Trip Description & Day-by-day Itinerary
13 days in Vietnam tour is arranged in the northern Vietnam and includes such activities as jungle treks, overland tour, sampan cruise tour, hiking, homestay, highland market, boat junk cruise, se canoeing. Depart from Hanoi, travelling through Cuc Phuong National Park, Trang An, Mai Chau, Son La, Dien Bien Phu, Lai Chau, Sin Ho, Sapa, Halong bay. The tour focuses on the wild nature, the rich ethnic culture of the northern region. The itinerary is highly recommended for individuals, small group tours, family holidays and those who are interested in dmz, war sites.
Day 1: Hanoi – Cuc Phuong National Park. Jungle treks.
Make a pleasant journey to Ninh Binh, about 120km in the south of Hanoi. Upon arriving in Cuc Phuong National park, we start visiting the Rescue Center where we will see and learn about the park’s biodiversity and variety of endangered species.
Then, we begin our trekking holidays through the life and songs of the local rain forests. A picnic lunch will be served en route. In the late afternoon, we will arrive at a village of the Muong minority people where we will spend our night in a local house. Dinner, then free time to talk with the host family and learn about the Muong people’s life and culture. Overnight at the stilt house.
Day 2: Cuc Phuong – Trang An. Trang An sampan cruise tour. Travel to Mai Chau.
After breakfast, we will take a short walk of to get reach the main road where we will get picked up by our car and transferred to Thung Nang which can be called “Vietnam’s Inland Halong Bay”.
Thung Nang is wonderful for photo hunters. The tourists often compare the place with Guilin – China, or more closely, to the limestone islets of Halong Bay in the Tonkin Gulf for their similar geological structures and shapes. Thus Thung Nang is also called Halong-Bay-On-Land.
Along the way we will visit caves and ancient temples. After the pleasant boat trip, we disembark the sampan and take our car again for Mai Chau. Arrive in Mai chau late afternoon.
Day 3: Hiking Mai Chau.
Breakfast at the Thai stilt house then we leave the village for a full day hiking around. We will pass many different Thai hamlets, through rice fields, hill sides…Stop sometimes to visit local houses and talk with local people. And one of the highlight on this walk is to experience the everyday life and culture white Thai people and stay in their traditional house on stilts as honoured guests. We will return to the village around late afternoon. Have a short break before enjoying the Thai traditional Music and Dance show which is performed by the village young gilrs and boys. Althrough they are not professional artistes, they will give you an unique experience of their culture life.
Day 4: Mai Chau – Son La – Dien Bien Phu.
The road to Son La is lined with fruit orchards, tea plantations, towering mountains and the traffic of Black Thai, Muong and White Thai hill tribe people heading to markets. Upon arriving in Sonla, we visit the Sonla Prison Museum, which remains as a poignant reminder of the inequities of the former. Then we continue the journey to Dienbien. Impressive scenery, and hill tribe villages fill the journey to Dien Bien Phu, the last bastion of French power in Indochina. Monuments, museums and preserved bunkers tell the story of the final and victorious liberating battle of 1954. Overnight at hotel in Dien Bien.
Day 5: Visit Dien Bien Phu war sites. Travel to Muong Lay.
Half day touring around the battlefields. You see the museum of Dien Bien with exhibits collected during the fiercest war in Indochina during the 1950s, then we visit the vestiges of bunkers and fortified stations of over 16,000 French Expeditionary troops (including Elliane Hill and De Castries bunkers…). Free lunch in town.
In the afternoon, we depart for Muong Lay. The road through Muong Lay valley is both breathtaking and dramatic. Hugging rice terraced mountainsides and fording turbulent rivers, our travels today are visually spectacular. Overnight in Muong lay.
Day 6: Muong Lay – Sin Ho – Lai Chau.
From Muong Lay, the drive to Sin Ho is stunning with tiered tea plantations and verdant rice terraces carved into the landscape. Sin Ho is the most authentic market in the North West region which takes place every Saturday morning. There are many ethnic groups coming from different villages to sell their home made agricultural products such as rice, corn, vegetable, chicken, pork…
In the afternoon, continue our drive downhill to Lai Chau for the night. Overnight in Laichau.
Day 7: Trekking Lai Chau.
Breakfast at hotel. Then the car will drive us to Binh Lu market where we will have a short visit to the very big and colorful market which take place only on Sunday morning. The town is bustling with activity as the local hill tribes gather for their weekly market day here.
Then we start our hiking day. The area you are walking in this morning is a wide valley, spotted with limestone hills wherever you look. You will pass through several villages of Flower Hmong and Giay minorities where you can stop for lunch in local house.
After lunch you continue towards the village of Ban Giang, which is around 1.5 hours away. The Giay people also inhabit Ban Giang. You will then follow a small but good trail to the Lu village of Ban Hon, where you will stay overnight in a local house. You will enjoy dinner in the house, and taste, together with the family of the house, how rice wine tastes in this area of Vietnam. Our car will pick us up and get back to hotel for overnight.
Day 8: Lai Chau – Sapa. Visit Sapa town.
After breakfast, we will continue our drive uphill to Sapa passing Tram Ton Pass which offers beautifull views over the Hoang Lien mountain range. This route part is also considered the most beautiful stretch of road in Vietnam.
Upon our arrival in Sapa, we will have a walk around Sapa town. Climb up to Ham Rong mountain to enjoy the wonderful views of Sapa town.
Day 9: Sapa villages trek.
After breakfast at hotel, we begin our hiking day by taking a jeep ride to Ban Ho village. This is a village of Tay ethnic minority. The Tay preserve a traditional and fairly developed agriculture with cultivation of all kinds of plants including rice, maize and sweet potato as well as seasonable fruit and vegetables. Then we continue walking to Thanh Phu village where your lunch will be provided in a local house. After lunchtime, heading to Sin Chai village. This is a village of of Red Dao people. Special dinner to celebrate the New Year Festival. Lotussia Travel is delighted to offer each guest 01 bottle of French wine to make the New year more special.
Day 10: Continue trekking Sapa. Travel to Lao Cai. Overnight train back to Hanoi.
After breakfast, we will continue our day with a long trek downhill to Lao Cai. The route from Sin Chai, one of the most remote area in Sapa offers beautiful scenery and landscape. The trek will take us through rice paddy fields, bamboo forest, old trees jungle. Your lunch will be provided at Nam Ket. After lunch, we will trek further downhill. Upon arriving in Ta Thang village, a Tay village we will be greeted again by our driver who transfer us then to Laocai station for our journey back to Hanoi.
Day 11: Arrive Hanoi. Travel to Halong bay. Boat cruise with kayaking tour.
Arrive in Hanoi in the early morning, transfer to a local restaurant for early breakfast then depart to Halong. Enjoy the journey through the rich farmlands of the Red River Delta and the scenery of rice fields, water buffalo and everyday Vietnamese village life. Arrive in Halong and board the Bai Tho traditional sailing junk (or similar junk). Whilst cruising the exquisite waters sample the regions fresh seafood. Visit the recently discovered Surprise Grotto with its great views, and on the next island see the yawning mouth of Bo Nau Cave. Alternatively journey to Dau Go Cave and nearby see the famous stalagmites and stalactites of Thien Cung Cave. Enjoy a swim in the emerald waters of Halong Bay at any spot that you wish to visit or take a kayaking trip to explore the Bay. Watch the sun set over the bay whilst enjoying a delicious dinner. Overnight on board junk.
Day 12: Halong bay – Hanoi. Water puppet show.
Wake up to fresh coffee and a wholesome breakfast before cruising back to Halong City. En route the junk weaves through strange-shaped rock formations that invite comparisons from fighting cocks to dragons. After another wonderful fresh seafood early lunch on board disembark at the dock at Halong City. Transfer back to Hanoi.
In the evening, attend to the water puppet show, one of famous Vietnamese traditional art. Overnight in Ha Noi.
Day 13: Day trip to Duong Lam ancient village.
We travel west of Hanoi to visit Duong Lam village, a purely agricultural village of the Northern Red River delta where still preserve many hundred-year-old houses. It will be your unique experience as you walk along tiny ancient alleys; visit Mong Phu temple in Mong Phu hamlet – the only hamlet whose original village entrance gate remains intact, dedicated to national heroes. Then cycle to Cam Lam by village’s roads. Magnificent landscape with rice-fields and hills. The two Kings Phung Hung & Ngo Quyen were born there and the village people are very proud of this. That’s why it has the second name as “The village of 2 Kings”. At Cam Lam, we can visit the temple of Phung Hung – very beautiful temple and also the Mausoleum of Ngo Quyen in the countryside facing rice fields and nice landscape. Back to Hanoi in the late afternoon. Trip ends.
Contact us for more information about this 13 days in Vietnam tour
Occasionally our tour itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travelers’ comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the service proposal. It’s very important that you print and review a final copy of your itinerary prior to travel. If you have any queries, please contact us.
Please note that while we operate successful cycling holidays in Vietnam throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time.
Bargaining is not a strange fact in Vietnam. There are many places in Vietnam where people bargain, especially in open-air markets, street shops and rural areas. Therefore we are not good at bargaining. We don’t like this trick neither. Our time is precious and we appreciate your time as well. We would prefer spending our time on the tour arrangements to the price negotiation. Our price is fixed.
Our trip cost usually includes the following services. Please bear in mind Lotussia Travel is specialized in tailor-made trips. Trip cost vary depending on group size and other details.
- Vehicle for transfers and support
- Tour guide. The English-Speaking guide is provided by default. Other language may be available upon request (with extra charge).
- Bicycle rental
- Sightseeing entrance fees.
- Bottled water.
Unless required most of the following services are usually not included in our tour price.
- Visa (required)
- Flight/Train tickets.
- Accommodation pre/post trip.
- Travel insurance
- Personal expenses
Visitors are required to have a valid visa to enter Vietnam. A one month tourist visa is usually sufficient for most visitors, though it is possible to arrange three months or six month – multiple entry visa for regular visitors.
The official national currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND), but the US dollar is widely accepted in Vietnam. However, small towns and the villages the VND is preferred, ATM are available in all major cities and towns, tourist destinations, Vietcombank, Agriculture banks are the two largest networks with a limit a single withdraw limit of 2,000,000 d (95 USD). Most major currrencies can be exchanged in Vietnam, but the USD is the most preferred. The exchange rate 1 USD = 22.400 VND (Nov. 2016)
Vietnam has a tropical monsoon climate. Broadly speaking, the weather in Vietnam is dictated by two seasons – the southwest monsoon from April to September and the Northeast monsoon from October to late march or early April.
Due to regional climate differences, there are no right or wrong seasons to visit Vietnam. The north Vietnam is cool, damp in winters between November and December and February with tempreture in Hanoi falling to around 15oC. The summer months from April to October are hot and dry. The best time visit Vietnam is spring (February – April) or Autunm (late September – December) when it is not so humid. The weather turns quite cold and wet in January and this continues to march. The humidity can prove oppresive from May to the early September.
Wearing a helmet is compulsory on all our biking adventures. Our tour guide often carry first aid kit while riding. Please follow your guide while biking, and much attention is required while you cross streets.
To assist you visualize how our bike trip is difficult, we have graded our Vietnam cycling tours into three categories, easy, moderate, and challenging. We group many factors into consideration into this grading, including distant covered, terrain, altitude, and vehicle support.
Involves cycling for up to two to three hours a day at easy pace and usually, less than 3 days in duration. The cycling distances is around 15 – 30 km per day. There are likely to be no steep and sustained descents as well as demand for technical riding. We will normally ride on flat roads. Suitable for bikers who enjoy occasional weekend riding on trails at home. Push bikes are sometimes used for these itineraries.
Involves biking for up to six hours a day at a steady pace and are usually between three to five days in duration. The cycling distance is about 35 – 55 km per day. Sometimes it can be long flat rides or medium ride with fews up and downhill climbs. The support vehicle will not always be available. We will need a good level of fitness. We use either mountain bikes or road bikes for these itineraries.
Involves biking in mountainous areas with big climbs for up to seven or eight hours a day and usually more than a week in duration. Cycling distance is about 60 – 80 km per day. There will be steep and sustained ascents and descents. The support vehicle will not always be available. These trips will provide a real sustained workout even for fit and experienced mountain bikers.
When cycling we mostly stay in small hotel, guesthouse or homestays. Some are more basic than others! Bear in mind that some of the places we overnight in are not on the standard tourist trail. In larger cities and towns, our hotels are generally more western style and are three or four hotels. Camping is not available on cycling tours in Vietnam unless it is required and this should be booked months in advance. Please see the details at the session “inclusions”.
Most of our tour guides speak English. Some other speak French. Few speak other language such as German, Russian, Spanish. All our guides have great knowledge of history, local culture, and religions of the area where you are cycling. Our guides have been trained in this field and is fully licensed in tour guiding.
We arrange a mechanic, with extra charge only for big groups or when it is required. When there is no mechanic, our guide will take care of problem which may occur during the bike ride.
Depending on the nature of the tour, our cycle journeys will be accompanied by an air-conditioned car/minibus cover the larger overland sections. We often use mini bus or bus for transfer and back up (guided tours).
- 1 – 4 people: we use minivan to support and carry bikes. Sometimes we use car with support truck.
- 5 – 8 people: we use one van and one truck to support
- 9 people – over: we use one bus and truck to support
We only provide bike rental and truck to support for self-guided bike tours.
Basic spares and tools kit are generally carried by our guide or mechanic or on the support vehicle, although we can not guarantee having spares for every conceivable problem.
Food and drinks
All the meals which, are mentioned in itinerary (B=Breakfast; L=Lunch; D=Dinner), are included in the tour price. Most of meals are Vietnamese local food. Vegetarians are certainly welcome and are always accommodated, please let us know of any dietary concerns at time of booking. Beverage and alcoholic drink are not included at mealtime or in restaurants.
Snacks and water
When we transfer, ride by minibus (no cycling day), our bottled waters are always available for you in the car/van. When we have cycling days, we will offer cold water (summer) plus fresh tropical fruits, soft drinks. Please find out what is included in our service proposal.
Comfortable lightweight clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton is most suitable for travelling in Vietnam. The dress code is fairly casual as in most parts of the tropics but it is advisable to cover arms and legs in the evenings against biting insects. A lightweight raincoat is a good idea in the rainy season. During the winter months warm clothing is needed for visiting the north of Vietnam. Visitors should not wear shorts, short skirts or other skimpy clothing when visiting religious buildings such as pagoda, temple and shoes should be removed before entering a private home.
What you take will naturally depend upon where you are travelling and the style of journey you are undertaking, and it can often be difficult to decide what to pack. Nevertheless, the following should act as a useful checklist of essential items worth thinking about taking.
- 2 pairs of riding shorts
- 2 riding jerseys (quick-dry)
- 2 pairs of quick dry socks for cycling
- Comfortable shoes for biking and walking
- Riding gloves
- 2-3 t-shirts or casual shirts
- Trousers or jeans
- 1-2 pairs of casual socks for non-cycling activities
- 3-5 sets of underwear (quick-dry)
- Cool-weather jacket or rain jacket
- Extra layers and gloves for cooler season or climate (thin, thermal, water-wicking)
- Bathing suit
- Tooth brush and tooth paste
- Hair brush
- Hand sanitizer
- Passport, wallet and ID
- Health insurance card
- Travel insurance card
- Cash and/or credit cards
- Camera (with spare battery)
- Plastic bags (for dirty laundry, wet clothes)
- Electronic chargers (for camera, e-reader, cell phone)
- Adaptors or convertors
Tipping for good services is always appreciated. It is customary, though not compulsory, to tip tour guides and drivers at the end of the tour. Hotels and station porters should also be tipped a small amount for.
Prior to our tours, we contact and work with local community leaders to make sure we are welcome and in a manner that minimizes negative social and cultural impacts. We visit local development and community projects specific to the region, encouraging customers to donate and assist such a projects in appropriate and sustainable manner.
Where make sure that where and whenever possible our tours positively benefit the local community. We stayed at locally owned accommodation and visit cottage industries for local handicraft souvenir, generating income for local business. We often employ, hire support team such as local guide, motor-taxi drivers, cook assistants on all trips to ensure that the local community benefit not only short term but with increased employment opportunities for the future.