Travel ▻ Southeast Asia ▻ Vietnam8-Day Northern Vietnam In-Depth
8-day Northern Vietnam In-Depth

8-Day Northern Vietnam In-Depth

8 days

8-Day Northern Vietnam In-Depth
from $995 USD

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In just 8-days, revel in the magnificent landscapes, people, and places in the resilient northern stretches of Vietnam. You’ll see the best of cosmopolitan Hanoi plus explore remote minority tribe villages that feel like a million miles away. No trip to the north is complete without a visit to Halong Bay, and we also venture to Ninh Binh, the land-equivalent of Halong with spires of limestone dotting the lush green environs. You can start this trip any day of the year however we’d recommend you avoid June through September (rainy season).  In addition, winter here is real, and the worst of the cold is generally from late December through mid-February so while travel at that time is totally fine, be prepared for un-tropical chilly days and nights.  Travelers are welcome to customize this trip to suit their needs and travel styles, just let us know what is best for you.

Luxury / Upgrade - Suggested Accommodations (plus contact us for the price)

  • La Siesta Hotel, Deluxe room (Hanoi)
  • Emeralda Ninh Binh Resort, Superior room (Ninh Binh)
  • Dragon Legend cruise, Deluxe room (Bai Tu Long Bay)
For travelers who do no not want to overnight on the train, we can arrange for 3 nights (Days 3-5) in Sapa town itself plus road transfers both ways as an alternative. For luxury travelers, the suggested property would be the Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa. We can quote this alternative on request. 

Full Itinerary expand all collapse all

Day 1: Hanoi Arrival

Arrive Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport anytime today. On arrival, clear customs, then your driver and guide will meet you and transfer you to your hotel tonight. The balance of the day is free to rest and relax.

Meals included: n/a
Mid-Range Accommodations: Medallion Hotel, Deluxe room

Day 2: Hanoi – Explore Hanoi like a local

This morning, your guide and driver will meet you at the hotel around 7:00am and you’ll head towards nearby Hoan Kiem Lake. It is a cultural thing in Vietnam to wake up very early and start the morning with some exercise. It’s interesting to see how local people, mostly women of every age, start their daily routine. Several groups of people can be found practicing tai chi and aerobics. You are welcome to be a part of Vietnam and join the locals in their morning routine!

After visiting the Ngoc Son Temple, located in the middle of the Hoan Kiem Lake, we will visit a traditional, local and charming coffee cafe, where you will be able to try Vietnam’s local coffee: Cà phê sữa đá (Iced coffee) and if you feel more adventurous, you can also try the ‘Egg coffee,’ After our coffee, we will continue walking and we will stop in a street food place, where you can try the delicious ‘bánh mì’ –typical baguette sandwich.

Later, go deep into Hanoi’s Old Quarter and begin a guided walking tour where we can admire classic French architecture in a variety of well-preserved Vietnamese buildings. Our first stop will be the St. Joseph Cathedral, a French gothic building constructed in 1886. Next, we will walk just 10 minutes until we arrive to the Hoa Lo Prison, where Vietnamese as well as American and French prisoners of war used to be imprisoned.

To finish our morning, we’ll pay a visit to the Huu Tiep Lake, better known as ‘B-52 lake’, where US B-5 bomber wreckage can be seen.

At noon, we will return to the Old Quarter. Vietnam is very well known for its food, so we will stop at a ‘Bún Chả’ restaurant, where you will try Hanoi’s specialty. After our local lunch, we will visit the Temple of Literature, built in 1076. Vietnam’s first university was established within this temple to educate Vietnam's royalty, mandarins and members of the elite. The university functioned for 700 years and its gardens and ancient architecture offer a fascinating glimpse into Vietnam’s past.

Our last stop of the day will be along Hanoi’s unique railway tracks. There is something very singular about the railway tracks as the rails are sometimes located mere meters away from house doors. Together with our guide, enjoy a walk along the railway tracks and take some of the most beautiful pictures of the city.

After a full day, we will finish with evening beers at the typical and well-known Bia Hoi, where you will taste local draft beer; finishing the day as a local.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch
Mid-Range Accommodations: Medallion Hotel, Deluxe room

Day 3: Hanoi – Lao Cai

Enjoy a free day at leisure, perhaps checking out some of the local markets, street food stalls, shops, and art galleries. In the evening, our guide and driver will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to Hanoi railway station to take the night train to Lao Cai, a classic travel experience in Southeast Asia.

Meals included: Breakfast
Mid-Range Accommodations: Overnight on train, 4 berths/cabin

Day 4: Lao Cai - Full day visiting ethnic villages

Arrive early in the morning in Lao Cai where we’ll meet you for your transfer to Sapa. Enjoy a traditional breakfast in one of our favorite local restaurants.

Meet your guide after breakfast for a short transfer by road of around 5 km to Hau Thao village. The trek then starts with an ascent to the small Black H’mong village of Hang Da, from here it is mostly straight and downhill with a beautiful view of the high mountains and the deep valley of Muomg Hoa on your left. It will take 2 hours to get to the next village, Hau Chu Ngai, also a Black H'mong minority hamlet, where we can see more of the traditional life of the Black H’mong minority, the second largest ethnic minority in the Sapa zone, and just one of several interesting cultures waiting for travelers to discover.

From here we continue by road again deeper into the valley and cross the beautiful Muong Bo River before reaching Thanh Phu, a village of the Tay minority. Here we can appreciate the differences in culture, including the lighter colors of silk clothing worn within the community.

From here, we continue to the small village of My Son and an interesting afternoon walk. This remote tribe is the smallest minority group in the Sapa area and home to Xa Pho people. In the afternoon, we arrive in the remote and quiet Red Dao village of Nam Cang. Walking along the country roads here, you get the satisfying feeling that you are well off the beaten path. Finally, you cross a private bridge and check into your private room in the comfortable Topas Riverside lodge. You can explore the local village here or relax in the river or at the riverside veranda.

Plan approximately 5.4 km walking/2.5 hours and about 2 hours driving today.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Mid-Range Accommodations: Topas Riverside Lodge (standard room)

Day 5: Explore Nam Cang valley on the Nam Nhiu – Sin Chai trail / Transfer to Lao Cai station

Wake up amidst the sounds of nature. The day starts with a nice breakfast served right next to the river.

Today’s hiking will commence from Nam Cang village on a quiet farm road for a short walk before a turn into a beautiful rice valley. The slender trail leads you through rice terraces and streams where you can take in the beautiful landscape. During the growing season and harvest time, you will meet locals working hard on their field, with buffaloes plowing the field. The trail is soon getting steeper until Nam Nhiu village, inhabited by the Red Dao ethnic tribe.

You will meet the local villagers and enjoy a chance to visit their house, experience the life briefly of the locals, who’s main occupation is rice farming. The Red Dao women are very skillful at making beautiful embroidery and maintaining their culture traditions of unique shaved hair and eyebrows.

Leaving the village behind us, continue on a nice track along a mountainside with a pretty rice valley below. At the end, you and your local guide will meet the car on the road near Sin Chai village. The short transfer will bring you to Thanh Phu for lunch, prepared by a local family. After lunch is journey back to Sapa town. At 6:00pm, take a private car from Sapa to Lao Cai for the night train back to Hanoi.

Plan approximately 7.1 km hiking/ 3.5 hours; 1.5 hours driving

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch
Mid-Range Accommodations: Overnight on train, 4 berths/cabin

Day 6: Hanoi – Ninh Binh

Arrive in Hanoi early this morning, meet your guide and driver for transferring to your hotel. While the room is not yet available, drop off your bags, kick your feet up and have some coffee until the pick-up to Ninh Binh.

Take a cruise up the river through rugged karst hills and lush green rice fields. Trang An is also known as “Ha Long Bay inland”, for some of its beauty surpasses the one of its coastal rival.

In the afternoon, start an easy bike ride to Hoa Lu, the former capital of Vietnam in the 10th and 11th centuries when Vietnam was under the Dinh and Le dynasties. Before going back to your hotel, we will visit some of the monuments dedicated to both emperors.

Meals included: n/a
Mid-Range Accommodations: Tam Coc Ricefield resort, Garden View Bungalow

Day 7: Ninh Binh – Halong Bay or Bai Tu Long Bay

Included (standard): Overnight on the Swan Cruise, Deluxe room

Once in the Swan office, you will be transferred by tender to the Swan Cruise. Enjoy a welcome drink; be briefed about the safety on board and the activities included then check into your cabin.

A delicious Vietnamese set menu will be served while leisurely cruising to the core of Ha Long Bay.  When we arrive in Cap La Island, enjoy kayaking through the karst and breathtaking nature, swimming and relaxing. At sunset, get back to the boat and enjoy the sunset party while our cruise is sailing to the overnight anchorage area.

A sumptuous set-dinner will be served on board, after which you will have free time to join games or you may also try your luck with squid fishing.

Optional / Luxury alternative: Overnight at Dragon Legend cruise, Deluxe room

This morning, embark at Hon Gai International harbor, on board Indochina Dragon’s Legend. A refreshing welcome drink will be served and you can check into your cabin. As you settle into your cabin, the boat will set sail to the magnificent Bai Tu Long Bay. A set menu lunch will be served in the outdoor dining room (depending on the weather) while cruising into the magnificent Bai Tu Long Bay and admiring the fascinating limestone karsts on the way. After lunch, cruise to Vung Dang – Cong Dam area – where you can choose to swim or relax on the white sandy beach. Later, go kayaking through the mystery Karst Mountains in the Vung Dang area. When the sun sets, we will return to the Dragon Legend Cruise to relax with the Mineral Seawater Pool, the Fitness Room or the Spa and Massage Services before dinner. Dinner will be served with local seafood and then you can choose to enjoy a drink from the bar or experience squid fishing, before going to bed.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Mid-Range Accommodations: Swan Cruise, Deluxe room

Day 8: Bai Tu Long Bay – Hanoi – Depart

Included (standard): Swan Cruise

Start your day with a Tai Chi lesson on the sundeck. Breakfast will be served in Western style or you will also have the change to taste the Vietnamese traditional food – ‘Pho.’ Explore Thien Canh Son cave with a guide who will explain the history of Ha Long Bay and this cave, made naturally by Mother Nature. Upon returning to the boat you will have 30 minutes to freshen up and finish packing. Please remove all of your belongings from the cabin and leave heavy luggage outside of the cabin (our staff will transfer it directly to the pier). A Vietnamese cooking demonstration will take place on board and afterwards you will be served a traditional Vietnamese lunch.

Optional / Luxury alternative: Dragon Legend cruise

Enjoy the morning view of the Bay’s landscape with a cup of tea or coffee and enjoy breakfast in the fresh air. Cruise to Cong Do area to explore the well- hidden Thien Canh Son Cave. Check-out of your cabin and later, enjoy a buffet while cruising towards the harbor. Disembark in Hon Gai pier at noon.

Both options:

Bid farewell to Ha Long Bay and start your road trip back to Hanoi (about 3.5 hours away) and to the airport for your flight out this evening.  

Meals included: Breakfast

Pricing

8-Day Northern Vietnam In-Depth
from $995 USD

NOTE: Prices are per person in U.S. dollars based on double/triple occupancy. All quotations are based on the current rates of park fees, VAT, other government taxes, and current exchange rates. Should any of these be increased or a new tax introduced, these increases will be added on even if your trip has already been paid for.

INCLUDES:
  • All accommodations per itinerary
  • All meals per itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
  • All tours and entrance fees per itinerary (unless listed as excluded)
  • All transportation and transfers per itinerary
EXCLUDES:
  • International and domestic flights
  • Meals not listed
  • Beverages and alcohol
  • Tips for guides, drivers, hotel staff
  • Optional tours
  • Single room supplement
  • Personal expenses (visas, airport taxes, Internet, etc.)

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