If you love to cycle, to feel the wind in your (helmet-covered) hair and a tropical breeze on your face then this speedy but comprehensive 15 day adventure is for you. A bike lets you see Vietnam like never before – you’ll go from road to beaten track to something way beyond. Think of the calories you’ll burn and the appetite you’ll work up cycling around Vietnam’s incredible landscape – all the more reason to indulge in the wealth of delicious local and regional food. This two-wheeled adventure will show you all the different sides of this country – wildlife-filled natural landscapes, small villages and ancient ruins, along with the region’s liveliest cities
More than 30 million Vietnamese can’t be wrong – handle-bar height gives you the best view of Vietnam! Our cycling tour through this mesmerising country provides opportunities to meet the locals and experience their culture in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. So come with us and get active as we travel from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, down country lanes and over spectacular mountain passes. And, of course, all the exercise gives you the perfect excuse to indulge in delicious Vietnamese cuisine.
Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam. Your adventure officially begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm tonight. You can arrive at any time during the day, as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
If you are bringing your own bicycle with you on the trip, you need to assemble it to check for any damage in transit before the welcome meeting.
If you have arranged for the hire of a bicycle, your leader will assist you in preparing the bike before your first cycling activity.
If you arrive with some time to spare then work your legs with a walk around Hanoi’s charming shaded boulevards and a squat on a short street-corner stools for a bia hoi (freshly brewed draught beer) in the Old Quarter.
Notes: If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We are happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception or your travel agent in advance.
Riding distance: none
This morning you’ll get the chance to explore the Vietnamese capital by bike on a guided ride through the city (approx. 22kms).
Hanoi is made for exploration by bike, so this is the perfect place to get to grips with Vietnamese street life and traffic. You’ll ride through parks, around lakes, and down tree-lined boulevards and visit iconic sights such as the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex, which includes the Buddhist temple One Pillar Pagoda and the former residence of Vietnam’s most famous revolutionary, Ho Chi Minh.
There’s also time to explore the vibrant Old Quarter, an architectural museum where blocks of ochre buildings give off the air of a 1930s provincial French town. In these ancient ’36 Streets’ discover an amazing selection of shops that sell everything from souvenirs to exquisite silk clothing, jewellery, beautifully embroidered tablecloths, wood carvings and lacquerware - it's a bargain hunter's paradise.
You’ll have some free time this afternoon. Perhaps take a walk around the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake, with the reflection of modern office buildings, old Buddhist temples and the tangle of ancient streets in its still surface, or maybe dive into culture at the Vietnam Fine Art Museum or The Vietnamese Women’s Museum. Top off the day with a steaming bowl of fresh Pho from a hole-the-wall eatery – the street food in Hanoi is not to be missed!
Riding distance: approx. 22kms/14 miles, mostly flat with approx. 40m/130ft of elevation gain.
Saddle up this morning as your cycling adventure kicks into first gear. Leave Hanoi behind and travel by bus to Hoa Binh (approximately 2 hours). When you arrive you’ll jump on your bike and cycle 38 kilometres to Cao Phong, through small ethnic Thai villages, enjoying the tranquility of the paddy fields and interacting with the local people. Limestone peaks climb in the background and banks of green line the road, and you’ll take regular stops to admire the view across the lush valleys. After arriving you’ll take a short 30-minute bus ride for the next section, stopping for lunch at Man Duc.
After you fuel up, the bus will take you to the Da River Reservoir. Stretch your legs again cycling along the Da River, passing spectacular karst cliffs, through paddy fields, and admiring the lush panorama of the Mai Chau valley on the way (approximately 19 kilometres). The peaceful town of Mai Chau is situated in a stunningly beautiful valley surrounded by verdant green mountains and is famed for its breathtaking scenery and friendly hilltribe peoples. Tonight you’ll enjoy local hospitality in a simple stilt-house homestay in the village of Poom Coong. Your amicable hosts will cook up a fabulous home-cooked meal, and there may even be a chance to sample some of the local rice wine produced in the region.
Ride 1 - approx. 38kms/24 miles, uphill with approx. 330m/1080ft of elevation gain.
Ride 2 - approx. 19kms/12 miles, mostly downhill with approx. 80m/260ft of elevation gain.
This morning you farewell your homestay hosts and cycle from Mai Chau to Mai Hai, and then on to Co Luong (approx 50kms). You’ll ride through more paddy fields and test your riding skills (or suspension) with the shallow potholes that can be found on the road. Pass farmers riding atop their load drawn by lumbering water buffalo, ride through small towns and wave to friendly locals on your way through picture-perfect Vietnam – lush green fields, towering limestone mountains, tranquil waterways and charming historic sites.
A bus trip then takes you along the Ho Chi Minh Road with a lunch stop before Ninh Binh. If you arrive in Ninh Binh with time (and energy) to spare you can take a 36 km cycle around the surrounding area. This is a wonderful chance to see everyday rural life in action as well as take in the beautiful countryside.
Ride 1 - approx. 49kms/30 miles, mostly downhill with approx. 195m/640ft of elevation gain.
Ride 2 - approx. 36kms/22 miles, mostly flat with approx. 50m/165ft of elevation gain.
Ninh Binh - Overnight train
This morning you’ll cycle from Ninh Binh to Tam Coc, when you’ll really have the opportunity to soak up one of Vietnam’s most spectacular views – limestone karst peaks thrusting out of serene rice paddies, the sounds and views of the river, which winds through the fields and has boats parading up and down its length. You will also cycle to Hoa Lu, the ancient capital of Vietnam under the 10th-century Dinh Dynasty, the remains of which can be seen in the lasting beautiful archways and temples. Here you’ll take a lunch break at the Dinh or the Le Temple. Today’s cycling is approximately 50 kilometres. Then it’s back on the bus to return to your hotel, where you can use the day room to take a shower and freshen up. After an early dinner you’ll transfer to Nam Dinh for an overnight train to Hue.
Notes: On the overnight train to Hue (approximately 12 hours) conditions are basic, but it is a true Intrepid experience and the best way to travel long distances like a local. Sleeper trains typically have four berth compartments (occasionally six berth depending on seasonal variations and group configuration), which have bench seats that convert into sleeping bunks. A sheet, pillow and blanket are provided, although some travellers prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. On occasion, passengers of different genders will be required to share a compartment and there will be occasions where you'll be sharing with local travellers or travellers who are not part of your group. Most trains have a dining carriage serving simple food, but some travellers take the opportunity to stock up on fresh bread, cheese and fruit prior to departure.
Riding distance: approx. 52kms/32 miles, undulating with approx. 195m/640ft of elevation gain.
Arrive in Hue and hop back in the saddle to begin your exploration of the former imperial capital of Vietnam. Hue holds the treasures of Vietnam's royal past and is a curious mix of bustling streets and tranquil settings. Today you will ride (approximately 16 kilometres) through the fields to visit many of Hue's remarkable sites, including temples, bunkers, tombs, ruins, pagodas and spectacular scenery.
On your cycle you will visit the Imperial Citadel, including the Forbidden Purple City. The latter was almost totally destroyed during the Vietnam War's Tet Offensive, but the foliage-covered ruins are still atmospheric and the gaping holes left by bombs give an idea of the destruction wreaked upon the country during the war. The itinerary is flexible and you have ample time for stops along the way to admire the sites. Later, kick back in a cafe or restaurant. Hue’s cuisine is considered by many Vietnamese as the best in the country, and is influenced both by its imperial heritage (small dishes and a focus on aesthetic presentation) as well as its strong Buddhist heritage, reflected in the high proportion of vegetarian restaurants in the region. The bustling Dong Ba Market offers a wealth of goods and foods to see and snack on. It's a good place to try some of the local specialities that graced the Nguyen emperors' banquet tables, such as the ‘banh khoai’, Hue's answer to the pancake.
Riding distance: approx. 16kms/10 miles, flat with approx. 12m/40ft of elevation gain.
Today will be big on riding and big on spectacular views. Leaving Hue, you will do some mountainous riding (approximately 85 kilometres in total) as you conquer the Hai Van (Ocean Cloud) Pass on the way to the tropical south and the laidback town of Hoi An. The pass is a stunning stretch of highway the winds through the Truong Son mountain range for about 20 kilometres (10 kilometres each way), with views across the Bay of Danang to the south. It is 500 metres about sea level and the up/down slope ranges from 5-10%, and there will be plenty of well-earned breaks along the way to take in the views, snap some photos, and rehydrate. After the rewarding vistas on the cycle in, you’ll also be spoiled with the town of Hoi An – with lantern-lit streets, vibrant markets, skilled tailors, artisan shops, ancient houses, colourful temples and beautiful smiles, it’s a Vietnamese wonderland. Recently declared a World Heritage site, Hoi An is being beautifully restored and preserved, with parts of the town looking exactly like they did more than a century ago. This makes its streets of low tiled buildings perfect for strolling. Take the evening to soak up the atmosphere, or just rest your legs at a local restaurant after a day’s riding.
Ride 1 - approx. 56kms/35 miles, flat with approx. 55m/180ft of elevation gain.
Ride 2 - approx. 30kms/19 miles, significant uphill & downhill with approx. 576m/1890ft of elevation gain.
This morning you leader with take you on a walking tour of the town, which used to be a busy port for the Cham people before the river silted up. There’s also a strong Chinese influence, and you’ll see it as you walk past the pagodas and assembly halls. On your tour you’ll take in a historic house (formerly home to a prominent trader), the Japanese Covered Bridge, a Chinese assembly hall and a museum. The afternoon is free for you to do whatever takes your fancy. For those who love to shop then Hoi An is a mecca, with much to browse and buy. There are original paintings, handcrafted woodwork, ceramics, embroidery, lanterns and more. If you want to get some new threads then the town is also famous for its tailoring – pick a fabric and a design and it’ll be ready the same day. If you feel like keeping active then there are the options to take a 15-20 kilometre ride into the surrounding countryside, to cycle to nearby Cua Dai Beach, or to take a stroll through fields of rice, sesame, banana and peanuts.
Riding distance: none
Continue south, down scenic Highway One on the road to Quy Nhon, one of the routes that is less visited by travellers, past paddy fields, wheat drying for Beer Hoi, and locals playing chess to Phu.
Climb back on the bikes to cycle to the coastal city of Quy Nhon (approx. 45kms). The city is filled with long stretches of beach and relaxed boulevards, and as it’s pretty undiscovered by visitors, is a great place to get an authentic slice of coastal life.
Riding distance: approx. 44kms/27 miles, undulating with approx. 255m/840ft of elevation gain.
Today’s cycle is approximately 95 kilometres, but it is one of the most breathtaking stretches of road you’ll ride – the highway hugs huge granite cliffs and looks out across the deep blue sea.
Following parts of the Reunification railway, you’ll enjoy scenery of islands, lagoons and sand dunes. Join the scooter riders on the waterfront promenade as you arrive in the idyllic coastal town of Nha Trang, once referred to as the 'Cannes of the Orient', and whose sandy palm-lined beach and island-dotted bay still make a pretty idyllic picture. Here there’s consistently good weather, a vibrant nightlife and excellent diving.
Ride 1 - approx. 75kms/47 miles – lightly undulating with approx. 165m/530ft of elevation gain.
Ride 2 - approx. 19kms/12 miles - lightly undulating with approx. 140m/460ft of elevation gain.
Today you’ll swap your bike for a boat as you head out to explore the nearby islands. This excursion is often the highlight of the trip for many travellers, as you’ll get to know some of the locals and indulge in the beauty of the place. Starting on the main boat, you’ll then take a small basket boat to shore and visit a fishing village, snorkel in the turquoise waters and feast on a fresh seafood buffet for lunch. You can enjoy this rest day by lazing in a deck chair, going for another swim or perhaps taking a mud baths to soothe away sore muscles.
Head up through the Bidoup-Nui Ba Pass into the cooler climes of the South Central Highlands (approximately 65 kilometres), where some of the country's best fruits, flowers and coffee beans are grown. The road is winding and steep but if you're fit and ready for a challenge, you may want to conquer the whole mountain on your bike. If you're not so physically inclined, take it easy and flag a lift from the bus. Whichever way you choose to get to the top, you'll still be treated to magnificent views once you reach the summit. After a short photo stop here, you will descend to Dalat. One of Vietnam's most delightful cities, Dalat is a perfect base to explore this pleasant region. With an appealing Swiss-French feel, along with pleasant lakes, palaces, pine tree-covered hills, flower gardens and pagodas, Dalat is often called the 'city of eternal spring' for its temperate climate.
Ride 1 - approx. 57kms/35 miles, lightly undulating with approx. 160m/530ft of elevation gain.
Ride 2 - approx. 15kms/9 miles, lightly undulating with approx. 110m/360ft of elevation gain.