Trekking in Rural Vietnam - 8 Days
- Hike the iconic rice terraces of Sapa, in northern Vietnam
- Meet ethnic minorities and overnight in village homestays
- Enjoy views of Mount Fansipan, the highest mountain in Vietnam
|Day 1||Arrive in Vietnam, Overnight Train to Sapa||Night Train|
|Day 2||Transfer to Sapa, Breakfast & Hike to Giang Ta Chai||Giang Ta Chai|
|Day 3||Trek From Giang Ta Chai to Ban Ho||Ban Ho|
|Day 4||Trek From Ban Ho to Thanh Phu||Thanh Phu|
|Day 5||Trek From Thanh Phu to Nam Cang||Nam Cang|
|Day 6||Trek From Nam Cang to Lao Cai, Train to Hanoi||Night Train|
|Day 7||Free Day in Hanoi||Hanoi|
|Day 8||Depart Hanoi|
Day 1: Arrive in Vietnam, Overnight Train to Sapa
Welcome to Vietnam! This beautiful country has been inhabited for tens of thousands of years. In that time, the country has seen the rise of various cultures with influences extending to China, Thailand, Cambodia, and even India. In fact, there are 54 different ethnic groups in Vietnam, and many rural groups still live traditionally much as they have for centuries. You'll see this firsthand over multiple days of hiking around the villages and countryside of northern Vietnam.
Upon arrival at the airport in Hanoi, a driver will pick you up for the ride to the train station. The fun starts immediately as you board an overnight train to the northern region of Lao Cai, located at the border with China.
Day 2: Transfer to Sapa, Breakfast & Hike to Giang Ta Chai
In the early morning, you'll arrive at Lao Cai Station. Here, a driver will pick you up for the one-hour ride to the mountain town of Sapa. Located at about 4,921 feet (1,500 m) above sea level, this region is famous for its endless terraced rice paddies carved into the sides of soaring mountains. Once in town, you'll fortify yourself with a hearty breakfast. Afterward, meet your local trekking guide and transfer to a small village outside town that's home to the Black Hmong ethnic group, who are known for their shamanistic culture. This is the starting point of your grand hiking adventure.
The beginning of today's 8-mile (13 km) hike is mostly uphill through a bamboo forest. At the top of a hill, you'll enjoy a picnic lunch at a scenic spot with views over the Muong Hoa Valley. From here, you'll be treated to unobstructed views of Mount Fansipan, the highest peak in Vietnam, at 10,311 feet (3,143 m). The rest of the hike is a descent to the village of Giang Ta Chai, where you'll overnight in a homestay.
Day 3: Trek From Gaing Ta Chai to Ban Ho
After breakfast, you'll head out for a full day, 9.7-mile (15.7 km) hike that will first take you around the base of Mount Fansipan. The trail then leads up a short, steep incline to an ethnic Red Dao village. These people are famous for their beautiful embroidery, which you'll see in their colorful handmade garments.
Another interesting aspect of the Red Dao is that they are adherents of Daoism. This is a Chinese spiritual system that emphasizes living in harmony with the source of all things, which in this case is nature. As a general rule, the Red Dao maintain healthy forests around their villages as they believe that guardian spirits reside within them.
From the village, you'll trek through bamboo forests and green jungles. Eventually, you'll arrive in Seo Trung Ho, another Red Dao village, where a picnic lunch will be served. Later in the hike, you'll navigate a steep climb over Ma Quai Ho mountain before descending to Ban Ho village. This community is inhabited by ethnic Tay people, who live in traditional stilt houses and are famous for their delicious cuisine, which includes sticky rice, cakes, smoked meats, and fish. Once here, meet your host family and spend the rest of the afternoon getting to know the community members.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 4: Trek From Ban Ho to Thanh Phu
Today's hike is more challenging, so be sure to eat a hearty breakfast. Even though this 6.4-mile (10.4 km) route is shorter than those over the previous two days, the real challenge lies in the terrain. For example, there are many ascents and descents as you make your way along the mountainside, beginning with an uphill hike to the Red Dao village of Nam Toong. Along the way, you might meet local farmers as they tend their fields and see livestock roaming free.
After crossing a lovely river via a suspension bridge, you'll stop for lunch. After eating, take a short walk to a village home to the Xa Pho, one of the smallest ethnic groups in Vietnam. The people here live an even more simple life than those in other communities, but like the other highlanders, the Xa Pho maintain their rich culture. Then, continue on a short walk to Thanh Phu, another charming Tay village, where you'll stay the night. When you get here, there will be plenty of time to relax, enjoy a cup of tea, and wander around the village.
Day 5: Trek From Thanh Phu to Nam Cang
In the morning, leave Thanh Phu on a 7.6-mile (12.3 km) hike. It starts on a dirt trail running through a small valley abounding with terraced rice paddies that are hundreds of years old. Along the way, your guide will impart fascinating info about the traditional farming methods that locals have passed down over the generations. Around midday, you'll stop for lunch at another Red Dao village, Nam Nhiu. Later, continue hiking through the Nam Cang Valley, with its iconic rice terraces flanked by mountains. The hike ends in the Red Dao village of Nam Cang, where you'll overnight in a homestay.
Day 6: Trek From Nam Cang to Lao Cai, Train to Hanoi
After breakfast, you'll head out on an 8.3-mile (13.3 km) hike that will take you farther up the mountains. The trail you'll follow is used almost exclusively by local farmers, and you'll need to cross a few rivers before reaching the remote Red Dao village of Nam Ngan. Along the way, you'll likely be invited into homes and served tea or rice wine, as it's customary for locals to host travelers as they pass through.
Upon leaving Nam Ngan, descend to a wider path that will take you to the village of My Son. After a traditional lunch in the village, the hike ends near the beautiful Muong Bo River. Here, you'll meet a vehicle for the drive back to Lao Cai, where you can shower and eat dinner before boarding the night train back to Hanoi.
Day 7: Free Day in Hanoi
The train will arrive at Hanoi Station in the early morning. From there, take a taxi to your hotel in the center. You can then spend the rest of the day sightseeing at your own pace. Maybe explore the labyrinthine streets of Hanoi's Old Quarter by foot or on a traditional three-wheeled cyclo as you pass temples, French-colonial buildings, and Vietnamese "tube houses." These space-saving buildings can be as narrow as 6 feet (2 m) wide and 12 stories high. Later, perhaps head to the Pan Pacific Hotel's rooftop bar and sip cocktails amid spectacular sunset views over Tay Ho ("West Lake").
Day 8: Depart Hanoi
Today concludes your grand trekking adventure in Vietnam. Hopefully, you've made lasting friends while learning about the melting pot of traditional cultures that flourish in this country. At the appropriate time, a driver will meet you at the airport and you'll catch your flight home. Safe travels!
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