Trek Vietnam & Laos - 15 Days
From Hanoi take a unique trekking adventure in North Vietnam and Laos. Discover UNESCO listed Halong Bay, gravity defying rice terraces and mist shrouded mountains. Meet the hill tribes and embark on a unique three day journey down Laos’ Nam Ou river on foot and by long boat, before ending in Luang Prabang, the Jewel of Indochina.
Arrive into Hanoi and make your way to the hotel. A single group airport transfer is offered (please refer to the Trip Notes for details). Our hotel is in the quaint Old Quarter of Hanoi. This evening we enjoy a Welcome Dinner with all the group at a local restaurant so you can sample some delicious north Vietnamese cuisine.
Overnight: Hanoi | Dinner
Hanoi - Halong Bay. Early risers can take a pre-breakfast walk down to the Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Returned Sword) - which comes alove at dawn when locals flood down here for their early morning jog or for a spot of tai chi. After breakfast at the hotel we depart the city and drive through the beautiful farmlands of the Red River Delta. It is here we begin to see our first glimpses of local Vietnamese village life - think conical hats and water buffalo ploughing the fields.
Once we reach Halong Bay we climb aboard our traditional junk boat and take a cruise amongst the thousands of stunning limestone islands. Lunch will consist of delicious seafood as our captain steers around the bay. This evening we watch a beautiful sunset and stay on board for the evening in comfortable en suite cabins.
Overnight: Halong Bay | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Halong Bay - Hanoi. After breakfast on board we continue our cruise through spectacular rock formations that tower out of the bay. There is also a chance to take a small boat through the arch of Luon cave. We disembark back at the Halong port and drive back to Hanoi. Back in Hanoi we can take a short city tour that visits the Temple of Literature which is dedicated to Confuscius and his disciples, and a walking tour of the Old Quarter.
The Old Quarter has around 35 streets and is a throw back to pre-20th century Hanoi. Prior to the modern age each street was known for a particular trade and the street names still reflect this. Although only a few of these streets now carry on this tradition, the architecture still conjures up this former era and the streets are still alive with industry. This evening we head out to watch a traditional water puppets show.
Overnight: Hanoi | Breakfast, Lunch
Hanoi - Nghia Lo. After breakfast at the hotel we head back through the Red River Delta and onto the mountains of the Yen Bai province. This area is home to a number of indigenous tribes including Thai, Nung, H'mong, La Ha and the Ma people. We drive to the town of Nghia Lo in Muong Lo which is the second largest rice field in the Northwest of Vietnam. The Thai people first came here to grow rice over 700 years ago. This part of the world is beautiful, dotted with traditional houses made from bamboo and iron. Once we have arrived we stretch our legs with a walking tour around the nearby villages where we can learn all about the Thai ethnic culture and their day to say lives.
Overnight: Nghia Lo | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Mu Cang Chai
Nghia Lo - Mu Cang Chai. This morning we drive through the mountains of Hoang Lien Son on a scenic road winding up and through the rice terraces. We depart our vehicle and start our trek through the villages of Na Hang 1, Na Hang 2 and Trong Suam - home to the Hmong people. The landscape up here is spectacular as you are surrounded by rice terraces, wooden stilted houses and misty mountains. Still being very much a traditional part of rural Vietnam, most of the local people here will be dressed in their traditional tribal dress. We take a 4 hour walk through the countryside before being reunited with our vehicle and continuing on to Mu Cang Chai - another beautiful town with impressive rice terraces. Tonight we spend the night at a traditional homestay.
Overnight: Mu Cang Chai | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
La Pan Chai
Mu Cang Chai - Sapa. Today's walk is a bit easier as we trek through the magnificent landscape to La Pan Tan - the capital of the Vietnam rice terraces. Our hike connects the h'Mong villages of Mi Hang Tau, Trong Tong and La Pan Tan. This afternoon we head to Sapa - certainly the hill tribe capital of Nortnern Vietnam. On the way we cross Tram Ton Pass - Vietnam's highest mountain pass at 2047m, we spend a bit of time here in order to take photos and enjoy the cooler climate. If we are lucky then we should be able to catch a glimpse of Fransipan at 3143m - the 'roof of Indochina'. We are due into Sapa in late afternoon and the remainder of the day is at leisure. We don't include dinner tonight so you are free to explore Sapa and enjoy it's great array of culinary delights.
Overnight: Sapa | Breakfast, Lunch
Sapa - Muong Lay. This morning we head to Lao Chai where we'll enjoy a leisurely 2 hour walk through forests and rice terraces. Having stretched our legs we have our longest driving day as we travel from Sapa to Muong Lay. The beginning of the journey up to Phong Tho (Paso) is said to be one of the most beautiful stretches of mountain road in the whole of the country. On certain days of the week there is a colourful market in the town. We are likely to see a number of minority tribes including the Red and White H'mong, Black Dao and White Thai. We arrive at our hotel in the late afternoon.
Overnight: Muong Lay | Breakfast, Lunch
Dien Bien Phu
Muong Lay - Dien Bien Phu. This morning we drive to historic Dien Bien Phu. We can spend the rest of the day exploring around the historical sights of this remote town, which was the setting for a the 1954 climactic battle between Ho Chi Minh's Viet Minh communist revolutionary forces and the French Union. After a bloody battle and a siege lasting 57 days the French finally surrendered. This was a decisive victory for the Viet Minh and one that would ultimately lead to the independence of North Vietnam. Among the sites we'll visit today are French General De Castrie's bunker, the excellent War Museum and the former French position of Eliane, known to the Vietnamese as A1 Hill, where we can see a monument to the Viet Minh casualties and a recreation of the French defences. Later, we return to our hotel and have the evening free to discover some more local Vietnamese dishes on what will be our last night in Vietnam.
Overnight: Dien Bien Phu | Breakfast, Lunch
Welcome to Laos
Dien Bien Phu - Muong Kha. After breakfast at our hotel, we take a short transfer to Tay Trang on the Vietnam/Laos border. Once across we will be met by our new driver and our local Laos guide. We drive for a further 3 hours to Muong Khua. The drive is very scenic and we pass through many villages, homes to the Red and Black Thai ethnic tribes and we will stop where possible to hop out and experience a bit of village life. Arrival into Muong Khua is in the early afternoon. This pretty and laid back little town is built on a steep hillside at the confluence of two rivers, the famous Nam Ou and the Nam Phak.
Overnight: Muong Khua | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Nam Ou River
Muong Kha - Ban Hui Loor. Today is our longest walking day with an early morning start as we head to the famous Nam Ou River and board our traditional river boat, which will carry us 2hrs downstream to Ban Pak Boud. Nam Ou which literally translates as 'rice bowl river', is one of the most important rivers in Laos and is a tributary of the mighty Mekong. As we cruise down the river we will pass stunning scenery of tall limestone out crops and verdant jungle.
From here we leave our main bags behind, taking with us just what we need for the night. We continue on foot through the beautiful mountain landscape and up to the Hmong village of Ban Huoi Loor. It is a uphill trek but worth the effort for this rare opportunity to spend the night in such an unspoiled and traditional village. Upon arrival we will be welcomed by the local people, many of whom will still be wearing traditional dress. As we settle in we can freshen up with a 'natural shower' in a jungle stream or recover from the hike by relaxing in your own hammock. Tonight we will taste some traditional Laotian cuisine and sleep in simple wooden stilted bungalows.
Overnight: Ban Huoi Loor | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Ban Mok Laep
Ban Hui Loor - Pha Sou. We start the morning with a traditional village style breakfast before setting out on foot to the village of Ban Mok Laep - a village home to the Khmu people. After a little bit of time to look around we continue down towards the river and Ban Pho Sana village to climb back on board our long boats. We have lunch in the village before cruising to our riverside fixed camp at Pha Sou. Tonight we spend a truly unique night camping on the river bank. We have a delicious BBQ dinner in this unforgettable surrounding.
Overnight: Pha Sou | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Pha Sou - Muang Noi. After breakfast at out jungle camp we climb back on board our long boats for a short journey to Muang Noi where our river journey ends. Muang Noi was only recently accessible by 4x4 - however you wouldn't notice as this small community feels very urban in comparison to our last two nights. Our walk to day is a lot more gentle without much ascent or descent and we begin with a short hike to a small limestone cave at Tham Kaang - where local villagers hid during the Indochina War (1960 - 1972). From here we take a path that meanders through the rice fields to Ban Na and Ban Houai Sene - home to the T'ai Deng and Khamu ethnic tribes. We eat lunch at a simple local restaurant before returning to Muong Ngoi in time to watch a beautiful sunset over the Nam Our river for the last time. Tonight we stay in simple guesthouse on the bank of the river.
Overnight: Muang Noi | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Muang Noi. - Luang Prabang. This morning we return to the long boats and the Nam Ou for the final cruise downstream to Nong Khiaw. We meet our vehicle and begin the drive to Luang Prabang. For a break in the journey we stop at the Pak Ou caves - cut from the limestone karst are crammed full of hundreds of statues and images of Buddha. We take lunch nearby at local restaurant on the banks of the Mekong River before continuing on to Luang Prabang.
Situated at the confluence of the Mekong and the Nam Kahn rivers, Luang Prabang known as the Jewel of Indochina. We head straight to our hotel and the remiander of the day is at leisure to explore or relax, you may want to head out to find the night market. With numerous dining options available the venue and budget for dinner tonight is up to you! Where ever you choose to dine you are sure to be surrounded by beautiful colonial inspired architecture.
Overnight: Luang Prabang | Breakfast, Lunch
After breakfast we head out to make the most of our day walking around Luang Prabang. We start our day ere early because at early dawn hundreds of saffron-robed monks depart their monasteries with brass alm bowls to collect alms (gifts) off locals and visitors. We also climb the 365 steps up Phousi Mountain for sunrise - at the top you'll be greeted with amazing panoramic views of the city and at this time the morning mist is hovering above the town. After sunrise we head back down for our guided walking tour.
We begin our tour with a visit to the former Royal Palace which is now a National Museum where we can learn about the history of Laos. There are lots of temples (Wats) that we can visit included the very much revered Wat Xieng Thong. Built in 1560 by King Setthathirat it is decorated with very ornate carvings and mosaics. We will also spend some time at Wat Visoun which was completely destroyed by the invading Black Flags from Southern China - it has thankfully since been rebuilt.
Our afternoon is spent at the famous Kuangsi waterfall with a stop at some local villages along the way. We return to the hotel late in the afternoon for time to freshen up before we head out for our last night of the tour. Our guide will take us to the night market - a complete smorgasbord of traditional food where you can choose whatever takes your fancy. For this reason dinner is not included tonight.
Overnight: Luang Prabang | Breakfast
Our tour comes to an end today and there is a single timed group transfer to the airport this afternoon (please refer to the Trip Notes for details).
Is this holiday for you?
This holiday is a mix of walking, sightseeing and cultural immersion. There will be 6 days of walking in total. The walking day is typically around 5 - 6 hours long, though we do have some shorter days. During our walks we will be hiking mostly on village trails and jungle tracks. Though generally straightforward when dry, the underfoot conditions can be muddy and a bit slippery following a rain shower, which can make things a bit more challenging. The heat and humidity can be a little strong in the middle of day, however the mornings and evenings at these altitudes are generally much cooler.
We will not have access to our main baggage when we stay in the remote H’mong Village of Ban Huoi Loor, so there will be two days where you need to be prepared to carry a slightly heavier pack with you minimal overnight gear (toiletries, sleeping wear, sleeping bag liner etc...). On all other days you will only be required to walk with a light day pack.
The focus of this holiday is getting off the beaten track and into remote areas, and as such we will spend a series of nights in very simple, but traditional, accommodation with only basic facilities (see accommodation section for further information). Though the north of Vietnam is becoming more popular with visitors, the same cannot yet be said for delightful Laos. Tourism is very much still in its infancy here and because of this it is essential that you pack your spirit of adventure and prepare for an element of the unexpected!
Before booking this trip please refer to the Trip Notes for further information about the trek, including the distance covered each day.
Prices & Dates
Prices shown are per person travelling. 'Twin/Double' prices per person apply when there are 2 people travelling, sharing a room.Read More