North Vietnam Ethnic Trails

Meet with the authentic people of the Northern mountains and its breathtaking landscapes


  • Price: US$2990 / person
  • Tour Dates:
    – 14 to 22 September 2018
    – 21 to 27 May 2019
  • Duration: 9 days / 8 nights
  • Group Size: 6 persons max.
  • Level: Beginners to Advanced
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This tour takes place twice a year. We hold the first tour during the season of rice-transplatation, when rice terraces fill up with water, allowing young sprouts to show off their fluorescent green colors. The second tour follows the harvesting season, when the rice fields display their golden colors. During these two crucial periods of the rice cycle, cultivators spend their whole day working the fields, to the photographer’s delight… When we’ll be out of the rice fields, it will be to explore the various villages and markets of the region.

The road from the plateaus to Sapa has been practicable only recently. It meanders through several passages, along rice fields clinging on the mountain sides, while colorful working silhouettes stand out against the jade, topaz and mountain green colored skies.

Day 1

● Arrival in Hanoi

Arrival day in Hanoi.

For those who arrive early, we will go on an orientation tour around 3:30pm, followed by a photo review.

Dinner to get acquainted with all participants and presentation of our journey from Hanoi to the Chinese border

Day 2

● Hanoi, one of Southeast Asia most exciting capital

We will start the day at the Long Bien Bridge, designed by Eiffel. Reserved for two-wheeled vehicles and pedestrians, as well as the train passing in its center, this bridge is taken every morning by thousands of provincials coming to sell their products in the city, or on the Long Bien market situated just underneath it.
We will then go walk around Hoan Kiem Lake, where Hanoians enjoy doing their physical exercises, and continue our exploration in the bustling 36 old streets and guilds of the old quarter.

In the afternoon, we will walk up Phan Dinh Phung Street, which boasts Hanoi’s most beautiful colonial houses and several official buildings, and will pass by Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum before reaching the magnificent Temple of Literature.
Dinner and night in Hanoi.

Day 3

● Hanoi → Duong Lam → Mu Cang Chai
● 7 hours’ travelling / multiple photography stops

We will leave Hanoi early in the morning to reach Mu Cang Chai in the late afternoon.
On our way, about 60km from Hanoi, we will visit the traditional village of Duong Lam with its two-century old houses, reflecting how the Red River villages used to look like in the past.

As we’ll move forward to our destination, the sceneries will become more and more spectacular, crossing stunning hilly landscapes, corn and manioc fields, tea plantations and after reaching Nghia Lo, we’ll come upon our first rice terraces.
Dinner and homestay with a Thai family.

Day 4

● Mu Cang Chai, rice terrace paradise

Mu Cang Chai holds some of the most impressive rice terraces in the country and is listed as a Vietnam National Heritage site. Throughout the day, we will have plenty of occasions to observe the H’mong people going about their daily lives and working in the fields.

In the morning, we will visit Lao Chai village, and in the afternoon the La Pan Tan “Rice Canyon”. If the time permits, we will also visit the beautiful rice fields of Che Cu Nha.
Dinner and homestay with a Thai family.

Day 5

● Mu Cang Chai → Sapa
● 6 hours’ travelling / multiple photography stops

We will head for Sapa by going through the plains formed by Nam Na River. On our way, we will stop in a traditional Thai village overlooking a large rice field and surrounded by enormous bamboos groves.

The road from Than Uyen to Sapa is superb, meandering through hills covered with tea bushes until reaching Tram Uyen passage, dominated by Fansipan Mountain, culminating at 3143m. We will make numerous stops along the way to capture these magnificent landscapes.
Sapa, also called “the city in the clouds”, is an old climate station renown during the French colonization for its pure fresh air.
Dinner and night in Sapa.

Day 6

● Sapa → Muong Hum
● 2 hours’ travelling / 3 hours of photography and multiple stops

We will spend the morning strolling through the beautiful landscapes of Sapa Valley.

We will then head towards Muong Hum with its equally breathtaking sceneries, alternating rice fields and ridged mountain passages, where we will see the activities of the ethnic minorities of the region: a lot of photo stops are to be expected on the way!
Dinner and homestay with a Giay family

Day 7

● Muong hum → Y Ty → Muong Hum
● 2 hours’ travelling / 5 hours of photography

We will start the day by heading to the weekly market of Y Ty, situated just across China, on the other side of the valley. The road to it as well as the encounters with the local population will inspire you. The market offers a multitude of colourful costumes and headcoverings from various ethnic groups, such as the Ha Nhi, Phu La, White Hmong…

We will spend the afternoon discovering the mountainous landscapes and small villages surrounding Y Ty.
Dinner and homestay with a Giay family.

Day 8

● Muong Hum → Lao Cai
● 3 hours’ travelling / 4 hours of photography

We will wake up just next to the multicolor market of Muong Hum, which takes place every Sunday. Muong Hun is home to the Giay people, whose women wear flashy, colorful shirts. They are well-tried traders, as they serve as intermediaries between the mountain ethnic groups and the Vietnamese living in the valley. We will meet with many other minorities such as Black Hmongs, Red Dao women wearing their conical hats, Ha Nhi people or White Hmongs.

We will take one last stroll before leaving for Lao Cai, where we’ll take a night train to Hanoi.

Day 9

● End of the adventure in Hanoi

Upon arrival, we’ll freshen up with a little shower and have our last breakfast together.
We will then proceed to a photography review, a Lightroom tutorial and debrief of our journey, before bidding each other farewell.

Tour Highlights

  • Hanoi animated streets and architectural heritage
  • The traditional village of Duong Lam
  • Mu Cang’s rice terraces, a Vietnam National Heritage site
  • Sapa’s beautiful surrounding areas
  • Encounters with diverse ethnic minority groups
  • The Sunday ethnic markets of Y Ty and Muong Hum
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✔ Accommodation in 2* or 3* hotels on twin-shared basis in Hanoi and Sapa
✔ Homestay and guesthouse accommodations for the other stopovers
✔ Night train in a sleeper compartment with AC for 4 people, from Lao Cai to Hanoi
✔ Private air-conditioned transportation
✔ Meals and non-alcoholic beverages throughout the tour
✔ Snacks and water during excursions
✔ Sites entry fees (if applicable)


✘ International/domestic flights to arrive in Ho Chi Minh
✘ International/domestic flight to depart from Hanoi
✘ Airport transfers
✘ Entry Visa to Vietnam
✘ Travel insurance (please make sure you are insured)
✘ Alcoholic beverages
✘ Personal expenses
✘ Tips


 Single room accommodation (when possible): US$140

General Information

Who are our tours designed for?

Anyone who loves travel and photography is welcomed, whatever your level of experience – the most important thing is enthusiasm. Our tours can be summed up in three words – sharing, friendship and smiles. Your non-photographer friends & family are also welcomed to join – as long as they don’t mind hanging around while the photographers do their thing!

Improve your photography!

With Arnaud’s advice and guidance, you’ll quickly become more familiar with your equipment and refine your eye for a good image without being swamped by technical details. You’ll learn how to read light, how to compose a shot, and how to tell a visual story – in short, you’ll release more of your creative potential.
Mastering photography is a long and enjoyable journey, and one without end. The main objective of our tours is for you to become a better photographer by the end of each day.

What equipment?

The best camera is the one you already have! Travel light – a DSLR with wide angle and zoom lenses is more than sufficient for our tours. Hybrids, compacts and even smartphones are equally welcome! Other than that, all you’ll need is a fully-charged battery and enough memory cards. If you can, bring along your laptop so we can critique your photos and also show you a few tips for using Lightroom.

Meet the Locals

You’ll get to meet the local population, find out about their way of life, and experience their friendly company – all while taking some fantastic photos! We’ll show you how to break the ice with the Vietnamese and how to make your camera a valuable ally in making connections with them.

Encounter the Unexpected

We don’t impose strict itineraries on our travelers; every one of our journeys in Vietnam is unique – no two tours are ever the same! Spontaneous encounters and varying light conditions create different photography opportunities every time. One moment you’ll be standing on the edge of a rice field photographing a farmer at work; the next you’ll be invited into a local house for tea; or maybe you’ll be navigating your way along a narrow canal by sampan or a country lane on the back of a motorbike – most of the time we’ll just go with the flow!

Small Groups

Our maximum group size is six. This enables us to give every photographer plenty of individual attention, and also makes it easier for us to blend into the environment and not be overly intrusive when we’re meeting the locals.

Your Host - Arnaud Foucard

A keen photographer of landscapes and people, Arnaud leads photography tours in the Mekong Delta and other beautiful places in Vietnam. Before becoming a photographer he spent ten years in Vietnam as a tour operator and knows the country intimately. Photography has always been his passion, and so one day he decided to turn that passion into a living – now he devotes his time to helping fellow photography enthusiasts discover little-known and picturesque parts of Vietnam, while improving their photographic skills.

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