Vietnam Off Track

An off the beaten track tour of Northern Vietnam

In the veiled embrace of time’s tapestry, where the emerald-ringed dreams of nature intertwine, lies a land veiled in mystery and whispered tales. Journey to the realm of Northern Vietnam, where mist-wreathed mountains cloak ancient secrets, and echoes of a thousand stories linger in the crisp air. Within Sapa’s ethereal realm, where terraced rice fields dance upon the undulating slopes, whispers of distant civilizations harmonize with the footsteps of intrepid wanderers. Venture forth to Hanoi, a labyrinth of hidden treasures, where the chaotic symphony of vibrant streets whispers of empires past, weaving a captivating symphony that resonates through time. Then, seek solace amidst the mystic realm of Halong Bay, where jade-hued waters embrace towering limestone sentinels, creating a poetic tableau that enthralls and enchants.

While this tour is more on the luxurious side, that doesn’t mean the local aspect of this tour is forgotten. Meet the H’mong people of the hill villages, try your hand at fruit and vegetable carving, take a short hike to the Cat Cat village and try out Tai Chi on the deck of our cruise boat surrounded by the epic formations of Halong Bay.

Transport on this tour is varied and includes a coach, the luxury overnight ‘dream train’ and an enchanting 2-night cruise on Halong Bay.


  • Wander the scenic countryside of Sapa and seek out lush views over the many rice paddies that make this area so spectacular
  • Explore the northern city of Hanoi, with it’s Indo-French architecture, red bridge, vibrant youthful culture and even try an ‘egg coffee’
  • A 2-night luxury cruise on Halong Bay to fully immerse ourselves in this UNESCO World Heritage listed area
  • Experience some of Northern Vietnam’s off the beaten track sites such as the Bai Dinh Pagoda the largest in South East Asia, Cat Cat Village & Waterfall, as well as relax on a scenic boat cruise in Trang An
  • Take advantage of some very unique local experiences including meeting the H’mong people of the hill villages, a vegetable carving lesson and Tai Chi on deck surrounded by the formations of Halong Bay
  • Travel by luxury overnight train, coach and cruise boat as well as stay in some of Vietnams locally owned boutique accommodation

The Basics

Start: Hanoi

Finish: Hanoi

Trip style: Unique

Max group size: 8

8 Days


$1850 AUD*

Departure date: 26 October 2023

OR CONTACT US for more information

Trip code: HLVL *from


Welcome to Vietnam. You will be met at arrivals at Noi Bai Airport and taken to our hotel in Hanoi. On arrival at the hotel you will meet your trip leader, guide and travelling companions.

Once we have freshened up we will then embark on a walking tour through charming Ha Noi’s Old Quarter also known as the ‘36 streets of Thang Long’. We will visit Dong Xuan Market, followed by a stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake where you will spot the divine old ‘red bridge’

This bustling area of narrow streets and alleys is home to literally thousands of small businesses and shopkeepers. Visit Long Bien Bridge made famous through films, pictures and books about the history of Hanoi. Built from 1899 to 1902, it was the scene of fierce battles during the two Indochina Wars.

Visit Hanoi Opera House designed by two French architects name Harlay and Broyer and built in 1901 – 1911 and after we will stop to try Hanoi’s famous egg coffee – don’t worry it’s not as weird as it sounds.

This evening we will have dinner together in a local restaurant in Hanoi.

This morning we will start early and drive to Ninh Binh. Ninh Binh is well known for the Bai Dinh Pagoda – the most biggest and most famous pagoda in Southeast Asia. We will also see the 500 stone Arhat Statues, 36 ton-bronze Bell and 100-ton Buddha statue.

We will enjoy a local lunch, before visiting Trang An on a 2-hour scenic boat ride. Trang An became a designated UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014. The scenery in the grottoes is very similar to Ha Long Bay with high mountains surrounded by vegetation and bays of pale green water. Each enclave seems to hold its own unique sense of beauty. Trang An is so tranquil you may not want to leave. Visit Mua Cave (also called the Dancing Cave) and Ngoa Long Mountain for a spectacular view of Tam Coc rice fields and Ngo Dong River. For those who wish to explore more, try cycling along the country lane from Tam Coc to Bich Dong Pagoda, (estimated time 40 minutes for 5km cycling 2 ways), experiencing the beautiful scenery of lush paddy fields. For those not wishing to cycle we will have a lovely relaxing time while those who do choose to ride are off sightseeing.

We will have free time in Sapa in the evening to grab some dinner and then board the luxurious Dream Train later that night.

We will arrive at Lao Cai Station at around 6.00am for the 1-hour drive to Sapa. We will have breakfast on arrival before checking into our hotel (please note check in this early is subject to availability on arrival).

Our next stop is the Fansipan Cable Station by Sun World where we will take the 30-minute cable car to the top of Fansipan Mountain. The highest mountain in Indochina at 3.143m above sea level with the nickname ‘Roof of Indochina’ it has spectacular views.

We will head back to Sapa for lunch. The afternoon will be free for you to explore Sapa on your own.

We will arisie early this morning for a short trek to the gate of Cat Cat Village which is home to the H’mong ethnic people and is located near the bottom of a deep valley at the foot of Fansipan Peak. The village has distinctive traditions and practices that have been lost in many of the cultural villages. It’s the closest and easiest hill tribe village in Sapa. The footpath to the village provides us with an amazing view. This is the spot where you can take beautiful photos of the Bamboo Bridge and Cat Cat Waterfall. Ta Van Village is one of the most scenic regions to view the terraced rice fields. Our visit to here will be brief but so pretty that it is not to be missed.

We will head back to Sapa for lunch and then return to Hanoi.

After breakfast this morning we make our way to the pier at Halong bay. We will board our cruise and you will be shown to your cabin. On embarkation we will have a short safety briefing while sipping a welcome drink. Today we will cruise through the karst rock formations into the world of natural heritage.

Lunch will be served in the vessel’s luxury restaurant.

In the afternoon we will explore the local limestone caves. Depending on local conditions we will have the chance to visit some of the caves in the area, these could include Sung Sot Cave, Thien Canh Son Cave and Dark Light Cave. At twilight as we watch the sunset, you might like to just sit and relax or take advantage of a cooking class or fruit and vegetable carving lesson. The head chef will show you how to make and decorate some traditional Vietnamese dishes.

The afternoon sunsets in the Gulf of Tonkin and the bay – weather permitting are quite grand. Find a spot to relax with an aperitif before our evening meal.

After breakfast, you have the option to join a Tai Chi lesson, the traditional Chinese martial art, to refresh on your second day of our Halong Bay cruise trip. Today we will continue the journey by visiting a fishing village where you can meet the hospitable people who live in this rustic area, as well as get a glimpse of the local life and traditional cultures. The best way to explore the floating village is by bamboo boat or kayak tour. We will return to the ship for lunch.

After lunch we will visit a pearl farm. Learn how long it takes for the ‘germination’, harvesting and extraction process which is fascinating even if pearls are not your preferred gem. Once again immerse yourself in the glorious sunset that will bring our day to a close as we dine on beautiful food prepared by top chefs. Why not treat yourself of a spa and massage before retiring for the evening.

After breakfast, begin your day with another Tai Chi lesson.

We will disembark mid-morning and time permitting we may do some exploring in the vicinity of the pier before heading back to Hanoi.

On arrival in Hanoi we will check in to the hotel and the rest of the day will be yours to explore on your own.

Your tour of Northern Vietnam comes to an end this morning on arrival at Hanoi international airport.

Tour of Northern Vietnam Trip Map
Trip Map
Vietnam Off Track


Duration: 8 Days

Trip style: Unique

Group size: Minimum 2 / Maximum 8

Trip code: HTDD

Cost: $1850.00 AUD twin share

Single supplement: Please enquire


  • 7-nights accommodation in traditional and locally operated hotels
  • Airport transfers on arrival and departure
  • Overnight train tickets Hanoi – Lai Cai (Sleeper class)
  • Meals as specified in itinerary (B = Breakfast / L = Lunch / D = Dinner)
  • Services of your trip leader and local guides
  • All entrance fees as per itinerary   

Trip price does not include

  • International airfares or domestic airfares
  • Visa for Vietnam
  • Meals not included as per trip itinerary including drinks and mini bar
  • Additional accommodation before or after the tour
  • Items of a personal nature including but not limited to laundry, souvenirs, porterage etc.
  • Travel insurance – please note comprehensive travel insurance is a condition of travel with Inverted Atlas

Journey Rating – Journey


This tour of Northern Vietnam is an easy paced tour, with some walking and physical activity involved. There are a few very long travel days where we will be getting up early and arriving into our accommodation quite late, but never fear – all the accommodation is of an excellent standard with no sharing or camping. We will travel by coach, overnight sleeper train and cruise vessel, on this trip which gives us a chance to experience all kinds of transport in Vietnam.

The quality of amenities such as hospitals and pharmacies will be limited to large cities. Be prepared for eastern-style squat toilets in public places (not hotels). The weather is likely to be a very comfortable 20 degrees with some slight humidity.

A note about fitness

The tour of Northern Vietnam uses a good standard of accommodation as well as luxurious modes of transportation. There is some very light hiking involved and other active activities some of which are optional. You should be able to walk up to 2.5km during scheduled sightseeing, climb up to 200 stairs unassisted, use an eastern style squat toilet (these will be limited to emergency rest stops but do beware if you have knee issues) and confidently walk over uneven surfaces. You will need to be able to carry your own luggage to and from the coach/bus, as well as on and off the trains. (Due to OH&S regulations our trip leaders are not able to assist with luggage.)

In addition, you should be in good health, with no major chronic conditions requiring frequent medical attention. This trip sometimes travels through remote locations where the availability of a hospital or even phone reception to call an ambulance is limited. While all our trip leaders are required to have a valid first aid certificate, they are far from doctors and any assistance they are able to provide will be limited to basic first aid. For more information please see our booking conditions.

Single supplement

Traveling by yourself? No problem, we love single travelers and don’t believe in penalising them by charging half the trip price again for our single supplement. With us you are only paying the actual cost to have a room all to yourself. If you’re up for making a new friend, you can elect to share with another single traveler of the same sex and only pay the twin-share price. The choice is yours!

Trip leader description

Accompanying you on your tour of Northern Vietnam will be your Inverted Atlas trip leader. Your trip leader is a logistics extraordinaire, keeps the trip running smoothly and ensures you have the best time possible on your trip. It is important to know that while your trip leader has the best job in the world, they aren’t actually on holidays, but rather they are there to make sure you have the best time while you are on your holiday! Your trip leader may at times need some time out so that they can complete back of house tasks that ensure everyone continues to enjoy the trip. It is also your trip leaders’ job to handle any issues (heaven forbid!) that come up while you’re on your trip like:

  • If you lose your passport or other travel documents
  • If there is a problem with your room at the booked accommodation – seriously please tell your trip leader don’t wait until you leave
  • If you become unwell and need to find a pharmacy
  • Assisting with restaurant recommendations or additional sightseeing during free time
  • Questions regarding the itinerary

Your trip leader will have some good local knowledge about the destination in which you are traveling, however they are not a ‘local guide’. You’re welcome to ask your trip leader anything about the trip and if they don’t know they will find out and get back to you. Other people you will meet along the way are ‘local guides’ who are generally available to the group in specific towns or at specific sites like national parks, temples or archaeological sites. These people are the local experts and will be able to answer any questions you may have about the history and culture of a specific site.

Itinerary disclaimer

This itinerary is correct at the time of upload to our website and we have composed it in good faith. From time to time we may elect to make changes before departure, if we are making a big change we will of course notify you, however if it is a small change this will be reflected in the final trip notes. So, make sure you download these prior to departure. Small changes prior to departure are usually made with the groups best interests in mind and come about due to liaising with our best resources – our past travelers and of course our trip leaders! The ability to change and evolve depending on what our travelers enjoy is what makes us such a great trip operator.

While we strive to operate our trips exactly to the letter of the itinerary, sometimes we may need to make changes on the ground while the group is on the road. This is all part of the adventure of traveling and we would ask that you come on your trip with an open mind and a good sense of humour because as much as we want it to, everything doesn’t always go to plan. In fact, these impromptu situations often make the best stories that you can have a laugh with your friends about later.

** This itinerary is run in conjunction with our partners at Enticing Destinations **

Age requirements

Minimum Age: 16 years

We do not recommend bringing young children on this trip due to the remoteness of some of the destinations visited.

There is no upper age limit for this trip but you should consider the above fitness requirements prior to booking. If you are 65 years or over you will be asked to complete our Health Check Form and have your medical practitioner sign it to confirm you are good health and able to participate safely on this trip.

Travel insurance

Please note that comprehensive travel insurance is a condition of travel with Inverted Atlas. Insurance must include provision for medical situations, emergency medical repatriation to your home country and personal liability at a minimum. Proof of valid travel insurance will be requested by your trip leader on arrival at the pre-departure meeting. Please have this paperwork available for them. If you are unable to provide proof of comprehensive travel insurance, you may not be allowed to join the trip and no refund will be payable.

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