Northern Vietnam Trail Running + Wellness Retreat (2024)

November 9 to 18, 2024

Northern Vietnam Trail Running + Wellness Retreat (2024)
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Experience the power of intention for breaking free from pressure of expectations from yourself or others and redefine what "success" means to you

This nine-day trail running and wellness tour through northern Vietnam is an unforgettable journey through the vibrant culture and breathtaking landscapes of an enchanting region. Beginning in Hanoi, the bustling capital city that is steeped in history, you will explore ancient temples and sample the delicious street food. One of Hanoi's highlights the Old Quarter, where the streets are lined with shops and vendors selling everything from traditional handicrafts to tasty snacks. Delight your senses as you take in the sights, sounds and smells of Hanoi's "street symphony." 

Next, we escape the city and travel to stunning Sapa, a mountainous region that is home to many ethnic minority communities. The landscape here is truly breathtaking, with terraced rice paddies stretching as far as the eye can see and mist-shrouded peaks rising in the distance. This is a wonderful opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the diverse cultures that make up this fascinating region of Vietnam. Meet the friendly Red Dao hosts and experience their daily way of life, including Red Dao women, who, in keeping with ancient traditions, shave their hair and eye brows and wear very colorful costumes. 

You'll stay at stunning properties such as the Topas Riverside Lodge and Topas Ecolodge, where you can enjoy yoga, spa treatments and breathtaking views of a mountain-top infinity pool.

Your retreat package also includes an overnight cruise on Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site that is famous for its majestic limestone cliffs and crystal-clear waters. While aboard the Paradise Grand luxury ship, you'll explore hidden caves and grottoes, kayak serene bays and visit small fishing villages, where you can experience the traditional way of life and sample fresh seafood dishes.

This retreat's relaxed pace offers quiet space for reflection, self care and mindfulness that is hard to find in the busy-ness of everyday life. While immersing yourself in this ancient culture's traditions through farming, embroidery, botanical creations and running their ancient paths and trails, you'll find inspiration to shift from always needing to be doing and achieving to relishing your sense of play without the expectation to perform. Let yourself enjoy running as a way of being present. You’ll come away from this retreat with tools you can continue to use any time you feel trapped by expectations and pressures to perform, either as a runner, leader or professional in any capacity.

This Retreat is Level II

This retreat is rated Level II. Our runs are on well-established dirt pathways and doubletrack roads with some moderate elevation gain. Most of the runs will be between 7 and 9 miles, with one day having the option to run up to 12 miles if you're up for it (not necessary at all). With the support and mindful pacing of your retreat leader, you may hike up hills and run flats and downhills. The time on trail includes breaks to snack and drink water and take pictures. We won't be running every day, and you will have some rest days throughout the retreat. The trail surface may be muddy, have loose rock or sticky clay, so trail running shoes are required (road shoes won't provide enough traction).

Recommended for:
Runners who can run at least 8 miles on the road comfortably. You don’t need to be “fast,” though you should have sufficient fitness for running consecutive days (including lots of hiking sections, as the terrain requires). We recommend these retreats for those who are OK with running on rooty or rocky terrain and who don’t mind some exposure (such as narrow mountain trails or along sea cliffs) for brief periods of time, and the occasional stream crossing in which your shoes may get wet.

About Running in Vietnam

While some of our routes will be on paved paths, we'll mostly run on trails. The trails on this retreat are a mix of single-track and wider trails and unpaved roads. Many of the trails are foot paths connecting the ethnic minority villages in the region, and are still used by the local people. We will take care not to disrupt their daily activities, however you will have many opportunities to meet and interact with them. The terrain features expansive rice terraces that have been built and maintained for centuries. The maximum altitude on this retreat is 3,500 feet above sea level. 

About the mileage
Each day’s run on this itinerary is represented by time spent on the trail rather than miles run because the mileage covered will depend largely on your run pace. Faster runners will cover more mileage than slower runners on some days. These run times include breaks to enjoy the views, take photos, eat and drink. The precise route and trails run may change due to changes to trail routes, weather conditions, guide recommendations and other safety considerations.

Visit Red Dzao Village

Lech Dao village is located in the hilly mountains of Thanh Kim Commune, inhabited by Red Dao people, famous for their exquisite embroidery and botanical knowledge and basket weaving. Meet local people, visit their homes and learn about Red Dao culture. Enjoy the magnificent view of the rice valley and take some great pictures of the landscape. You will visit a local house, meet the friendly Red Dao hosts and experience their daily way of life, including Red Dao women, who, in keeping with ancient traditions, shave their hair and eye brows and wear very colorful costumes. 

Yoga for Stretching and Recovery

During your stay the Topas Ecolodge, you'll have several opportunities to take part in yoga classes offered by the lodge's wellness staff. This activity is optional, though highly recommended to support your running recovery and relaxation. 

Hanoi Jeep Tour

You will see some of the city's most prominent landmarks, such as the Ho Chi Minh Complex, the One Pillar Pagoda and the 1000-year-old Temple of Literature and explore parts-unknown, riding through the maze of zigzagging backstreets, narrow alleyways and markets.

BBQ at Nam Cang Village

One day we will enjoy a sumptuous Sapa-inspired BBQ lunch especially prepared just for our group at the end of our run on day 4. You may rest inside the mountain lodge or take advantage of the stunning scenery to take photos while the BBQ is set up, resting your feet in the cool, rushing river or crossing make-shift suspension bridges to explore further. Whatever the case, make sure to eat as much as you can of the wide array of freshly smoked trout, vegetables, tofu, mushrooms, and jungle herbs straight from the grill. Once you’ve had enough to eat, make the return 1-hour 4km walk (or run) back to Nam Cang Village to catch the bus back to Topas Ecolodge.

Signature Spa Afternoon at Rice Spa (2.5 Hours)

Included in your retreat is the opportunity to unwind during a 150-minute Signature Spa Treatment from Rice Spa located at the Topas Ecolodge. This revitalizing session is the epitome of pure relaxation, and includes: 

  • Organic Natural Facial: This unique facial features pure local ingredients like rice, coffee, green tea, fresh milk and organic coconut oil, and will cleanse, exfoliate and revitalize your skin
  • Relaxing Head Therapy: Acupressure techniques release tension and open the flow of energy in the head and neck area. Warmed coconut oil is used to nourish the scalp and hair.
  • Calming Foot Massage: Soothe your tired feet with firm pressure used to stimulate reflex points. 
  • Red Dao Herbal Bath: Detoxify with this soothing, ancient Red Dao remedy using local, handpicked medicinal herbs.

Kayaking in Lan Ha Bay

If weather permits, you'll have the opportunity to explore Ao Ech Lagoon by kayak. This area on Lan Ha Bay remains an untouched gem with quiet, isolated areas, and pristine clear and emerald water, surrounded by lush trees. This is the perfect place to take photos of the beautiful flora and fauna landscapes on the island, as well as discover the surrounding caves and sea cliffs. 

Tai Chi Classes

During your stay aboard the Paradise Grand Cruise ship, early risers can take to the sundeck and enjoy tai chi or yoga as the sun gently rises from the horizon. Paradise Grand provides all the equipment needed, along with trained instructors to guide you through the session.

Guided Mindful Runs

Learn how to run more mindfully to become a better runner. This includes natural running form clinics during which you'll learn about the Power Posture: use proper alignment to make gravity do more of the work. This reduces the muscular force involved with running so it feels easier and less strenuous on muscles and joints.
Focus on efficiency: Use natural running techniques to drastically improve efficiency. You'll practice changing stride length, cadence and tempo on various types of terrain. Then put the pieces together to achieve the ultimate trail running experience. Learn to cultivate the circumstances for flow to occur by being relaxed and mindful.

Dedicated Retreat Leader

Our highly trained retreat leaders provide the space and support for you to have a potentially transformational experience. As experts in mindful leadership, she provides valuable guidance on how to be mindful on and off the trail. Here's more about what you can expect from your retreat leader:

  • Leads the opening meeting on Day 1, explaining what you can expect, the general flow of each day, what's expected of you, how she'll support you and all the other logistics you need.
  • Works with our local staff, such as guides and drivers, to keep things safe, on schedule and running smoothly
  • Leads mindful running clinics that teach you how to run more efficiently and with more flow and ease
  • Manages the pace of each run so that you never feel rushed or get left behind
  • Helps you get to scheduled events like yoga class, spa appointment and dinner reservations on time
  • Facilitates sharing circles, creating a safe space for the group to reflect and share openly
  • Provides emotional support if ever you need it