Highlights of North Vietnam

Hilltribes, Hanoi and Halong Bay




From $1,620 Land only

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Holiday Overview


  • Unique 6-day trek with homestays in hill tribe villages
  • Cycle through paddyfields and limestone outcrops at Tam Coc
  • Colourful market towns of Bac Ha and Quang Nguyen
  • 2 night traditional junk cruise on UNESCO listed Halong Bay

Spend 6 days trekking between colourful hill tribe villages, explore the smoky streets of historic Hanoi and relax onboard a comfortable junk on Halong Bay; All the highlights of North Vietnam are included on this wonderful 2 week trekking holiday. With its spectacular scenery and unique mix of cultures, North Vietnam is one of the most welcoming regions in the world; from atmospheric Hanoi to the verdant rice terraces of the North, you can expect a friendly welcome wherever you go. On our 6-day trek we will explore some of the most mountainous terrain in northern Vietnam, close to the border with China. This area is home to a wide diversity of ethnic minority groups, whose traditional lifestyles have changed little for centuries. From Viet Quang, our trek takes us to some of the most remote villages in the area, where we enjoy home stays with the local tribes: Tay, Dzao, Nung and Hmong; each tribe identifiable through their distinctive and colourful dress. Walking through unspoiled forest and carefully tended rice paddies, we picnic beside hidden waterfalls and spend time in colourful market towns such at Quang Nguyen and Bac Ha. Returning to Hanoi, we have time to explore this enchanting city and also to explore the amazing limestone landscape of Tam Coc, by bike and by boat, as we travel to the trip's grand finale at Halong Bay. Here, we have 2 nights on a comfortable and traditional junk, with island visits, great food, swimming, sunbathing and kayaking. A fitting end to our showcase of the cultural and scenic charms of northern Vietnam!

Is this holiday for you?

During the 6 day trek you will be walking mostly on village trails and jungle tracks. Generally, the underfoot conditions are good although they can become muddy and slippery in some places after heavy rain. It should be noted that it can get humid at times, particularly during the middle of the day. The trekking day is typically around 5 - 6 hours long although the day we trek to Coc Dong will be considerably longer with a fairly large amount of ascent. The holiday also includes the option to kayak while on Halong Bay and some easy cycling while exploring Tam Coc. Please note that it may not be possible to provide cycling helmets for the cycling tour and we do recommend that you take your own cycling helmet with you.

Brief Itinerary

View in full
  • Meet at the group hotel in Hanoi. A single timed transfer from Hanoi Airport is provided.
  • Drive to Viet Quang and on to Yen Binh.
  • Trek to Tan Nam village.
  • Trek to Phieng Lan.
  • Trek to Quang Nguyen.
  • Trek over Xin Man (2000m) summit to Coc Dong village.
  • Trek to Xin Man village.
  • Drive to Bac Ha. Visit Can Cau Market.
  • Trek and boat to Lao Cai. Overnight sleeper train to Hanoi.
  • A free day to explore Hanoi.
  • Kenh Ga floating village. Cycle to Tam Coc. Boat ride on the Ngo Dong River.
  • Transfer to Halong Bay. Begin 2 night Junk Cruise.
  • Exploration of UNESCO Halong Bay.
  • Morning cruise. Return to Hanoi, Water puppet theatre show.
  • Departure day. A single timed group transfer to Hanoi International Airport is provided.
Sat 07 Nov - Sat 21 Nov Code HNV /03/15/ Adult$1,620 Status Limited Availability Book now
Sat 19 Dec - Sat 02 Jan Code HNV /05/15/ Adult$1,620 Status Guaranteed Book now
Sat 06 Feb - Sat 20 Feb Code HNV /01/16/ Adult$1,620 Status Guaranteed Book now
Sat 22 Oct - Sat 05 Nov Code HNV /02/16/ Adult$1,620 Status Available Book now
Sat 05 Nov - Sat 19 Nov Code HNV /03/16/ Adult$1,620 Status Guaranteed Book now
Sat 26 Nov - Sat 10 Dec Code HNV /04/16/ Adult$1,620 Status Available Book now
Sat 17 Dec - Sun 31 Dec Code HNV /05/16/ Adult$1,620 Status 2 more to guarantee Book now
Sat 04 Feb - Sat 18 Feb Code HNV /01/17/ Adult$1,620 Status Available Book now
The LAND ONLY dates and prices are for the itinerary joining in Hanoi. For clients making their own flight arrangements, Hanoi Airport is the most convenient for transfers to the group hotel. Please refer to 'Joining Arrangements and Transfers' in the trip dossier for further details.

Flights SHOULD NOT be booked until you have received your booking confirmation and the trip is showing 'Guaranteed to Run' or 'Limited'.

BOOK WITH KE CONFIDENCE - No surcharge guarantee*

* Against Land Only services.

Map & Itinerary

The Route

  • point
  • trip direction
  • trek
  • transfer

Holiday Itinerary

  • Meet at the group hotel in Hanoi. A single timed transfer from Hanoi Airport is provided.

    Meet at the group hotel in Hanoi. A single timed group transfer is provided for the 1hr transfer to our hotel in the heart of the charming capital. This transfer is timed to coincide with the arrival of the preferred Malaysian Airlines flight. KE Land Only package services begin with a welcome dinner in a local restaurant.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals d

  • Drive to Viet Quang and on to Yen Binh.

    After breakfast at the hotel, we leave Hanoi and drive north to Viet Quang and then on to Yen Binh - a highly scenic drive on mountainous roads. We will break the journey with lunch at Doan Hung en route. We should arrive mid-afternoon in time to prepare for our trek the following day. Overnight in a local guest house or homestay in Yen Binh. Drive time: 8 hrs.

    • Accommodation Guesthouse

    • Meals bld

  • Trek to Tan Nam village.

    We meet with our local guide and porter team and begin our trek, initially following a narrow track used by the local villagers. We pass a village of the Pa-Then ethnic group and descend through tea plantation fields to Tan Nam, a village of Tay people. The Tay are the most populous of the hill tribes of northern Vietnam. They are mostly farmers cultivating rice and tobacco, fruit and spices. They are Buddhists and have a strong tradition of local arts including folk music, dance and poetry, which is passed on down the generations through their own script. In Tan Nam we meet our hosts for the night. For tonight’s homestay we are guests at a traditional Tay stilt house.

    • Accommodation Homestay

    • Ascent 500m

    • Distance 17km

    • Meals bld

    • Descent 500m

    • Time 6 hrs trekking

  • Trek to Phieng Lan.

    After breakfast prepared by our cooks in the homestay kitchen, we cross the river on a footbridge and enter the jungle. The path is quite easy with some undulations and gradual ascents. We pass through villages of the Man Ao Dzai tribe. The women here dye their teeth black and wear long robes even when working in the fields. We take lunch in a traditional stilt house of the Tay people, before continuing our jungle trek. At the end of the afternoon, we arrive on a hill covered with palm trees with views over a charming valley lined with terraces of rice, and dotted with the scattered houses of the Man Ao Dzai. This is well away from the tourist trail and our homestay tonight will be a real meeting of cultures.

    • Accommodation Homestay

    • Ascent 300m

    • Distance 11km

    • Meals bld

    • Descent 200m

    • Time 4 - 5 hrs trekking

  • Trek to Quang Nguyen.

    Today’s walk is relatively gentle as our trail contours around the hillsides, allowing us to enjoy the views of hills in the distance. In the afternoon a sharp climb brings us to Quang Nguyen, a small remote market town beside a river and 700m above sea level. Tonight we stay again in a traditional Tay house.

    • Accommodation Homestay

    • Ascent 400m

    • Distance 10km

    • Meals bld

    • Descent 400m

    • Time 4 - 5 hrs trekking

  • Trek over Xin Man (2000m) summit to Coc Dong village.

    We begin by ascending above Quang Nguyen to reach Nam Li from where we have a stiff ascent through primary rain forest to reach the summit of Xin Man (2000m). Here we are entering the territory of the Hmong people, one of Vietnam's largest minority ethnic groups. Tonight we will stay in Coc Dong, a village of the Nung people. Spititually and socially similar to the Tay people the Nung are also renown farmers and also famous for their handicrafts, particularly bamboo weaving and paper making. The traditional dress of the Nung women is black and indigo with bright red head-dresses.

    • Accommodation Homestay

    • Ascent 1200m

    • Distance 20km

    • Meals bld

    • Descent 300m

    • Time 7 - 8 hrs trekking

  • Trek to Xin Man village.

    Our trek continues on local paths through rice paddies with a backdrop of wooded hills; making this one of the most scenic of our walking days. Today we will mostly encounter H’mong. The famous H’mong ladies dress very colourfully as they work in the fields or go to the market. After stopping for lunch in Coc Re we continue on a fairly level track to Xin Man, a small mountain town where we stay overnight in a local guesthouse.

    • Accommodation Guesthouse

    • Ascent 500m

    • Distance 16km

    • Meals bld

    • Descent 800m

    • Time 6 hrs trekking

  • Drive to Bac Ha. Visit Can Cau Market.

    We drive to Bac Ha, time permitting we stop off on the way at the Can Cau market. Arriving in Bac Ha we will have the afternoon free to explore the market here which is full of people with a variety of traditional dress from several hilltribes that live in the area including the Flower H’mong, so called because of the brightly coloured embroidered flowers on the skirts of the women. Drive time: 2hrs.

    • Accommodation Guesthouse

    • Meals bld

  • Trek and boat to Lao Cai. Overnight sleeper train to Hanoi.

    In the morning we visit Bac La or Lung Phin market before we trek for to reach Coc Ly. From here we travel by boat on the Chay River to Bao Nhai, and then transfer to the train station at Lao Cai, close to the Chinese border. All aboard for the overnight sleeper train journey south to Hanoi, a great experience!

    • Accommodation Sleeper Train

    • Ascent 900m

    • Distance 11km

    • Meals bld

    • Descent 900m

    • Time 5 hrs walking

  • A free day to explore Hanoi.

    We arrive in Hanoi early in the morning, while the city streets are still peaceful. The rest of today is free for everyone to spend exploring this magical city. The hotel is located near to the central Hoan Kiem Lake, and you may want to wander down to watch the early rising residents of the city practising Tai Chi by the lake side. We are also within walking distance of the Old Quarter so we are perfectly positioned to explore this charming city on foot. The Old Quarter, home to more than 1000 traditional houses, dates from 1010, when King Ly Thai To moved his capital from Hoa Lu in northern Ninh Binh Province to Hanoi. The Old Quarter became the trading centre of the metropolis and its 36 streets are named after the merchants’ crafts and trades. For example Hang Gai Street is full of silk shops, Hang Giay overflowing with shoes and Hang Bac with small silversmiths. It is fascinating to walk around the labyrinthine streets, you can lose yourself for hours people watching and sampling some of the delicious street food. Alternatively, taking a cyclo (motorcycle rickshaw) is a great way to get a sense of the city and you may want to head out to visit Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals b

  • Kenh Ga floating village. Cycle to Tam Coc. Boat ride on the Ngo Dong River.

    After breakfast we transfer to Kenh Ga floating village which we explore by boat. Then it's all action as we enjoy a bike ride of 2 – 3 hours to Tam Coc, sometimes referred to as ‘Halong Bay without the water’ since here the giant limestone outcrops rise not from the sea but from rice paddies. There is water here however and the best way to see the area is by boat along the Ngo Dong River. Tam Coc means ‘Three caves’ although there are considerably more than this, and we take another boat for a journey around some of the caves and through the breathtaking scenery.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals bl

  • Transfer to Halong Bay. Begin 2 night Junk Cruise.

    Today we drive to the beautiful Halong Bay, a UNESCO world heritage site. The bay, which is part of the South China Sea, is probably the most iconic site in the whole of Vietnam. We arrive at this famous port around mid-day, and here we board a traditional (and comfortable!) junk, where our crew will be waiting to look after us. We begin our cruise among the 3,000 spectacular limestone islands that rise from the emerald green waters of Halong Bay. We will enjoy a fresh seafood lunch on board while the captain heads out into the bay and there will be time in the afternoon to do some kayaking and swimming at Titov beach. Tonight we take our dinner on board, moored between the islands, and have our first overnight on the junk. Drive time: 4hrs.

    • Accommodation Junk

    • Meals bld

  • Exploration of UNESCO Halong Bay.

    After spending some time relaxing on board, we leave our belongings in our cabin on the junk and take a smaller and faster boat for a tour around the bay. There is so much to see that it is impossible to do everything but our captain will pick some of the highlights. We will also visit some fishing villages in the middle of Lan Ha Bay. Returning to our traditional junk there will be time in the afternoon for swimming and snorkeling, or we can choose to take the kayaks out into the bay for some further exploration. We spend our second evening and night on board rocking gently beneath the stars.

    • Accommodation Junk

    • Meals bld

  • Morning cruise. Return to Hanoi, Water puppet theatre show.

    We have a final morning of cruising on our junk through the remarkable scenery of Halong Bay. We return to the harbour around lunchtime, and drive back to Hanoi. The rest of the day is free and in the evening we will visit the famous water puppet theatre and enjoy a celebratory dinner on our last night in this fantastic city.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals b

  • Departure day. A single timed group transfer to Hanoi International Airport is provided.

    KE Land Only package services end after breakfast. A single timed group transfer to Hanoi International Airport is provided. If you would like to extend your stay in Hanoi additional hotel nights can be arranged, or you may want to consider adding an extension to visit neighbouring Cambodia, and the magnificent temples at Angkor Wat. Contact the KE Office for details.

    • Meals b

Holiday Information

  • A local English speaking guide
  • Single timed Hanoi Airport transfers in each direction
  • Meals as detailed in the Meal Plan
  • Food and accommodation on trek
  • Local guides
  • All land and sea transport involved in the itinerary

  • Travel insurance
  • Tips for trek staff
  • Some meals as detailed in the Meal Plan
  • Miscellaneous expenses - drinks and souvenirs etc
  • Visa

The group will spend 3 nights at a centrally located 3 star hotel in Hanoi and 1 night at a hotel in Tam Coc. During the visit to Halong Bay the group will stay 2 nights in cabins aboard a traditional Vietnamese junk. There are also 3 nights in local guest houses and 4 nights staying in the home of a local villager. Generally accommodation is arranged on a twin sharing basis. If you are travelling alone you will be paired up with another individual client of the same sex. Please note however, it is not possible to guarantee twin share in village houses. Depending on the size of the group group members will share larger communal rooms for sleeping. Facilities at the village houses are very basic. Note that hot water is not usually available, and that toilets are often "long-drop" style. It is hoped that the warmth of the welcome, the charm of staying with local villagers and witnessing traditional life will make up for the lack of modern facilities. Depending on availability it may be possible to arrange a single supplement to cover the 7 hotel and lodge nights for an additional cost. For additional hotel prices and single supplement costs please refer to the dates and prices page of the trip on our website.

View the gallery below for images of the style of accommodation used

In Hanoi and Tam Coc there is a wide range of dining options and it makes sense while staying in these places to leave the choice to you. Therefore meals other than breakfasts and the welcome dinner have not been included while staying in Hanoi and Tam Coc. All other meals are included in the trip price. We estimate the total cost of the non included meals (2 lunches and 3 dinners) to be around $50. Please refer to the itinerary for details of which meals are not included.

This will be a gourmet experience. Start practising your chopstick technique now, as there are no knives and forks for parts of this trip! Vietnamese cuisine is fresh, fragrant and flavoursome. Typically a selection of dishes or varying flavours will be served together and each person takes a little of each dish – so there will usually be something to please everyone (vegetarians included!) at every meal. A typical meal will include Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup), spring rolls, spiced beef and pork dishes, fish in chilli, tomato served with tofu, stir fried vegetables and rice, with fresh fruit for dessert. On board the junk in Halong Bay we will certainly be treated to a variety of fresh and delicious sea food. You can expect to feast on a A to Z of delicious Vietnamese cuisine during the course of your stay!

A single timed transfer from Hanoi Airport to the group hotel is included. This transfer is coordinated with the arrival of the preferred flight on day 1 of the trip itinerary. This transfer will usually depart from Hanoi Airport mid afternoon. At the end of the trip a single timed group transfer will be provided to Hanoi Airport. This transfer will usually be in the early afternoon . Anyone may use these transfers regardless of flights. If you are not on the preferred flight but wish to use the group airport transfer, please let us know by calling the KE office. If you are unable to take advantage of these transfers, you will need to make your own transfer arrangements from/to Hanoi Airport.

Independent Hanoi transfers can be provided at additional cost. Hanoi's Noi Bai Airport is about 35km/22 miles or 1 hour north of Hanoi. A minibus shuttle charges around US$5 per person to downtown Hanoi but may involve a long circular tour of several hotels. Official airport taxis charge a flat rate of approx US$16 to Hanoi. Clients MUST provide the KE office with full details of their flights, and let us know if they require transfers. Hotel contact details and an emergency number will be provided with your booking confirmation.

The group will be accompanied throughout by an experienced, professional, English-speaking local guide. During the trek the group will have a support crew consisting of a cook and local porters to carry all of the group's personal equipment.

Approximately $300-$400 should be allowed for miscellaneous expenses, including the above mentioned non-included meals, tips to local staff (allow $100 for tips and have this amount available in small denominations of the local currency). If you are intending to buy expensive souvenirs, you should budget accordingly (credit cards can be useful in this respect). It is not necessary to obtain local currency (Vietnamese Dong) prior to travelling. Money can be changed most easily at the airport or at banks in Hanoi. The group hotel will be able to make small exchanges only. US dollars are acceptable for exchange in Hanoi. We recommend that you carry your travel money in cash rather than travellers cheques since you will exchange most of it on the day of arrival.

Tips are the accepted way of saying ‘thank you’ to your local guides and porters. They do not form part of their wages. KE always pays local crews the best rates of pay, no matter what country they are in and any tips they receive are seen as a personal thank you from group members. For our part, we advise local teams that tips are not a duty or a prerequisite but are a bonus and entirely dependent on the service that was given. For your trek crews we recommend that you give a tip if you feel that their services have met your satisfaction. As a rough guide we suggest you allow a total of $100 for tipping your crew.

During the trek your baggage will be carried by local porters. Your baggage should not weigh more than 15kg. For some sections of the trip you may be asked to ‘decant’ items not required on the trek which will travel by alternative means to your next hotel. We recommend that you therefore bring a second fold away bag to store these items in.

All KE clients will receive a FREE KE trek bag.  These have been specially made to stand up to the rigours of adventure travel.  Your KE bag will be posted to you when your trip is guaranteed to run or on receipt of your booking if the trip is already guaranteed.  If you have travelled with us before and already have a KE trek bag you can select an alternative free gift in the booking process.

The following checklist should help you with your packing. As a general rule, you should always try to keep the weight of your equipment to a minimum.

You must bring the following items:

  • 3 season sleeping bag
  • Thermarest or similar sleeping mat
  • Hiking boots
  • Daypack 30 litres
  • Gaiters
  • Training shoes /Sneakers or similar
  • Technical walking socks (2 or 3 pairs)
  • Spare laces
  • Trekking trousers / pants
  • Lightweight waterproof overtrousers / rainpants
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Thermal baselayer shirts
  • Casual shirt and/or T-shirts
  • Fleece jacket or warm jumper/sweater*
  • Lightweight waterproof jacket
  • Sunhat
  • Warm hat
  • Thermal gloves
  • Scarf or neck buff
  • Eyewear – Sunglasses
  • Ear Plugs (for use on overnight train journeys)
  • Headtorch with spare bulb and batteries
  • Sun protection (including total bloc for lips, nose etc.)
  • Water bottles 1 Litre x2
  • Selection of dry bags (to keep trek bag contents dry)
  • Washbag and toiletries
  • Antibacterial handwash
  • Small towel
  • Basic First Aid Kit - A basic medical kit will accompany each trek and our local leader will have first-aid training. We recommend that you bring your own personal first aid kit consisting of the following: Antiseptic cream, throat lozenges, diarrhoea treatment (Immodium), painkillers, plasters and blister treatment, Insect repellent (DEET), antihistamine cream and tablets, and re-hydration salts (Dioralite). Glucose tablets and multi-vitamin tablets are a good idea.

  • *Temperatures in north Vietnam can occasionally drop as low as 5C, particularly in the winter months, so you need to make sure you have clothing suitable for these temperatures.

The following items are optional:

  • Swimwear
  • Travel clothes

Trekking poles

  • Insect repellant – (DEET)
  • Camera, media, batteries
  • Penknife (remember to pack sharp objects in hold baggage)
  • Small padlock (to lock trek bag)

For each holiday there is a minimum number of participants required to enable it to go ahead. Once the minimum number is reached, the trip status will change from 'Available' to 'Guaranteed to run'. You can check the trip status for each departure in ‘Dates and Prices’ table. Other than in exceptional circumstances, we will not cancel a trip once it has achieved this guaranteed to run status and so you are free to proceed with your international flight booking and other travel arrangements.

A passport with 6 months remaining validity at the end of your stay is generally required. The information that we provide is for UK passport holders. Please check the relevant embassy or consulate for other nationalities. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the correct travel documents and visas for your holiday. Visa requirements and charges are subject to change without notice. If you are travelling outside the EU you should have at least 2 blank pages in your passport.

Visa Vietnam

UK passport holders do not require a visa for stays of up to 15 days. For stays of 16 days and over a visa is require. The fee is GBP £54 (Single entry) or £85 (Multi-entry) and you need to apply for it prior to departure. Please download the detailed information document: Visa PDF Vietnam.

You should contact your GP or travel clinic to check whether you specific require any vaccinations or other preventive measures. You should be up to date with routine courses and boosters as recommended in the UK e.g. diphtheria-tetanus-polio and measles-mumps-rubella), along with hepatitis A and typhoid. Malarial prophylaxis are required. A certificate of yellow fever vaccination is required if travelling from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission and for travellers having transited for more than 12 hrs through an airport of a country with risk of yellow fever transmission. On holidays to more remote areas you should also have a dentist check up. A good online resource is Travel Health Pro.

The unit of currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong.

We recommend you check if you require an adaptor for your electrical items at:


It makes a lot of sense to spend some time before coming on a trekking trip getting some additional exercise. The fitter you are, after all, the more enjoyable you will find the experience. For this trip you need to be aerobically fit and also comfortable with walking 5 – 6 hours daily and up to 8 hours on one of the days. Regular hiking is the best preparation but a weekly exercise regime can also be used. Jogging, squash and swimming are good for developing better stamina. Before departure, we suggest that you try to fit in a number of long walks in hilly country.

As a reputable tour operator, KE supports the British Foreign & Commonwealth Offices ‘Know before you go’ campaign to enable British citizens to prepare for their journeys overseas, and we recommend that all KE travellers take a look at the FCO Travel Advice for their chosen destination on the official FCO website: www.fco.gov.uk. North Americans can also check out the U.S. Department of State website: www.travel.state.gov for essential travel advice and tips.

KE treat the safety and security of all clients as the most important aspect of any trip we organise. We would not run any trip that we did not consider reasonably safe.  Should the FCO advise against travel for any reason, we will contact everyone booked to travel to discuss the situation.  We receive regular updates direct from the FCO and are in constant touch with our contacts on the ground.  If you have any questions about government travel advice, please call our office.

September to November and March to May are the best times for trekking in North Vietnam. Daytime temperatures at this time are in the range 15-28°C / 59 – 82°F. Night-time temperatures range from 18-10°C / 64 – 50°F in the mountains. The trek is through sub tropical mountain forest and you should be adequately prepared and equipped for sunshine, rain and humidity.

Lonely Planet.: Vietnam. Rough Guide: Vietnam. Vietnam Pocket Guide: Insight Guides Vietnam Handbook: Footprint Handbooks Vietnamese Phrasebook: Rough Guides Hill Tribes Phrasebook: Lonely Planet Vietnam: A History: Stanley Karnow

Vietnam Northern

Publisher: Reise Verlag Scale: 1:600,000

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