9 Days Dong Van Karst Plateau to Halong Bay
Exploring the most stunning karst landscape in Vietnam – the Dong Van Plateau. It offers opportunities for photos of breathtaking scenery and listening to the mythical stories about the H’mong King. The trip ends in Halong Bay, where you will enjoy cruising through the rocky formations with a cocktail on the sundeck.
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Vacation Style Holiday Type
Activity Level Road Trips
Group Size Large Group
Itinerary at a glance
Day 1: Hanoi arrival
Day 2: Transfer to Ha Giang
Day 3: Hiking to hill tribes villages
Day 4: Up to Dong Van Geo-Park
Day 5: Have morning Café in Dong Van Ancient Town – Visit the palace of H’mong King
Day 6: Drive back to Hanoi
Day 7: Cruising on Halong Bay – Overnight on board
Day 8: Attending morning exercise on the bay – Exploring Surprising Grotto – Hanoi
Day 9: Hanoi Departure
Types of tour: private
Types of road: highway, paved mountain roads
Vehicle types: pick-up cars
No of passenger per car: 01 – 03
No of vehicles: 01 -10
- Homestay: blanket, pillow, mattress and mosquito net provided; western toilet; hot shower
- Cruise (meals included)
Meals: local food (seafood, pork, beef, chicken, egg, vegetable…)
Activities: hiking, caving, swimming, kayaking
Group size: 01 – 30
Duration of trip: 09 days
Guides: 01 – 02 guides/group
Minimum driving age: 22
IDP (International Driving Pass)
Manual or automatic: both
Driving distances: 1,250km
No of passenger per car: 01 – 04
You will arrive at Noi Bai International Airport and get picked up by our local guide and private vehicle to transfer you to your hotel in Hanoi center. Check in to your hotel, have time for a shower and some rest, before (depending on arrival time) an orientation tour passing by the city landmarks.
Transfer to Ha Giang (B/L/D)
Today, you will take a drive to Ha Giang, the most remote province in the North of Vietnam. The distance is 320km and it will take you almost 7 hours to get there, with a few photo-stops and lunch along the way. Reach Tien Thang – a village of the Tay Minority Group – in the afternoon.
The home where you will stay overnight is a traditional house on stilts. In Vietnam, there are 54 minority groups and the Tay is the largest, with more than 1 million people. Some other groups also live in houses on stilts, but the houses of the Tay People in Tien Thang are the largest and most comfortable, as they are made of wood and covered by palm leaves. Some other minority groups use floors made of bamboo that are quite annoying at night, making noise at the slightest movement.
It’s time to take off your shoes, stretch your legs and sit back and enjoy cold drinks. If you are not tired, let’s walk around this peaceful, picturesque village. In the afternoon, you may join the host in preparing dinner.
In the evening, as is the traditional custom of many hill-tribes, the host will greet you and your group with his best wishes at dinner. Then rice wine will be poured into small cups. The first round should be bottomed up to show the host your respect and the appreciation of their hospitality. The dinner is not sumptuous, but very cozy, with a lot of laughs and fun. If you are a good drinker, the host will not mind staying with you until both of you cannot walk straight. You will of course not be expected to drive home after that.
Hiking to hill tribes villages (B/L/D)
Waken up by the “Rooster Symphony”, have breakfast and get ready for a day of hiking around the region. The hike will be escorted by a local man, leading you through rice fields, villages and up the mountain, with panoramic views of the region. Stop for a picnic-lunch at the home of another minority group – perhaps the Red Dao, who cultivate green tea and black cardamom. After lunch, you will start hiking down and, if it is in rice season, the scenery will be stunning, with terraced paddy fields. The houses and palm trees dotted in the rice fields make it look like a painting with lively colors.
Get back to your homestay in the afternoon and enjoy your own time for resting, maybe reading a book, writing in your diary or having some cold drinks while loading up photos to your computer. Or why not indulge yourself with an herbal footbath. The host will boil some herbal leaves, which are considered to have a medicinal effect, and then pour the hot mixture into a wooden sink. You just keep your feet in the mixture and let the “magic herbal leaves” do the rest.
Up to Dong Van Geo-Park (B/L)
Pack your stuff, say goodbye to the host, and off you go again. Today, the 140-km zigzag roads will be unforgettable. Not only will the landscapes on the way impress you, with high mountains and deep valleys, but also the hamlets of houses located in remote areas, showing the extraordinary survival skills of the local hill-tribes. They are living “on the rocks” at almost impossible locations – they are the real “rock stars” – a short, but meaningful, phrase.
The first stop will be at Quan Ba Heaven Gate. Walk the 100 steps up to Fairy Mountain, where, from the top, you can enjoy the view of the town and Twin Mountain. Continue your drive to Yen Minh Town where you will stop for lunch. From this point, you are finished 2/3rds of the trip.
Following lunch, you will head to Meo Vac Town. This part of the drive is stunning, and the highlights of the day are at Ma Pi Leng Pass and Nho Que River. No one can describe this magnificent landscape with words. Stop the vehicle, enjoy the moment, take photos and play the song “River deep, mountain high” on your IPod. This is possibly the most extraordinary moment of the trip, and, in Vietnam, this destination is on the “bucket list” of all real men.
Keep driving along the mountain road and you will reach Dong Van Town in the afternoon. Check in and have a hot shower after the long drive, and enjoy your own time. Find some local dishes by yourself at a nearby local restaurant. If you are adventurous, hang out with your tour guide to explore the town – it could be another story to tell your friends.
Have morning Café in Dong Van Ancient Town – Visit the palace of H’mong King (B/L)
Take a morning walk to visit the ancient part of Dong Van Town. Some houses have been there for more than 200 years. The unique feature of the houses is the soil walls that could be 40 – 50 cm thick. In the dry season, you can see many gaps in the wall. Stop at a café, which used to be the house of a local businessman a hundred years ago. Find your seat on the balcony, sip coffee, and watch the town walk by.
Today, leaving the town, your drive is quite relaxing with almost only downhill. Not too long after departure, you will visit the H’mong King Palace. If you are lucky, you could meet the H’mong King’s descendants, who are looking after the palace. Inside, there are images of opium everywhere, showing the important role the opium played in the life of H’mong Kings. There is even a cube of real opium displayed in the store. Listen to the glorious history of the Kings, known as the Kings of Opium. There are many interesting stories about them – their generosity, bravery and contribution to Vietnam’s revolution during the Indochina War.
Have lunch en route and arrive in Ha Giang City in the afternoon. Rest of day is free for you to explore.
Drive back to Hanoi (B/L)
Have breakfast and check out before returning to Hanoi. The distance of 320 km will take another
7 hours, lunch on the way. Arrive at your hotel in the afternoon; enjoy your own time at leisure or walk around the Old Quarter and find your favorite food at many restaurants in town. In the evening, have some drinks at a bar and try to live as a local.
Cruise on Halong Bay – Overnight on board (B/L/D)
The guide meets you at your hotel for an early-morning drive to Halong Bay. We will drive through towns and villages and get to Halong Bay at midday. Board your cruise in the early afternoon, leave your luggage in your cabin, and go up to the restaurant for a sumptuous lunch, while the cruise starts the journey through magnificent karst landscapes.
In the afternoon, there will be some activities that you should not miss, like visiting a fishing village, climbing up to the top of an island for panoramic views, kayaking, swimming (weather permitting) or just rewarding yourself with a relaxing massage on the boat.
During sunset, there will be happy hour at the bar and a cooking demonstration. Dinner will follow in a cozy atmosphere. Enjoy the meals with delicious food cooked by excellent chefs. The sea view by night is also very beautiful, when all the surrounding ships light up.
Stay: On board
Attending morning exercise on the bay – Exploring Surprising Grotto - Hanoi (B/L)
If you are an early riser, do not miss the morning exercise class on the sundeck at sunrise. Doing exercise in a spectacular landscape is an unforgettable experience.
Have breakfast while the cruise continues further into the bay. The morning activities commence with a visit to Surprise Grotto, known as the most beautiful cave on the bay. The visit takes 1 hour and then you return to the cruise, check out and have brunch before heading back to the quay.
Meet the vehicle to get transferred back to Hanoi; spend the rest of day on your own.
Hanoi Departure (B)
Transfer to the airport for your onward flight (no guide).
- Homestay: clean, blanket, pillow, mattress and mosquito net provided; western toilet; hot shower
- Cruise (meals included)
Meals: local foods (seafood, pork, beef, chicken, egg, vegetable…)