Incredible Ha Giang plus Sapa —
best motorbike riding in Vietnam
Incredible Ha Giang plus Sapa —
best motorbike riding in Vietnam
At a glance
Discover the best of Ha Giang and Sapa on a fully guided, small group motorbike tour of unspoiled North Vietnam.
Explore the less traveled mountains of North Vietnam, where they run close to the Chinese border, among some of the world’s most spectacular scenery.
This is the wildest country in Vietnam, and some of the best motorbike riding you will find anywhere.
Ride fabulous, twisting roads among amazing, jagged karst limestone peaks and plateaus. It is like no place you have ever been. Traverse past breathtaking canyons, over hairpin passes, and through beautiful valleys & rice terraces. Discover fascinating ethnic minority villages, wonderful people and customs, and delicious, authentic regional food.
We take the side roads so you can experience the authentic Vietnam.
We take time to discover the local culture, people and lifestyles of the ethnic minorities of the region. We visit the best markets in far North Vietnam, a window into a different world and a highlight of our tour. Optionally, there are wonderful day or half day treks among peaks, valleys and ethnic villages.
We end our tour with two days in Sapa, a bustling hill town among spectacular terraced valleys, exploring the less visited valleys and roads among the great peaks, and enjoying some good food, bia hoi and relaxation at the end of our journey.
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 the fascinating frontier towns of Dong Van and Meo Vac, and the simply fabulous twisting roads that radiate from them
- Enjoy great day and half-day treks (optional) among ethnic villages and awesome scenery near Dong Van, Meo Vac and Sapa
- Ride among the spectacular mountains, famous rice terraces and gorgeous valleys near Hoang Su Phi and Xin Man
- Get lost in Xin Man market, perhaps the best, most colorful and unspoiled regional market in North Vietnam — a real jewel
- Explore Sapa, and its magnificent rice-terraced valleys; and marvel at the view from the summit of Mt Fansipan, the highest peak in South East Asia
What our travelers say
“Amazing mountains and awesome gorges. The Dong Van karst plateau and pinnacles were incredible and other-worldly.”
“We rode some of the most spectacular roads for motorbiking anywhere, and visited fascinating villages & hill-tribes, well off the beaten path. The mountain people, and especially the children, were a highlight.”
“It was great to end the trip with the incredible mountains around Sapa – and good coffee!”
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
Great riding in Song Chay Mountains and among Hoang Su Phi rice terraces
Today is an easy ride into the stunning Song Chay mountains in Hoang Su Phi district south west of Ha Giang. After a delicious breakfast of banh cuon at a renowned local hole in the wall, or local specialties in a Ha Giang café, we ride first south along the highway and then turn north on smaller roads into the mountains.
We gradually climb along a twisting ridge road with great valley views. We crest a pass dividing the southern and northern parts of the mountains, before turning onto a quiet backroad that drops into a beautiful valley. This is great riding through peaceful, remote countryside – tiny hamlets, buffalos on the road, traditional farming life. We eventually reach the village of Thong Nguyen, where we stop at a friendly roadside cafe for a simple lunch.
Hoang Su Phi - trekking, meandering or exploring by motorbike
After lunch, there are several options. This region boasts magnificent terraced rice fields recognized in 2011 as a National Heritage Site by the Vietnamese Government. The area is also rich in trekking opportunities among the hills and ethnic villages, and we can take an easy or moderate trek with a local guide through the rice terraces and forest. The views are fabulous, and you are bound to see some colorfully dressed locals along the way.
The local backroads among the rice terraces also make for excellent exploration by motorbike – a web of small roads run along the valleys and traverse the high ridges with fantastic views over the rice terraces spilling hundreds of meters down the vast slopes. These terraces have been painstakingly built over centuries, and in places they cover kilometers of hillside. Houses and small hamlets are dotted among the terraces. They are an amazing sight.
Or you can choose the spend a more relaxing afternoon. The places we stay are themselves beautiful – set in pretty tropical gardens, or high among the rice terraces with gorgeous views, with good local walking, meandering or just hanging out. The sleepy village of Thong Nguyen and its surrounding roads are also interesting to explore slowly, observing the daily rhythms in a small rural community.
After an evening drink, we enjoy a meal at our chosen resort and compare notes on the day.
Accommodation: Comfortable resort, Thong Nguyen area
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Hoang Su Phi and road to Xin Man
We make an early start on the road to Xin Man (also known as Coc Pai), re-joining the main road to Hoang Su Phi. Time permitting, we detour to explore some more of the excellent side valleys among the stunning rice terrace landscapes.
The backroads here are some of the best in the Northern mountains: completely off the beaten path, very little traffic, wonderful countryside and constantly opening up magnificent views of valleys and cascading rice terraces. It’s great riding.
We drop out of the great terraced hills and skirting along the Chay river, we finally reach Xin Man, perched high above the river on the side of a mountain in a fantastic position at the junction of three great valleys.
Canyons of Xin Man, breathtaking views
After a late lunch at a restaurant in town, we drop our bags at our hotel and take an optional ride to the top of a nearby peak, walking the last few hundred meters, for amazing views over the still relatively unexplored great gorges and mountains that radiate out from Xin Man.
Looking north across the vast canyon of the Chay river, more than a thousand meters below, the enormous bluffs on the Chinese side rise steeply to the mountain ridges beyond. Looking south, the three great valleys rise up to distant peaks. It's an incredible sight.
After admiring the view, we return to dinner in Xin Man and overnight in a comfortable hotel.
Accommodation: Hotel, Xin Man
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Fantastic ethnic minority market of Xin Man, great road to Bac Ha
We rise to an early breakfast and then visit the Xin Man Sunday market, perhaps the best and most beautiful market in the region, still very authentic and unspoilt, and a highlight of the trip.
Many different ethnic minorities-- including Flower Hmong, Black Hmong, Dao, Nung, and Tay-- travel from surrounding villages to socialize and sell their goods at the market. The women, especially, wear their traditional costumes, transforming the streets into a kaleidoscope of brilliant color, textiles and jewelry. It is a wonderful, culturally rich place to wander slowly and observe -- a photographer’s dream.
After exploring the market, we get back on our bikes and climb the twisting road up the slopes behind Xin Man, with stunning views back to the south and east, before cresting the ridge at the friendly Hmong hamlet of Nan Ma. To the north we catch views of the rice terraces falling away into the great gorge of the Chay River. It’s spectacular country. We ride on through gently undulating landscapes until reaching Bac Ha, the regional capital for the Flower Hmong ethnic minority, set in a broad valley among pretty hills.
Bac Ha market and Royal Palace
Bac Ha is a relatively prosperous town; its Sunday market is large and colourful, and popular with tourists from Sapa -- it seems far distant from the remote frontier feel of Xin Man. The Bac Ha market will most likely be winding down by the time we get there, but we take a look anyway. We also take time to visit the Royal Palace of the Hmong people – Hoang Tuong, a rather splendid if fading building in a European-Asian baroque colonial style, and full of interesting history.
From Bac Ha, we ride south west through rolling country until we reach the broad valley of the Red River, where we head north east to the regional capital of Lao Cai, the northern terminus for the trains that run from Hanoi, taking people to Sapa. From Lao Cai, we head south west again, climbing into the mountains via a winding road along a pretty valley flanked by rice terraces. Ahead lie the highest peaks in Vietnam.
Sapa and Vietnam’s highest peaks
Finally, we reach Sapa, the bustling hill town built originally by the French to escape the summer heat. Set in a fabulous location near the head of the vast and spectacular Muong Hoa valley, Sapa town today is a large and busy tourist destination. We stop for some good coffee before heading south to our hotel, set on the slopes overlooking the great valley and away from the crowds of Sapa town.
Depending on the time and weather, we might choose to return to explore Sapa in more detail, or perhaps take the cable car to the top of Fansipan to stand on the summit of the highest mountain in South East Asia. The cable car takes you to a point a little below the summit, complete with restaurant and Buddhist temple, and the actual summit is a climb of 600 steps (or a funicular) further on. The cable car is a little controversial, with some people criticizing it as an overly-touristic intrusion that has spoilt what was a challenging trek to one of Asia’s significant summits. Whatever your feelings about the cable car, on a good day the views from the summit are stunning.
Or we might choose to explore the valley near our hotel, or just relax and take in the views and an evening drink before a delicious evening meal.
Accommodation: Hotel, Sapa
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Exploring Sapa town and its valleys, Mt Fansipan, optional trekking
After a relaxed breakfast, we spend the day discovering the Sapa region in more detail. Options include motorcycle rides into some of the excellent and less travelled surrounding valleys, including visits to local villages and homes away from the tourist crush; taking the cable car to the summit of Mt Fansipan (if not done the day before); and exploring the busy streets, cafes and stores of Sapa town.
For a day in more remote mountain country, we can ride to the isolated hamlet of Y Ty with its famous rice terraces and swirling cloud mountains (for experienced riders only, and road conditions permitting). There are also easy to challenging treks, off the beaten path and away from the crowds, among the terraced slopes and local villages in some of the most majestic mountain country in Vietnam.
We are free to do as much or as little as we want.
At the end of the day, we relax at our hotel, admiring the views over the valley and terraces, before dinner.
Accommodation: Hotel, Sapa
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Road to Lao Cai, Beautiful Mountains & Valleys, Return Options
After a relaxed breakfast, the itinerary depends on whether the party is returning to Hanoi by evening bus (default), overnight train or private car + driver. (See Information section)
If taking the bus, we spend the morning exploring a bit more of the less-travelled Sapa and its valleys, taking lunch in a local restaurant, before riding back down to Lao Cai in the early afternoon via a beautiful, winding road that follows a lovely valley at the foot of towering mountain slopes. We leave our bikes with Other Path Travel representatives who will take care of their transport to Hanoi, while we get some snacks to eat while travelling, and then get ourselves and our panniers and luggage onto the bus. These are modern, comfortable buses that take the freeway to Hanoi; the journey is about 4.5 – 5 hrs and we arrive late in the evening, generally around 9pm – 11pm depending on the precise schedule and traffic. We will arrange transport to your hotel.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
If taking the overnight train, we spend the morning and early afternoon exploring more of the trails, villages and backroads of the Sapa valley and surrounding valleys, as well as Sapa town itself, by motorbike and foot. After lunch in Sapa, in the second half of the afternoon we ride down the winding road from Sapa to Lao Cai.
We leave our bikes with Other Path Travel representatives who will take care of their transport to Hanoi, while we have an early dinner in a local restaurant before boarding a private carriage around 8pm.
The overnight train back to Hanoi is a unique glimpse into a Vietnam of older times. The cabins are reminiscent of steam train days and quite comfortable, even luxe, with wood-paneled walls, decent mattresses, reading lights, AC outlets and air-conditioning on better classes. However, the rail tracks are old, the trains go slowly and there are numerous stops and starts along the way – many people use good ear plugs in order to have a pleasant and restful night.
With a sensible attitude to train travel in developing countries, the trip can be a great experience. On arrival in Hanoi, typically early in the morning around 5am, we are met at the train station by our prearranged transport to drive you to your hotel.
Accommodation: Overnight train
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
If going by private car and driver, we ride down to Lao Cai in the morning and catch an early lunch in a local café. We leave our bikes with Other Path Travel representatives who will take care of their transport back to Hanoi. We get ourselves and our panniers and luggage loaded into our cars and set off a little before noon for Hanoi via the freeway.
Optional Excursion to Duong Lam Ancient Town
Before reaching Hanoi there is an option, time permitting, to visit Duong Lam, a UNESCO World Heritage site which has some of North Vietnam’s best-preserved old houses and temples. Duong Lam has a 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 arrive in Hanoi around 5pm – 6pm and transfer you to your hotel.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Debrief & Departures
Whether returning to Hanoi by bus, or overnight train, or car + driver, we will arrange with the group a convenient time to get together later in a local cafe, after breakfast in your hotel and an opportunity to repack out of the motorbike panniers, to debrief on the trip and to collect panniers and any other equipment you might have rented from us.
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 one of Hanoi’s best, authentic, Vietnamese restaurants – 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 an early Monday morning transfer by comfortable VIP bus to Ha Giang city (about 6 hours) and then a short motorbike ride (a bit over 2 hours) to Quan Ba. This ensures that the tour gets to Xin Man the following Saturday evening, in time to explore the amazing ethnic minority Xin Man market on Sunday morning.
An alternative is to start with a Thursday transfer to Ha Giang and ride to Quan Ba, and see the Meo Vac market on Sunday instead of the Xin Man Sunday market. Both Xin Man and Meo Vac markets are wonderful, extraordinary experiences and we recommend timing your trip to see at least one of them.
If a Monday or Thursday start doesn’t work 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.
Back to Hanoi
There are four options for returning to Hanoi from Lao Cai, some of which involve different accommodations for the final leg. The default option, included in this tour, is to ride our motorbikes after lunch on the last day to Loa Cai from Sapa, and to catch the late afternoon bus back to Hanoi (and the bikes onto either the bus or train), arriving late in the evening, generally between 9pm and 11pm depending on precise schedule and traffic.
For all the returning options: if you have booked a Hanoi hotel through Other Path Travel we will transfer you and your luggage to your hotel, and help you check in. If you have booked your own accommodation in Hanoi, we will arrange transport to your hotel.
The first alternative, selectable as an Extra at checkout, is to return to Hanoi by private driver + car, which can be scheduled to leave Lao Cai around noon and arrive in Hanoi early evening, around 5pm-6pm, in time for you to have dinner after checking in to your hotel. For this, we ride our motorbikes down to Lao Cai from Sapa around mid-morning; the bikes are left to be put onto the train or bus back to Hanoi and we transfer to the car for the straightforward drive to Hanoi via the freeway. This is the fastest way to get back to Hanoi.
The second alternative, also selectable as an Extra at checkout, is to take the overnight Sapa – Hanoi train instead of the bus. Traveling by the overnight train, especially in the luxe wood-paneled cabins found in private carriages, is a special experience, one that evokes a former colonial Vietnam. While relatively expensive, this experience is unique in Vietnam. Many people love it as a one-off.
If you choose to return to Hanoi on the overnight train we ride our motorbikes to Lao Cai from Sapa around mid-afternoon on the last day; the bikes are put on the train; we have dinner in Lao Cai and then board the train about 8pm. We sleep in private luxe cabins as the train winds its way (a little noisily!) back to Hanoi. We arrive in the early morning, around 5am, where transport to your hotel will be available if you need it. See the Itinerary for more details.
The third alternative, for experienced riders and selectable as an optional extension to your tour, is to ride back to Hanoi over two days, passing through lovely country and staying overnight at the half way point in a friendly homestay on the shores of the spectacular Thac Ba Lake. See the Tour Options section at the bottom of this web page. Riding back via Thac Ba Lake adds a day to the tour and about 300km extra distance, spread over the last two days of the trip. See here for additional details and an itinerary which adds this option to the 9 day Best of Ha Giang plus Sapa base tour.
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; bus from Lao Cai to Hanoi; and 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.
- Cable Car ride to the summit of Mt Fansipan from Sapa. This is too weather dependent to include by default, and is better handled on the spot.
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 will work with you directly.
Beautiful, unspoilt Ha Giang valleys & villages
10 Days | 750+ 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
10 Days | 790+ 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.
The amazing roads & gorges of remote Muong Khuong
10 Days | 800+ km | Easy / moderate
Explore the spectacular, less traveled byways and magnificent gorge country of the Muong Khuong region, deep in remote frontier country. This is unspoilt Vietnam -- mountainous, beautiful and far from the crowds.
Beautiful Thac Ba lake & ancient Duong Lam village
10 Days | 1,050+ km | Easy / moderate
Return to Hanoi from Sapa via beautiful Thac Ba Lake and the ancient village of Duong Lam. This is a great off-the-beaten-path alternative to the bus or train from Lao Cai, 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.
Remote, stunning rice terraces & mountains of Y Ty
10 Days | 830+ km | Easy / moderate
Explore the stunning rice terraces and cloud-wreathed peaks surrounding the remote hamlet of Y Ty, in the mountains north of Sapa, close to the Chinese border. This is a magical place, far from the crowds, where you can discover a landscape barely touched by tourism. Ride a mix of fabulous sealed and unsealed roads through stunning mountains and then along the banks of the great Red River back to Lao Cai, before traveling on to Hanoi.
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