We recently wrote a guide to easy overnight trips from the city and now we’re here to follow up with the best weekend trips from Hanoi. Hanoi is well placed for some incredible road trips in all directions, so there is no excuse to get stuck in the city.
In fact, getting out of the city is the most important piece of advice I give to new expats living in Hanoi. If you are travelling, this list is perfect for helping you plan a Northern Vietnam itinerary with Hanoi as your base.
Note that distances are relative to leaving from Tay Ho and drive time is based on travelling by motorbike at a safe speed!
Remember, 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!
The Classic Weekend Trips from Hanoi
100km from Hanoi, drive time approx. 3 hours
We included Ninh Binh in our round-up of overnight trips from Hanoi but it is worth included again here. We love Ninh Binh and every time we go we seem to find something new to do or see.
We encourage you to stay somewhere like Ninh Binh Valley Homestay or Nguyen Shack, where you can enjoy Ninh Binh’s rugged beauty from your bedroom door. This way, you can spend at least a whole afternoon or morning taking in the views and relaxing in between sightseeing.
145km from Hanoi, drive time approx 3.5 hours
Mai Chau is one of those magical destinations where the joy is in simply wandering. Whether on foot, bicycle or motorbike, take the time to explore the various villages between endless rice paddies in this beautiful valley.
We love Homestay No. 20 which is this one on google maps.
130km+ from Hanoi, drive time approx 4+ hours depending on ferry times
While we would usually recommend spending longer in Cat Ba, it can definitely be done in a weekend if you plan right. Leave early from Hanoi to catch one of the early ferries, spend two nights on the island and then leave on the late morning ferries to drive back to Hanoi after lunch. The photo above was taken in the beautiful National Park.
We camped on the island (at the beach by Woodstock backpackers) but have heard great things about Little Cat Ba.
Weekend Trips from Hanoi on the Ho Chi Minh Highway
130km + from Hanoi, drive time approximately 3 hours
There is so much to see from the Ho Chi Minh Highway that it really deserves it’s own post but for now we’ll give a brief breakdown. The drive in itself is worth a day outside of Hanoi…
May and Mu Waterfalls
The easiest place to get to from the highway are the Mu and May waterfalls. Navigate to the Kilometer 100 restaurant and then take the first right just before the bridge. After 10km you’ll reach Thac May waterfall and Mu is another 10k further along the same road. We’ve stayed at Kilometer 100 both times we’ve visited but both waterfalls have simple homestays of their own.
Cuc Phuong National Park
150km from Hanoi, drive time approximately 3.5-4 hours
Cuc Phuong National Park is one of the most accessible parks in Vietnam and is well set up for exploring. The roads within the park are well looked after so it is really fun to drive through and all of the main sights and trails are just off the main road.
You can stay in the park for around 150k per person in very simple accommodation.
Pu Luong Nature Reserve
150km from Hanoi, drive time approximately 4 hours
Between Mai Chau and Cuc Phuong, you will find the stunning terraced hills of Pu Luong Nature Reserve. This out of the way area is home to a few scattered stilt-house farming communities and the fantastic Mr Ba’s homestay. You can read more about visiting Pu Luong here and here.
It is actually easier to get to Pu Luong on the route towards Mai Chau but if you want a really scenic drive, then the Ho Chi Minh can’t be beat.
Off the beaten track weekend trips from Hanoi
Xuan Son National Park
130km from Hanoi, drive time approximately 3.5 hours
This little known national park is only a few hours further along than Ba Vi and an absolutely beautiful place to explore by bike. You drive through tea fields on the way there and the windy mountain roads within the park have exceptional mountain views.
We camped in the park (read more here) but I’m sure there must be a homestay in one of the villages too.
160km from Hanoi, drive time approximately 4 hours
If you have your own camping equipment in Hanoi then Dong Cao is an amazing place to head for the weekend. Located North East of Hanoi in the Bac Giang province, the area is full of rolling hills and one certain grassy area that is perfect for pitching a tent.
If you are keen to get your own tent, check this place near Royal City.
We hope this has given you some inspiration to get out of the city and explore more of this beautiful country. If you take any of the trips above, or find any new spots, get in touch and let us know about it!
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!