seat of government for the Hmong during the first Indochina war.
Overnight in Dong Van and take a walk around the town to the old streets.
After having breakfast at hotel, we start our trip at 7:30am today to visit Nho Que River by boat trip.
From Dong Van, we drive 10 minutes to get Ta Lang village, stop there then take “xeom” to get the pier of Nho Que River (20 minutes).
Nestled between the mountain of northeast of Vietnam, Nho Que River winding like green thread shimmering north from heaven. The length of 192 km, the river engraved name on 46 km across the strip of land in Vietnam, and flows through the rocky sloping limestone mountain of the global geological park system Dong Van stone. The Nho Que river carries a beautiful turquoise blue color. That shines through the bright green patches of the forest almost all seasons of the year (except the rain season from Apr till Sep).
The best time to see the river is from October till March the next year, especially Feb and March when the Bombaxceiba flowers in full bloom.
After 1 hour boat trip along the river and visit Tu San alley, we will take “xeom” to get back the car.
Optional: if you prefer to do kayaking, it is also a good idea.
Have lunch at local restaurant in Dong Van.
After lunch, we will drive to Ma Pi Leng for trekking in 1-2 hours. We will stop at Ma Pi Leng museum then start to trek through a small road. The trekking route is fabulous for anyone who loves nature and taking photos. Climb up to the nice view point on the top of mountain to see the sunset and take beautiful photos of Nho Que river. You will have the opportunity to meet ethnic children playing along the way, the hardworking women growing maize in the fields or grazing buffaloes and goats. After more than 1 hour for trekking, we will meet the car on the main road. Get on the car and back hotel for overnight in Dong Van.
Breakfast at hotel and walk around to visit Dong Van town to see the local people go to market and work on the farm before drive to Bao Lac.
Arrival Bao Lac around noon. Lunch at local restaurant.
After lunch - drive to Ba Be - visit local small villages on the way.
Arrival Ba Be - check in homestay and dinner with the host.
Overnight in Ba Be.
Today, we will enjoy the boat trip 5 hours on Ba Be Lake.
Arrive at Ba Be Lake. The atmosphere here was something magical and fantastic, perfect retreat for the soul.
We spend the whole afternoon exploring the lake. This is a spectacular boat trip on the lake. We stroll along the riverfront, visit some lovely villages and hike the upper reaches of the lake, in an area marked by massive limestone cliffs and mountains.
Then, we will bring you to Cao Bang for overnight. You can stay at hotel or homestay (on your request).
Overnight in Cao Bang.
Today, we drive to Ban Gioc Waterfall, a very scenic spot directly on the border with China. Half the pleasure of the visit to Vietnam’s largest waterfall is walking across rice paddy fields to reach the base of the falls. On the way back, we may have time to stop at several giant irrigation water - wheels that lies along the road overlooking villages. We also visit to Nguom Ngao Cave which is so natural and spectacular.
We return Cao Bang and stretch your legs with a walk to the market nearby. We make a climb to the War Memorial with an overview of the town.
Have dinner at and overnight in Cao Bang.
After breakfast, we say goodbye the host and walk to the main road where we take our car drive to Dong Khe then heading for Lang Son (the border town had been all destroyed during the recent Sino – Vietnamese war, but was rebuilt to become an important trade center in north-eastern region). We can make some breaks en routes as you wish to visit hill tribe villages and take pictures.
Finally, stop at Bac Son town for overnight. In the late afternoon, take a short walk around the town for discovering the daily life of local people.
We start at 06.30 A.M for the 4 hour drive (170 km) beautiful roads, which offer plenty of chances for taking photos of Vietnamese farmers tilling the vast green paddy fields. Our destination is Halong bay – the most famous World Heritage Site in Vietnam, famous for its beautiful seascape, thousands of spectacular islands and islets jutting out from the sea, amazing caves with marvelous stalagmites and stalactites in different sizes and shapes.
11:30 – 12:00 Upon arrival, you'll be welcomed on board our luxury junk and treated with wine and fresh local seafood. As our junk gliding further into the tranquility of Ha Long Bay amid the towering mountain cliffs and on the emerald green water, you'll have relaxing time combining the fine tastes of the wine and the freshness of Ha Long Bay. During the cruise, we'll stop some times for visiting the amazing Sung Sot cave and the Ti Top white sand beach before anchoring for the night.
Overnight on board the junk in the wild of Halong Bay.
It is said that your Vietnam Tours will not be complete without a tour to Halong Bay and spending one night on romantic Halong Cruise. People describe Halong Bay as majestic and mysterious, inspiring and imperious and words alone cannot do justice to the natural wonder that is Halong Bay, a priceless collection of unfinished sculptures hewn from the hand of nature.
After breakfast, we'll take a little sampan to visit a secret lagoon of Ha Long Bay while the surrounding mountains are just waking up. After that our cruise takes us further into the Bay of Bai Tu Long traveling past the Human Head Island, the Turtle Island, and the Duck Islet... to the studio site where the famous Indochine film was shot. Around noon, our junk travels back to the harbor, pick up and continue drive to Ninh Binh with charming beauty of limestone mountains, rivers, and caves.
Arrive in Ninh Binh, check-in your hotel and overnight in Ninh Binh.
8:30AM: We pick you up at your hotel to visit highlights of Ninh Binh province. We first visit Mua Cave, the most beautiful place to view in Ninh Binh, which is considered as “miniature Great Wall” of Vietnam, hiking to the peak of Mua cave, you will see whole Tam Coc landscape and Ninh Binh city.
You have lunch at our local restaurant to try special delicious local Ninh Binh cuisine and then take a rest for 20 minutes before visiting next destination.
Join the boat trip in Tam Coc to see natural and amazing scenery of this landscape with 3 magical grottos: Hang Ca (First Grotto), Hang Hai (Second Grotto), Hang Ba (Third Grotto). Especially rowing boat through Ngo Dong river to see rice field is a awesome experience.
You can feel the deeply pure atmosphere with special smell of fresh rivers water and cool air from karst mountains when reaching each of the 3 caves in turns.
We then visit Bich Dong pagoda before transferring to Hanoi airport for your next destination.
* What about Cancellation policy?
In case of cancellation, we will not impose any charges if we are not being charged and possible to get refund from our suppliers but if our suppliers apply charges for cancellation, you will have to pay those charges that apply. Cancellation policies vary, depending upon the type of service, the time of year, and the reason for cancellation. We will pass on to you all details of any cancellation policy with our transparent reply upon demand.
General cancellation charges that applied by travel services in Vietnam and Indochina.
- Domestic flights: 25% of the fares
- 3 star hotels, no charge if you cancel 5 -7 days before your arrival. (FIT)
- 4 star hotels, no charge if you cancel 10 - 15 days before your arrival (FIT)
- 5 stars hotels, no charge if you cancel 15 - 20 days before your arrival (FIT)
However, in peak season, we may have to pay the hotels one month before your arrival to secure the booking, and in this case, the cancellation policy will be based on the hotels' cancellation plolicies.
* Can we get refund?
For the unused services, Vivutravel will refund you the money.
Question 1: Best time for Northeast and Northwest Vietnam tour
The Northwest are very famous for their endless beautiful rice fields that look really like a picturesque landscape. And you can fully enjoy that beauty while traveling to those areas from May to Sep. In May & June, it is called the water falling season by the local people as it is the time they fill in the terraced rice fields with water. Everywhere is like a giant mirror reflecting the natural beauty and the sunlight. In Jul & Aug, the rice fields are being colored green and arising as a charming green picture. The most beautiful time to enjoy terraced rice fields in Sapa and the Northwest is at the end of August and in the beginning of September when they turns yellow – a perfect color of a masterpiece created by nature and human.
How about the other months? In fact, the other months are also a good time to travel to those areas as you can see many other amazing things like peach and plum trees & flowers in Spring time from January to March or snow sometimes covering everywhere in Winter time from December to February.
Just be aware that many days in Winter can be sunk deep in fog and frost with short views and make your trip out of our expectation. However, discovering the daily life of local people during Winter gives you memorable experience, for sure, as their hard conditions are really shown on those days.
Northeast region includes mountainous provinces in the far North of Vietnam where the weather is cool/cold all year round. It will be severely cold from December to February with average temperature of 8 degree C and cool in the rest of year with average temperature of 25 degree C.
Be aware that it will be wet and foggy in cold season and you can't enjoy the spectacular and beautiful sceneries. However, there will be drizzly weather during cold season only, not typhoon. Furthermore, visiting local ethnic people during cold days will be different experiences as you can see and entirely understand their life of deprivation and misery.
Rainiest months in those areas are July and August, however, those 2 months are also best time for traveling to the Northeast as you can enjoy yellow rice fields in other areas in general and in Bac Son Valley in particular. Ban Gioc Waterfall is also more beautiful during rainy season.
Question 2: Trekking routes and trekking distances
Trekking is a must-do activity while traveling in those remote areas, then it plays an important role in that trip, of course. So you should clear all information with your travel consultant or tour guide about your trekking tours as some of them are very hard and dangerous that are just suitable for young and energetic people only. A suitable trekking distance will help you fully enjoy the trip, the culture, the local people as well as the nature, otherwise, tiredness of a hard and long trekking distance will surely make you have many negative thoughts.
The trekking routes are also important as it should really be arranged based on your traveling time. In beautiful time, it is advised to do popular trekking routes even though they can be crowded with tourists as those routes pass amazing terraced rice fields that you have never seen. However, when the harvest season is over, you should consider the trekking routes that are not crowded and passing remote villages.
Question 3: What should be prepared for Vietnam Northeast Loop Tour
Clothes: Traveling in cool season, you should prepare summer clothes with some light jackets as it will be pretty cold in the early morning and evening. Whereas warm coats are highly recommended for traveling in cold season as it can be even dropped to 5 degrees under zero.
Rain gear: Weather in the Northeast is not stable that can be changed continuously. It can be rain in the early morning but sunny at noon and rain again in the late afternoon. Then rain gear should be well prepared.
Personal drugs: The far north is really lack of medical infrastructure as well as pharmacy. Then it is advised to bring your personal drugs as well as popular medicines like paracetamol, thermometer, anti-itching lotion, oral rehydration preparation and bandaids.
Mosquito and insect repellent: Those stuff are necessary as you may trek through the wet jungle or stay at local houses near the forest.
Question 4: Traveling to the Northeast in cold season
Hotel with heat: It is better to stay at a hotel with heater (of course, air-conditioner with heat is not available in those areas) if you are planning to travel to the Northeast in cold season. Homestay is not a good idea during that period as you can’t sleep well for sure due to low temperature and privation of warming facilities.
Question 5: Traveling in rainy season
You should consider traveling to those areas in rainy season as it can be dangerous sometimes. When it rains a lot in those areas for many days, erosion is pretty popular and may much affect to your trip.
Question 6: Traveling to the Northeast and Northwest with kids
Traveling to the Northeast with infants and small kids under 6 yrs old is not advised because of the simple life condition and poor infrastructure in those areas, but older kids and teenagers are really fine as they can bear a pretty hard trip and more important, a lot of life-time experiences are waiting for them.
Question 7: Is it safe for traveling to untouched areas
It is safe, for sure, while traveling to the Northwest Mountains or even border regions as those areas are highly controlled and protected by local government. That’s why you have to apply for permission before visiting to the border regions and it will be arranged by your local travel agent. The local ethnic groups are also friendly and hospitality even they can’t speak both Vietnamese and English.
Question 8: Interact with local people
Local people are not familiar with tourists but you are surely warmly welcomed by them as Vietnamese in general and ethnic people in particular are very open and kind and so love to see you as well as to help you in case you need. Then, you should show your good attitudes all the time if you want to visit their houses as well as make a short chat with them. Remember to ask for acceptance when you wish to take their photos.
Question 9: Road condition
Road condition is not a big problem when traveling in the Northeast and Northwest as they are mostly big and smooth roads
Question 10: Donation
Donation is highly recommended and it can be money or not. Normally, you can bring along warm clothes for both adults and kids as it is cold there all year round. Quilted Blanket is another great idea. Or at least, you should prepare some small gifts for local kids like cakes, notebooks, pencils, etc.
Unlike other popular tourisit destinations in Vietnam, tourism in those areas haven't been developed and so luxury and modern hotels are not available there. The available accommodation in those provinces are homestay, guest-house and mini-hotel with basic facilities. As below, we provide you with all necessary information of hotel accommodation in our Vietnam Northeast Loop Tour:
Guest-house & mini-hotel: They are quiet similar in architecture and facilities. All guest-houses & mini-hotels are small building less than 5 storeys with basic facilities of bed, mattress, pillow, mosquito-net, private bath room, hot shower, western toilet and air-conditioner mostly.
Homestay: As revealed through its name, Homestay means that you will stay at local houses with local ethnic minorities that are mostly stilt-houses. Private rooms are not available and you will have a small mattress with a pillow and a mosquito-net. The bathroom is sharing with hot shower and western toilet available.
And below is a list of accommodation's images in the Northeast areas:
Room at a mini-hotel
Room at a guest-house
Toilet at a mini-hotel/guest-house
Sleeping space at homestay
Toilet at homestay
Tour guide and driver are Vivutravel's representatives and your travel companions during your travel in Sapa & Northwest Loop Tour who take care of our travel services and make your holiday a memorable time. Understanding this, Vivutravel always selects the best tour guides and drivers for such amazing trips to the far North.
We do understand that a good tour guide will make your holiday a beautiful time and tour guides who work with us are well-paid, experienced with a university background, eager to exchange our culture, lifestyle, knowledge...with travelers, and have a great passion for their country and understand the personal touch.
Then we always use experienced tour guides who are expert in guiding trips to those Northeast areas and will show you the most beautiful view-points, introduce to you unique cultures and lifestyles of local ethnic people as well as guide you to amazing trekking routes.
Vivutravel guarantees to offer the best means of transport during your Sapa & Northwest Loop tour. The safety, comfort and security of our customers come first. Furthermore, as all tourist sites are mostly far from towns and city centers, vehicle must be the latest modern one or it will be very difficult to manage in case it is broken on the way. Furthermore, checking the vehicle carefully before the trip is a must-do procedure in order that it will work well and stays away from all rising troubles. Our drivers must be very experienced and careful too as it is not easy to go around those untouched areas. They are all full time workers, government licensed in the tourism industry with at least 5 years driving experience.
Luxury restaurants are not available in the far North of Vietnam. Standard restaurants can hardly find. Then our meals are mostly at basic local restaurants with simple dishes. It is not expensive for having lunch/dinner there and it costs around 5-7 usd per meal only. Breakfasts are mostly not included at hotel and you will have breakfasts outside with Vietnamese popular dishes like noodle soup, sticky rice, bread, etc.
NOTE: Acceptable restaurants are all located at towns which are sometimes far away from our visiting destinations. So lunch can be arranged quite late at around 1pm or 2pm.
After finding Vivutravel on the internet, I checked reviews on TripAdvisor to make my final decision, no regret! Hoai took care of our organization, she adapted their proposal tour to our requests, the guides and driver were very competent, all the team is great. We asked for a small modification and they have adapted with a real reactivity, their rates are much more attractive than other agencies. We recommended Vivutravel to our friend and they were so happy to discover this wonderful country with them too.