Hanoi - Nghia Lo - Mu Cang Chai - Than Uyen - Sa Pa - Ha Giang - Dong Van - Bao Lac - Ba Be Lake - Hanoi
4 nights in homestays and 4 nights in hotels
any skill level
Sa Pa; Ba Be Lake; the stepped rice fields of Mu Cang Chai; the mountain region of Ha Giang; the Dong Van karst plateau; the mountain town of Dong Van; the palace of the H'mong King; the Khau Pha, O Quy Ho, Hoang Su Phi, Ma Pi Leng and Ba Be mountain passes; offroading around Dong Van and Bao Lac
Day 1: Hanoi - Nghia Lo
the mountains of Yen Bai
You'll begin your adventure by heading northwest from Hanoi into the mountains of Yen Bai Province. After crossing the Red River and skirting Xuan Son National Park you'll arrive at the little town of Nghia Lo.
Day 2: Nghia Lo - Mu Cang Chai
the Khau Pha Pass; offroading around Mu Cang Chai
You'll continue your journey through the mountains of Yen Bai Province, over the Khau Pha Pass and into the district of Mu Cang Chai. It's not too long a ride, but it's good to have a bit of time to explore the place. Covered in stepped rice fields and minority villages linked by little dirt roads, it boasts plenty of offroading opportunities and a few other activities as well: you'll have the opportunity to try out working on the farm of some of our Mong friends or, weather permitting, even go parasailing!
Day 3: Mu Cang Chai - Than Uyen
the stepped rice fields of Mu Cang Chai; the minority area of Tu Le
Next comes a shorter day's riding, this time heading west across miles of winding mountain passes. There are plenty more dirt roads, connecting villages belonging to the H'mong, Dzo and Thai people, and you'll pass through the untouched minority area of Tu Le, too, famous for its two charming little lakes where people of both genders like to bathe naked in the afternoons! You'll spend the night of your adventure in the district of Than Uyen, which is situated next to a massive lake just south of Sa Pa.
Day 4: Than Uyen - Sa Pa
Sa Pa; the Muong Hoa Valley; the minority village of Ta Phin; the O Quy Ho Pass
Sa Pa is capital of Sa Pa District in Lao Cai Province, and serves as the main trading hub for the area's minority tribes. It's grown into quite a popular tourist town over the years, and for good reason. On the way there from Than Uyen you'll ride the O Quy Ho Pass which looks out onto the Hoang Lien Son mountain range and, towards the end, has a grouping of eateries with viewing platforms that jut out over the mountainsides. After exploring the town's Old Quarter—it's got a traditional market and a cool old stone church you can visit—you'll ride a little dirt road to the nearby minority village of Ta Phin where you'll spend the night in a homestay.
Day 5: Sa Pa - Ha Giang
the mountain province Ha Giang; the Hoang Lien Son mountain range; the Hoang Su Phi Pass
It's a long ride from Sa Pa to Ha Giang, past the Hoang Lien Son mountain range and over the Hoang Su Phi Pass, deep into the even larger mountain range that forms Vietnam's natural border with China. Ha Giang Province is populated almost entirely by minority folk, whom you'll see tending their crops and looking after their buffalo on the mountainsides as you ride. The roads there are winding and the elevation is extreme so it's no wonder Ha Giang Province, which only recently became open to foreigners, has quickly become one of Vietnam's most famous riding spots.
Day 6: Ha Giang - Dong Van
the Dong Van karst plateau; the mountain town of Dong Van; the palace of the H'mong King; the Ma Pi Leng Pass
The road from Ha Giang runs east along the Chinese border. It has some challenging sections, but the views up there are unparalleled. You'll ride through the country of, among others, the Tay, Dzao and H'Mong, taking in one of the country's most famous roads, the 20km long Ma Pi Leng mountain pass. Before arriving in the town of Dong Van you'll have the opportunity to visit Dinh Vua Meo, the old palace of the H'mong king who once ruled the area and famously allied himself with Ho Chi Minh. Dong Van itself, like Sa Pa, is a sort of historic market town with an old quarter containing some French colonial buildings that are more than 200 years old, and the karst plateau on which it lies is surrounded by odd looking limestone mountains that look like something you'd see in a science fiction movie.
Day 7: Dong Van - Bao Lac
the Nho Que River; the Bang River; the Ma Pi Leng Pass; offroading around Bao Lac
After Dong Van you'll continue through the mountains, skirting the Chinese border and traversing once more the Ma Pi Leng Pass. The pass was originally built by the minority tribes who live in the area, is 20km long and was named after the peak that towers above it, the Mandarin term for which translates as, 'the bridge of a horse's nose'. Then it's on through the town of Meo Vac to Bao Lac, a sparsely populated area with plenty of mountain trails and dirt roads.
Day 8: Bao Lac - Ba Be Lake
Ba Be Lake; Ba Be National Park
Ba Be Lake is the largest lake in Vietnam. It's home to some impressive caves and lagoons which, time and weather permitting, you'll have the opportunity to explore by boat and the national park in which lies is one of the country's most biodiverse. The park also has quite a few minority homestays and plenty of great places to eat.
Day 9: Ba Be Lake - Hanoi
the Ba Be Pass
You'll leave Ba Be National Park by the Ba Be Pass, before continuing south to Hanoi. It's a long ride back, but the roads along the way are far more modern than the one's you'll have been riding over the past few days!