Our adventure begins in beautiful Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. This afternoon we meet our guide and fellow travelers at our hotel. After introductions, we set off on a walking tour of Hanoi’s Old Quarter and French Quarter. Walking the maze of streets, we take in the buzz of daily life, historic architecture, and lively street vendors. Along the way, we visit a charming café where we can try a local favorite, egg coffee! Over dinner our guide will provide a full orientation of the upcoming week’s adventure. Overnight in Hanoi. Dinner included.
This morning we travel north to a village of the Red Dao people, nestled deep within the Sapa Valley. After checking into our riverside lodge and having lunch, we set out on a vigorous warm-up hike. This area is famous for cardamom so it is only natural that we hike to a cardamom forest. Along the way, our local guide will show us the many different kinds of herbs used by villagers for cooking and herbal medicines. Returning from our hike, we’ll walk around the village, visiting a local silver jewelry maker, observing women weaving and embroidering colorful handicrafts, and trying our hand at making paper from bamboo. Back at the lodge, dinner is served family-style. This evening relax on the veranda listening to the river or soak in a soothing herbal bath at the lodge’s bath spa. Overnight Sapa region. All meals included.
Driving: 5 hours; Hiking: 2.5 miles; 2 hours; Elevation gain/loss: 1000'
The beauty we experience on today’s hike may leave you speechless. From the lodge, we walk through the village where we are greeted with warm smiles from our new neighbors. Soon the countryside opens up and we are immersed in varying shades of yellow and green foliage surrounded by endless rice terraces cascading down the mountainsides. It’s a sight to behold. The rugged and narrow trails we hike were made by farmers to connect them to their fields. As we ascend and descend, the trails pass through remote communities like the Blue Hmong. The Blue Hmong are renowned for their decorative indigo Batik textiles adorned with applique and cross-stitch. After a picnic lunch, we continue our hike past mustard and rice fields and grazing livestock. Our hike ends back at our cozy lodge where we can relax with a drink on the veranda before dinner. Overnight in Sapa region. All meals included
Hiking: 8 miles; 5–6 hours; Elevation gain/loss: +650'/-950'
Our hike starts at a Xa Pho village, known for maintaining its distinct local culture for generations. From here we descend by foot into the valley. As we make our way through this tranquil scene, farmers greet us with waves and inquisitive smiles. Crossing a suspension bridge, we ascend the trail to arrive at a Tay village where we sit down to a traditional lunch at a family home. The last section of hiking is quite steep but, we are rewarded with jaw-dropping views from our deluxe mountaintop ecolodge and our home for the night. Take a dip in the infinity pool or relax on your private deck before dinner. Overnight Sapa region. All meals included.
Hiking: 8.5 miles; 5–6 hours; Elevation gain/loss: +1,700'/-600'
Wake up to the fresh mountain air and peaceful beauty of surrounding Hoang Lien National Park. It’s hard to leave this magical part of the world but we have more exploring to do. We depart for a five-hour drive back to Hanoi where we catch an early evening flight to Luang Prabang, Laos. Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This charming city is known for its well-preserved architectural, cultural, and religious heritage. Upon arrival, we transfer to our hotel in the heart of the city. Overnight in Luang Prabang. Breakfast and dinner included.
Driving: 5 hours
Today we have the unique and unforgettable experience of learning about and connecting with Asian elephants first hand. After breakfast, we drive to MandaLao Elephant Conservation, a sanctuary dedicated to elephant education and welfare. After an informative orientation, we take a short boat ride across the Nam Khan River to get our first look at these majestic creatures. The next few hours are spent feeding, walking, and observing the elephants. It’s also a great opportunity to learn about the elephant handlers, known as mahouts. If the elephants allow it, we’ll bathe them in the river. We return to our hotel in Luang Prabang in the afternoon. The rest of the day is yours to explore this charismatic city. Overnight in Luang Prabang. Breakfast and lunch included.
Walking: 1.5 miles
This morning we prep our daypacks and leave our main luggage behind for our two-day mountain trek. Our hike begins north of Luang Prabang. Just like Sapa, the trails are rugged walking paths used by villagers commuting from deep in the forest. With each scenic step, we pass through rice paddies, tropical forests, and tranquil streams. Arriving at a small Hmong village, we share a Laotian-style picnic lunch. Continuing our trek, the trail climbs up the mountainside before descending to a Khmu village; our home for the night. Overnight in a Laotian village. All meals included.
Driving: 1 hour; Hiking: 10.5 miles; 7–8 hours; Elevation gain/loss: +2000'/-1300'
Note: Lodging at the village is very rustic. Guests stay in a large room of a local house or a small bamboo hut. Blankets, pillows, sleep sheets, foam mattresses, and mosquito nettings are provided. There is a bucket shower and shared outdoor bathrooms with squat toilets. Limited electricity and running water.
We say goodbye to our gracious hosts before setting out on our last day of hiking. The trail ascends quickly until we reach a stunning panoramic view that overlooks the wild mountainous region. Here we take a few moments to rest and appreciate the scenery. The trail continues to ascend and descend as it weaves through jungle forests and small communities. Lunch is picnic-style on the trail. We meet our driver and return to Luang Prabang for some well-deserved rest and relaxation. The rest of the day is on your own to relax at the hotel or shop the night market. Enjoy dinner at one of the many restaurants on Sisavangvong Road. Overnight in Luang Prabang. Breakfast and lunch included.
Driving: 1.5 hours; Hiking: 8.5 miles; 5–6 hours; Elevation gain/loss: +2,100'/-2,700'
For the early risers, you may like to join the daily alms ceremony. It’s a unique and enlightening experience to witness the long lines of orange-robed monks collecting food offerings in their alms from faithful residents. Afterward, we have options for the day. Explore Luang Prabang on your own, spend the day at leisure, or join your guide for a visit to Kuang Si Waterfall. The Kuang Si waterfall’s crystal waters cascade into idyllic turquoise pools, ideal for swimming on a hot Lao day. On the way back, we’ll visit the Laos Buffalo Dairy, known for its sustainable approach to local farming. Get a buffalo ice cream cone or try buffalo milk. At tonight’s dinner we celebrate our amazing journey through Vietnam and Laos. Breakfast and dinner included.
Driving: 2 hours; Walking; 1 hour
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for departing flights back home or for onward travel.