Vietnam: The Northwest Loop

Handcrafted Travel
Daily Departure


  • Active Adventure
  • Culture & Heritage
  • Family
  • Off The Beaten Path
Day 1 – 5: Hanoi – Lang Son
  • Arrive in Hanoi.
  • Drive to Lang Son. Visit Tam Thanh Cave. Trek to the villages of the ethnic minorities in the region
Day 6 – 9: Cao Bang – Ba Be – Thai Nguyen - Hanoi
  • Head to Cao Bang. Sightsee Ban Gioc Waterfall, Nguom Ngao Cave. Explore the scenery at Ba Be National Park.
  • Learn about Vietnam’s 54 ethnic groups of Vietnam at the Ethnology Museum.
  • Return to Hanoi. Take the flight to your next destination.

Customizable itinerary

With the ‘The Northwest Loop”, you will travel to see the most spectacular scenery in this region of Vietnam. Drive to Mai Chau for its picturesque landscapes, en-route enjoy the beautiful view of green meadows, tea farms and lush orchards. Visit the French Prison in Son La before heading off to Dien Bien Phu and see the former battlefields. Enjoy your time discovering Sapa, the former French Hill station then stroll around Bac Ha Sunday market – the largest market of the hill tribes in the north. Visit Ma Tra village and Ta Phin village after conquering a 3-hour trek between the tranquil mountains of Lao Cai. Admire the magnificent rice terraces in Mu Cang Chai and meet various indigenous ethnic minority groups.

Xin Chao! Welcome to Hanoi, Vietnam.

Upon arrival at Hanoi Airport, your private guide and driver are waiting to meet you, holding up a welcome signboard with your names on it and take you directly to your hotel in the Old Quarter.

After checking-in, you will have time to relax and adjust to the pace of Hanoi. There will be a short tour briefing this evening with your guide followed by a welcome dinner at KOTO restaurant, a social enterprise that trains and employs underprivileged youth to provide a step up in life.

Please note: Your travel documents contain a Visa-on-Arrival letter (unless otherwise arranged). Please ensure to pack this in your carry-on luggage. Your Visa-on-Arrival letter must be presented to Customs upon entry into the country.

Overnight in Hanoi
Meals: (_/_/D)

You will meet your private guide and driver at your hotel in Hanoi and begin the adventure. Embark on a four-hour scenic drive through the picturesque countryside of green paddy fields and spectacular mountains to the town of Mai Chau; home of the Thai minority. Set in an idyllic valley, hemmed in by hills, Mai Chau is a world away from Hanoi’s hustle.

Arrive Mai Chau around midday and check into the boutique Mai Chau Lodge.

Your guide will take you on a walking tour (or cycling if you wish) of Pom Coong and Lac villages. With stilt houses and lush, green rice paddy fields, Ban Lac and Pom Coong are quaint and serene ethnic Thai villages with many lovely and hospitable inhabitants. During the walk, you will be introduced to a local family. Have conversations on their life, festivals, and culture of the natives.

Continue your day to visit Mo Luong caves and Chieu caves. Two natural cavern systems with thousand-year-old stalactites and stalagmites are mother nature’s magnificent works of art. Filled with mineral structures of all shapes, sizes, and colors, these caves give you the feeling similar to that you get wandering into an ancient world of primitive creations. Such a unique experience cannot be ignored by those adventurous at heart.

You also pay a visit to Thai ethnographic museum. More than 1000 items on display are closely tied to the Thai’s everyday life. You will get to see hunting tools, ritual costumes, bowls, dishes, antique coins, musical instruments, hundreds of years old books, and so on. These authentic pieces of history represent the development of Thai culture over centuries.

Being one of the famous chef Gordon Ramsay’s destinations on his trip to Vietnam, Mai Chau offers an array of exotic native food. Tonight you will enjoy a delicious home-hosted dinner. Delight your taste buds with traditional dishes and try some rice wine made in the village.

After dinner, you will return to Mai Chau Lodge to attend a traditional dance show performed by the White Thai

Overnight in Mai Chau
Meals: (_/L/D)

After breakfast, you will depart Mai Chau for a three-hour drive to Son La. Stop en route to visit the lively Pa Co Sunday Hill -tribe Market and take a walk in the neighboring village of Sa Linh.

Continue to drive, you will pass Moc Chau Plateau where you can see acres of green meadows for grazing cows, tea farms and lush orchards.

Arrive in Son La and check into your hotel. The remainder of the day is free for you to explore the area. Son La is a mid-sized town, one of Vietnam’s most ethnically diverse and home to more than 30 different minorities, including Black Thai, Meo, Muong and White Thai.

Overnight in Son La
Meals: (B/_/_)

After breakfast and check out of the hotel, your private guide will take you to the old French Prison of Son La and the Museum where Vietnamese political prisoners were held during the French Colony (same idea as the Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the Hanoi Hilton).

Depart Son La you will head off for Dien Bien Phu with lunch in Tuan Giao town. The scenery along the way here is stunning, with approach roads scything through thick forests and steep terrain.

You will continue your journey through the wonderfully picturesque Pha Din Pass before arriving in Dien Bien Phu. Check into your hotel and enjoy your own time of leisure.

Dien Bien Phu is a little town that sits in the heart-shaped Muong Thanh Valley, surrounded by heavily forested hills. Dien Bien Phu plays a star role in Vietnam’s modern history. It was in the surrounding countryside here, on 7 May 1954, that the French colonial forces were defeated by the Viet Minh in a decisive battle, and the days of their Indochina empire became numbered.

Overnight in Dien Bien
Meals: (B/L/_)

Begin your new day with a visit to the local market where you will meet the charming White Thai Minority in their traditional costume exchanging their farm products.

After that, with your guide, you will discover the former French battlefields including the A1 Hill, General De Castries’s Bunker, War Museum, Muong Thanh Airbase, and the War Memorial.

Leaving Dien Bien Phu you will drive for five hours to Lai Chau. For this stretch of your journey, the roads will be fairly rough and uneven. However, the stunning view is worth it. Also, there is plenty of opportunities to see the colorful hill-tribes of Northern Vietnam such as Flower Hmong, Black Thai, and Black Dzao.

Continue to drive and stop in Phong Tho, a small town for lunch at a local restaurant.

Arrive in Lai Chau in the late afternoon and check into the hotel. The remainder of the day is free at your leisure. You can stroll around the town and visit the local market.

Overnight in Lai Chau
Meals: (B/L/_)

After breakfast, you will depart Lai Chai for a three-hour drive to Sapa. The road is a little bit bumpy at times, but the rough route is quickly compensated by magnificent mountains covered with deep valleys, thick rain forests, and lush plantation.

The drive to Sapa takes you up to Tram Ton (Heaven Gate Pass), the highest pass in Vietnam. From here you can enjoy a bird-eyes view of the enormous picturesque Muong Hoa valley and Fansipan Mount (considered as the rooftop of Indochina; Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia).

Continue to visit the nearby Silver Waterfall and then proceed to the gate of Hoang Lien national park, where you will take a short hike access into the jungle to visit the Love Waterfall. The area is covered by lush green forests and beautiful water falling from the rocky cove. Enjoy a great time by listening to the sound of the waterfall, deep your feet into the cool water that makes you feel very relaxing. Leave the waterfall by walking back to the vehicle and then transfer to Sapa town.

Arrive and check into your hotel in downtown Sapa. Spend the rest of the day at your leisure. Established as a hill station by the French in 1922, Sapa today is a must-visit destination in the Northwest. This is northern Vietnam’s premier trekking base, from where hikers launch themselves into a surrounding countryside of cascading rice terraces and tiny hill-tribe villages that seem a world apart.

You can stroll around the town, visit the Old French Church or climb the Dragon’s Jaw Mountain where you can enjoy the panoramic view of the Old town below.

Overnight in Sapa
Meals: (B/L/_)

After breakfast, you will leave Sapa for a 3-hour drive journey to the remote town of Bac Ha town where the colorful Sunday Hill-tribe market is located. Nestled deep in the mountains, Bac Ha town is a quiet backwater Monday to Saturday, but by Sunday crowds of locals from thousands of surrounding villages descend on the town for the colourful Sunday market. Here you will have a chance to meet some of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic minority groups.

Upon arrival, you will discover the lively market with your tour guideThe market itself is a kaleidoscope of color, noise, and culture, where locals in an array of traditional dress barter for cows and show off delicately embroidered and embellished designs. Wander, camera in hand, and soak in the lively atmosphere while fending off the persistent sellers. The scent of fresh herbs and fragrant, strong tobacco wafts among the tented stalls and the overpowering smell of animals drifts down from the live market above.

After lunch at a local restaurant, you will drive downhill and begin a short walk to Trung Do Village which is home to the Tay minority. Here you will visit a traditional Tay house and then travel by boat through this amazing countryside to Bao Nhai Village. Finish the boat trip you will return to Sapa for the second night.

Overnight in Sapa
Meals: (B/L/_)

After breakfast, you will meet your tour guide and begin the day with a 3km-trek through the breathtaking landscape to the village of Suoi Ho, home to H’mong minority. Along the way, you can enjoy beautiful views over endless rice terraces, and you will have plenty of opportunities to take photographs.

Continue your hike toward the stunning village of Matra. You will pass the impressive ruins of a French Catholic church built in the early twentieth century. Take a few minutes to explore this intriguing sight and take some photos as you wish.

Your hike will grow deeper until your arrival at Ta Phin Village, inhabited by another Red Dzao ethnic minority tribe, with their beautiful traditionally embroidered outfits and practice of shaving their hair and eyebrows as a sign of respect. Also in Ta Phin village, the black H’mong minority live their own way with no cultural mixture.

You will visit a Red Dzao family and over a cup of tea, have a chat with them learning about their lifestyle. Enjoy a delicious lunch cooked and served by the family.

After lunch, you have time to stroll around the village, take pictures and do some fun shopping. The Red Dao people are known for their expertise in herbal medicine as well as the usage of plants from the land to treat many illnesses. If you’re a bit sore from the activities of the day, sample a traditional herbal bath made by a local Dzao specialist, famous for its therapeutic qualities.

Leaving Ta Phin you will be picked by your private driver and taken back to your hotel in Sapa. The remainder of the day will be at your leisure.

Overnight in Sapa
Meals: (B/L/_)

After breakfast, you will depart Sapa and embark on a four-hour drive to Mu Cang Chai, home to breathtaking rice terraces. CNBC (the US-based media Site) describes Mu Cang Chai as a remote gem of Northern Vietnam and it’s in CNBC’s 2020 travel list.

During the road drive, you will make a short stop to visit villages of Muong Khoa, Muong Kim and Na Kim where you can see various indigenous ethnic minority groups.

Arrive Mu Cang Chai around midday and check into the beautiful Mu Cang Chai Lodge. After that, your guide and driver will take you to Kim Noi village, home to the Black Thai Minority. Here you will enjoy a delicious home-hosted lunch.

Following lunch is a leisurely walk around the village. Then return to Mu Cang Chai Lodge in the late afternoon where the balance of the day is free at your leisure. Enjoy the lodge facilities and comforts.

Overnight in Mu Cang Chai
Meals: (B/L/_)

Mu Cang Chai, deep in the valleys forged by the waters of the Red River, a series of colorful mountain villages are encircled by fields of towering rice terraces. The fields are agricultural feats of precision — rugged mountains blanketed with emerald stairways that, seemingly, ascend to the heavens above.

After breakfast, you with your guide you will enjoy a trekking tour to visit the breathtaking rice terraces which cover more than 2,200 hectares of land in Mu Cang Chai, of which 500 were designated as national heritage sites by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in 2007. That land is shared by the three villagesLa Pan Tan, Che Cu Nha, and De Xu Phinh — and are must-see spots for any traveler in the region.

You will also trek through a couple of the H’mong hill tribe villages where you meet and interact with the locals, learning about their interesting daily life and culture.

After enjoying a picnic lunch your guide and driver will transfer you to Nghia Lo town. En route, you will stop to visit Tu Le Valley. Again enjoy spectacular rice fields and take plenty of pictures.

Arrive in Nghia Lo in the afternoon and check into the Le Champ Resort. The resort bungalows in the traditional local style decorate the mountainsides. Spend the rest of the day at your leisure. Enjoy the resort’s hot spring and watch the beautiful sunset.

Overnight in Nghia Lo
Meals: (B/L/_)

After late breakfast and check out of the resort you will depart Nghia Lo and wind your way back to Hanoi. Along the way, you will stop to visit Suoi Giang Eco-Parka part of Hoang Lien Son national park, famous for its ancient green tea fields. Visit a local village and learn about the traditional method of processing green teas.

Continue to drive to Hanoi with lunch en route at a local restaurant.

Arrive in Hanoi and check into your hotel. The remainder of the afternoon and evening will be at your leisure. Enjoy the last night in Hanoi before going home.

Overnight in Hanoi
Meals: (B/L/_)

Your private transfer greets you at the hotel after breakfast and escorts you to Hanoi International Airport where you board your flight home or travel on to more adventures, we will help you with the planning.

Meals: (B/_/_)

Useful Information

This tour is built upon our firsthand knowledge & experience, offering you the best choices available. The price of this trip varies depending on the number of people in your party, dates of departure, and availability of ground services. Please click on REQUEST A FREE QUOTE (above) and supply the required information, enabling us to send you your personalized quote within 24 hours!

Note: Amendments CAN be made to this tour to suit your requirements.

Sightseeing Highlights

  • Discovery a truly authentic way of local life in the lush paddy fields and fertile farmlands of the countryside around Mai Chau
  • Explore the historical Dien Bien Phu with gorgeous war stories and the journey through the wonderfully picturesque Pha Din Pass
  • Meet ethnic minority tribes and experience traditional life in Lai Chau
  • Discover the Hill tribe villages and lively local market of ethnic minority groups in Sapa
  • Deep in the breathtaking rice terraces and a series of colorful mountain villages Mu Cang Chai, a remote gem of Northern Vietnam as CNBC described

Dining Experience

  • 11 hotel buffet breakfasts.
  • 2 dinners and 9 lunches at well-selected restaurants

Travel Highlights

  • Your own private guide and driver for in-depth cultural touring based on your interests
  • Firsthand, sophisticated destination knowledge and recommendations from our locally born travel specialists
  • Itineraries that are customized according to your interests and preferences
  • A seamless travel experience, including all logistics, hand-picked hotels and restaurants, private airport transfers, internal transportation, and entry visa assistance…etc
  • Around-the-clock support from your travel designer and concierge before, during and after your trip

What’s Included?

Private English speaking guide, accommodation, private tours and transfer, A/C vehicles, some main meals, all entrance fees, tax, and service charge.

What’s Not Included?

Your international flights from and to Vietnam, the entry visa to Vietnam, personal expense, tips to guide and driver.

Request this tour

Free service. No credit card required

Reviews on Our Service

We are committed to giving our customers unforgettable experiences in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and beyond, not just something staged for tourists. Read reviews written by our customers about their experiences in Indochina after they have returned home. These include the ratings and comments on attractions, guides, activities, hotels and food.

5 97.66%
4 2.13%
3 0.21%
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Vietnam Luxury Vacation Review: Sightseeing, Culture, 12-Day Travel

Asia Pioneer Travel was professional, provided prompt communication before and during our trip, and offered an itinerary custom to our wish list and timeline.

They helped us focus on highlights of areas which we would have spent considerable time researching and organizing without their help. Their attention to detail in information shared ahead of time, as well as step by step planning of transportation, meals, lodging, and sightseeing options offered a stress-free vacation- optimizing our time and energy on experiencing everything beautiful Vietnam has to offer!
The landscape, scenery, and customs of Vietnam are stunning and diverse. Each area we visited offered its own unique beauty. Absolutely amazing!!!
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Rachel Faust - USA
Mar 8, 2023
From: 5

Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Sightseeing, Rice Fields, Boat Rides, 18-Day Trip

We started searching for our tour for Vietnam / Cambodia back in October 2022 to start the tour in the first week of January 2023. We selected this travel agency, and contact name provided to us was Elly. She was extraordinary with her communication with us. Excellent English speaking language capability & excellent in communication on Whats app and email communication. We went back & forth few times to arrange the tour we wanted. She was very accommodating in arranging our schedule. We requested automobile tour for both countries, just for two of us.

We requested to get the high end hotel in each city and she gave us choices and not only that but send videos of each hotel for each City and then waited for us to decide which hotel we select. All the Hotels turned out to be one of the best we would expect to be. M/s Elly, personally came to visit with us on the evening of our first day tour. Very respectful and asked if she could do anything for us.I had requested before in our communication, if she would arrange for power converter for us, since my camera chargers are all in 110. So brought two power converters for us! Something, not everyone will do this kind of service. So all the kiddos to her!

as to the drivers in each city were very courteous, very professional and very careful in how and where they have to do driving.

our Guides in each city were so friendly, courteous and knowledgeable in where ever we visited. How ever wish two guides in Hue An and Ho Chi Minh City spoke English more clearly.

We only wish we had one extra day in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, , however, there is so much to see in the world! Perhaps next time will visit Vietnam.

As to Cambodia, same thing to express about site seeing and our Guide and drivers. Guides and drivers really made our travel thro’ the countries where we do not speak that language, made it so comfortable and enjoyable.

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Sudhir D - USA
Mar 3, 2023


Hi Lam…hope you don’t mind me contacting you directly. My wife Barb  & I (Paul) have just arrived home after completing a great tour of Vietnam which was organised through your company Asia Pioneer Travel.

We want to tell you personally how impressed were were with the level of service that we received…it was amazing and the best that we have experienced anywhere. After we made initial contact with you, you handed us over to Chloe to arrange the trip which she did in very quick time and the amount of detail that she went to was fantastic. From the moment that we walked out of Hanoi airport on arrival to see our guide waiting, we knew that we were in for a great trip. The drivers & guides were fantastic and Chloe was in contact by email constantly making sure that everything was going to plan & that we were happy. At one stage we need to vary the itinerary by extending accommodation & changing air tickets and Chloe did that without any fuss or bother.

We also met some wonderful Vietnamese people along the way and Ive got to say that they are our kind of people, very generous & friendly.

Enough of my ramblings, thanks for a great visit to Vietnam, and a special thank you to Chloe for looking after us in such a terrific manner…she is a very special caring lady.

Kind regards & I hope that we have the opportunity to use Asia Pioneer Travel again….Paul & Barb Little from Newcastle Australia

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Paul & Barb Little - Australia
Mar 2, 2023

Superbly organised and very flexible

We travelled to Vietnam for two weeks, booking the whole trip through Lizzie at Asia Pioneer, including hotels, excursions, trips, guides and internal flights. Lizzie was so helpful and flexible, accommodating changes to our schedule until the last minute, especially as we missed our connecting flight in Dubai and arrived a day later than planned (our fault). Nothing was too much trouble, including getting my wallet back to me after I left it in the car taking us to the airport.

We started in Hanoi in the North and worked our way south to Ho Chi Minh city (Saigon), taking in Ha Long with its amazing sea stacks and sleeping on a boat, then to Sa Pa on the overnight sleeper train from Hanoi, with its wonderful countryside and rice terraces. Afterwards, we went to Hoi An for three days of relaxation. Hoi An probably my favourite place and three days are enough to cover it. Then onto Hue, the original capital, my least favourite place and then finally on to HMC, which was a real contrast to the North.

The 3-star hotels that Lizzie picked were very good and comfortable, and the guides were very knowledgeable. I would definitely use Asia Pioneer again for future Asia trips.

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Alex Miller - United Kingdom
Mar 1, 2023