This Vietnam Ethnic Colour Photo Tour 14 days takes you to Vietnam’s northern mountainous area, home to an array of colourful ethnic communities (Mong, Han, Dao, Giay, Tay, Lo Lo, Pu Peo, etc). The photographers will have opportunities to stay in local villages and visit lively tribal markets, while travelling through superb landscapes of mountains and forests.
Combined with a full day in Hanoi and an overnight rail journey, this tour offers a wealth of insights into the contrasting lifestyles of Vietnam’s minorities and city dwellers. Lets take your camera and go! Vietnam Photo Tour – Vietnam Photography Tour – Photo Tour Vietnam – Photography Tour Vietnam.
Day 1, Wednesday: Arrival at Hanoi (D, GP)
Arriving at Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi, you’ll be met and driven to your hotel. You’ll have time to relax after your journey before enjoying a performance of traditional Water Puppetry, an art form unique to northern Vietnam, and an endearing, light-hearted introduction to its rural culture. Later, you’ll have a ‘Welcome’ dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant in a restored French colonial building. You’ll spend the night in Hanoi.
Day 2, Thursday: Hanoi (B, L, G)
You’ll have the whole day to explore Vietnam’s capital city. Your guide will take you to the Temple of Literature, the first university in Vietnam dating back to the 11th century. You’ll then drive to the excellent Ethnology Museum for an overview of Vietnam’s 54 distinct ethnic groups in anticipation of your trip to the northern highlands, with lots of interesting information on their customs, arts and costumes. (According to time and your preference, you may instead visit the Vietnamese Women’s Museum to learn about Vietnamese Women heroes and daily life).
After lunch, explore the bustling Old Quarter and Dong Xuan Market, a magnet for visitors, it’s noisy and hectic, but definitely a ‘must-see’ attraction. The Old Quarter is a maze of shopping streets and restaurants with a hotchpotch of architecture – traditional tube houses, religious buildings, artisans’ workshops and cottages, colonial houses and modern concrete edifices. (Instead of Dong Xuan Market, you can choose to stroll around Hom Market, known as the fabric market in Hanoi). You will stay overnight in Hanoi.
Day 3, Friday: Hanoi/Ha Giang/Quan Ba/Nam Dam (B, L, D, G)
Today you will start early, as you’ll drive 320 km north from Hanoi to Ha Giang, the northernmost province of Vietnam. You’ll stop en route at Tuyen Quang to visit the remains of the 15th century Mac Dynasty Citadel and a market nearby. Arriving in Ha Giang, you will drive 45 km further to Nam Dam Village in Quan Ba District. Upon arrival, you can stroll around the town to get a sense of this Dao community. You will stay at a traditional Dao house with a private room.
Drive total distance ~365 km. Time: ~ 9 hours. You should plan to start around 07:00 AM and arrive around 05:00 PM.
Day 4, Saturday: Nam Dam Village Hiking (B, L, D, G)
After breakfast, you will walk around Nam Dam Village. You will visit Deer Waterfall in a forested area, walking through a landscape dominated by paddy fields, steep hills and the famous karst formations of the Dong Van Geopark. After taking in the scene from a viewpoint overlooking a vast valley, you will visit the Karst Twin Towers and wander the picturesque paddy fields of Nam Dam basin. You will also walk along Nam Dan Lake and the Fairy Breast mountains to Tam Son, and then reward yourself with a delicious fruit juice. You will stay at traditional Dao house with private room.
Nam Dam is a scenic village in quiet rural setting, and has been chosen for a community-based tourism development project by the international NGO Caritas Switzerland and the Vietnamese NGO Pan Nature. It is only 4 km from the Quan Ba district centre of Tam Son. The project is new and local people have only elementary training on tourism, but with the investment and support from the project, accommodation has been much improved to serve international visitors at mid-range standard. There is functioning toilet, shower, water and electric, but not an ensuite toilet. Having your own toiletries is advised.
Day 5, Sunday: Nam Dam/Quan Ba/Yen Minh/Dong Van (B, L, D, G)
You will get another early start today, to join local people flocking to the colourful Tam Son Sunday Market. You will then proceed to Yen Minh and further to Dong Van ethnic markets, which are all held only on Sundays, and gather the ethnic minority peoples such as Mong, Han, Dao, Giay and Tay, who live in the plateau border area.
It is worth scheduling your visit to this area on Sunday so you can experience the different ethnic markets. The markets start very early and finish around noon or earlier. You will get going equally early to have enough time to see at least two colourful markets and compare. It’s a good place to see local products, experience the hustle and bustle of market activities, and meet the buyers and sellers. It’s a genuine introduction to the unadulterated local culture.
Lunch will be not booked in advance today, but will be provided depending on your interest and time spent in the markets. The rest of the day will be spent exploring some picturesque villages in the northern tip of Vietnam. The scenery is spectacular – a vast limestone mountain range and perpendicular walls of rock. There will be plenty of opportunities to take photos, but please be unobtrusive when photographing the local people – cameras and camcorders are rare in the area. If time permits, you’ll stop by the infamous Vuong Palace, once the home of a high-ranking H’mong family during French colonial rule. The palace is something of an architectural fish out of water, and attracts visitors for its unusual combination of European and Chinese styles. From there you drive to Dong Van Town where your guide will show you its charming ‘Old Streets’ near the market. You’ll spend the night in Dong Van.
At this stage of the tour, you’ll be deep in the remote areas of the north where accommodation is very basic with few travellers (and even fewer foreigners!). From here until you arrive in Bac Me Town, you’ll be in your guide’s hands for food and somewhere to sleep. It’ll be a long way from five-star menus and facilities, but our local guides know the area intimately and will ensure that you have the best available.
By visiting these remote areas, you’ll witness first-hand the local people’s perpetual struggle to survive in the unforgiving environment. Living conditions are extremely harsh, and there is little arable land in the mountains. The people survive mainly on a diet of corn, one of the very few species capable of growing in the rocky soil. Despite the hardship and simple lifestyle, the local people are very friendly, welcoming and generous to visitors.
Day 6, Monday: Dong Van/Lung Cu/Meo Vac (B, L, D, G)
Today you will have a little time to relax in the morning with a late breakfast, and then head northeast to Lung Cu, the northernmost point of Vietnam. You can visit the Flag Tower of Lung Cu and stroll through the commune, where there are 9 villages of the Mong, Lo Lo, Tay and Pu Peo minorities.
The traditional dress of Lo Lo ethnic minority women has drawn great admiration for its creativity and rich colours. Over a light shirt, Lo Lo women wear brilliant waist-length, long-sleeved vests. The body of the vest is covered with bright block patterns arranged vertically on the front and back. Each block is made with up to 20 smaller triangular pieces of fabric. The sleeves are decorated with bands matching the colour scheme. To top off this ensemble, Lo Lo women wear colourfully embroidered headscarves which are further decorated with beads. At times they use two or even three headscarves at once, wrapped with painstaking care to highlight the colours and beaded decorations.
Later, a scenic route will take you to Ma Pi Leng Pass from where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the Nho Que River – with luck you might see one of the area’s stunning sunsets. Finally, after your busy day, you’ll arrive at Meo Vac in the late afternoon where you’ll spend the night.
Day 7, Tuesday: Meo Vac/Ha Giang (B, L, G)
After breakfast and a brief visit to Meo Vac local market, you’ll return to Yen Minh via a different scenic route. The breath-taking scenery makes today truly worthwhile – you’ll travel along rough roads and tortuous bends to Lung Phin, a small town about 14km from Meo Vac. You will stop at Lung Cam, a community tourism village in Sung La commune and the scenic home of Lo Lo, White Hmong and Hoa minority people.
Your lunch will be arranged in a local restaurant in Quan Ba Town. From there, you’ll travel back to Ha Giang, arriving in the afternoon. After checking into your accommodation, you might want to wander around the city.
Most mountain markets in Vietnam happen at weekends, but Lung Phin is an exception. Its calendar is based on the dates of 12 animal designations – Rat, Ox, Tiger, Hare/Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep/Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. The market is held in a huddle of thatched huts on a hillside and takes place every Monkey and Tiger day. Local people tether their animals to sell at the corner of the market. If you can arrange your travel in time to co-ordinate with the market days, you’ll experience an untouched culture that has experienced very little change in the last millennium.
Day 8, Wednesday: Ha Giang/Bac Ha/Muong Khuong/Cao Son (B, L, G)
You will spend today driving along Lo River down to Viet Quang and onward to Bac Ha Town. The route will take you through mountain landscapes and striking scenery. After lunch in a local restaurant, you’ll continue to Muong Khuong, arriving in the late afternoon. You’ll then be taken to Cao Son Eco Lodge for overnight accommodation.
Day 9, Thursday: Lung Khau Nhin Market/Sapa (B, L, G)
After breakfast, your guide and driver will take you to visit Lung Khau Nhin Market, frequented by Flower Hmong, Tu Di and Giay ethnic minority peoples. After exploring the market, you’ll have a chance to visit villages of the Black Dao and Pa Di ethnic people. Lunch will be served in a local restaurant in Muong Khuong or by picnic lunch. You’ll then drive to Lao Cai and continue your journey through the mountains to Sapa, a picturesque town perched on the mountainside opposite Mt. Fan Si Pan, Vietnam’s highest peak. After arrival, you’ll have time to relax and stroll around town, and you’ll spend the night in a Sapa hotel with good mountain views.
Although it’s quite a long drive, the landscape is attractive and the ethnic markets are a fascinating experience. Unlike those in the tourist areas, the markets that we choose are not only for buying and selling, but are also places for ethnic minority people to meet and exchange news. There will be plenty of colour and authentic costumes, but very little to buy in the way of souvenirs – unless you have something to exchange for a water buffalo or a sack of fertiliser!
Tu Di are one of two sub-groups of the Bo Y ethnic minority. The other group are settled in the Quan Ba District of Ha Giang Province.
The Tu Di women of Muong Khuong now wear black trousers and a shirt of black and blue material with a distinctive front panel, decorated with pieces of coloured material, patches of embroidery and silver chains: the shirt buttons under the right arm and has concentric rings of coloured material around the upper sleeves and cuffs.
The Pa Di are a sub-ethnicity of the Tay exclusively settled in the Muong Khuong District of Lao Cai. They are instantly recognisable by their distinctive headgear which comprises a studded decorative headband enclosed in a stiff pyramid shaped black hat. The Pa Di women wear a black skirt, a black shirt which buttons under the right arm and a black apron. The shirt has a blue border and features blue and white rings on the lower sleeves and studded decorative patterns on the collar.
Day 10, Friday: Sapa/Ta Phin Village (B, L, D, G)
After breakfast at the hotel, you will drive to Ta Phin Village. Ta Phin is a picturesque thirty minute drive north of Sapa. Set in a valley with a towering mountain peak at one end, Ta Phin is home to approximately 1000 Red Dao, 1500 Black H’Mong and a handful of Kinh people. You’ll have lunch, dinner and stay the night in the traditional wooden home of a Red Dao family. The name of your hostess is May Kieu, and her husband is Lua. They have 2 children, aged 4 and 5. Lua’s mother lives with the family along with Lua’s grandmother known as “Coo” (grandmother in Dao). At age 86, Coo is the oldest person in the village and is always ready for a chat and a cuppa.
The Red Dao embroidery style is truly unique and today the ladies of the house will teach you their embroidery techniques while sharing stories about their lives. The outfits of the Red Dao in the Sapa region are different from the Red Dao in other northern provinces. There are many local variations in clothing from village to village, but the common features are heavily embroidered trousers, a loose fitting black jacket with a richly embroidered collar and sleeves, along with an embroidered back panel.
Some of the Red Dao in the area wear a plain red scarf with a white border decorated with silver coins, whilst others wear a large red turban decorated with silver beads and long red and yellow tassels. The women shave their eyebrows and shave back their hairline to display a larger area of forehead. There will be plenty of opportunity today to wander through the valley and observe daily life among the Hmong and Dao people – depending on the season, it may also be possible to visit some Black Hmong families preparing and dyeing indigo hemp fabrics.
Day 11, Saturday: Sapa/Can Cau/Bac Ha (B, L, G)
From Ta Phin Village, you will drive back to Lao Cai, then continue to Can Cau Market. Not far from Bac Ha, the colourful Can Cau Market held on Saturdays is as large as Bac Ha Market but not as popular to visit, partly due to the distance and poor road conditions. People from other tribal groups such as Black Zao, Tay and Zay attend, but the colourful traditional costume of the Flower H’mong dominates this market, making for a beautiful sight. The market is also popular with Chinese traders. Afterwards, you’ll travel on to Bac Ha town for lunch.
In the afternoon, you’ll walk to Ban Pho village of Nung and Flower H’mong, situated in a small valley. The villagers grow vegetables and fruit trees, especially plums. You’ll be able to visit a local house, where you might have chance to taste the celebrated local corn wine. You’ll spend the night in Bac Ha.
Day 12, Sunday: Bac Ha/Trung Do/boat trip to Chay River/Lao Cai (B, L, G)
Today you’ll follow the flow of the locals to the centre of Bac Ha’s huge market, resplendent in its colourful array of ethnic minorities such as the Flower H’mong, Phu La, Black Dao, Tay and Nung peoples who gather here to trade. After you have spent the morning exploring the market, your lunch will be served at a local restaurant.
After lunch, you’ll be driven downhill for about half an hour, after which you’ll take a short walk to Trung Do Village, belonging to the Tay minority. Here you can visit a traditional Tay house, before boarding a boat to cruise upstream on the Chay River to enjoy the picturesque scenery of the river bank. Later, you will cruise downstream to Bao Nhai Bridge, where your car will be waiting to transfer you to Lao Cai. You’ll have time to check in to a room and refresh yourself before boarding the sleeper train back to Hanoi in late evening.
Day 13, Monday: Hanoi (B, GP)
When you arrive at Hanoi railway station, your car will arrive to transfer you to your hotel to freshen up. The day will be free at your leisure to relax after a long northern trip. You’ll spend the night in Hanoi.
Day 14, Tuesday: Hanoi Departure (B, DP)
You’ll be free until your driver arrives to take you to Noi Bai Airport for your departure flight.
The Team at Vietnam Travel Experience put every effort into creating a photo tour that goes beyond the beaten path.
We strive to have you in the right place at the right time for that unforgettable shot...
The information you supply will be used to help us to design your draft itinerary, and will never be made available to a third party.
Only the name and e-mail address boxes are obligatory on the form below: without accurate contact information we have no means of reaching you.
Contact us at Vietnam Travel Experience form below