Day 1 – Hanoi
We meet early afternoon at the Flower hotel. Your guide will give you an outline of the days to come before fitting you out with your bicycle. There is an opportunity for a short test ride on the road outside the hotel. Nearby is the famous Hoan Kiem Lake, considered the spiritual heart of Hanoi. If you are confident in negotiating the local traffic, (it’s a short ride to the lake which is also in walking distance), your guide will take on a 4 km cycle around the lake including a visit to the revered Turtle Pagoda. Tonight we dine together at a local restaurant, a chance to get to know the local Northern Vietnamese cuisine.
(D) Accommodation – Flower Hotel, Hanoi,
Day 2 –Hanoi to Ninh Binh
An early start sees us drive out of the city to the small village of Ben Yen. Here we start cycling on quiet rural roads surrounded by kaarst rock formations as we enter the Limestone Country. The route has several turns so we advise cycling with your guide and there are a few ups & downs as you traverse the narrow gaps between the structures. Lunch is at a local restaurant before continuing on a spectacular flat afternoon ride to Ninh Binh through a beautiful landscape of limestone islands surrounded by rice fields and canals. At times the route is so narrow that you must pass between “Mountain gates”, the local term for the gaps between the formations. Tonight your guides will take you out to experience two very popular local pastimes, karaoke & drinking beer at a local bar!
(B,L,D) Accommodation – The Long Hotel, Ninh Binh Cycling distances – Morning – 41kms/25 Miles, Afternoon – 29kms/18 Miles
Day 3 – Ninh Binh to Phat Diem and return loop
This morning’s ride is another beautiful route via quiet lanes amongst limestone islands rising out of rice paddies surrounded by canals and rivers. At Phat Diem we visit the incredible Catholic Cathedral built in 1891. Apart from gigantic pillars made from single trees this massive building is built entirely of stone with numerous stone sculptures on the walls and a large bell cast in the 1890s weighing nearly 2 tons. Your guide will explain the amazing story of how this structure was built. This afternoon we drive to meet our boat, for the trip to visit the remarkable Kenh Ga village. The journey to the village, as we glide along the river and canals, and weave our way past the boathouses and fishing vessels of Kenh Ga is a unique experience. Surrounded by stunning limestone cliffs the village is only accessible by boat, it’s essentially a floating village on the Hoang Long River, with just a few permanent buildings on the riverbanks and the people in Kenh Ga row boats with their feet, leaning back and watching the world go by
(B,L,D) Cycling distances – Ninh Binh to Phat Diem – 23kms/ 14 miles, Optional return – 28kms / 17 miles
Day 4 – Ninh Binh to Cuc Phuong National Park
Today sees us ride through quiet back roads on the gentle climb to Cuc Phuong National Park Headquarters, our base for the next two nights. The scenery is spectacular as we cycle through small villages & alongside rice fields before we enter the national park in the afternoon. Created by Ho Chi Minh in 1963 Cuc Phuong was Vietnam’s first National Park. Tonight we stay in comfortable guest houses at the park headquarters & there is time this afternoon for a short hike around nearby Mac Lake or the botanical gardens
(B,L,D) Accommodation – Cuc Phuong National Park Guesthouses, www.cucphuongtourism.com Cycling Distance –Ninh Binh to Cuc Phuong National park – 45 kms / 28 miles
Day 5 – Cuc Phuong Headquarters to Park Centre and return
Surrounded by limestone cliffs, Cuc Phuong National Park is considered the most important nature reserve in Viet Nam. It 222 square km. of primary tropical forest and is famous for its variety of wildlife, there are an estimated 2,000 different species of flora and the 450 species fauna in the park. This morning you will visit the famous Primate Rescue Centre www.primatecenter.org with 14 species of threatened gibbon and langur on site. We then head into the park centre, depending on your fitness you can cycle or drive, with a visit on the way to the “cave of the Prehistoric Man.” After lunch at Bong, the park centre, we will go for a 2hr hike on an easy trail into the forest to see the ancient trees & prolific birdlife. To end the day we have a cruisy downhill ride back to the Park Headquarters.
(B,L,D) Cycling distance to Park Centre – 20kms/12 miles each way.
Day 6 – Cuc Phuong to Mai Chau
Today is a cycling day as we follow the Buoi River valley towards Mai Chau. We cycle briefly on the northern section of the famous Ho Chi Ming Trail, now a paved highway traveling south all the way to Saigon, before continuing riding to Muong Khen where we board the support vehicle to traverse the formidable Thung Khe pass. Towards the summit we will stop at some roadside stalls and meet some local ethnic Muong people who will introduce to one of their delicacies, the delicious sticky rice cooked on a bamboo stick. The descent into Mai Chau is spectacular with beautiful views into the valley. The day ends at the lovely Mai Chau lodge, a new resort reflecting the local culture, nestled amongst the rice fields and surrounding mountains.. Tonight’s meal is on your own at the delightful restaurant at the Mai Chau Lodge.
(B,L) Accommodation – Mai Chau Lodge, www.maichaulodge.com\ Cycling Distance – Up to 77kms / 48 miles
Day 7 – Mai Chau
The lowland valleys around Mai Chau are inhabited by the Thai people and the high country is the home of the H’Mong ethnic minority. This morning we drive up the Ma’a River to an altitude of 1000 meters to visit a traditional H’Mong village at Sa Linh . We cycle back to the resort on a gentle downhill run for a late lunch and the afternoon is free to relax and enjoy the beautiful resort. Late afternoon we vist a local ethnic White Thai village before joining our hosts in a meal combined with a cultural & musical performance in their traditional longhouse
(B,D) Cycling distance – 35kms/22 miles
Day 8 – Mai Chau to Hanoi
Serious riders can challenge themselves this morning with the climb to the top of the Thung Khe Pass, (it’s a gain of 1,050 metres over 14 kilometres) and downhill experts can thrill themselves with the 12 km descent down the other side. We do not recommend either option unless you are very fit and experienced , for the mere mortals we will drive you over the pass to start riding at Muong Khen. The landscape changes as we farewell the limestone country and gradually descend towards Hanoi. Lunch today is at an excellent local restaurant in Hoa Binh before loading up for the drive back to Hanoi. Tonight we experience the famous & spectacular Water Puppet show before our celebration farewell dinner and a chance to reflect on the experiences of the last eight days.
(B,L,D) Accommodation – Thang Long Opera, Hanoi. Cycling Distance – Thung Khe Pass option – 63kms/39 miles, Shorter route – 29kms/18 miles
Day 9 – (B)
Your tour ends after breakfast. For those who are traveling to Halong Bay on the extension tour, you will be picked up from your hotel at approximately 8.00 a.m.