The remote mountains of northeast Vietnam encapsulate every element of a superb bike ride; challenging climbs and fantastic descents are rewarded with breathtaking views and an extremely warm welcome from the hospitable locals. We start our journey passing through verdant rice paddies and lake-flanked national parks before pedalling through the spectacular karst limestone scenery of Ha Giang. A recent addition to the UNESCO list, this mountainous province is recognised for its high peaks and deep canyons which make for an entirely unique landscape.This area is also one of the last few places where traditional hilltribe life reigns strong; nearly 90% of the population are ethnic minorities, traditional subsistence farming is the mainstay of most and the colourful attire of many of the inhabitants signals the cultural diversity of the area. This insight into remote Vietnam is for many the absolute highlight but time spent in fascinating Hanoi and a cruise around the islands of Halong Bay is definitely the perfect reward after 10 days of challenging cycling.
Begin your adventure in Hanoi, a city where an unstoppable energy thrives alongside traditional Vietnamese culture and a colonial charm permeates the broad tree-lined boulevards, most noticeably from the faded French architecture. The leader will of course be on hand to point the group in all the right directions, so whether youre buying baguettes and inexpensive coffee from the grand doorways of a past era, drifting alongside Hoan Kiem Lake or roaming the animated streets, Hanoi offers a delicious first taste of Vietnamese culture. Even crossing one of many manic roads serves as a memorable experience! In the evening, we offer a welcome briefing and an optional group dinner at a local restaurant.
Well transfer a very short distance to the outskirts of Hanoi and get set up on our bikes before heading out on our warm-up ride of Tay Ho/West Lake. Now very much the most fashionable of addresses in Hanoi, our ride provides a glimpse into modern and traditional Vietnamese life as fishermen patiently wait for a catch and luxury rooftop restaurants compete for space. There are numerous temples scattered around the shore and youre likely to pass couples in swan boats, wedding parties in full swing and many coffee shops serving world-renowned Vietnamese coffee certainly good for sweeping away any jetlagged cobwebs!
Today begins with a 1 hour transfer into the countryside to avoid the Hanoi traffic. We start cycling in Ba Hang and are soon in the countryside passing through quiet roads flanked by rice fields. We pause for lunch at Nui Coc Lake; containing 89 islands mostly inhabited by flocks of storks or mountain goats. The lake is also famous for a local legend involving star-crossed lovers that makes it a popular place for Hanoi day-trippers keen to escape the city. We continue our day passing through Thai Nguyen tea plantations, famed for green tea production since the appearance of French scientists in 1882 and finally end in the town of Thai Nguyen, a small bustling town. Our hotel is centrally located and we will have dinner tonight at a restaurant nearby with the opportunity to try a local hotpot.
We take a brief 10 minute transfer out of the town this morning and start our cycle through quiet country roads passing by small agricultural holdings; expect to share the road with the odd motorbike transporting cattle, furniture and often a whole family.Today is mostly undulating and after 40kms we have two one hour bus transfers, separated by our lunch spot. Expect two very steep climbs this afternoon; 4kms and then another 2kms. The last 20kms is on a more even road that takes us into the dense rainforest of Ba Be National Park. The plunging valleys of the park are speckled with waterfalls and caves and we cycle directly to the riverside homestay where we will receive a warm welcome. There are three generations living and working here and they are keen for you to experience the peace and serenity of their home.Elevation gain: 600m
We cycle directly from the homestay this morning. Leaving the lake we immediately climb uphill on an unsurfaced track to reach the road again. We leave Ba Be N.P and cycle through many small village holdings for approx. 45km. We jump on the bus for a couple of hours (50km) pausing for lunch at Tinh Tuc village, if were lucky seeking out some delicious sticky rice in banana leaves to power us through the afternoons riding. Back on our bikes we cycle the remaining 30km to our hotel in Bao Lac on the edge of the Nho Que River. The Black Lolo ethnic group are the main group residing here recognisable by their heavily adorned black clothing and died black teeth. Optional group dinner will be at a local restaurant where we will hopefully try the delicious fried lotus root with pork.Elevation gain: 1600m
The first 20km are undulating until we reach the deep turquoise Gam River where locals cruise slowly along on bamboo rafts. We continue to climb and pass three new dams signalling the region's use of hydropower it now generates more than a third of the countrys electricity. We pass through many Hmong villages where households harvest plants used in traditional Chinese medicine. Today is a tough days riding; near the end of the day we work our way up an 18km climb but have the roads almost entirely to ourselves and views of the valley serve as a good distraction beforetaking the Ma Pi Leng Pass where every hairpin bend presents a new photo opportunity and the view from Heavens Gate at the top is truly breathtaking.This high mountain pass was originally carved into the mountain edge by daring locals hanging off the cliffs to create a trade route between villages. Perfect for cycling we can admire the deep canyons with rivers winding through the valleys.Elevation gain: 1800m
Today we start from the hotel and ride along the magnificent Ha Giang Geo Park for 25km of cycling above the clouds amongst the towering limestone cliffs. We will stop at Vuong House, home to the much revered 19th century Hmong king. Theres enough time to visit the house which has photos of him with his family, before we continue our ride.Another 20km descent takes us to the town of Yen Minh, where we will have lunch at a local restaurant before short transfer by bus for 15km to a hill top before launching our bikes again to cycle to the Nam Dam village where will we stay in a homestay overnight at Dzao village. We will visit the house of Mrs Mai en-route to learn about the huge role she has had in working with victims of human trafficking, an issue that pervades many of the poorer provinces in Vietnam. Well have a chance to visit her textile workshop that supports many women in the area during our visit also.Elevation gain: 1500m
We start this morning with a short trek through the village of Nam Dam to Chuc Son for a home breakfast. From here we will unload our bikes and cycle our way up into the mountains again and will arrive at the wide tree-lined boulevards of Ha Giang town in time for a well-earned dinner in the provincial capital.Elevation gain: 1000m
We jump on the bus for a short transfer to start the day (1 hour) before starting a challenging ascent through forest-flanked roads. The first 10kms are very steep but then the climb for the next 20kms is a little easier going. Our reward from the top is views of the multitude of tiers of rice paddies. Said to be the most spectacular in all of Vietnam, these magnificent layers of terraces stretch as far as the eye can see and are classified as a National Heritage by the Vietnamese Government.The main ethnic groups here are the Tay, Nung, Hmong and Dao, most of who work these steep rice terraces, some which sit above the clouds clinging to the edge of the mountains. A 20km descent takes us to our hotel door in Houng Su Phi town.Elevation gain: 1500m
Today sees us leaving the national park as we have a 30km undulating start to the day. Well pass through dense pine forest with the smell of these trees staying with us all morning.There are many small road side waterfalls which make for a refreshing face wash for those in need. Todays climb of 19kms is one of the toughest of the trip as we continue on a road carved through the mountains. The first 10kms is the most challenging as it is both steep and on a poorly surfaced road. Be prepared for potholes and loose gravel. The next 9kms is not quite as steep. As this section of the road is under constant repair, depending on the previous weather and the work being done there may be the need to jump on the bus for a small section the leader will make this call on the day dependent on the timing and the conditions. We end today on a fantastic descent into Bac Ha town.Elevation gain: 2000m
Departing Bac Ha town is a largely downhill affair as we leave the hills and mountains behind and head into the lower lands for a leisurely cruise to the main highway. Our bus will be waiting for us for the transfer (4-5 hours approximately) back to Hanoi and well stop for lunch at a local restaurant on the way. Once back in Hanoi well have a celebratory group meal and for those keen well pay a visit to the Mojito Lounge to sample the famous Pho and fish sauce cocktail.Elevation gain: 300m
Today is a well-deserved full day of relaxation. Well board the bus to Halong Bay (4 hours) and board our private traditional junk boat upon arrival. Halong Bay is one of the most stunningly beautiful sights in South East Asia with around 3000 limestone peaks rising directly from the clear emerald sea. We cruise amongst this amazing karst scenery and enjoy a seafood lunch on board.
We continue to cruise around Halong Bay this morning before returning to port. We then drive back to Hanoi and there will be time to explore the Old Quarter of the city for those keen. This charming city contains many beautiful old buildings and is a shoppers' delight. The centre of Hanoi has a faded charm with broad tree-lined avenues dating from the French period as well as some attractive lakes and pagodas. In the evening there is the option to enjoy a performance of Hanoi's famous water puppets.
For land only clients, the tour ends this morning in Hanoi after breakfast.
- Quiet roads with little traffic in remote North-east Vietnam
- Cycle through the UNESCO site of Ha Giang
- See and learn about many traditional hilltribes
- Exhilarating descents and tough challenging climbs
- Cruise among the limestone formations of Halong Bay