Tourist guide to North Vietnam

Besides the cultural riches of Hanoi, North Vietnam has much to offer the inquisitive adventurer. The spectacular scenery and minority villages around Sa Pa to the northwest of the capital act like a magnet to trekkers, while the thousands of islands to the east in Ha Long Bay are the prime reason for many visitors to be here in the first place.

Add the historic battlefield of Dien Bien Phu and the welcoming stilthouse villages in the Mai Chau Valley, and the options for back-country exploration become appealingly varied.

Perfume Pagoda

Join devout Buddhists on a pilgrimage to this awe-inspiring temple in a cave which is not far from Hanoi and can be reached either as part of a tour or by one’s self...more

Ha Long Bay

Marvel over sensational views and explore monstrous caves in Ha Long Bay where traditional wooden fishing vessels still venture forth into the region in search of a catch...more

Sa Pa

Meet the Black Hmong and Red Dao minority groups at the bustling market in Sa Pa with cool temperatures, lush and verdant scenery plus fantastic food in great value restaurants...more

Dien Bien Phu

Find out how French colonialism came to an end at the battle of Dien Bien Phu, long a favourite spot for European travellers to rest up and recuperate on grueling journeys...more

Mai Chau Valley

Sleep in a stilted house and trek through heavenly landscapes at the Mai Chau Valley with some of the most breathtaking scenery to be found anywhere in Southeast Asia...more


Stay in some great value yet utterly luxurious resorts and hotels on your trips around north Vietnam with the best deals on the web through our online booking partner Agoda...more

North Vietnam guide - mountains, lakes and ethnic tribes

Though it’s possible to travel around independently, it’s extremely challenging unless you are familiar with the language and culture. The uneven terrain of the north supports few roads that can be kept in any decent condition, and bus travel is slow and uncomfortable.

Fortunately, tour operators in Hanoi have got it all worked out and run excursions to many popular out-of-town places that are generally well-organised and inexpensive. The one exception is Sa Pa, where it’s easy enough to get by train and bus, and then hook up with a local tour guide in town to go trekking.

Some travellers can’t stand being stuck with a rigid itinerary and being shepherded around, so rather than sign up for a group tour, they set off on a rented motorbike or in a 4WD vehicle with driver, and follow the northwest loop. This leads through Mai Chau to the west of Hanoi, then heads northwest along Highway 6 through Son La, passing Dien Bien Phu on the way to Muong Lay and Sa Pa. The circle is completed by following the Red River southeast from Lao Cai to Hanoi. This makes for a good week-long journey, allowing time for stops in all the places of interest.

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