Adventure is within the hills and the water on this 9-day trip through Vietnam that will take you along the hills terraced with rice paddies and a bay strewn with over 1,000 islands. For the active and adventurous, the explorers and wanderers, you will spend your time within the tremendous hillsides of north Vietnam cycling along undulating mountains in the Lao Cai region and kayaking within the emerald waters of Ha Long Bay. The endless wonder is within the adventurous routes, beautiful landscape,...
Let Adventure Begin
Your adventurous time in Vietnam begins with your arrival in Hanoi, the capital city which bustles with energy, and bursts with the combination of both modern and historic architecture and culture; it’s a place where crossing the street can sometimes be as adventurous as trekking through the hillsides. You are met at the airport by a private transfer who will soon have you at your hotel and settling into the comforts of your surroundings. Hoan Kiem Lake is surrounded by a series of temples and pagodas where branches and leaves dangle over the water and reflect in the surface.
The city is a mixture of the fast and the serene where you can venture at your own pace through the Old Quarter. The scent of fresh ginger and frying garlic hangs in the air. The culture remains unbounded as you watch women bicycle down the streets passed by motorbikes, their conical hats shaping their faces while a large circular tray filled with oranges and limes balances on their handlebars ready for market. Letting the bright colors of the new city wash over you brings the heart to life, ready to venture out and explore the lush landscapes and experience the remarkable cultures that will soon be within reach.
A Ready Exploration
The new scents of the new city fill the streets as the day begins to bustle around you; however the familiar scent of fresh brewed drip-coffee is enough to rouse you from bed. Your guide will meet you after breakfast to ferry you through the various neighborhoods of the city that shine in their own history; a history that has helped Hanoi come into its own. The early aromatics of coriander and noodle soup are comforting. Traveling through the shade around Hoan Kiem Lake will bring you to a scarlet bridge elegantly designed and full of charm and that leads to a small island on the northern edge of the shore.
Lush greenery dangles around Ngoc Son Temple which is located on the little island. The temple is dedicated to General Tran Hung Dao who defeated the Mongols in the 13th century. A graceful gate constructed in the 18th century stands with shapely curved, concentric roofs welcoming you into the complex. The simple, yet peaceful scenery allows the soothing atmosphere to overtake the busier streets outside. Stepping through the French Colonial architecture of the Old Quarter brings you to the exposed heart of the ancient commercial streets that date back almost a millennium. The roads within the district were once divided by guilds and you can see the tiny homes, constructed and preserved, were built with facades facing multiple courtyards almost a century ago. The endless charm of the city compels you further bringing out the eclectic culture of the people and their history. In the evening you will climb aboard a luxurious overnight train, with wide, comfortable beds, heading northbound en route to the Lao Cai region.
The Morning Wonder
The train arrives within the far reaches of the northern hills early in the morning. You step into the early morning mist of the mountains which drapes over the undulating colorful hills and dissipates in the afternoon allowing the sun to wash over the lavish greenery. Shortly after breakfast you will find yourself in the Can Cau Market. The cultures of the mountains come to life before you, stretching across the stalls of the marketplace and filled with active color.
Glowing red chilies are stacked beneath umbrellas while Flower H’mong, known for their brightly colored dress and intricate embroidery, sell roots and textiles. The scent of vibrant grass and earth rushes along the stalls. The vivacious calls of vendors and customers collide. From Can Cau you will collect your bicycle and venture towards Ban Pho Village where you will be able to sit and enjoy tea with the local H’mong tribe. As you cycle along the countryside you can’t help but enjoy the view. It looks as though a carpet of greenery has been placed tightly over the landscape, from the undulating hills to the mountain peaks. The cool air is a welcomed sensation against your cheeks as you make your way along the path.
Once in the village you will find the road cleared from brush, paved with dirt, and surrounded by huts. Water buffalo graze along the hillside and you can hear chickens clucking in the short distance. The villagers are all smiles and friendly, eager to show you their traditions within the hills. The women’s dress is celebratory, with a shimmering headdress of bright magenta and long, flowing skirts standing out against the mud homes. In the evening you will come to Bac Ha and relax in the comforts of town.
The Hills Come Alive
Once again the morning is rich with aromatics, herbaceous with gingerroot, coriander, lemongrass and more. The Sunday Market in Bac Ha, much like the Saturday Market Can Cau, brings the villagers from the surrounding towns for the chance to buy and sell goods. After breakfast you will venture through the market where cassavas and corn, plums and peaches shine brightly along the tabletops. The plums are fresh and sweet, and plump with juice. The local villagers and the variety of outsiders have spread their goods through the market with each villager displaying their traditional dress.
The Tay women wear black robe-like dresses with a colorful wrap around their waste. Rice wine is on offer throughout the market bringing a simple flavor of everyday life from the hillsides. Once your time in the market is complete you will again climb on your bicycle and ride towards Chay River. The landscape is picturesque, where paddy terraces texture the slopes and the green seems endless. Once at the river, the emerald water courses through craggy peaks awash with foliage. From the river you will be driven to Sapa with the evening yours to relax within the flavorful city.
Stepping into the Hills
You begin your day in Sapa, close to the Chinese border and surrounded by the morning mist that is cut by the sprawling mountains. The rustic charm of the city runs through the streets and the locals, where the scent of fresh baguettes and chocolate resonates from Baguette and Chocolat Café, where you are almost seduced by the aroma of buttery croissants filled with melted dark chocolate, along with freshly brewed coffee. After breakfast you will find yourself venturing through the mountainside and coming to the trailhead.
Trees climb along the slopes and cover the panorama only for a little while as you make your way to the heart of the Golden Stream Valley. Along the trail it often feels as though you are traveling through a villager’s backyard as they smile and wave to you with excitement while the rushing water streams in the background tumbling over the jutting rocks. Arrive in Ban Ho for the evening visiting the Tay Hill Tribe. In the evening you can see the sky blanketed in stars and clear enough to watch the swirls of the Milky Way before enjoying a home-cooked meal within the village, exchanging stories of cultural life and awareness with the locals.
A Mountainous Encounter
The early morning mist streams over the hillside in a wave of cool clouds that you can watch ebb and flow like the tide before the sun fully rises. Your Lao Cai hosts are gracious and grateful to you, smiling every second and encouraging you to try your hand at weaving, cooking, and farming. After breakfast you will wave farewell and begin your adventure once again, combing through the luscious scenery. At the peak of the trail you can look over the valley below and see the clouds nestling against the slopes, disappearing with the heat of the mid-morning and giving way to the terraced paddy fields. At midday you will be transferred back to Sapa eventually making your return to Lao Cai. The Chinese influence is strong from the close proximity to the border and the cross-trade between the city and country next door. Soon the train will roll into the station and you will once again board the luxuries of the overnight compartment, rocking to sleep while passing through the grandeur of the landscape at night.
A Day by the Bay
You arrive in Hanoi early in the morning to the rising sounds of the city streets. The scents of chili and ginger are comforting for their familiarity and deliciousness. After breakfast your private transfer will have you traversing the Vietnamese countryside en route to Ha Long Bay, arriving at Hai Phong in no time. When you first look upon the bay you are in awe of the magnificence of the natural landscape. The water shimmers a turquoise that shifts in and out of emerald like a large glowing gem. Limestone karsts tower over the surface of the sea, covered in rocky facades and intermittent luscious grass.
An express cruiser will take you through the water to Cat Ba Island, known as the largest of the over 360 islands around the archipelago and finally relaxing along the sand of a secluded beach with the cool lapping water at your toes. Stepping into your kayak you will discover the fantastic gorgeousness of the area, more than just the landscape, but the culture as well. Floating fishing villages, home to the Viet people, are a culture that dates some 18,000 years back. The wooden houses float through a specific zone of the bay. The inhabitants make their living off of the fish and aquaculture and operate primarily as a family. You will return to the beach for the evening where you can listen to the gentle sea on the shore and watch the stars blanket the night sky hovering over the reaching karsts.
Good Morning Exploration
The day begins with the sounds of the sea continuing on the shore surrounded by the quiet of a natural dawn. The morning takes you out along the water once again, kayaking your way around the karsts, beneath granite tunnels and venturing to various parts of the bay filled with stunning greenery, remarkable caverns, and iridescent water. The majesty of the limestone dwarfs you as you paddle along the immaculate water. Whether letting the gentle tide sweep you along or pushing through the water at your own speed, the elegance of the moment doesn’t pass you by.
After lunch you will make the return journey to Hanoi, allowing yourself to relax within the city that, after days within the country landscape, feels like a metropolis. For a taste of comfort and soothing you can venture to Cha Ca La Vong in the Old Quarter for dinner. Said to be one of Vietnam’s oldest restaurants, once you sit you the Cha Ca, your meal will be grilled at your table. A plateful of their flaky fillet of white fish seasoned with earthy turmeric and herbaceous dill will give you another exquisite taste of Vietnam.
The Adventurous Home
The morning rises softly over Hanoi’s skyline. You let the sunlight wash over the window before rising with the scent of fresh, dark roasted coffee. After breakfast the morning is yours to spend as you wish, whether strolling through Hang Gai Street looking at the custom tailored suits made of silk or cotton, or meandering along Hang Bac Street, the oldest street in the city dating back to the 13th century silver trade. Later in the day you will be met at your hotel by a private transfer and taken to the airport for the adventure home; however, one last adventure in Vietnam can never be denied.
- Experience a kayak tour through the exquisite landscape of Ha Long Bay
- Visit the cultural markets in the Lao Cai region, where hill tribes continue to live in traditional ways
- Wind through the northern mountains of Vietnam on a bicycle tour
- Trek through the iconic rice paddy terraces around Sapa
- Visit the ancient culture of the floating fishing villages of Ha Long Bay
- Discover the vast history and celebrated culture of Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city
Let adventure guide you through the mountains and waters of Vietnam on this custom tailored tour meant to stimulate your heart and your thoughts. Filled with the unparalleled landscape within North Vietnam, you will witness the picturesque mountains brushed with morning mist and the local markets brimming with colorful harvest. Venture through the fabulous landscape of Ha Long Bay and experience a floating village whose ancestry dates back millennia. Best visited when timed with the Saturday Market at Can Cau, rest assured that from Hanoi to Sapa your heart will race from excitement, joy, adventure, and more.
Your active tour of Vietnam begins with your arrival in Hanoi, the capital city. The grandeur of the streets sits within the city’s ability to combine its past and present without encroachment, from opulent lakes to immaculate high-rises. Tour through the city to find the wonder of the old neighborhoods, from the Old Quarter to Hoan Kiem Lake, each one giving you a sense of calm within their energetic inhabitants. Make your way north into the Lao Cai Region on a comfortable overnight train, arriving in time for the Saturday Market where the surrounding tribes bring colorful textiles and fresh produce to trade, sell, and buy.
Your cycle tour begins within the hills around Lao Cai, stretching through the grand mountains and coming to Bac Ha. The following day you will visit the Sunday Market of Bac Ha filled with a variety of gregarious villagers from the surrounding mountains before riding to Ban Pho for lunch and tea with a local family, returning to Bac Ha in the evening. Once in Sapa you will spend two days trekking along the stunning landscape, experiencing the hospitality of the local Dzao people before returning by overnight train to Hanoi and continuing onward to Ha Long Bay. Once along the bay you will be ferried to the secluded camp on the shores outside of Cat Ba Island. Traverse the emerald waters on a kayak, meeting the local floating village tribe, and venturing beneath naturally carved tunnels along the way. You’ll spend two days enjoying the surrounding beauty. The following day you will have a private transfer to the airport to make the 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
- Expert trip planning
- 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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