Find your ideal cycling holiday
Vietnam - Northern Tribal Provinces
17th March 2020 - 2nd April 2020 (17 days)
This is an adventurous, moving-on tour through the mountainous tribal provinces of northern Vietnam. Luggage transfer and vehicle support will be provided, but the tour is best suited to fit, experienced cycling enthusiasts. Vietnam’s far north is undoubtedly the best place to cycle in the country, as the roads see virtually no tourists, and it avoids Vietnam's notorious highways. Starting in vibrant Hanoi, the road winds through superb scenery of limestone karstic rock formations, gorges and rice paddies up to the Chinese border. This area contains some of Vietnam’s most spectacular mountain scenery and is populated by the greatest concentration of ethnic tribal groups in Asia. Visit Bac Ha and Meo Vac's colourful Sunday markets before cycling to Lao Cai and boarding the Pumpkin Express sleeper train to Hanoi. On arrival in Hanoi continue by road to world heritage Ha Long Bay for a cruise on a luxury junk amidst the surreal beauty of the limestone islands. The last night is spent in Hanoi with time to explore the old town, see the water puppet theatre and visit Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum.
- Holiday Type Guided
- Tour Manager Pat and John Ashwell
- Grade Challenging
- Booking Status Places Available
- Accommodation Hotel
- Board Basis Half Board
- Travel Arrangements Air
- Road / Off Road Road
- Holiday Style Moving-on
- Vehicle Support Full Vehicle Support
- Holiday Ref 03399
Tuesday 17th March
Fly from London Heathrow on Thai Airways flight TG911 to Bangkok, departing at 1230, arriving Bangkok next day.
Wednesday 18th March
Arrive Bangkok at 0605. Onward Thai Airways flight TG560 to Hanoi, departing at 0745. Arrive Hanoi at 0935. Transfer by coach to hotel in Hanoi. Assemble bikes. Rest of day at leisure. Stay 1 night.
Thursday 19th March
Early departure for vehicle transfer of 150km to Bac Son. Cycle 52km (1,231m total ascent) towards That Khe. Continue by vehicle to Cao Bang. Stay 1 night.
Friday 20th March
Part vehicle transfer of 60km to Tin Thuc then cycle 62.7km (808m total ascent) to Bao Lac. Stay 1 night.
Saturday 21st March
Cycle to Meo Vac alongside the Gam River. 74.5km (1,769m total ascent). Stay 1 night.
Sunday 22nd March
Visit Meo Vac's colourful market before cycling to Dong Van. 22km (542m total ascent). Stay 2 nights.
Monday 23rd March
Optional cycle to Lung Cu on the Chinese border and return. 51km (1,570m total ascent).
Tuesday 24th March
Cycle to Yen Minh. 52km (1,123m total ascent). Stay 1 night.
Wednesday 25th March
Cycle to resort near Ha Giang. 90km (1,410m total ascent). Stay 1 night.
Thursday 26th March
Cycle to Panhou Ecolodge, Thong Nguyen Village. 82.1km (990m total ascent). Stay 1 night.
Friday 27th March
Cycle to Coc Pai. 68.3km (1,234m total ascent). Stay 1 night.
Saturday 28th March
Cycle to Bac Ha. 38.2km (1,383m total ascent). Stay 1 night.
Sunday 29th March
Early morning visit to Bac Ha's interesting Sunday market. After lunch, cycle to Lao Cai railway station. 64.8km (285m total ascent). Shower/evening meal in hotel before boarding the luxurious Pumpkin express sleeper train to Hanoi, departing 2035. Bikes and main luggage return by road to Hanoi.
Monday 30th March
Arrive Hanoi early morning. Transfer by coach to Ha Long Bay with breakfast on the way. Arrive approximately 1300. Stay 1 night.
Tuesday 31st March
Explore Ha Long Bay by boat. Visit caves and monkey commune. After lunch, transfer by coach to hotel in Hanoi. Pack bikes. Stay 1 night.
Wednesday 1st April
Free time in Hanoi to visit Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, the lake, museums and shops before transferring to Hanoi airport for Thai Airways flight TG565 to Bangkok, departing 2025. Arriving Bangkok at 2215.
Thursday 2nd April
Onward Thai Airways flight TG910 to London Heathrow, departing 0015, arriving 0620, where the tour ends.
Accommodation & Meals
Twelve nights are spent in 2-3 star hotels, two people per room. One night is spent on a luxury junk, 2 people per room. 1 night is spent on the overnight sleeper train, four people per compartment. Breakfast, lunch and evening meal are included on all cycling days and on the junk; breakfast and evening meal on all free days.
Backup vehicles will be travelling with the group for the purpose of transferring participants and cycles as per the itinerary, carrying luggage, giving assistance to riders on route and providing lunch.
Passports, Visa & Health
EU citizens must hold a passport that is valid for at least 6 months at the end of the tour. A visa will be required. We will provide information on how to do this, but you will need to apply and obtain this yourself. Budget £60. Holders of non-EU passports are advised to check whether or not they require a visa.
There are no compulsory health related requirements for EU residents. You should contact your doctor at least 3 months prior to travel to obtain any vaccinations and the latest advice to travellers.
Our Booking Conditions stipulate that, for holidays outside the UK, travel Insurance is mandatory. Details of the level of cover needed and other conditions you should check are stated in the Booking Conditions. CTC Cycling Holidays & Tours Ltd cannot accept responsibility for any costs that may be incurred due to insufficient insurance cover.
The price of £2,600 is based on a minimum number of 14 people taking part in the holiday and is calculated at a rate of $1.26 to £1 sterling (based on exchange rates published on www.x-rates.com on 13 December 2018; please note Booking Conditions, clause 3). If there are insufficient bookings by 7th January 2020, we will contact you and return all monies paid, although in certain circumstances the holiday may still run at below minimum numbers but at the same price.
- Return flights from London Heathrow to Hanoi, via Bangkok
- Return coach transfers between Hanoi airport and hotel
- Vehicle transfers as per the itinerary
- Back-up vehicle to carry luggage and to transfer group and cycles on occasions
- 12 nights hotel, sharing room
- 1 night luxury junk, sharing room
- 1 night overnight sleeper train, Lao Cai to Hanoi, 4 sharing per compartment
- 13 nights half-board with lunch and light refreshments on cycling days
- 1 night full board on junk
- Mineral water supplied on cycling days
- Detailed route sheets and profiles provided, plus files for Garmin if requested
- Porterage and assistance with baggage and cycles
- Services of an English-speaking guide throughout
- CTC Cycling Holidays and Tours costs
Price Does Not Include
- Travel to and from London Heathrow
- Meals in transit
- Drinks with evening meals
- Lunches on non-cycling days
- Visa costs - budget £60 (see Additional information)
- Entry fees at any attractions
- Gratuities for support crew - budget £40
- Any other personal expenses
- Travel Insurance
- Single occupancy supplement (£250, subject to availability)
A deposit of £260 per person is payable upon booking, with the final balance of £2,340 per person to be paid ten weeks prior to departure, by 7th January 2020.
Should you be forced to cancel your booking for any reason you must notify us in writing. Cancellation charges are as follows:
Written notice received:
Before 7th January 2020
From 7th January 2020 through to departure
The Area Covered By The Holiday
An adventurous moving on tour, with vehicle support, through the far north of Vietnam, undoubtedly the best area to cycle in the country as the roads see virtually no tourists and avoids Vietnam's notorious highways.
After exploring vibrant Hanoi, some vehicle transfer, some cycling to Cao Bang in the far north east of Vietnam. The route then winds north and west through the mountains to Bao Lac and on to Meo Vac where there will be time to explore the colourful Sunday market. Between Meo Vac and Dong Van, close to the Chinese border, is one of the best road trips in Vietnam; the road has been cut into the side of the rock face. Far below is the Nho Que River and, towering above, the rock face of the mighty gorge.
Beyond Dong Van the route goes through the northernmost point in Vietnam before continuing through limestone peaks and perpendicular rock walls to Yen Minh. Between Yen Minh and Ha Giang is Quan Ba pass. Once over the pass, descend through amazing rice paddies to Ha Giang.
The next ride is more leisurely and the next overnight stay at the Nam An Village Eco site should give plenty of free time to explore the local area. A more challenging day follows, with long climbs through the Thong Nguyen and Nam Dich communes.
The road to Bac Ha is new, follows the Chay River, and has been built on the former trail of the Flower H’Mong tribe. Bac Ha has an interesting Sunday market; there will be a full free morning to explore the market, frequented by colourful Tay, Nung, Dao, Flower H’Mong, Giay and Phu La hill-tribes before cycling down to Lao Cai for the overnight sleeper train back to Hanoi.
Reach Hanoi early in the morning, then transfer by air-conditional coach, with breakfast on the way, to Ha Long Bay, with its supernatural beauty of the limestone islands, whilst cruising and over-nighting on a luxury junk. With time to visit Cua Van floating village, trekking or swimming at Soi Sim Island, this will be the perfect wind-down after a challenging but fantastic bike ride.
On the last day there will be time for independent exploration of Hanoi’s old town, to visit the water puppet theatre and Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum before transferring to the airport for the journey home.
Rides & Rest Days
The riding will be challenging at times. Daily distances are between 60-90km, and the terrain is hilly and mountainous in places. Most of the roads are tarmac, but there are some rough sections This tour is best suited to experienced adventure cyclists. You will be free to ride at your own pace, allowing you to interact with the local population and enjoy the magnificent scenery. There will be vehicle support on all cycling days.
There will be time to visit Meo Vac and Bac Ha’s interesting Sunday markets, where villagers from various ethnic communities gather to sell their products and livestock, transforming it into what may well be one of the most colourful sights in Vietnam. Many people arrive on foot or ponies. The Flower H’Mong women are extremely colourful, with their gorgeous attire in vibrant colours, layers of dresses and underskirts of printed and embroidered fabrics, heads covered with interesting shaped and folded scarves. A photographer's paradise.
After experiencing the overnight sleeper train from Lao Cai to Hanoi, transfer by coach to Ha Long Bay for some well-earned R&R, cruising through the spectacular seascape of limestone pillars on board a luxury junk.
Accommodation & Meals
Hotels in Northern Vietnam are generally basic but clean and adequate, similar to 2 star accommodation, with private facilities, flush toilets and showers. There will be one night on a luxury junk and one night on the overnight sleeper train from Lao Cai to Hanoi. Breakfast will be taken at hotels, and snacks and lunches will be provided by the support crew. Mineral water will be readily available whilst cycling. Evening meals will either be at the hotel or a local restaurant; food is plentiful, typically Vietnamese style stir fries, rice, noodles and small amounts of meat or fish. There will be fresh fruit.
Flights are with Thai Airways, who offer convenient flights from London Heathrow to Hanoi via Bangkok. Their luggage allowance is generous - 30kgs; this can be your packed bike (maximum weight 23kgs) and the remainder a checked-in bag, plus hand luggage.
The maximum number of participants will be 18 excluding the Tour Managers.
Weather & Clothing
Daytime temperatures should be warm with the risk of some rain. Evenings will be cool and night-time temperatures may be cold. Bring appropriate warm clothing, wet-weather cycling gear and sun cream.
Cycles & Equipment
A touring cycle, hybrid or lightweight ATB is suitable for this tour. You should ensure your cycle is well maintained, paying particular attention to wheels, tyres and brakes. A low bottom gear (e.g. small chainring the same size or smaller than the largest cog on your rear wheel) is recommended. If you are unsure about gears, please discuss with the Tour Managers. Mudguards are optional but show courtesy to those who are following you in wet weather. Lights will not be necessary. 28mm minimum tyres are recommended. Participants will be expected to carry each day sufficient spares and tools to deal with punctures and minor repairs.
You will not need to carry luggage, but a rack top pack or bar bag will be useful for carrying wet weather gear, spare clothing needed for the day, camera, snacks and your route information.
Helmets are recommended. Please check with your travel insurance provider that you are covered in the event of an accident if you do not intend to wear a helmet.
Suitable hire bikes are available in Hanoi, the cost of which is not included in the tour price. Please contact the Tour Managers for further information.
Maps & Guides
As the roads are few, navigation is fairly simple. An overall map of the route, daily route sheets and profiles will be provided, plus files for Garmin if requested. Recommended map is the Reise Know-How Verlag Northern Vietnam, ISBN 3-8317-7151-0, available from Stanfords (www.stanfords.co.uk).
Travel Insurance & Advice
Our Booking Conditions stipulate that, for holidays outside of the UK, Travel Insurance is mandatory. Details of the level of cover needed and other conditions you should check are stated in the Booking Conditions. CTC Cycling Holidays and Tours Ltd cannot accept responsibility for any costs that may be incurred due to insufficient insurance cover.
Before booking you should check the latest travel advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office including security and local laws, plus passport and visa information, at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice or on 0845 850 2829.
In Vietnam, the currency is the Vietnamese Dong (approximately 24,500 Dong = £1 and 23,300 Dong = $1). There will be very few opportunities to spend money other than in Hanoi. Beer and snacks should cost no more than £10 per day. Currency exchange (US dollars and UK sterling) is available at Hanoi airport.