Travel from Hanoi to Sapa and back on this Vietnam adventure

Northwest Vietnam is a captivating mix of dramatic mountainscapes, crisp fresh air and colourfully-clothed hilltribes. Set on the slopes of a beautiful emerald green valley, Sapa is the heart of this unique piece of Vietnam. Travel to this peaceful land and meet resplendently dressed ethnic minorities at the local market, visit neighbouring villages and hike through iridescent rice terraces, witnessing how the current of life has bubbled along here for centuries. This five-day trekking adventure is full of opportunities to be immersed in traditional hilltribe culture and cuisine, while relishing the striking landscapes of Sapa and its surrounds.


Start
Hanoi, Vietnam
Finish
Hanoi, Vietnam
Country
Vietnam
Style
Original, Basix
Theme
Short Breaks, Walking & Trekking
Code
TVAG
Physical rating
Ages
Min 12
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why we love this trip

  • A traditional homestay is the perfect way to access remote parts of this region and get a real glimpse of Vietnamese life, not to mention the beauty of a home cooked local meal after a day of hiking

  • Hike through the rolling rice terraces, waterfalls, mountains and lush green hills of Sapa and you’ll quickly realise why this has become an iconic image of Vietnam

  • Meet a community of hill-tribe people who have been in Vietnam for over three centuries. Having emigrated from China, the H'mong settled in Cat Cat Village and invite you to learn about their rich culture

  • An included overnight sleeper train through northern Vietnam is a unique experience. This is a great way to rub shoulders with the locals and to squeeze a bit of local knowledge out of them. Local guides will take you to the train in Hanoi, and Sapa local guides will meet you at the other end

Is this trip right for you?

  • This Short Break Adventure is a ‘join in’ group departure, which means for some portions of this trip, such as at the homestay, you may join-in with other travellers who have booked on a different style of trip, or through other companies.

  • With the flexibility of frequent departures there is a chance you may end up travelling solo on this trip. You will always have a local guide and all included activities will remain the same.

  • The overnight sleeper train journey to and from Lao Cai is unescorted, in 4-6 berth sleeper carriages. In your train compartment you might be sharing with locals and with other and with other genders. However there will be local guides to help you at the start in Hanoi, and when you wake up in the hills of Sapa.

  • This trip includes one night in simple homestay accommodation, and there a few ways to better understand a country and its people. You will sleep on mattresses on the floor in a mixed-gender dormitory style.

  • This trip includes a moderate level of hiking in the hills for 3 days of this trip, ranging from 3 to 6 hours. Although this hiking is possible for most travellers, a good level of fitness will help increase your enjoyment of this experience.

  • Included activities for the Basix and Original style short break are the same, but on the Original trip you will stay in a slightly higher standard of accommodation for the hotel nights.

  • Some hotels in Vietnam have windowless rooms, or windows that don't necessarily have a view. This is often due to high population density in large cities, however local building standards also don't require rooms to have windows. We do request rooms with windows, however they aren't always available.

Itinerary

Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam. A welcome pack containing a welcome letter, your trip itinerary, a Sapa information sheet and feedback card will be waiting for you at your hotel. Please ask your hotel's reception for the Intrepid welcome pack upon arrival.
In any free time, dive into the barrage of bikes, boulevards and bustling life that characterise Hanoi. Take time to explore the French colonial architecture that decorates the tangled laneways, indulge in a decadent Vietnamese coffee while people-watching from street-side cafes, or step back in time on an exploration of the Old Quarter.
This evening you will be picked up by your local guide from your Joining Point Hotel (see below), or from an alternate hotel located in Hanoi's Old Quarter (advised prior to departure), between 6.00pm-6.30pm. You guide will first take you for an included dinner and to explain more about the Sapa region. After dinner, you'll be transferred to the train station, where your guide you will give you your tickets for return train journey. Say farewell to your local guide before you board the overnight sleeper train bound for Lao Cai (departing approximately 9.30pm, approximately 8 hours journey time). The train journey is unaccompanied, and you may be sharing with locals or other travellers.
Accommodation
  • Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and Museum - VND80000
  • Hanoi - Hoa Lo 'Hanoi Hilton' Prison - VND30000
  • Hanoi - Temple of Literature - VND30000
  • Hanoi - Fine Arts Museum - VND30000
  • Hanoi - Museum of Ethnology - VND40000
  • Hanoi - Women's Museum - VND30000
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Special Information
Notes: Please allow plenty of time to board the train. Your local guide will be able to give you information about what time boarding will commence.
Conditions aboard the train are basic, and while cleanliness might not be what you're used to, overnight trains are a truly Intrepid experience and the best way to travel long distances with the locals. Sleeper trains typically have four berth compartments (occasionally six berth depending on seasonal variations) of which two are bench seats that convert into sleeping bunks. A sheet, pillow and blanket are provided, although some travellers prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. You will be sharing with local travellers.
Most trains have a dining carriage serving simple food, but some travellers take the opportunity to stock up snacks if you would like any for the overnight journey, or early breakfast.
You’ll be met on arrival into Lao Cai in the early morning (approximately 6.00 am), and meet your local driver. Your driver will be picking up several other passengers travelling on to Sapa. Transfer to Sapa by minibus (approximately 1 hour), passing through dramatic scenery along the way.
You have a free morning to relax and explore this fascinating hillside town. If the weather is feeling generous, enjoy unhindered views out towards the giant staircase of rice terraces that cascade down the side of the mountains. Otherwise, delight in the enigmatic mists that often shroud the Sapa hillsides.
In the afternoon, begin a guided 2-3 hour moderate trek down to the hilltribe villages of Cat Cat, often taking a paved path and passing a waterfall. The villages are home to the H'mong people who originated from China about 300 years ago. The H'mong people are easily recognisable by their dark-blue or black clothing. The dye is made from the indigo plant, which is native to the area. H'mong women wear long aprons with embroidered waist-coats and have their hair rolled up into a turban-like hat, while the men wear a black skullcap. You are likely to encounter local H’mong traders, who are often described as persistent and aggressive in their sales techniques. Please respect that this approach is usually the result of the competitive nature of business, and only purchase items if you wish too. In the late afternoon, return to Sapa to spend the night in a hotel.
Accommodation
  • Chau Long Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Guided trek
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Those booked on the Original style Short Break will stay in Chao Long Hotel, while those booked on Basix style will stay in Cat Cat Hotel. Accommodation is subject to availability and if these properties are unavailable you will stay in an alternative hotel of an equivalent standard.
We recommend packing an small backpack tonight ready to go for the next two days of trekking and overnight homestay. You will need to carry your own bag, so packing light is best, and remember to bring a raincoat or waterproof jacket, and wear good walking shoes. You can store your main luggage at your hotel in Sapa.
This morning after storing you main luggage at your Sapa hotel, set off on a six hour guided trek (approximately 12 - 15 kilometres). Pass along buffalo paths and trails, as well as through several hilltribe villages and resident minority groups such as Red Zao and Tay people. This is a spectacular walk, winding through stunning scenery and elegant rice paddy terraces. Be sure to watch your footing here as there can be uneven slopes, muddy patches, and rocky inclines. The idyllic countryside scenes are like something out of a storybook, and you will encounter some of the friendliest people you could ever hope to meet. Stop for a picnic lunch along the way, and finally spend the night in the home of a Zay family in Ta Van Village. Perhaps take some time to explore the village after you arrive, wandering down to see the locals paddling in the Mua Huon River and the Hmong guys cruising around on their motorbikes. You’ll enjoy an included meal of delicious Vietnamese dishes for dinner tonight, prepared by your hosts.
Accommodation
  • Homestay (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Tonight’s accommodation is in a simple family homestay in mixed-gender dormitory style accommodation, with basic facilities. Both Original and Basix style Short Break travellers will stay at the same homestay.
After a hearty, energy-giving early breakfast, set off on a 2-3 hour walk to Su Pan Village. Today’s trek is shorter, but the scenery is still beautiful. Take the road to Giang Ta Chai village of the Red Dzao minority via the paths between terraces and through bamboo forests. Walk past waterfalls where buffalo might cool themselves from the heat and cross a suspension bridge. Be sure to take it all in and make the most of the last of your time in these incredible surroundings. Cross Muong Hoa River, then head up to the mountain to visit the last village of the trek – Su Pan. Maybe grab a quick bowl of pho before meeting up with your vehicle for the 30 minute drive back to Sapa. Arriving in Sapa, you have a free afternoon to explore the town. Maybe get a massage to sooth trek-tired muscles, check out the local market selling produce, herbal remedies, and (very fresh) meats, pick up any Hilltribe crafts you might have had your eye on, or sit back with a drink while you look over the misty mountains.

You will be picked up from your Sapa hotel between 5-5.30 pm today by a local driver. You’ll then be transferred back to the to the Lao Cai train station this afternoon (approximately 1 hour). You will have some free time for an optional dinner before you board the overnight train to Hanoi. Boarding commences approximately 7.30pm for an 8.30 pm departure (journey time approximately 8 hours).
Accommodation
  • Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Your adventure ends upon arrival at Hanoi train station in the early morning (around 5am). The rest of the day is free for you to soak up the grace of this dynamic city that's the epitome of modern Vietnam.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
If you would like to stay a little longer in Vietnam, Intrepid can book additional nights for you. (If you wish to have the room available on your arrival, you may need to book the night before as check in time is usually midday). Please note that it's not possible to organise a transfer from the train station, so please make your own way to your hotel or the airport.

Meals

2 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 2 dinners

Transport

Minibus, Overnight sleeper train, Private vehicle

Accommodation

Homestay (1 night), Hotel (1 night), Overnight sleeper train (2 nights)

Included Activities

  • Guided trek

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. This Short Break Adventure starts at 6.00pm-6.30pm on Day 1, and finishes at approximately 5.00am on Day 5. Please ensure onward flights are not booked until after midday to cater for any delays.
2. You will be picked up on Day 1 from the Joining Point Hotel listed in the Essential Trip Information for this itinerary. Pick-up will take place between 6.00pm-6.30pm in the hotel foyer.
3. If you require pick up from another hotel located in Hanoi's Old Quarter, please inform your booking agent at least 14 days prior to departure.
4. Please note that this trip is available in Basix and Original styles.
5. This trip is operated by one of our local partners in Vietnam and therefore you may be joined by a mixture of Intrepid-booked passengers and other travellers during activities.

Essential Trip Information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.