Classic Northern Vietnam 12 days

Day 1: Arrival at Hanoi (GP)

Arriving at Noi Bai airport in Hanoi, you’ll be met and driven to your hotel. After a short rest, you will visit the centre of Hanoi, including Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son temple.

You will then take a cyclo ride around the bustling Old Quarter, is a magnet for visitors – it’s noisy and hectic, but definitely a ‘must-see’ attraction.

In the evening, you’ll have tickets for a performance of traditional Water Puppetry, an art form unique to northern Vietnam, and a good, light-hearted introduction to its rural culture. You’ll spend the night in Hanoi.

Day 2: Cycling and exploring villages around Hanoi (B, L, G)

In the morning, you’ll be picked up to drive to Bat Trang. On arrival, you’ll be able to stroll in the small alleys of this old village to watch local people producing their fine products and visit some of the houses used as workshops and showrooms. You’ll then pick up your bicycles and ride along the riverside dike, through some more of the many villages surrounding Hanoi. The total distance on bicycles is about 7km along a small road that runs beside a tributary of the Red River.

You’ll then drive to Dong Ho village – famous for its traditional paintings. After a picnic lunch, your vehicle will take to Tam Tao village to enjoy its traditional Quan Ho music performed by villagers in the commune house. The singers have been officially designated as part of Vietnam’s ‘living heritage’ by UNESCO. In the late afternoon, you’ll return to Hanoi for your overnight accommodation.

Day 3: Cooking Class in Hanoi/Lao Cai (B, L, G)

In the morning, you’ll walk to a family restaurant where the owner, a skilled chef, will invite you to a cup of Vietnamese green tea. She’ll take you to a local market to learn about Vietnamese ingredients and try your skills in bargaining and buying among the locals. Upon returning to the restaurant, you’ll learn how to cook some typical Vietnamese dishes representative of the North of Vietnam. After the class, you’ll sample the results of your efforts before returning to the city centre after which your time will be your own.

In the evening, your car will arrive to take you to Hanoi railway station in time to board the 10 p.m. overnight sleeper to Lao Cai. You will spend the night on the train.

Day 4: Lao Cai/Ethnic Market/Sapa (B, L, G)

Arriving in Lao Cai Station in the early morning, you’ll be met and taken to visit an ethnic market frequented by ethnic minority peoples. The ethnic market is considered one of the most wonderful and colourful markets in extreme North Vietnam where thousands of local people in their traditional attires busily buy and sell the local produces like dog, cat, pig, horse….

After a picnic lunch, you’ll continue your journey into the mountains to Sapa, a small town perched on the mountainside opposite Mt. Fan Si Pan, Vietnam’s highest peak. The rest of the day will be free to explore the town. You’ll spend the night in a Sapa hotel with good mountain views.

The trips to ethnic minority markets must be on Thursday (Lung Khau Nhin market), Saturday (Can Cau) or Sunday (Bac Ha, Muong Hum or Muong Khuong markets).

Day 5: Sapa Homestay (B, L, D, G)

After an early breakfast at your hotel, you’ll hike to visit the Red Dao ethnic minority people of Giang Ta Chai village, where you’ll have lunch. Later in the afternoon, you’ll be picked up by jeep to travel to Ban Ho village where you’ll have dinner and spend the night in a Tay ethnic minority group stilt-house.

Day 6: Sapa/Lao Cai/Hanoi (B, L, G)

After walking around Ban Ho village and a refreshing splash-around in a clear mountain spring, your guide will serve a stream-side picnic lunch. In the afternoon, you’ll be picked up to return to Sapa and, later in the evening, to Lao Cai station by jeep to catch the overnight train to Hanoi. You will spend the night on the train.

Day 7: Hanoi/Ha Long (B, L, D, G)

Arriving in Hanoi in the early morning, you will be met and driven to your hotel for breakfast and refresh.
After that, you’ll leave for Ha Long Bay, one of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Areas and the world’s largest marine limestone ‘karst’ landscape. There you’ll board a private wooden junk to take you through Bai Tu Long Bay area. You’ll then continue your cruise to visit a fishing village where you’ll have an opportunity to explore the village and the hidden lagoons in a tender or a kayak. The route is designed to avoid the busy areas and includes a very quiet location for your overnight stay.

Day 8: Ha Long Bay (B, L, D)

After breakfast, you’ll continue your cruise to visit a fishing village where you’ll have an opportunity to explore the village and the hidden lagoons in a kayak. After a BBQ lunch on a wild sandy beach, your time will be your own to relax or continue exploring the bay by kayak. You’ll stay overnight in a very quiet location of the Bay.

Day 9: Ha Long/Hanoi (Brunch, G)

You’ll wake in the fresh air of the bay with a swim or you can relax on the sundeck. After breakfast, you’ll cruise to a private sandy beach for some swimming (weather permitting) and a refreshing cool drink. Alternatively, you’ll dock to visit one of the most famous caves in the Bay. You’ll then continue cruising to Cat Ba Island for your overnight accommodation in a hotel located by the beach.

Day 10: Cat Ba (B, L, G)

After an early breakfast, your guide will take you to the National Park to hike through the forest. Although the distance is only about 18 km, it will take at least 6 hours to cover the undulating terrain. On the way, you’ll have a break for a picnic lunch at Viet Hai village. You’ll finally arrive at a bay on the south of the island where a boat will be waiting to take you back to the town’s harbour. You’ll spend the night in Cat Ba town.

Day 11: Cat Ba Island/Hai Phong/Hanoi (B, G)

The morning will be free for you to relax on a nearby sandy beach or while away your time in the small seafront town. In the afternoon, you’ll board the hydrofoil trip to Hai Phong where a car and driver will be waiting to return you to Hanoi where you will spend the night.

Day 12: Hanoi departure (B)

After breakfast, you’ll be free until your driver arrives to take you to Noi Bai airport for your departure flight. Tour ends.