Map of Sapa & Yunnan Explorer including China and Vietnam

Explore the remote mountains in Vietnam and southwest China

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.

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Terms & Conditions

Start
Hanoi, Vietnam
Finish
Kunming, China
Destinations
China, Vietnam
Style
Original
Theme
Explorer
Code
TVSSC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why you'll love this trip

  • This combination trip includes one of our most popular trips in Vietnam and one of our most exciting new itineraries in China. 

  • Stay in a local homestay and get to know our H'mong hosts invite you to learn about their rich culture, to share stories and to try some of their local home cooked cuisine.

  • As the dramatic mountains of Heaven’s Gate soar above the green forests and rice paddies of Ha Giang, a deep appreciation of this region's landscape will be understood as you journey through it.

  • Mrs Mai’s Responsible Tourism project in Dong Van is an eye-opening insight into the world of human trafficking. Learn about the amazing efforts made by an inspirational project to free their country of this crime

  • Float along the lake, viewing magnificent waterfalls and wildlife in the Ba Be National Park. A traditional homestay is the perfect way to access remote parts of this region and to get a real glimpse of Vietnamese life

  • Follow the Yunnan-Vietnam railway and visit the one of the oldest train stations on this line at Bisezhai village for a fascinating glimpse into history

  • Explore idyllic Yuangyang on a guided half-day walk, snapping photos of the spectacular rice terrace landscapes and learning a thing or two about their makers, the Hani people

  • Discover the Ming and Qing marvels of Jianshui Ancient Town on a guided walk. Visit Zhu's Family Garden, the Confucius temple and the amazingly preserved Tuanshan village

  • Kunming is yours for the taking. Enjoy plenty of free time in the liveable, laid-back 'Spring City' to make your own discoveries

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip visits destinations well off the usual tourist trail. It's a fantastic opportunity to see real life in parts of Vietnam and China many people wouldn't be able to find on a map, let alone consider visiting! You'll be without some of the comforts of home, including trying many new foods and experiences.

  • This trip includes a number of long journeys on windy and sometimes bumpy roads in a private mini-bus. This is the only way to access some of these locations, but we promise you that the views for most of the journey are impressive enough to make it all worthwhile.

  • This trip includes 2 nights 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, and bathrooms will be shared.

  • This trip includes a moderate level of hiking in the hills on day 7 for approximately 4 hours. Terrain can be uneven, muddy or loose underfoot. Although this hiking is possible for most travellers, a good level of fitness and comfortable pair of shoes will help increase your enjoyment of this experience.

  • The border crossing from Vietnam to China will not be accompanied. Your Vietnam leader will say goodbye to you at the Vietnam border and your China leader will meet you once you go through immigration and customs.

  • Want to include the epic Tiger Leaping Gorge into your adventure? Check out our Northern Vietnam and Yunnan Adventure trip (TVSAC) - a combination of this trip and Yunnan Explorer (CBSP) that takes you further into Yunnan province through some most stunning scenery and culture.

Itinerary

Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you arrive early into the capital of Hanoi, there’s plenty to see and do. Consider booking the Hanoi Highlights Urban Adventure with an expert local guide to introduce you to the city. Start by visiting the Temple of Literature, drop into a traditional tea house, and learn the stories of the Hoa Lo Prison museum. This tour concludes at Hoan Kiem Lake, surrounded by modern office buildings and ancient Buddhist temples. Or take it at your own pace and wander the Old Quarter and admire the city’s French-colonial architecture, relax in a park, or enjoy some street food.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Hanoi - Citadels, Karsts & Cycle Urban Adventure - USD79
  • Hanoi - Village Discovery by Bike Urban Adventure - USD36
  • Hanoi - Hanoi Highlights Urban Adventure - USD39
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.

To book an Urban Adventure before you meet your tour leader, go to https://www.urbanadventures.com/
In the morning, travel by private minibus from Hanoi towards Lao Chai in the Sapa region. The drive will take approximately 5 hours, which makes for the perfect opportunity to get to know your fellow travellers. 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 (approximately 10 km/6 mi), enjoying a picnic lunch stop on the way. Your homestay is comfy, quaint and surrounded by pristine farmland.
Accommodation
  • Homestay (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Sapa - Lao Chai trek and homestay
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
After breakfast at your homestay, trek to Giang Ta Chai – home to the Red Dzao hill people. Push on through terraced farmland and bamboo scrub for excellent views of emerald valleys and rushing waterfalls as you stroll on by (approximately 5km/3mi. Rest your legs on the bus ride back to Sapa. If you still have some energy once you arrive in Sapa perhaps visit the local market. This is a great place to pick up locally dyed fabrics, hemp plants and handmade textiles. In the evening, settle into your hotel in Sapa for the night.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
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 shopfronts, 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 free to spend as you wish.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
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 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
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. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
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 family-owned guesthouse where you will be spending the night. 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.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Ba Be - Waterfall
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Head back to Hanoi after breakfast (approximately 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 the KOTO restaurant, a project aimed at providing vocational training to disadvantaged young people.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Hanoi - KOTO dinner
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Please note that your leader will change at the border today from a Vietnamese to a Chinese leader and you leader won't be with you when you clear through immigration and customs.
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Mengzi - Bisezhai Station
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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. 
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Yuanyang - Rice Terraces
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Yuanyang - Sunrise from Duoyishu Rice Terraces
  • Yuanyang - Village walk
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
If the weather is poor, an alternative route or activities may be organised for today.
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.


Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Jianshui - Zhu Family Garden
  • Jianshui - Walking tour
  • Jianshui - Confucius Temple
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Jianshui - Tuanshan Villlage
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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'.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kunming - Stone Forest
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
There are no activities planned for today and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

8 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 3 dinners

Transport

Private vehicle, Metro, Taxi, Public bus, Boat

Accommodation

Hotel (11 nts), Homestay (2 nts), Guest House (4 nts)

Included activities

  • Sapa - Lao Chai trek and homestay
  • Ba Be - Waterfall
  • Hanoi - KOTO dinner
  • Mengzi - Bisezhai Station
  • Yuanyang - Rice Terraces
  • Yuanyang - Sunrise from Duoyishu Rice Terraces
  • Yuanyang - Village walk
  • Jianshui - Zhu Family Garden
  • Jianshui - Walking tour
  • Jianshui - Confucius Temple
  • Jianshui - Tuanshan Villlage
  • Kunming - Stone Forest

Dates & availability

Trip departures are unavailable.

There are currently no scheduled departures on our Sapa & Yunnan Explorer trip. If you are interested in other trips in the region visit one of the links below.

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Important notes

1. Please provide the exact passport details to us no later than 30 days before departure.
2. A single supplement to have your own room is bookable on this trip with the exception of nights 2 & 8 (Homestay) where you will be in multi-share accommodation, subject to availability.
3. As this is a combination trip made up of some of our most popular itineraries, the composition of your group as well as your group leader may change.
4. Please note that your tour leader will change at the Vietnam - China border and the border crossing from Vietnam to China will be unaccompanied. Your Vietnam leader will say goodbye to you before you go through immigration and your China leader will see you after you clear custom on the China side.
5. Please note while traveling through mainland China you will not be able to access some popular internet websites.

Essential trip information

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