10 Days

Home > Northern Vietnam Cultural Explorer

Trip Overview

​Get acquainted with the Vietnam few travellers get to experience on this action-packed 10-day journey through bustling Hanoi, charming Ninh Binh, and dreamy Lan Ha Bay. Then, set off on the road less travelled in Hoa Binh Province, a gold mine of incredible natural beauty and community-based tourism developed by Action on Poverty to create a sustainable and self-reliant future for the Da Bac community.


  • Trekking through mountains and valleys to remote villages
  • Meeting ethnic minorities rarely seen by tourists
  • Sailing Lan Ha Bay on a charming overnight cruise
  • Sampling iconic Hanoian street food dishes
  • Experiencing the warm hospitality of local families in authentic homestays

This Tour is Perfect for

  • First- or second-time visitors to Vietnam
  • Seeing the best and most quintessential landscapes of the country
  • An active twist without being too strenuous
  • Hitting major highlights while getting off-the-beaten-path
  • Families with children of all ages, however, some activities listed are recommended for active 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
Day 3: Hanoi – Ninh Binh
Day 4: Ninh Binh – Hai Phong – Lan Ha Bay
Day 5: Cat Ba Island – Lan Ha Bay
Day 6: Lan Ha Bay – Hai Phong – Hanoi
Day 7 : Hanoi – Da Bac – Sung Red Dzao Village
Day 8: Sung Dzao Village – Da Bia Village
Day 9: Da Bia Village – Oi Noi – Thung Nai -Hoa Binh – Hanoi
Day 10: Hanoi 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 crooked alleys of the iconic Old Quarter and the promenade around Hoan Kiem Lake.

Included meals: N/A
Transfer distance and activities: 45’ drive

Experience the morning like a true Hanoian at Hang Be Market, one of the Old Quarter’s liveliest “wet” markets. Wet means fresh, so expect picture-perfect mountains of vegetables, a rainbow of exotic, tropical fruits, and fish that couldn’t be fresher (because it’s still alive and kicking). Then, head into an alley and pull up a tiny plastic stool for a breakfast bowl of bun ca and ca cuon (a noodle dish served with fried fish, plenty of vegetables, and usually a broth).

Once you’ve had enough to eat, head to 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, of which it maintains even to this day. Then, head over to the superb Vietnamese Women’s Museum, an essential stop on any visit to Hanoi. Explore the heroines of Vietnamese society, especially in regards to ethnic minorities, war, and modern exhibitions before heading back to the Old Quarter for a tasty lunch on one of the most famous food streets in Southeast Asia.

Finally, spend the afternoon at a local café soaking up the atmosphere of a favorite Vietnamese hobby, drinking coffee with friends. Surrounded by businessmen and giggling teenagers, take your pick of local drinks, although we suggest trying the quintessential Hanoi specialty, egg coffee, a decadent drink brewed with Robusta beans and whisked together with chocolate powder and egg whites.

Included meals: Breakfast and Lunch
Distance and activities: 4km street walk

After breakfast, leave behind the chaos of Hanoi on a 2-hour drive to Ninh Binh in the surrounding countryside. Ninh Binh remains one of Vietnam’s most captivating locations, combining stunning natural splendor with an engrossing history that spans a millennium.
Investigate the remains of Hoa Lu, the capital of Vietnam under both the Dinh and Le dynasties and established a thousand years ago. The sights and smells still evoke the atmosphere of a lost kingdom with stunning temples, pagodas, and elaborate tombs. You’ll also uncover evidence of ancient palaces and royal pavilions that reference an ancient era, surrounded by towering karst mountains and vivid jungle. Grab a bicycle and peddle through the Van Long Nature Reserve and adjacent countryside, passing small villages and bright green rice paddies along the way until pausing for lunch.
Then, swap your bicycle for a boat and hop into a small sampan to discover what Ninh Binh is known for–its incredibly scenic boat rides. Keep your head low as your driver steers and rows the boat with her feet through cave passages that lead hidden temples and pagodas inaccessible by road in the lush jungle.

Included meals: Breakfast and Lunch
Distance and activities: 2.5h drive – 1.5h boat – 10km cycling

Have a leisurely breakfast this morning before leaving Ninh Binh on a 2-hour drive through the Red River Delta to Hai Phong, about a 2-hour ride away. Upon arrival, board your new “home” for the next 2 days and check-in to your spacious cabin with large windows perfect for gazing out at the beauty around you. Enjoy lunch in the dining room while the ship cruises to Cat Ba Island, the largest island of some 367 islands in Lan Ha Bay.

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. Then, have some downtime to swim and kayak in the isolated Tra Bau area.

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, and Dinner
Distance and activities: 2h drive – Sightseeing walk

As the sun rises over the bay, join the ancient practice of Tai Chi on the sundeck, a martial art known for its health benefits and meditational use. After working up an appetite, sit down for a delectable breakfast as the boat docks at Viet Hai pier, the only way to reach Viet Hai Village as there are no roads connecting it to the rest of Cat Ba Island.

Cycle along well-made paths for 3.5 km (there’s an electric buggy available if you would rather survey the jungle landscape at a comfortable pace) to reach the village. Spend time getting to know the history and traditions of the Vietnamese people who live there, enjoying a lunch before setting off for Van Boi, a secluded beach area where you have time to swim, sunbathe, and kayak.

After dinner in the ship’s restaurant, retire to your cabin or stay for a showing of Top Gear: Vietnam Edition, to see a familiar site at the episode’s finale.

Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
Distance and activities: 3.5 km cycling –  full-day swimming and kayaking  

Explore a local floating fishing village this morning by kayak, peering in on the people and animals that float in the protected coves of Lan Ha Bay.  Return to the ship for a light breakfast as the cruise makes its way to the Dark and Bright Cave, a popular attraction in Halong Bay experienced from a local bamboo boat.

As the cruise makes its way back to Hai Phong, sit down for an early lunch to fill-up before your 2-hour return drive to Hanoi. Upon arrival to your hotel, the rest of the day is free for independent discovery of the city.

Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Distance and activities: 1h kayaking – 2h transfer

This morning’s drive will take you just over 3 hours into the countryside of Hoa Binh district. Arrive to Sung Village, a 300-year-old Dzao Tien minority establishment, and meet the family of the homestay where you will be staying tonight. Learn about the intricate art of brocade hand embroidery as well as how to dye fabrics naturally.

After lunch, go on a guided exploration of Sung Cave and San Tuyet tea plantations, home to some of the oldest tea trees in all of Vietnam. Then, return to your “family” for the night for a home-cooked dinner and pleasant night’s rest.

Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Distance and activities: 3h transfer – 2h walk

Enjoy breakfast at the homestay before starting today’s 10km trek to Da Bia Village, home to the Muong ethnic minority, through bamboo forests and other gorgeous scenery. Upon arrival to Da Bia Village, sit down for a well-deserved lunch before participating in fun activities such as kayaking and bamboo rafting on the Da River or mountain biking on some off-road paths.

Visit a local school and chat with eager students, mingling with children and adults alike, before checking in to your latest homestay for a cultural art and dance show during dinner.

Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Distance and activities: 10km trek – 2h river activities

Depart from Da Bia this morning after breakfast and gently hike to Oi Noi Village where you’ll stop for lunch with the local Muong Ao Ta minority tribe. Then, take a leisurely boat ride to Thung Nai, often nicknamed “inland Halong Bay” due to the karst limestone formations rising from the rice fields and lake.

Dock at the pier where the transport awaits to bring you back to Hanoi. On the return journey, stop at Muong Culture Museum, an excellent showcase of the Muong people with informative exhibits on art, culture, traditions, and architecture. There’s even a playground on-site made entirely from bamboo–a perfect way for kids to work off some energy before the remaining 90-minute journey to Hanoi. Check-in to your hotel around 5:30 pm and enjoy your last evening in Vietnam free at leisure.

Included meals: Breakfast and Lunch
Distance and activities: 3h hike – 2h boat ride – 3h transfer

Enjoy the morning at leisure until your transfer to Hanoi International Airport for onward booked travel. We hope to welcome you to Vietnam another time.

Included meals: Breakfast
Distance and activities: 45’ transfer

Tour Inclusions

  • 2-way private A/C airport transfer with welcome guide
  • Join-in 3 day/2 night Cruise (Led by English-speaking Cruise Manager on board)
  • All accommodation indicated as twin-shared cabin and room
  • All meals as indicated in the program
  • All entrance tickets to Lan Ha and Halong Bay
  • Free refillable water in vans
  • 1 x English speaking local tour guide on the Day of Activities
  • Government Value Added Tax

Important Notes

  • Prices are quoted in Vietnamese Dong and valid until 31st October 2020
  • Prices based on group of 4 persons
  • Exchange rate applied at VND 23,200. to USD 1
  • Prices calculated with Value Added Tax
  • 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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Northern Vietnam Cultural Explorer – 10 Days

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