Spectacular Ha Giang mountains loop —
best medium motorbike tour in Vietnam
Spectacular Ha Giang —
best medium motorbike tour in Vietnam
At a glance
Explore the highlights of spectacular Ha Giang on a fully guided, small group motorbike tour through the remote mountains of unspoilt north Vietnam.
This is the best medium-break motorbike riding in the country, traversing less traveled regions near the Chinese border, and boasts great roads and amazing scenery — incredible karst limestone mountains and plateaus, breathtaking canyons, beautiful remote valleys and stunning rice terraces.
Fascinating ethnic minority villages, wonderful people and customs, and delicious, authentic regional food.
Ride the famous Ma Pi Leng pass high above the awe-inspiring gorge of the Nho Que river, and discover the fabulous twisting roads of the Dong Van Karst Plateau with its surreal limestone pinnacles.
Explore the remote frontier towns of Dong Van and Meo Vac.
Experience one of the best ethnic minority markets in North Vietnam, full of color and energy, with local hill tribe people dressed in beautiful traditional costumes. A heaven for photographers.
Wonderful trekking along paths overlooking mountains and canyons.
Boat rides along gorges with vast slopes and peaks towering above.
Fabulous twisting back roads.
We take you off the beaten path to explore the Ha Giang tourists rarely see. Let us show you the Ha Giang we love and know so well.
For more detailed information see the itinerary below.
There is travel that fits within the expected and then there are journeys that go beyond. At Other Path Travel, we specialize in small group tours that will take you to a Vietnam that most travelers never see, extraordinarily beautiful, amazingly diverse, off the beaten path.
From astounding natural beauty to scooter-packed streets in vibrant cities, we offer a range of experiences to suit your interests and travel style whether that’s exploring extraordinary scenery by private car or motorbike; cruising spectacular islands by boat From astounding natural beauty to scooter-packed streets in vibrant cities, we offer a range of experiences to suit your interests and travel style whether that’s exploring extraordinary scenery by private car or motorbike; cruising spectacular islands by boat From astounding natural beauty to scooter-packed streets in vibrant cities, we offer a range of experiences to suit your interests and travel style whether that’s exploring extraordinary scenery by private car or motorbike;
cruising spectacular islands by boat From astounding natural beauty to scooter-packed streets in vibrant cities, we offer a range of experiences to suit your interests and travel style whether that’s exploring extraordinary scenery by private car or motorbike; cruising spectacular islands by boat
- Experience the best motorbike riding in Vietnam among remote and beautiful mountains and valleys
- Ride the legendary Ma Pi Leng pass, suspended above the vast Nho Que canyon
- Explore remarkable Dong Van amidst the surreal limestone pinnacle landscape of the Dong Van Karst Plateau, and ride / trek among ethnic villages and amazing mountains near Meo Vac
- Experience the diversity, friendliness and culture of the ethnic minorities of the northern mountains
- Visit the Meo Vac ethnic minority market, amazing and unspoilt, full of color and energy
What our travelers say
“Fantastic riding on remote, twisting mountain roads. The limestone peaks and canyons were amazing, and Ma Pi Leng Pass was one of the best riding roads anywhere. Plus the people and the towns and the food — and our guide – a great trip.”
“We rode some of the most spectacular roads for motorbiking anywhere, and visited fascinating villages & hill-tribes, well off the beaten path. Loved the market in Meo Vac, so colorful and authentic.”
Arrival and airport transfer
If you have requested an airport transfer, an Other Path Travel representative will meet you at Hanoi airport, and take you to your hotel in the Old Quarter or city center.
If you are spending time in Hanoi before the start of the tour, you might be interested in exploring Hanoi off the beaten path with one of our half-day Insiders’ Tours.
Afternoon before day of tour departure
In the afternoon of the day before the tour departure, we will gather at a pre-arranged time for a welcome refreshment, introductions and a pre-trip briefing where we will walk through the itinerary, discuss riding a motorbike in Vietnam and answer any questions you might have. We will also provide some panniers and talk through packing.
To Ha Giang by limousine bus
After an early breakfast at your hotel, we catch the very comfortable 7am Limousine bus to Ha Giang – about a 6-hour journey.
Ha Giang is the busy and likeable capital of Ha Giang province, the northern-most and one of the poorest provinces in Vietnam, with a diverse landscape of limestone mountains, spectacular gorges, beautiful valleys, fascinating villages and breathtaking roads.
It has a rich ethnic minority culture, where traditions remain strong; you will see many people dressed every day in their colorful tribal costumes.
After lunch in a Ha Giang cafe, we collect our motorbikes and take a short ride to explore the city a little and to familiarize you with your motorbike, Vietnamese roads and traffic.
Then we head out towards Tam Son in Quan Ba district. It's a great ride and perfect introduction to the landscapes and roads of Ha Giang.
Tam Son Valley & Dao Village
We follow the Lo River and its heavily farmed river flats briefly before traversing a gorge and climbing via switchbacks to a plateau dotted with karst hills, and then on to Quan Ba pass ("Heaven’s Gate").
From the pass there are splendid views of Tam Son town below and the higher peaks to the north.
After a breathtaking descent into the valley with its two perfectly rounded karst hills (dubbed “Fairy Bosom”), we ride through the town of Tam Son and into gentle countryside until we arrive at the comfortable lodge in a pretty Dao village where we will stay the night.
We explore the village on foot before enjoying a traditional dinner at a local homestay.
Accommodation: Lodge, Quan Ba
Meals: Lunch, Dinner
Road to Yen Minh, cave excursion, Hmong weaving village
After breakfast, we ride on towards the town of Yen Minh, on roads that wind through picturesque mountain and valley landscapes, with many hairpin turns and great photo opportunities.
Along the way we have the option to explore an impressive limestone cave, with excellent examples of flowstone and other cave formations.
If time permits, we may also visit a small Hmong village with a traditional linen factory, where cloth with beautiful ethnic patterns is woven from raw materials and decorated by hand. It’s a great example of a small scale tourism initiative by a local village – and the linen is gorgeous too.
Not far before Yen Minh, we climb steeply up a spectacular new road that winds high above a vast gorge of the Lo River far below, and then cuts through some karst limestone mountains to emerge on a high ridge at the head of a huge valley falling away to the town.
The views over the rice-terraced slopes to the backdrop of serrated karst mountains are fantastic.
We wind down the ridge to Yen Minh, where we stop for some refreshment.
Fantastic roads on Dong Van Karst Plateau, hidden villages, Opium Lord’s Palace
We ride on towards Dong Van, climbing through various switchback passes and then on through the Dong Van Karst Plateau, on one of the best and most scenic roads in Vietnam.
The road threads through spectacular gorges and extraordinary limestone mountains and pinnacles, and deep valleys dotted with small villages.
Along the way we have the opportunity to detour into a beautiful, almost hidden valley with an old Chinese village surrounded by karst mountains, the last remnants of a largely vanished Chinese population.
We can also explore Vuong Palace, the splendid fortified former mansion of an opium lord. This is one of the best examples of authentic stone and wood architecture in the region.
Soon after, we reach Dong Van, the district capital, nestled in a pretty valley surrounded by hills and karst outcrops. The town is an interesting mix of the old and new, but still retains a lot of its traditional, frontier feel.
We explore the town and then, depending on time and energy, we might ride out to a fantastic viewpoint over the great Nho Que gorge, its steep slopes falling away to the river far below and then the valley walls rising up to China.
Other options include a short trek up a karst outcrop for a stunning sunset view over the town, or a challenging ride around a nearby mountain with some of the best views in the area.
Or we can just relax with a drink at a local bia hoi, watch the sunset over the town and then enjoy a delicious dinner.
We stay overnight in a comfortable hotel in the middle of town.
Accommodation: Hotel, Dong Van
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Spectacular mountains & canyons, riding the legendary Ma Pi Leng Pass, exploring border country
After a relaxed breakfast at a local café, we zigzag through yet more amazing Tolkienesque outcroppings of conical limestone peaks and deep, awe-inspiring valleys, until we suddenly emerge at Ma Pi Leng pass with its incredible view of mountains towering over the vast gorge below.
The Ma Pi Leng road twists away before us, clinging to the vertiginous slopes. It’s an awesome sight and perhaps the most spectacular motorcycle ride in all of Vietnam. We ride along slowly, stopping to take photographs along the way.
Taking a side turn, we drop into the enormous gorge, following a narrow road as it snakes down and down. The views are amazing.
We cross the river and then climb up the vast slopes that reach up to the highlands that stretch to the border with China. This is remote country, not often visited. The views from the top of the climb, looking back across the gorge to the great karst mountains, are magnificent.
We retrace our steps, re-cross the river and then ride on towards the town of Meo Vac.
For those who wish, there is an optional moderate half day trek that we can take, walking on tracks that sidle along the great slopes, with stunning views over the gorge, before turning inland via several small villages. This is one of the best half-day treks in the area.
Meo Vac and a traditional inn
We end in the small town of Meo Vac, where we drop our bags in the beautifully restored headman’s house where we will stay the night.
The inn is a gem – the careful renovation mixes traditional styles and methods with a few more modern creature comforts (note: to keep with traditional architecture, bathrooms are shared and external -- if you would prefer a private ensuite bathroom, we can offer a modern 3* hotel nearby: please indicate your preference in the optional message area as part of the booking process).
Meo Vac itself is an interesting if somewhat dusty market town, a center that services the large number of ethnic minority villages clustered among the surrounding hills.
We explore the town before relaxing at the inn and enjoying a traditional dinner.
Accommodation:Traditional Inn, Meo Vac
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Splendid karst plateau back roads
We have breakfast at a local café, and then follow small, alternative roads through mountains and pinnacles back towards Dong Van. After a while, we turn southwards through the heart of the karst mountain plateau, twisting through karst outcrops and small villages.
This is wonderful riding, off the beaten path, with splendid views and a sense of great remoteness and tranquility. It feels like we have stepped back in time; village life here holds fast to old traditions.
We gradually drop out of the karst mountains and re-enter the region of great valleys around Yen Minh.
Looping back to Ha Giang, we break for lunch at the exit of the spectacular Lo River gorge.
If we did not already make a visit on the way to Dong Van, we stop off in a picturesque Hmong village which specialises in hemp and linen weaving using traditional methods.
Ha Giang and a traditional feast
Zigzagging through more breathtaking landscapes, we wind our way back to Ha Giang, retracing country we passed on the way to Dong Van, arriving late-afternoon at our hotel.
We take time to relax and re-energize before a must-visit riverside bia hoi in Ha Giang and a spectacular dining experience, with traditional dancing, at a friendly Tay village homestay just out of town. We stay overnight in a comfortable hotel.
Accommodation: Hotel, Ha Giang
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Road to Hanoi, options for Thac Ba Lake & Duong Lam Ancient Village
After a delicious early breakfast of ban cuon at a renowned local hole in the wall, or local specialties in a Ha Giang café, we are collected by our private car(s) for the journey back to Hanoi, about 6 hours away.
We have several options, depending on how the group feels.
We can go direct to Hanoi, stopping at a café on the highway for lunch.
Or we can detour through pretty lowland hills to beautiful Thac Ba Lake for a delicious lunch at a traditional, friendly homestay, about halfway to Hanoi. This follows backroads and bypasses quite a bit of the highway, but adds about an hour or so to the overall journey.
As an alternative, closer to Hanoi, we can also detour to visit the old town of Duong Lam, which has some of North Vietnam’s best preserved old houses and temples – this also adds about an hour.
Headwaters of Chay River, backroads to Thac Ba Lake
Turning off the main highway, we take smaller less travelled roads heading south west towards Thac Ba Lake.
We drive through lovely open country between ranges of low hills as we approach the upper parts of the lake, then follow its Eastern flank, sometimes near the water and sometimes inland.
The lake is spectacular with its small islands with dense crowns of trees which dot the surface, giving the lake a surreal feel.
We stop at a friendly local homestay where we can stretch our legs before a delicious traditional lunch.
Red River basin and Duong Lam Ancient village
After lunch we drive south and enter the typical lowland rural landscapes of the upper Red River plains, an interesting contrast to the northern mountains and the flatter plains of the Red River delta south of Hanoi.
The landscape becomes more built up, and houses, villages and shops line the roads more densely. We broadly follow the heart of the Red River basin until we divert to the village of Duong Lam, which has some of North Vietnam’s best preserved old houses and temples.
Duong Lam Ancient Village is a UNESCO site recognized for its preservation of old buildings, with history dating back more than a thousand years. Two of Vietnam’s kings, Phung Hung (761-802) and Ngo Quyen (896-944) were born in Duong Lam, and are famous for leading resistance against invasion from the north.
The village has many traditional houses dating back up to 400 years, which provide a rare window into ancient Vietnamese culture and architecture, as well as some fine communal houses and older temples and pagodas.
We spend some time walking around the ancient town, exploring some of the old houses and temples, having a coffee break and stretching our legs.
We head on to Hanoi, traversing back roads through pretty farmland on the urban outskirts before driving through Tay Ho and back to your hotel.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Debrief & Departures
We will arrange with the group a convenient time to get together in a local cafe or your hotel for a debrief of the trip. This will give us the opportunity to collect panniers and any other equipment you might have rented from us.
Alternatively, we can do this in the car on our way back to Hanoi.
If you need transfers to the airport, we will arrange this for you. If you have booked your hotel and transfers through us it will already be taken care of.
If the group wishes, we can separately organize an end-of-trip dinner at a terrific, authentic, Vietnamese restaurant – it’s a great experience, great food and packed with locals enjoying themselves.
We will also happily provide advice and suggestions on any other travel you might be considering in Vietnam.
Then we bid farewell and safe travels till we see you again!
Booking in advance
We strongly recommend booking well in advance.
Accommodation choices can be limited, especially in less traveled parts of Vietnam. In more popular locations demand can be high, particularly at peak periods. If possible, we recommend booking 2 or more months in advance.
Our minimum advance period to book online for this tour is 4 weeks – shorter than that and you need to email us with a reservation request and we need to confirm availability.
Of course, we will always work with you if you have to book at short notice – just contact us.
Peak periods include: northern hemisphere summer holidays (July – August); Christmas period and southern hemisphere summer holidays (mid-December - early February); Easter; peak Ha Long Bay periods (September - November and March - May); Vietnamese domestic summer holidays (June - early September); Vietnamese lunar new year, Tet festival, usually sometime in February.
Remember, while these are the peak periods, Vietnam is busy all year round.
Minimum number of people
If you are booking as an ‘exclusive’ tour – meaning the tour will be just for your group and no others – then this tour is guaranteed to start on the scheduled date provided there are a minimum number of 2 people. For tours that are ‘not exclusive’, the minimum is 4 people.
Traveling solo? Book as ‘not exclusive’ and join with others. Or contact us -- we will always do what we can to help!
Departure day of the week, start dates and Ha Giang transport options
Note that the tour starts with a Thursday morning drive from Hanoi to Ha Giang province. This ensures that the tour gets to Meo Vac on Saturday evening, in time to explore the truly excellent ethnic minority markets on Sunday.
If a Thursday start is difficult for you, contact us and we will help work through the options.
You may also choose to travel to Ha Giang city by private car with driver (up to 3 passengers plus driver and guide, depending on luggage), which takes about 5 or so hours and can leave a little less early on the scheduled departure date.
More information on this option is presented as part of the booking process, and you can select your preference at the time of booking.
Comfortable, clean accommodation everywhere
Accommodation is a mix of 2 - 4 star hotels, lodges and village homestays.
Though the standard of accommodation off the beaten path has increased significantly over the past 5 years, traveling in remote Vietnam still means that in some places complete comfort is not always available -- but we always choose places that are clean, friendly and of a good, comfortable standard, that we use ourselves when traveling.
A great way to go
There is no better way to travel through Vietnam than by motorbike -- the feeling of connection to the landscapes and people is exhilarating. It's how we like to travel ourselves.
Vietnam is a motorbike rider’s paradise. The country has not yet developed to the point where cars and trucks are crowding bikes on rural and back roads: there are cars and trucks of course, but motorbikes are still dominant. On the other hand, the country has developed enough to have (mostly) reasonable sealed roads. In addition, the landscapes and people are fabulous. This all adds up to fantastic back roads riding.
This tour is aimed at people with moderate motorbike riding experience as well as more experienced riders. We modify the daily riding distances and choose roads and side excursions to suit the experience and desires of the group -- from relaxed to demanding.
There is also the possibility of riding pillion behind one of our experienced local riders -- you can select this as part of the booking process.
If you would like to discuss your riding experience and options, please contact us -- we are always keen to help!
'Slow travel' and types of motorbike
In general, we have a ‘slow travel’ philosophy and try and ensure that daily distances are not too large – we take time to enjoy what we are passing through.
Not going too fast is the secret to riding in Vietnam: there are so many fantastic side excursions and so much to experience. In any case, winding back roads make fast riding impractical a lot of the time -- in the mountains, speeds of 30 - 60 kmh are common. Of course if you want to ride harder and cover more distance, we can do that too.
We generally ride modest sized semi-automatic bikes of around 110cc-125cc, or slightly larger manual bikes of 150cc. Both are well suited to the winding roads of Vietnam.
The 110cc - 1225cc bikes are less expensive, are light and easy to manage, and handle dirt roads well. These are what the locals ride everywhere. You'll find them more approachable if you're riding what they're riding. These are the default, included in the price of the tour.
The 150cc bikes are heavier, a bit more expensive and can of course cover long distances more quickly. You can select 150cc bikes for your group as part of the booking process.
Western riders used to larger bikes often want something bigger -- and if you want to ride Vietnam's crowded highways, then a larger bike makes sense (although bikes of more than 175cc involve more stringent driving license requirements) -- but we do not recommend them for our tours.
Off road bikes are also available for those who wish to add some more challenging dirt roads to the mix – we can provide as much challenge as you can handle. However, it's not our key focus and if you want a pure off-roading experience, then you should look elsewhere. Contact us if you are interested in a larger motorbike or mixing in a bit of more serious off-road.
See here for more information on riding a motorbike in Vietnam.
Ideally, you will have a motorbike license in your own country that you can use as the basis to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) before you leave.
Vietnam does not recognize domestic motorcycle licenses by themselves as being a valid license to ride a motorbike in Vietnam, but it does recognize the combination of a domestic license and an IDP from a number of countries: see here for more important information and a link to a list of countries.
If you are from one of the countries where an IDP is not recognized (including USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, Ireland, Spain), then please contact us to discuss options.
Note that the rules for what is required to ride validly in Vietnam are always changing -- we try and keep up to date, but it's always best to contact the Vietnamese embassy in your country to confirm.
Choose Your Style
This tour is aimed at both people who are interested in being active as well as those who want a more relaxing trip instead. We have designed the route and itinerary to accommodate both preferences.
For those who want to be active, we are happy to provide as much additional riding and / or trekking as you desire – and it’s great stuff: fabulous back roads and trails, amazing mountains and gorges, wonderful treks to remote ethnic minority villages, stunning rice terraces and beautiful forests.
For those more interested in a less-active trip, the core riding itinerary provides great, relaxing touring through spectacular and incredibly diverse landscapes and villages. We can adjust the itinerary for each day in accord with the interests of the group.
The tour price includes:
- Motorbike, Honda Wave or Future Neo or equivalent semi-automatic, including custom panniers, racks & bungee cords
- English speaking local guide
- Accommodation as specified in the itinerary
- Meals as specified in the itinerary, usually breakfast, lunch & dinner
- Bus from Hanoi to Ha Giang; other transfers as specified in the itinerary (covering both persons & motorbikes as applicable)
- Permits, entrance, trekking and other fees
- Any optional extras (such as airport meet & transfer) selected as part of the booking process
The tour price does not include:
- Drinks, including beer, wine & spirits
- Travel insurance
- Motorbike clothing & protective gear - including helmet, gloves, knee & elbow protectors. We recommend bringing your own, but if this is difficult, we do have limited numbers available for rent for a modest additional cost; you can select this as an optional Extra as part of the booking process.
Tour Options – Add Something Special to Your Tour
Customise Your Tour with Our Optional Activities
Take your tour further and add some extra experiences we think are not to be missed. From landscapes to people watching, trekking to markets, simply choose the option(s) that’s right for you and click reload your revised tour to open a new tab with an amended itinerary.
At this time we don’t have pre-prepared itineraries for every combination, so please contact us if your combination doesn’t load a new itinerary and we can work with you directly.
Beautiful, unspoilt Ha Giang valleys & villages
6 Days | 400+ km | Easy / moderate
Combine a morning motorbike ride to a remote, beautiful, hidden valley with an afternoon leisurely trek through scenic hills and ethnic Tay villages to experience Ha Giang off the beaten path. From our breakfast at a rural restaurant for locals to the hamlets we ride through, this is authentic, unspoilt Vietnam.
Mountains, canyons & back roads of Dong Van & Meo Vac
6 Days | 440+ km | Easy / moderate
Explore the Dong Van and Meo Vac area in more detail. Ride some of the most spectacular roads in Vietnam, through fantastic mountains and deep ravines. Trek to remote ethnic minority villages, along paths overlooking amazing canyons. Dig deeper into the rich tapestry of ethnic minority culture and way of life. Discover the less traveled places that make this area so special.
Beautiful Thac Ba lake & ancient Duong Lam village
6 Days | 700+ km | Easy / moderate
Return to Hanoi from Ha Giang via beautiful Thac Ba Lake and the ancient village of Duong Lam. This is a great off-the-beaten-path alternative to csr from Ha Gisng, riding our motorbikes through varied rural country, and exploring a different side of Vietnam as we journey from the northern mountains down through the historic Red River Basin.
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