Trekking in Phong Nha

12 Days | from $1,670 per person 

TOPAS ACTIVE

ACTIVE VIETNAM

North & Centre

Take 12 days to venture through northern and central Vietnam’s most jaw-dropping landscapes, with the two historic capitals of the country thrown in for good measure. Begin in Vietnam’s storied current capital, Hanoi, with lakes, parks, and a fascinating Old Quarter. Then head out to Cat Ba Islandin Lan Ha Bay to marvel at Vietnam’s iconic seascapes landscapes by cruise and kayak.

Overnight train to the mountains around Sapa and enjoy hiking through jungles and across mountains. Stay at the Topas Ecolodge and Topas Riverside Lodge, two of Vietnam’s most precious accommodations. A highlight of this adventure is exploring the different levels of the northern mountains: Jungle at the top, rice terraces in the middle, and lush valleys at the bottom.

Fly down to the old imperial capital of Hue and uncover the lives of the imperial kings before heading off the beaten track to Bach Ma National Park for a waterfall hike.

Proposed Itinerary

Take a peek in more detail at each day of this itinerary!

Arrive to the airport you will be transferred to the city for check in the hotel, time for relax and be ready for exploring the city by Vespa.

Explore Hanoi like a real local. Take to the city on the back of vintage Vespa with a trusty driver as you zip down alleyways, pass beneath tangled electricity lines, and ride alongside tranquil lakes. Sample the food scene as you go with a scrumptious selection of street side goodies, including fresh spring rolls with beef and grilled pork patties with noodles. Finish the evening with live jazz in Hanoi’s first jazz club that’s still around today, hiding behind the centenarian Opera House.

Start with a buzz by delving into the hubbub of Hang Be market, one of the Old Quarter’s vibrant local wet markets. Wet means fresh, so expect picture-perfect mountains of vegetables, a rainbow of tropical fruits for you to sample, and fish that couldn’t be fresher (because it’s still alive and kicking).

You’ve seen where it’s bought, now you’ll see how it tastes! Dive into an alley and settle down to some bun caand ca cuon(noodles with fried fish and fried fish cakes) served with or without soup and with plenty of vegetables. Then sample some of the local brew with a refreshing glass of cold street beer before a tour of the fabled craft streets. Once you’ve made room, time for some more noodles (bunmeans noodles) with a visit to one of the Old Quarter’s most famous food streets. Take your pick from chicken noodle soup, crab spring rolls, or even snails. Then finish with a traditional Vietnamese coffee and some local sweets for dessert.

In many ways, women are the unsung heroes of Vietnam’s story, which is why the superb Vietnamese Women’s Museum is an essential visit while in Hanoi. Explore the role of women in the war effort, the colorful reflections of Vietnam’s ethnic diversity, and you may even catch a temporary exhibition from a woman artist. Then explore one of the Old Quarter’s most picturesque houses, with tiled flooring, ancient wooden beams, and antique furniture.

Finish the day with a water puppet show, an ancient Red River Delta art that has existed for centuries. Watch as the puppets seemingly dance on the water to a soundtrack of traditional Vietnamese music, from royal chamber music to countryside tunes.

Jump in the transfer bus at 9am of day one and head to Hai Phong, just over an hour from Hanoi. Take a smooth 45-minute express boat journey to Cat Ba, Lan Ha Bay’s largest island and a national park. Check in to your local homestay and explore the island, including the fascinating Hospital Cave used during the wars and the spectacular views from the colonial era Cannon Fort. Enjoy a swim and a beer by the beach before returning to your homestay for dinner.

Wake up in the bay, setting your alarm a little earlier than normal if you want to enjoy an onboard sunrise. Board the tender and explore a local fishing village before coming back to the cruise ship for breakfast. Then take to a bamboo row boat and head to the Dark & Bright Cave, one of Halong Bay’s most atmospheric water caves. Look out for monkeys on the jungled shores, sometimes visible in the gaps between the trees. Head back to the cruise ship before slowly cruising back to Hai Phong. Disembark and head back to Hanoi – you’ll arrive before 4pm on day three.

Check in a hotel for relax until your overnight train late in the night.

Wake up in the bay, setting your alarm a little earlier than normal if you want to enjoy an onboard sunrise. Board the tender and explore a local fishing village before coming back to the cruise ship for breakfast. Then take to a bamboo row boat and head to the Dark & Bright Cave, one of Halong Bay’s most atmospheric water caves. Look out for monkeys on the jungled shores, sometimes visible in the gaps between the trees. Head back to the cruise ship before slowly cruising back to Hai Phong. Disembark and head back to Hanoi – you’ll arrive before 4pm on day three.

Check in a hotel for relax until your overnight train late in the night.

Arrive in Lao Cai early in the morning before transferring to Sapa town for breakfast. Then the day really begins! Start with a trek to the Black Hmong village of Hang Da before a straightforward 2-hour downhill walk with beautiful mountain vistas to reach Hau Chu Ngai. This is another Black Hmong village, and here you can really begin to understand their way of life. Take a look at their houses – always built on the ground – and consider purchasing some of their remarkable textiles. Then move on to Thanh Phu of the Tay minority group, who have a very different culture to the Hmong. For one, they build their houses on stilts, but there’s also a marked difference in the clothing. Continue to My Son of the Xa Pho people, one of the most isolated groups near Sapa. Then finish in the remote village of Nam Cang, a Red Dao village where you’ll also find your accommodation: the Topas Riverside Lodge. The Red Dao make great healers, and if you want you can enjoy a foot back made with herbs plucked from the mountainside while relaxing at the lodge.

Enjoy another hike that differs from yesterday with vastly different scenery. Today you’ll head to the jungle where the villagers plant cardamom along with other herbs and spices that can fetch a good price in the local markets. Enjoy the scenery, which is notably wilder than yesterday’s, while making your way to a stream. Take a rest, dipping your toes in the water, before heading back to the lodge through the forest for lunch. You can take a final swim in the river before ascending to Topas Ecolodge by private transfer.

Relax at your leisure by the pool, in the restaurant, or in your bungalow. Uncover the spa, which offers a range of unique treatments that borrow from the botanical knowledge of the Dao. Or consider taking out a mountain bike – free of charge – and exploring some of the local villages. Want to go a little further afield? Why not take off on a half-day or full-day hike of the surrounding villages and explore the colorful ethnic diversity of the region, couples with glorious views. Make the most of the day before heading back to Hanoi at around 2:30pm.

Enjoy your last morning in Hanoi before hopping on a flight to Hue, and take the rest of the day to relax.

Hue is one of Vietnam’s calmest cities; an excellent city to explore by bicycle. Head down the colonial Le Loi boulevard looking out for colonial mansions along the way before crossing Hue’s iconic Truong Tien bridge, built by none other than Gustave Eiffel (who also built the Eiffel Tower). Visit the cities business market before delving into the Hue Citadel, a grand walled city of parks and lakes. Explore a traditional garden house, for which Hue is famous, before hopping onto the river.

On a colorful dragon boat, head to the rarely-visited Royal Arena, a colosseum where elephants once fought tigers. Uncover the Elephant Temple nearby to understand the symbolism of the battles before moving onto a grapefruit village and tucking into some delicious fruit following a homecooked lunch. Explore two traditional villages where locals make incense and conical hats and then head to the tombs.

Hue’s tombs are recognized by UNESCO for their cultural heritage, and they’re also fascinating and beautiful places to visit. Explore the tomb of Tu Duc, one of Vietnam’s least effective kings, though he had an affinity for poetry and architecture. He designed his own garden tomb, which blends with the trees and rivers of the area. Enjoy the views over the Perfume River, take in the sunset by a lagoon, and then head back to your hotel.

Bach Ma National Park is one of Vietnam’s least-visited protected reserves, and it’s a stunning place to get away from it all. Here the central highlands almost touch the sea, making for dramatic vistas combining lagoons and beaches. Head here for a day hike taking in lush jungles, a thundering waterfall, and maybe even a monkey or two.

Enjoy your last morning in Hue before heading out, taking this opportunity for some souvenir shopping.

Is this tour right for you?

This suggested tour itinerary is great for those who are visiting Vietnam for the first or second time and wanting to go a bit deeper with a focus on the north and centre of the country. This tour really gets you out into the mountains, to discover ethnic minority people, and out on Ha Long Bay (we actually visit Lan Ha Bay which we think is better!), but all with plenty of time to relax in between. After all, it is still your holiday!

There are some physical activities such as cycling but it is nothing strenuous that a person of average fitness couldn’t complete comfortably. 

Our trip designers are very happy to adjust any part of this itinerary to best suit your requirements, including style of hotel, or perhaps more or less strenuous activities in each destination. We can also add or remove any section of the itinerary to suit your schedule. 

Tour Price

From USD 1,670 per person

This tour price is quoted based on two people sharing one room through the tour, and includes all local taxes, entrance fees where required, accomodation and meals as specified, local English-speaking guides, and local transportation between each destination as specified.  It does not include drinks and meals as specified, travel insurance, tips for guides and drivers, and any personal expenses. 

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