16 days / 15 nights of Full North Vietnam.
The Full North loop is a motorbike expedition that shows you a complete Northern Vietnam. We first skirt along the border with Laos and China before heading down the coast to Halong Bay. This is possibly a long trip but then you experience most of Northern Vietnam.
Below is a video clip that has some portions of this Full North trip. In case you want to watch more videos please check our YouTube channel.
FULL NORTH LOOP DETAILED ITINERARY
Day 1: Hanoi – Mai Chau, ~200km, ~6h
Today is the first day of this 16 days Full North ride. To get out of Hanoi safely, we will have a short briefing to let you know about the rules. In addition, the guide will show you how to understand him by his body language. We start around 9.30am after the rush hour.
Once out of the Red River Delta, which brims with traditional farming activity, we pass through limestone monoliths and into foothills populated by Muong people. Then we head straight at the main range before breaching a high and beautiful forested pass, which descends into the hidden valley of Mai Chau where we spend the night with friends in a traditional Thai stilt house in a Thai village.
Day 2: Mai Chau – Son La, ~185km, ~9h
On good road looking high over distant mountains, we head up into a forested region populated by H’mong people before descending into a mountainous tea-growing region of Moc Chau plateau. Soon after we follow a long valley floor covered in a sea of rice surrounded by Black Thai villages all the way to Son La with its bargain-filled market. Sleep in a hotel.
Day 3: Son La – Muong Lay, ~200km, ~10h
Today we ride across 15 passes. In fact, this is a very nice portion of this Full North with a stunning landscape. Probably the most beautiful journey of the whole trip even the road is in poor condition due to new hydroelectric plant construction. The whole town of former Lai Chau was relocated to a higher elevation and the old town was deep in water. Sleep in a hotel.
Day 4: Boating on the Black River, ~6h boating
Muong Lay is where the Da river and Nam Na river meet. The occasion to go downstream to meet local people who live in remote villages. We propose a picnic to have one complete day to relax and discover this wild area.
Day 5: Muong Lay – Lai Chau, ~120km, ~6h
The most demanding and remote section of the ride takes us upstream along the left side of a Black River tributary through the forest on a bumpy dirt road past isolated pockets of Tay, Thai, H’mong, and Man peoples before breaching a pass to enter the Tam Duong plain, which is covered in shark’s teeth-like limestone karst. We stay in a hotel.
Day 6: Lai Chau – Sapa, ~100km, ~4h
Visit a market in the morning. There are colourful Montagnard groups living in Lai Chau: Black H’mong and Dzao. ~10 am we start a beautiful ride at a slow pace on the bumpy road to Sapa. In reality, Tram Ton pass just before Sapa is one of the most spectacular places in the Northwest region. We stay in a hotel.
Day 7: Sapa – Bac Ha, ~120km, ~4h
The ride from Sapa to Bac Ha takes about 3 hours. We first ride down from Sapa to Lao Cai and then up to Bac Ha with a stunning landscape. We check in a hotel and have lunch. In the afternoon, we trek to Lung Phinh village. Stay overnight in Bac Ha.
Day 8: Bac Ha – Market – Bac Ha, ~120km, ~5h
Sunday market of Bac Ha: the true riot of colour where flower H’mong carries out the dance. It is a superb and merry show. However, it becomes oppressive about 10-11h with the massive arrival of the tourists. It is time to leave!
Day 9: Bac Ha – Luc Yen – Vu Linh, ~150km, ~5h
We start the day by strolling around Bac Ha to meet with many ethnic villages in this area. We then move toward the lake Thac Ba. From Bac Ha to Luc Yen, the road is easy and sealed all the way. After Luc Yen, we take a small dirt track bordered by palm trees, in the middle of the karst. Finally, we arrive at Vu Linh, a traditional village of Dao where we sleep in the family of our friends. The welcome is exceptional.
Day 10: Vu Linh – Ba Be, ~250km, ~7h
Quite a long ride but easy (early departure is better) from Vu Linh to Ba Be (~250 km). Ba Be is a nice stop and it is good to arrive the first day to have a full day (of the second) day there. However, if you feel like resting before, it is all the time possible to stop 50km before Ba Be. The place before Ba Be is Na Khan, a village of the Tay people.
Day 11: Ba Be
Easy boating on the lake and river. Go to the market (if it is the day you arrive). Then stop at a waterfall, beautiful swim. Down the waterfall, we could visit the village and a small school (only a few pupils during the summer). Finally, we propose to stay in the stilt house of our host family in Pac Ngoi village.
Day 12: Ba Be – Quang Uyen, ~170km, ~8h
Beautiful ride up to Cao Bang province. There are a few passes from where you can dominate the area. The road is easy but there are many curves. While riding, you can stop very often for photos and take in the panoramic view of Highway 4. Altogether, with stops for drinks and food, it should be an 8-hour journey. Then ride 1 more hour to reach the beautiful village of Quang Uyen, in the middle of a mountain circuit. This is the territory of Nung An people. Spend the night at our friend’s house.
Day 13: Quang Uyen (options), ~100km, ~2h (~30km, ~1h)
With permission from the border police, we make our way through spectacular scenery to Vietnam’s most impressive waterfall, the Ban Gioc waterfalls. Weather permitting we can swim right up to where the 50m high falls hit the river. This is a sensitive area owned by both Vietnam and China. However, surprisingly the border police officers are very friendly.
Na Tau is a completely unknown area that we propose to discover it by raft and motorbike. Rivers and waterfalls everywhere are extremely beautiful and wild. In addition, it is only 15km from Quang Uyen. In fact, the host will be your local guide.
Day 14: Quang Uyen – Mau Son, ~180km, ~6h
Ride from Quang Uyen to Lang Son on the historical Highway 4. Impressive! Then continue riding toward the border from Lang Son to Mau Son. Mau Son is 30km away from Lang Son, 1.541m above sea level. Quite cool in the evening! Night in the guest-house of Mau Son Resort. However, the hotel accommodation is basic as this area is only popular with local visitors. It’s a hill station discovered by the French but most of the villas were fallen into despair. The restoration is still in place but nobody is sure when it comes back to its most beautiful days.
Day 15: Mau Son – Halong City, ~180km, ~7h
We have a relatively long ride mainly on a secondary road through many coal mines along the road. The traffic is a bit busy with many trucks and buses. While riding, our guide can find some small roads to avoid if possible.
Day 16: Halong – Hanoi, ~180km, ~4h. End of Full North loop by motorbike.
A boat is waiting to take us to discover the Halong Bay. We first visit Thien Cung cave, then a fishing village through myriads of limestone. We have lunch on the boat before coming back to Halong City and take the bus to Hanoi. We arrive in Hanoi around 5pm. End this 16 days Full North loop.
More Motorbike Tour Itineraries In Vietnam
– Ha Giang & Highway 4
– Middle North Vietnam Motorbike Tour
– North-East Vietnam Motorbike Ride
– North-West Vietnam Loop
– Ho Chi Minh Trail Motorcycle Voyage
– One Day Motorbike Tour
– Women Tours
– Custom Tours