Tribal Trails

 

16days

 

highlights:

Breathtaking scenery along the way

Colourful hill-tribes

Mountain's cool climate

Great trekking amongst ethnic hill-tribes villages

Homestay experience

itinerary disclaimer

The itinerary attached is correct at time of printing. It may differ slightly to the one in reality. Occasionally our itineraries change as we make improvements that stem from past travellers, comments and our own research. Please note that our brochure is usually released by the end of each year. If you have booked from the previous brochure you may find there have been some changes to improve the itinerary. It is very important that you print a final copy of your Trip Dossier to review a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans

DETAIL ITINERARY

Ha Noi - Mai Chau - Son La - Dien Bien - Lai Chau – Sapa - Bac Ha - Ha Giang -       Bac Kan  - Cao Bang - Lang Son

Day 1 Ha Noi - Mai Chau

Morning drive from Hanoi to Mai Chau, a beautiful valley in Hoa Binh province. As soon as you get out of Hanoi , the limestone mountain ranges rush up and give the scenery an imposing view. Arrive in Mai Chau late noon, have lunch in Mai Chau and hike around the villages full of house-on-stilts and textile products of local people to learn about the routine life of Thai tribal people. Among the villages you will pass by during this trip, Mai Chau is the closest place where you can meet the hill tribal people, though, due to the ease to reach the nearest town of Hoa Binh , the village is gradually losing its primitive characters. Still, it is the most convenient 1st stop on the long route of the Northwest Loop . The village is inhabited by Thai people, who are believed to be homogenous with the Thai people in Thailand and Southern China . Amongst the 53 ethnic groups of Vietnam, they are considered one of the most civilized for the delicate dress, for beauty and elegance of women, and for nice, wide, spacious houses-on-stilts, and above all, for hospitality

Overnight: Thai village homestay

Meals included: None

ETHNIC MINORITIES OF VIETNAM

There is nothing better than walking amongst the rice paddy patchwork that makes up the mountains of northwest Vietnam . To awake and wander off from the village among the clouds and watch as the mist rises from the mountaintops is unforgettable. Vietnam is home to 54 ethnic minorities and a number of these have made the mountainous region of the north their base. During our time here we’ll meet many of these fascinating people and have the privilege of staying as guests in their villages. As we wander through the mountains we're constantly met by the delighted squeals and smiles of children and we'll see many members of the ethnic groups who still wear their traditional dress. We'll meet people dressed in exquisite hand-embroidered clothes,and others weaving fabrics, embroidering ancient patterns, dying cloth with indigo and using beeswax to create a batik design. The ethnic groups are well adapted to the harsh life on

hillsides, and you will see many terraces built into the slopes where rice and vegetables are grown.

Day 2 Mai Chau- Son La

Upon leaving Mai Chau the roads begins to deteriorate; however many villages dot the hillsides and undulating terrain make for an interesting journey, you are crossing the most magnificent part of the Hoang Lien Son range, the Tonkinese Alps, the home of most colourful-dressed Montagnards who still maintain lots of their long-term culture and traditions Along the way we stop in Xa Linh for a two hour trek past many timeless hill villages which are home of the Hmong hill tribe people. Travelling to Son La across the Moc Chau Plateau where located hundreds of immense farms of dairy cattle and where produce the best tea of Vietnam we catch a glimpse of the many tea plantations and see the Black Thai hill tribe people. They belong to the same Thai ethnic group, but are different from the White Thai in Mai Chau by their tradition and habits. To see them leaving the very early morning market, you should wake up an depart early too.

We arrive in Son La in  the afternoon, check-in and relax before dinner and overnight in the hotel.

Overnight: Cong Doan hotel or similar  

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 3 Son La- Dien Bien Phu

The provincial museum and the nearby old prison are some of this hill town's major sights. We can pay a visit to an old French prison used during the 1st Indochinese War before we leave for our next destination. The winding roads cross over the Pha Din Pass before heading to Dien Bien. The most picturesque scenery is that of Pha Din Pass , which is well-known as a historical site during the French War in 1954, a high and dangerous pass at an elevation of 1,300m, and a breathtaking view.

After checking into our centrally located hotel we enjoy a walk around to see this fast growing town. Dien Bien is only 35km from the border with Laos . Being the last battlefield of the French during their war with the Vietnamese, which ended with the fall of the French colonial control in Indochina and the replacement of the US Army not so long, Dien Bien Phu now returned to be a green valley inhabited by dozens of the ethnic groups. Visiting the historical sites in Dien Bien will also make your trip more memorable. To name a few, they are Dien Bien Museum, A1 Hill, the shelter of the French general De Castries and the cemetery and memorial of the Vietnamese and French soldiers died during the fierce fight in 1954

Overnight: Muong Thanh hotel or similar  

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 4 Dien Bien- Lai Chau

The journey north continues on to Lai Chau Town . You should know that soon before 2010, the nice valley of Lai Chau will be underwater in a construction plan of the biggest hydropower station in Southeast Asia . Along the way we see very few other travellers, mostly rural dwellers who are just as interested in finding out about our lives as we are of theirs. The communication with the people from tribal groups living surrounding Lai Chau like Black Thai, White Thai, Muong and Dzao people will sweep away your tiredness of the long trip. After checking into hotel, you have the option of embarking on a boat trip along the Da River, passing through the stunning mountain landscapes, the pace is very relaxed, a perfect  way to observe the local lifestyle in close up.

Overnight: Lan Anh hotel or similar  

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 5 Lai Chau – Sin Ho - Phong Tho- SaPa

Today we head South to Sapa via Phong Tho, the old chief town of Lai Chau province before Dien Bien took over this role in 1993. First stop on the way is Sin Ho which is home land of the Red Hmong, Kho Mu, Mang and Dao ethnic minorities. They are settled there longtime ago and still retain their traditional culture and habits. The trip to Sin Ho is occasionally suspended due to the restriction of the local authority. Departing Sin Ho we make our way past the hilly region to Phong Tho. This timeless town is surrounded by stunning mountain backdrops and lush tea plantations. After lunch in Phong Tho we keep driving on another one of Northern Vietnam 's most spectacular roads on the way to Sapa. This bumpy road links to many hill towns and villages. At an elevation of 1,600 meters, Sapa was founded in the early years of the last century as a hill resort for French administrators when the heat on the plain became unbearable. After checking into hotel we can soak up the fresh climate as much as we want by spending our time wandering around this charming town and some legacies of the French period

Overnight: Royal hotel or similar  

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 6 SaPa

In the morning we take a short trek to Catcat village, the village of H'mong tribe in the valley, which remains very generally uncorrupted outside forces. Excellent views of the valley, the magnificent limestone and paddy fields of H'mong village. Enjoy some visits to local families and reach their customs. After the village down into the valley, the Cat Cat waterfall will be visible. A "White curtain" cascade appears, surrounded by flowery valley and deep-green pines. The rocks near the river and waterfall provide a marvelous place for picturesque photos and sunbathing during good weather…

In the afternoon our vehicle will take us to TaPhin valley, around 15kms from Sapa. Here you will see the ruins of the old French Colonial Church by the left-hand side of this dirt road where we stop to get entrance fees to enter the village. Leave your jeep at the end of the dirt road then walk into the village to visit the rich culture and friendly tribes here we visit the villages of the Red Dzao and Black Hmong minority people, enjoy the view of the valley and visit the caves in the village's outskirts. Our guide will assist you communicating with the locals while visiting around the village. Take a ride back to Sapa for around 30 minutes and you must stop some times on the way to take photos of the fabulous valley. Many "Kodak moments" are awaiting for you along the way.

Overnight: Royal hotel or similar  

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 7 SaPa- BacHa

Today we continue our trip to Bac Ha through LaoCai border town, after having lunch and take a brief look at Ha Khau border gate, we drive up a 30km spectacular pass to BacHa. With a dozen of tribes living in the surroundings, including Flower HMong, Chinese, Nhang, Dzao, Nung, Phu la, Thai and King (or Viet), the Sunday market of Bac Ha is extremely exciting especially in the early morning. Not a unique in the Northern mountains of Vietnam but one of the very few places whose infrastructure allow the car to reach, Bac Ha soon became a captivating destination. Anyhow, the difficult road helps maintain the colours (literal and figurative sense) of the area. The Sunday market in Bac Ha is often held? well, on Sunday, and a lot of the market sellers are women from the tribe of Flower HMong, who are famous for their wonderful craft and hand-made flowering clothes and textile fabrics. The market is most exciting just for a half day. By 14.00, you may see people leaving (after eating) back to their villages, you can hike around to follow them to their villages too, or take your car heading to further hamlets in Ban Pho, Trieu Cai, or Na Hoi, or trek there and be picked-up to return to Bac Ha, all the villages are within 2- 4km from the marketplace.

Overnight: Sao Mai hotel or similar  

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 8 Bac Ha - Hoang Su Phi - Ha Giang

Leaving Bac Ha we set off on a full day journey through Sin Man and Hoang Su Phi to Ha Giang Town. Have your camera at the ready, because the road between Bac ha and Xin Man features a unique and beautiful landscape, plus a fantastic market in Can Cau located right in the heart of mountains. After Can Cau, we proceed along the Chinese border to the remote and seldom-visited province of Ha Giang The rough but scenic route traverse a dense jungle before crossing over a pass and dropping down to Sin Man. This day is a real challenge for our driver as we travel by winding roads with many uphill and down hill drives. Along the way we may encounter the Nung, Tay, Red Dzao, Dzao Ao Dzai, La Chi and Co Lao, just some of the many hill tribe groups who have settled there. We pass by Hoang Su Phi with many villages of Black Mong, Nung along the way and 100-km up and down mountain passes with amazing landscape of mountainous rice paddies. Then we continue along the Lo river to Ha Giang. Ha Giang is located at the highest latitude in Vietnam . It is surrounded by Cao Bang, Tuyen Quang, Lao Cai, and Yen Bai. This is a political sensitive area - Ha Giang shares its borders with Vietnam 's arch-enemy China - and your guide will apply for a "permit" for the days to come. Arrive in Ha Giang town is always a great moment - plus, the town has an excellent massage center.

Overnight: Phuong Dong hotel or similar  

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 9 Ha Giang - Sa Phin - Dong Van

Rise and shine for a few hours drive over an endless winding road to the most northern town of Vietnam , Dong Van. You'll travel through many of the Heaven Gates such as Quan Ba, Yen Binh, and Dong Van. They are so called because one gets the feeling of touching the sky, the heaven gates. This is the best time and place to enjoy the wonderful sightseeing of the vast limestone mountain range and perpendicular rock walls which give a feeling of adventure while being lost in a magic land where we are surrounded by many rocks of all shapes and sizes. Then we continue our trip to visit the infamous Vuong Palace , a H'mong high-rank family during French colonial rule. This palace attracts keen interest from architecturally minded visitors due to its mixed style of European and Chinese architecture. The more you go north, the further "normal" Vietnam seems to vanish and most people you'll see wear their traditional, extremely colorful clothes. But you won't be the only one who is amazed, so are Ha Giang's inhabitants who seldom see a foreigner. In Dong Van you'll spend the night in a simple, government run "nha khach" (guesthouse).

Overnight: Dong Van guesthouse or similar  

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 10 Dong Van - Meo Vac - Lung Phin - Bac Me

The trip from Dong Van to Meo Vac is one you'll never forget: along a steep, hundreds of meters deep abyss the road will take you through a spectacular mountain area with on your left side China . Meo Vac is conquered by the Lo Lo and Pu Peo ethnic minority people. They still retain their age old cultural traditions and are recognisably distinct from each other by their dress. The remoteness and the simple lifestyle of local people are a highlight of Meo Vac although conditions are very basic. Main goal of this day is a visit to the market of Lung Phin, a small village where time has stood still for ages. Miles and miles before you'll reach Lung Phin there's an endless stream of people accompanied by goats, cows and dogs - for human consumption - who are heading by foot to the market. After spending a few hours in the amazing village of Lung Phin, you'll keep going to Bac Me via Yen Minh, using a short cut way.

Overnight: Song Gam hotel or similar  

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 11 Bac Me - Bao Lac - Nguyen Binh – Ba Be lakes

An early morning start to drive through the rolling hills and the picturesque scenery to Ba Be National Park. The roads are very bumpy and zigzagging however we will have a chance to meet the Hmong, Dao, Tay and Nung ethnic minorities who make for the main population of this region. We are sure to attract their attention as this part of the country receive very few visitors. Depending on road and traffic conditions we arrive in Ba Be by late afternoon or early evening

Overnight: Ba Be hotel or similar  

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 12 Ba Be lakes

The legendary lake of Ba Be is just one continuous water body although the name means three lakes?. Today we embark on a boat cruising down the Nang River which is the main water source of the lake. This exciting river trip will give us a taste of the tranquil countryside and an enjoyable exploration of the Ba Be National Park. We traverse the Poong Grotto en route before stopping at some nearby hill tribe villages and getting off the beaten track to the scenic Dau Dang Waterfalls. In one of the desolated villages near the water you'll spend the night in a traditional Tay house.

Overnight: Tay village homestay  

Meals included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 13 Ba Be - Cao Bang

The following destination of our trip is Cao Bang Town . After breakfast we set off on our half day journey past the spectacular mountainous landscapes, with a mixture of steep terraced rice field and hill villages. Along the way, we can make stops at our pleasure, to stretch our legs and shoot some wonderful photographs. The remainder of the day will be free to explore the town or simply to relax.

Overnight: Huong Thom hotel or similar  

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 14 Cao Bang- Ban Gioc Waterfalls

An eighty kilometers long road will take you to the Ban Gioc Waterfalls. Half way you'll visit a village of the Nung minority. Close to the Chinese border you'll make a short walk to the falls which are 300 meters wide and 50 meters high. In winter, the dry season, it's possible to take a boat to the falls. On a short distance from the falls are the Nguom Ngao caves. The local guides will take you for a trip to underground rivers and lakes and sinter caves. Late in the afternoon you'll return to Cao Bang.

Overnight: Huong Thom hotel or similar  

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 15 Cao Bang  - Lang Son

Heading out of town , we make our way north to the historical cave of Pac Po where Ho Chi Minh set up the headquarter for the August Vietnamese Revolution in 1945. After seeing this vestige site we continue our journey past the many hill villages and the tranquil town of Dong Khe and That Khe. The journey north continues along the National Highway 4 and follows the Ky Cung river which flows around the foot of limestone mountains to Lang Son. If time permits we will visit Mau Mount. It's about 30 kilometres from Lang Son city to Mau Mount on the winding narrow mountain path, like a snake, lies tucked between 2 steep mountains. Mau Mount is 1542 m above sea level. This area's picturesque scenery turns it a mini Sapa characterized with the beautiful steep mountains. In the late afternoon we arrive in Lang Son. Just don’t forget to visit KyLua busy night market.

Overnight: Huy Hung hotel or similar  

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 16 Lang son- Hanoi

Langson is the capital of this mountainous area and is an important crossing and trading route with China . As a trading post, Langson has some markets worth visiting. You’ll find everything from electronics and gadgets to textiles and house wares. Its definitely buyer be aware, as there’s lots of knock-offs of the original. If the markets aren’t your thing then just a couple of kilometers from town are two large, beautiful caves and the ruins of the Mac Dynasty Citadel worth a visit. Tamthanh Cave contains a pond and offers great views of the surrounding farmlands. Nhithanh Cave , formed by the river that flows through it, has poems carved into the entrance by the man who discovered the cave in the 18th century. After your morning of exploration its time for lunch and prepare for the trip back to Hanoi . The road from Langson is a modern highway that quickly carries down from the mountains, back onto the Red River Delta and into Hanoi . Back to the hotel for dinner and a toast to the completion of one of Vietnam 's most spectacular loops.

Meals included: Breakfast

Your adventure ends upon arrival in Hanoi . If you do not have other arrangements in Vietnam , Cheap Vietnam Holidays can book additional nights for you at the starting point hotel

 

Before you travel it is essential that you read carefully this dossier which you can download from our website.

We regularly update our dossiers. Please check our website to ensure that you have the most up to date copy

The itinerary and supplementary information has been compiled with care and provided in good faith. However it may be subject to change, and DOES NOT form part of a contract between the client and Cheap Vietnam Holidays