Big North Loop Vietnam Introduction
If time allows (two weeks to 16 days), Vietnam Offroad invites motorcycle riders to take this Big North Loop motorbike tour, in a grand loop. While riding, you ride close to the border between Vietnam and Laos and Vietnam and China. You start from the low land of Red River delta, head up the mountain range and ride on the mountain roads for many days before coming back to Hanoi and include Halong Bay, a heaven on earth. Not only the stunning views, you also meet friendly people and try the much delicious food.
Places you ride through include Mai Chau, Phu Yen, Moc Chau, Son La, Tuan Giao, Muong Lay, Sin Ho, Dien Bien Phu, Sapa, Bac Ha, Luc Yen, Xin Man, Ha Giang, Dong Van, Meo Vac, Bao Lac, Ba Be, Cao Bang, Quang Uyen, Lang Son and Mau Son. Accommodation is varied, some nights in home stays and some nights in hotels. In general, this is TRULY an amazing trip to see Northern Vietnam. To make everything happen, send your inquiry and we will get back to you very soon.
More Big North Vietnam Motorcycle Tour Itineraries
Below is a video clip that has some portions of this trip. In case you want to watch more videos please check our YouTube channel.
BIG NORTH LOOP DETAILED ITINERARY
Day 1: Hanoi – Mai Chau, ~250km, ~5 hours.
Today is the first day of this Big North Loop In 16 Days so we take it easy. However, the rest of the day comes with many activities.
Leaving Hanoi on dike roads to avoid the heavy traffic. Then ride through the delta plains we pass endless limestone karst scenery as we travel south through “Perfume Pagoda” country and extensive farming lands comprising a sea of paddy fields split by tree-lined roads. Striking northwest and over two passes, finally dropping down to the mountain valley settlement of Mai Chau.
Here we stay overnight with friends of the White Thai minority in a traditional stilt house. After feasting, we can enjoy a cultural show of Thai dancing and a range of special local liquors. Overnight in Mai Chau in a Thai homestay. In fact, this night is the biggest night of the whole trip.
Day 2: Mai Chau – Phu Yen. ~150 km, ~6 h.
We go from Mai Chau to Moc Chau and then to the Da River. After crossing the reservoir of Da river at Van Yen ferry, we ride on a beautiful winding secondary road until Phu Yen where we stay in a guesthouse. Despite the short distance, it takes quite long because Van yen ferry can be between 30 minutes to one hour until our turn.
Day 3: Phu Yen – Son La, ~160km, ~6 hours.
Continuing on the almost empty Road 37 we enter mountains heavily populated with Black Thai people, who work on large terraced rice fields. The winding road passes through many Thai villages and fields and provides a great opportunity to watch country life passing by. Then we continue through rolling hills before rising up to the sugar cane growing areas on the cooler Son La plateau. Overnight in Son La.
Day 4: Son La – Than Uyen. ~200km, ~7 hours.
Heading out northwest from Son La, the road crosses a series of mountain passes and areas of busy Black Thai activity. Children walk to school, kids tend buffaloes, women plant rice seedlings and men pull the buffalo. Then we come to the beginning of the very long and steep Pha Din pass where at the top we have vast views of the surrounding mountains, then down the other side on the very steep sealed road.
Continue to the direction of Than Uyen. The road is wild and bumpy. Between Sapa and Hanoi, we will find an important mountainous massif, almost as high as the Fansipan: the Mu Cang Chai. From the top, we have one of the most beautiful views of Northern Vietnam.
Day 5: Than Uyen – Sapa. ~120km, ~5 hours.
Walk/ stroll in the morning. The area of Than Uyen is mainly populated by Flower H’mong and Dzao people. Then direction Sapa. Easy track for 100 km and asphalted mountainous road for the last 40 km. All in all, it’s a beautiful riding.
Day 6: Sapa – Bac Ha. ~90km, ~4 hours.
The ride from Sapa to Bac Ha takes ~3 hours. First, we ride down from Sapa to Lao Cai (34 km). Then head up to Bac Ha (70 km) with stunning landscape. We check in a hotel and have lunch. In the afternoon, we trek to Lung Phinh village. Overnighting in Bac Ha.
Day 7: Bac Ha – Xin Man. ~50km, ~3 hours.
Minor roads and tracks lost in the mountain. Flower H’Mong savagely imposes their bright colours in these wild vastness. In addition, this road allows us to have time to stop and admire the footpaths going through wild bushes. We go to the market of Can Cau located at the heart of a mountainous circus, very close to the Chinese border. At this market, the ethnic groups on each side of the border meet every Saturday morning. It is one moment very moving which we have no idea about time.
Day 8: Xin Man – Ha Giang. ~140km, ~6 hours.
Quiet road with the joy of riding through picturesque landscape along the Lo river. Superb! It used to necessary for us to obtain a permit from the authorities of Ha Giang. However, it is now possible to buy this permit from the hotel reception. The following stages take us through the mountainous territories of the frontier ethnic groups. Stay in a hotel in Ha Giang or if you prefer a home stay we can arrange it.
Day 9: Ha Giang – Dong Van. ~180km, ~6 hours.
After getting the permit to ride in border areas at Ha Giang’s Immigration Police, we ride on small challenging mountain roads (but incredibly beautiful) on the land of colorful mountain hill-tribes. Today is the most epic day of the Big North Loop ride through Dong Van Karst GeoPark.
Day 10: Dong Van – Bao Lac. ~80km, ~3 hours.
The road is still under construction and tracks that make the ride relatively long in spite of few kilometres. However, the landscape is among the most beautiful of Vietnam. In reality, the slow tempo is only more appreciable.
We cross the wild regions of the mythical province of Ha Giang. Finally, stop for the night at Bao Lac, the ethnic crossroad of Northeast Vietnam. Many other ethnic groups on the two sides of the border meet at the market every Sunday.
Day 11: Bao Lac – Cao Bang. ~150km, ~5 hours.
Beautiful ride down to Cao Bang province. There are few passes from where you can dominate the area. The road is easy but there are many blind curves. While riding, we can stop very often for photos. In general, with stops for drinks and food, it should be an 8-hour journey. Stay in a hotel.
Day 12: Cao Bang – Quang Uyen. ~140km, ~5 hours.
Ride in 1 hour and a half to reach the beautiful village of Quang Uyen, in the middle of a mountain cirque. This is the territory of Nung An people. Then home stay in a host family. Best of all, the hostess is a great cook.
We make our way through spectacular scenery to Vietnam’s most impressive waterfall, Ban Gioc Waterfalls, 50km from Quang Uyen. In fact, the roads to and from Ban Gioc waterfalls is really dusty or muddy. Weather permitting we can swim right up to where the 50m high falls hit the river.
Day 13: Quang Uyen – Lang Son. ~180km, ~6 hours.
Ride from Quang Uyen to Lang Son on the famous historical Highway 4. We will have time to discover this city which has become a big trading post between China and Vietnam. Furthermore, you can shop for cheap Chinese products at the nearby Dong Kinh market.
Overnight in hotel.
Day 14: Lang Son – Ha Long. ~180km, ~7 hours.
We have a long ride mainly on secondary road, passing many coal mines along the road. We hope you are not covered in coal dust when we arrive in Halong City.
Day 15: Halong Bay cruising. Sleep on the boat.
Relax in the morning to recover from the long ride yesterday. In fact, this is probably the most relaxing day on this Big North Loop. There are two options:
1. Join a group trip at noon. Depart by boat to Halong Bay, then start cruise and check in cabins. Lunch on the boat, enjoy deluxe Vietnamese set menu. Transfer by tender from boat to Surprising Cave. Enjoy kayaking and swimming, or relaxing on the boat. Dinner served with Vietnamese food. Evening activities – choose from optional evening activities like enjoy movies, sing karaoke or join squid fishing with our crew (in case the weather is good).
2. Book a private boat and cruise in Halong Bay. Sleep on the boat. However, this option costs extra and we will let you know the cost if you want this upgrade.
Day 16: Halong – Hanoi. ~160km, ~5 hours.
Two options with the cruise:
1. Transfer by tender from boat to Titov island, swimming or just relaxing. Then continue cruise and refresh onboard and come back to Bai Chay. Check-out cabins and pay for your drinks. Lunch at Thang Long restaurant in Halong city (or on the boat).
2. Continue cruising in Halong Bay. Then lunch on the boat and return at noon. However, This option costs extra so we will let you know the cost if you want this upgrade.
Pick up the bike(s) and ride back to Hanoi on highway 18 and then 1B. Arrive in Hanoi around 5pm. End Big North Loop of Vietnam.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org in case you have any question, suggestion or recommendation regarding this Big North Loop in 16 days of Vietnam by motorbike.