Cycling holiday in the Hilltribes of Vietnam

“This small group cycle tour through northeast Vietnam combines beautiful biking terrain with the chance to explore a culturally diverse region and traditional hilltribe life”


Hanoi | Nui Coc Lake | Thai Nguyen tea plantations | Cho Chu | Ba Be National Park | Bao Lac | Hmong villages | Meo Vac | Ma Pi Leng Pass | Ha Giang | Dong Van National Park | Mrs Mai’s textile workshop | rice terraces | Bac Ha town | Halong Bay

Description of Cycling holiday in the Hilltribes of Vietnam

This cycling holiday in heartland of the hilltribes of Vietnam combines the enjoyment and energy of getting out in the saddle with some of the country’s most beautiful natural sights and fascinating cultures. The setting for your two-wheeled adventure is the far-flung mountains of the northeast, where you can work out your thighs on challenging climbs as well as marvel at wide-ranging views.

Your tour kicks off in Hanoi, where you’ll explore modern and traditional Vietnamese life and soak up the city’s faded colonial charm. Then it’s off into the countryside to see tea plantations, lush rice paddies and National Parks, including the rainforest and waterfalls of Ba Be National Park and the dramatic limestone landscape of Ha Giang, whose ethereal peaks and deep canyons have made their way onto the UNESCO world heritage list. A cruise amongst the striking limestone islets of Halong Bay marks the end of the trip.

The main highlight of the journey is the chance to meet the people of Vietnam’s ethnic minority hilltribes, who carve out an existence of traditional subsistence farming in their lush mountain homeland, and whose incredible, colourful hand-woven clothes are an illustration of the many different ethnicities that inhabit this region, including the Black Lolo and Hmong ethnic groups.

You’ll need to be reasonably fit to cycle an average of 66km a day on varied terrain. This is a mountainous region so there are some steep climbs, as well as some potholed roads and uneven tarmac, but you’ll be rewarded with a mostly traffic free route – allowing you proper interaction when you pass though remote villages. Accommodation will be a mixture of hotels, homestays and basic rural guesthouses.

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26 Oct 2019
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Holiday type

Small group holiday

Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.

What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.

Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Valerie Parkinson
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson

Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Roshan Fernando
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando

Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travellers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.

Responsible tourism

Cycling holiday in the Hilltribes of Vietnam

Carbon reduction

Your holiday will help support local people and conservation. We must also reduce CO2. Learn about the CO2 emissions of this holiday and how to reduce them.


Accommodation and Meals:
We will spend 13 nights in a variety of accommodation including small hotels and homestays. This combination of locally run accommodation contributes directly to the community as staff are from the area and food is grown and sold locally. Many of these places also have environmental policies which reduce waste, water usage and energy expenditure. In Ba Be National Park we stay at a homestay run by the Tay family. Due to the remote location, we provide a income to an area which does not benefit from tourism unlike many other regions in Vietnam.
Where meals are not provided, your guide will be able to point out several smaller restaurants, cafes and markets, like in Hanoi old quarter and Cho Chu market. There are some weird and wonderful regional specialties to try with plenty of fresh produce available in most areas. Meals consist mainly of rice, vegetables and frilled or stir fried meat. The staple dish is ‘Pho’, which is a noodle broth with veg and meat. You can buy it from roadside stalls very cheaply, as well as the more established restaurants you will be visiting during the trip.
This area is also one of the last few places where traditional hill tribe life reigns strong; nearly 90% of the population are ethnic minorities, traditional subsistence farming is the mainstay of most and the colourful attire of many of the inhabitants signals the cultural diversity of the area. This insight into remote Vietnam is for many the absolute highlight, by coming here we bring economic benefits to rural communities who miss out from mass tourism. Traveling in a small group is vital so we can still respect their way of life.

With the increase use of single use plastics becoming an ever growing global concern we are actively looking for ways to reduce/limit the need for small water bottles where possible. We have an agreement with some of the hotels to provide purified drinking water. Likewise we have a similar arrangement with the transport suppliers who provide a big drinking water barrel on the bus allowing clients to refill whenever needed.

As a cycling holiday, this trip has very limited detrimental impact upon the environment, residents and communities in the regions we visit. Use of the bikes allows us to cover fairly large distances, while offering very little adverse impact, like pollution and threat to wildlife. Cycling also allows for easy access to the local population, shops and restaurants, which facilitates cultural exploration. By hiring our bikes locally, we also give our business to the rental company, which is beneficial for the community. Through this activity, we are able to raise local awareness for a kind of tourism which refuses to sacrifice the environment and real connections with people for financial gain. We do believe in leaving no more than footprints (or tyre tracks!) although this tour actively encourages guests to talk to local people, visit local cafes and restaurants and to purchase traditional gifts and crafts.

A Fair Deal:
We work closely with our local operator and ensure that all of our guides are local and that in exchange for their expertise that they are paid and treated fairly. Our leaders and guides have been trained in responsible travel and actively encourage our suppliers, drivers, and other members of our team to respect the environment, protect the culture and support the local economy. They have also completed Child Safe training which enables them to take positive action should they encounter children at risk as well as educating clients re child protection within tourism.

Local Craft & Culture:
We do a lot to celebrate the local handicraft industries on this tour, as this is not only a way to directly benefit the locals but it is also hugely fascinating and enjoyable for travellers. For example, we stop at Lung Tam in Ha Giang where we visit Mrs. Mai Responsible Tourism project. Mrs Mai set this project up to help women who had been abducted by human traffickers. When victims returned to the village they were shunned by society, however, Mrs Mai took them in. Mrs Mai and her husband founded a small textile cooperative and now teach these women how to separate hemp stems into strands, spin the strands into thread, weave the thread into fabric and dye the fabric. Here we will learn the stories of human trafficking and how the victims/witnesses of this crime can now have the opportunity of a life free from exploitation here. By buying their crafts we can put money back into the project. Mrs Mai currently employs 110 women.

In Hanoi, we encourage groups to have a communal meal at KOTO, which is an NGO that provides a two year course in hospitality, English and life skills training to groups of 16-22 year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds. Students also receive accommodation, food, medical check-ups and treatment whilst they are being trained. Many of the 400+ graduates have gone on to continue developing their careers at KOTO restaurants or have gained employment elsewhere with their training so this is a great initiative to support.

UK office
It all starts at home so we have first worked to reduce our carbon footprint in our UK offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies in place, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.

Group size
We operate small group tours that have a low impact on the communities we visit and we always ensure our operations do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. This allows us to stay in unique and characterful accommodation that would not have benefitted from tourism due to their limited size.

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