vietnam22This northern odessey takes us into the wild northwest corner of the country where it is mountainous and has great scenery. The Yunnan border is not far from Sapa in Lao Cai province recently opened to tourists. Hill tribe villages are scattered around. The road from Lao Cai-Hekou leads to Kunming. On the opposite side, to the northeast, is lovely Halong Bay, one of the most beautiful sights of Vietnam; and Haiphong, its largest seaport.

Route: Hanoi, Sapa, Bac Ha, Perfume Pagoda, Ninh Binh, Haiphong, Halong Bay and Bat Trang





• Transportation in private air-conditioned vehicle with driver
• Accommodation: 10 nights with daily breakfast at the mentioned hotels
• English or French speaking guide
• Entrance fees to stated sights
• Boat trip to Perfume Pagoda, Tam Coc, in Halong Bay



• Meals (lunches & dinners)
• Tips, drinks
• Airport departure tax
• Personal expenses
• Travel insurance
• International flights
• Visa fee



Day 1: Hanoi - Arrival

On arrival at Noi Bai Airport, you are met and transferred to hotel. Hanoi, Vietnam's capital, is a stylish and gracious city that retains an unique old-world charm and some of Asia's most striking colonial architecture. Take a cyclo ride around the streets of the old quarter, giving you a chance to see the different local ways of life.
Overnight in hotel, Hanoi.

Day 2: Hanoi (Breakfast)

Breakfast at the hotel. Today we enjoy a half-day city tour starting with the Ho Chi Minh Complex, containing the mausoleum of the nation's founder, Ho Chi Minh; the Presidential Palace; and Ho Chi Minh's house on stilts. This place has deep significance of the secular and spiritual nature for many Vietnamese who come in large groups to give honour and render respect to the father of their independent nation. The complex also comprises the One-Pillar Pagoda whose origin dates back to the founding of Hanoi in the reign of Emperor Ly Thai Tong (r.1028-1054). We follow this with a trip to the Temple of Literature, well-known as Vietnam's first university since 1076, and the History Museum which displays an excellent collection of artefacts illustrating Vietnamese history. The peaceful lake of Hoan Kiem and the bustling Dong Xuan Market are also visited to end the day's sightseeing.
Overnight in hotel, Hanoi.

Day 3: Hanoi - Sapa (Breakfast)

Breakfast at the hotel. An early morning start to drive along the Red River to Sapa in the northwest sector from Hanoi, a journey of about 10 hours. This region has spectacular scenery home to many hill tribes called "Montagnards" (mountain people) by the French. The roads are bumpy much of the time, but various scenic landscapes changing from the delta area to the Tonkinese Alps make for a thrilling but tiring journey. At an elevation of 1,500 meters, Sapa is reached a short distance from the Viet-Sino border town of Lao Cai. It was once a hill resort for French administrators escaping the summer heat of the lowland. The remoteness and the simple lifestyle of the ethnic minority peoples are a highlight of Sapa. After checking into your hotel in Sapa you can relax in the cool climate by strolling about in this hill town. The ethnic people are frequently seen on the main street of Sapa . Vendors along the streets sell local textiles and handicraft.
Overnight in hotel, Sapa.

Day 4: Sapa (Breakfast)

Breakfast at the hotel. The hilly range of Fansipan has Vietnam's highest mountain chain, and lends an alpine feel to the area surrounding this hill station. Today we have enough time to visit the bustling Sapa Market where the Red Dao, Black Hmong, Tay and Xa Pho ethnic minorities converge from their nearby homes perched on mountain sides and valleys to trade their goods and buy provisions. We then get well off the beaten track as we embark on a walk to explore this beautiful mountain area. Along the way we traverse several rustic villages and see many mountain people doing their daily work such as logging, herding buffaloes and tilling the fields. The blend of verdant mountain backdrop and colourful population makes for a remarkable experience. Overnight in hotel, Sapa.

Day 5: Sapa - Bac Ha (Sunday) (Breakfast)

Breakfast at the hotel. Upon leaving Sapa we set off on our scenic drive through the border town of Lao Cai to the colourful Sunday Market at Bac Ha. This market also attracts a wide variety of ethnic minority groups including the Hmong, Dao, Phu La, La Chi and Tay communities. They still retain their age-old cultural traditions and are recognizable by their distinct dresses. The experience of this congregation is colourful and unique. After the market we enjoy a walk around the area, visiting the Hmong king's former residence (the history of the royal house is fascinating) and Ban Pho where the villagers make the potent wine from maize. Take a sip and buy a bottle.
Overnight in hotel, Bac Ha.

Day 6: Bac Ha - Hanoi (Breakfast)

Breakfast at the hotel. The return journey begins as we depart Bac Ha town and pass through the verdant and rugged mountain scenery to Hanoi. These backroads are a great way to explore the Vietnamese countryside. We see very few other travellers, mostly rural dwellers who are just as curious about us as we are of them. The drive is very long, but we can make many stops along the way to stretch our legs and take some wonderful photographs.
Overnight in hotel, Hanoi.

Day 7: Hanoi - Perfume Pagoda - Ninh Binh (Breakfast)

Breakfast at the hotel. An interesting drive through the rich farmlands of the Red River Delta to the Perfume Pagoda, which is not just a pagoda but many shrines and sanctuaries built into the mountain sides. This famous complex of pagodas is also one of Vietnam's great pilgrimage sites. On arrival we enjoy a leisurely boat excursion on the Yen River past the spectacular landscape of flooded ricefields and undulating mountains. After a two-hour river cruise we embark on a rugged walk uphill to explore some of the many pagodas and the sacred grotto of Huong Tich. We then drive to Ninh Binh, our final destination of today.
Overnight in hotel, Ninh Binh.

Day 8: Ninh Binh - Haiphong (Breakfast)

Breakfast at the hotel. The capital of Vietnam during the Dinh and early Le dynasties was Hoa Lu, which has left its legacy in the form of two small temples, each one nearly a thousand years old. After a short drive we visit these two remaining structures, dedicated to the Dinh and the Le rulers; then climb the 200 steps to the top of Ma Yen mountain for a fantastic view over the surrounding areas. The next stop of our trip is Tam Coc which is named "Inland Halong Bay". We take a boat trip on a river through the quiet and peaceful landscape of ricefields surrounded by limestone formations to the grottoes of Tam Coc. Upon leaving this site we commence our scenic drive to Haiphong, once the biggest port-town of northern Vietnam but a sleepy place with little traffic today.
Overnight in hotel, Haiphong.

Day 9: Haiphong - Halong (Breakfast)

Breakfast at the hotel. Heading out of town we travel by road to Halong Bay, truly one of Vietnam's most impressive scenic sights. The drive eastwards to the magnificent northeast of Vietnam famed for its 3000 islets and fantastic rock formations jutting out from the sea is about three hours from Hanoi. Heading out of the town we embark on a boat for an exploration of the bay. This exciting five-hour cruise provides us with a picturesque scenery blending with the sky and numerous limestone peaks rearing amazingly from the clear and emerald water. The limestone karst formations are littered with beaches, grottoes and beautiful caves. Along the way we will anchor for a leisurely swim in a secluded cove and make an enjoyable visit to one of the many hidden grottoes beneath towering cliffs. After a seafood lunch on board we continue our exciting cruise and have time for another swim.
Overnight in hotel, Halong.

Day 10: Halong - Bat Trang - Hanoi (Breakfast)

Breakfast at the hotel. The good roads make our journey back to Hanoi a real pleasure. Today we have plenty of time to observe the rural landscape and visit the riverside village of Bat Trang, where distinctive ceramics are made and used throughout the delta region for over 500 years. The vitality of this village is still bouyed up by the hundreds of pottery kilns on fire, day and night. We stroll around to see various forms of cottage industries and watch craftsmen forming, painting and glazing their products in traditional ways. The remainder of the day will be free to explore Hanoi's Old Quarter or simply relax in the hotel. Overnight in hotel, Hanoi.

Day 11: Hanoi - Departure (Breakfast)

Breakfast at the hotel. Free time for you to relax or further explore Hanoi on your own before transfer to Noi Bai Airport for your departure flight.

End of Programme