The north of Vietnam is a treasure trove of wonders, and over eight action-packed days you'll experience the highlights. It begins in the ancient, incomparable city of Hanoi, and from there you'll venture to the countryside for nature hikes along green valleys to visit traditional ethnic villages. After touring the soaring mountains and rice paddies of Sapa, finish the trip on a cruise of the emerald waters of Ha Long Bay.


  • Tour the historic neighborhoods of Hanoi 
  • Hike between ethnic villages in the Mai Chau countryside
  • Visit the terraced rice fields and mountain villages of Sapa
  • Cruise the jade waters of Ha Long Bay

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Hanoi, Optional Activities Hanoi
Day 2 Transfer to Mai Chau, Bike Ride Mai Chau
Day 3 Mai Chau Morning Hike, Transfer to Hanoi Hanoi
Day 4 Transfer to Sapa, Village Hike Sapa
Day 5 Muong Hoa Valley Hike Sapa
Day 6 Transfer to Hanoi Hanoi
Day 7 Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Cruise to Lan Ha Bay Ha Long Bay
Day 8 Morning Tour of Ha Long Bay, Transfer to Hanoi & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi, Optional Activities

Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi
Welcome to Vietnam! This nation is a captivating mix of the old and the new. It boasts thousands of years of history yet the 21st century is on full display in the gleaming skyscrapers of its major cities. There's no better example of this than the capital of Hanoi. The city has been settled since at least the third century BCE, and in the intervening years, it has seen the rise of imperial dynasties, French colonialism, and communism. You can see remnants of all these eras on its historic streets. 
Upon arrival at the airport, your driver will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel in the city. After settling in, you can venture out on a self-guided tour to stretch your legs. Hit the streets of the Old Quarter and browse the silk shops on Hang Gai Street. When hunger beckons, tuck into Vietnamese street food staples like pho (noodle soup), banh mi (baguette sandwich), or bun cha (grilled pork with rice noodles). One famous restaurant here, Bun Cha Huong Lien, served this popular dish to former president Barack Obama and intrepid foodie Anthony Bourdain

Day 2: Transfer to Mai Chau, Bike Ride

Hanoi - Mai Chau
Traditional stilt houses in Mai Chau
In the morning, a driver will pick you up and you'll leave Hanoi on a four-hour drive southwest to Mai Chau. This rural region is famed for its splendid mountain vistas overlooking green valleys dotted with rice paddies and traditional stilt-house villages inhabited by the White Thai ethnic group. However, other tribes also call this valley paradise home, including the Dzao and Muong.
Upon arrival at around noon, you'll check in to your ecolodge and will then enjoy lunch. Later, hop on a bicycle and head out for a two or three-hour ride through the beautiful countryside, stopping at ethnic villages as you go. These include Na Thia, Nhot, Pom Coong, Lac, and Chieng Chau. At each one, friendly local villagers will welcome you and you'll have time for a chat and cultural exchange. 

In the evening, there will be options for various activities. These include taking a cooking class, a weaving class, or participating in a traditional dance show in which you'll imbibe plenty of ruou can, a local rice wine. Feel free to choose between one or all of these activities before retiring for the night. 
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Day 3: Mai Chau Morning Hike, Transfer to Hanoi

Start the day with a countryside hike

Spend your last morning in Mai Chau on a hike through the verdant countryside. The scenic route covers between 3-4 miles (5-7 km) and takes about three hours to complete. It begins with a nice and easy stretch that gives you a chance to warm up as you enjoy the surrounding nature. After a short rest in Ban Hieu village, you’ll conquer some steep climbs and river crossings, after which you'll arrive at viewpoints offering stunning vistas of the valley below. After snapping plenty of photos, you'll continue down to the village of Pho Doan.

Once here, you'll have another break and then head to the main road where your driver will be waiting to take you back to Hanoi. During the three-hour ride, you'll make a pit stop for lunch and arrive back in the city in the late afternoon. Here, you'll check in to the hotel where you'll overnight.   

Day 4: Transfer to Sapa, Village Hike

Hike the traditional mountain villages of Sapa

Wake up early for the ride north to Sapa, a highland area known for its soaring mountains and endless terraces of green rice paddies. The drive takes around six hours, and you'll check into your hotel on arrival. Unwind after your long journey with a walk around town, which was once a French-colonial outpost. Breathe in the cool alpine air, stop for a cup of Vietnamese coffee, and browse the handicrafts on offer from local Hmong women in colorful, traditional dress.

Once you're settled, you'll head out on a three-hour tour of the beautiful mountainous countryside that has earned Sapa its fame. A quick 15-minute drive outside of town will take you to the villages of Sa Xeng and Sau Chua. At various lookout points here, you'll enjoy wide panoramic views of Hmong villages nestled amid soaring green mountains towering over the Muong Hoa valley.

Then it's time to leave the car and embark on a two-hour walk amid terraced rice paddies to the Sa Seng and Sau Chua villages, home to the Black Hmong people. Together these communities consist of four small hamlets scattered along a narrow green valley. The path between them winds its way from the high mountains, gradually proceeding downhill through terraced fields and across streams. As you walk and enjoy the scenery, you can stop for chats with friendly villagers and visit local homes to witness their traditional way of life. At the end of the path, you'll meet a van that will return you to Sapa. 

Day 5: Muong Hoa Valley Hike

Hike the terraced rice fields of the Muong Hoa Valley
In the morning, take a short drive south down the mountains to Muong Hoa. Leave the car and start hiking into this valley, which boasts the largest rice paddy terraces in the entire Sapa region. Along the way, your guide will offer fascinating info about the history of rice growing in the area and the process of cultivating it. If you come between May-Oct, you'll even get to witness the locals planting and harvesting the crops. The full hiking route will take you from the Black Hmong village of Lao Chai to the Giay-populated Ta Van. After spending time in Ta Van and meeting locals, you'll transfer back to Sapa.

Day 6: Transfer to Hanoi

Back to bustling Hanoi
After breakfast, your driver will pick you up for the six-hour ride back to Hanoi. Once in town, you'll check in to your hotel and will have the rest of the day free. Later, perhaps head to a rooftop bar in the trendy Tay Ho district for a sundowner complimented by views over West Lake.

Day 7: Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Cruise to Lan Ha Bay

Take a cruise on Ha Long Bay

In the morning, your personal driver will take you on a 2.5-hour ride east to Ha Long Bay. Located on the Gulf of Tonkin, over 1,000 karst islets rise above jade waters and resemble the spine of some mythological creature ("ha long" actually translates to "descending dragon"). The unique beauty of this region is unlike anywhere else and thus has been bestowed with UNESCO World Heritage status. Upon arrival at the marina, you'll board a ship for an overnight cruise to adjacent Lan Ha Bay.

After settling into your cabin, head up to the deck where a delicious buffet lunch awaits. Then enjoy some optional activities like soaking in a jacuzzi, going for a kayak ride, or playing a round of mini-golf. Spend the remainder of the afternoon relaxing on the sundeck with snacks and drinks until it's time to watch the sunset over the emerald waters. After a gourmet dinner, finish the evening with cigars and a game of poker or head out on the water to do some night squid fishing.

Day 8: Morning Tour of Ha Long Bay, Transfer to Hanoi & Depart

Sunset over Ha Long Bay
Wake up early and get the blood pumping with a tai chi session on the sundeck. After a light breakfast, the ship will cruise to the Dark and Light Cave. You'll then board a traditional bamboo boat and enter this system of two sea caverns. The "dark" cave stretches over 328 feet (100 m) and you'll explore the interior with a flashlight. The "light" cave is shorter and is filled with natural light, illuminating the white limestone karst walls and emerald waters of the grotto. Its cathedral-like interior is a great place to snap photos.
Afterward, return to the ship for brunch and head back to the pier. From there, you'll hop in a vehicle for the 3.5-hour ride back to Hanoi and the airport, where you'll catch your flight home. Safe travels!

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A note on diacritical markings: In order to support the best technical experience and search functions, diacritical markings have been omitted from this article.


Map of Journey to Northern Vietnam: Hanoi, Mai Chau, Sapa & Ha Long - 8 Days
Map of Journey to Northern Vietnam: Hanoi, Mai Chau, Sapa & Ha Long - 8 Days