12 Days

Home > Classic North and Central Vietnam

Trip Overview

With 12 days to play with, you can explore the best of northern and central Vietnam, including the current capital Hanoi and former capital Hue as well as the jaw-dropping landscapes in Sapa and Lan Ha Bay. A highlight of this adventure is getting to engage with four distinct ethnic minority groups in northern Vietnam, all while staying at the acclaimed Topas Riverside Lodge and Topas Ecolodge. 


  • Discovering the culture and traditions of Hanoi   
  • Cruising around beautiful Lan Ha Bay 
  • Marveling at the rice terraces and ethnic diversity of Sapa 
  • Spending a night at the world-renowned Topas Ecolodge  
  • Exploring the ancient grandeur of Imperial Hue  

This Tour is Perfect for

  • Seeing the highlights of North and Central Vietnam
  • Diving into the local culture of the Vietnamese as well as ethnic minorities 
  • Families with children of all ages, however, some activities listed are recommended for children at least 9 years old. Please speak with your travel designer about potential modifications to this proposed itinerary 

Detailed Itinerary

Topas Travel creates tailor-made tours for our guests according to their specific requests. This itinerary has been designed to show you just one of many options

Day 1: Hanoi arrival

Day 2: Hanoi History and Culture – Overnight train to Lao Cai

Day 3: Sapa – Hang Da – Hau Chu Ngai – Thanh Phu – My Son – Nam Cang

Day 4: Jungle trekking – Transfer to Ecolodge

Day 5: Topas Ecolodge to Hanoi

Day 6: Hanoi – Hai Phong – Lan Ha Bay

Day 7: Lan Ha Bay – Hai Phong – Hanoi – Hue

Day 8: Hue full day classic tour

Day 9: Hue – Hoi An- Walking Tour

Day 10: Hoi An -Half Day Biking to hidden beach

Day 11: Hoi An Free day

Day 12: Hoi An -Da Nang Departure

Xin Chao and welcome to Vietnam! Upon arrival to Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport, a Topas representative will welcome you to the land of the ascending dragon before heading straight to your hotel in the heart of the city. The day is at leisure to discover Hanoi on your own, wandering the alleys of the iconic Old Quarter and enjoying the evening promenade around Hoan Kiem Lake before an evening welcome dinner at a local family’s home.

Expect spring rolls, hearty soups, light stir fries and plenty of hot white rice. Get to know the family without worrying about the language barrier, as English-speaking students from the local university will accompany you throughout, teaching you about local etiquette and making sure you avoid making any social faux pas!

Included meals: Dinner
Distance and Activities: 45’ transfer

Dive into Hanoi’s 1000-year history at the Citadel, a true testament of Vietnam’s strength, resilience, and beauty. Marvel at the ancient architecture while strolling past leafy gardens and learning about the Citadel’s central position of power. Then, head over to the superb Vietnamese Women’s Museum, an essential stop on any visit to Hanoi. Explore the heroines of Vietnamese society before heading to one of the Old Quarter’s most picturesque ancient houses for a tasty lunch.

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.

This evening you will take your overnight train departure to the valleys and mountains of Sapa. Settle into your cozy bunk bed and let the clickety-clack of the railroad tracks lull you to sleep.

Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Distance and activities: 4km sightseeing tour, – 8h overnight train ride

Your train arrives to Lao Cai Station in the early morning hours, around 5am. From here, a car will transfer you the remaining 30 minutes up the mountain to the hill-station of Sapa, where you will have breakfast.

Then, the fun really begins! Trek downhill from Hang Da, a Black Hmong Village, taking in the beautiful mountain vistas on the way to Hau Chu Ngai, another Black Hmong Village. Browse their hand-embroidered textiles and visit their homes before moving on to Thanh Phu of the Tay minority group in the valley. The trek continues to My Son, where the Xa Pho, one of the most isolated groups in Sapa, live. The trek ends in Nam Cang, a Red Dzao Village, which is also where the accommodation for the night is, the boutique homestay styled Topas Riverside Lodge.

The Red Dzao are noted as great healers, so this is a great opportunity to try traditional methods such as herbal baths made with herbs plucked from the mountainside, either before or after dinner.

Note: Due to the high altitude, the morning walk may shift to the lower valley of Lao Chai and Ta Van if the weather is too foggy to see anything.

Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Distance and Activities: 13 km trek – 45’ transfer

Discover the jungle on a gentle hike this morning. See where the villagers plant cardamom along with other herbs and spices that can fetch a good price in the local markets, and make your way to the local stream, dipping your toes in or going for a final swim.

Enjoy the scenery, which is notably wilder than yesterday’s before heading back to the lodge through the forest for lunch. Then, say good-bye to your host family and depart for Topas Ecolodge by private transfer. Enjoy the afternoon at leisure at this certified Unique Lodge by National Geographic.

Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Distance and Activities: 8km jungle hike – 30’ transfer

The day is yours at leisure until a mid-afternoon departure for Hanoi via the Topas Mountain Express. Sunbathe and splash in the pool, sample delicious cuisine at the restaurant, breathe in the fresh mountain air from your bungalow’s balcony, or indulge in some locally inspired treatments at the wonderful spa on site.

Check-in to your Hanoi hotel in the early evening, free to discover Hanoi on your own.

Included meals: Breakfast
Transfer Distance and Activities: 5.5h drive

Depart Hanoi after a leisurely breakfast for a 2-hour drive east to the port city of Hai Phong. From Hai Phong, board your cruise for an epic voyage through Lan Ha Bay, the pristine little sister of the popular (and crowded) tourist destination, Halong Bay.

Check in to your cabin and get accustomed with your cruise ship. Tuck into an onboard lunch while sailing between the limestone karst formations the region is known for. Spend the afternoon deep within Cat Ba National Park, hiking through Trung Trang Valley to Trung Trang cave, a 2000-year-old cavern filled with stalactites and stalagmites.

Return to the ship for some downtime, enjoying a traditional Vietnamese cooking class and a delicious dinner onboard before retiring for the night in your comfy cabin.

Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Distance and Activities: 2h drive – Sightseeing walk

Savor your last morning in the Gulf of Tonkin with an excursion via bamboo boat to the Dark and Bright Cave, one of Halong Bay’s most atmospheric water caves. Look out for monkeys on the tree-lined shores, sometimes visible on the rock faces or swinging from the branches before returning to the cruise ship for last-minute photos.

Return to Hanoi and take the flight to Hue. Upon arrival, check in to the hotel and the rest of the day is your own.

Included meals: Brunch
Distance and Activities: 2h transfer – 1h20’ flight

After a relaxed breakfast, hop into a dragon boat and cruise the Perfume River, a large, sweeping river that descends from the mountains before dividing Hue in two. Pass villages and temples on the way to our first stop, Thien Mu Pagoda, one of Vietnam’s most impressive Buddhist sites.

Then, it’s time for the tombs! Head further upriver to Tu Duc Tomb, the most elegant of all the royal resting places in Hue, decorated with lotus ponds and ancient shrines. Enjoy a vegan lunch prepared by Buddhist nuns before moving on to Khai Dinh Tomb by car. This is an entirely different structure that blends elements of European and Vietnamese design.

Finish the day’s history tour at the Imperial Citadel, a palace constructed for great emperors and continuously improved upon over the centuries. Explore the proud flag tower, ornate gates, and various royal chambers before returning to your hotel in the late afternoon.

Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Distance and Activities: 1.5h boat ride – 4h sightseeing tour

Depart Hue today after a relaxed breakfast and head for the charm and beauty of Hoi An, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hue is connected to Hoi An along a stunning coastal road where you’ll glimpse lagoons, mountains, rice fields, and the vast ocean.

In the afternoon we take a half day guided tour of Hoi An. Known as Faifo to early western traders, this was one of the region’s major trading ports during the 17th to 19th centuries. Today, this historic town is still graced with finely preserved homes built by Japanese, Indian, Dutch and Portuguese merchants of old. Your guided sightseeing tour showcases ancient Chinese temples, art galleries and colorful local markets that give you a deeper insight into this old town.

Included meals: Breakfast
Distance and activities: 2.5h drive

Hop onto a bicycle and explore the countryside surrounding Hoi An, crisscrossing vibrant rice paddies and streams before reaching the traditional village of Cam Kim where locals make handicrafts from wood and sleeping mats from rattan.

Continue on the back roads until you reach Cam Thanh village, another picturesque village that survives off farming. Feeling brave? Hop onto a water buffalo and ride through the paddies! Then stop for lunch on the beach. After lunch you can enjoy a quick fishing trip with a local fisherman before heading to an organic vegetable garden in Tra Que village and returning to your hotel.

Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Distance and Activities: 10 km cycling

Hoi An is one of Vietnam’s most charming towns, with beautiful old streets decorated with hanging lanterns. Enjoy the day, getting to know the restaurants, cafes, and tailors situated on the banks of the Thu Bon River. We suggest popping by the Reaching Out Teahouse, a lovely old-fashioned house providing work for the hard of hearing, serving up delicious tea and homemade snacks.

Included meals: Breakfast
Distance and activities: Free at Leisure

Enjoy your last morning in Hoi An before transfer to Da Nang airport for your onward journey.

Included meals: Breakfast
Distance and Activities: 20’ transfer

Tour Inclusions

  • Private A/C airport transfer as indicated in the program (4) 
  • Join-in Mountain Express Limousine between Topas Ecolodge and Hanoi  
  • Join-in Limousine Hanoi and Hai Phong (Lan Ha Bay)  
  • All accommodation indicated as twin-shared room 
  • All meals as indicated in the program  
  • All entrance tickets to local villages, Hoang Lien National Park,Cat Ba Island  and Lan Ha Bay  
  • Refillable water in vans (Please check with your guide or driver) 
  • 1 x English speaking local tour guide on days with activities (except for Lan Ha Bay) 
  • 1-way domestic flight ticket between Hanoi and Hue  
  • Government VAT 

Important Notes

  • Prices are quoted in Vietnamese Dong and valid until Oct 2022
  • Exchange rate applied at VND 23,200. to USD 1 
  • Prices calculated with VAT  
  • Surcharge may be applicable during peak season and public holidays 

Tour Exclusions

  • Drinks and alcohol  
  • Vietnam visa (On request with additional charge) 
  • Travel insurance (Compulsory with Topas Travel programs) 
  • Upgrades to higher standard rooms or single supplements 
  • Personal travel items (Please visit our Vietnam weather page for more information) 

Essential Information

This program utilizes comfortable accommodation in the form of carefully curated hotels, lodges, and homestays. Hotels and lodges have been selected with the active traveler in mind, offering standard services and located as close to nature and local engagement as possible. Homestays are simple and equipped with western toilets and amenities such as fans and mattresses. If you have a specific property in mind you wish to stay at, please let your travel designer know so they can work it into your program.

All bookings are made with and through Topas Travel. By booking a trip with Topas Travel, you agree to the terms and conditions set forth here.

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Classic North and Central Vietnam – 12 Days

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Happy discovering! Topas Travel Vietnam is part of Topas Explorer Group