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Vietnam Northwest Loop Tour

                                                                                                                        13 days, 13 night                                                                      Photo Gallery for this trip

Introduction

Come explore the northwest of Vietnam and experience the sights, sounds and wonderful scenery of the area. Our tour highlights include, Cuc Phuong National Park, home stays, visits to war vestiges that defined modern Vietnam, remote villages only now becoming accessible to tourism, sleepy hamlets with wonderful minorities and throughout all, experienced guides that make sure the details of your trip are memories for a lifetime.


Smiles

Brief Itinerary

Day 1: Hanoi - Mai Chau
Day 2: Mai Chau - Moc Chau - Son La
Day 3: Son La - Pha Din Pass - Dien Bien Phu
Day 4: Pa Khoang Lake and the drive to Lao - Vietnamese border
Day 5: Dien Bien Phu - Muong Lay - Muong Te
Day 6: Muong Te - Paso - Boat ride

Day 7: Paso - Lai Chau - Tam Duong - Sapa - Topas Eco-Lodge
Day 8: Sapa - Muong Hoa Valley Trek - Topas Eco-Lodge
Day 9: Ban Ho Valley Trek
Day 10: Topas Eco-Lodge - Sa Pa - Muong Hum Trek
Day 11: Muong Hum - Bac Ha - Short walk to Ban Pho
Day 12: Bac Ha - Si Ma Cai - Coc Ly - Lao Cai - Hanoi
Day 13: Arrive in Hanoi


Day to Day Itinerary


Day 1: Hanoi - Mai Chau

Your guide and driver will pick you up at your hotel at 09:00 and we are headed off on our 21 day trip around the north of Vietnam. Our destination today is the Mai Chau valley where we will overnight in a traditional Thai Stilt House but modern amenities are available. Upon arrival we will take a walking tour through the rice fields and enjoy a little peace and quiet compared to Hanoi. Dinner tonight is at the home we stay in.


Mai Chau valley

Accommodation: Overnight in a traditional Thai Minority Stilt House
Transit: 3 hours drive
Walking time: 3 hours
Walking difficulty: Easy
Meal plan: L - D


Day 2: Mai Chau - Moc Chau - Son La

After breakfast we continue north to Son La and have plenty of time to stop along the way for photos of the brilliant landscape. Along the way we visit Moc Chau, a highland town which produces some of Vietnam's best tea and milk products. Upon our arrival in Son La, we check in to our hotel and have lunch. After lunch we will tour the old French Prison and learn about the history of the area. We then will explore the local market and mingle with different minorities and maybe find some handicrafts of interest.


Accommodation: Hotel or Guesthouse from our list
Transit: 4 - 5 hours drive
Walking time: 2 hours
Walking difficulty: Easy
Meal plan: B - L


Day 3: Son La - Pha Din Pass - Dien Bien Phu

We will try to get an early start and continue north driving over some impressive mountain passes with fantastic views on our way to Dien Bien Phu. The Pha Din Pass is definitely a photo stop before we descend to Tuan Giao town. Upon arrival in Dien Bien Phu, we'll begin our tour of this valley city with a visit to the battlefields that shaped modern Vietnam. We'll start with the bunkers used by the French, Bunker Headquarters and A1 Hill where bitter fighting took place. We then visit the Dien Bien Phu Museum for an overview and relics of the battlefield.


Accommodation: Hotel or Guesthouse from our list
Transit: 4 - 5 hours drive
Walking time: 2 hours
Walking difficulty: Easy
Meal plan: B - L


Day 4: Pa Khoang Lake and the drive to Lao - Vietnamese border

Buffalo racing villagersIn the morning, we will go to Pa Khoang Lake, slightly east of town. There is an excellent one hour boat ride and we can visit the bunker of General Giap, the most recognized soldier in Vietnam. A remote Thai village is near to the lake and we'll take time to see it as well.

After lunch we'll take a scenic drive between Dien Bien Phu and the Tay Trang international border crossing to Laos. Vast rice fields line the road until the ascent up the surrounding hills and we'll take time to find a few good vantage points for taking photos. We return to Dien Bien Phu for the night.


Accommodation: Hotel or Guesthouse from our list
Transit: 4 hours drive
Walking time: 2 hours
Walking difficulty: Easy
Meal plan: B - L


Day 5: Dien Bien Phu - Muong Te

Note - maps of this area unless printed after 2007 are inaccurate, all major towns between Dien Bien Phu and Sa Pa have been renamed after the provinces were redrawn.

We depart early and drive north along Highway 12. We'll stop a few kilometers outside of Muong Lay (Old name Lai Chau) and have a vantage point of the valley soon to be flooded by the Son La Dam Project that will provide green energy to Vietnam.

We continue to Muong Te, one of Vietnam's remote outposts. About 8 km after turning off the main road, we stop at a historical relic: an ancient poem carved in a stone in 15th century by Emperor Le Loi who had succeeded in expelling Chinese from the region. We will also encounter tiny villages along the ride. We'll be returning via the same road the next day so noting the kilometer markers where you would like to stop and take photos on the return trip is advisable. Moung Te is not developed for tourism like other places in Vietnam and is one of the more simple places not quite caught up to the technological age. If you are lucky to get there on Sunday, a very colorful market full of ethnic minorities such as Lahu, Si La and Ha Nhi can be seen.


Accommodation: Guesthouse or Hotel from our List
Transit: 5.5 hours
Walking time: limited
Walking difficulty: Easy
Meal plan: B - L


Day 6: Muong Te - Paso - Boat ride

We leave Muong Te along the same road we traveled the day before and if you have photo stops you saw on the previous day, we'll take time on the way. We continue to Paso, a town you may not find on your maps, and upon arrival we'll enjoy lunch by the Nam Na River. We then take the afternoon by boat down the river and see local life and the truly remote aspect of life in the northwest of Vietnam. We return to the hotel before sunset.


Accommodation: Guesthouse or Hotel from our ListClours of Sa Pa, great hats too!
Transit: 4 hours
Walking time: limited
Walking difficulty: Easy
Meal plan: B - L


Day 7: Paso - Lai Chau - Tam Duong - Sapa

Departing Paso, we are starting on one of the most beautiful drives in all of Vietnam. Our destination is the Topas Eco-Lodge, 20 km south of Sapa, again it might not be on your map! Along the drive we will pass many different minority villages and see a vast rainbow of colours from the minority dress. Black Hmoung, Black Thai, Black Dao, Lu People, and Giay minority dot the landscape. We'll leave the main road after Lai Chau and take in some parts of the north not seen by many.

We'll have lunch in Tam Duong (old Binh Lu) and our ascent up to the highest road pass in Vietnam, Tram Ton Pass/Heaven Gate, begins. The beauty of the climb will force us to take several stops for photos and depending on the time of year, there will be a fine layer of fog at the pass. We continue down the other side and pass thru Sapa town on our way to the Eco Lodge. Upon arrival at the Eco Lodge you can take a rest on your bungalow's balcony - for those with vertigo, maybe not!


Accommodation: Guesthouse or Hotel from our list
Transit
: 4 - 5 hours drive depending on photo stops!
Walking time: limited
Walking difficulty: Easy
Meal plan: B - L


Day 8: Sapa - Muong Hoa Valley - Topas Eco-Lodge

After breakfast, we'll visit the daily market and see many minorities in daily shopping mode. We take time for you to search for handicrafts and buy directly from the maker! There is a fair chance a local Hmong girl will befriend you and inquire in perfect English about you and what you are doing, as well as try to sell you some souvenirs.

After lunch, we head out to Muong Hoa valley. We'll take a short walk from Lao Chai village of Black Hmong to Ta Van village of Giay. There will be time to stop at local houses. Our car wait for us at Ta Van where we continue to drive to the isolated Eco Lodge. Stops for picture are on request! We'll spend two nights at the Eco Lodge.


Accommodation: Guesthouse or Hotel from our list
Transit: 2 hours drive depending on photo stops!
Walking time: 1 - 2 hours
Walking difficulty: Easy
Meal plan: B - L


Day 9: Ban Ho Valley Trek

You will travel by car to Su Pan from where you will commence your walk downhill through the breathtaking scenery. On the way you will pass through the Tay Minority village of Ban Ho village where you will be able to see the stunning views of the valley and rice paddy terraces. You will have the opportunity to explore the Ban Ho village of Tay minority before crossing the suspension bridge over the river, where your guide will prepare a delicious lunch in a local house.

The walk then continues through the rice fields to the Red Dao village of Nam Toong, where you will enjoy a cup of tea before heading back to Ban Ho to take a nice swim in the river nearby. You will then take the walk uphill to Su Pan. Here you return to the lodge by car.


Accommodation: Guesthouse or Hotel from our list
Transit: 30 minutes driving
Trekking time: 4 + hours
Trekking difficulty: Moderate
Meal plan: B - L


Day 10: Topas Eco-Lodge - Sa Pa - Muong Hum Trek

lush valleys We depart early and return through Sapa on our way back up the road to Tram Ton Pass but before reaching it, we'll begin a back road journey to Muong Hum. We'll be on the road less traveled and pass remote villages just recently accessible by road. The scenery is fresh and the hills are a patchwork of agricultural land, photo stops are a must. We'll arrive in Muong Hum for lunch and then take a short walk to a village of Giay minority nearby for overnight in a local house.

After meeting our host family, we begin a 1 ½ hour trek uphill to a village of Ha Nhi minority, one of the smallest minority groups in Vietnam. The village is along the China/Vietnam border and most of the homes are constructed of thick mud and straw walls in a circular shape. We make our way back to our home stay, cook dinner and have an early night.

Accommodation: Home stay
Transit: 4 hours by car
Activity time: 2.5 hours trekking
Trek difficulty
: Easy/Moderate (uphill)

Meal plan
: B, L, D


Day 11: Muong Hum - Bac Ha - Short walk to Ban Pho

We depart out of Muong Hum and stop for a visit at the Muong Vi Caves. We continue to Laos Cai for lunch and onward to Bac Ha. The drive after Lao Cai for a short time is along a river that separates China from Vietnam. Upon arriving in Bac Ha, we check into our hotel for the night and take a short rest. Mid-afternoon, it's time for a short walk to the Flower H'mong and Tay Village of Ban Pho. If our departure day is a Sunday, we'll spend a more time in Muong Hum to see the weekly market. Sunday is also market day in Bac Ha and we'll only see the minorities return in home after the market here.


Accommodation: Guesthouse or Hotel from our listMaking fresh tofu in northern Vietnam
Transit: 4 hours by car
Activity time: 2 hours trekking
Trek difficulty: Easy
Meal plan: B, L


Day 12: Bac Ha - Si Ma Cai - Coc Ly - Lao Cai - Hanoi

Today we'll drive along some spectacular roads to the north of Bac Ha. Our first destination is the border village of Si Ma Cai. Recently, tourists were permitted to come here and while the town is small, the drive in and out is fantastic. We double back from here and if we are traveling on a Saturday, stop at the weekly Can Cau Market on the way up. Lunch is in Bac Ha and we then continue to Bao Nhai, a town along the road to Lao Cai, where we board a small boat for a short excursion u the river to Coc Ly. If this day is on Tuesday, we will go directly to Coc Ly for the weekly market and then boat downriver.

Our arrival in Lao Cai is around sunset and we'll have a look at the Friendship Bridge linking Vietnam to China and the pagoda near the Vietnamese end. We'll check into a hotel for showering before boarding the train to Hanoi and have a farewell dinner in Lao Cai.


Accommodation: 4 berth air conditioned sleeper cabin
Transit: 2.5 hours car, 1.5 hour boat ride, overnight train to Hanoi
Trek difficulty: Easy
Meal plan: B, L, D


Day 13: Arrive in Hanoi

The overnight train arrives very early in the morning and we will transfer you to a hotel of your choice.


Accommodation: Guesthouse or Hotel from our list
Transit: Short transfer from Hanoi Train Station to Hotel


Our trip includes

  • English speaking guide
  • Accommodation as indicated
  • Meals as indicated
  • Transportation by car or minivan
  • One way train ticket
  • Tour as indicated
  • Entrance fee

Our trip excludes

  • Domestic and international flights
  • Visa & visa arrangement
  • Meals not indicated
  • Drinking water, soft drink and alcohol
  • Tips & personal expenses

Price contact info@remoteasia.com

Vietnam Northwest Loop Tour