GRAND CIRCLE TOUR
Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi
Arrival in Hanoi, you will be welcomed at the airport and get transfer to the city for hotel check in; rooms are available anytime after 2:00 p.m. Free time in the afternoon to relax and settle into your hotel. Meals on your own. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 2: Hanoi city tour (B)
Full day tour of Vietnam’s capital city, including the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (closed on Monday and Friday), the traditional stilt house and the One-Pillar Pagoda. Then, tour Vietnam’s first university, the thousand-year-old Temple of literature. In the afternoon, visit the Ethnology Museum (closed on Monday) to learn about the 54 ethnic peoples that make up Vietnam. In the later afternoon, visit the beautiful Ngoc Son Temple on an island in the middle of Hoan Kiem lake. Then, in the early evening, enjoy a traditional water puppet show. Meals on your own. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 3 : Hanoi - Ba Be (B,L,D)
Leave Hanoi for Ba be lake, about six-hour drive with half of the trip on mountain roads. Take a boat cruise to the boatmen’s home village, located on the edge of Ba Be Lake with a panoramic view of the surrounding cornfields, lake and mountain ranges. Tonight you will stay in a rustic wooden stilt house of local residents, whose evenings are mostly spent around the fire in the main hall of the house. You can either join the family chatting or have your quiet moment over a cup of tea on the veranda overlooking the lake. Overnight at the homestay.
Day 4: Ba Be - Kayak (B,L,D)
In the morning, the boat will be waiting to take you on the other side of the lake. We’ll start our kayaking excursion by visiting a smooth part of the lake and then head to other areas. The lake is surrounded by lime stone mountains belonging to a protected National park. The water is calm and clear, the vegetation is diverse and wild. At times, you will feel as though you were at the end of the world, carefree and utterly opened. After lunch at Pirate Ong, you will kayak for a few hours more. In the late afternoon, you’ll get back on the boat and be taken to an isolated place for swimming in tranquil water before going back to the local house for dinner and overnight.
Day 5: Ba Be – Ha Giang (B,L,D) – 4-5 hours driving
The whole day will be spent on your vehicle going from Ba Be to Ha Giang. The tiredness of a long journey will be compensated by numerous encounters with hill tribe people along the way. You will arrive to Ha Giang in late afternoon and stay in Me village for the night.
Day 6: Ha Giang - Yen Minh - Quan Ba - Dong Van - Meo Vac (B, L)
After breakfast, we depart to visit Heaven’s Gate, the peak of the highest mountain in the area, before reaching the towns of Quan Ba, Yen Minh and Dong Van. On the 165 km drive you will discover sugar fields and limestone peaks touching the skies located among stone forests. The H’Mong people living in this remote and wild region have learned to adapt over time to their rough environment. Under harsh climatic conditions -- burning heat in summer and piercingly cold in winter -- people work continuously to transform gray rocks hills with no sign of life into cornfields. They founded a culture and civilization of maize cultivation in this area that compares with rice cultivation in the Red River Delta. Before reaching Yen Minh village, visit Tien Quyet market, held every Saturday morning, where you will meet the H’Mong, Dao, Tay, Nung and Viet people in traditional costumes. Continue driving to Dong Van and Meo Vac. The 30 km zigzag road between Meo Vac and Dong Van is the most impressive section of your trip and offers breathtaking views of the landscapes and Nho Que karst river. Arrive in Dong Van – the limestone plateau which is inhabited by the Blue H’Mong ethnic group -- in the afternoon. Dinner on your own and overnight at the hotel Ha Giang, Yen Minh, Dong and Meo Vac are remote areas and do not have many tourists. Local restaurants in this area therefore do not have the same standard as restaurants in big cities. Tourists take meals at local restaurants only.
Day 7: Meo Vac - Ha Giang - Panhou (B, L, D)
In the morning, get transferred to Ha Giang. Stop en route to visit the villa of the royal family Vuong Chi Sinh, whose architecture is a mixture between Chinese and European styles and shows the H’Mong people’s creative construction arts. Then visit Pho Bang, an old village particularly composed of many stone houses, creating a unique atmosphere, different from all other villages. After lunch at a local restaurant, continue driving to Pan Hou, a picturesque village located nearby a clear stream. It is here that you will stay for the night.
Day 8: Hiking around Panhou (B, L)
The whole day is devoted to hiking in the vicinity of Pan Hou (five to six hours, depending on your health). You will pass by some villages of ethnic minorities who have well preserved their ancient customs and costumes. You will find your-self in the middle of one of the most beautiful landscapes of northern Vietnam. Enjoy a picnic lunch. At the end of the day, if you are interested, you could enjoy a traditional herbal bath of the Dao tribe offered by the hotel.
Day 9: Panhou - Bac Ha. (B, L)
In the morning, depart toward Bac Ha to have a closer look at terraced paddy fields, result of an ingenious, centuries-long work of hill tribe communities. Upon your arrival in Bac Ha, you will visit Ban Pho, a village of Flowery H'Mong people, who are so named on account of their women colorful skirts. You will surely have a crush on cute babies carried on the back of their mothers and laugh at the little black pigs running freely in front of the houses. Then you will have a look at the palace of a former H’Mong king, Hoang A Tuong before returning to the hotel. Dinner on your own.
Day 10: Bac Ha - Sin Cheng – Bac Ha (B,L)
In the morning, head to Sin Cheng market, an exotic market where you can meet a dozen of different tribes. Held every Wednesday, it is not only a place of commerce and trade but also an opportunity to enjoy local rice wine, strengthen social bonds and make new friends. Return to Bac Ha for lunch. In the afternoon, continue on the trail to Tha Na village, nestled in the hollow of a small valley. Tha Na hosts a small community of Tay people. This is a chance to explore their daily lives, which have distinctive features from the H’mongs
Day 11: Bac Ha - Lao Cai - Train to Hanoi (B)
This morning you’ll visit the surrounding villages along the trail. This excursion takes you to the Thai Giang Pho village, home to the Flowery H’Mong group whom you met in the market yesterday. On the way to Lao Cai, we stop en route near Bao Nhai bridge for a short hike (2.5 km) to Trung Do village of Tay ethnic group, located near the Chay River in the valley. You might see small kids playing in the village’s kinder garden. Continue on to Lao Cai with another en route visit to the frontier between Vietnam and China. Take the night train from Lao Cai to Hanoi. Overnight on the train.
Day 12: Hanoi - Ha Long (B,L, D)
Arrive in Hanoi in the early morning. You will be transfered to a hotel for a shower and breakfast before leaving for Ha Long. You then take the new road and will arrive in Ha Long around noon. Board a beautiful wooden junk for a 24-hour cruise on Ha Long Bay with an excellent menu of fresh seafood. In the afternoon, enjoy the stunning beauty of thousands of lime stone mountains emerging from the emerald water and see floating fishing villages as the junk is cruising through the bay. Overnight onboard among imposing rocks and the gentle murmurs of the sea.
Day 13: Halong - Hanoi - Departure (B)
You are advised to put on the alarm clock to enjoy a spectacular dawn over the bay. After a morning swim (depending on the season), enjoy breakfast onboard as the junk weighs anchor and head back to the pier. On the way to the airport, you will pass vast expanses of rice fields of the Red River Delta. Head to the airport for your departure flight. Meals on your own. Services end.
Price per person sharing: 1254 GBP (subject to change and availability)
Transportation by private vehicle with A/C
Local English speaking guide(s)
Breakfast and other meals mentioned in the program B: Breakfast, L: Lunch, D: Dinner.
Non private cruise in Halong Bay in the category chosen or similar
Accommodation in the category chosen or similar
Does not include:
Drinks during the meals
Meals not mentioned
Tips and personal expenses
Any service not mentioned in the program
International flights and airport taxes
Visa fee upon arrival to Hanoi airport
Internal and regional airfares