Mai Chau & Ninh Binh Holidays: An Overview

A world away from the hustle and bustle of Vietnam's cities and busy coastal regions are the lush northern regions of Mai Chau & Ninh Binh. For a quintessentially Vietnamese experience which allows you to interact with the locals amid breathtaking scenery, step off the beaten track and add one of these undiscovered gems to your Vietnam holiday.

Head south west out of Hanoi and find yourself in the heart of Mai Chau, just south of Da River and bordering the beautiful Hoa Binh Lake. Dedicate several days here to explore, from trekking through local villages to cycling along the peaceful green paths that surround the rice fields, and even trying to master a traditional dance with the locals. Most memorable though is a day spent trekking and boating around Hoa Binh Lake - actually a very beautiful man made reservoir - in the mountains. During the days adventure you could also enjoy lunch at a traditional homestay and take a dip in Go Lao waterfall.

For an alternative to the more well-known Halong Bay - particularly in typhoon season - Ninh Binh is every bit as beautiful. Cultural experiences are a must in this area and range from bamboo basket weaving to fishing and cooking classes, all taught by welcoming locals. The highlight of a stay here has to be a visit to Trang An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site consisting of dramatic limestone karst peaks permeated by valleys and covered in lush green foliage. Take a small boat with a guide and explore the area from the water, navigating through caves and valleys as you gaze up on the domineering peaks around you.

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Trang An River
If You Do Three Things
Cruise Trang An

Trang An has been described as an 'inland Halong Bay' without the crowds, and is best explored on a guided Sampan (wooden fishing boat) tour. As you cruise gently along the river, winding through the green rice fields, notice the huge limestone karsts jutting out around you. The only sounds you'll hear here are birds in the trees and the gentle paddle of the oar hitting the water.

Hmong Tribe Woman
If You Do Three Things
Meet Hilltribe Communities

Join a guided trek from your lodge to the rural villages of Xa Linh and Pa Co, where the Green Hmong hill tribe communities still live a very traditional and spiritual life. Visit the Sunday market in Pa Co to see the locals go about their daily life, buying and selling goods and socialising with one another. This is a fascinating insight into the region's colourful and unique hilltribe culture.

Ninh Binh Road
If You Do Three Things
Explore Ninh Binh in a US Army Jeep

Though many choose to explore the lush farmland and stunning limestone karst scenery in Ninh Binh by bike, this can get very tiring in the heat of the day and limits you to certain areas. Instead, opt to enjoy a guided tour in a reconditioned US army jeep which will not only see you travelling in unique Vietnamese style, but also means you'll get to see much more of the area.

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Mai Chau and Ninh Binh
Mai Chau and Ninh Binh
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Map of Mai Chau and Ninh Binh

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A Note on Price

Direct flights cost from £700 per person, but once there, Vietnam is pretty good value – a 10 day itinerary in four star accommodation costs around £2,600 per person including privately guided activities and domestic transport.

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