Trip Description & Day-by-day Itinerary
Trekking Northeast Vietnam in Cao Bang, Ba Be is one off the beaten track trekking tour we arrange in the northeast Vietnam. An unparalleled opportunity to appreciate the village culture and follow mountain trails that lead deep into the forested highlands of north- eastern Vietnam. The area in which we trek is close by the Chinese border and receives very few foreign visitors. The cultural identity of the people here has remained largely unchanged by the twenty first century.
Day 1: Arrive Hanoi
Upon arrival at Hanoi airport your guide will accompany you to your hotel and assist with your check-in procedures. Whilst there are no activities planned for today, your guide will be on hand to offer any advice and assistance regarding your free time, and this evening will take you out to dinner at one of Hanoi’s superb restaurants.
Day 2: Hanoi City Tour.
Today we have a tour of the city’s highlights including the Temple of Literature, site of Vietnam’s first university, dating back to the 11th century. The temple is dedicated to one of the world’s most famous scholars, Confucius. Inside the temple grounds huge stone stele rest on the backs of even larger stone turtles (in Vietnamese culture the turtle represents longevity). The stele recorded the names of the successful candidates who would later go on to become mandarins in the Emperor’s court. We also visit The Ngoc Son Temple on Hoan Kiem Lake and the vibrant Old Quarter. The Old Quarter’s bustling streets are home to hundreds of small thriving businesses, each one identified by its name, such as Tin Street or Fish Street. Following lunch we visit the Museum of Ethnology, dedicated to the country’s 54 ethnic minorities. This is a must for us as tomorrow we embark on a trek into the homeland of several minority peoples. The remainder of the day is free.
Day 3: Hanoi – Ba Be National Park.
With an early departure from Hanoi we journey towards Ba Be Lake. The drive of 270 km takes approximately seven hours as we travel through the flatlands of the Red River Delta and up into the mountain areas north of the capital. The further north we progress, the more picturesque the scenery becomes. Our scheduled lunch stop will be at Bac Can town. From here it is only around 2½ hours to our destination. Arriving in Ba Be town by mid to late afternoon we will check into our guesthouse and then head out for a bit of an exploration before sunset.
Day 4: Ba Be Lakes.
After breakfast we board our private boat for a cruise on the lake. Weather permitting you will have the opportunity for a swim in the crystal clear waters before having lunch on board. Following lunch we will work off our feast with a three-hour trek to a Dzao village. Here we will see firsthand how life in these remote areas has remained unchanged. Arriving back at the jetty we transfer back to our hotel. Tonight we spend our second night in Ba Be.
Day 5: Ba Be lake – Cao Bang.
This morning we take to the road again for the 90km drive (2.5 hours) to Cao Bang. Here the H’mong, Zao, Tho and Nung ethnic minority people live together in harmony. We will arrive at Cao Bang slightly before lunchtime and spend a little time learning more about the people and their culture. This afternoon we take a short 1 hour drive to visit a traditional smith village befor returning to Cao Bang.
Day 6: Visit Pac Po Cave. Cao Bang Trekking.
This morning we enjoy breakfast before departing Cao Bang for the 1½ hour drive to Pac Po, the hideout used by Ho Chi Minh when he came back to Vietnam after 30 years of self imposed exile. It was here that he organized his resistance army against the French. We embark on an 8-day trek covering a distance of over 140km through mountainous rain forest. We will be sleeping and eating in villages of various ethnic minorities and generally living as the locals do. Some of the hiking is quite arduous as we follow ill-defined buffalo paths and trails. There will also be some steep climbs over the mountain ranges. We will be rewarded with some beautiful scenery that the majority of travellers to Vietnam never get the chance to experience. As we trek we will witness the hardships and joys of people whose way of life has been virtually untouched by modern times and despite their extreme poverty, the people we meet are some of the friendliest and hospitable in Vietnam. Please note that to respect the traditional customs of local hill tribe people, men and women are not allowed to share the same bed, even if you are married, when we are at the home stays. From Pac Po we trek 12 km to Nam Nhung village inhabited by the Nung minority people.
Day 7: Trekking Cao Bang
Today is our first day of full trekking and we will cover 20 km. Most of the walking is along dirt roads, passing many villages of Tay and Nung people along the way. After approximately 3 hours we arrive at our accommodation for this evening at Tong Cot village. There are few vehicles here and most travel as we do, by foot!
Day 8: Hiking Cao Bang
The terrain today is very similar to yesterday, following dirt roads and passing many villages of different minority groups, a great opportunity to experience the different cultures living in the area. Na Ma village, our home for the evening, is one of the smallest villages in the North of Vietnam and consists of only two families.
Day 9: Cao Bang Hiking.
This is the longest day of the trek at 26km, however the terrain is not too arduous and the scenery is diverse.
Day 10: Trekking Cao Bang Hilltribe Villages.
This morning we have a 30 minute drive in our support vehicle before we continue trekking to Tha Meng Village. Once we arrive at Tha meng Village we can cool down and refresh our bodies by swimming in the nearby river.
Day 11: Cao Bang Trek
Today we continue our trek along a river to Ta Lung, a small border town. We expect to arrive by early afternoon.
Day 12: Trek Cao Bang.
Today is more challenging than the previous trekking days as the terrain becomes more undulating with some steep sections. Our trail winds through primary forest and is a beautiful part of Northern Vietnam. This is where your pre-trip training comes in handy. This afternoon we have a well deserved rest at La village.
Day 13: Cao Bang – Hanoi
The trek concludes today as we bid farewell to our porters and camp crew. From here we drive to the border-trading city of Lang Son. We enjoy lunch and a visit to the local markets at Lang Son before our afternoon drive back to Hanoi. On arrival we can freshen up at our hotel before embarking for a celebratory meal at a Hanoi restaurant. Overnight in Hanoi hotel.
Day 14: Hanoi.
Today is free for further exploration of this fascinating city and to do some last minute shopping.
Day 15: Departure.
Group arrangements conclude after breakfast. If you are departing Vietnam today, a transfer will be provided to the airport.
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.