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21 Days Central and Northern Vietnam Guided Cultural Motorcycle Tour

Hoi An, Vietnam

Vietnam Motorcycle Tour

Through beautiful mountain roads, you visit colorful markets and see the most special tribes. You get a taste of the Vietnamese diverse kitchen and explore historical sites. A journey by motorcycle through this unknown area will introduce you to the unprecedented and unadulterated beauty of North Vietnam. This motorcycle trip mixes the joy of riding with experiencing culture and history, meeting people, and being breath-taken by nature.

Key information

  • Bike: rental bike (Kawasaki KLX 150cc or Honda XR250)
  • Terrain: a mix of mostly asphalt and partly off-road
  • Mileage: 2,680 kilometers / 1,665 miles
  • Daily rides: 50 - 310 kilometers / 31 - 193 miles
  • Riding gear: not included but mandatory: helmet, motorcycle jacket with protection, gloves, a good hard wearing pair of (motorcycle) trousers with protection, and solid high (mountain) boots
  • Meals: some breakfasts

Highlights

  • Follow the Ho Chi Minh trail
  • Starts in Hoi An and ends in Hanoi
  • Explore the amazing route in northern Vietnam
  • Visit the minorities in remote areas and their cultures
  • Experience the boat trip on Ba Be Lake
  • Go on a half day tour in Hoi An
  • 20 nights accommodation

Skill level

  • Intermediate

Styles


15 riding days
Group size: 6-12 participants
Airport transfer included: Da Nang International Airport
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Accommodation

During this tour, you will stay in a mix of accommodation from semi-luxurious, simple, to homestays.

Program

You will be starting in beautiful Hoi An, which is situated along the river. It has a colorful market and traditional streets filled with historical Chinese-influenced buildings and small Chinese shrines. During the first days of your motor tour, you will visit historic Hindu site of My Son, walk through the forbidden purple city in Hue, and descent in the tunnel complex in Vinh Moc.

You will drive through beautiful valleys, along rugged mountains with vast rice terraces, small mountain villages in the early morning mist, and see many mountain people in colorful, traditional clothing. You will end this tour via dike routes in buzzling Hanoi.

You will avoid the highways; but the roads are mainly paved, but not always in great condition. There are a few short adventurous dirt tracks that does not require off-road experience. While you will visit “Ha Long Bay on land”, there are also options to visit Ha Long Bay, one of the World Natural Wonders, and UNCESCO world heritage site.

Short Itinerary

  • Day 1: Home departure
  • Day 2: Arrival in Hoi An
  • Day 3: Hoi An - Hoi An (50 kilometers / 31 miles)
  • Day 4: Hoi An - Hue (140 kilometers / 87 miles)
  • Day 5: Hue - Dong Hoi (200 kilometers / 124 miles)
  • Day 6: Dong Hoi - Phong Nha (120 kilometers / 75 miles)
  • Day 7: Phong Nha - Thai Hoa (310 kilometers / 193 miles)
  • Day 8: Thai Hoa - Tam Coc (180 kilometers / 112 miles)
  • Day 9: Tam Coc stay
  • Day 10: Tam Coc - Mai Chau (150 kilometers / 93 miles)
  • Day 11: Mai Chau - Ngia Lho (225 kilometers / 140 miles)
  • Day 12: Ngia Lho - Sapa homestay (235 kilometers / 146 miles)
  • Day 13: Sapa homestay - Bac Ha (190 kilometers / 118 miles)
  • Day 14: Bac Ha - Ha Giang (200 kilometers / 124 miles)
  • Day 15: Ha Giang - Dong Van (150 kilometers / 93 miles)
  • Day 16: Dong Van stay
  • Day 17: Dong Van - Bao Lac (150 kilometers / 93 miles)
  • Day 18: Bao Lac - BaBe (130 kilometers / 81 miles)
  • Day 19: BaBe - Hanoi (250 kilometers / 155 miles)
  • Day 20: Hanoi
  • Day 21: Hanoi - home

Extension (optional)

  • Day 20: Hanoi - Halong Baai
  • Day 21: Halong Baai - Hanoi
  • Day 22: Hanoi - home

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Departure

Today is the day you depart from your home country to the first location of the tour where you will meet u wit everyone.

Day 2: Arrival - Hoi An

You will arrive at Da Nang International Airport (DAD) either in the morning or the afternoon, depending on the airline. It’s a 45 minutes’ drive to the hotel in the center of the old town.

Hoi An is a small town with traditional houses that many travelers experience as one of the most attractive and fun places in Vietnam. Situated along the river is a colorful market and traditional streets filled with historical Chinese-influenced buildings and small Chinese shrines.

Day 3: Hoi An - stay / half day tour

Today, you will test the motorbikes, and drive to My Son (30 kilometers from Hoi An). My Son was the political and religious center of the Cham people who held sway in Vietnam from the fourth to the thirteenth century. Although the war has left its mark here as well, it is still an interesting and attractive place to visit

The rest of the day, you can explore the town. You can take a boat trip across the river and visit the nearby beach. Delicious restaurants and charming cafes are in abundance in Hoi An.

Day 4: Hoi An - Hue

You drive north-wise, via the Marble Mountains to Da Nang. During the war, American ships on the coast were bombarded from caves in these mountains. Nowadays, it is a marble quarry and the surrounding villages are home to marble artists.

Then, you take a stunning mountain pass along the sea, drive through the Bach Ma National park, and end in Hue. There, you will visit the ancient Hue Citadel, where the Forbidden Purple City is located.

Day 5: Hue - Dong Hoi

You will visit the tunnel complex Vinh Moc. Whereas the Chi Chi tunnels in the South – near Ho Chi Minh City – mainly functioned as war routes, the Vinh Moc tunnels are shelters for village inhabitants to escape the intensive American bombings. In that time, approximately 60 families lived there and 17 children were born here.

After the guided tour, you will get back on your motorcycles and drive via the coast to Dong Hoi. Having been shattered during the Vietnam War, this riverside town has made a comeback in recent years, with its beautiful beaches, colourful markets, and addiction-worthy Vietnamese coffee.

Day 6: Dong Hoi - Phong Nha

An adventurous route awaits you this morning. You will drive through a part of the Ke Bang National Park. This park consists for 90% of primary forest: forest that has not been influenced by humans and that has a high level of biodiversity. Here, you also find the most covert part of the Ho Chi Minh trail: the section which ended in the DMZ Vietnam’s Demilitarized Zone.

During the Vietnam War, this was a neutral zone between North and South Vietnam. The then US Secretary of Defense established a defense line here named after him, the McNamara Line. This line joined a ribbon of US bases across the entire width of the land. Vietnam is at its narrowest here, a mere 90 kilometers between Laos and the coast.

In the afternoon, you take a boat ride to visit the Phong Nha caves. These caves were formed about 250 million years ago and are the largest and most beautiful caves in the country. The cavern is at least 8 kilometers deep with a network of underground rivers. You spend the night in a small village nearby.

Day 7: Phong Nha - Thai Hoa

Today is a travel day. You are already driving on the Notorious Ho Chi Minh road, and you continue this road north. This legendary road was once just a trail through the jungle that the North Vietnamese troops used to supply the Vietcong in the South during the Vietnam War.

You follow almost deserted roads through spectacular mountains. You will drive along the Vu Quang National Park, a remote area on the border with Laos. Several years ago, the saola or spindlehorn, also known as the Vu Quang ox, was spotted for the first time. It is one of the rarest animals in the world. People of the Muong ethnic minority group live in and around this national park.

Day 8: Thai Hoa - Tam Coc

You continue to follow the Ho Chi Minh trail and you drive through small villages and rice fields. The road is getting slightly narrower and the region even more sparsely populated. Tourists hardly come here. You will gain insight in life on the country side of Vietnam. You will drive through small villages, along rubber plantations, tea and corn fields, and past bullocks that graze and plough in the rice fields. Remarkable is that in this area there are more churches than temples.

Day 9: Tam Coc - stay

Today, you will first make a rowing boat trip (1.5 hours) to enjoy the magnificent limestone mountains, natural caves, and authentic farming activities. It is a short drive to Hoa Lu, the ancient capital of North Vietnam. There are some temples built in honor of amongst others the first Vietnamese emperors Đinh Tiên Hoàng (924–979) (r. 968–979), following the liberation of the country from the rule of the Chinese Southern Han Dynasty.

Day 10: Tam Coc - Mai Chau

You continue your journey in the west direction. You drive on narrow and quiet country roads, passing a few national parks, on to Mai Chau. The town is situated in an idyllic valley, hemmed in by hills and rice fields. The valley holds several Thai villages, characterized by traditional stilt houses. In case you have time and nice weather, there is an optional loop possible following a partly unpaved track through the hills and visit a chopstick factory.

Day 11: Mai Chau - Nghia Lo

You wake up by rural soundtracks defined by gurgling irrigation streams and birdsongs. Today, you again follow a narrow but surfaced road. It is a beautiful area and along the route, there are many small villages and tea plantations. Throughout the morning, one still comes across mostly Thai people but later in the day, one sees more and more Hmong people.

You cross over the Black River on a small ferry and head your way to Nghia Lo. This is a fast growing mountain town situated on the junction of two important roads. In town, you will come across Dao and Hmong people.

Day 12: Nghia Lo - Sa Pa

You ride further north. The landscape is beautiful here. On both sides of the roads, there are green rice terraces built against the mountainsides. You ride through the mountains, crossing over a few high passes. There are more Dao people in this area.

40 kilometers before Sa Pa, you will climb the highest pass of this trip. Sa Pa is the tourist-iest place you will visit on this trip. As you will not come here at the weekend for the market, you will not see so many other tourists. Sa Pa is situated at an altitude of 1500 meters; during the French colonization, it developed as a summer retreat to escape the oppressive heat in the lower parts of the country.

Day 13: Sa Pa - stay

Sa Pa is a charming place to spend a day. You can walk in the valley just behind the town, rent a bicycle, or quietly explore the town and the market.

Day 14: Sa Pa - Bac Ha

The first 110 kilometers of the day, you ride on a fully surfaced road. Along the way, you stop in Lao Cai to take a look at the Chinese border. The Red River separates the two countries here and a railway bridge connects them again. Across the river, one can see the tall buildings of the relatively-speaking much richer China.

For a short time, you follow the highway and quickly make a turn to proceed on a small country road that slaloms East-wise along the Chinese border. Your journey will be full of hilly curves, rice terraces, and river views. Bac Ha is a typical Northern Vietnamese village with vibrant people, located in a valley.

Day 15: Bac Ha - Ha Giang

Just north of Bac Ha, you turn right onto a small road. You then ride through a spectacular area studded jagged rocks. The people of the small Hmong villages are surprised to see you as they hardly see any foreigners passing through their villages, especially on a motorbike. After a beautiful descent, you arrive in Xin Man.

Just outside Xin Man, you cross the bridge and turn right. You follow the river to the village of Huang Su Phi. There are many people of the Nung people here. Furthermore, there are many Nung villages en route. After each bend, there is yet another splendid view of the beautiful green terraces. Once you reach the junction with the highway, you will take small tracks more or less following the main road. For the last part to Ha Giang, you have to drive on the main road. One needs to be careful in the busy traffic. Ha Giang is the capital of the province. Tonight, you stay the night in a resort next to the river, just outside the center.

Day 16: Ha Giang - Dong Van

Today, you leave for your ride through the exceptionally beautiful and unique karst mountain region. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, ‘Kart Plateau Geopark’ locally known as ‘Dong Van - Meo Vac', after the two largest villages. Immediately after Ha Giang, the road narrows and you climb over a beautiful ridge. You take your time to experience and absorb the breathtaking landscape and the hardworking hill tribes that are able to grow maize on apparently impossible places.

Day 17: Dong Van - stay

Today, you take the time to explore the area, relax in the town, or both. There is the option to visit one of the former Hmong King’s Palace. Also, a short but adventurous trail will bring you further north, towards the Chinese Border. There are also short loops via small pads trough small hamlets.

Day 18: Dong Van - Bao lac

This morning, you wake up at the spectacular Ma Pi Leng Pass. It is only 21 kilometers, but Vietnamese poets have expressed their love for it. You take plenty of time today to explore the back roads of this area. It will be a peaceful route through a rolling landscape covered with rice terraces.

Day 19: Boa Lac - Ba Be

You ride along narrow roads to Lake Ba Be. You have to put your motorbikes on small boats to cross the river Tjan and you arrive at your accommodation. The Ba Be lakes are located in the eponymous national park. The lakes are surrounded by jagged karst rocks.

The national park is made of limestone, so there are lakes, waterfalls, caves, and strange rock formations in abundance. You can encounter special animal species such as the king cobra, the Asian black bear, and the Asian golden cat; and there are more than 350 species of butterflies. The Ba Be lake is the largest in the country. It is about seven kilometers long and one kilometer wide. Within the park boundaries, there are also a number of villages with ethnic minorities, such as the Tay, Red Dao, and White H'mong.

Day 20: Ba Be - Hanoi

This is a long day’s ride back to the capital. In the morning, the roads are quiet but after Than Nguyen, it gets busier. It is the last stage of the trip but perhaps the most special one. For many participants, riding into the city in the massive traffic is a fantastic finish of the trip.

Day 21: Hanoi - stay

Today, you can explore Hanoi. During the colonial era, Hanoi was the capital of French Indochina. The French history is still plainly visible, for example, in the wide boulevards and the old villas. You can stroll around the old quarter, its small streets and busy shops; or visit museums and pagodas. In the evening, you can enjoy delicious Vietnamese cuisine at your last dinner.

Day 22 - Departure

If you have not booked the extension for Ha Long Bay, then you will leave early in the morning to go to Noi Bai International Airport (HAN) for your flight back home.

Optional Extension Itinerary

Day 21 - Hanoi - Halong Bay

You are collected from your hotel in the morning and taken by minibus to Halong Bay. This is a drive of about four hours. The pointy peaked mountains in Halong Bay make this bay very special. It is wonderful to sail across it on a boat. You arrive in Halong Bay around noon. You go on board a traditional boat here, shared with other (international) visitors. You sail into the bay and spend the night on the boat in a beautiful location. If people are interested, you will make a stop at different caves.

Day 22 - Halong Bay - Hanoi

You come back ashore in the morning and get back into the minibus. There is much traffic between the coast and the capital Hanoi. The closer one comes to Hanoi, the worse it becomes. You can visit the old part of Hanoi in the afternoon. You can ride on a motorbike through the city or else get to know the old center on foot. Depending on your flight, you depart this evening for the airport or else in the morning.

Day 23 - Hanoi - departure

Today, you go to the airport to catch your flight home.

Motorbike information

You ride on a Kawasaki KLX 150cc or a Honda XR 250cc motorbike. Availability of the 250 cc is limited.

Tour Leader

This trip will be led by a multi-lingual European tour leader on a motorcycle. Your guide knows the routes very well and have years of experience in guiding motorcycle tours.

Support Team

There will be a support vehicle following the group, driven by the local driver. Your 4x4 land cruiser will carry the luggage and spare parts. The mechanic who sits in the support car will maintain the motorbikes and do repairs on daily basis. The mechanic is also a spare rider in case someone is not able to ride.

Off-Road

Only two or three days of this trip is on dirt roads or paths. These trails are not very difficult and very doable without any off-road experience or off-road training beforehand. Nevertheless, in the case of bad weather, these off road days are challenging and difficult.

Physical Challenges

During this trip through North Vietnam, you ride neither at a high altitude nor through extremely desolate regions. You ride on light motorcycles which make the trip suitable also for those riders who have never undertaken an adventurous motorcycle trip before. The daily distances are not long which means you frequently have the opportunity to stop along the way to take photographs or to visit villages.

What might be a challenge is dealing with the extremely busy traffic in and around Hanoi. One must also take into account that on the main roads, which you will try to avoid as much as possible, can be busy with trucks which do not comply with traffic regulations.

Skill level

Intermediate

  • Can ride for three to four hours
  • Average riding experience
  • Little assistance required
  • Comfortable with extreme curves and leans
  • Average experience with unsurfaced roads
  • Steep ascents and descents

Location

This motorcycle tour will take place in various locations in Vietnam. You will visit places such as Hanoi, Mai Chau, Nghia Lo, Sa Pa, Bac Ha, Ha Giang, Ba Be, and Hoi An.

Food

During this tour, you will have some breakfasts included in the prices at a few of the hotels you stay at.

The following meals are included:

  • Breakfast

The following dietary requirement(s) are served and/or catered for:

  • Regular (typically includes meat and fish)
If you have special dietary requirements it's a good idea to communicate it to the organiser when making a reservation

What's included

  • Motorbike hire from day 3 until day 20
  • Support vehicle with local driver
  • Accompanying mechanic in support vehicle
  • Dutch / English speaking tour guide on motorcycle
  • All entrance fees
  • Boat trip - Ba Be lakes
  • Dong Van permits
  • All airport transfers
  • 20 nights accommodation (sometimes with breakfast)
  • Letter of invitation for Vietnam Visa
  • Comprehensive handbook

What's not included

  • International flights
  • Airport taxes and fuel surcharges
  • All other meals and drinks
  • Halong Bay tour with overnight stay on the boat
  • Optional tours and tips
  • Personal expenses
  • Travel and cancellation insurance
  • Visa expenses (on arrival at the airport)

How to get there

Recommended Airports

Arrival by airplane

Please book your flight to arrive at Da Nang International Airport (DAD). Transfer from and to the airport is included. Motor Trails will pick you up from the airport.

Airport: Da Nang International Airport Airport transfer included: Da Nang International Airport No additional charges. You can request this in the next step.

Cancellation Policy

  • A reservation requires a deposit of 12.1% of the total price.
  • The deposit is non-refundable, if the booking is cancelled.
  • The rest of the payment should be paid 30 days before arrival.

Value for money
Accommodation & facilities
Food
Location
Quality of activity
21 days / 20 nights
from --
Tour information

Please do note that there should only be a maximum of two pillions on the tour.

Booking policy

In the event that the participant cancels the trip, the participant is liable for cancellation costs. These cancellation costs cover reimbursement of any costs incurred by Motor Trails on behalf of the participant, up to the moment of cancellation, for which Motor Trails does not receive a refund. In the event of cancellation, each participant is liable for the following amounts:

  • on cancellation up to 56 days before departure: the deposit plus any cancellation costs charged by the airline.
  • on cancellation from 56 (incl.) to 28 days before the date of departure: 50% of the trip price.
  • on cancellation from 28 (incl.) to 14 days before the day of departure: 75% of the trip price.
  • on cancellation from 14 days (incl.) up until the date of departure or during the journey: 100% of the trip cost.

All cancellation costs are supplemented, as applicable, by the cancellation costs of any issued tickets. Cancellation of the travel agreement by the participant must always be made in writing (by letter or email). You are strongly advised to take out a good travel cancellation insurance. This insurance will compensate for the cancellation costs provided that the cause of the cancellation is covered by the policy.

Minimum group size

This trip requires a minimum of 6 participants

Saturday April 24, 2021
(21 days / 20 nights)

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