Introduction Of Vietnam Grand North Loop
With this Grand North Loop, we will cover 15 provinces on all kinds of roads, alternating hotels with homestays, long stages with short rides, helping you make the most of every experience as you travel through the heart of the northern countryside and into the lives of the local communities.
The whole loop is around 2,500 kilometres, an average of 160 km per day, or five to six hours driving. While riding, we stop very often for taking photos or having tea with locals or just “watering” the trees.
Our tours are finely paced cruises, we frequently stop, and naturally, we wish you to go at your own pace and enjoy yourself. However, a good physical condition is required as well as basic riding skills to do this tour by motorbike.
Some people want to start from the reverse end and take the train back, therefore we designed this 10 days trip that covers Northeast, Ba Be lake, Ban Gioc waterfalls, Ha Giang, Bac Ha and Sapa with the train back to Hanoi from Lao Cai.
More Vietnam Motorbike Tour Itineraries
Below is a video clip from one of our Grand North Loop motorbike tours. In case you want to watch more videos please check our YouTube channel.
Vietnam Grand North Loop Motorbike Tour Detailed Itinerary
Day 1: Hanoi – Mai Chau. ~200 km, ~6 hours.
This is our first day of this Grand North loop of Vietnam. Leave Hanoi at the West end of the city, just one straight road and three traffic lights. This is much better than riding through the city centre with about forty traffic lights to Highway 6. This road takes us to Son Tay along the Red River, then turn left at Trung Ha bridge and ride on the new road all the way to Hoa Binh.
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 Poom Coong village.
Day 2: Mai Chau – Phu Yen. ~140 km, ~5 hours.
Head to Moc Chau and turn to the less travelled Road 43 leading 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 guest-house.
Day 3: Phu Yen – Son La. ~160 km, ~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. ~200 km, ~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 North Vietnam.
Day 5: Than Uyen – Sapa. ~120 km, ~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 then asphalted mountainous road for the last 40 km. This is a beautiful riding.
Day 6: Sapa – Bac Ha. ~90 km, ~4 hours.
The ride from Sapa to Bac Ha takes ~3 hours, down from Sapa to Lao Cai (34 km) and then 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. ~50 km, ~3 hours.
Minor roads and tracks lost in the mountain. In addition, Flower H’Mong savagely imposes their bright colours in this wild vastness. This road allows us to have time to stop and admire the footpaths going through wild bushes. Next, we ride to the market of Can Cau located at the heart of a mountainous circus, very close to the Chinese border, where 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. ~140 km, ~6 hours.
Quiet road with the joys of riding through picturesque landscape along the Lo river. Superb! It is necessary for us to be able to obtain a permit from the authorities of Ha Giang. 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 homestay, then we can also arrange it.
Day 9: Ha Giang – Dong Van. ~180 km, ~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 colourful mountain hill-tribes. All in all, this is probably the most scenic riding portion of this Grand North Vietnam loop.
Day 10: Dong Van – Bao Lac. ~80 km, ~4 hours.
The road is still under construction and tracks that make the ride relatively long despite few kilometres. However, the landscape is among the most beautiful of Vietnam, and 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. ~150 km, ~5 hours.
Beautiful ride down to Cao Bang province. Few passes from where you can dominate the area. The road is easy but there are many blind curves. While riding, you can stop very often for photos. Altogether, stop for drinks and food it should be an 8-hour journey. Stay in a hotel.
Day 12: Cao Bang – Quang Uyen. ~140 km, ~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. Best of all, home staying in a host family and the hostess is a great cook.
Then 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. ~180 km, ~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. Last but not least, you can shop for cheap Chinese products at the nearby Dong Kinh market.
Overnight in hotel.
Day 14: Lang Son – Ha Long. ~180 km, ~7 h.
We have a long ride mainly on a 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.
Relax in the morning to recover from the long ride yesterday. There are two options:
1. Join a group trip at noon. Depart by boat to Halong Bay, start cruise and check-in cabins. Then 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. For evening activities – choose from optional evening activities: enjoy a movie, 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. This option costs extra and we will let you know the cost if you want this upgrade.
Day 16: Ha Long – Hanoi. ~180 km, ~4 hours. End of Grand North Loop.
Two options with the cruise:
1. Transfer by tender from boat to Titov island, swimming or just relaxing. Then continue the cruise and refresh onboard and come back to Bai Chay. Finally, 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. Lunch on boat and return at noon. This option costs extra and 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. Finally, you arrive in Hanoi around 5pm.