Hiking, sea kayaking, & cultural adventures
Hike along limestone mountain pathways, and kayak and swim in a hidden water oasis of lakes, waterfalls and rivers. Experience tribal villages, their unique marketplaces and the warmth and hospitality of the local inhabitants.
5 days moderate hiking; 2 days easy sea kayaking (no previous experience required); Moderate road travel
- Explore hill tribe villages, hike, and kayak in undiscovered Ba Be National Park - far from the crowds!
- 4 days sea kayaking in the far reaches of Halong Bay that tourists don't see
- Fantastic mix of culture, activity, interactions with locals, and overall immersion in Vietnam
Duration: 12 days Start Location: Hanoi End Location: HanoiDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Hanoi
NOTE-Depending on your air schedule, most flights from the U.S. require two to three days of travel and an overnight en route (you arrive in Hanoi either on the second or third day). More specific details will be sent to you in your pre-trip packet of information. We encourage you to arrive a day early in Hanoi to explore this fascinating city, or to help overcome jet lag before the tour actually starts. We'd be happy to make additional hotel reservations if requested. Additional costs will be reflected on your invoice.
Arrive in Hanoi in the afternoon. You will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel for a rest after your long journey. The remainder of the day is free to rest, relax, or explore on your own. Hanoi, the up-and-coming capital of the new Vietnam, is a picturesque city of more than three million people. Its tree-shaded streets are filled with lovely examples of French colonial architecture. Our hotel is situated on one of the narrow bustling streets of the ancient commercial quarter. As we walk the streets we will be transported back in time. We'll be swept away by the scenes in the marketplaces, family life in the street, commerce, and a mixture of old and new technologies. In the evening we'll enjoy a "welcome" dinner at Seasons restaurant where we will begin our exploration of the culinary delicacies of Vietnam and have our trip orientation.
Day 2 : Hanoi
This morning depart your hotel for Hanoi’s Old Quarter also known as the ‘36 streets.’ Take a walking tour around Hoan Kiem Lake. Stop at Ngoc Son temple. This bustling area of narrow streets and alleys is home to literally thousands of small businesses and shopkeepers. It's a great place to explore with plenty of photo opportunities all around you. Continue to the Temple of Literature. In 1076 Quoc Tu Giam - Vietnam's first university, also referred to as Van Mieu, was established within a temple to educate Vietnam's royalty, mandarins and members of the elite. The university functioned for an incredible 700 years and its gardens and well-preserved architecture offer a fascinating glimpse into Vietnam’s past.
Continue to the nearby mausoleum of the historic figure and father of modern Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh (viewed from outside), and visit the former president’s house on stilts where he lived from 1958 to 1969. His former home illustrates the modesty of this Vietnamese revolutionary. Visit the small but iconic One Pillar pagoda before heading back to your hotel.
Time permitting, or as an alternative to one of the above, visit the highly acclaimed Vietnam Women’s Museum (closed on Mondays). The museum is located near Hoan Kiem Lake and offers wonderful insight into the lives of Vietnamese women. Displays highlight Vietnam’s vast cultural diversity and educate on the significant role Vietnamese women play in Vietnamese society. Learn historic and modern-day traditions centered around births, weddings, motherhood, spirituality and more.
Day 3 : Hanoi - Vu Linh
After breakfast, transfer by road for about 5 hours over mountain passes and past sculpted, terraced rice paddies, to Lavievulinh – a beautiful, simple retreat on the edge of Thac Ba Lake. Arriving around lunch time, you will be welcomed by Dao minority staff, who come from surrounding villages to join the English and French class at the Lavievulinh project.
In the afternoon, take a walk around the village of Dao Quan Trang with Mrs. Nhat – a specialist in medicinal plants. Enjoy the hospitality of the local people along the way, as you weave between the rice fields and stilt-houses.
(Approximately 1.5 hours trekking; 5 hours driving)
Day 4 : Vu Linh Trekking to Cau Buc Waterfalls
Take a drive or moto-taxi, 10 km, to the start of the trek. This loop is one of the last wild areas of the region, where native species of flora and fauna are still preserved. Meet up with Mr. Dien, our local guide who knows the jungle very well. We climb up to the waterfalls and discover the natural treasures along the way.
Enjoy a picnic lunch at the foot of the waterfall. Participate in preparing your own picnic lunch supplies, by making bowls, glasses and chopsticks made from bamboo. Our table will be made of rock with banana leaves for seats. Depending on the season, we may have bamboo shoots, jungle crabs and seasonal fruit that we find along the way. Enjoy the waterfall after lunch before leaving the area to head into the thick of the jungle and discover more about the big trees, medicinal plants, birds, etc.
(Approximately 3-5 hours trekking ; 20 minutes driving)
Day 5 : Vu Linh - Ba Be National Park
In the morning, drive 2.5 – 3 hours to Ba Be National Park, situated in Bac Kan province of northern Vietnam. Ba Be, a relic of natural lower mountain forests that once covered all the mountain ranges north of the Red River Delta, covers an area of some 90 square miles, of which more than half is strictly protected and the remainder is in a forest restoration zone. The park’s densely forested area is a refuge for unique flora and fauna (410 plant species and 300 wildlife species), and surrounds the only natural lake in Vietnam (it is actually three linked lakes). The area is home to Tay, Hmong, Dao, and Nung ethnic groups, who have lived on the shores of the lake and in the surrounding mountains for hundreds of years.
We’ll arrive in the early afternoon and cross the lake by boat to a Tay village where we stay with a local family in a wooden stilt house on the edge of the lake. Here you’ll have the unique opportunity to interact with a family over a series of several days and observe how they live. Our homestay is extremely basic with simple mattresses for sleeping and shared toilets.
(1-2 hours trekking)
Day 6 : Ba Be - Dau Dang Waterfall
After breakfast, we will take a short walk to the boat pier and then enjoy the whole morning on the boat to explore Ba Be Lake and National Park, including Dau Dang Waterfall and Puong Cave. We descend into a scenic valley, home of the Tay minority people and encircled by rock formations. The scenery is extraordinary, with rural farmland and rugged mountains jutting out of the tangled jungle growth. Lunch will be provided in a simple local restaurant. Our homestay is extremely basic with simple mattresses for sleeping and shared toilets.
(6-8 hours trekking)
Day 7 : Ba Be - Hanoi
We stroll along the riverfront, visit some lovely villages and hike the upper reaches of the lake, in an area marked by massive limestone cliffs and mountains. Then take a boat trip to Buoc Lom. Car transfer back to Hanoi
(1-2 hours trekking. 7 hours transfer)
Day 8 : Hanoi - Halong Bay
Drive to Halong Bay by van, stopping several times to stretch our legs. Time permitting, we’ll visit Bat Trang pottery village en route. In Bat Trang, village life centers on ceramics. We’ll also visit a ceramic factory and the home of a famous artist, and pass by stands of old women selling betel nut. As we head north we catch a glimpse of rural Vietnamese life, people working in the rice paddies, water buffaloes, children returning from school, and ancient temples. After three hours we come to Halong Bay, where the silhouettes of endless limestone formations beckon us to begin the second part of our adventure.
Here we’ll board our support vessel, a traditional wooden boat or “junk.” Present day junks are based on the ancient style of Chinese sail boats. Originally working vessels built for oceanic commerce, dominating maritime trade from Singapore to Korea for hundreds of years, today they are more commonly retrofitted or designed specifically for use as luxury yachts for both personal use and tourism. We head out into the sentinels of Halong Bay, arriving in the late afternoon at the Ba Men temple. Overnight on board near Ba Men Temple.
Days 9 - 10 : Halong Bay
After a kayak lesson, you'll venture out into one of the most scenic areas of Halong Bay. We visit spectacular beaches sheltered by imposing limestone towers, and on the first day encounter fishing families in a "floating village." These are true boat people, spending their lives in the narrow confines of their small vessels. They still practice an ancient cult of worshipping creatures of the sea, and we may be invited to share in their ceremonies at the temple. We also visit the three tunnel lakes, a series of limestone lagoons accessible only by small boats when the tide is right.
Day 11 : Halong Bay - Hanoi
After breakfast aboard the boat we bid farewell to our Vietnamese support crew then return to Hanoi. The afternoon is free to relax, shop, or explore on your own. Farewell banquet in the evening at one of Hanoi's finest restaurants.
Day 12 : Depart for home
Transfer to airport for departure on homeward-bound flight. (NOTE—some air schedules permit arrival home on this day.)
DATES: Best time to go: March - April, October - November Departures: Private departures are available on the dates of your choice, pending availability. Call us for details.
$3,295 per person (4 or more passengers)
Rates quoted are per person, based on sharing double accommodations (except "solo traveler" cost).
If you prefer single accommodations, you must pay the Single Supplement Fee.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
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