Hanoi - Pu Luong - Ta Xua - Hanoi

 590km

 2 nights in homestays

 any skill level

 Pu Luong Nature Reserve; the rural district of Mai Chau; the Moc Chau Plateau; Ta Xua Nature Reserve; the Dinosaur's Backbone; the Pu Luong, Hua Tat and Lung Po mountain passes


Day 1: Hanoi - Pu Luong

 165km

 homestay

 Pu Luong Nature Reserve; the Pu Luong Pass

Travelling southwest from Hanoi, you'll pass through acres of rice fields overshadowed by the great limestone cliffs that jut out of them. By afternoon, you'll be deep in the countryside, riding the Pu Luong Pass and taking in the panoramic view it offers of the surrounding countryside. Pu Luong Nature Reserve itself has seen very little development: it's serene, and has loads of dirt roads and minority villages and traditional homestays.

 

Day 2: Pu Luong - Ta Xua

 200km

 homestay

 the rural district of Mai Chau; the Moc Chau Plateau; the Hua Tat Pass; crossing the Da River by ferry

You'll continue your adventure north into the rural district of Mai Chau. Set in a valley filled with the rice fields and the stilt houses of Vietnam's Thai minorities, it has a number offroading opportunities and plenty of places to pause for refreshments. After leaving the valley you'll head up into the mountains over the Hua Tat Pass and the Moc Chau Plateau, an area famed for its plums, flowers and green tea (there's even a mountain you'll see there covered in nothing but tea trees!) Then it's down towards the Da River, which you'll cross on a little ferry before beginning a second, steeper climb, passing through the mountain town of Bac Yen and arriving in Ta Xua before dark.

crossing the river on a raft
Thang standing in Pu Luong Nature Reserve

Day 3: Ta Xua - Hanoi

 225km

 Ta Xua Nature Reserve; the Dinosaur's Backbone; the Lung Po Pass

You'll ride the narrow mountain pass through Ta Xua Nature Reserve to the even narrower Dinosaur's Backbone, a little path set atop a mountain that leads to one of the highest peaks in the area where, on a good day, you can watch the clouds pass by from above. (In wet conditions, though, you'll likely walk the 'Backbone: it's short enough, but it's definitely not for the faint of heart!) This is the culmination of the motorbike tour: the view from up there is a great example of the type of massive vista for which North Vietnam is known. Then it's northeast over the Lung Lo Pass, skirting Xuan Son National Park on the way back to Hanoi.