Cao Bang Ban Gioc Waterfall Moc Chau plateau

Vietnam off the beaten path with 15 remarkable days

Tour Code
Tour Style
Adventure, Culinary, Culture, Private, Wildlife


location_on Hanoi – Ba Be Lake – Cao Bang – Meo Vac – Dong Van Plateau – Ha Giang – Hoang Su Phi – Bac Ha – Sapa – Lai Chau – Dien Bien – Son La – Mai Chau – Hanoi.

Vietnam Off the Beaten Path: – explore the best the country’s north has to offer during these 16-day adventures through rainforests, valleys, hills, and plateaus. Additionally, the highlights of North Vietnam are topped with amazing local food and warm hospitality from the locals. Explore Vietnam off the beaten path tour or you can enter your dream trip in the next column, our travel experts will get back to you within 24 hours!

Trip highlights

  • Admire the sweeping views above the clouds from Ma Pi Leng – one of the most breathtaking mountains in Vietnam.
  • Visit Ba Be Lake, which in fact comprises three lakes rimmed by limestone peaks.
  • Explore Vietnam’s dazzling ethnic diversity by stopping by local rural markets held by ethnic minority people.
  • Take in unique cuisine and genuine hospitality at local guesthouses, and hotels. Tuberous snails, bamboo shoots, San Tuyet tea, buffalo meat, and warm corn are a must for every visitor.

Use this itinerary to inspire your bespoke journey

Xin chào Việt Nam! Hello Vietnam!

A warm greeting awaits you at Noi Bai International Airport; your private guide and driver will meet you in the arrivals lounge and transfer you to your hotel in Hanoi. While every effort is made to have your room available upon arrival, check-in time is at 2:00 pm; your room may or may not be ready before this time.

Hanoi is a window into a world from long ago that has been dragged into the present. Motorbikes whizz around, ladies haggle over the price of bread being sold from a bicycle, and business deals are struck over a cup of green tea whilst sitting on little plastic stools by the side of the road. Prepare to be amazed by this frantic, yet incredibly charming slice of real Asia.

Overnight in Hanoi.

Meals: none.

Hanoi in the night

Today we start an amazing journey to explore most of North Vietnam. After breakfast, our guide and driver meet you at the hotel, and we start to leave Hanoi for Ba Be Lake.

En route, you will stop at the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology in Thai Nguyen. The Museum was established in 1960 in an area of 39,000 m2, of which 3,000 m2 is used for exhibitions. It contains more than 10,000 documents and artifacts that belong to the cultural heritage of 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam. The museum also presents an extensive collection of agricultural, handicraft, and hunting tools. Typical ritual clothes with bright colors and decorative motifs of different ethnic minorities are also on display. The unusual costumes of the Tay and Nung ethnic groups used for worshiping their sorcerers are embroidered with lines and designs that supposedly perceive magical sounds.

Have lunch at a local restaurant.

In the afternoon, you will arrive at Ba Be and take a boat trip down the Nang River to discover Ba Be Lake, Vietnam’s largest natural lake and the centerpiece of an extensive national park. Limestone makes up the park and the area around it, so there are a lot of lakes, waterfalls, caves, and strange rock formations. The whole area is richly forested and is home to many ethnic minority communities.

After the two-hour boat trip and the visits to Dau Dang Waterfall and Puong Cave, you will get back to the homestay for dinner.

Overnight at a local homestay in Ba Be.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, home-hosted dinner.

After enjoying breakfast with your local host, you continue the trip to Cao Bang. The roads are quite bumpy, but the views are enough to make up for this. The group passes Cho Ra Town, visiting the local market here. From here, you will be transferred to the center of the National Park.

Have lunch at a local restaurant on the way.

After lunch, you will have an excursion to Pac Bo Cave, driving through a scenic landscape of green rice paddies and water wheels. Pac Bo Cave is revered in Vietnam as the place where Ho Chi Minh stayed briefly upon his return from China in 1941. It was here that the Vietnamese Independence League, or Viet Minh, was established.

Overnight in Cao Bang.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

Cao Bang Pac Bo Cave

After breakfast, you will take an early start today as you’ll pay a visit to Ban Gioc Waterfall. The falls, fed by the Quay Son River that marks the border with China, are an impressive sight and are in a highly scenic location. At 30 meters high and 300 meters across, Ban Gioc is the widest – but not the highest – waterfall in the country. From here, you’ll have a short walk to the nearby Nguom Ngao Cave. This immense cave holds a series of majestic, jaw-dropping caverns filled with delicate, intricate formations of stalactites and stalagmites.

After having lunch at a local restaurant, you continue the trip to Meo Vac. You’ll have a long drive today to Cao Bang, but it will be broken up with numerous photo stops and more dramatic scenery.

Overnight in Meo Vac.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

Ha Giang ethnic minority village

Breakfast at your hotel, and then you will leave Meo Vac and drive over the massive Ma Pi Leng Pass. Ma Pi Leng Pass is the most impressive mountain pass in Vietnam, at an altitude of 1,500 meters. It is located between Dong Van and Meo Vac, two cities in the far north of Vietnam in Ha Giang province, close to the border with China. It is the most amazing mountain road in all of Vietnam. Take a break on the pass to admire the panorama over the huge abyss, which is bottomed by the Nho Que River.

After that, you will embark on a moderate hike to the rocky mountains on backroads, which leads you to some hill tribe villages, that are situated in between the grey rocks.

After having lunch at a local restaurant, continue to drive until you reach the Lung Cu Flag Tower – the North Pole of Viet Nam. It is situated at 1,700m above sea level, at the summit of Rong Mountain, Lung Cu Commune, Dong Van District. It’s about 20km from Dong Van Town, which is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ha Giang.

Drive back to Dong Van town for an overnight stay and relax.

Overnight in Dong Van.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

Ha Giang Nho Que river

After breakfast, you will check out of your hotel in Dong Van. In Dong Van you will visit the former residence of the Vuong family, still called the “Palace of Hmong King”.

Along the way, you will get to visit the local market if it is the day of the week it is open. Alternatively, you can admire the scenery of the Landscape and the cornfields. You will also visit a small remote village where you can mingle with the Hoa people.

Then, you will depart Dong Van for Quan Ba Valley – an area of stunning natural beauty with green hills and abundant limestone caves. Travel through Quan Ba Pass – known as Heaven’s Gate with its panoramic views of the terraced rice fields below.

Following lunch at a local restaurant in Quan Ba, you will visit Lung Tam, where you will learn about Hmong handicrafts. The craftswomen will demonstrate the techniques of hemp weaving and other traditional handicrafts.

After this educational segment, you will continue your scenic drive toward Ha Giang city. Arrive and check in to your mini-hotel. Time to relax.

Overnight in Ha Giang.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

After breakfast, you will take a scenic drive to Hoang Su Phi – a rural district of Ha Giang province in the northeastern region of Vietnam. This region is blessed with rugged mountains and lush valleys, but is best known for its beautiful rice terraces, classified as “National Heritage”.

On the way, you will have the chance to visit some local villages and markets.

Arrive and check in to Ecolodge Pan Hou Village, hidden at the heart of the High Song Chay mountains, surrounded by the most striking scenery in Vietnam.

After having lunch, you will set off for a hiking tour to the hill tribe villages. At the beginning of the walk, you pass through a village of Yao with long tunics whose houses have settled on pillars on the mountainside. You will hike through the rice fields in terraces and bamboo forests.

Dinner will be served at the lodge.

Overnight at Pan Hou Ecolodge.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

Ha Giang Hoang Su Phi rice terrace

After breakfast, we depart early for a 4-hour drive to Bac Ha town. If you arrive in Bac Ha on Sunday, you will have a chance to visit the Bac Ha Market – the biggest fair in the Northwest of Vietnam. Nestled deep in the mountains, Bac Ha town is a quiet backwater Monday to Saturday, but by Sunday, crowds of locals from thousands of surrounding villages descend on the town for the colorful Sunday market. Here you will have a chance to meet some of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic minority groups.

(If not on Sundays, you will have a chance to visit some other alternative markets; they are not as big as Bac Ha but very unique for discovering locals and traditions here.)

After having lunch here, then we continue to travel to Sapa Town for an overnight stay. Dinner is on your own.

Overnight in Sapa.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch.

Bac Ha market Hmong people

After breakfast, a breathtaking experience awaits at the top of Mt. Fansipan, the highest peak in Vietnam. It used to take travelers two days of hard trekking to reach the summit. Now, you can reach the “Roof of Indochina” in just 15 minutes. Start your adventure by heading to Hoang Lien Station next to the Mgallery De La Coupon to get your tickets for the Muong Hoa Mountain Train. Sit back for the five-minute ride over the valley, taking in spectacular vistas of farms and hamlets below. This funicular railway is the longest of its kind in Vietnam and crosses two tunnels and four viaducts.

When the train stops, you’ll be greeted by a field of sunflowers at the Sun World Fansipan Legend Yard. The Sun World cable cars hold a Guinness World Record, and the ride to the summit is a highlight of many travelers’ time in Sapa. The cable cars run from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm every day, and each one can hold up to 35 passengers. Once you leave the station, you’ll immediately start to float high above the rice terraces and rocky cliffs below. Huge windows let you take in the sights all around, as you ascend gradually to this towering tip above the clouds.

Upon arrival, you will take a 20-minute cable car ride through the clouds up to Mt Fansipan. Enjoy the view from the highest point of this incredible mountain. The lush green and subtropical vegetation make this mountain beautiful.

Leaving Fansipan Mountain, you will get back to Sapa town for lunch. Lunch is in a local restaurant, spend the afternoon to relax.

Overnight in Sapa.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch.

Sapa Valleys

After breakfast, at around 8:30 am, our guide & driver meet you at the hotel and take you to visit Matra village. Located just about 5 km southeast of Sapa town, Ma Tra valley attracts visitors for its stunning scenery, highlighted by impressive terraced rice fields. The Hmong people have changed from a sifting lifestyle into a sedentary one since the early 20th century to ensure their permanent earnings by farming wet rice. And luckily, until now, the valley has not been so much influenced by bad images of tourism as some other valleys near Sapa such as Cat Cat, Ta Phin, or Muong Hoa.

Our driver transfers you 5 km out of Sapa town, then you start walking from here downhill and across the stream to the other bank, where Suoi Ho village beautifully sits on the top of a low hill. Spend half an hour visiting several local homes for an understanding of local life before you continue walking along a large path on the hillsides which is paved with a rock to get through Ma Tra village. This portion of the walk offers beautiful scenery of the valley and terraced paddies, as well as a flower farm.

Paying visiting a ruined French Catholic church at the end of the walk, then picked up and transfer by road 12 km back to Sapa. Having lunch at the local restaurant, then we depart Sapa for a three-hour drive to Lai Chau.

The road is a little bit bumpy at times, but the rough route is quickly compensated for by magnificent mountains covered with deep valleys, thick rainforests, and lush plantations. The drive to Lai Chau takes you up to Tram Ton (Heaven Gate Pass), the highest pass in Vietnam. From here you can enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the enormous and picturesque Muong Hoa valley and Fansipan Mount.

Continue to visit the nearby Silver Waterfall and then proceed to the gate of Hoang Lien national park, where you will take a short hike into the jungle to visit the Love Waterfall. The area is covered by lush green forests and has beautiful water falling from the rocky cove. Enjoy a great time by listening to the sound of the waterfall, and dipping your feet into the cool water that makes you feel very relaxed. Leave the waterfall by walking back to the vehicle and then transferring to Sapa town.

Arrive in Lai Chau in the late afternoon, check-in at the hotel, and relax.

Overnight in Lai Chau.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Dien Bien Black Dzao minority

After breakfast and sometimes exploring on your own, we continue to drive to Dien Bien. The journey takes around 5 hours. For this stretch of your journey, the roads will be fairly rough and uneven. However, the stunning view is worth it. Also, there is plenty of opportunities to see the colorful hill tribes of Northern Vietnam such as Flower HmongBlack Thai, and Black Dzao.

Having lunch at a local restaurant on the way, we reach Dien Bien in the afternoon. Dien Bien Phu is a little town that sits in the heart-shaped Muong Thanh Valley, surrounded by heavily forested hills. Dien Bien Phu plays a starring role in Vietnam’s modern history. It was in the surrounding countryside here, on May 7, 1954, that the French colonial forces were defeated by the Viet Minh in a decisive battle, and the days of their Indochina empire became numbered.

After that, with your guide, you will discover the former French battlefields, including the A1 Hill, General De Castries’s Bunker, War MuseumMuong Thanh Airbase, and the War Memorial.

Overnight in Dien Bien.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

Enjoy breakfast at your hotel, and then continue your journey through the wonderfully picturesque Pha Din Pass before arriving in Son La. Having lunch on the way. After departing Dien Bien you will head off for Son La with lunch in Tuan Giao town. The scenery along the way here is stunning, with approach roads scything through thick forests and steep terrain.

Son La is a mid-sized town, one of Vietnam’s most ethnically diverse, and home to more than 30 different minorities, including Black Thai, Meo, Muong, and White Thai.

After lunch, your private guide will take you to the old French Prison of Son La and the Museum, where Vietnamese political prisoners were held during the French Colony (same idea as the Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the Hanoi Hilton).

Check in at your hotel and relax. Dinner is on your own.

Overnight in Son La.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch.

After breakfast, you will depart from Son La for a 4-hour drive to Mai Chau. You will pass through the Moc Chau Plateau where you can see acres of green meadows for grazing cows, tea farms, and lush orchards. Visit Dai Yem Waterfall – a very attractive place near the town of Moc Chau, located about 10 km from Moc Chau and easily accessible for almost all travelers.

Have lunch at a local restaurant in Moc Chau.

Arrive in Mai Chau, and check in for your stay. And then you go to Xa Linh village, where we start our trek. You walk along gravel tracks and small paths, used by the locals.

In the late afternoon, go back to your stay for dinner. Enjoy a traditional dance show performed by the White Thai and try some rice wine made in the village.

Overnight in Mai Chau.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

Mai Chau paddy fields drone view

After breakfast, your guide will take you on a walking tour (or cycling if you wish) of Pom Coong and Lac villages. With stilt houses and lush, green rice paddy fields, Ban Lac and Pom Coong are quaint and serene ethnic Thai villages with many lovely and hospitable inhabitants. During the walk, you will be introduced to a local family. Have conversations about their life, festivals, and the culture of the natives.

Continue your day by visiting Mo Luong caves and Chieu caves. Two natural cavern systems with thousand-year-old stalactites and stalagmites are mother nature’s magnificent works of art. Filled with mineral structures of all shapes, sizes, and colors, these caves give you a feeling similar to that you get when wandering into an ancient world of primitive creations. Such a unique experience cannot be ignored by those adventurous at heart.

You can also pay a visit to the Thai ethnographic museum. More than 1000 items on display are closely tied to the Thai people’s everyday lives. You will get to see hunting tools, ritual costumes, bowls, dishes, antique coins, musical instruments, hundreds of year-old books, and so on. These authentic pieces of history represent the development of Thai culture over centuries.

After having lunch, our guide & driver will take you back to Hanoi. The journey takes around 3.5 hours. Time to relax and dinner is on your own.

Overnight in Hanoi.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch.

Ha Noi in the night

After breakfast and a leisurely morning on your own, you will check out by midday as this mark the end of your 15-day trip to Vietnam Off the Beaten Path. Your private driver will pick you up and take you back to Noi Bai International airport for your departure flight home.

Meals: Breakfast.

Useful Information

This sample itinerary was created by our travel experts as inspiration for your next trip. Ready for your customization. You pick to suit your budget, desires, and cultural experiences. The price of this trip will vary, depending on the number of people in your party, dates of departure, and the availability of ground services. Please click on Inquire Now (above) and give us the necessary information to enable us to send you a FREE personalized quote within 24 hours if not sooner!

Our Service Include:

  • Accommodation in a shared twin or shared double room
  • Meals as mentioned
  • English or French speaking guide (for other languages and a national guide supplements apply)
  • Tours and transfers as mentioned by private air-conditioned vehicle
  • Entrance fees for mentioned visits
  • Boat trip as mentioned in the itinerary
  • Drinking water while touring
  • Tax & service charge

Our Service exclude:

  • Vietnam Visa
  • Other non-mentioned meals
  • Other non-mentioned services
  • International Flights to/from Hanoi
  • Laundry, telephone calls, and personal expenditures
  • Tips, Travel insurance

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