Hanoi - Sa Pa - Thac Ba Lake - Hanoi
435km (+350km by train)
2 nights in homestays and 1 night on a sleeper train
any skill level
Sa Pa; the Muong Hoa Valley; Thac Bac Waterfall; Ta Phin village; Thac Ba Lake; the minority area of Vu Linh
(Overnight) Hanoi - Lao Cai
The night train saves time, allowing you to spend more time doing what you came here to do!
Day 1: Lao Cai - Sa Pa
Sa Pa; the Muong Hoa Valley; Thac Bac Waterfall; Ta Phin village
You'll disembark the night train at Lao Cai, a city 35km from Sa Pa that lies on the banks of the Red River right on the Chinese border. Sa Pa itself is a sort of old market town where minority folks from the surrounding area come to trade. During the colonial era it became favoured by the French as a sort of Summer retreat because of its landscape and cooler climate, and over time has developed into a tourist town. In the morning you'll explore the Muong Hoa Valley and Thac Bac Waterfall, before heading back into Sa Pa Town to check out the Old Quarter, with its stone church and traditional marketplace. That evening you'll ride a dirt road to the nearby minority village of Ta Phin where you'll spend the night.
Thac Ba Lake; the minority area of Vu Linh
You'll leave the Sa Pa countryside and head into Luc Yen, a mountainous district that's covered in unmapped dirt roads that wind through the villages of the minority folk who made them, before skirting Thac Ba Lake on the way to Vu Linh, a Dzao minority area nestled on its eastern bank. Created by damming the Chay River at three points to power Vietnam's first power station, Thac Ba Lake is the largest man-made lake in Vietnam. Time and weather permitting, you'll have the opportunity to take a boat trip across it and onto one of the many little islands dotted around.
flat rice fields and limestone cliffs
Leaving the far north you'll see the terrain change from hills to flat plains pierced by limestone cliffs on the way to Phu Tho, a farming province just west of Hanoi. From there on the roads are pretty good, and you should arrive back in Hanoi before rush hour.