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Remote Vietnam and Laos by Bike
Ditch the tourist circuit and embrace the endless possibilities of two wheels by cycling through the cultural and natural hot spots of northern Vietnam and Laos. Revel in the landscapes of Vietnam and lap up the country’s flavours before heading over the border into Laos. Discover the country’s grisly and unique past, while switching it up with night-time safaris before concluding the breath-taking trip in the temple-filled and special atmosphere of the town of Luang Prabang.
- TypeFully Guided
- Duration14 days
- Culture LevelAdventurous
- Skill Level3 - Intermediate
- Activity Level3 - Active
- Elevation4 - Challenging
- Distance472.9 miles
- Avg. Daily Distance39.1 miles
- Day 1Hello to Hanoi
You are on the cusp on an adventure of a lifetime. Tomorrow beckons and with it comes the promise of seeing Vietnam and Laos in the best way possible – perched atop a bicycle. But before the real excitement can begin you need to get accustomed to life in Vietnam and what better place to start than the nation’s capital, Hanoi.
Having touched down in this pretty and bustling city, the rest of the day is your own to explore before the group gathers for dinner and to run through the itinerary for the trip.
- Day 2Cruising through caves and soaking up Vietnam’s variety
Settle onto your saddle and prepare for an exhilarating start to this tantalising tour. Having escaped the city’s busy streets via a short transfer, you can finally find your feet and get used to Vietnam’s buzz with a gentle ride that starts along the Red River.
This trip is designed to offer variety and allow you an exclusive insight into the true nature of Vietnam and Laos. This is exemplified on your first stop off in Bat Trang where you can admire the pottery and handmade ceramics that the village is known for. Continuing the journey south you will pass through stunning and serene villages as those wheels keep turning right into the heart of the delta.
With the first half of the day over you'll take a transfer to Tam Coc to enjoy a local feast for lunch before hopping back on the bikes. Refreshed and raring to go, the second half of the day provides a real jaw-dropping activity. But prior to that you have to keep those wheels turning, while admiring the jutting karst cliffs alongside you. Eventually coming to a pier you can ditch the bikes to board a mesmerising cruise along the Ngo Dong River. Bobbing along you will pass through three spectacular natural caves with the biggest of the lot measuring an impressive 125 meters (410 ft) long. Upon disembarking the boat, it’s back to the bikes to cycle back through the karst cliffs and onwards to one of the oldest temples in Vietnam – the Thai Vi Temple. A lovely lesson of history provides a calm way to finish an enthralling first day.
- 36 miles
- 13.1 ft
- Day 3Pedaling your way towards rescued primates and national parks
Get things kick-started with a hearty breakfast before pedaling out. Leaving behind the hotel in Tam Coc, point your wheels toward Vietnam’s ancient capital of the Dinh and Ly dynasties, Hoa Lu. The riding is exquisite as you glide past green rice fields that are surrounded overhead by impressive karst mountains.
Along the way you stop at the Dinh Le Temple, which is built to portray a 17th century Chinese character, and then pedal on alongside the flowing Hoang Loang River. Riding wise, the terrain is fortunately pretty flat, though you will be tasked with a couple of short climbs here and there. Each one is worth it for that sense of accomplishment when you level out and they all lead wonderfully to Vietnam’s biggest national park, Cuc Phuong. Home to the Primate Rescue Center, you can marvel at the array of native monkeys, gibbons and critically endangered langurs – all of whom have been rescued from wildlife smugglers to be rehabilitated and eventually returned to their natural habitat. Following this visit it’s time to hop back on those bikes as you cycle off towards the centre of the park before deciding whether to pedal back to the hotel or take the transfer on offer.
- 47.8 miles
- 502 ft
- Day 4Lap up the postcard views, local life and flavours along the Buoi River
Vietnam’s jaw-dropping landscapes and scenery have long adorned postcards, but to really witness these places in the flesh is quite something else. Today is all about going local as you explore the towering mountain scenery, swathes of rice paddies and the local villages that straddle the Buoi River. Following a quick morning transfer to Lanh An you can begin grinding through those gears again. As the spokes turn you will be delighted to see the native Muong people wondering curiously about your presence, while the array of rice fields, corn, cassava and sugarcane will tempt you towards lunch.
A local lunch of pho will re-energise you in preparation for a descent through the swooping rice paddy valleys of Mai Chau. Naturally, going downhill means you will pick up a good pace and arrive with plenty left in the tank at the luxurious lodge retreat for your slumber. But just before you dive under the sheets make sure to take a needed dip in the pool and bathe in the glorious sunset views from your balcony.
- 38.5 miles
- -721.8 ft
- Day 5Verdant valleys greet your final riding day in Vietnam
This is your last day of riding in Vietnam and as soon as you awake to the sweeping panoramic views of the Mai Chau valley, you will be forgiven for feeling a tinge of sadness. Following a hearty breakfast you can go for a wander in the valley along with some knowledgeable local guides. The verdant valley combined with its random assortment of stilt houses is a feast for the eyes and for your camera too. After this brilliant start to the day it’s time to bust out the bikes as you head away from the valley going deep inside the Pu Luong nature reserve. While the majority of your riding on this trip can be considered moderate, sometimes a bit more sweat is necessary and it certainly will be for the biggest hill of the day with a 550 meter (1804 feet) climb over 17 kilometers (10.5 miles).
What goes up must come down though and each bead of sweat can be justified after the enthralling descent into Dong Tam. En route, the group will stop for a picnic lunch at a stilt house belonging to an ethnic Thai family from this region. Such experiences like this make the tour all the more exclusive in its feel as you can speak freely with the people aided by the guides. Once everyone has reached Dong Tam it’s time to pack up the bikes for the hotel for the evening.
- 46.6 miles
- -285.4 ft
- Day 6Crossing the border into Laos
The time has come to say goodbye to Vietnam, but fortunately it’s not even the halfway mark of this trip and many more fascinating sights and moments await in Laos. Having packed up your things you will join the rest of the group in taking a transfer to the border where the guides for Laos await. After all the formalities are completed it’s time to get acquainted with your new bike for this stage of the tour.
Today’s ride in the luscious land of Laos is to the historic location of Vieng Xay. Formerly Laos’ war-time headquarters for the communists, this spot is also famous for the surrounding karst limestone landscape that shields a network of caves that were used for protection during the bombing raids. The cycling to this destination is superb as you follow gorgeous streams and pass rice paddies into this startling landscape. You will also get to stop off and explore some of the caves en route including the likes of the Lao-Cuban Hospital Cave.
- 36 miles
- 1,758.5 ft
- Day 7The winning combination of cycling and caves
The spectacular network of the caves used by the Laos communists demands further discovery and that is what you will get to sink your teeth into today. The Vieng Xai Caves Visitor Center brilliantly details the history of this extensive maze with an impressive 488 of the caves used by the Pathet Lao to protect themselves from American bombs during the Vietnam War. Navigating your way from cave to cave by bike makes this a unique experience and with audio guides you can really unravel the mystique of these caves. Following lunch it’s time to leave the caves and focus on cycling. Riding through numerous ethnic villages, the final destination for today is the city of Xam Neua, Houaphanh’s provincial capital.
- 18.6 miles
- 144.4 ft
- Day 8Time to go wild with a safari rest day
Phew! It is rest time and today marks the mid-way point of your trip, so what better way than to ditch the bikes and explore the wildlife and natural sights that Laos has to offer?
The Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area is full of them and today you can swap bikes for feet as the team embarks on a safari. Renowned for its high level of biodiversity, primary forest and a number of endangered species such as tiger, gaur, Sambar deer, and white-cheeked gibbon, the area is a wonderful place for nature enthusiasts. And if that was not enough, there is also the mesmerising sight of a 100 meter (328 foot) plume of water cascading down over the rock slabs of Saleuy Waterfall.
This trip through Vietnam and Laos is all about authenticity and it doesn’t come much better than sleeping in a beautifully crafted bamboo hut right dead center in the middle of the jungle. You can drift off with the cacophony of jungle sounds. But hold your horses because before bed time it’s time for some wildlife spotting on the Nam Nern River. Drifting along on long-tail boats at dusk presents the perfect opportunity to test out your vision and observe animals in the wild.
- Day 9Back to the saddle with delightful descents
After yesterday’s wildlife extravaganza it is back to the bikes today, but you can rest easy in the knowledge that today is not too difficult on your legs. The day begins with breakfast before everyone boards a boat to float back to Ban Sonkhoua. It is here where you can get reacquainted with the saddle.
Fortunately, today consist of many spectacular downhill descents with views to match. All of this whooshing along leads to lunch on the Nam Nern River bank in Ban Sop Lao. Following yet another excellent meal, you will be transferred to the village of Ban Souanmon to begin riding through the mountains. You will manage to squeeze in another sensational descent down to the Xieng Khouang Plateau before rounding off the day at Ban Xang Hot Springs. This will be your place to bed down for the evening in a simple but lovely community lodge.
- 39.1 miles
- -2,956 ft
- Day 10A bubbling start before history beckons on the Xieng Khouang Plateau
If you think of the best way you can start a morning, a soothing dip in a hot spring bath followed by a scrumptious breakfast must be near the top of that list. That’s precisely what you do to kick-start this day before heading off to ride the plateau.
Laos is full of remote villages and as you glide through them you will begin to absorb the vibrancy of this beautiful country. It will be enough to keep your eyes captivated while steadily climbing from 500 meters (1640 feet) to 1100 meters (3608 feet) throughout the first part of the day. This region was one of the most bombed during the Vietnam War (Indochina War) and the cycling here combines the raw beauty of nature with a sombre history lesson. The plateau’s landscape is full of grassy plains and the remaining evidence of unexploded bombs from the war is everywhere to be seen. It is fascinating and equally sombre to observe, while you will also feel some admiration for the ingenuity of locals who have used the leftover bomb casings and other remnants for their fences, tools, vegetable planters, decorations and barbecue fireplaces.
The Xieng Khouang Plateau is also home to the prehistoric Plain of Jars sites where thousands of bizarre stone cylinders are scattered. This location is a place where few travellers ever reach and tomorrow you can spend further time exploring and attempting to understand this mysterious land.
- 42.9 miles
- 1,994.8 ft
- Day 11Unveiling the mystique of the Plain of Jars
Having marvelled briefly at the mysterious Plain of Jars site, today is all about learning the varying theories behind their existence. It is believed the ‘jars’ were created more than 2000 years ago by Indian tribes, however this is just one theory and it is understandable as to why people dub this the ‘Asian Stonehenge’.
You begin the day by cycling out to the site and from there you will be all set to visit the various sites. The first site demonstrates peoples curiosity about these jars where they lay alongside a number of visible bomb craters, while at the second site the jars are located on a hillside.
Lunch is enjoyed at site two and then it is up to you how you wish to spend the afternoon. You can either cycle back to town or take the bus. With your free time it is advised to visit the MAG Office-UXO Visitor Information Centre where there is a movie being shown into the legacy of the second Indochina War. It offers a fascinating insight and perspective on this devastating period for countries such as Laos.
Dinner is down to you tonight but fear not as there are plenty of restaurants in town to choose from. If you’re keen for some recommendations do not hesitate to ask your guides for their top tips.
- 31.1 miles
- 65.6 ft
- Day 12Loving the lake ‘selfies’ and pure riding through Laos’ lovely landscapes
After yesterday’s enthralling history lesson it’s back to the beloved bikes for some pure riding. The Laotian landscape is picture perfect in many ways and for clocking up some kilometers it is the perfect companion. Today, the twisting and turning tour heads east to Phou Khoun. The first stage of the riding is simple and relatively flat compared to previous hills. There is also a photo opportunity at Nongtang, a stunning lake surrounded by towering limestone cliffs. This is definitely one to snap and post on social media as soon as possible.
The second stage of today’s riding is quick as the tour heads downhill to the lunch spot on the Nam Chat River. That also marks the end of a shorter day of riding as you will then take a transfer uphill to Phou Khoun, just in time for sunset and a sensational view from the guesthouse for the evening.
- 47.8 miles
- -935 ft
- Day 13Rolling into the temple-filled town of Luang Prabang
The tour is entering the final furlong and today’s last full day of riding will take you to the wonderful UNESCO World Heritage site of Luang Prabang; more on that later. With there being little time remaining on the tour there may be some of you who wish to get started early and squeeze in as much cycling as possible. That is no problem and for those who wish to, they can leave earlier in the morning for a ride along the route. Eventually, you will all meet up together and transfer to today’s starting point for everyone.
Here you will begin a stupendous descent into Ban Khoua Nam Ming, which translates to the bridge over the Ming River. After a satisfying lunch, it’s time to prepare yourself for an ascent. There’s enough time to recuperate prior to doing so and the team takes a steady pace before you earn a swooping downhill ride onto the rolling flats. From here it’s easy going as you pedal into the temple-filled town of Luang Prabang. There will be plenty of time to explore this marvelous place tomorrow with the team’s last dinner together a priority. You will head out together into town to enjoy a fine meal.
- 69.6 miles
- -3,136.5 ft
- Day 14Captivating caves full of Buddha images to send you on your way
The final day of the tour always had to come at some point, reluctantly everyone will have to finish this wonderful journey, though your legs may be grateful of the rest. But before you can begin planning what to do next, there remains some riding to do.
Starting the day you will pedal out to Pak Ou to visit the wondrous sites of the Tham Ting and Tham Teung Caves. Home to thousands of Buddha images and set into the cliffs and at the meeting point of the Ou and Mekong rivers. On your ride there you can also stop off at Ban Xang Hai to check out how Lao rice-wine is produced, and try some samples, of course.
Finally it’s time for a final meal with your new friends as you have lunch at Ban Pak Ou. You will then head back to Luang Prabang by boat and return to the hotel to get freshened up before waving goodbye to everyone and heading for your onward journey home or to the next destination.
- 18.6 miles
- -19.7 ft