The Off The Beaten Track North Vietnam Trek takes you to the remote Vietnam northern highlands, Ha Giang, Bac Ha. Visit non-touristy hill tribe villages and stay at homestay are highlights of the trip. There are colorful ethnic markets on every Sunday morning.
DAY 1: HANOI -> THONG NGUYEN / HOANG SU PHI
8:30: You will be met up with Lotussia Travel team at your hotel in Hanoi and transferred to Thong Nguyen (Ha Giang Province). Enjoy several stops along the way for stunning scenery of the northern countryside and the Vietnam far north mountainous region. You will arrive in Thong Nguyen at about 5 pm. Check into the Pan Hou ecolodge for dinner and overnight.
DAY 2: THONG NGUYEN / HOANG SU PHI TREKKING
After breakfast, we will leave the ecolodge following a small trail for about 2 km leading to the Thong Nguyen Commune center. We will trek uphill on a dirt trail for about 2 hours and then hike downhill for 1,5 hour passing by some small villages of the Nung ethnic group. Lunch will be provided en route. After lunch, we continue trekking uphill along a magnificent valley, sneaking on mountain sides which offers great scenery of the villages of the Nung and Zao scattering around the valley. We will arrive at the village around late afternoon. Dinner and overnight in a local house (Homestay).
DAY 3: HOANG SU PHI -> NAM LI VILLAGE
After breakfast, we will say good bye to the Nung local host and continue our hike on a single dirt trail for 3 hours. We hike uphill passing two villages of the Dao peoples. This part of the trek offers marvelous landscapes for its beauty of nature. Lunch will be provided on the foot of a mountain. The trail gets narrower in the afternoon, winding its way up and downhill for 4 hours through local hill tribe villages (Dao & Nung). We hike then through bamboo and thick rain forest as well as tea plantation. We will arrive in Nam Li village around late afternoon. Check into a local village house for dinner and overnight.
DAY 4: NAM LI -> CHE LA VILLAGE
After breakfast, we will leave the village of Nam Li at 08.30. The trek today is a real challenge! The narrow dirt trail sneaks its way mostly uphill (from 370 m to 622 m high) through an untouched region. We trek through several small villages of the Nung and the Red Zao who will be very impressed when they see foreign tourists come to their villages. Then the trek goes through thick forest before we arrive at the top of the mountain range. Lunch break. After lunch, the trail gets wider as we descend to another village is also an authentic one, inhabited by the H’mong people who used to grow poppy for opium production until recently. Spend an hour to explore this village before continue trekking downhill to the center of the commune. We will arrive in Che La village at about 5,30 pm. Check into a local house for dinner and overnight.
DAY 5: CHE LA -> NAM CHIEN VILLAGE
After breakfast, we will leave the village of Che La at 08.30. It is an easy trek today! The dirt path is large and gradually goes downhill for about four hours, passing through tea plantation, terraced rice paddies and villages of the Nung, H’mong and Zao. Lunch will be provided en route. Once reaching the bottom of the valley, the group will injoy a short break of about one hour by the clear water of a stream. Then go trekking uphill for 2 km to the homestay where we will spend the night. Dinner and overnight in a local house.
DAY 6: NAM CHIEN -> BAC HA TOWN
After breakfast, we leave Nam Chien at 08.30. The first hour is an easy walk along a large path to Nam Dan. Here the group will spend half hour to admire a wonder: The rock field including some dozen rocks of different sizes and shapes bearing messages of the ancient men. Lunch en route. Then, we will follow a narrow trail for 2 hours. We trek through the thick rain forest. After three-hour trek, we reach a H’mong in mid afternoon. You will be picked up by Lotussia vehicle and transferred to Bac Ha. Check-in hotel. Dinner in a local restaurant in Bac Ha.
DAY 7: BAC HA -> CAN CAU MARKET -> LAO CAI -> HANOI
Situated 20 km from Bac Ha, Can Cau is a small market, but very colorful. Opening only on Saturdays, it always delivers a very photogenic display of Flower Hmong, Black Zao, Phu La ethnic costumes. After spending the whole morning exploring the market, you will leave the market for Bac Ha town for lunch.
In the afternoon, transfer to Lao Cai where you will take the overnight train back to Hanoi. Train ??? Departure at ??? (To be advised).
Occasionally our tour itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travelers’ comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the service proposal. It’s very important that you print and review a final copy of your itinerary a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. If you have any queries, please contact us. We are here to help you!
Please note that while we operate successful trips in Vietnam throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time.
Our trekking tours can be classified into three levels
There are about 8 – 10K to walk on flat roads. No previous experience is necessary. Anyone in good health and fit enough to perform an occasional hike can take an easy level trek. Vietnam easy walks are provided in Hanoi, Bac Giang, Mai Chau, Ngoc Son Ngo Luong…
There are about 10 – 15K to hike on flat and hilly roads. At this point too, no special background is required. Hikers accustomed to trekking in hilly areas of Mai Chau, Pu Luong or Lai Chau, Yen Bai successfully accomplish our treks “moderate”, provided they are in good health and to have a correct fit. These treks are moderate or easy hikes with an average duration or shorter but more difficult steps.
There are about 16 – 23K to trek on uphill/downhill dirty, rocky trails. Physical fitness is very important for these treks and you may have to lead you home before the trek. Most treks in this level are comparable with long rides in the Fansipan mountain or the the mountainous region of Ha Giang, Cao Bang, sometimes higher altitudes. The climate and isolation can also participate in difficulty. Prior trek experience is preferable but not vital if you have confidence in your fitness.
Our trip cost usually includes the following services. Please bear in mind Lotussia Travel is specialized in tailor-made trips. Trip cost vary depending on group size and other details.
- Car transfers
- Local tour guide. The English-Speaking guide is provided by default. Other language may be available upon request (with extra charge).
- Local porter(s)
- Sightseeing entrance fees.
- Bottled water.
Unless required most of the following services are usually not included in our tour price.
- Visa (required)
- Flight/Train tickets.
- Accommodation pre/post trip.
- Travel insurance
- Personal expenses
Our tour guides speak English or French. They hold a university degree in tourism and national license as a guide. If you wish to send a tour leader along with any group, he or she can fully rely on the knowledge and experience of our local guides.
Remote treks are always accompanied by a local representative to deal with permits and authorities and manage the porter team. They speak the local dialects, know the cultural traditions and give tips on suggested behavior in fragile ecological areas and tribal communities. For some itineraries, the role of tour leader and representative is combined.
When to hike
The north Vietnam experiences two distinct seasons; winter and summer. Winter is cool, dry and lasts from November to April. Temperatures range between 15 to 25°C during the day and 0 to 10°C during the night. With little rain, the winter season offers the most pleasant weather conditions for trekking in Vietnam. Read more about Vietnam weather.
During all trekking tours we may use local porters to carry your luggage as well as our trekking equipment, where required. To generate local income we employ local villagers for this task. Participants will have their own porter, carrying trekking equipment and luggage to a maximum of 15 kg per client. Travelers only have to carry their day packs. Read more how to pack
Depending on the nature of the tour, journeys will be accompanied by an air-conditioned car/minibus cover the larger overland sections.
Campsites and lodges are not common in Vietnam, instead we make use of homestays; staying the night in tribal villages along the way. Facilities are clean, but very basic. Travelers share a bamboo-slat floor, separated by curtains. Animals usually sleep under the house and restrooms and showers are often absent. Water sources are available outside. Mattresses, blankets and mosquito nets are taken care of.
Over the years Lotussia Travel has established a number of projects to upgrade home stay accommodation into a bit more comfort. Basic facilities aside, spending the night in a tribal village and enjoying a meal with the locals brings travellers unforgettable cross-cultural experiences. In the past 15 years of organizing trekking by this way, we never received a complaint.
During all treks meals will be arranged on the spot, in local restaurants and at home in local villages along the way. The meals are prepared by our cooks, the local guide or by the local host. Our cooks are well trained to prepare and serve food hygienically and they cook a variety of local delicacies. Sometimes this may include the slaughter of a chicken, duck or pig. We sometimes have the chance to bring western food, and snacks from Hanoi for breakfast and picnics along the way, and coffee and tea are available in abundance. Our cooks make a special effort to provide as much variety as possible. The porters give necessary assistance on the spot.
There are many shops and villages that have bottled water for sale. On remote trekking tours, we buy a sufficient supply of water for the next couple of days. We recommend bringing some water purifying tablets.
Comfortable lightweight clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton is most suitable for travelling in Vietnam. The dress code is fairly casual as in most parts of the tropics but it is advisable to cover arms and legs in the evenings against biting insects. A lightweight raincoat is a good idea in the rainy season. During the winter months warm clothing is needed for visiting the north of Vietnam. Visitors should not wear shorts, short skirts or other skimpy clothing when visiting religious buildings such as pagoda, temple, communal house and shoes should be removed before entering a private home.
What you take will naturally depend upon where you are travelling and the style of journey you are undertaking, and it can often be difficult to decide what to pack. Nevertheless, the following should act as a useful checklist of essential items worth thinking about taking.
- 1 medium-sized backpack.
- Comfortable walking shoes with good grip
- 1 long (easy to dry) pants and 1 long sleeved shirt to wear during the trek (easy to dry).
- 1 pair of flip flop (sandals).
- 1 pair of shorts and T-shirt to wear at camp site (2 if you do 4-day trek).
- 1 medium-sized towel.
- 1 medium-sized dry bag.
- Hiking poles/walking sticks
We strongly believe that Responsible Tourism can support to local communities: proving incomes,positive cultural exchanges and an incentive to protect natural environment. We recognize that there is always space for improvement. We continually strive to narrow the gap between principle and practice.
We have been turning environmentally responsible tourism into practices to minimize tourist impact upon the local habitat. From biodegradable soaps to re – usable water containers, we provide clients with the best information and mean to help them identify and implement effective ways to positive protect local nature and communities. It is a vital criteria that can be passed on and abided by all, long after the trip ended.
Prior to our tours, we contact and work with local community leaders to make sure we are welcome and in a manner that minimizes negative social and cultural impacts. We visit local development and community projects specific to the region, encouraging customers to donate and assist such a projects in appropriate and sustainable manner.
Where make sure that where and whenever possible our tours positively benefit the local community. We stayed at locally owned accommodation and visit cottage industries for local handicraft souvenir, generating income for local business. We often employ, hire support team such as local guide, motor-taxi drivers, cook assistants on all trips to ensure that the local community benefit not only short term but with increased employment opportunities for the future.