Northern Vietnam & Yunnan Adventure

Northern Vietnam & Yunnan Adventure

From $ 4,590 AUD

Description

Discover the remote mountains of northwest Vietnam and southwest China on a trip from Hanoi to Kunming, taking in all the attractions in between. Leaving the graceful boulevards of Hanoi behind, travel to Sapa before traversing the bumpy mountain roads to Ha Giang, Dong Van and cruising the waters of Ba Be Lake. Experience breathtaking mountain views and meet friendly locals along the way. Venture into the spectacular southern reaches of China. Stay in a Hani village in the colors of the draw dropping Yuanyang rice terrace , step back in time among the pristine Qing and Ming dynasty masterpieces in Jianshui, and wander the busy streets in Kunming. Hike one of Asia’s finest geological wonders, Tiger Leaping Gorge, best beheld from the winding hiking trails high above the Yangzi River. Break bread with a Bai family and learn about the province’s second-largest ethnic group. Travel to lofty, legendary Shangrila. Mingle with Tibetan pilgrims in Ganden Sumtseling Monastery. This is the ultimate adventure you can dream of traveling through mountains, rice terraces, idyllic farms and meeting the most beautiful locals in this corner of the world

Trip Name
Northern Vietnam & Yunnan Adventure
Last Updated
2018-12-10
Days
29
Capacity
12
Highlights
  • This combination trip includes one of our most popular trips in Vietnam and two of our most exciting new itineraries in China. 
  • Stay in a local homestay and get to know our H'mong hosts invite you to learn about their rich culture, to share stories and to try some of their local home cooked cuisine.
  • As the dramatic mountains of Heaven’s Gate soar above the green forests and rice paddies of Ha Giang, a deep appreciation of this region's landscape will be understood as you journey through it.
  • Mrs Mai’s Responsible Tourism project in Dong Van is an eye-opening insight into the world of human trafficking. Learn about the amazing efforts made by an inspirational project to free their country of this crime
  • Float along the lake, viewing magnificent waterfalls and wildlife in the Ba Be National Park. A traditional homestay is the perfect way to access remote parts of this region and to get a real glimpse of Vietnamese life
  • Follow the Yunnan-Vietnam railway and visit the one of the oldest train stations on this line at Bisezhai village for a fascinating glimpse into history
  • Explore idyllic Yuangyang on a guided half-day walk, snapping photos of the spectacular rice terrace landscapes and learning a thing or two about their makers, the Hani people
  • Discover the Ming and Qing marvels of Jianshui Ancient Town on a guided walk. Visit Zhu's Family Garden, the Confucius temple and the amazingly preserved Tuanshan village
  • Kunming is yours for the taking. Enjoy plenty of free time in the liveable, laid-back 'Spring City' to make your own discoveries
  • Visit our local Bai friend in Dali and learn about Bai people and their way of life.
  • In Shaxi, you'll see one of the best-preserved traditional towns in Yunnan. Stay in a friendly, family-run guesthouse and sample some authentic local cuisine
  • Experience the legendary Tiger Leaping Gorge, with two days of hiking one of China's most breathtaking trails.
  • Journey to Shangrila and walk among Tibetan pilgrims in Sumtseling Monastery.
  • Travel like a local, on public buses and sleeper trains. It's the perfect opportunity to interact with people and take in the charming provincial scenery.
  • You've never tried anything like Yunannese food! Get a different perspective on Chinese cuisine with the unique flavours of the local soup, noodles, mushrooms and cheese.

Itinerary

Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Essential Trip Information a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff. We are here to help you! Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time. OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES: A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate, are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or just let your leader know you are interested and they can assist. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with organising these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

Day 1 - Hanoi
Xin chao. Welcome to Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you bring these details to provide to your leader. The meeting is generally followed by an optional group meal out at one of Hanoi's fantastic eating spots. If you have time before the meeting, head out and discover Hanoi. It's a good idea to take a hotel business card so you can find your way back.
Day 2 - Sapa Homestay
In the morning, take a bus transfer from Hanoi towards Lao Chai in the Sapa region. The drive may take a little while (approx. 5 hours), which makes for the perfect opportunity to get to know your fellow travellers a bit better. Press on along the winding road before taking your first glimpse of Lao Chai village, sitting comfortably in a valley with cleared hillsides and rustic farmland. Stretch your legs as you walk off the bus, then begin a trek to your homestay in Ta Van – comfy, quaint and surrounded by pristine farmland (approximately 10 km; 6 mi).
Day 3 - Sapa
After breakfast at your homestay trek to Giang Ta Chai – home to the Red Dzao hill people. Push on through 18 kilometres of terraced farmland and bamboo scrub for excellent views of emerald valleys and rushing waterfalls as you stroll on by. Take a picnic lunch along the way, then depart by bus to Sapa. Once you arrive in Sapa, enjoy some free time to rest your legs. If you still have some energy perhaps visit the local market. This is where you can indulge in some local goods, such as dyed fabrics, hemp plants and handmade textiles. In the evening, settle into your hotel in Sapa for the night.
Day 4 - Ha Giang
In the morning, embark on a long bus journey (approximately 7 hours) to the province of Ha Giang. This is a highland region of forests and terraced rice paddies, with the mountains of Heaven’s Gate (Quan Ba pass) soaring in the background. The Ha Giang province also shares a border with southern China, and is known as Vietnam's final frontier. After relaxing and getting to know your surrounds, visit the local markets and shop fronts, which are relics of a bygone era. Afterwards venture to the the local museum and explore Cuom Village, witnessing the colourful traditional dress of the local people. The evening is then free to do as you please.
Day 5 - Dong Van
Today, leave for the first of many scenic mountain drives throughout Ha Giang province. Stop to browse Minh Tao Market before wandering through the village of Nam Luong. A visit to Mrs Mai’s Responsible Tourism project will be a highlight of the day. Learn about the stories of human trafficking and how the victims/witnesses of this crime found the opportunity of a life free from exploitation here. Afterwards pass through Lung Tam textile village and the Vuong Family Palace in Sa Phin commune, before continuing to Dong Van where you'll spend the night.
Day 6 - Dong Van
After breakfast visit the local market, before setting off on a trekking loop that starts and finishes in Dong Van. The trek (approximately 4 hours in total) is surprisingly moderate and suitable for those with an average fitness level. Wind your way through the spectacular landscape, where you can expect to witness glorious views and capture some amazing pictures of lush valleys and rice paddies. The evening is then free to relax or explore more of Dong Van.
Day 7 - Bao Lac
Drive past terraced rice farms on the road to Bao Lac (approximately 4 hours), a small town in the mountainous region of northern Vietnam. The area is home to the Black Lo Lo ethnic group, who are well known for their colourful attire and finesse in making bronze drums. The bronze drums hold a special place in Lo Lo customs, being used at funerals and important family events. In Lo Lo culture, only the sound of the drums can help the souls of the dead find their way to the birthplace of their ancestors. Stay overnight in Bao Lac and perhaps explore the local marketplace and learn more about this fascinating culture. 
Day 8 - Ba Be Lake
Travel on to Ba Be Lake early in the morning (approximately 4 hours). Once there, head down the river by boat on an exploration of Ba Be National Park, visiting the largest natural lake in Vietnam. Disembark for some light walks along the way, visiting the impressive waterfalls that feed the lake and observing the natural flora and fauna. Return to land in the afternoon and head to a local home where you will be sleeping tonight. The family you’re staying with will prepare lunch and the rest of the day is then free to explore. In the evening sit down for a delicious dinner with your hosts. This is a great opportunity to gain an insight into their lives and culture.
Day 9 - Hanoi
Head back to Hanoi after breakfast, which should take between four and five hours. Use your free time exploring the boulevards and colonial buildings of the city. If you have time, visit the Hanoi Military Museum or take a look inside the city's spectacular Opera House. For your final evening in Hanoi, perhaps share a final dinner with the group at KOTO cafe, a project aimed at providing vocational training to underprivileged young people.
Day 10 - Hanoi
Enjoy a free day in Hanoi until the 6pm group meeting. Please note that your tour leader and group composition may change because this is a combination trip.
Day 11 - Mengzi
Prepare for a long day of travelling today. After breakfast, set off for Lao Cai, near the border with China, on a private bus. Say goodbye to your Vietnamese leader and meet your Chinese leader at Hekou after border crossing. From there, take a taxi to the bus station and board your bus to Mengzi. Transfer to your hotel and settle in. Spend your free evening kicking back and relaxing – or perhaps head out for a taste of the famous Yunnan rice noodles which originated here.
Day 12 - Mengzi
As well as noodles, this town is known for its remnants French architecture - a rarity in today's China. Spot the simple, stately aesthetic of the European style buildings, with their soft yellow facades and tiled roofs which set them apart from the modern structures around them. Visit Bisezhai Station, the finest surviving station on the French-built Vietnam-Kunming railway. The rest of the day is yours to spend as you please. This is a town rarely visited by foreigners. The Nanhu Park area is great for a wander and meeting locals.
Day 13 - Yuanyang
Travel by private bus to Yuanyang (approximately 3 hours). If you're a keen photographer, you're in luck, as this is one picturesque destination. This place is famous for its beautiful rice terraces, idyllic rural scenery and unique ethnic minority culture. Some 88% of Yuanyang County belongs to ethnic minorities; the Hani and Yi people created the ornate rice terraces that impress so many visitors. We are staying right inside the Duoyishu Scenic Area. The terraces here are considered a superior spot to photograph the sunrise. 
Day 14 - Yuanyang
Be sure to wear comfortable shoes today for your hike around the rice terraces with a local guide (approximately 4 hours). You'll be able to take it at a leisurely pace and enjoy the scenery. Most of the paths go through villages, which makes it easy to stop for a break. Check out the local farmer's market where locals wear their traditional clothes, go about their daily business like time has never changed.
Day 15 - Jianshui
Travel by private bus to Jianshui (approximately 3.5 hours). With a 1,200-year history and a distinct cultural heritage, the ancient town is a veritable outdoor museum of magnificent buildings. Many of these date back to the Ming and Qing dynasties. You will set out on a walking tour of the city and visit the Zhu Family Garden, as well as the incredible Confucius Temple.
Day 16 - Jianshui
Visit Tuanshan Village, a cultural echo of the Qing Dynasty that's still intact. You'll learn a little more about the Yi minority as you explore. It's a fascinating window to the China of the past. Visiting the village is like travelling to the China of the past. Small, cobbled lanes leave you with impressions of timelessness, art and architecture. In the afternoon and evening, enjoy some free time.
Day 17 - Kunming
Today we travel to Kunming (approximately 3 to4 hours). Stop at the geological wonder of the Stone Forest on the way. The Forest covers an area of 400 square kilometres (96,000 acres) and includes both large and small clusters of towering limestone pillars, as well as many other scenic spots. An old local saying says that 'If you have visited Kunming without seeing the Stone Forest, you have wasted your time'. Truly, the site is one of the most important attractions of Yunnan. Afterwards, enjoy free time to explore the large, yet laidback city. The 1000-year-old Yuantong temple is most definitely worth a visit, or find the traces of old Kunming at Lingguang street. Perhaps head to Green Lake Park where you can see locals spending their leisure time on all kinds of activities and games. Check out The Loft, a disused factory area west of the city centre, home to many small galleries and cafes. In the evening, perhaps get together with your mates for a final dinner in this 'Spring City'.
Day 18 - Kunming
Enjoy a free day in Kunming until the 6pm group meeting. Please note that your tour leader and group composition may change because this is a combination trip.
Day 19 - Dali
Travel by public bus to your next destination, Dali (approximately 3–4 hours). For many years this spot has been a favourite destination for foreign travellers and backpackers, thanks to its laidback atmosphere and spectacular surroundings. There are snow-capped mountains on one side and the vast Erhai Lake on the other, making for an impressive sight. This afternoon you will take a guided walk around Dali's ancient town with your leader. Present-day Dali is a city that combines history with modern convenience. It is divided into two areas: the Ancient City and the New District (widely known as Xiaguan). After your tour, enjoy a free evening in this picturesque town. Perhaps circle back to Foreigner Street in the Ancient City, where handicrafts and local culinary delights rightly attract many visitors.
Day 20 - Dali
Take a private bus to Xizhou, around 23 kilometres north of Dali on a day trip today. Xizhou is famous for its Butterfly Spring and Bai architecture. Enjoy a guided tour of the town and the local markets – a great chance to learn more about Bai architecture. Interact with some local families living in the traditional courtyards to get a feel for local life. Be sure to try some tasty local snacks such as baba (fried rice cake) or the local cheese. Enjoy some more free time upon your return to Dali - perhaps take the cable car up Cangshan Mountain or stop in at the Three Pagodas.
Day 21 - Shaxi
Travel by public bus to Jianchuan, then by private van to Shaxi (approximately 3–4 hours). Much of Shaxi's charm lies in the fact it has been restored rather than rebuilt, and being off the main highways it hasn't seen the rapid development of the tourist industry that other places like Lijiang and Dali have. Here you can still find the Yi and Bai ethnic minorities maintaining their traditions, farmhouses lining the country roads, and the original walled town gates and market square that prove Shaxi was once an important stop on the old Tea Horse Trail. You will stay in a local family-run guesthouse in twin, triple or multi-share rooms. The accommodation is very simple and bathroom facilities are basic and shared, but the warm hospitality makes for a memorable experience. Most travellers choose to eat their meals at the family guesthouse, which is a great chance to further interact with your hosts, and there are also other options nearby.
Day 22 - Shaxi
Today you will hike the mountain trails with a local guide. Your destination is Shizong Temple (approximately 4–5 hours return) on Shibaoshan. It's a good idea to pack a lunch to enjoy along the way, as the beautiful 'danxia' landscape will make a nice backdrop for a picnic. Be sure to bring your camera too so you can snap a few pictures of these gorgeous surrounds. In the evening, take the opportunity to mix with the locals out on the town square. Here you'll likely encounter dancing, singing and various traditional games. Perhaps try your hand at some of them yourself.
Day 23 - Shangrila
Today you’ll travel to a place so beautiful it was officially renamed Shangri-la, a reference to the mythic utopia from James Hilton’s novel Lost Horizon. Make the 5-hour drive to Shangrila and feel the modern world fade away as you head higher into the mountains. This charming Tibetan town lies on an altitude around 3200 metres, so take it easy upon arrival and give yourself some time to acclimatise. Later take a stroll on winding streets past prayer halls and pagodas in Dukezong Ancient Town. A fire tore through the area in 2014, destroying most of the town, but painstaking restoration work continues and the town remains charming. It’s also home to a towering, gilded prayer wheel – the largest in the world.
Day 24 - Shangrila
Learn more about Tibetan Buddhism with a visit the Sumtseling Monastery. Located just outside the city and modelled after the Potala Palace, Sumtseling is the predominant monastery in the region and a popular destination for pilgrims. Constructed in 1681 and subsequently destroyed during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, the complex was rebuilt in 1981 and the red and gold buildings now house hundreds of monks. Enjoy a free afternoon in Shangrila. You might want to hire a van and drive to Xiaozhongdian, where the beautiful landscape is dotted with Tibetan villages. If you're lucky you may even get invited to a local's home to enjoy some Yak butter tea!
Day 25 - Tiger Leaping Gorge
Travel by public bus to Qiaotou (approximately 3 hours), the starting point for your trek through the magnificent Tiger Leaping Gorge. This is one of the deepest and most spectacular gorges in the world. The entire canyon is 16 km long and rises up to 3,900 metres above the waters of the famous Yangzi River. Though the gorge has become very popular in recent years, and the area has developed rapidly, it's still an incredibly rewarding travel experience which many cite as a highlight of their time in China. Prepare a day pack (your larger luggage will be stored for two nights) and embark on your hike. There will be regular stops to rest as needed. The first part of the trek is quite arduous – this is not flat terrain by any means. After a slow and steady climb you will reach the 24 bends (the most challenging part of the trek), a steep and twisting path where you'll really gain some altitude. After stopping for a break, continue along the flatter section of the gorge to your accommodation. This is a simple but comfortable guesthouse with shared facilities (upgrades to private facilities at your own cost may be possible, depending on availability). The area is subject to dramatic changes in weather. We schedule departures for the more stable seasons, but it's still possible that conditions may make travelling through the gorge dangerous. In this case an extra night each will be spent in Shaxi and Lijiang. Should the weather be deemed by your leader and guide as too rainy or foggy to safely complete the trek once in the gorge area, an alternative walking route will be taken or a minivan will be used for transport between destinations, using the recently built highway.
Day 26 - Tiger Leaping Gorge
Your second day of trekking starts with a nice, easy section that has spectacular views. There are only a few uphill battles (and one slippery downhill stretch) before you reach your destination for the night – Walnut Grove. Those with the energy can enjoy further hikes to some excellent lookout points from here. Otherwise, this a tranquil place to simply sit back, relax, enjoy the scenery and rest your weary legs. It's important to note that Tiger Leaping Gorge is subject to dramatic and unpredictable weather conditions. We have scheduled departures in the more stable seasons, but the possibility still exists that conditions may make travelling through the gorge dangerous.
Day 27 - Lijiang/Overnight Train
Travel by public transport to Lijiang (approximately 3 hours). This World Heritage-listed town is home to the Naxi people, a matrilineal society descended from Tibetan nomads. After arrival, enjoy some free time. Maybe visit the Wangu Pagoda, situated at Lion Hill in a small park and has amazing views over Lijiang. Or visit he picturesque Heilongtan Park and wander the cobbled streets in the old town and take the chance to do some shopping. In recent years, Lijiang has become very popular with domestic tourists, so don't be surprised if you see the streets full of tourists from home and abroad. In the evening, hop on the overnight train back to Kunming. Train travel in China may not be entirely luxurious, but it's certainly one of the best ways to come face-to-face with the country and its people. It's the main form of transport for locals. We use hard sleeper class trains for most of our overnight train journeys. These are not as rough as they sound – compartments are open-plan and clean, with padded three-tiered berths (6 to a compartment). Sheets, pillows and a blanket are provided. We recommend bringing your own sleeping sheet. Safe, hot drinking water is always available for making coffee, tea or instant meals. It is a good idea to bring a mug, spoon, knife and fork if you will be preparing your own hot drinks or food on the train (these are not provided in cabins). Bathrooms are basic, and as toilet paper isn't always available it's best to carry some of your own. Most trains have a dining carriage where meals are available before the journey to supplement food available on the train.
Day 28 - Kunming
Your train arrives in Kunming bright and early. Transfer from the station to your hotel, then enjoy a free day to explore as your wish. Filled with bridges and waterways, Kunming is a lovely place to explore on foot. If the thought of walking anymore doesn't appeal, perhaps reward yourself for all those hikes with a foot massage! Meet up in the evening for an optional final dinner out on the town with the group, your last chance to enjoy Yunnanese cuisine.
Day 29 - Kunming
Your adventure comes to an end today after check-out.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type
25-03-201922-04-2019AUD $ 4,590-
06-05-201903-06-2019AUD $ 4,590-
01-07-201929-07-2019AUD $ 4,590-
14-10-201911-11-2019AUD $ 4,590-
23-03-202020-04-2020AUD $ 4,590-
04-05-202001-06-2020AUD $ 4,590-
29-06-202027-07-2020AUD $ 4,590-
12-10-202009-11-2020AUD $ 4,590-

Accommodation

Hotel (15 nts),Homestay (2 nts),Guest House (10 nts),Overnight Hard Sleeper Train ( 1 nt)

Transport

Private vehicle,Metro,Taxi,Public bus,Boat

Map