M04: From Puluong Nature Reserve to Halong Bay: the highlights of Tonkin

A tour departing from Hanoi, looping around former Tonkin, exploring three ‘must-see’ sites : Pu Luong Nature Reserve, inhabited by the Thai and Muong ethnic tribes with terrace rice fields and primitive forests; Trang An Landscape Complex, also known as ‘Halong Bay on land’ ; and an exceptional cruise on actual Halong Bay. While 4 days is barely enough time to complete this loop, you can, of course, extend the tour to have more time, in which case we can suggest additional activities.

Day 1. Hanoi – Mai Chau - Pu Luong (lunch and dinner included)

Morning departure from Hanoi via an express south-west road towards Hoa Binh, land of the Muong. Gaining altitude from Hoa Binh, we traverse the Muong Khen pass, skirting the mountainside towards Thung Nhuôi enjoying a panoramic view. As we cross the massif at the end of the descent, we get to appreciate the Mai Chau valley.

Lunch with a local Thai family in Mai Hich village followed by a short visit of this well-known tourist site, and then a one-hour car ride to the heart of Pu Luong Nature Reserve.

Check-in at Pu Luong Retreat, a mini-lodge nestled on the slopes of a hill overlooking stunning terraced rice fields, with an ambience reminiscent of Tam Coc Garden.

In the afternoon, an easy hike through beautiful landscapes and ethnic villages, then a small bamboo boat ride on the Cham River, and meeting the locals.

Dinner and overnight stay at Pu Luong Retreat.

- Transfer: 4h30 // Distance: ± 170 km

- Walking: 6 km; 450 m positive - 100 m negative; ± 2h30-3h00

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Day 2. Pu Luong - Tam Coc Garden (all meals included)

We head to the southern part of the Red River Delta, to Ninh Binh province and the famous ‘Halong Bay on land’. 

Arrival around noon in Tho Ha, a small village located west of the Trang An Scenic Landscape complex, listed in 2014 by UNESCO as a Natural Heritage Site.

After lunchtime, bicycle ride in the surrounding villages to discover the daily life of locals working in their ancestral fields, cultivating rice, peanuts or corn. It is an invitation to gaze upon a hut overlooking the rice paddies, a church, a school, a craft workshop and a small market, all part of the local Vietnamese life.  A church, a small house overlooking the rice fields, a school, a craft workshop, a small market serve as a pretext for stopping to discover Vietnamese life.

In the late afternoon, we board small paddle boats to enter the heart of the labyrinth of limestone peaks of Trang An. Passage through the long Buddha Cave, named so due to the presence of a Buddha-shaped rock lying inside. The sampan then lips along a reed-lined stream winding through the peaks.  

After a 1,5h boat ride, disembarkation at Linh Coc, and a 200-m walk to reach Tam Coc Garden. Check-in and free leisure time to enjoy the idyllic setting of our ecolodge.

- Transfer: 4h00 // Distance: ± 130 km

- Cycling: 10 km; 170 m positive - 180 m negative; ± 1h30

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Day 3. Ninh Binh – Halong Bay (all meals included)

After breakfast, transfer to the 8th wonder of the world Halong Bay, which literally means "Descent of the Dragon". According to Chinese mythology, the Dragon is a reptile which climbs to the sky at the spring equinox and hides at the bottom of the seas at the autumn equinox.

Departure from Tam Coc for west to east crossing of the immense rice fields of the lower Red River Delta : the provinces of Nam Dinh and Thai Binh (the country’s most densely populated province).

Approaching the eastern foothills of the lower delta, crossing of the Uong Bi coal area and arrival to Tuan Chau around noon. Embark on a beautiful junk for a memorable cruise in the legendary Halong Bay.

During the cruise, discover the colossal chaos of  picturesque karst peaks, emerging from emerald waters; rocky structures riddled with crevices, and caves hiding unexpected lagoons. A surreal atmosphere is created by the play of light on the clouds and mist.

The bay is teeming with activity : as a port of exit for coal export, as home to a number of floating villages dependent on fish farming, and as a workplace to squid fishermen whose boats sparkle at night.

Scheduled : visiting a cave, stopping on a small beach, and, weather permitting, kayaking and swimming in the open sea. 

In the late afternoon, the boat anchors in the regulated park for the night. Lunch and dinner meals are taken on the junk with excellent seafood on the menu.

Overnight on board in a private cabin.

Transfer: 3h30 // Distance: ± 200 km

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Day 4. Halong Bay – Hanoi (breakfast and lunch included)

In The Bay, the awakening at dawn is essential! It offers peace of mind like no other in the early hours of the day.

While the junk slowly sets sail towards the pier, the breakfast buffet is served on board. The return part of the cruise allows you to possibly discover some previously unobserved elements of the bay.

Lunch on board and disembarkation. A 4-hour transfer to Hanoi.

Transfer: 2h30 // Distance: ± 150 km

Please contact us for more information. Thank you.

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