North Vietnam Custom Tour: Hanoi, Mai Chau, Sapa & Ha Long Bay

A 11 day trip to Vietnam 
4.73 out of 5 stars
144 reviews

Culture abounds on this custom tailored tour through North Vietnam. The hillsides are textured with unparalleled paddy fields creating terraces up the foothills. Ethnic tribes wear colorful textiles displaying intricate patterns. From the incredible towering karsts that decorate Ha Long Bay to the unique traditions of minority tribes within the mountains near the Chinese border, your time through the capital city and the countryside will show you the traditions of northern Vietnam within this one of a kind exploration. 

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Most tours are customized for private travel.

General Information

Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Hanoi, Mai Chau, Sapa, Ha Long Bay

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Expressions of Joy

Your adventure begins as all adventures must: with your first step. When the flight begins to soar through the air you are energized by the coming discoveries, the beauty of exploration, and the knowledge that soon you will be wandering through the diverse cultures and fabulous history of Vietnam. Whether on a tour through the tremendous Old Town of Hanoi or venturing amongst the eclectic hill tribes outside of Sapa, you know that your time in Vietnam will be exceptional because it will have the beauty of being truly unique. 

Day 2: One Step Ahead

The day drifts ahead of you as you pass over the International Dateline bringing you one day forward and one step closer to Vietnam. It is easy to dream of the karsts of Ha Long Bay and the legends that surround Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi, from caves to turtles and the all the luxuries in between. The sights, sounds, and aromas will soon be welcoming you. Your lost day will be collected upon your return journey home, but for now you can still feel the rolling excitement of the trip to come.

Day 3: Capital Expressions

Welcome to the beautiful city of Hanoi, an eclectic mixture of the present world that encompasses its history like a proud badge of honor. You are met at the airport and taken to your hotel where you can relax within the modern luxuries. Soon you will bet met by your guide who will take you to experience the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the surrounding grounds, a point of pilgrimage for Vietnamese and an impressive display of architecture that connects to a vibrant past. The marble edifice is impressive and tall with columns that hold the strong pediment. You can see the guards in unmistakably snowy-white military uniforms.

The path behind the mausoleum brings you to the bright yellow façade of the old Presidential Palace. The opulent building was once home to the government official and was built by French colonialists. The structure stands within the manicured garden as a reminder of the country’s occupied past. A nearby traditional house on stilts sits along small pond which reflects the home and surrounding trees. This quaint household was said to be where Ho Chi Minh chose to live instead of the opulent palace. Within the home you can see the modest lifestyle of the former leader, down to the bookshelf on the upper floor that holds his typewriter.

What’s Included: transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 4: The Old and the Cultured

When the morning bustle of the streets comes wafting by your hotel you are ready and excited to once again step out into the streets of Hanoi. After breakfast you are met by your guide who will take you through the diverse streets of the city that encompass a millennium of culture and evolution. A bicycle rickshaw, also known as a cyclo will tour you through the Old Quarter. You can see locals wearing conical hats carrying large woven baskets strapped to their bicycles filled with gorgeous flowers ready for sale within the old market. Thirty-six old streets that were once, and continue to be, divided by guilds fill the neighborhood. The jewelry along Hang Bac street glints and jingles while the aroma of mixed fruits around To Tich brings citrus and sweetness to the air.

Your exploration of Hanoi continues with your arrival at the Museum of Ethnology. The new and formidable building houses am encompassing display of the 54 ethnic groups within Vietnam with the purpose of cultural heritage preservation and to promote socio-cultural diversity within the country. The artifacts within the museum range from jewelry to tapestries, textiles to calligraphy. Step into the open yard in the back and find a bubbling stream with several small bridges arching over the water. Elegant displays of traditional ethnic homes stand amongst the surrounding greenery. With over 15,000 artifacts and priceless antiques showcased within, the homes are a huge draw for their interactivity, allowing you to wander through the wooden construction, thatched roofs, and captured culture.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 5: Among the Hills

The morning brings with it the drifting aroma of flavorful Vietnamese coffee. After breakfast you are taken through the countryside by a private transfer. The mountains are spectacular, rising and falling endlessly in the distance. You arrive at the village of Mai Chau which sits at the foothills of the lush hillside between the tall cliffs. You are met by a local family ready who will guide you through the town and the distinct culture of the valley. Stilt houses are common, overlain with palm leaf roofs and bamboo-slat floors.

The calm atmosphere sweeps in along the grass. The lake is placid, reflecting the landscape in its surface that makes the wondrous nature look endless from all angles. 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. The stars come out with such prominence that you can trace them with your finger bringing the culture of the hill tribe and the splendor of nature together once more.

What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, transfer, accommodation 

Day 6: Village to Village

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 a nearby village, such as Pom Coong, home to ethnic White Thai and where the women are often adorned with silver buttons in butterfly shapes and colorful blouses. Within the hardworking culture of farming and irrigation there is also the outstanding natural beauty within the pond, the mountains and the swaying trees. You can hear the lulling whistle of flutes through the street while the scent of sweet rice mixes with the musk of fresh earth. In the evening you will climb aboard a luxurious night train northbound toward Sapa, a city near the border of China.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, transfer, accommodation

Day 7: Throughout the Misty Mountains

Within the high altitude of Sapa the misty morning burns off with the warming light. You are within reach of the tallest mountain in the country, Fan Si Pan, which reaches a height of over 10,300 feet. After you settle into your accommodation you will follow your guide out of the city to the local minority villages in the area. You immediately notice the endless mountain peaks which seem to rise and fall like waves all around you. In Ta Phin Village you will find three distinctly different cultures living harmoniously, two of which are well known ethnic minorities: the Red Dao, the Black H’mong.

The Red Dao migrated from China around the 12th or 13th century and often wear bright red head scarfs and blouses with intricately embroidered lining. 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. In the evening you will return to Sapa and can indulge in a sweet, comforting hot chocolate from Baguette and Chocolat.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, tour, accommodation

Day 8: Morning Markets and Night Trains

The Saturday morning market around Sapa is in full swing by the time the sun washes over the encompassing greenery. The jovial sounds of vendors and buyers echo through the street along the vibrant produce displayed on tables. The ethnic villagers come from all around the city 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 the market begins to settle you will once again follow your guide to the outskirts of the city to visit another ethnic village.

Cat Cat is a cultural village from the 19th century that gathered families from along the mountain region into one area. The terraced hillside and stone walkways look more like a painting than real life. Many Black H’mong live within the village along the mountains. What first comes off as shyness develops into laughter and smiles. They dress in indigo made from the dying hemp. The beauty of the day isn’t just within the landscape or the colors but within the people who are quick to share and eager to learn. In the evening you will once more climb aboard the night train and begin making your way back to Hanoi. 

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 9: Karsts and Caves

In the morning you will be met at the train station and quickly taken to Ha Long Bay to meet your cruise liner which will have you drifting along the famous scenery. Once on the traditional wooden Chinese Junk you notice the sails look like paper fans, textured with creases and angled with a particular arch. The celebrated karsts rise with their strength and coloration from limestone and are speckled with greenery. With around 1,600 islands along the archipelago there is endless magnificence within the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. In the afternoon you will be able to step onto the white sands of Lan Ha Bay, just east of Cat Ba Town. The soft, powdery beach gives you an isolated majesty from the 300 karsts in the distance.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 10: Through the Water Once More

The morning light bounces off of the water and gives the elegant coloration another jeweled look. Spend the first half of your day venturing through more of the sensational nature of Ha Long Bay. Dau Be Island is over 417 feet tall at its highest point where steep cliffs rise like walls protecting the interior from waves. Ba Ham Lake is the most famous point of the island where three ocean basins converge and golden monkeys skim through the lavish trees. When you return to shore you will have a private transfer to return you to Hanoi where the evening will be spent at your leisure. 

What’s Included: brunch, transfer, accommodation

Day 11: Expressing Awe

The morning in Hanoi brings the energetic streets to life. 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 begin your journey 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. While your flight begins to soar towards home, you will remember every second of amazement within Vietnam.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer


Starting Price 

This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.