14 days 13 nights
Hanoi – Nghia Lo – Mu Cang Chai – Sapa – Bac Ha – Hoang Su Phi – Ha Giang
Day 1: Hanoi – Duong Lam Ancient Village – Nghia Lo (L/ D)
You will leave Hanoi from the Old Quarter and travel for about 2 hours to Duong Lam, an ancient village which has been under UNESCO protection since 2006. The houses date back 100-400 years and are surrounded by temples and gardens. This is an important historical site which is home to temples in honour of two kings, national heroes, who defended the land against the Chinese about 1200 years ago. After looking around the village, you will also stop for lunch.
You will continue to drive through the rural countryside, through flat paddy fields and then, as you gain height, you see tea plantations corn or maize dotted amongst the karst limestone outcrops. You will stay overnight with a delightful White Thai family in a traditional stilt house in Nghia Lo.
Note: Includes a 2-4 hour flat walk in the ancient village.
Day 2: Nghia Lo – Mu Cang Chai (B/ L/ D)
You will rise early and take a bike ride around the paddy fields, basking in the peaceful morning ambience. The mornings begin early for the villagers who can be seen quietly working in the fields surrounded by ducks, chickens, pigs and buffalos.
Breakfast is taken in the open air overlooking the fields before you check out and set off over the dramatic Khau Pha Mountain Pass. The rice fields of Tu Le along the way are spectacular and will fill you with wonder.
After lunch in a local restaurant, you will continue to drive to Nam Co Village where you will see the flower H'mong ethnic minority in their colourful traditional costume. If your trip falls on the correct day, you will also be able to visit the fascinating local market.
You will then drive to La Pan Tan and Mam Soi terraced rice fields and take a short walk up the hill to a viewpoint to take in the incredible views. You will have dinner and stay overnight at Mrs Chon's Homestay in Kim Noi Village, a Thai family run business.
Note: Includes a 5-7 km trek.
Day 3: Trekking in Mu Cang Chai (B/ L/ D)
After breakfast in the homestay, a local guide will collect you for the longest trek of the tour, from Kim Noi Village to Hang Dang De then to Che Cu Nha. You will enjoy a picnic lunch on the rice terraces and then continue to La Pan Tan where you will be picked up and driven back for a second night at Mrs Chon's homestay.
Note: Includes a 15-17 km trek.
Day 4: Mu Cang Chai – Sapa (B/ L/ D)
After breakfast, you will drive from Mu Cang Chai through Tan Uyen and then on to Sapa.
The road is very dramatic with many winding hairpin bends each opening up a new vista of the mountains. You will cross the Sin Ho Pass before arriving in Sapa where you will have lunch at the chance to explore the town.
Then you will trek to Giang Ta Chai Village, where you will have dinner and stay overnight in a Dao ethnic house.
Note: Includes a 4-6 Km trek.
Day 5: Trekking Giang Ta Chai – Ma Tra – Ta Phin (B/ L/ D)
You will begin the day with a 3km trek through the breathtaking landscape of Sapa to the village of Suoi Ho, home to Hmong minority. From here you can enjoy views over endless rice terraces, and as you walk through the homesteads, you will be surrounded by free-roaming piglets and chickens. Continuing on to Ma Tra Village you will stop to look around the town and take some photos. Trekking to the village of Ta Phin, you will be able to meet both Black Hmong and Red Dao minorities. The Red Dao are known for their expertise in herbal medicine, and your guide will be able to introduce you to some Red Dao women who can tell you more about their many remedies. A Red Dao herbal bath is a real treat after trekking and can be arranged at your request. You will have dinner and stay overnight in a homestay in Ta Phin.
Note: Includes 12-15 Km trek.
Day 6: Sapa – La Pan Tan (B/ L/ D). (NB this is a different place to the La Pan Tan on Day 2)
After breakfast, you will drive from Sapa, passing through Lao Cai which is the main border crossing to China. Trains from here go to Kunming in the south-west of China. You will follow the border for a little way, trailing the river which sits between the road and the mountain ranges of China, before heading north to Muong Khuong. Along the way, you will see a number of dams in the process of being built. As you travel further along the twisting road, you will start to see the outcrops of black limestone and pine forests. After lunch in Muong Khuong Town, you will take an even more picturesque route south which rises high up through villages leaving the river Chay down below. You will take the high mountain pass to La Pan Tan where you will get a taste of local life with a stay in a basic Homestay which has certain rustic charm and the most beautiful views.
Day 7: La Pan Tan – Coc Ly – Bac Ha (B/ L/ D)
After breakfast, you will drive from La Pan Tan to Coc Ly on another small and dramatic road which overlooks the Chay river. If you are there on a Tuesday, you may have the chance to see the Coc Ly market.
You will have time to relax as you take a boat trip on the Chai River (dependent on the level of the river due to the season). The boat will take you to Coc Dao where the driver will pick you up and take you to Bac Ha. After lunch in a local restaurant, you will visit the palace of Hoang A Tuong which showcases a curious mixture of baroque and oriental architecture, built in 1920 with the aid of the French. You will have dinner and stay overnight in a homestay in Bac Ha.
Day 8: Bac Ha – Coc Pai – Phung village (B/ L/ D)
If it is a Sunday, you can visit Bac Ha and Coc Pai markets, or if it is a Saturday, Can Cau market. You will have lunch in Coc Pai before an adventurous trip along a narrow road full of hairpin bends leading towards the Ban May terraced rice fields. Each twist and turn will bring more gasps of amazement at the intricacy of the narrow, vertiginous rice terraces. Here you will see the La Chi people who are distinguishable by their traditional outfits. The girls clothing is mainly black with delicate coloured embroidery on a front panel and belt. A long strip is knotted around the hair makes up the headdress. As they spin, weave and dye all the fabric used for these clothes, it's common to see skeins of hemp and hand-woven strips of indigo dyed fabric drying on a line outside of the houses. You will spend the night in a homestay in the village.
Day 9: Trekking in Phung terrace rice fields (B/ L/ D)
Today, you will trek from the village of Dong Loi to Suoi Thau via the terraced rice fields, meeting the La Chi ethnic communities and seeing how they live. Life for the La Chi can be very tough as often their houses can only be approached through the rice fields, so all food, equipment and building materials must be carried by hand. You will stop for a picnic lunch in Thang Loi Village. After lunch. you will visit the site of many ancient tombs, disguising the single treasured and protected tomb of Hoang Van Thung who was a national hero and king of the La Chi ethnic people. After a 20km trek, you will return to the homestay for dinner and a hard earned rest.
Note: All day 20 km trek.
Day 10: Hoang Su Phi – Ha Giang (B/ L/ D)
After breakfast, you will leave Phung village and drive down the steep winding road. As you descend through the rice terraced scenery, you will have plenty of stops for more photos, taking in the beauty of the changing morning light on the rice paddies. You will drive back through Hoang Su Phi to Ha Giang via the Tan Su Phin Pass and the Cong Troi ass. These are most dramatic passes, and this whole area is full of magnificent views. You will stay overnight in a Tay stilt house.
Day 11: Ha Giang Trekking – Quan Ba (B/ L/ D)
You will set off and trek to the village of Lung Vai, (6-8 hours) and may meet people from the Man and Dao ethnic minority communities who live in the region. You will have a picnic lunch and continue to the remote village of Khuoi My. En route, you will see farmers working in the fields, and there may even be the opportunity to try out some of the farming methods yourself. You will continue to Ban Tha Village before being picked up by your driver and taken to Nam Dam. Dinner will be served by the host of the Dao house where you will stay overnight.
Note: includes 15-17km trek.
Day 12: Quan Ba – Meo Vac (B/ L/ D)
From Quan Ba, you will drive to Dong Van via the Cong Troi Pass and then Yen Minh. You will visit the King's palace in the H’mong ethnic village of Sa Phin, a lovely palace built in the early 20th century. It is interesting architecturally and historically important to the local H'mong people.
The Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark is a fascinating area. Most notable are the craggy black limestone peaks where the H'mong people manage to plant corn in any square inch of soil they can find. Harvesting is done by hand and the bundles piled on the back of a motorbike and driven down the mountainside.
You will continue to Dong Van, which also has a few ancient houses around the old market area where you will stop for lunch. In this area, in addition to the women wearing their bright swinging pleated skirts, embroidered tops and bright chequered headscarves, the men look striking in their black jackets with their stand-up collar and black beret, a relic from the French occupation.
The Ma Pi Leng pass between Dong Van and Meo Vac is justly considered one of the most beautiful roads in the country, and today you will trek through the pass. From here, the views from the pass are stunning, looking down over the river valley and across towards the mountainous frontier with China.
We will have dinner and stay overnight in an H’mong home.
Day 13: Meo Vac – Bac Me - Ha Giang (B/ L/ D)
Today you will drive along a beautiful road to Bac Me and then on to Ha Giang. The journey winds through palm plantations where you will see Tay people living in stilt houses with roofs made of palm leaves. This is not a usual tourist area so you can really appreciate the unspoilt rural scene as you drive through. It is also a time to contemplate the traditional way of life of the local villagers and the hardships they face. In Ha Giang, you will stay in a riverside bungalow.
Day 14: Ha Giang – Hanoi (B/ L)
We return to Hanoi, still travelling through magnificent scenery, mountainous at first but descending to the areas of tea plantations and then gradually flattening out to rice paddies. You may see the bamboo irrigation systems used in the fields. You will stop for lunch on the way and should arrive back in Hanoi in the early afternoon. Then you will have a few hours to enjoy the hustle and bustle of city life or relax and reflect on your amazing adventure.