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...
Hanoi – 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.
Hanoi – 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.
Mai Chau – 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.
Sapa – 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.
Sapa – 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.
Overnight Train – 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.
Ha Long Bay – 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.
Hanoi – 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.
Hanoi – 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.
- Experience the variety of ethnic minority cultures within the northern hills of around Sapa
- Discover the tremendous tradition situated within the tranquil heart of Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam
- Cruise through the sensational scenery of Ha Long Bay filled with emerald water and limestone karsts
- Adventure deep into the spectacular caves within the islands along Ha Long Bay
- Witness the idyllic valley of Mai Chau surrounded by lush paddy fields
- Visit traditional stilt houses in the countryside overlain with palm leaf roofs and bamboo-slat floors
- Enjoy the lively morning market of Sapa where villagers from around the mountains showcase handmade goods and quality ingredients
Stroll through villages and wander through a unique blend of tradition and modernity on this 11-day tour meant to show you the true culture of North Vietnam. Whether you’re an amateur anthropologist or a traditions enthusiast, an avid explorer or just looking for a rare travel experience, you will spend your days within the unparalleled scenery and sensational cultures that are set throughout the countryside. From marvelous islands to inspiring villages, traditional markets to modest temples, your journey through Vietnam will be sure to show you the depths of the north.
Your journey begins when you step onto your flight that is ready to whisk you away to the wonders of Vietnam. After you cross the International Dateline you will arrive in Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam and a fantastic city with its heart in the countryside. A guided tour will take you through the ancient history of the city that continues to thrive today, from the market in the Old Quarter to the oldest university in the country. The following day you will explore Mai Chau, a slice of countryside surrounded by mountains and occupied by many White Thai villages. In the evening you will board a night train that will take you northbound to the mountain city of Sapa, located near the Chinese border.
The next two days will be spent adventuring through the amazing landscape filled with undulating mountains, terraced paddy fields, and the vibrant culture of the ethnic minority tribes of the area. Your night train back to Hanoi will take you from the city to Ha Long Bay for your overnight cruise. The islands and karsts sit along emerald water allowing you to swim, sunbathe, and even venture into the cave systems that burrow deep within the limestone islands. You will have one last evening in Hanoi before you’re private transfer to the airport where you will make your journey home.
$1,615 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
- In-country transportation
- Some or all activities and tours
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- 24x7 support during your trip
Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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