4.6
| 22 reviews

Kayak and Hike the Caves, Jungle and Coast of Vietnam

9 nights
Moderate

Paddle and hike Vietnam's natural wonders from cave to coast, navigating lush jungles, subterranean worlds and sub-tropical bays

What's Included?

Activities & Certified Guides

All itinerary activities with local, English-speaking tour leader plus specialist caving guides

All accommodation

Boutique hotel and ecolodge stays mixed with unforgettable nights on sailing boats, sleeper trains and in jungle tents

Meals

All breakfasts, 7 lunches, 8 dinners prepared by the team of porters who will accompany you

Transfers & Permits

Airport and local transfers, porterage of camping equipment, permits and entry fees are included

Equipment

All equipment for kayaking, Ma Da Valley caves and camping, SUPing and cycling

Small Like-minded Groups

Solo-friendly by design, join our small n’ sociable groups of up to 10 like-minded, active and outdoorsy people
From

excluding flights

What's it like?

4.6
| 22 reviews
The real Vietnam
May 2024
Abigail G.
The real Vietnam
May 2024
Abigail G.
The real Vietnam
May 2024
Abigail G.
The real Vietnam
May 2024
Abigail G.
The real Vietnam
May 2024
Abigail G.
Increadible Adventure
April 2024
Sam S.
Increadible Adventure
April 2024
Sam S.
Increadible Adventure
April 2024
Sam S.
Epic adventure
March 2024
Aurelie L.
Epic adventure
March 2024
Aurelie L.
Epic adventure
March 2024
Aurelie L.
Epic adventure
March 2024
Aurelie L.
Epic adventure
March 2024
Aurelie L.
Epic adventure
March 2024
Aurelie L.
Brilliant trip
March 2024
Robert N.
Brilliant trip
March 2024
Robert N.
Brilliant trip
March 2024
Robert N.
Brilliant trip
March 2024
Robert N.
Brilliant trip
March 2024
Robert N.
Brilliant adventure!
March 2024
Emma C.
Awesome guide! Lots of driving
February 2024
Janka H.
Awesome guide! Lots of driving
February 2024
Janka H.
Awesome guide! Lots of driving
February 2024
Janka H.
Awesome guide! Lots of driving
February 2024
Janka H.
Awesome guide! Lots of driving
February 2024
Janka H.
Awesome guide! Lots of driving
February 2024
Janka H.
This adventure was simply amazing. As a fif...
May 2023
Helen
This adventure was simply amazing. As a fif...
May 2023
Helen
This adventure was simply amazing. As a fif...
May 2023
Helen
This adventure was simply amazing. As a fif...
May 2023
Helen

Kayak and SUP in Lan Ha Bay, a jaw-dropping geographical phenomenon 500 million years in the making

Hike the otherworldly jungle of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park and camp by the turquoise waters of Ma Da Lake

Delve into the enormous Elephant Cave and the ancient Tra Ang Cave, hiking along watercourses and swimming into the enigmatic caverns

Sleep aboard an elegant sailboat, drift off to jungle sounds in an eco-lodge and snooze in boutique hotels

Key Information

Day 1

Welcome to Hanoi

Hanoi Skyline

Get your first glimpse of Vietnam's vibrant capital as your host collects you at the airport and whisks you off to your hotel, in a pleasant neighbourhood near Truc Bach Lake. Buzzing with activity, Hanoi is a city of countless scooters, traditional shops, and faded colonial architecture. Depending on when you arrive, you can head out to sample some of the legendary street food, or hit the famous 'beer corner' in the Old Quarter.

Day 2

Hanoi to Vinh

Hoan Kiem Lake

Hiking

3hrs · 4km · 100m up · 100m down

Driving

6hrs · 296km

Hang out with the locals this morning. After awakening the taste buds - perhaps sampling some pho noodles and egg coffee - circumnavigate Hoan Kiem Lake and raise the serotonin levels with laughing yoga by the King Le Thai To monument gardens. Head out of Hanoi for a road trip south to the historic city of Vinh. Hike Quyet Mountain (home to the ancient capital of Phuong Hoang Trung Do under the Quang Trung Emperor), explore the temple architecture and check out the views over the River Lam.

Day 3

Kayak to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

Kayaking

2hrs · 3-4km

Driving

4hrs · 207km

The road trip continues as you leave the cities behind and head into the verdant countryside. Stop for a dip in the sea at the secluded Ky Xuan Beach before continuing onwards to the Chay Lap region. Here, you'll jump in a kayak and hit the scenic Son River. Paddle towards the captivating mountains of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, passing Me and Chay villages and drifting by striking rock formations. There will be opportunities to get out of the kayaks and explore the surrounding farmland along the way.

Day 4

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park and the Ma Da Valley

Hiking

4hrs · 9km · 175m up · 200m down

Hike through the lush jungle into the heart of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park to the spectacular Elephant Cave. At 60m high and 300m deep, you'll delve into its depths to discover the unique rock formations of this ancient cave. Head back into the light and hike through the jungle, across rivers, and down through the Ma Da Valley to the blue waters of Ma Da Lake. Cool off with refreshing a dip, kick back with a barbecue dinner, then bed down in your tent pitched on the sandy bank.

Day 5

Exploring the Ma Da Caves

Hiking

3hrs · 8km · 15m up · 5m down

Swimming

1hr · 600m

Awaken to the exotic sounds of the jungle. After a tropical breakfast, hit the verdant, foliage-lined trail. Hike through watercourses until you reach a large bend in the river, which signals a scramble up limestone rocks to the enigmatic Tra Ang Cave. Take the plunge and swim along the dark cave’s 600m length, or explore the area on foot. Relax in the remote wilderness with a spot of lunch, then hike the Tra Ang River Trail back to civilisation. Dry off, tuck into dinner and relax at the hotel.

Day 6

Cycling Riverside Roads

Cycling

3hrs · 25km · 150m up · 240m down

Head out on two wheels, cycling through the picturesque Vietnamese countryside. Ride through sleepy villages, visit Khoung Ha Market and pedal along peaceful riverside roads, soaking up the rural vibes. After your ride, head to Dong Hoi Railway Station to board the overnight train back to Hanoi. Munch on local fare in the dining carriage, or sit back and enjoy the scenery whizzing by your window, before you bed down, lulled by the gentle sway of the carriage.

Day 7

Lan Ha Bay

Kayaking Lan Ha Bay

Kayaking

1.5hrs · 3km

After a brief stop in Hanoi to freshen up and have breakfast, the adventure continues - you'll head east out of the city towards Lan Ha Bay and the Cat Ba Archipelago. At Tuan Chau, get your sea legs aboard an incredible boutique sailing boat, tonight's floating base from which you will explore. Kayak through this majestic landscape, discovering hidden beaches and marvelling at towering karst islands, before returning to the boat and kicking back on deck.

Day 8

Kayak, SUP and Hike Cat Ba Island

SUP Lan Ha Bay

Kayaking

1.5hrs · 3-4km

Stand Up Paddleboarding

3hrs · 5-6kms

Hiking

3hrs · 10km · 165m up · 165m down

Rise early for a day packed with adventure. Beginning in the kayak, you'll paddle amongst the shadows of towering karst formations, silhouetted by rich shafts of sunlight. Transferring to a stand-up paddle board, you'll go on a self-propelled paddle around the bay. Later, you'll sail to the pier where an electric car will take you to Viet Hai Village on Cat Ba Island. Refuel on a selection of delicious local dishes before lacing up your boots and hiking through the jungled, UNESCO-listed Cat Ba Biosphere Reserve to the magnificent viewpoint of Viet Ha. Come evening, take it easy after a full day with a barbecue at the ecolodge.

Day 9

Cat Ba Island to Hanoi

Cat Ba Island

Hiking

3hrs · 10km · 250m up · 250m down

Set in a lush landscape, your ecolodge has nature on its doorstep - strike out on a hike through pine forest and tropical flora, discovering the island's diverse ecosystems. Head to Trung Tran cave, an extensive system of 150 caves of varying sizes and unique formations. Leaving the coast behind, you'll head back to the buzz of Hanoi for the evening.

Day 10

Hanoi

Hanoi night roundabout

After breakfast, say final goodbyes to your team, and you'll be returned to the airport in time for your flight home.

Day 1

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 2 – Day 3

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 4

Wild camping · Twin tent

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 5

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 6

Train Carriage · Mixed dorm

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 7

Boat · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 8

Lodge · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 9

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 10

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

What is the food like?

Meal 1

Vietnamese breakfasts consist of a variety of bò kho soups, bún bò huế and phở noodles and some local sweet desserts, as well as bánh mì, the quintessential Vietnamese breakfast sandwich. Alongside this traditional fare, there will also be omelettes, bread, butter and cheese available, served with tea, coffee and fruit juice. For lunch and dinner, fill up on a mix of spring and gỏi cuốn rolls, bun cha noodles, bánh cuốn pancakes, and hủ tiếu soups with seasonal sautéed vegetables all served with rice.

Vegetarians, vegans and other dietary requirements and allergies can be catered for - please just request on your passenger info form.

What is the accommodation like?

Hanoi

Your nights in Hanoi will be spent at the 4-star Le Jardin Hotel Haute Couture. Elegantly combining Vietnamese charm with modern touches, it's located in the Ba Dinh District. Close to the Old Quarter and Truc Bach Lake, the city's most important cultural and historical monuments are within easy reach. You’ll stay in a twin share room with an en-suite bathroom.

Rooftop outdoor pool
Vinh

Your first night out of the capital is spent in Vinh, located in a historically strategic location in Nghệ An province. You'll be staying in the 4-star Toan Thang Stone Hotel in a deluxe twin room with en-suite bathroom. Found in the heart of the city, it has great views.

Double room
Chay Lap

In rural Chay Lap, you'll be staying at the Phong Nha Lake House. This 3-star eco-resort is set beside a picturesque lake, and Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park park is just a stone's throw away. An an ideal place to ease into the countryside and prepare for your cave adventure, you'll be staying in deluxe twin share rooms with en-suite bathrooms.

Ma Da Lake Camping

A highlight of this trip is your wild camping experience in the spectacular Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. The tents will be pitched on the banks of the tranquil, turquoise Ma Da Lake. Tents will be two-person sharing with roll mats, air mattresses and sleeping bags provided. There will be an environmentally friendly composting toilet provided at the campsite.

Sleeper Train
Overnight Train

No trip to Vietnam is complete without a journey aboard a sleeper train! You'll be travelling overnight from Dong Hoi to Hanoi in a standard four person shared berth. Relax or explore - there is a dining carriage if you wish to eat on the move.

Deck at dusk
Lan Ha Bay

In Lan Ha Bay, you'll stay aboard a stunning boutique sailing boat, truly a sleep to remember. As well as sumptuous decor and top-notch service, the boat also offers some of the best views nature can muster. You'll stay in a deluxe twin room with an en-suite bathroom.

Cat Ba Eco-lodge
Cat Ba Island

Cat Ba Ecolodge is the ideal place to appreciate peace and tranquillity. Nestled amongst the lush natural beauty atop a hill in Xuan Dam village, it's one of the most secluded places to stay on Cat Ba Island. You'll stay in twin share rooms with en-suite bathrooms, either in the main lodge or within the grounds, which have panoramic mountain views or spectacular jungle views.

Upgrades

For solo travellers looking for their own space, an optional private room can be booked for an extra charge, see Optional Extras for the price. Please request this at the time of booking (this is subject to availability).

Please note, for the nights on the overnight train and the boutique sail boat, it is not possible to have a private room.

When camping, it is possible to request and book a tent on a single basis at no extra cost, depending on availability at the time of booking.

This trip has been rated as Moderate

A reasonable level of general fitness is required. You'll be undertaking a variety of outdoor activities across the itinerary, of between 1.5 and 5 hours in duration, using different muscle groups. The Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park cave hikes and overnight camping will be one of the highlights of the trip and two of the most active days. There will be two full days of hiking down the jungle valley to the caves and back up the next day, with time to rest and take in the experience. There will be rivers to cross, so be prepared for wet feet. The Tra Ang cave swim is optional: the total distance to swim is 600m (300m into the cave and 300m back out) whilst wearing a buoyancy aid and caving helmet with a light, in addition to your swimwear.

What will I need to carry?

You'll need to have a larger bag suitable for all your belongings which will be transported for you, and then a small daysack to carry personal items during each day.

The evening of the overnight train journey prior to departure, you will carry your luggage and daysack on the ten minute walk from the bus stop to the train station in Dong Hoi. On arrival into Hanoi, you will carry your luggage on the fifteen minute walk from the train station platform to the bus park.

Northern Vietnam is known for its subtropical, humid summers - this means that although it is hot, there is the chance of short, heavy showers, due to the rainy season occurring between May and September. The winter months are cooler in the north with occasional light showers, the driest months being December and January. The weather in Vietnam is pleasant at any time of the year, but due to the location, seasons and geography of the country it’s unlikely there would be perfect weather throughout the entirety of a trip.

The trip is scheduled to depart in the winter, spring and summer months between December and early September. The following is a guide to approximate temperatures to expect on your trip:

In winter, the temperatures range between 12°C / 54°F and 23°C / 73°F in the daytime and down to around 10°C / 50°F at night.

In spring, the temperatures are generally in the region of 23°C / 73°F in the daytime and down to around 15°C / 59°F at night.

In summer, temperatures can reach up to 40°C / 104°F in the daytime and down to around 25°C / 77°F at night.

A great time to visit northern Vietnam is between August and early September with pleasant temperatures between 20°C / 68°F and 25°C / 77°F.

The Area

map

Logistics

Starts

Noi Bai International Airport, Hanoi

Any time on Day 1

Ends

Noi Bai International Airport, Hanoi

Any time on Day 10

Transfers

Your host's local driver will meet you on arrival at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi and transfer you to your hotel (located near the Old Quarter and French Quarter). On Day 10, your host's local driver will transfer you back to the airport in time for your onward flight.

Airport transfers are included in the main price if you arrive on Day 1 and depart on Day 10. For those arriving early or wanting to stay on longer, extra nights at the hotel and airport transfers can be arranged with your host at an additional cost. Please see Optional Extras for more information.

Travel options

There are direct international flights to Hanoi from London, as well as indirect international flights from the UK and various major hubs in Europe which transit via Frankfurt, Doha, Dubai, Singapore, Bangkok or Saigon.

From the US, there are indirect flights from various major hubs which transit via Seoul, Taipei, Tokyo, Narita, Doha, Istanbul or Dubai, dependent on whether you fly west or east.

Enjoy 12.5% Off Outdoor Gear

In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 12.5% discount to use at Cotswold Outdoor, Snow + Rock and Runner's Need.

What's included?

  • Bicycle and cycle helmet
  • Kayaks, paddles and life jackets
  • Inflatable SUP, paddle, leash & life jacket

Ma Da Valley caves and lake:

  • Camping gear including tent, insulation sheet, sleeping bag and air mattresses
  • Cave and swim safety gear: caving helmet, caving headlight and bouyancy aid
  • First aid kit and medical rescue equipment

What do I need to bring?

BAGS

  • Soft overnight duffel bag or rucksack
  • Daypack (20-30 litres)
  • Waterproof liner for kitbag/rucksack, or drybags

CLOTHES

  • Waterproof jacket
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Breathable wicking layers
  • Thin fleece jacket or similar
  • Buff or neck scarf
  • Shawl/sarong (to cover shoulders and knees during temple visits)
  • Lightweight trousers/shorts/skirts (quick drying)
  • Long sleeved trek shirt (quick drying)
  • T-shirts
  • Underwear and socks
  • Hiking socks (long)
  • Swimwear
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunhat
  • Something to sleep in
  • Hiking boots (worn-in)
  • Beach/river shoes for river crossings
  • Sandals

SLEEPING

  • Cotton or silk sleeping bag liner
  • Travel pillow or pillowcase

OTHER

  • Universal travel plug adapter
  • Power bank or solar charger
  • Passports (and visas)
  • Travel insurance documents
  • Ear plugs
  • Insect repellent
  • Suncream (reef friendly)
  • Personal first-aid kit (inc. blister treatment)
  • Personal items (biodegradable toiletries, sanitary wear etc)
  • Toilet kit (toilet paper, biodegradable bags to carry paper out to dispose of)
  • Quick-dry towel
  • Alcohol hand-gel
  • Headtorch or torch
  • Reusable water bottle x1 litre
  • Water purification tablets
  • Biodegradable wet-wipes
  • Energy bars and snacks - read our article on Best Hiking Snacks
*Requests for optional extras can be made after booking on your “My Bookings” page

Pre trip accommodation in Hanoi (Single/Twin/Double)

Payable Before Departure

Pre trip accommodation in Hanoi (Single/Twin/Double)

Per Night

Optional Private Room & Tent Upgrade

Payable Before Departure

Optional Private Room & Tent Upgrade

Per Person

Private airport transfers - each way (up to 2 people)

Payable Before Departure

Private airport transfers - each way (up to 2 people)

Susan F.(June 2024)
This is a well-paced but

This is a well-paced but adventurous way to explore North and Central Vietnam. The activities were a good mixture of excitement and discovering the real Vietnam. Highlights for us were camping in the jungle, swimming into caves and floating down the river, and the company of the lovely people in the group. The first day and a half involve a good bit of driving in the van, but we actually enjoyed this as there was plenty to look at out the window and it gave us a chance to recover from jet lag. It is so worth it to get there - you really are off the beaten track. We found ourselves constantly saying “We’d never have found this!!”. Food is very good and plentiful. The enjoyment of this trip is all made possible by our guide Tri: he does an amazing job of keeping everything on schedule, minding everyone, and making sure we get the best out of everything. This trip is not for the faint hearted, but if you are reasonably fit and have a sense of adventure you’ll get so much out of it. We certainly did!! Packing tips - things from the list I didn’t need: travel pillow, sleeping bag liner, water purification tablets, fleece, towel (everywhere provides them, even the jungle camping trip!) Things I wish I’d brought: more technical wicking T-shirts, plus at least two long sleeved ones, a second pair of light hiking trousers (don’t bring leggings it’s too humid!), a better day pack (twice in the trip they send your main bag ahead and you live out of your day bag for a couple of days). You’re never in the same place two nights running so I was glad I’d brought an open-out kitbag on wheels which made finding things easier.

Abigail G.(May 2024)
The real Vietnam
The real Vietnam
The real Vietnam
The real Vietnam
The real Vietnam
The real Vietnam

This is truly a fantastic trip for anyone wanting to see the real Vietnam. As well as Halong Bay, you are also able to experience swimming into caves, a real-life lazy river, and the overnight train back to Hanoi (bring your earplugs!). Our guide, Linh, did an amazing job at getting us where we needed to be and was extremely knowledgeable and friendly.

Karen C.(May 2024)
An amazing trip with a

An amazing trip with a very amazing guide, Tri Nguyen. A serious amount of fun packed into a very short number of days. Exploring both a wet and dry cave were hightlights. Camping in the jungle with the best food of the entire trip another highlight. The overnight train back to Hanoi was an unexpected highlight. Tri did a wonderful job at managing our group of friends. Loved the variety of landscapes, travel modes, activities and food. Highly recommended trip!

Prudence K.(April 2024)
Vietnam Trip

This is a great trip, and made so much better by our amazing guide,Tri Nguyen. He went out of his way to inject fun and humour. A great leader. Highlights: camping in the jungle; beautiful and the food...just fabulous / swimming in the caves / the train / the stop on the highway to meet artists with disabilities.

Blair L.(April 2024)
Great Adventure

Great Adventure. Loved the itinerary, but not the amount of time spent in a van- I guess that was necessary, but especially at the beginning, it seemed as if the trip didn't really start for 2 days. Great Guide- very attentive and helpful throughout!

Gemma B.(April 2024)
A great way to see rural Vietnam

Positives: If you have limited time available in Vietnam this is a great way to make the most of your time and see as much of the natural landscape as possible! There are a lot of great activities included, and plenty of variety... You certainly won't be bored! Trekking and wild camping in the jungle was the highlight of the trip for me, it was exceptional.

Negatives: The hikes on Cat Ba were crowded with tourists, so this part of the trip didn't feel very adventurous. Be prepared for a very packed itinerary, scheduled mealtimes, not much opportunity to explore at leisure.

Michaela K.(April 2024)

Fantastic Trip!

Sam S.(April 2024)