The Colorful Route

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The Colorful Route

Daily life in China, the Red River, the colorful hill tribes of Vietnam and the cozy capital Hanoi: this is what the route Kunming to Hanoi offers. A tough, but absolutely stunning cycling route.


1300 km





Travel time:

4 to 5 weeks

Best travel period














9 / 10


8 / 10

1 the historic downtown of Jianshui
2 the beautiful rice fields and tea plantations during your journey
3 Bac Ha, well-known for the Sunday market where hill tribes sell their products
4 Sapa with its colorful population

Explore the freedom!

You start the route in Kunming, a large city, known for its mild climate. You can make various day trips from here, including the Western Hills and the much-visited Stone Forest. You leave Kunming via the east side of Dianchi Lake and reach the beautiful azure coloured Fuxian Lake that same day.

After 2 beautiful stages, you reach Jianshui and you admire the well-restored, historic downtown. Via a steady climb from 1320 to 1950 meters, followed by a spectacular descent of 40 km, you reach the town of Nansha on the Red River at 235 meters. From here, a visit to the beautiful rice terraces of Yuanyang, the largest and most beautiful in China, should not be missed. These famous rice terraces were laid out thousands of years ago by the Hani people. The terraces are filled with water from November to April and are at their most beautiful during that period. The entire region is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Along the Red River, you cycle to Vietnam.

There, your journey through the mountains begins. First, you will climb to the beautifully situated Sapa.

Here you will encounter many hill tribes. Sapa, which many tourists visit, is an excellent walking area.

The bike route subsequently takes you over the highest pass of Vietnam at 2000 m altitude.

In the following days, you will climb and descend a lot. You cycle through remote valleys and meet the mountain people in an area where hardly any tourists come.

Via Dien Bien Phu, known for the battle against the French in 1954, you cycle to Hanoi.

You cycle along rivers, where waterfalls collapse, rice fields and tea plantations. Passes with breathtaking views of the surroundings will have you in awe. You are a guest in a homestay and will be able to see how the people live their daily life. During your route, it is possible to stay in other places for a few days and make day-trips.

Hanoi is a bustling city where you can relax at the end of the journey. The city has much to offer. You can also take several (bicycle) tours. An excursion to Halong Bay, a natural wonder on the UNESCO World Heritage List for good reason, is highly recommended!

This very challenging route is a must for those who like (occasional) heavy climbing and who want to enjoy extraordinary nature and culture.

Most of the longer stages can be interrupted in one or more places, allowing a slower pace.

This route could be combined with: China Yunnan “Through the Tiger Gorge” and “from North Vietnam to South Laos”.
The route through Vietnam is hard. The slopes are long and steep: climbing 10 km or more on an average slope of 8% occurs several times. The accommodation on offer are reasonable to good quality.
In both Vietnam and China construction work on roads are often executed. This can cause inconvenience during your route. However, the situation is constantly changing. These parts of the route can possibly be bridged by public transport.
The slope percentage of all long climbs is calculated by GPS, so you always know what to expect. Alternative transport is easily locally arranged.
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