Challenging Full North Loop in 16 days / 15 nights.
Booking code of this tour: BN1601
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Day 1: Hanoi – Mai Chau, ~160 km, ~5 hours.
Today is the first day of this Challenging Full North Loop in 16 days. Before starting to ride, we will have a short briefing to let you know about the rules. In addition, the guide will show you how to understand him by his body language. We start around 9.30am after the rush hours.
Leaving Hanoi on dyke roads to avoid the heavy traffic and breaking out of the delta plains we pass through endless limestone karst scenery as we travel south through “Perfume Pagoda” country and extensive farming lands comprising a sea of paddy fields split by tree-lined roads. Striking northwest and over two passes, finally dropping down to the mountain valley settlement of Mai Chau. Here we stay overnight with friends of the White Thai minority in a traditional stilt house. In the evening, after feasting, we can enjoy a cultural show of Thai dancing and a range of special local liquors. Overnight in Mai Chau.
Day 2: Mai Chau – Phu Yen. ~140 km, ~5 hours.
Head to Moc Chau and then turn to the less travelled Road 43 leading to the Da River. After crossing the reservoir of Da river at Van Yen ferry, we ride on a beautiful winding secondary road until Phu Yen where we stay in a guest-house.
Day 3: Phu Yen – Son La, ~160 km, ~6 hours.
Continuing on the almost empty Road 37 we enter mountains heavily populated with Black Thai people, who work on large terraced rice fields. The winding road passes through many Thai villages and fields and provides a great opportunity to watch country life passing by. We continue through rolling hills before rising up to the sugar cane growing areas on the cooler Son La plateau. Overnight in Son La.
Day 4: Son La – Than Uyen. ~200 km, ~7 hours.
Heading out northwest from Son La, the road crosses a series of mountain passes and areas of busy Black Thai activity. Children walk to school, kids tend buffaloes, women plant rice seedlings and men pull the buffalo. Then we come to the beginning of the very long and steep Pha Din pass where at the top we have vast views of the surrounding mountains, then down the other side on the very steep sealed road.
Continue to the direction of Than Uyen. The road is wild and bumpy. Between Sapa and Hanoi, we will find an important mountainous massif, almost as high as the Fansipan: the Mu Cang Chai. From the top, we have one of the most beautiful views of North Vietnam.
Day 5: Than Uyen – Sapa. ~120 km, ~5 hours.
Walk/ stroll in the morning. The area of Than Uyen is mainly populated by Flower H’mong and Dzao people. Then direction Sapa. Easy track for 100 km and asphalted mountainous road for the last 40 km. Beautiful riding.
Day 6: Sapa – Bac Ha. ~90 km, ~4 hours.
The ride from Sapa to Bac Ha takes ~3 hours, down from Sapa to Lao Cai (34 km) and up to Bac Ha (70 km) with stunning landscape. We check in a hotel and have lunch. In the afternoon, we trek to Lung Phinh village. Overnighting in Bac Ha.
Day 7: Bac Ha – Xin Man. ~50 km, ~3 hours.
Minor roads and tracks lost in the mountain. Flower H’Mong savagely imposes their bright colours in these wild vastness. This road allows us to have time to stop and admire the footpaths going through wild bushes. We envisage going to the market of Can Cau located at the heart of a mountainous circus, very close to the Chinese border, where the ethnic groups on each side of the border meet every Saturday morning. It is one moment very moving which we have no idea about time.
Day 8: Xin Man – Ha Giang. ~140 km, ~6 hours.
Quiet road with the joys of riding through picturesque landscape along the Lo river. Superb! It is necessary for us to be able to obtain authorizations from the authorities of Ha Giang. The following stages take us through the mountainous territories of the frontier ethnic groups. Stay in a hotel in Ha Giang or if you prefer a home stay we can arrange it.
Day 9: Ha Giang – Dong Van. ~180 km, ~6 hours.
After getting the permit to ride in border areas at Ha Giang’s Immigration Police, we ride on small challenging mountain roads (but incredibly beautiful) on the land of colourful mountain hill-tribes.
Day 10: Dong Van – Bao Lac. ~80 km, ~4 hours.
The road is still under construction in some parts and tracks that makes the ride relatively long in spite of few kilometres. The landscape is among the most beautiful of Vietnam, and the slow tempo is only more appreciable.
We cross the wild regions of the mythical province of Ha Giang. Stop for the night at Bao Lac, the ethnic crossroad of Northeast Vietnam. Many other ethnic groups on the two sides of the border meet at the market every Sunday.
Day 11: Bao Lac – Cao Bang. ~150 km, ~5 hours.
Beautiful ride down to Cao Bang province. Few passes from where you can dominate the area. The road is easy but there are many blind curves. We can stop very often for photos. Altogether, stop for drinks and food it should be an 8-hour journey. Stay in a hotel.
Day 12: Cao Bang – Quang Uyen. ~140 km, ~5 hours
Ride in 1 hour and a half to reach the beautiful village of Quang Uyen, in the middle of a mountain cirque. This is the territory of Nung An people. Home stay with a host family and the hostess is a great cook.
We make our way through spectacular scenery to Vietnam’s most impressive waterfall, Ban Gioc Waterfalls, 50km from Quang Uyen. The roads to and from Ban Gioc waterfalls is really dusty or muddy. Weather permitting we can swim right up to where the 50m high falls hit the river.
Day 13: Quang Uyen – Lang Son. ~180 km, ~6 hours.
Ride from Quang Uyen to Lang Son on the famous historical Highway 4. We will have time to discover this city which has become a big trading post between China and Vietnam. In fact, you can shop for cheap Chinese products at the nearby Dong Kinh market.
Overnight in hotel.
Day 14: Lang Son – Ha Long. ~180 km, ~7 h.
We have a long ride mainly on secondary road, passing many coal mines along the road. We hope you are not covered in coal dust when we arrive in Halong City.
Day 15: Halong Bay. Cruising.
We have the morning off to recover from a long trip that you just completed. Then join a group trip and spend the night on the boat. Despite the fact that Halong Bay is one of the most touristy places in Vietnam, the scenery is really stunning. In case you request a private boat the cost is extra.
Day 16: Ha Long – Hanoi. ~180 km, ~4 hours.
Continue cruising in the bay the whole morning. Lunch in Halong Bay before riding back to Hanoi. There is just a boring highway to follow and unfortunately, we have no alternative road.
We try to arrive in Hanoi before 5pm to avoid rush hours. Otherwise, you should be good with city traffic from the experience you got over the last days. End our Challenging Full North Loop in 16 days.
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