Vietnam : Off the Beaten Track

A 21 Days/20 Nights representative tour visiting all the major cities and famous sites. This itinerary can be used as a starting point and altered or extended to suite your requirements.

Itinerary in Brief:

Day 1 : Hanoi
Day 2 : Hanoi and ancient ceramic village Bat Trang
Day 3 : Hanoi – Duong Lam – Nghia Lo
Day 4 : Nghia Lo – Mu Cang Chai – Than Uyen – Sapa
Day 5 : Sapa
Day 6 : Sapa – Bac Ha (O/N At Homestay)
Day 7 : Bac Ha – Ha Giang (O/N At Homestay)
Day 8 : Ha Giang – Quan Ba – Yen Minh – Dong Van
Day 9 : Dong Van – Lung Cu – Meo Vac
Day 10 : Meo Vac – Bao Lac
Day 11 : Bao Lac – Ba Be(O/N At Homestay)
Day 12 : Ba Be – Hanoi
Day 13 : Hanoi – Ninh Binh – Hanoi
Day 14 : Hanoi – Halong (O/N On Boat)
Day 15 : Halong – Hanoi Airport – Hue
Day 16 : Hue
Day 17 : Hue – Hoian
Day 18 : Hoian Fishing Tour
Day 19 : Hoian – Danang Airport – Saigon
Day 20 : Saigon – Ben Tre – Saigon
Day 21 : Departure

This post is also available in: French, Italian

Tell me more about this tour

Detailed Itinerary

DAY 1: ARRIVAL IN HANOI

Arrive in Hanoi, the capital of unified Vietnam, one of the most charming cities in South East Asia with its authenticity, large shady avenues, numerous lakes, manicured gardens and well-preserved architecture.  Met by local  guide & driver then transfer to your hotel. Free time for a stroll around your city. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Hanoi.

DAY 2 : HANOI AND ANCIENT CERAMIC VILLAGE BAT TRANG [B/L/-]

Breakfast. 08:00 Departure to the ancient ceramic village Bat Trang, about 12 km to the north-west of Hanoi, on the edge of the red river, renowned for centuries for its products in traditional porcelain with blue decorations. Arrive at Bat Trang at around 08:45. Visit a teapot factory where you can learn the ceramic production process. Enjoy drinking some tea served into the teapot made by this factory and admire their collection in a very beautiful bonsai garden house.

Walking along the ceramic alley, you can stop in the workshops specialized for vases and decor. Then, visit the house of one of the most famous pottery artists of Vietnam, where you will have the opportunity to admire his precious artwork that made this house become the first family ceramic museum of Vietnam. After that, visit the porcelain market where you can see thousands of authentic products and you can do some shopping.

Continue discovering the ancient village of Bat Trang by traveling through narrow lanes, with many workshops and family temples. You will also visit the old town hall dedicated to the Genius Protector of the village (Dinh Lang). Have lunch in an old colonial house in the village (or in a restaurant, as your other choice).

Return to the center of Hanoi, passing through Ecopark, a new residential area in the outskirts of Hanoi. You take a relaxing walk along the avenue shaded by beautiful palm trees to discover a bit more about the city life of this new peaceful corner.

The afternoon is dedicated to the discovery of the cultural capital of Vietnam, visiting the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, imposing marble and granite monument which takes the form of a stylized lotus, built from 1973 to 1975 thanks to the voluntary work of young pioneers (the tour takes place outside the mausoleum). Orientation tour to West lake. Then continue to visit the temple of Literature dedicated to Confucius, built in 1070 and soon after became the seat of the first Vietnamese university. Stroll in the old authentic area of the “36 old streets” in the late afternoon.

In the evening you can attend a performance of your choice which depends on their schedules (Water puppet, Golden Bell, Ionah, Four Palaces, My Village). Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel.

Bat Trang village: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tonkintravelvietnam/albums/72157670840251836

DAY 3 : HANOI – DUONG LAM – NGHIA LO (B/L/-) 150 km

Mia Pagoda, one of the oldest pagodas in Vietnam with over 250 statues and to visit Duong Lam ancient village, which is renowned for its ancient houses built with laterite blocks. Continue to Nghia Lo through the Trung Ha Bridge. Stop along the way to discover the daily life of ethnic White Thai people. Lunch on the way. Arrive at Nghia Lo at the end of the day. Dinner and overnight at  hotel in Nghia Lo.

DAY 4 : NGHIA LO – MU CANG CHAI – THAN UYEN – SAPA  (B/L/-) 240 km

Breakfast at hotel.  07:30 Depart for Tu Le (40 km). An easy hike to visit the village of Thai ethnic Tu Le. It is a quiet village with scenery and beautiful rice fields. Meet locals and visit a Thai family.  Continue to Mu Cang Chai (40 km) through the scenic landscape of terraced rice fields, especially between May and October (There are two beautiful seasons: the rice water and the harvest seasons). Stop to admire and photograph the beautiful and scenic rice terraces, especially on the neck of Khau Pha with a superb view over the valley and the most spectacular rice terraces in Vietnam which are in the villages Pan Tan and Che Cu Nha. Lunch on the way.

Continue to Sapa (160 km) through fields of beautiful tea. In Than Uyen the road climbs up to the highest pass in Vietnam (2047m). Stop quickly to enjoy the freshness and to see Mount Fanxipan. Arrive at Sapa late in the afternoon,there is some free time for your personal enjoyment and discovery. Located at 1,650 meters above sea level and enjoying a temperate climate, Sapa was an old resort created by the French in the region of Mount Fanxipan (3143m) which is considered as the roof of Indochina. Dinner on your own. Overnight at  hotel at Sapa.

DAY 5:  SAPA (B/L/-)

Breakfast at hotel.  08:00 You start the tour from Sapa. Take a short road transfer along the motor way southwards for 4 km with a stop along the way for stunning scenery of Fansipan mountain and Muong Hoa valley. Trekking uphill along a large and rocky path for 2 hours to Hang Da village of the Black H’mong which hides itself under lush trees on high elevation of the Den Thang Mountain. Explore the village, paying visiting to local families. Lunch break in the village.

After lunch, continue trekking along the same trail which goes on the high mountain side for about an hour which offers a great view of Muong Hoa valley until arriving at Thao Hong Den, another village of the Black H’mong to pay a visit to several local families. To continue, you will go downhill for another hour along a dirt track to Pho village at the center of Hau Thao commune. You will be picked up and transfer by road back to Sapa. Trip end at about 3.30PM to 4.00PM. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Sapa.

Remark:  The program of trek can be adjusted depending on the weather conditions, your age and your health status:
     – Option 1: Lao Chai / Ta Van (5 km, soft trek, very touristy)
     – Option  2: Cat Cat / Y Linh Ho / Lao Chai / Tavan (14 km, medium trek)
     – Option 3: Xau  Chau / Xa Xeng / Hau  Thao / Giang Ta Chai (14 km, medium trek, off the beaten tracky 100km)

DAY 6:  SAPA – BAC HA (B/L/D) 100 km

Breakfast at your hotel.  08 :30 Get on the road to Lao Cai (35 km). You will make a short stop to take a look at Cau Kieu – the frendship bridge that links Vietnam and China. Continue to Bac Ha (65 km), visit the old H’mong King house. Then check-in local H’mong home (1.5km from Bac Ha). Enjoy lunch and have some chatting time with friendly host members.

In the afternoon, walk to visit nearby Hmong minority villages, visit their houses, have a cup of tea and visit their green vegetable fields. Dinner and overnight in local home (basic condition, no private room, clean mattress, pillow & blanket are provided for guests).

DAY 7:  BAC HA (Sunday) – HA GIANG (B/L/D) 190km

Breakfast at the local home. 08:00  Visit Bac Ha market, located in the heart of Bac Ha, a small town which is the largest one in the area. Every Sunday, the different and colorful ethnic minorities all come here to sell their homemade products or buy something for their family. They are Hmong, Phu La, Back Dzao, Tay or Nung minorities. Some of these ethnic minorities can’t be met in any other areas. Then we leave for Bac Ha to Ha Giang via Pho Rang for lunch. Then continue to Viet Quang town entrance plateau of Dong Van. Arrive in Ha Giang. Dinner and overnight at the inhabitant in the house on stilts.

Note:  You can replace the market Bac Ha by Can Cau market which is open on Saturday morning

DAY 8:  HA GIANG – QUAN BA – YEN MINH – DONG VAN (B/L/-) 140km

Breakfast at the local home.  08 :00  Walk & enjoy the Phuong Thien nursery, infirmary and village. Then, depart for Dong Van (single stone tray Vietnam) via Quan Ba and Yen Minh. The remote region of Dong Van is a land of rugged mountains and beautiful hill tribe villages which have remained unchanged for centuries. Today we head northwest out of Ha Giang Town towards this northernmost tip of Vietnam. The former Hmong royal house at Sa Phin is a primary attraction of the region, but the blend of the hill tribe people’s colourful costumes and the majestic mountainous scenery make this long and sometimes bumpy trip an unforgettable experience. Lunch on the way. Dinner and overnight at hotel in Dong Van.

DAY 9:  DONG VAN – LUNG CU – MEO VAC (B/L/D) 90km

Breakfast at hotel.  08 :00  Visit the market and the old district of Dong Van, then excursion to Lung Cu, the Chinese border. Back to Dong Van for lunch.

In the afternoon we depart for Meo Vac (30 km), in the heart of a mountainous region with a moderate climate, crossing the Mont Ma Phi Leng at over 2000 meters altitude. You can admire a beautiful view over the valley dotted with terraced fields of hemp, karst hills, houses on stilts, and the Hmong, Zao and  Nho Que River. This romantic and quiet river takes its source in China to expand on the Vietnamese territory as a band of white silk. Arrive in Meo Vac. Check in the Auberge Meo Vac – a small inn which was the former home of a restored Hmong farmhouse in the Chung Pa A village. The most populous minoritywas the Hmong. Walk through the village enviroment. Dinner and overnight at the Auberge Meo Vac.

DAY 10:  MEO VAC – BAO LAC (B/L/-) 100km

Breakfast at the Auberge Meo Vac.  08 :00  Depart to the Lung Phinh market (9 km from Meo Vac) that stands in the morning  the days of the Tiger and Monkey according to the lunar calendar. It is the largest and most authentic Northeast Vietnam market. Here you will be impressed by this market that attracts all the minorities in the region as the Hmong, Dao, Cao Lan, Lo Lo, Tay minorities all come here … Back to Meo Vac for lunch. Then transfer to Bao Lac. End of the afternoon is free for your personal discovery and enjoyment of Bao Lac.  Dinner and overnight at hotel in Bao Lac.

Note:  This route could be changed depending on Lung Phinh market days

DAY 11:  BAO LAC – BA BE (B/L/D) 150km

Breakfast at hotel.  08:00 Transfer to the village of Black Lolo via the road (10 km), and hiking (2 km) to visit Lolo village. Continue to Ba Be. Stopping along the way for lunch. Arrive in Ba Be in the early afternoon. Upon arrival in Ba Be,we will be visiting the Hua Ma cave. Check-in home of Tay ethnic minority in the Pac Ngoi village. Enjoy your free time to explore the village & and to capture picturesque views. Dinner and ovenright at a traditional wooden house on stilts.

DAY 12:  BA BE – HANOI (B/L/-) 250km

Breakfast at local home.  08:00 Boat trip on Ba Be lake on the way to Ba Be National Park, which is surrounded by rugged limestone mountains and is Viet Nam’s only natural mountain lake. This important eco-system is best known for over 330 species of butterflies they have there! Have breakfast with your Tay hosts. The lush forest clinging to the surrounding mountains is your backdrop as you explore the lake. Reach the end of the lake  and continue the trip on Nang River until you we come across the Puong cave.  Back to  the homestay for lunch.  Then, meet your driver for the trip back to Hanoi.  Arrive in Hanoi at about 19.00pm. Dinner on your own. Stay overnight in hotel Hanoi.

DAY 13: HANOI – NINH BINH – HANOI (B/L/-)

Breakfast at hotel.  8.00 Our guide will meet you at your hotel for transfering to Ninh Binh through the lush vegetation of the Red river. Continuation to Tam Coc. Bike  (about 2.5 km, optional) through rural villages, limestone rocks and impressive rice towards Thung Nham. You will have the opportunity to admire a magnificent panorama of the region that is considered the Halong Bay on land. A rowboat ride on a small river through 3 caves that give you the impression of being in a magical space. Inside the 3rd cave, there is a large stone resembling an elongated Buddha that brings luck, happiness and prosperity to man. This place is called the cave of Buddha.

Then landing for a walk (10 minutes) in the amount up to Thien Ha cave (Celestre river) where you will continue a boat ride inside the cave over 300 meters with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites . Back in the boat at the pier Thung Nham, then back to Tam Coc by bicycle (optional). Lunch in a local restaurant. Back to Hanoi. Arrive at your hotel at about 17.30.

Note:  In place of Thung Nham, you can opt to visit either Trang An or Tam Coc.

DAY 14 : HANOI – HALONG (B/L/D)

08:00 Depart Hanoi for the world famous Halong Bay, ‘the descending dragon’, a journey of approximately 3.5 hours. Listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, Ha Long Bay is a stunning limestone archipelago stretching over some 1500 square kilometers and comprising nearly 2000 islets. You will board our junk for a memorable cruise through the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ gliding gently past fishing communities and hidden cave systems. Lunch.

During our time on board , you will visit the ‘Cave of Surprises’, where you can marvel at strangely formed stalactites and stalagmites. After anchoring at a nearby beach you can go for a swim or climb to the top of  Titop Island to get a panoramic view of the bay and surrounding islands. Dinner will be served with delicious local seafood onboard, with other options available. Overnight on the junk.

Note:  Cruise itinerary and schedule are subject to change due to weather and operating conditions.

DAY 15: HALONG – HANOI AIRPORT – HUE (B/BRUNCH/-)

Breakfast on board.  After breakfast, continue your journey cruise through the breathtaking scenery of Bai Tu Long Bay. Bunch. After disembarking, transfer to Noi Bai airport for the flight to Hue. On arrival in Hue, transfer to hotel and check in. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Hue.

DAY 16: HUE  (B/L/-)

Breakfast at hotel. 08.00 You will spend a full day  to visit Hue, former capital of Vietnam from 1802 to 1945 during the reign of the Nguyen dynasty emperors, declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1993.  Cruise in a sampan on the Perfume river to Thien Mu pagoda, or pagoda of the Heavenly Lady, a Buddhist shrine dated from the mid-seventeenth century. Located on the banks of the Perfume River, it is easily recognizable by its octagonal tower.

Continue your tour with a visit to the Citadel, the seat of the Nguyen Dynasty emperors. The construction began in 1804 under the orders of the first Emperor Gia Long after the carefully selected using principles of geomancy (Feng Shui). The citadel was inspired by Vauban fortifications and is composed of three sections; the Capital city, the Imperial city and the Forbidden City. Lunch at a local restaurant.

In the afternoon, visit the Tu Duc’ tomb, which is one of the most impressive of the royal mausoleums. Emperor Tu Duc designed it himself, for use both before and after his death. Finish your day with a  visit to Minh Mang’s tomb, located on the left bank of the Perfume River, which represents the perfect harmony between nature and architecture. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Hue.

Note:  You can replace the Tu Duc’s tomb by the Khai Dinh’s tomb

     – Option 1 (extra cost): Royal performance of ancient dancing and music, a world intangible heritage recognized by UNESCO in 2003, is presented in the citadel.
     – Option 2 (extra cost, minimum group size: 10 persons): A typical royal dinner with a presentation of ancient music is arranged

DAY 17: HUE – HOIAN (B/L/-)

Breakfast at hotel.  08:00 Transfer to Hoi An  along Highway 1 which links Hanoi to Sai Gon. This drive is reputedly the most beautiful in all Vietnam, taking you past coastal fishing settlements, most notably Lang Co with its stunning lagoon backdrop. The drive also takes you over Hai Van Pass (or ‘pass of the ocean clouds’). Lunch at a local restaurant in Hoian.

The afternoon is spent strolling through the narrow streets of this atmospheric old town. This former port, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is full of architectural gems that show a range of influences. Around the seventeenth century Hoi An was one of the busiest ports in South East Asia. Enriched by the proceeds of this trade many merchants constructed beautiful homes. You should start by visiting Japanese bridge, Quan Cong temple, Fujian temple, one of the old houses and the local market. Then , take a boat trip on Thu Bon river. Dinner on your own.  Overnight at hotel in Hoi An.

DAY 18: HOIAN FISHING TOUR (B/L/-)

08h30: Meet our guide and start your cycling to Cam Thanh village, we have chance to enjoy the rice paddy-field view and learn the traditional method of rice production of the local people. At this village, we will be amazed how nice is the coconut characteristic house of the countryside, and enjoy the handicraft man manipulating the furniture made of water coconut and bamboo.

Continue to the fishing village to explore the water coconut palm with the unique basket boat and visit the lake of shrimp, there  you will have chance to touch the fishing life by catching fish with the local fishermen’s net , that will be an unforgetable experience on your trip to Vietnam. Relax with lunch at local family.

Take a ride back to your hotel

DAY 19: HOI AN – DA NANG AIRPORT – SAIGON (B/L/-)

Breakfast at hotel. Transfer to the Danang airport for your flight to Sai Gon. Arrive in Saigon, transfer to your hotel.  Saigon is not only the most important economic centre in Vietnam, it also has some very imposing colonial architecture which was the center of attention in our fascinating past. Almost a hundred years of French rulers bestowed upon the city with some pearls of colonial architecture. Begin your exploration of this frantic city with lunch at a local restaurant.

In the afternoon, visit the central post office, designed by Gustave Eiffel, and the Notre Dame Cathedral, inspired by its counterpart in Paris. Continue your city tour with a visit to District 5, formerly known as Cho Lon or Chinatown. Cho Lon, or ‘big market’, with its congested streets is where most of the city’s ethnic Chinese population lives. The district lives up to its name in the form of Binh Tay wholesale markets. Founded in 1778 the market sells a stunning array of goods and produce, ranging from fish to incense. We will finish our city tour with a stop at the Thien Hau temple, otherwise known as ‘The Temple of the Heavenly Lady’, to marvel at its intricate friezes and coils of incense. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Saigon.

DAY 20: SAIGON – BEN TRE – SAIGON (B/L/-)

Breakfast at hotel. 08.00: transfer to Ben Tre. Arrive at Ben Tre town at about 10:00 . Take a boat trip on Mekong river, sight-seeing  local activities on river. You will stop on the way  to see how people make bricks, salts, coconut workshop. Boat will go pass Cai Son  and Nhon Thanh creeks to see local families making mats.  You continue by taking pull cart (xe loi) to pass  rice fields and vegetable plains. Stop at Mr. Hai Ho ‘s house to learn how to  cook local food. Enjoy lunch at home in the village.

In the afternoon, you will take rowing boat along water palm creek back to Ben Tre City to head to Can Tho city. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Can Tho.

DAY 21 : SAIGON – DEPARTURE (B/-)

Breakfast at hotel.  Free at your own time until driver meet then transfer to airport for flight home.


© Tonkin Travel. All rights reserved.

International Tour Operator License: 0165/2002/TCDL- GLHQ