This article is written by Tigit’s Vietnamese guides, and the English has mostly been left untouched and natural with only minor editing.
The North West of Vietnam is known to be a difficult area to ride in the country, but very remote and very beautiful.
- The roads are bad, with landslides, flash flooding in the rainy season.
- Tourism has not developed much, there are few English speakers.
Is it possible for new riders to ride the North West?
Yes, It is.
Inside cable car on the way to the mountain Fansipan
People normally take the detour for trails, rough roads, paths with stunning views, newbies may struggle a bit but there are always big roads out there for you to cheat on, just ride straight to the next stop. If you still want to do the whole route; take more time for yourself, and have more rest days in such good weather and peaceful area.
We can’t compare The North West, Ha Giang loop and The North East, each of them is beautiful in its own way but The North West is the best recommendation for riding lovers.
The North West map described here starts in Hanoi and ends in Ha Giang, it can be done in 7 days.
- Tigit has a service to transport your bikes from Ha Giang to Hanoi – you must book in advance – 35 usd per bike one way.
- You can continue your trip from Ha Giang loop to the North East. Check out the blog here.
- You can also do the small Ha Giang loop to Dong Van – Lung Cu – Meo Vac – Bamboo Ferry – Bao Lac and get back to Hagiang in 3 days more. (follow the Ha Giang loop maps above)
Day 1: Hanoi – Mai Chau 140km
The best way to escape Hanoi.
Can we go on highway by a motorcycle?
Most of people will say “No” but yes, you can. Some CT roads allow bikes.
CT08 is known as Thang Long Avenue. There is a large lane for motorbikes.
CT02 Hoa Lac – Hoa Binh is one of a few highway in the country that allows motorbikes.
Mai Chau is the best option for local riders to ride at weekend.
The road is in good condition, it’s curvy moutain pass surrounded by beautiful landscapes.
Typical breakstop for riders to have lunch.
The point we’ve pinned on the map is the best one for views, but somtimes is crowded with people.
They have drinks, hammocks, good food such as grilled pork, eggs, chicken and sticky rice cooked inside bamboo tubes.
Hotel: Mai Chau Green Ecohouse is the hotel where we stay for Tigit tour.
Food: Bun Cha Hanoi is my favourite but Bun Cha Mai Chau made me surprised, I love them both.
The hotel also serves more good Vietnamese Food.
Option: You can stop for Moc Chau instead of Mai Chau, it makes day 1 a bit longer, day 2 a bit shorter.
Day 2: Mai Chau – Moc Chau – Ta Xua 180km
Van Yen Ferry – crossing Black River (Song Da)
Black River was known as a very strong, dangerous river, there are 2 biggest hydroelectric dams on it.
Van Yen Ferry
The hight light of the day is Dinosaur Backbone.
Its not difficult to ride on if you’re confident about your skills.
Dinosour Back Bone
Hotel: Ta Xua Ecolodge is the most luxury hotel you can look for in the town.
Ta Xua Clouds homestay is just an acceptable homestay but a cozy place and suitable for riders. This is where we stay on the last trip for our tour.
Food: every hotel here serves good and organic Vietnamese food.
Day 3: Ta Xua – Mu Cang Chai 180km
The best way to get to Sapa.
Many people come to the North West for only Sapa which takes them one and half day of riding from Hanoi.
Don’t do the highway, it’s boring.
Go on QL32 to Mu Cang Chai for the best rest stop before Sapa. It’s a small, curvy and beautiful road to ride.
Lim Mong Valley and Khau Pha Moutainpass we pin on the map 2 different ways, and we recommend both of them. You should go down to see the valley, then go the same way back to do Khau Pha Moutainpass.
Mam Xoi Be hill is very beautiful, surrounded by terraced rice fields. The best time to go there is from September to October.
Notes: the trail to get to the hill is very small, you can only turn back at the end!
Sky diving festival in September – Lim Mong valley
Lunch time: Don’t miss Tu Le for lunch, they are very famous for the best colourful-sticky rice in the country
The restaurant Nha Hang Pho Nui that we pin, is the best one in town with local organic pork, chicken, buffalo, etc.
Hotel: Dong Suoi H’mong homestay & Bungalow looks good, we plan to stay there for our next trip.
Leu Gio homestay is such a private and peaceful homestay, the bungalow is among stepped rice fields.
Option 1: If you want 1 more rest day, you can stop for Tram Tau instead of Mu Cang Chai. This is only 2 hours of riding.
Hotel: Zoni Home Tram Tau is the best. There is a hot spring we pin that is close to the homestay.
Option 2: CRF250, XR150, Blade riders can ride off-roading from Ta Xua to Tram Tau (Coming soon on maps).
Day 4: Mu Cang Chai – Sapa 150km
Sapa is very easy to travel, most people already have a plan for it, we just pin 1 hotel that we plan for our tour.
On Quy Ho Pass and Ta Phin cave there are two very famous spots in Sapa. Remember to bring a flashlight for going inside the cave, it is very dark and easy to get lost.
You will reach Sapa around lunch time and don’t forget to enjoy the Special “Pork Noodle Nga Cảnh”. One of my favorite dishes while I’m in Sapa.
You will find a lot of massage in Sapa, in my opinion “La Dao Spa” is the best one but it is around 7km away from the center of Sapa. You can bath with a special herb used by the ethnic Dao minority people, a full body massage is around 45 USD for full package.
You can spend 1 day more for Fansipang the top of French Indochina, and go there by cable car. If you go in the morning, the cable car will go through clouds and you can enjoy the valley and the jungle down there.
On top of Fansipan Mountain
Day 5: Sapa – Y Ty – Lao Cai 170km
After the first 40km away from Sapa, you will find the road becomes more and more challenging. The road is under construction and filled with rocks and mud along the way. It will be very fun to drive with the Honda Blade 110cc, XR150 or perhaps the CRF250 (for experienced riders!). It is quite challenging on the Honda CB500X.
Despite the bad road conditions, the scenery is undescribable.
Y Ty is a beautiful and local place to visit.
Lao Cai is the big city where you can have everything.
Hotel: SOJO Hotel Lao Cai and Ngoc Ha – Lao Cai hotel are our plans for Tigit tour.
Food: Lao Cai is famous about horse-meat hot pot and any types of grill.
Option 1: For chill riders, you can spend 1 more day at Homestay Y Ty Kham Pha. But you must have the permission to stay in this area – Front Tier area if you wish to cut this day to two.
Option 2: To make the trip 1 day shorter, you can skip Y Ty by ride straight to Lao Cai – Si Ma Cai – Bac Ha which is supposed to be day 6. 180km in total.
Day 6: Lao Cai – Si Ma Cai – Bac Ha 150km
The best road in Vietnam.
“Confirmed twice by Tigit Jon, to be the best driving road in the country! But, it puts you on the path of the North West, so is it worth it?”
Not like other roads in Ha Giang loop or the North East, the scenary is filled by spectacular mountains and jungles which no one can build a house on. It includes valleys and sometimes, you will find yourself driving into the clouds.
The road condition is good, you will need this one after day 5 fills with mud.
If you plan your trip in detail then on Saturday night and Sunday morning, there is a big Market in which all of the minorities around Bac Ha will gather and sell their products. You will find some craft souvenirs made by locals.
Hotel: Bac Ha Eco Homestay is a typical homestay for riders where we stayed for Tigit off-roading tour. You can see on some of our YouTube videos.
Huy Trung homestay is another plan of ours, it seems better.
Food: Vietnamese food at homestays.
Day 7: Bac Ha – Vinh Quang – Hagiang 180km
From Bac Ha to Vinh Quang has good road conditions and stunning views similar to Si Ma Cai – Bac Ha.
The full version of DT177 on Day 2 – Hagiang loop 7 days. (Vinh Quang – Ha Giang)
“The highlight of the day is DT177 which is 100% off-roading. Beginners may struggle a bit, but the good news is that the trail is not steep.”
Option: If you can’t make it or just don’t want to make it in 1 day. You can stop for Hoang Su Phi bungalow which is a very beautiful homestay and it is the Day 1 of Ha Giang loop 7 days.
Breakfast: We always recommend Banh Cuon (rice rolls with pork), it is easy to digest and keep your stomach warm and avoid an upset stomach.
Lunch: Vinh Quang town has a lot of restaurant, it is similar nothing particularly good.
Dinner: “Com Nieu An Nhien” in Ha Giang city is Tigit’s favorite restaurant for dinner and lunch. They have special Vietnamese dishes for dinner and fried rice for lunch.
Hotel: If you want to continue your trip doing the Ha Giang loop, then the “Phuc Lam Hotel” is suitable for you. The price is 30 USD for a king size bed room.