Cycle the Hilltribes of Vietnam

16 days
from
£2,149
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Challenging
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Trip code: 
MOU
Ways to Travel:
Guided Group, Tailormade Adventures
Activity:
Cycling
Min age:
16
Group size:
5–12

Cycle the remote mountains of Vietnam 

The remote mountains of northeast Vietnam encapsulate every element of a superb bike ride; challenging climbs and fantastic descents are rewarded with breath-taking 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.  

Highlights

  • Traffic-free roads in remote North-east Vietnam
  • Cycle through the UNESCO site of Ha Giang 
  • Meet and learn about many traditional hilltribes
  • Exhilarating descents and tough climbs
  • Cruise among the limestone formations of Halong Bay

Key information

  • 11 nights hotels, 1 night boat and 1 night homestay
  • 10 days cycling (including 1 half day ride) with full vehicle support
  • 80% tarmac, 20% dirt roads
  • Some long ascents and descents
  • Group normally 5 to 12, plus local leaders

What's included

  • All breakfasts, 10 lunches, 2 dinners
  • All accommodation
  • All transport and listed activities
  • Tour leader throughout
  • Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)
  • Arrival & departure transfers
  • Local bike hire

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Single accommodation (available on request - hotel nights only)
  • Visas or vaccinations
Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
+44 (0)20 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

10

Days of Cycling
Pace:

Moderate: 13-16km/8-10miles an hour

Terrain:

80% tarmac, 20% dirt tracks

Day by day breakdown
Day 330.0km/19.0miles
Day 475.0km/47.0miles
Day 570.0km/43.0miles
Day 670.0km/43.0miles
Day 770.0km/43.0miles
Day 870.0km/43.0miles
Day 985.0km/53.0miles
Day 1060.0km/37.0miles
Day 1175.0km/47.0miles
Day 1250.0km/31.0miles

Responsible Travel

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Itinerary

Hanoi
to
Hanoi
  • Day 1

    Depart London

  • Day 2

    Arrive Hanoi

    Begin your adventure in Hanoi, a city where an unstoppable energy thrives alongside traditional Vietnamese culture and a colonial charm permeates the broad tree-lines 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 you’re 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. 

    Comfortable Hotel

  • Day 3

    Hanoi; warm up ride around West Lake on outskirts of the city

    We’ll 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 you’re 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! Cycle approx. 30km.

    Comfortable Hotel 

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 4

    Transfer to Ba Hang; cycle through tea plantations to Thai Nguyen

    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 end our day passing through Thai Nguyen tea plantations, famed for green tea production since the appearance of French scientists in 1882. The leader will brief you on the need to pack an overnight bag tonight – in the morning we will leave our main bags on the bus and these will be returned to us after our night at the homestay tomorrow. The bus simply cannot fit on the small paths to the homestay so you will need to pack some walking shoes to compete the last part of the journey tomorrow evening. Cycle approx. 75km.

    Comfortable Hotel 

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 5

    Ride through rice paddies and karst cliffs; boat into Ba Be National Park; overnight homestay

    We take a brief 30 minute transfer out of the town this morning and cycle to the small market town of Cho Chu. If the market is on expect to see a wide variety of local delicacies for sale; the ‘wet’ market filled with live animals is best avoided by the squeamish! We continue on through quiet country roads passing by small agricultural holdings; expect to share the road with the odd motorbike transporting cattle, furniture and often full families. Today is undulating with a 15km steady uphill signalling our end to the day. We hop in the bus for a 2.5 hour transfer into the dense rainforest of Ba Be National Park. The plunging valleys of the park are speckled with waterfalls and caves and upon arrival we’ll board a boat for 30 minutes and have a 30 minute walk to our overnight accommodation. We will receive a warm welcome at the lakeside homestay as we meet three generations who live and work here and are keen for you to experience the peace and serenity of their home. Cycle approx. 70km. 

    Basic homestay 

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 6

    Undulating day; Tinh Tuc for lunch; end Bao Lac

    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 pausing for lunch at Tinh Tuc village, if we’re lucky seeking out some delicious sticky rice in banana leaves to power us through the afternoon’s riding. Back on our bikes we cycle the remaining 25km 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. Cycle approx. 70km.

    Basic Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 7

    Cycle next to the turquoise Gam River; pass through traditional Hmong villages; end Mao Vac

    Today marks the start of three consecutive days riding with no transferring. The bus will be available if needed but otherwise we will be cycling from door to door. 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 dam’s signalling the regions use of hydropower – it now generates more than a third of the country’s electricity. We pass through many Hmong villages where households harvest plants used in traditional Chinese medicine. Today is a tough day’s 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. We end the day with an exhilarating descent to the spectacular town of Meo Vac enclosed in craggy mountains and on the Chinese border. Cycle approx. 70km.

    Basic Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 8

    Ride the challenging Ma Pi Leng Pass into UNESCO site Ha Giang Geo Park

    A short ride from the hotel takes us to the start of the Ma Pi Leng Pass, where every hairpin bend presents a new photo opportunity and the view from ‘Heaven’s Gate’ at the top is truly breathtakingly. 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. We spend the whole day in the Ha Giang Geo Park often cycling above the clouds amongst the towering limestone cliffs. A 20km descent takes us to our overnight spot in Yen Minh. Cycle approx. 70km.

    Basic Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 9

    Cycle amongst the thousands of limestone pinnacles and the famous 'twin hills' to Ha Giang town

    Continuing through the stunning Dong Van National Park we descend to the bottom of the valley where we will follow the Lo River, its deep turquoise waters surrounded by huge bamboo shoots on each side. Passing through many tiny hamlets we’ll pause at the house of Mrs Mai 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. We’ll have a chance to visit her textile workshop that supports many women in the area. We’ll next stop for lunch at the town in Quan Ba before working our way up into the mountains again - don’t forgot to look left and marvel at the twin mountains that are entirely identical and steeped in legend and mythology in the area. We’ll arrive at the wide tree-lined boulevards of Ha Giang town in time for a well-earned dinner in the provincial capital. Cycle approx. 85km. 

    Basic Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 10

    Challenging ascent followed by exhilarating 20km descent past huge rice terraces to Hoang Su Phi

    We jump on the bus for a short transfer to start the day (1 hour) before starting a challenging ascent through forest-flanked roads. Our reward at the top is views of the multitude tiers of rice paddies. Said to be the most spectacular in all of Vietnam these 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. 

    Basic Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 11

    Rolling hills through dense pine forests to Bac Ha, famous for traditional steam baths

    Today sees us leaving the National Park as we have a 30km undulating start to the day, more down than up though! We’ll pass through dense pine forest with the smell of these trees staying with us all mornings. There are many small waterfalls road-side and make for a refreshing face wash for those in need. We’ll stop for a picnic lunch at a beautiful vista before continuing on roads carved through the mountains. Some sections of the road today are under constant repair so dependent 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 in Bac Ha town famous for herbal steam baths, the perfect way to unwind at the end of the day. Cycle approx. 75km.

    Comfortable Hotel 

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 12

    Easy morning ride; transfer to Hanoi

    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 (4-5hours approx.) back to Hanoi and we’ll stop for lunch at a local restaurant on the way. Once back in Hanoi we’ll have a celebratory group meal and for those keen we’ll pay a visit to the Mojito Lounge to sample the famous Pho and fish sauce cocktail. Cycle approx. 50km.

    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 13

    Drive to Halong Bay; board boat and cruise among spectacular limestone formations.

    Today is a well-deserved full day of relaxation. We’ll 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.

    Overnight on boat

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 14

    Return to Hanoi; free time to explore the Old Quarter.

    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.

    Comfortable Hotel 

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 15

    Fly to London

    Fly to London. 

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 16

    Arrive London

    Arrive London

Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info

Visas

Vietnam

A visa is no longer needed for British, German, French, Spanish and Italian citizens travelling to Vietnam (for all purposes) for a period of up to 15 days, and on the basis of meeting all conditions prescribed by Vietnamese laws. The visa exemption period will end on 30 June 2018. All other nationalities require a visa to enter Vietnam and this must be obtained prior to departure. For further information see http://www.exodus.co.uk/assets/travelink/Vietnam.pdf or the FCO site and check under Vietnam / 'Entry Requirements'.

Vaccinations

Vietnam

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Tetanus, Polio, Typhoid, Hepatitis A and Diphtheria.
The risk of malaria is slight, but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice. Dengue fever is a known risk in places visited. It is a tropical viral disease spread by daytime biting mosquitoes. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available for Dengue, and therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten. We recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts, 10 lunches and 2 dinners are included.

Vietnam is blessed with numerous varieties of culinary offerings and consequently maintains its reputation as one of the healthiest cuisines in the world that still packs a punch with delicious fresh and fiery flavours. Vietnamese food relies on fresh fish, vegetables, rice and a whole myriad of verdant herbs and spices; lemongrass, ginger, basil and lime all play an important role in the cuisine. The Chinese and French influence is felt throughout the country where you are just as likely to be offered a Banh Mi (stuffed baguette) as you are a hot steaming bowl of Pho (noodle soup). Each dish is prepared with the Asian principle of Wu Xing in mind (the five elements) meaning that the perfect combination of spicy, sour, bitter, salty and sweet is the ultimate aim. Be sure to also seek out the national beverages; Vietnamese coffee is served iced and sweet with condensed milk, a real sugar and caffeine hit, and beer hoi (local beer, brewed daily) is served on most street corners in the North out of large plastic jugs that are perfect for sharing.

Food is cheap in Vietnam and you can generally avoid the spicier food if you wish. As this trip is remote you will struggle to find Western food in most locations (although Hanoi will fulfil all of these urges with every type of cuisine on offer). Most breakfasts will be traditional Vietnamese; on occasion this might mean warm rice pancakes cooked with fresh herbs or a noodle soup. There will also be a basic hotel buffet of baguettes, eggs and some cold meats available in some locations. Lunch will either be a packed lunch that the team have prepared or a stop in a local restaurant to sample some of the regional delicacies. 

Vegetarians are well catered for but please inform us before departure of any special dietary requests. Please note that in SE Asia the availability of certain specialised products for restricted diets, e.g. gluten-free or dairy-free, is minimal or non-existent and we strongly recommend you bring these specialized dietary items from home. You may find it beneficial to bring some 'cycling snacks' with you from home if you have high energy bars or gels that you like to use during a ride. For those who wish to contribute a kitty is normally arranged (see extra expenses) - fresh fruit, nuts, biscuits and local snacks are all provided from the snacking kitty along with soft drinks. 

Weather

Ha Giang’s weather is typical for the Northern highland area of Vietnam, which is a tropical monsoon climate, but somewhat temperate climate due to high altitude. The weather here is mild all year round with the year average temperature at approx. 22 degrees. Temperatures will drop in the evening and can be as low as 10degrees when in the mountains. The hottest months of Ha Giang are June and July, while coldest months are from November to February. March/April/May and September/October (Spring and Autumn) have been chosen to operate this trip so that we avoid the wettest and hottest months of June/July and August. Due to the altitude there is often a little drizzle and mist in the mornings but this often clears to present blue skies and clear riding.

Is this trip for you?

This trip is classified Road. 
Activity Level: 5 (Challenging). 
10 days cycling (including 1 half day) average 66km/day (41 miles), 100% vehicle support.

Terrain and Route:

The majority of road surfaces will be decent tarmac (approx. 80%). The remaining 20% will be on road but some sections are likely to be potholed and uneven/broken tarmac. This will at times make the cycling a little harder going but there is plenty of time each day to take it at your own pace. As the area is mountainous there are some long climbs but these are very much rewarded with long descents. The route is almost traffic free. There is very little on the roads here and mostly you will just have to contend with the odd motorbike passing you; these peaceful roads are certainly a highlight of the trip and makes passing through remote villages even more special as you are very much an unexpected sight!

There are some transfers included which are detailed in the itinerary days. These are mostly short and are unavoidable due to the lack of accommodation options available in this remote region. We have tried to keep these to an absolute minimum and there are a few consecutive days with no transfers at all. 

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
+44 (0)20 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Accommodation

Hotels, Guesthouses, Homestay and Boat

Our nights in Hanoi are spent in a comfortable hotel. We stay in a homestay while in Ba Be National Park which will be basic but the rooms are clean and comfortable, with friendly staff. Only a few rooms have an en-suite bathroom so the majority will use a shared bathroom facility. The guesthouses used for the remote sections of the trip will be basic but are the best available in the area. Tourism is very new to the area so please bear this in mind. In Halong Bay on the boat we stay in en-suite twin cabins (with bedding) but many prefer to sleep on deck under the stars. 

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
+44 (0)20 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

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Dates & Prices

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An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.

 

What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.

 

2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
 
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.

 

3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.

 

 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 

 

Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

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