Our Northern Vietnam Custom Tour highlights the traditions, and spectacular landscapes in the northern Vietnam. From the unique costumes of minority tribes living within the mountains near the Chinese border, to the incredible towering karst formations that decorate Halong Bay. Culture and nature abound on this custom tailored tour through North Vietnam, this journey will be sure to show you the depths of the north.
Begin from Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, where a guided tour will take you through the thousand years of the city that continues to thrive today, from the oldest university to shining French houses. After Hanoi, you will explore Mai Chau, a beautiful slice of countryside surrounded by mountains and occupied by many White Thai villages. From Mai Chau you will drive back to Hanoi and take a night train to the mountain town of Sapa, locating near the Chinese border.
The following days, you will explore the amazing landscape filled with undulating mountains, terraced paddy fields, and the vibrant culture of the ethnic minority tribes surrounding Sapa. The next days, you will drive from Hanoi to Halong Bay and enjoy an overnight cruise. The islands and beaches sit along emerald water allowing you to swim, sunbathe, and even venture into the cave system that burrow deep within the limestone islands. You will have one last evening in Hanoi before being transferred back to the airport for your flight home..
Welcome to Hanoi, where you are met at the airport and taken to your hotel in the city center. The rest of the day is free at leisure, and your guide is happy to suggest what to see and where to eat for your very first meal in Vietnam.
Chosen by King Ly Thai To to be the capital of Vietnam since 1010, Hanoi is now famous for its rich culture and traditions. Beside the hustle and bustle of the old quarter, and hundreds well-organized streets in its French quarter, the city is recently well-known for being the home of delicious Vietnamese foods.
Today, your guide will take you to visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and its surrounding grounds. It is an impressive display of architecture that connect to a vibrant past, where thousands of Vietnamese following a long line leading to the marble edifice to see their greatest leader.
The path in the garden behind the mausoleum brings you to a bright yellow French building, the Presidential Palace. This opulent building was once home to the governor of the French in Indochina, the structure reminds of the country’s occupied past. Nestling along a small pond is a traditional house on stilts where Ho Chi Minh chose to live instead of the opulent palace. The house shows the modest lifestyle of the former leader, who devoted his whole life to liberate his nation.
Your exploration of Hanoi continues with your arrival at the Museum of Ethnology, where you will learn about 54 ethnic groups living in Vietnam. With the purpose of promoting the socio-cultural diversity within the country, the display in the museum range from jewelry to tapestries, textiles to daily working tools. In the open yard behind the indoor exhibit is elegant displays of traditional ethnic houses standing among the surrounding greenery.
Continue on to see the famous “Hanoi Hilton” museum, build by the French to keep the Vietnamese political prisoner and later used by North Vietnam government to house American prisoner of war. The museum will help you understand how Hanoi was damaged and how much it has changed since the end of the war.
A bicycle rickshaw, also known as a cyclo will tour you through Hanoi’s busiest area, the Old Quarter. You can see locals sitting on little green plastic chair drinking iced tea and eating on the sidewalk. The old streets were once, and continue to be, divided by guilds and filled with neighborhoods. The sights, sounds, and aromas will soon be welcoming you. (B, L)
The morning in Hanoi brings with it the drifting aroma of flavorful Vietnamese coffee with condense milk. Today you are taken to the countryside toward northwest of Hanoi by a private car. The mountains are spectacular, rising and falling endlessly in the distance. From the Thung Khe pass, we drive down to the Mai Chau valley which sits at the foothills of the lush mountain. In this White Thai living area, stilt houses are common, overlain with palm leaf roofs and bamboo-slat floors.
In the afternoon, we cycle through the calm atmosphere sweeping in along the grass. The local fish ponds are placid, reflecting the landscape in its surface that makes the wondrous nature look endless from all angles. Among the water irrigations the famers are working hard on their flooded rice fields.
In the evening the locals often dance together, celebrating the day with music. They drink rice wine from a large, clay cask which they put numerous straws into, creating a communal atmosphere.
Spend the morning with your host family beneath the palm roofs while the greenery glows jade in the early light. During the day you will visit nearby villages, such as Pom Coong and Lac villages, where ethnic White Thai women are often adorned with silver buttons in butterfly shapes and colorful blouses.
After lunch in Mai Chau, say goodbye to your host and drive back to Hanoi. In the evening you will climb aboard a luxurious night train northbound toward Sapa, a former French hill station near the Chinese border. (B, L)
After you settle into breakfast in Sapa, you are within reach of the tallest mountain in the country, the Fan Si Pan, which is over 3.343 meters (10.300 fts). Your guide then take you on a trekking tour to minority villages in the area, and you immediately notice the endless mountain loops which seem to rise and fall like waves all around you.
Along the way to Ta Phin village, you will find distinctly different cultures living harmoniously, they are well known ethnic minorities, the Red Dao and the Black H’mong.
The Red Dao people migrated to Vietnam from China around the 12th or 13th century, and often wear bright red head scarfs and blouses with intricately embroidered lining. The H’mong came to the area in the last 300 years, and now they are seen almost everywhere in Vietnam. The sloping hills are terraced with paddy fields texturing the landscape. The homes feature thatched roofs and are perched atop stilts. The villagers are eager to share their culture with you within the grand landscape of their surroundings that offer you a quintessential picture of what you imagined the countryside of Vietnam to be. (B, L)
The jovial sounds of vendors and buyers echo through the street along the vibrant produce displayed on tables.
From very early in the morning, the ethnic villagers come from all around the town dressed in their cultural clothing, from Black H’mong to Kinh people, many sporting woven baskets like backpacks filled with goods to sell or with items that they’ve bought along the way. After your breakfast at hotel, follow your guide to the outskirts of the town to visit another ethnic village.
From the town, hike down terraced rice fields (or drive) to Lao Chai – Black H’mong village. Along the way, enjoy views of the valley and the surrounding mountains, and meet people from many ethnic groups, including the friendly Hmong, Giay, and Red Dao. Continue to a visit to Ta Van village, where the Giay hill tribes live. After a picnic lunch, take a scenic hike through bamboo forest to Giang Ta Chai hill tribe village of the Red Dao. Please note that this itinerary is flexible, and those who don’t wish to hike all the way will be transferred between villages by car. Transfer back to Sapa and on to the hotel near the train station to freshen up before taking the overnight train back to Hanoi. (B, L)
Arrive in Hanoi in the morning you will be met at the train station and quickly taken to Ha Long Bay to aboard a traditional boat, which will have you drifting along the famous scenery. With 1969 islands along the archipelago, Halong Bay is endless magnificence within the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin.
In mid-afternoon, visit the mysterious Me Cung Cave, adorned with stalactites and stalagmites, and then continue to Cua Van area. It was once the fishing village, however most of them have moved on land for their children’s future due to the lack of education system and access to vital information. Head back to the boat, participate in a cooking class with your chef or enjoy sunset on the top deck before dinner. (L, D)
Rise early and greet the day with a refreshing Tai Chi class on the upper dec. Transfer from the main boat to a small beach on Ti Top Island. Those wanting a bit of exercise can climb to the top of the island (20 minutes).
Later, board the main boat and enjoy a delicious buffet brunch while cruising back to shore. Arrive at the jetty in late morning then transfer back to Hanoi. Light snack is provided en route, it’s optional to stop at a ceramic village if time permits. (B, L)
Today, after having spent so much time within the quiet hills of Sapa and the tranquil waters of Ha Long Bay, the morning bustle of the city feels foreign. The familiar scent of freshly brewed Vietnamese coffee rouses your senses and brings you to breakfast. Soon you will be taken by private transfer to the airport to take your flight home.
However, if you have some time you could always reacquaint yourself with the beauty of Hanoi, from peaceful waters of Hoan Kiem Lake to the iridescent flowers within the Old Quarter. (B)
Price per person: Please contact us for detailed pricing
TRIP COST INCLUDES
TRIP COST DOES NOT INCLUDE
CANCELLATION AND TRANSFER FEE SCHEDULE
30 days or less: 100% of trip cost
We want to help you find the trip that’s right for you. Our Trip Level system ranks each trip from 1 to 5 according to the activity and general travel rigors (1 is the easiest and 5 the most difficult in style).
Our system ranks each trip in two ways. The number gives you a quick reference point, the description is perhaps more important, with activities, hiking, and travel conditions (at the bottom of the long-day-itineraries, there is also a brief description of what this Trip is like).
We are always happy to answer questions, and guide you to the trip that best suits your interests.
1 - Easiest
No hiking journeys, optional walks, little driving hours, leisurely travel, one day trips.
2 - Easy to Moderate
Easy to Moderate: Hotel nights or overnight cruises with other physical activities, such as hikes or bike of 2 to 4 hours on some days, sea kayaking.
3 - Moderate
Half- to full-day hikes (3 to 6 hours) over rolling countryside on most days, occasional steep trails. Many of our hotel-based country walking tours are in this category, as are our hiking adventures.
4 - Moderate to Strenuous
Trips with Full-day hikes (4-6 hours), mountainous terrain, significant elevation gains and losses (hiking up or down as much as 3,000 feet) on many hikes.
Examples: Hiking Mai Chau Pu Luong
5 - Strenuous
Full-day hikes (4-8 hours), mountainous, steep terrain (hiking up or down as much as 3,500 feet) on many hikes. Trips with more than 3-day sea kayaking, hiking at average altitudes of 10,000 to 12,000 feet are in this category.