Getting out of the city is the most important piece of advice I give to new expats living in Hanoi. Hanoi is endlessly fascinating, full of incredible food and bursting with fun ways to spend your time creatively. Hanoi is also heavily polluted, constantly noisy and full of people.
Thankfully getting out for an overnight trip, away from people and into nature, is really easy. Here are some of the easiest overnight trips from Hanoi, for those who are in need of a break but don’t have much time.
Note that distances are relative to leaving from Tay Ho and drive time is based on travelling by motorbike at a safe speed!
Also, if you are using google maps you’ll need to turn off toll roads and motorways in order to find the motorcycle routes. Vietnam’s major highways are for 4-wheeled vehicles only!
Ba Vi National Park
60km from Hanoi, drive time approx. 2 hours
Ba Vi National Park was our very first trip out of Hanoi when we first moved here and is a great first choice for getting out of the city. The journey is really easy and there is just enough to do to fit into 2 short days without being too rushed.
If you are riding there, make sure to ride all the way up to the top of the mountain, park in the car park and then get hiking. There are two hikes, one to the left and one to the right, consisting mainly of stairs and they can both be done in a few hours.
We recommend you stay at Ba Vi Family Homestay which you can read more about here.
Son Tinh Campground
55km from Hanoi, drive time approx. 1.5 hours
Son Tinh Campground is one of very few official camping spots in Northern Vietnam and is where they hold Quest Festival each November. If you are around Hanoi early in November, then make sure you get to this! Tickets can be bought here for 2017, on the website Oli and Jay made 😉
Son Tinh is close to Ba Vi and you can see the beautiful hills from the lakeside camp location. It’s 200k to camp if you have your own tent or you can book one of the tents they provide, or space in the cabin homestay style. As far as I can see, you may just have to turn up and hope for the best if you don’t have your own camping equipment, as the Son Tinh camp website is in Vietnamese.
Read more about our time in Son Tinh here.
The Perfume Pagoda
65km from Hanoi, drive time approx 2.5 hours when taking the scenic route
The Perfume Pagoda trip is one we’d seen advertised in plenty of the Old Quarter hostels, but oddly doesn’t seem as popular in the expat crowd. It took us over a year to get there ourselves and I don’t know why we didn’t go before! The drive, through small towns and quiet country roads, was lovely and the landscape on arrival is stunning.
Google maps will bring you to a section of a small town with plenty of large restaurants and small Nha Nghis beside a river full of boats. We asked about boat trips at one of these restaurants and found that there were a few different routes to take depending on how much time you have. We only had a few hours so picked the shortest trip which included a 30 minute boat ride and an hour or so wandering through the forest to various temples.
There aren’t too many hotels bookable online in the Huong Son area, however simple Vietnamese Nha Nghis are always available so it’s easy to wing it and take a cheap room on arrival.
Uncle Ty’s Farmstay
70km from Hanoi, drive time approx. 2 hours
Our friend Danny at Vietnam RentaBike recommended this place to us and it is such an amazing find! Located beside a beautiful lake, Uncle Ty and his family have renovated their traditional stilt house into a beautiful homestay to offer guests a chance to experience rural Vietnam. They run a farm, hence the name, and you can lend them a helping hand to learn about the agricultural way of life that is the reality of most of Vietnam’s population.
We left for Uncle Ty’s on a Friday afternoon and arrived only just after it had got dark. It is so convenient to get to!
You can book Uncle Ty’s direct on Facebook. Be aware that there are two Uncle Ty Farmstays on google maps! This is the correct one.
100km from Hanoi, drive time approx. 3 hours
Ninh Binh is one of those places that we had never heard of when we were in Vietnam 7 years ago. It’s crazy how much the travelling scene in Northern Vietnam has expanded; Sapa was the most adventurous place you went to back then!
While the furthest place on this list, Ninh Binh is still really easy to get to. The quickest route by bike is a very boring, busy route but if you have a little longer to go the countryside route then it’s quite lovely. You can also take the train, but you will then need to take a cab outside of the city center to wherever you’re staying.
We are loyal guests of Ninh Binh Valley Homestay which we believe is in the best location in the area. It is a little pricey but works out ok with a group of 4 willing to share a room. The food is fantastic!
If you are looking to take a break from Hanoi but don’t feel like travelling, then we recommend checking out the Long Bien Tree Houses.
Yes, you read that right. There is a place over the bridge in Long Bien where you can stay in a tree house! Renowned performance artist and painter Dao Anh Kanh created these quirky tree houses in the garden of his Long Bien art studio as a fun side project (he has many of these!) and then opened them up as a guesthouse. If you like your accommodation a little quirky, and want to meet one of Hanoi’s most interesting characters, then there is no better place to get away from it all.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to shout out to Lily’s Travel Agency in the Old Quarter. If you want to book a more classic tour, like a Halong Bay Cruise, then you won’t find better deals anywhere else!