Tailored from £1,950 per person excl. flights
11 days Hanoi, Mai Chau, Son La, Lai Chau, Sapa, Bac Ha
11 days Hanoi, Mai Chau, Son La, Lai Chau, Sapa, Bac Ha
Take the Vietnam road trip of a lifetime through impressive undulating mountain landscapes, traversing the pretty tiers of rice terraces cut into the hillsides and meeting hill tribe communities in some of the most remote parts of the country. This is a Vietnam tour with a difference, putting adventure first and forefront, to bring you a side to Vietnam rarely seen by visitors.
You'll start your tour of north Vietnam in the frenetic capital city of Hanoi before heading north and west to the Mau Chau series of villages tucked away in the rice fields. Son La provides lessons in Vietnamese history, as it was here that anti-colonial revolutionaries were jailed; whilst Dien Bien Phu is famous for being for being the site of the final confrontation that finished France’s reign in Indochina.
No trip to northern Vietnam would be complete without time in gorgeous Sapa, Vietnam's premier trekking destination and home to the stunning Tonkinese Alps. For centuries, the valleys of Sapa have been a crossroads for Vietnamese, Chinese and a myriad of hill tribes, all of whom have left their mark on the region. The final stop is Bac Ha, home to many hill tribes who come to sell their crafts here, including the Flower Hmong, known for their colourful dress as well as their hospitality.
This unique Vietnam tour is less of a holiday and more of an anthropological expedition, ideal for those who prefer to get off the beaten track, encounter people and cultures far removed from busy cities and lively beach destinations. Our Northwestern Vietnam road trip is for those who truly appreciate the thrills of travel, love getting out of their comfort zones and understand that the journey is more important than the destination.
A Wayfairer representative will meet you on arrival at Hanoi (HAN) airport, then you will take a private transfer together to your accommodation in the city centre. Depending on your arrival time, your local guide can meet you at your hotel and can suggest places to eat or drink nearby.
This morning, you'll take a private tour of the city, starting at the historic Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. This imposing monument was lavishly built using marble and granite, creating a final resting place for the preserved body of “Uncle Ho."
Nearby the mausoleum is the lotus-shaped, One Pillar Pagoda, which rests on a single stone pillar emerging from the water. Next, you'll head to the Temple of Literature, the first university in Vietnam. Created for the sons of mandarins, it's a great place to get an overview of Hanoi history and culture.
In the afternoon, you'll pay a visit to the Museum of Ethnology. This excellent museum offers a fascinating insight into Vietnam’s natural and cultural history, as well as its 54 ethnic minority groups - some of which you'll encounter later in the tour. The evening is left free you to enjoy some of Hanoi’s wonderful drinking and dining options.
After breakfast, you'll leave the hustle and bustle of Hanoi behind and set out on your road trip. The scenery changes quickly and you'll soon find yourself climbing into forest-covered hills. You'll stop for lunch with local hosts at a Tai village, which also provides a chance to enjoy the stunning surroundings; rivers and streams flow through bamboo forests and rice fields.
Arriving in Mai Chau, you'll check into a rustic and charming locally-run lodge. Then, you'll set out to explore the landscape by bicycle or on foot. Mai Chau is a series of villages set amongst the rice fields in a valley surrounded by mountains. Meander through the villages and fields, enjoying scenes of everyday life.
The region is home to the White Tai, a friendly people who are also master weavers. There are plenty of colourful stalls set up outside people’s homes, which provide an enchanting shopping experience. In the evenings, the lodge often provides Tai dance performances in a nearby cave.
Departing in the morning, you'll say goodbye to your charming hosts and climb the winding road up the mountain to Son La, our next stop on the way to Dien Bien Phu. Take in the gorgeous views before arriving at Moc Chau, where you'll stop amongst the tea plantations for a rest. This area is known for its natural beauty, fruit and especially its tea.
You'll pay a visit to a local tea factory to see how the process works, then try a locally-grown brew. In the afternoon, you'll arrive in Son La, the site of an old French penal colony where anti-colonial revolutionaries were jailed. Much of the infrastructure was destroyed during the Vietnam War, but some of the fortifications have been restored, giving an impression of its former glory.
This morning, you'll take some time to explore the town and its pleasant surrounds by bicycle or by car. The area is inhabited by a number of ethnic groups or “montagnards” as they were referred to by the French. There are White and Black Tai, Hmong and Moung tribal villages set among the rice fields.
You’ll also make a stop at an interesting little museum that documents the town's past. In the early afternoon, you'll continue on the way to Dien Bien Phu. Situated in a very remote corner of Vietnam, just 30 kilometres from the Laos border, this town owes its fame to the climactic confrontation that finished France’s reign in Indochina.
The history of the town is the main attraction here. Since becoming the capital of Lai Chau province, this once small town is now growing significantly. However, the remote town of Dien Bien Phu receives very few foreign visitors, so this is a great opportunity to learn about a side of Vietnam often overlooked by visitors.
This morning, you'll take a closer look at the historic sites of this famous battle. The main site is marked by the Dien Bien Phu Museum, which provides an informative insight into the tenacious battle techniques of the Vietnamese, who fought for unity and independence for nearly 2,000 years.
You'll then continue onto A1 Hill, where some of the fiercest fighting took place. Pay your respects to both sides fallen at the nearby War Cemetery, then leave the battlefield behind and climb into the hills on the way to Lai Chau. The landscape continues to impress and you'll find yourself surrounded by some of the most stunning scenery in the country.
Make an early start to make the most of the amazing drive today, which will take you over the top of the 1900-metre Tram Ton Pass, the highest road pass in the country and considered to be one of the most scenic in all of Vietnam.
You'll arrive in Sapa in time for lunch and quickly see why this is most popular destination in northwest Vietnam and often referred to as the jewel of the Tonkinese Alps. The French knew what they were doing when they decided to establish a hill station in this beautiful valley very close to the Chinese border in 1922.
Today, the town is a lively place full of colourful tribes people, shops and restaurants. Take some time to relax and enjoy exploring the town on foot.
Sapa is the premier trekking destination in Vietnam, so we strongly recommend some hiking through the Tonkinese Alps. For centuries, these valleys have been a crossroads for Vietnamese, Chinese and a myriad of Hill tribes, all of whom have left their mark on the town and the areas that surround it.
The numerous hill tribes are diverse and rich in traditional skills and cultures. Most continue to wear their traditional dress and jewellery and live according to the ways of their ancestors.
For trekking, there are a number of ways to explore these amazing valleys and the surrounds, depending on your desires and fitness levels. There are easy day hikes available, or if you're looking for a challenge, we can facilitate a slightly more strenuous overnight trek, which features a local homestay.
After so many early rises, you can make a leisurely start today; there's plenty of time for a last bit of exploring or shopping, or you can pick a cafe with a view to look out at the landscape. After an early lunch, you'll take the scenic route to Bac Ha and again, wonderful vistas follow you on your course.
Bac Ha is most popular on Sundays, when many ethnic groups come from all over come to sell their wares. However, the town makes for a very worthwhile visit on any day, emerging as a less frequented alternative to Sapa. The elevation (900 metres) is considerably lower than Sapa and boasts a diverse home for many different tribes. The most visible are, undoubtedly, the Flower Hmong.
This morning, you'll head out to the nearby village of Ban Pho. This is a Flower Hmong village where the people continue to live in a manner relatively unchanged for centuries. This group are especially famous for their colourful embroidered dress, however, they are also know for their exceptional hospitality and friendliness.
You’ll visit the preserved Hoang A Tuong Palace, the former residence of a Hmong King during the colonial times. Then, you'll spend some time meeting new friends before having a local lunch with one of the families.
Finally, it's time to make our way to Lao Cai in time to catch our overnight train back to Hanoi. You'll sleep in a very comfortable sleeper cabin, where dinner will be served before you lie back and reflect on the amazing journey you've just experienced, watching the landscape pass by the train window.
It's time to say farewell to your guide and enjoy breakfast before your onward travel arrangements from Hanoi Airport (HAN). You'll leave Vietnam with a collection of travel anecdotes, happy memories and surely, plenty of incredible photographs.
Find below a collection of our favourite accommodation options in Vietnam.