The Northern Vietnam 11 Day Itinerary is provided by Vietnam Cycling to the northern Vietnam. Start the tour by taking the overnight train from Hanoi to Laocai. Then travel to Cao Son, Lao Cai province where you will enjoy a half day hike to an local hilltribe villages before visiting the Cao Son market is open on the following day. The multi-sport trip continues with a 5- day trek to Sapa. You trek through local ethnic villages are inhabited by the Black H’mong, the Red Dzao, the Xa Pho…Sleeping at local home (homestay) to experience the real life. You then take the overnight train to get back to Hanoi then travel to Halong bay to enjoy the boat junk cruise tour. Optional water-sport including scuba diving, sea kayaking are also provided by the boat team.
Day 1: Hanoi – Lao Cai.
In the evening, transfer to Hanoi Railways Station for overnight train to Laocai. Departure at 21:00 (TBA).
Day 2: Lao Cai – Cao Son.
Arrive Lao Cai Railway Station early this morning. You will be met up by our local team and transferred to a local restaurant for breakfast. After few minutes resting, the driver will take you to Muong Khuong district, via tea plantation and forest of pine. You might encounter Giay tribe in their traditional dress in Ban Lau or Thanh Binh. Reaching Cao Son about 10.am. Check in Cao Son lodge and relax. In the afternoon you will commence your walk to the most secluded yet peaceful village – Tin Thang. In this village, people still distill the wine from corn, making bacon in the most basic way and offering special corn cake to anyone who drop by their house. Back to the lodge for dinner and overnight.
Day 3: Cao Son – Sapa.
After having breakfast in the Cao son lodge, you will walk on a good paved road with local ethnic minority people to go to Cao Son market. Pine trees forests and villages surround the tinny market. Flower H’mong, Tu Di, Tay, Giay ethnic minorities come to buy and sell local products such as food and material for agriculture and fabric. People coming to the market not only for selling or buying something but also importantly to meet friends, relative and to sip some cups of wine until the dawn comes. No where else but here, Flower H’mong people greet you with a temptation of corn wine and endless hospitality. After exploring the market, you will be able to visit a village of Flower H’mong or a village of Tay people. You will then head back to Muong Khuong and have lunch in a local restaurant. After lunch, you get on the car for journey to Sapa. Overnight in Sapa.
Day 4: Sapa Trekking Homestay.
After breakfast, start your trek through the market and leave the busy town behind. After a couple of minutes, you follow a road going downhill to Cat Cat village. You will stop by a waterfall and a hydroelectric station for a while before you trek on a dirt trail through rice paddy terraces. You also will enjoy spectacular scenery while walking along a narrow river. You eventually arrive in Y Linh Ho village of Black Hmong minority, where you can take a rest while you are served lunch nearby the river. After lunch, you head Muong Hoa valley. You will pass through Lao Chai village of Black Hmong minority and then Tavan village of Giay minority by following a very popular trekking route. You will spend the night in local house of Giay minority. You will be able to take a walk to enjoy the valley view as well as swim in the river nearby.
Day 5: Sapa Trekking Homestay.
After having breakfast, you start today’s trek, which is mostly uphill until lunchtime. Whenever you stop for a rest, you will be able to enjoy valley view. Before noon, you stop again at a nice spot for lunch. The Sapa trek will be softer in the afternoon. But the scenery becomes even more beautiful. You pass by Seomity village of Black Hmong minority before you arrive in a campsite, which locates nearby a
river outside the village. While porters put up tents and cook dinner, you can take a walk to stretch the legs.
Day 6: Sapa Trekking Homestay.
The trek today takes you through beautiful rice paddies and over old suspension bridges. You will trek on small trail sneaking through rain-forest. You arrive in Den Thang village of Black Hmong by noon. Here you stop for lunch either nearby a river or in a local school according to the weather. After lunch, the trek will becomes tough on tinny footpath going up and down, which requires a lot of concentration. You will reach to Ta Trung Ho village of Red Dao minority where you spend the night in local house. Both the valley and the village have just received foreign visitors. The night will be even more interesting when you are in the wonderful hospitable atmosphere of the Red Dao.
Day 7: Sapa Trekking Homestay.
You are now at the fringe of the rain forest by the Hoang Lien Son mountain range. Fansipan, the highest peak in Indochina with its 3143 m, is located in this mountain range. You will start the trek today by ascending to Nam Toong village of Red Dao minority. Here your lunch will be prepared in a local school. After lunchtime, you descend to the valley where locates My Son village of Xa Pho minority, one of the smallest groups ethnic in Northern Vietnam. From there you take a short walk to Thanh Phu village of Tay minority. Here you spend the night in traditional house of the Tay. You can take a walk to explore local daily life while your dinner will be served with Vietnamese dishes.
Day 8: Sapa – Lao Cai – Hanoi.
Today’s trek is relatively short compared to other days. On the last day of the trek you will cross several suspension bridges. You will be able to stop by a waterfall and have time to swim in the river before arriving in Ban Ho village of Tay minority. Here you stop for lunch in a traditional Tay house. In the afternoon, you start climbing uphill. On the last hours you can enjoy the valley one final time while heading to Su Pan. Here your car takes you on the journey back to Sapa where you can have a short rest before travelling to Laocai to take night train back to Hanoi.
Day 9: Hanoi – Halong Bay.
Arrive in Hanoi in the early morning, transfer to a local restaurant in town for breakfast. 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 a traditional sailing junk for your Halong bay cruise tour. 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 10: Halong Bay Kayaking.
Breakfast on board. Then we continue cruise. Lunch will be provided on board. In the afternoon, enjoy one more hour kayaking towards the Islands of Rocks or Ba Men temple (Paddling routes may change due to weather or other circumstances. Further details will be informed by our local guide before the trip). Dinner and Overnight on board.
Day 11: Halong Bay – Hanoi.
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. Disembark at the dock at Halong City at 11:00 and return to Hanoi. Trip ends.
Contact us for more information about this Northern Vietnam 11 Day Itinerary.
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. We would prefer spending our time on the tour arrangements to the price negotiation. Our price is fixed.
The following services are usually included in the trip price.
- Bicycle rental.
- Tour guide. The English-Speaking guide is provided by default. Other language may be available upon request (with extra charge).
- Some snacks and bottled water.
- Vehicle for transfers and support (option).
- Mechanic (option).
- Accommodation (option).
- Meals (option).
- Sightseeing entrance fees (option).
Please bear in mind Vietnam Cycling specializes in tailor-made trips, so the price vary much depending on the size of your group, date of tour as well as other details. Please see the details on our Service Proposal.
Unless required most of the following services are not included in the tour price.
- 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 currencies can be exchanged in Vietnam, but the USD is the most preferred. The exchange rate 1 USD = 23,280 VND (Dec. 2018)
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 few 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 homestay. 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 star hotels (price option).
Camping is not available on cycling tours in Vietnam unless it is required and this should be booked months in advance. Camping is only available in a limited number of places such as Cat Ba island beach, Cuc Phuong national park…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 only for big groups or when it is required (with surcharge). 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 traveling 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.
Need further information? Check our FAQ page here or contact us.