The 7 Day Northwest Vietnam Loop takes you to the less travel places in the north-western Vietnam. Begin the tour in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital and travel through Mai Chau village, Son La, Tuan Giao, Dien Bien Phu, Lai Chau, Tam Duong, Sapa. You also enjoy a full day hike in Sapa villages before taking the overnight train to get back to Hanoi. If you arrive in Tam Duong on Saturday, you will have the opportunity to visit the Tam Duong market on Sunday morning. The market is open only once a week. You meet different ethnic groups such as Giay, Nhang, Tay, H’mong, Dzao…
Day 1: Hanoi – Mai Chau. Overnight in Maichau.
You will be met up by Hiking Vietnam team local guide and driver at your hotel in Hanoi and head west towards Hoa Binh province. Following lunch in a White Thai village in Mai Chau valley we spend the afternoon walking through the various ethnic minority villages in this area. In the evening, enjoy the traditional music and dance shoe which will be performed by local villagers. Overnight in Mai Chau.
Day 2: Mai Chau – Son La. Overnight in Sonla.
After breakfast served by the Thai people under their house-on-stilts, we leave Mai Chau making our way west to Son La. Upon our arrival in Son La late in the afternoon we check into our local guesthouse where we spend the night. Son La is located in a scenic valley, inhabited mostly by the Thai, the Muong and the H’mong minority people. This area is historically important for its involvement in the Vietnamese struggle for independence from France during the first half the 20th century. Overnight in Sonla.
Day 3: Son La – Dien Bien Phu. Overnight in Dien Bien Phu.
Following breakfast we will visit the remains of former French prison and enjoy a dip in the local hot- springs. We then board our vehicle for the drive to Dien Bien Phu around 170 km away. It is a 7-hour journey on rough roads, but it is worth while as the scenery is dramatic. We will encounter many ethnic minority people along the way. In the late afternoon we arrive in Dien Bien town and check into our guesthouse for the night. Overnight in Dien Bien Phu.
Day 4: Dien Bien Phu – Lai Chau. Overnight in Lai Chau.
After breakfast this morning we will visit some war sites in Dien Bien including Dien Bien Phu museum, A1 Hill, De Castries Commandment Post and set out on our drive to Lai Chau, around 7 hours away. This is in quite a remote area and as a result some of the roads will be fairly rough and uneven. Yet this is to our advantage as there will be fewer tourists along the way to spoil our views of the beautiful and dramatic scenery which we will encounter along the way. Overnight in Laichau.
Day 5: Lai Chau – Tam Duong Sunday Market – Sapa. Overnight in Sapa.
From Lai Chau we drive east to Sapa, which is a five-hour drive. We will stop on the road to visit Tam Duong Sunday market which is one of the most colorful markets in Vietnam. The local hill tribe ethnic minority come from different surrounding area to the market where they will sell their homemade handicraft, agricultural products such as vegetable, fruits and also pork, ducks, chickens…After visiting the market, we continue our drive to Sapa. As the roads become even rougher, the more deserted they get. But the rougher they get, the better the scenery becomes. The beautiful hill station of Sapa has the best-of-both worlds, breath-taking scenery and modern-day comforts. In the afternoon, we will have half day walking excursion to the Red Dzao village. Overnight in Sapa.
Day 6: Sapa full day trekking. Sapa – Laocai – Hanoi. Overnight on the train.
Today we start our trek with a five to six hour trek to villages of Cat Cat, Ta Van and Cau May situated in idyllic valleys, which are covered with a patchwork of rice terraces. Cat Cat is home to the H’mong people who originated from China, where they emigrated from about 300 years ago. The H’mong people are easily recognizable due to their dark clothing, usually blue or black. The dye is fashioned from the indigo or hemp plant that is native to the area. H’mong women wear long aprons with embroidered waistcoats and have their hair rolled up into a turban-like hat, whilst the men wear a black skullcap, long waistcoat and loose trousers. In the late afternoon, we will be picked up again by our car and transferred to Lao Cai Railways Station four our journey back to Hanoi. Overnight on the train.
Day 7: Arrival in Hanoi.
Upon your arrival in Hanoi Railways Station, you will be welcome by our local driver and transferred to your hotel in Hanoi or directly to the airport for your onward flight. End tour.
Hiking Vietnam specializes in tailor-making private guided trekking hiking tours in Vietnam. This 7 Day Northwest Vietnam Loop is only a sample itinerary that can be further customized to better fit your personal requirements. Just follow this trip or contact us for designing your own itinerary.
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.