The 8-day North Vietnam highlights tour includes easy outdoor activities that can be suitable for children, parents, senior people – walking, hiking, river boat trip, countryside cycle, boat cruise, sea kayaking. Highlights of the tour are day tour in Hanoi, boat cruise in Tam Coc, hike in Mai Chau, visit Cao Son market, trek in Sapa, boat cruise Halong bay, cyclo ride in Hanoi. The tour is highly recommended to small group family holidays, couples and those seeking a real life experience.
Day 1: Hanoi – Tam Coc, Ninhbinh.
Depart for Ninh Binh.
Visit the two remaining sanctuaries of the ancient citadel of Dinh & Le in Hoa Lu.
Travel to Tam Coc where we will have lunch before taking a 2-hour boat trip along the Boi river. The river trip in Thung Nang is wonderful for photo hunters, especially when local people come to harvest the water rice planted along the river, or when they transplant some seedling for the next crops.
After the boat trip, enjoy a half hour easy cycle around Tam Coc before checking-in hotel for overnight.
Day 2: Tam Coc – Mai Chau.
Transfer to Kenh Ga – “The Chicken Canal” for another boat trip along the Hoang Long river to experience the real life of a Vietnamese catholic community. Set on the banks of the Hoang Long River, Kenh Ga is a remarkable place, not only because it is surrounded by the same massive rocks that dominate Hoa Lu, but also because for most of the year the entire community lives on the water itself. The floating village of Kenh Ga receives relatively few visitors compared to nearby Hoa Lu and the peoples’ aquatic way of life has changed little over the centuries.
After the boat trip, continue our journey to Mai Chau valley where we stop for overnight.
In the evening, assist to the traditional music and dance show which is performed by the Thai young girls and boys who all come from the village. Try also some rice alcohol which is made of traditional plants and local sticky rice.
Overnight in a stilt-house.
Day 3: Maichau – Hanoi. Overnight train to Laocai.
Breakfast will be provided in a Thai stilt house. Then we leave the village for a half day walking around. We will pass many different Thai hamlets, through rice fields, hill sides…We will stop by some local houses to talk with local people to understand their customs and culture.
After lunch, we will take our journey back to Hanoi.
Enjoy one-hour body massage in one of the most luxury spa salon in town before take the overnight train to Lao Cai.
Overnight on board train.
Day 4: Arrive Lao Cai. Travel to Cao Son. Visit Cao son market. Trek Cao Son villages.
Arrive in Lao Cai Railway station early this morning. You will be welcome by Lotussia local guide, driver then transferred to a local restaurant in Lao Cai city for breakfast and short rest before proceeding to Cao Son region. Stop en route for photos.
You will join the Cao Son trekking stream of people from Lung Khau Nhin and some nearby villages heading to Cao Son. Free to discover the market with our tour guide. Heading for the lunch in Cao Son Ecolodge. In the afternoon, visit the primitive forest in La Pan Tan commune. Back to the Lodge for dinner and overnight.
Day 5: Travel to Sapa. Hiking Sapa villages.
After breakfast, transfer to Sapa. We will arrive in Sapa around noon. Check-in hotel and have your lunch in a local restaurant in town.
In the afternoon, there will be a walking tour to a H’mong hill tribe village of Ma Tra (or Cat Cat). As we walk to the villages nestled in the valley below Sapa, we will meet some of the local people on their way to and from Sapa. Here we have the opportunity to share cultural experiences with the families that live in the area.
Overnight in Sapa.
Day 6: Continue trekking Sapa. Travel to Lao Cai. Overnight train back to Hanoi.
After breakfast, we will travel by car downhill to Mong Sen where we start a dirt trail through rice fields and villages. Enjoy spectacular view along the way.
Your picnic lunch will be provided on spot.
After lunch, we continue our trek downhill towards Taphin village inhabited by Red Dao and Black Hmong minorities. These are two largest ethnic groups living in Sapa area. Stop by some house to meet local people and talk with them to understand their culture, customs and traditions. Late afternoon, we will trek back to to main road to get on our vehicle for the journey to Laocai railways station.
Day use will be provided in a standard hotel before taking the overnight train back to Hanoi.
Overnight on board train.
Day 7: Arrive Hanoi. Travel to Halong bay. Boat junk cruise with kayaking tour.
Arrive in Hanoi early this morning, transfer to the Morning Flower Market for a short visit before departing to Halong Bay.
Breakfast will be provided in a local restaurant en route.
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 tour to explore the Bay (optional). Watch the sun set over the bay whilst enjoying a delicious dinner.
Overnight on board junk.
Day 8: Halong bay – Hanoi.
Wake up to fresh coffee and a wholesome breakfast before cruising back to Halong City. Disembark at the dock at Halong City at 11:00 and travel back to Hanoi.
Need further information about this north Vietnam highlights tour? Contact us here
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 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 temperature 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 Autumn (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 oppressive 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 on the quote.
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.