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Northen Vietnam Itinerary: Best places to go

Posted By : Threeland Travel / Vietnam Travel Guide

Are you planning a vacation to Northern Vietnam and curious about what to expect? Look no further! Threeland Travel' comprehensive travel guide will explore the gorgeous region of Northern Vietnam, emphasizing common and off-the-beaten-path spots worth seeing, as well as more appropriate itineraries for you. Let us begin!

What should I look for in Northern Vietnam?

North Vietnam presents an unforgettable experience for interested tourists, from the bustling cities of Hanoi to the breathtaking grandeur of Halong Bay and the magnificent rice terraces with various ethnic minorities and traditions of the mountainous highlands. So, what are the destinations in Northern Vietnam? Let us see:

Typical Places

►Hanoi: Vietnam's bustling capital, is a dynamic mix of ancient traditions and new innovations. Explore the picturesque Old Quarter, explore historical sights such as the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, and eat great street cuisine.

►Halong Bay: known for its famous limestone karsts towering over green seas, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take a ride across the bay, discover secret caverns, and see the breathtaking sunsets over the karst terrain.

►Sapa: nestled in the Hoang Lien Son Mountains, is known for its magnificent terraced rice fields and colorful ethnic hill tribes. Go on gorgeous walks, explore local towns, and learn about the region's rich cultural legacy.

►Ninh Binh: Known as "Halong Bay on land," Ninh Binh captivates visitors with its breathtaking karst formations, rice farms, and riverine scenery. Take a boat trip through the Trang An Grottoes, cycle through the beautiful landscape, and see old temples.

►Ha Giang: For those seeking adventure, Ha Giang has harsh scenery, winding mountain routes, and colorful ethnic settlements. Explore the famed Ma Pi Leng Pass, go through the Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark, and enjoy stunning panoramic views.

►Mai Chau: Located in a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains, Mai Chau provides a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Trek picturesque paths, learn about the local White Thai culture, and stay in traditional stilt homes.

Undiscovered Places

Aside from the usual locations, there are other off-the-beaten-path destinations worth discovering in Northern Vietnam:

►Cao Bang: located near the Chinese border, is a hidden treasure noted for its breathtaking surroundings, especially the magnificent Ban Gioc Waterfall. Explore the UNESCO Global Geopark, explore ethnic minority communities, and go hiking in the stunning natural surroundings.

►Pu Luong Nature Reserve: located in both the Northern and North Central regions, is a hidden gem with terraced rice fields, verdant woods, and ethnic Thai settlements. Immerse yourself in the quiet, enjoy hiking, and stay in environmentally friendly lodgings.

Highly recommended itinerary.

If you only have 7 or 10 days, I highly recommend touring Vietnam in a single location to avoid the crowds. As a result, at least 7 days are recommended for exploring and admiring all of the senses of Northern Vietnam, with 10 to 14 days being ideal for thoroughly experiencing the region's magnificence. Here's a proposed schedule for covering all the highlights in Northern Vietnam:

→Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi

Greeting by the tour guide of Threeland and transferred to your hotel. At your leisure for the rest of the day. Dinner was followed by a show of Water Puppetry, a unique stage art of Northern Vietnamese peasants.

→Day 2: Preapre to visit Ba Be Lake

Morning visit the Ethnology Museum, a wonderful stop that gives us more knowledge of the hill tribal people we are going to see in the upcoming days. Depart for Babe Lake, a mountain area nearly 300 km north of Hanoi. Overnight in a house-on-stilts in Pac Ngoi village of "Tay" people

→Day 3: Boat trip at Ba Be Lake, then heading to Cao Bang province

National Park is famous for its pure atmosphere and nature. Take a boat in the morning to cruise on the emerald waters of Ba Be Lake, with stops to visit the Fairy Pond, Puong Cave, or go swimming near Widow Islet. The Nang River hereby has two-color waterflows and is surrounded by wonderful greenery, paddy fields, and magnificent mountain peaks. After lunch in Ba Be, take our car through the lowland of the Northeast Mountains to Bao Lac, a small mountain town, for overnight. 

→Day 4: Visiting the highest passes of Northern Vietnam (Ma Pi Leng) and "capital" of H'mong people

Wake up early if you wish to contemplate a specific character of a minority ethnic group in Vietnam—their weekly markets. Bao Lac, Meo Vac, Dong Van, and Yen Minh offer wonderful Sunday markets, with hundreds of people from H'mong, Yao, Thai, and Tay tribes coming for purchase goods, or even just to exchange. After intermingle with the H'mong and Yao people at Bao Lac Sunday market, we'll head East and get over emerald rivers to reach the newest geology park, as recognized by UNESSCO.

This area, for many years, was considered the capital of the H'mong people with their former king, Mr. Vuong Chi Sinh. Getting through Meo Vac, the utmost pole of Northeast Vietnam, we continue riding on one of the highest passes in Northern Vietnam, Ma Pi Leng, where we can enjoy beautiful mountain ranges and the Nho Que river that makes a tiny line at the chasm bottom. Heading to Dong Van, whose central market is in a nearly one-century old building with old Vietnamese architecture. After lunch in Dong Van, walk around to see Dong Van's small ancient streets or have some coffee before going on to Yen Minh, with stops to visit the house of Vuong Chi Sinh, a typical design of the White H'mong people's housing.

→Day 5: Visiting the Heaven's gate

Yen Minh, the centerpoint of this rocky highland, is a tranquil mountain town with very hard work and nice ethnic people. The road from Yen Minh to Hagiang passes by many graceful villages and almost untouched areas, where we can take some stops to visit the villages or scenery. About 90 km from Yen Minh, we will reach the breathtaking view of the "Fairy Bosom Mountains" in Quan Ba. Dozens of steps here will lead us to the "Heaven's Gate" above Quan Ba Pass. A big wooden gate used to be here as the only gateway from the plain land to the Northwest Mountains of Vietnam in the early 20th century. Have lunch in Ha Giang city before heading to Bac Ha, the white highland, with stops for pictures at palm and bamboo forests or greentea farms. Overnight in Bac Ha. 

→Day 6: Explore ethnic market fair

With a dozen tribes living in the surroundings, including Flower H'Mong, Chinese, Nhang, Dzao, Nung, Phu La, Thai, and King (or Viet), the markets near Bac Ha, including Bac Ha market itself (Sunday) and Coc Ly market (Tuesday), are extremely exciting in the morning. We can meet hundreds of beautiful women from the Flower H'Mong tribe, who are famous for their original crafts and hand-made flowering clothes and textile fabrics, or intermingle with people from these ethnic groups coming to the market not for purchasing stuff but for meeting and chatting, just once a week, like at a cultural center. After lunchtime, we can hike around for several hours, following mountain people back home to their hamlets in Ban Pho, or immediately head to Sapa, the hub of the most hectic activities in the Northwest. At your leisure, stroll around the town of Sapa after many days of driving.

→Day 7: Sapa trekking

At your leisure in the morning to have a rest after long days. Around noontime, our tourguide will come to take us to a light climb up the Sapa Flower Garden and reach the Dragon Peak, from where we can have a panoramic view of the town with pinewoods and gardens looming in the mist. Head to Taphin Valley to reach the villages of the H'mong and Red Dzao people, who are skilled in dying and making clothes and embroidery with traditional, old silk thread. Back to Sapa for the night. 

→Day 8: Free day to explore Hanoi

Free at leisure in the morning, check-out hotel,, and transfer back to Hanoi. Upon arrival in Hanoi, check-in at the hotel. Free at leisure the rest of day after a long route. 

→Day 9: Set out to cruise Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

From Hanoi, pick up at your hotel and head east for more than 3 hours by shuttle bus to Halong Bay, the pride of the Gulf of Tonkin, a Natural World Heritage as designated by UNESCO in 1994 and 2006. The road will pass by the Red River delta with green paddyfields and rural villages, where hard-working farmers are busy with their farming jobs, such as plowing buffaloes or planting seedlings. Upon arrival in Halong, we’ll take a big boat to cruise the Bay to discover the magnificent beauty of this “Descending-dragon” bay, created by thousands odd-shaped limestone rocks and karst grottoes. After a lunch of fresh seafood on board, we can visit the Surprising Grotto, stop for swimming or kayaking (at your own cost), pass floating villages, and approach islets to enjoy their beauty in close proximity. 

→Day 10: Explore Halong Bay.

After breakfast, visit by boat to Luon Cave, a ring-shaped pool inside an island in Halong with absolutely tranquil landscape and emerald water. Back to the Wharf of Halong passing the most densely area with many islands that have been named like the Cock-Fighting Rock, Sail Island, Incense burner rock or Sea Dog Rock

→Day 11: Hanoi Departure

After 10 days of exploring Northern Vietnam, return to Hanoi and plan your next adventure.

Please keep in mind that the information provided above is only a recommendation and can be used as a guide to discovering Northern Vietnam's attractions. If you want to take a complete tour of the region, Threeland Travel— Vietnam Travel Agency also offers a 17-day vacation package called Vietnam - Unique Experience. Furthermore, with Threeland Travel, you may work with our travel specialists to design your tour so that it meets your unique needs.

Vietnam – Unique Experience

Helpful Travel Information

Here are some important travel advice and information to help make your vacation to Northern Vietnam even more enjoyable:

Best Month to Visit Northern Vietnam

The finest seasons to visit Northern Vietnam are spring (March-April) and autumn (September-November). The weather is good, with temperate temperatures and little rain. Meanwhile, these months provide a wonderful view of rice fields in many areas.

The best month for rice fields in Northern Vietnam.

If you want to see the gorgeous rice fields in their full beauty, arrange your trip around hilly destinations.

•Ninh Binh: May.
•Mai Chau: End of May until June.
•Mu Cang Chai: September through October.
•Sapa: late August to early September.
•Hoang Su Phi: September and October.
•Bac Son: End of July and End of November.

With this thorough travel guide, you now have all of the information you need to organize an amazing trip across Northern Vietnam. From the busy streets of Hanoi to the tranquil rice fields of Sapa, Northern Vietnam provides a diverse and intriguing experience that will leave you with lasting memories. So pack your bags, immerse yourself in the grandeur of this region, and prepare for an adventure unlike any other!