Gain a greater insight into life in northern Vietnam with an itinerary that explores not just Hanoi but also heads out into the countryside. Hike through the picturesque valleys surrounding Sapa and visit local communities. Cycle out to Mai Chau and on through the stunning karst landscapes to Ninh Binh. Kayak around karsts and explore the secluded lagoons and caves of Lan Ha Bay – the lesser visited but just as beautiful sister of Halong Bay
The spectacular valleys and mountains of Vietnam were simply made for exploration. Put on your hiking shoes and get ready for this immersive journey that gets away from the bright lights of Hanoi and under the skin of Vietnam’s bucolic countryside. In between trekking and cycling past lush landscapes, stop in at local villages and learn about traditional life with memorable homestay experiences. It’s not all mountains and trails either, with an opportunity to kayak across the majestic waters of Lan Ha Bay and spend a night in a waterside resort. Prepare to be led off the beaten track.
Breakfast Included: 10 Lunches Included: 4 Dinner Included: 2
Xin chao. Welcome to Vietnam! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm. If you have time before the meeting, head out and discover Hanoi. Visit Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple, start sampling the delicious street food, or visit the Museum of Ethnology and find out more about the homes and lives of Vietnam’s ethnic communities. After the welcome meeting, you may like to join your group for an optional meal at one of Hanoi's fantastic eating spots.
Hiking in Sapa
After breakfast climb board a private minibus to Sapa, a town in the Hoang Lien Son Mountains of northwest Vietnam. This journey will take approximately 5 hours. From the market in the centre of Sapa, venture out on a short trek (approximately 2.5 hours) through the surrounding valleys to visit a village called Cat Cat. This is home to the H’mong people, who emigrated from China 300 years ago. In the evening, settle into your hotel in Sapa for the night.
Hiking in Lao Chai
Savour the dramatic landscapes and panoramic views of rural Vietnam on a trek from Lao Chai to Ta Van. You'll pass by terraced farms ripe with corn and rice, over bubbling brooks and through bucolic villages. Stop for a picnic lunch before heading on to our homestay with a local family in the evening. The total trek today is around 10 kilometres (6.2 miles).
Hiking in Su Pan
This morning trek to Su Pan before taking some time to rest your feet on a bus ride back to Sapa. In the afternoon the group returns to Hanoi (approximately 5 hours). Maybe get a bird's eye view of the city from a rooftop bar and unwind with an iced coffee.
Cycling in Hanoi
Vietnam's capital is best explored on foot, which is why the group will head out on a city walking tour. See the final resting place of Vietnam's revered revolutionary at Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and Museum before stopping by the Temple of Literature. Although the shrine was originally built in the 11th century, and is therefore considered to be the city's oldest temple, the current structure and shrine to Confucius actually dates from the 18th century. In the afternoon, have a practice on your bike with a warm up cycling trip around Hanoi's West Lake.
Cycling in Mai Chau
Leave behind the Hanoi hustle first by vehicle, then jump on your bike and and cycle to the Mai Chau valley (approximately 60km / 37mi). There are great photo opportunities along the way – stop at a vantage point to take in the view of Mai Chau, home to a variety of minority groups with their own unique culture and languages. Along the way, there's also the opportunity to help local farmers plant rice seeds into the fields. Arrive in Mai Chau and head to the village of Pom Coong, where your local guide will introduce you to your hosts for lunch, and provide information on the region's people, their lifestyles, customs and culture. Lunch is a traditional affair with examples of local cuisine on offer. This is a great opportunity to experience the local area, chat with your hosts, and gain a real insight into life in this fascinating and picturesque region. After lunch, take some time to relax before saddling up for a cycle trip to nearby villages. Back at the homestay, relax with a cold drink while watching the sun set over the peaceful mountains. Alternatively, for the food lovers, why not help your host cook dinner!
Cycling in Ninh Binh
After breakfast set out again on your bike on a cycle from Mai Chau to Ninh Binh, a region well known for its green valleys, karst mountains and conservation areas. Today's ride will cover approximately 70 kilometres in total.
Cat Ba Island
Catch a bus this morning from Ninh Binh to Hai Phong then jump on a ferry to Cat Ba Island, which sits at the southeastern edge of Halong Bay. Lan Ha Bay, where Cat Ba can be found, is part of Halong Bay with the additional attraction of numerous white-sand beaches. The total travelling time today is approximately five hours. Check in to your peaceful, hilltop accommodation and enjoy a free afternoon taking it easy in a hammock, or opt to keep the pace up with a hike or trip to the beach.
Kayaking around Cat Ba Island
Explore the waters and limestone karsts of Lan Ha Bay on a full-day boat trip. Get up close and personal kayaking beside the tree-clad outcrops, with lunch onboard also included. Halong Bay's World Heritage designation was extended to the Cat Ba Archipelago thanks to its similar aesthetic value, and the scenes of turquoise water and junk boats are quintessential Vietnam. No-one will judge you for taking a selfie here. Spend a second night on Cat Ba, with the evening free to visit the local restaurants and bars.
Say goodbye to Cat Ba Island and head back to Hanoi (approximately five hours). Arrive in the late afternoon, and perhaps head down to the markets for some last-minute souvenir shopping or to pay a visit to one of the city's many museums or historical sites. Both the Fine Arts Museum and Hoa Lo 'Hanoi Hilton' Prison are great choices. In the evening, perhaps head out for a farewell dinner with your group and toast the end of this active adventure.
Your active adventure comes to an end today and there are no activities planned, but there's plenty to see if you'd like to continue exploring Hanoi or further afield, including an Urban Adventure discovering Hanoi's street food by night.