Sapa - Ninh Binh - Halong Bay Tour 8 Days
If you and a small group of friends or family are into sports and adventures, then this tour is perfect for you. Among many other activities, on this tour you can ride a kayak in Halong Bay, cycle through the rice paddies and mountainside temples, visit ageless pagodas where the ancients used to worship, and explore many monuments in Hanoi, the capital city. You will also visit some villages populated by the many ethnic minorities of Vietnam; this includes the Black Hmong people of the Cat Cat Village, who are known in particular for their brocade weaving skills, as well as their skills in making jewelry from gold and silver. This tour has components where you will walk, hike, bike, kayak, ride a boat, and ride in cars driven by professionals. It is 8 days long, and includes many meals.
For this tour, you will begin your journey in Hanoi, and explore all the attractions that capital city has to offer. On the second day, explore the city some more, watch a traditional Water Puppet performance, and partake in a traditional meal. The third day is spent exploring the Sapa region, where the Cat Cat Village and a beautiful local waterfall are explored by the group. On Day 4, visit the villages inhabited by the ethnic minorities of Vietnam: Lao Chai and Ta Van. Spend the night at the Topas Eco Lodge in Su Pan, then travel, on the fifth day, to the Lech Village, the Thanh Kim River, and back to Sapa. The sixth day is meant for you to explore Hoa Lu, Vietnam's capital from a thousand years ago, and to bike past rice paddies and rural villages. On the seventh day, the Junk Cruise will take you to Halong Bay, where you can explore the islands, the 3 biggest caves, and even kayak to the more hidden areas. Finally, on day 8, you can finish exploring the bay, before a driver will take you back to the Noi Bai Airport.
Day 1: Arrival in Hanoi
Highlight: Witness the historic tourist attractions of Vietnam, including the Old Quarter, the Opera House, and the Ngoc Don Temple. Meals: N/A. Accommodation: A hotel in Hanoi.
Hanoi is the colonial capital and heart of the country. Once you arrive at the Noi Bai Airport, you will be met by a driver outside the baggage claim; they will take you to your hotel, which is located in the central part of the city. That afternoon, you will walk around Hanoi, where you will see many tourist destinations in depth, including the Ngoc Don Temple, the Old Quarter, and the Opera House. After the orientation tour, you're free to spend the rest of the first day amusing yourself in Hanoi.
Day 2: Hanoi City Tour – Night train to Lao Cai
Highlight: Continue exploring Hanoi: see the Quan Thanh Temple, the Temple of Literature, the Presidential Palace, and the Ho Chi Minh Complex. Meals: Breakfast, Dinner. Accommodation: Sleep on the train, in a shared, 4-berth, soft sleeper cabin that has air conditioning.
Now, you can spend the whole day moving around Hanoi and seeing everything the city has to offer. Thanks to your tour guide, you and others will experience many parts of the city, from French-styled buildings and wide streets bordered by trees to pristine lakes and ancient Buddhist temples built in the traditional East Asian style. Thus, you can definitely witness how eclectic the city really is. Among other attractions, you'll see the One Pillar Pagoda, the Presidential Palace, the Temple of Literature, the Quan Thanh Temple, the West Lake, and the Ho Chi Minh Complex, which includes a mausoleum and a house perched on stilts. You will also be given the opportunity to watch a Water Puppet show; this activity comes from Vietnam, and is inspired by the wet rice eaten by many Asian peoples. After the show, you'll partake in an excellent traditional meal at one of the best restaurants in the city. To cap off your amazing day, you'll ride a night train that will take you to Lao Cai.
Day 3: Lao Cai – Sapa
Highlight: Pass through the mountains to visit the traditional Cat Cat village. Here, meet its people, who are known for their lovely artisan skills. Meals: Breakfast. Accommodation: A hotel in Sapa.
Touch down at Laocai’s train station early in the morning. Here, you will be met by your guide/driver; they will drive you the 40 kilometers it takes to get to Sapa. Sapa —which the French refer to as the “Tonkinese Alps” - is a magnificent part of Vietnam that most travellers visit. In this region, breakfast will be eaten in the hotel in town, where you will be surrounded by the clean air of the mountains. At 10 o’clock, embark on a trek with the rest of your tour group. Pas through the market in town, then go downhill into the Cat Cat Village, which is populated by the Black Hmong. The residents of this settlement are known for their skilled crafts: brocade weaving and jewellery making (gold and silver). While you're going downhill, the tour group will be able to see the hills where farmers live and work, and get an understanding of how they work. After the visit to Cat Cat, the group will stop briefly at a waterfall, which is near a hydroelectric station. Following this, return to Sapa, where you can spend the rest of the day doing as you please.
Day 4: Sapa Trekking – Overnight in Topas Eco Lodge
Highlight: Visit those villages populated by the ethnic minorities of Vietnam. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch. Accommodation: Ecolodge in Sapa.
Breakfast will be eaten in the same hotel in Sapa. After the morning meal, a driver will take you south, so that you got the Muong Hoa Valley. Next, you'll disembark and walk downhill by foot, moving through the biggest terrace that contains a rice paddy that can be found in all of Sapa. At the end of the walk, arrive at the village of Lao Chai, which is also populated by the Black Hmong. Next, pass onto the Ta Van village, where the people of the Zay ethnicity live. You can spend time with these traditional, hospitable people before you move onto the next location of your itinerary, which is the Topas Ecolodge in Su Pan. This lodge is remote and isolated; it sits on top of two hills, which have conical shapes and are positioned deep in the Sapa valley.
Day 5: Sapa - Lao Cai
Highlight: Check out one of the many amazing valleys of Vietnam, at the end of which you'll reach the sparkling Thanh Kim River. Meals: Breakfast. Accommodation: Sleep on the train, in a shared, 4-berth, soft sleeper cabin that has air conditioning.
On the fifth day, you'll walk over to the Lech Village, where you walk down the main road and get good views of the town. Next, go downhill. On your way to the Thanh Kim River, visit the most breath-taking part of the whole valley. Next, go across the river, then go uphill to the village, where you can spend time with the locals. After this, take the main road so that you can return to the Eco Lodge, where you will eat lunch before checking out. Return to Sapa, where you can spend free time on your own or with your tour buddies, and then go downhill to get to Lao Cai. Once you're in Lao Cai, you will eat supper at a restaurant in the area. Then, get on the train which will take you back to Hanoi.
Day 6: Hanoi - Ninh Binh
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch. Accommodation: At a hotel in Ninh Binh.
In the early parts of the morning, you will arrive at the hotel in Hanoi. From here, drivers take you to Ninh Binh. 100 km south of Hanoi you can find Hoa Lu, which was the capital of Vietnam when the country was ruled by the Dinh Dynasty from 968 to 1009 AD. Even though it's been more than a millennium since then, some of the sanctuaries and tombs are still around. By bike, you will travel on the county roads to get to Hoa Lu, where you can also find a citadel from the 10th century. Not only is this area very important in terms of its history, but it's also very beautiful: the limestone peaks, in particular, are so spectacular that many say they're more beautiful than those in Halong Bay. As you bike through the area filled with limestone peaks, both rice paddies and rural villages will pass you by. Another way you pass through the peaks is by boat: you will be rowed along the Ngo Dong River to get to the next part of your journey. End the day’s travels in Tam Coc, where lunch is eaten at a restaurant whose windows let you see over the boat pier. After this, go to Bich Dong Pagoda, an old Buddhist temple.
Day 7: Ninh Binh – Halong Bay – Overnight on cruise
Highlight: Spend the day on a Junk Cruise, which will take you to the Halong Bay. Spend the day at the bay, exploring its caves and islands. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner. Accommodation: On cruise.
Breakfast is eaten at the hotel, then you'll be driven on a 4-hour drive that will lead you to a Junk Cruise. Along the way, witness the cool sights of the Red River Delta, Halong Bay, and many others. The cruise lasts a full day, and it's located in Halong Bay. The bay is home to prominent islands made up of limestone, as well as sparkling waters in beautiful green-blue shades. Around noon, you will arrive at the dock; this is when you'll board the junk. Onboard, a gourmet lunch of fresh seafood is waiting for you. After lunch, the cruise will move around, passing the many islands of Halong Bay, like Ga Choi and Dinh Huong. Also, visit the 3 biggest caves in the Bay—Sung Sot, Dau Go and Thien Cung —and use a kayak to pass through the more clandestine parts of the area. Take all the pictures you want, and have fun sunbathing in the sunset that passes over Tonkin Gulf. If the weather allows it, you can also swim. Sleep that night on the junk; the gentle waters will calm you down and help you sleep better.
Day 8: Halong – Hanoi – Departure.
Highlight: Explore Halong Bay some more, then meet the driver who will take you and your friends back to the airport. Meals: Brunch. Accommodation: N/A.
Wake up early today, where you can practice Tai Chi on the top deck with the other members of the tour group. If you prefer, you can just relax yourself and watch the sun come up over the islands of the bay. You can also have some coffee or tea. Next, it's time to ride in a rowboat to explore the islands nearby. After you're done exploring these islands, head back to the junk, where breakfast is eaten. After breakfast, take a look at the rock formations that are on Bai Tu Long Bay while you're on the sundeck. Eat brunch on board, then go back to the pier at Halong. The driver will come get your friend group at the dock, and he’ll bring you back to the Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi so that you can catch your flight back home.
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Included as part of the trip price are the following expenses:
- A guide who speaks English
- Those meals that are mentioned in the schedule
- Places to sleep (average quality: 3 stars)
- All the fees necessary for admission, trips by boat, performances, and the trip itself
- A train ticket to bring you from Lao Cai to Hanoi (on a shared, 4-berth cabin that features air conditioning)
Not included as part of the trip price are the following expenses:
- Tickets for the flight to Vietnam
- Personal expenditures, including drinks
- Travel insurance
- Tips for drivers and tour guides
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