Sapa & Yunnan Explorer
18 days with Intrepid Travel Rating:
Day 1 Hanoi
Xin chao. Welcome to Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you bring these details to provide to your leader. The meeting is generally followed by an optional group meal out at one of Hanoi's fantastic eating spots. If you have time before the meeting, head out and discover Hanoi. It's a good idea to take a hotel business card so you can find your way back.
Day 2 Sapa Homestay
In the morning, take a bus transfer from Hanoi towards Lao Chai in the Sapa region. The drive may take a little while (approx. 5 hours), which makes for the perfect opportunity to get to know your fellow travellers a bit better. Press on along the winding road before taking your first glimpse of Lao Chai village, sitting comfortably in a valley with cleared hillsides and rustic farmland. Stretch your legs as you walk off the bus, then begin a trek to your homestay in Ta Van – comfy, quaint and surrounded by pristine farmland (approximately 10 km; 6 mi).
Day 3 Sapa
After breakfast at your homestay trek to Giang Ta Chai – home to the Red Dzao hill people. Push on through 18 kilometres of terraced farmland and bamboo scrub for excellent views of emerald valleys and rushing waterfalls as you stroll on by. Take a picnic lunch along the way, then depart by bus to Sapa.
Once you arrive in Sapa, enjoy some free time to rest your legs. If you still have some energy perhaps visit the local market. This is where you can indulge in some local goods, such as dyed fabrics, hemp plants and handmade textiles. In the evening, settle into your hotel in Sapa for the night.
Day 4 Ha Giang
In the morning, embark on a long bus journey (approximately 7 hours) to the province of Ha Giang. This is a highland region of forests and terraced rice paddies, with the mountains of Heaven’s Gate (Quan Ba pass) soaring in the background. The Ha Giang province also shares a border with southern China, and is known as Vietnam's final frontier. After relaxing and getting to know your surrounds, visit the local markets and shop fronts, which are relics of a bygone era. Afterwards venture to the the local museum and explore Cuom Village, witnessing the colourful traditional dress of the local people. The evening is then free to do as you please.
Day 5 Dong Van
Today, leave for the first of many scenic mountain drives throughout Ha Giang province. Stop to browse Minh Tao Market before wandering through the village of Nam Luong. A visit to Mrs Mai’s Responsible Tourism project will be a highlight of the day. Learn about the stories of human trafficking and how the victims/witnesses of this crime found the opportunity of a life free from exploitation here. Afterwards pass through Lung Tam textile village and the Vuong Family Palace in Sa Phin commune, before continuing to Dong Van where you'll spend the night.
Day 6 Dong Van
After breakfast visit the local market, before setting off on a trekking loop that starts and finishes in Dong Van. The trek (approximately 4 hours in total) is surprisingly moderate and suitable for those with an average fitness level. Wind your way through the spectacular landscape, where you can expect to witness glorious views and capture some amazing pictures of lush valleys and rice paddies. The evening is then free to relax or explore more of Dong Van.
Day 7 Bao Lac
Drive past terraced rice farms on the road to Bao Lac (approximately 4 hours), a small town in the mountainous region of northern Vietnam. The area is home to the Black Lo Lo ethnic group, who are well known for their colourful attire and finesse in making bronze drums. The bronze drums hold a special place in Lo Lo customs, being used at funerals and important family events. In Lo Lo culture, only the sound of the drums can help the souls of the dead find their way to the birthplace of their ancestors. Stay overnight in Bao Lac and perhaps explore the local marketplace and learn more about this fascinating culture.
Day 8 Ba Be Lake
Travel on to Ba Be Lake early in the morning (approximately 4 hours). Once there, head down the river by boat on an exploration of Ba Be National Park, visiting the largest natural lake in Vietnam. Disembark for some light walks along the way, visiting the impressive waterfalls that feed the lake and observing the natural flora and fauna. Return to land in the afternoon and head to a local home where you will be sleeping tonight. The family you’re staying with will prepare lunch and the rest of the day is then free to explore. In the evening sit down for a delicious dinner with your hosts. This is a great opportunity to gain an insight into their lives and culture.
Day 9 Hanoi
Head back to Hanoi after breakfast, which should take between four and five hours. Use your free time exploring the boulevards and colonial buildings of the city. If you have time, visit the Hanoi Military Museum or take a look inside the city's spectacular Opera House. For your final evening in Hanoi, perhaps share a final dinner with the group at KOTO cafe, a project aimed at providing vocational training to underprivileged young people.
Day 10 Hanoi
Enjoy a free day in Hanoi until 6 pm group meeting. Please note that this is a combination trip so your group leader and group composition may change today.
Day 11 Mengzi
Prepare for a long day of travelling today. After breakfast, set off for Lao Cai, near the border with China, on a private bus. Say goodbye to your Vietnamese leader and meet your Chinese leader at Hekou after border crossing. From there, take a taxi to the bus station and board your bus to Mengzi. Transfer to your hotel and settle in. Spend your free evening kicking back and relaxing – or perhaps head out for a taste of the famous Yunnan rice noodles which originated here.
Day 12 Mengzi
As well as noodles, this town is known for its remnants French architecture - a rarity in today's China. Spot the simple, stately aesthetic of the European style buildings, with their soft yellow facades and tiled roofs which set them apart from the modern structures around them. Visit Bisezhai Station, the finest surviving station on the French-built Vietnam-Kunming railway. The rest of the day is yours to spend as you please. This is a town rarely visited by foreigners. The Nanhu Park area is great for a wander and meeting locals.
Day 13 Yuanyang
Travel by private bus to Yuanyang (approximately 3 hours). If you're a keen photographer, you're in luck, as this is one picturesque destination. This place is famous for its beautiful rice terraces, idyllic rural scenery and unique ethnic minority culture. Some 88% of Yuanyang County belongs to ethnic minorities; the Hani and Yi people created the ornate rice terraces that impress so many visitors. We are staying right inside the Duoyishu Scenic Area. The terraces here are considered a superior spot to photograph the sunrise.
Day 14 Yuanyang
Be sure to wear comfortable shoes today for your hike around the rice terraces with a local guide (approximately 4 hours). You'll be able to take it at a leisurely pace and enjoy the scenery. Most of the paths go through villages, which makes it easy to stop for a break. Check out the local farmer's market where locals wear their traditional clothes, go about their daily business like time has never changed.
Day 15 Jianshui
Travel by private bus to Jianshui (approximately 3.5 hours). With a 1,200-year history and a distinct cultural heritage, the ancient town is a veritable outdoor museum of magnificent buildings. Many of these date back to the Ming and Qing dynasties. You will set out on a walking tour of the city and visit the Zhu Family Garden, as well as the incredible Confucius Temple.
Day 16 Jianshui
Visit Tuanshan Village, a cultural echo of the Qing Dynasty that's still intact. You'll learn a little more about the Yi minority as you explore. It's a fascinating window to the China of the past. Visiting the village is like travelling to the China of the past. Small, cobbled lanes leave you with impressions of timelessness, art and architecture. In the afternoon and evening, enjoy some free time.
Day 17 Kunming
Today we travel to Kunming (approximately 3 to4 hours). Stop at the geological wonder of the Stone Forest on the way. The Forest covers an area of 400 square kilometres (96,000 acres) and includes both large and small clusters of towering limestone pillars, as well as many other scenic spots. An old local saying says that 'If you have visited Kunming without seeing the Stone Forest, you have wasted your time'. Truly, the site is one of the most important attractions of Yunnan. Afterwards, enjoy free time to explore the large, yet laidback city. The 1000-year-old Yuantong temple is most definitely worth a visit, or find the traces of old Kunming at Lingguang street. Perhaps head to Green Lake Park where you can see locals spending their leisure time on all kinds of activities and games. Check out The Loft, a disused factory area west of the city centre, home to many small galleries and cafes. In the evening, perhaps get together with your mates for a final dinner in this 'Spring City'.
Day 18 Kunming
There are no activities planned for today and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
All This Included
Discover the remote mountains of northwest Vietnam and southwest China on a trip from Hanoi to Kunming, taking in all the attractions in between. Leaving the graceful boulevards of Hanoi behind, travel to Sapa before traversing the bumpy mountain roads to Ha Giang, Dong Van and cruising the waters of Ba Be Lake. Experience breathtaking mountain views and meet friendly locals along the way. Venture into the spectacular southern reaches of China. Stay in a Hani village in the colors of the draw dropping Yuanyang rice terrace , step back in time among the pristine Qing and Ming dynasty masterpieces in Jianshui, and wander the busy streets in Kunming.
Hotel (11 nights)
Homestay (2 nights)
Guest House (4 nights)
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* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.