21 days 20 nights
Hanoi, Sapa, Halong, Ba Be, Ban Gioc, Hue, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh
Day 1: Arrival –Pick up from Airport - Free day in Hanoi - Overnight stay in three star hotel (B, L, D)
Our team will be on hand to collect you from the airport and bring you in the Hanoi’s beloved Old Quarter. As you disembark the bus, let the hot air kiss your skin as you are absorbed into the magnificent orchestra of the bustling streets. This is your chance to absorb some of the vibrancy and energy of the city. You can the take the time to wander through the eclectic streets overflowing with buildings and plants. The life inside these buildings spills out on to the street with many local Vietnamese people going about their daily routines outside on the street. It is the openness of the designs and the people that inhabit them make the experience a truly immersive one. It is easy to get lost in atmosphere of Hanoi’s beautiful winding streets but there are also many other attractions to gratify all of the senses. From the delicious cafés and restaurants to the scintillating and impressive museums, one thing is for sure, Hanoi will not fail to excite you. Top off your day of discovery with relaxing stay in your three star hotel.
DAY 2: Hanoi City Tour – night train to Lao Cai (B, L, D)
Day two of your Hanoi discovery will take you to what we feel are the top spots for encountering authentic Hanoian culture. The first stop will be a visit to the tranquil Tran Quoc Pagoda. One of the oldest in the city, the elegant structure set against the peaceful lake attracts both Buddhist worshipers and travellers alike.
Next you will be immersed in a momentous piece of Vietnamese history with a trip to the Ho Chi Minh complex. During a tour of the complex you will have the opportunity to view the preserved body of the celebrated Ho Chi Minh as he rests in the Mausoleum. This is set in Ba Dinh square, a large, beautifully maintained park that played host to reading of the Independence Declaration and is also home to the Presidential Palace and Ho Chi Minh’s stilt house.
We will then stop to enjoy some mouth-watering local food at one of our hand picked restaurants.
You will then unearth some of Hanoi’s greatest scholars at the Temple of Literature. Be transported back to the 11th century when this temple was constructed by Confucius (Khong Tu). The luscious green gardens and beautifully crafted statues will definitely inspire your inner creativity.
You will round the day off with a performance at the much loved puppet theatre. These uplifting and humorous performances tell tales of Vietnamese legends and the ebb and flow of daily life in rural Vietnam. The amusing stories are accompanied by the finest musicians and vocalists playing traditional Vietnamese music.
Reminisce about the day whilst enjoying another delicious Vietnamese meal after which you will be taken to Hanoi’s train station to board the 21:30 train to Lao Cai for the next part of your adventure.
DAY 3: Sapa – Trekking to H’mong ethnic villages (B, L, D)
The train will roll into Lao Cai station at 6:00 am after travelling through the night and the spectacular sunrise. We will travel out of the town to Sapa town where the adventure will really begin with a trek through the mountains to discover the ethnic villages of the H’mong people. You will be amazed at the vibrant green rice paddies cascading down the impressive mountains. Our guide will take you to the heart of the H’mong community in the villages of Lao Chai and Ta Van villages. You will see the local people robed in remarkable outfits all hand made and embroidered using local produce, hear the enchanting sounds of the handcrafted instruments and experience the charm of the people that inhabit this extraordinary landscape. You will really be able to engage yourself in this wonderful culture as you enjoy their food and hospitality as you spend the night in a home stay in Ta Van village.
DAY 4: Trekking in Sapa – Night train to Hanoi (B, L, D)
Continue your trekking adventure as our guide takes you to the unique Cat Cat village approximately 3km from Sapa town. The small village which is nestled in between the rolling luscious mountains is known for it’s distinctive traditions and buildings. You will be able to catch a glimpse into the daily life of the H’mong people with women weaving intricate hand, dyed fabrics on the loom and children playing amongst the animals roaming free in the village.
Your journey through these majestic and peaceful mountains will transport you next to the village of Sin Chai. As well as having the chance to drink in the stunning views and serene ambience you will also be able to view the fruitful rose and vegetable plantations in the valleys below. You can also view the magnificent Fansipan peak, the highest mountain in Indochina. Sin Chai is home to the Red Dao ethnic people who are known for their distinctive dress of beautifully embroidered clothes, artisan silver jewellery and vivid red turbans. This is a small rural community that welcomes the chance to share their incredible heritage especially the local children who will greet you with their playful and curious smiles. After dining on some delectable locally dishes of locally grown produce you will travel back to Lao Cai train station to take the night train back to Hanoi at 9:30 pm during which you can reflect on the stunning landscapes and fascinating people that you have encountered.
DAY 5: Free day in Hanoi (B)
You will arrive in Hanoi at around 05:00 – 06:00 where early check in will be available. You can continue your discovery of Hanoi’s treasures as you have this day free to explore at your leisure. There are myriad different options on how to spend your day and there really is something to interest everyone. Take a walk around the iconic Hoan Kiem Lake always buzzing with activity: people taking a rest from the hot sun under the enormous trees, sipping on an ice cold drink or enjoying one of the famous Thuy Ta ice creams. This is the perfect place to relax and learn about the story of "Lake of the Returned Sword". A stones throw away from the lake is the striking St Joseph’s Cathedral. Built by the French colonial government in the late 19th Century, the dramatic Neo Gothic church stands proudly watching over the streets of Hanoi. Be sure to sample the delectable delicacies that Hanoi has to offer from the legendary Vietnamese coffee to the aromatic and mouth-watering local dishes. The streets of Hanoi take on a whole new personality as the sun sets with people gathering in public spaces to enjoy games, exercise and dancing. The seating of local bars flows along the streets and live music can be heard echoing down the alleyways. The town really comes alive with a sense of community and frivolity. Unwind and relax with another night in your three star hotel.
DAY 6: Depart Hanoi for Halong Bay (B, L, D)
The next part of your journey will take you to the absolutely breath taking Halong Bay. At 8:00 am you board the shuttle bus to Halong Bay where you will arrive at midday to embark the cruise ship. You will be met by awe inspiring scenes of turquoise blue water spiked by arrestingly beautiful islands each garnished with rich forest. The cruise will take you on a mesmerizing journey through the iconic bay, often used to illustrate the pinnacle of Vietnam’s beauty. The fresh sea air and gentle flow of the ocean is an oasis between the bouldering and imposing yet calm islands. During the cruise you will visit Oan Islet, Teapot Islet, Monster Face Islet, Torch Islet, Dragon Islet and Porcupine Islet, all named for their visual counterparts! These islands and the beautiful bay in which they are situated all tell the story of a fierce dragon matriarch and her offspring that came to defend the bay from fierce invaders. The miraculous scenery certainly appears to have an otherworldly beauty about it.
Your journey reach deeper with a visit to Sung Sot Cave (Amazing Cave) and Luon Cave. The name Amazing Cave does not do justice to stunning scenes hidden in the towering cliffs. The rocks, chiselled over time by the relentless ocean, set the imagination free and the luminous colours casted by the light above really bring this cave to life. Luon Cave provides a haven of peace and tranquillity with its walls stretching vertically from the azure waters up into the sky. Continue your voyage as you spend the night aboard the cruise ship gently rocking in the sanctuary of the bay.
DAY 7: Halong Bay – Lan Ha Bay (B, L, D)
Start your day right with an introduction class in Tai Chi, a traditional Vietnamese way to greet the day. The slow flowing movements based on ancient martial arts are believed to extremely beneficial to the mind, body and soul. Let our passionate teacher help prepare your mind and body for the wonders that await you. The first wonder being the Dark and Light caves of Lan Ha Bay. These mysterious caves beautifully illustrate the equipoise of nature with their balance between light and dark creating a beautiful symmetry. Submerge yourself in nature as you kayak into the captivating caves. Become spellbound as you venture through the low lying arch of the cave emblematic of mother natures mouth. After you pass through the opening you will find yourself in lake sheltered from the ocean by the large cliffs that encompass it. The dark cave offers intrigue as you tentatively creep into it’s dark recesses and the light offers an exquisite reprieve with it’s glorious lightshow.
The marine adventure continues with a trip to Halong Pearl Farm. This is your chance to witness the amazing process of growing and perfecting the gorgeous pearls. You will be able to see how the traditional Vietnamese craft has been combined to create the highest quality product. You can see the artisan meticulously perfecting the pearls ready to be made into fine jewellery. This remarkable process all takes place in the stunning scenery fitting for such a beautiful craft.
Day 8: Halong Bay – Hanoi (B, L, D)
The morning will take you Ti Top Island famed for its pure and luscious atmosphere. This island slinks out of the water with its delicate white sand before the beautiful grey rock reaches high up into the sky, all topped with a carpet of vibrant green. After soaking up the peace and serenity of Ti Top the cruise will return to the harbour where you will disembark the cruise for your return to Hanoi where you can reflect on your fantastic trip in the comfort of your three star hotel.
Day 9: Ba Be National Park exploration day (B, L, D)
You will be picked up early in the morning to travel to Ba Be arriving at midday to scenes of enthralling beauty as the luxuriant green mountains tumble into the vast blue lakes. Along the way you will be introduced to the Tay Minority community whose spectacular stilt houses and rice farming traditions spread harmoniously through the natural landscape. The best way to immerge yourself in the true natural beauty on offer is to voyage by boat. Our boat will take you down the river Nang as it effortlessly flows through the undulating mountains around. Here you will have the opportunity to engage the adventurer in you and explore the area by kayak as you really breath in the magnificent pairing of land and water. Be sure to look out for myriad different species in living in this fantastic, flourishing environment.
On this voyage you will explore the Phuong cave where you can venture into the majestic limestone mountain to witness the work off many years of erosion that have created the peaceful yet impressive structure that exists today. The thousands of stalactites and stalagmites that decorate this cave provide a great habitat for the thousands of bats that reside here.
You will also experience the legendary Widow’s Island whose story tells of a mysterious widow and her son that inhabited the island and used two husks of rice given by a fairy to save the local people from the cataclysm that formed the lake and threatened their lives. This island certainly appears as if it is from a fairy-tale as it’s small gem like appearance rests peacefully on Pe Leng, the first of three lakes in Ba Be. The thriving plants and trees sit atop the rocks with their roots ravelling down and enveloping the base.
You will then explore Ba Be lake itself, the heart of Ba Be national park. Ba Be is actually
made up of three smaller lakes: Pe Lam, Pe Lu and Pe Leng. The lake bed consists of limestone rock and it’s craggy and uneven surface makes it a prime ecosystem for a wide range of flora and fauna. You will able to see many different types of marine wildlife including over 100 species of fresh fish. You can experience all of this up-close all whilst being embraced by the vibrant green forests that grow from the limestone mountains.
This aquatic adventure climaxes with an overnight stay in Mr Linh’s homestay, a skilfully crafted wooden stilt house in keeping with the traditional buildings of the area. Here you can relax and enjoy the amazing local cuisine and admire the spectacular views of the rice paddies, lakes and mountains all around you.
Day 10: Ba Be Lake – Ban Gioc Waterfall (B, L, D)
After your night at the fabulous homestay of Mr Linh you will travel to Cao Bang province which is close to the border with China and is inhabited by the Nung people in the village of Phuoc Sen. You will be introduced to the Nung people who are famed for their skilful production of farming tools. You can see the fruits of their labour all around you in the vast rice paddies that adorn the surrounding mountains.
From here you will visit the almighty Ban Gioc waterfall that demarcates the border between China and Vietnam. This breath-taking arrangement of cascading water set against the vivid green background is sure to create an atmosphere of complete awe and amazement.
You will also visit Nguom Ngoa cave, located in the opulent, karst mountains of Cau Bang, this outstanding cave is famed for the limestone artwork that reveals itself within. The name itself is a local Tay name meaning Tiger’s Cave as it is believed that tigers once took shelter inside the cave. You will be welcomed at the entrance with a cool air arising from the mist inside. As you venture further into the cave, its true artistry becomes apparent. Crafted over time by natures artists, the elements of wind and water, the many stalagmites and stalactites seem to depict an array of different objects from humans and animals to plants and mythical creatures. Let your imagination be captivated as you wander through the caves.
DAY 11: Cao Bang – Lang Son - Hanoi (B, L, D)
The journey continues with a trip to Lang Son. Set next to the tranquil lake Phai Loan, this city’s turbulent past is evident in the striking archictecture on show. Nowadays, however, Lang Son is a busy market town with a thriving trade market owing to its borders with proximity with China. You will visit the gateway of this trade route, Dong Dang Market. Let the market flood your senses as the bright colours of the Chinese and Vietnamese products grab your attention, the smell of the freshly cooked foods fills your nostrils and the buzz of the market keeps you floating through the busy streets.
After sampling all that Dong Dang has on your offer you will travel to Mau Pagoda, an ornate structure that sits beautifully cradled in the mountains. The perfect place to unwind after the excitement of the markets.
You will depart at around 17:00. You can relax and take in the stunning scenery on your return journey to Hanoi where you will spend the night in your hotel.
Day 12: Depart Hanoi for Hue. Pick up from Hue airport and transfer to Hotel in Hue (B)
Your journey will continue South to the historic city of Hue in Central Vietnam. Once the seat of Nguyen Dynasty emperors and the national capital from 1802 to 1945, this city still holds and imperial grace. Summer’s here are hot and dry making it the ideal time to explore the rich history hidden within its walls.
Day 13: Hue – Paradise Cave – Phong Nha town (B, L)
At 08:00 you will be picked from your hotel for your trip to the relatively recently discovered Paradise Cave. On arrival you will stop for lunch at Phong Nha Lake House where you can take in views of the still lake and the luscious green surroundings. After filling up on a delicious lunch you will start your discovery of Paradise Cave which was only discovered in 2005. The Cave itself offers 31 km of striking stalactites and stalagmites all glimmering in the fractions of lights that break in through the cracks. At 17:00 you will return to the lake house where you will stay overnight.
Day 14: Phong Nha Cave – Hue City (B, L)
At 08:00 you will be collected from Phong Nha Lake House to go and explore Phong Nha Cave. This stunning cavern is located in the oldest karat mountains in Asia and much like Paradise Cave was only discovered recently. This enormous underground works is made up of 14 grottoes as well as over 13 kilometres of winding underground river. The walls, dripping stalactites, reflect the colours of the river below making stunning light shows. You will have lunch at Restaurant in Dong Hoi Town and return to Hue. You will arrive back in Hue at around 5:30 where you can check into your hotel and relax after a day of exploring.
Day 15: Guided tour of Hue (B, L)
Our dedicated guide will collect you between 07:30 –08:00 to begin the tour of the fascinating city. The first stop is a visit to the atmospheric tomb of the Nguyen Emperor Tu Duc built between 1864 and 1867. The still, glassy lake combined with the moss carpeted stone walls create the air of a haven trapped in time. This lavish and elaborate tomb was designed by the emperor himself and he used to enjoy hunting game on the small island. Let your imagination take you back to the 19th as you stroll through the grounds that were once the playground of Vietnamese royalty.
Continue your trip into past as you visit the tomb of Khai Dinh, the twelfth king of the Ngyuen Dynasty. Built in the early 20th century this tomb is smaller than most others but has the some most amazing and intricate designs seen in any tomb. Drawing inspiration from European, Oriental and Vietnamese architecture, you can really get a feel for the luxury and extravagance of the King’s lifestyle.
Lunch will be choice ion of one of Hue’s local specialties.
After refuelling at lunch you will continue your discovery as you uncover the secrets of the Imperial Citadel. This impressive and fascinating structure is just a fraction of what once stood here. The many battles that took part here over the years have left the site with many battle scars. The buildings that remain stand proud and majestic, survivors telling the story of a turbulent past. The enclosure is enclosed by a moat whose waters are routed from the beautiful perfume river.
You will get to witness the beauty of the perfume river first hand as you travel down the waterway by traditional dragon boat. It begins high in the Day Trung Son mountain range snakes down through the mountains and villages that edge the river with trees of vivid green. You will discover Thien Mu pagoda which rests on the banks of the perfume pagoda. This is the tallest pagoda in Vietnam, its 7 tiers reading up high into the sky, each story representing a step in enlightenment.
Day 16: Journey from Hue to Hoi An (B, L)
Today you will leave behind the buzz of the city as you travel to the delightful and picturesque town of Hoi An, a town that has not succumbed to modern day trappings of fast traffic and new builds. Get lost in the charm of the town that once was a thriving port. However, getting there is half the fun! This leg of the journey will take you through some of Vietnam’s most famous scenery. Let the vivid colours wash over you as you travel through the striking and sparkling Lang Co beach. Famed for it’s azure waters and white silky sand this vista really is more astoundingly beautiful than any picture could ever depict. Your journey will continue as you travel onwards and upwards to the dizzying heights on the legendary Hai Van pass. Hailed for being amongst the most beautiful stretches of world in the world, this mountainous road will not fail to amaze you. Carry on through the mountains as you come to the Marble Mountains, the five peaks that stand tall like the guardians of Da Nang. Each mountain represents one of the five elements and each is delicately capped with a pagoda. The artisans in the surrounding villages have honed their craft over many years and now specialise in marble sculpture. After the excitement of the journey and all it’s magnificent views you will delivered to your hotel in Hoi An where you are free to explore the charming town at your leisure.
Day 17: Hoi An (B)
Now you will have the day to explore the enchanting town of Hoi An, you will be free to uncover the hidden gems and rich history of this town at your own pace. While the port style integrity has been maintained, the majority of port trading now takes place in nearby Da Nang. This creates a wonderful air of preservation.
You can discover more of the town’s rich past at any of it’s numerous museums that will help you to understand everything from folk culture to trading.
The pedestrianised streets are a safe place to lose yourself if a wonderland of lanterns and skilfully crafted wares. One of the main shopping attractions of Hoi An is the exquisite tailoring on offer at fantastic prices. Here you can have custom made pieces, crafted from the finest materials, made to fit at a fraction of the price you would pay at home.
For something a little different, why not visit the water coconut grove at the mouth of the river Hoi An. You can discover the local community and the amazing array of things they make from the coconut grove. The best ways to explore this area is by bicycle or boat, be sure to look out for the majestic buffalo lazing in the summer sun.
Day 18: My Son (B)
Today you will visit My Son Sanctuary, the perfect place for you to reflect on the phenomenal beauty of the region. This dramatic and breath taking site houses impressive stone towers that symbolise purity and greatness. These values are mirrored and magnified in the rolling mountains all around. The magnificent structures were built by the Cham clans and their spiritual influences are rooted in Hinduism. Over time nature has begun to reclaim the towers with greenery creeping up the walls and unifying the beauty and grandeur of the structures with that of the natural surroundings.
After drinking in the purity of the sanctuary and mountains, you will return to the charming Hoi An where your chance to explore the town as you like begins.
Day 19: Hoi An Ancient town tour (B)
Our tour guide will take you to the top beauty spots and points of interest in Hoi An. Your first stop with the Phuc Kien assembly hall. Founded in the late 17th century, this glorious complex served the largest Chinese ethnic minority group in Hoi An, the Fujian. Initially built as the social hub for the Fujian people, it was later converted into a shrine to worship their god Thien Hau. The ornate oriental design and thriving gardens make for stunning photographs and a glimpse into the grand meetings that were once held here.
Next on the tour are the ancient houses of Tan Ky and Phung Hung, both shedding light on the towns fascinating heritage. Tan Ky is more representative of a traditional Hoi An house. Built by a Vietnamese family with some hints of Japanese and Oriental design that murmur of the multicultural environment of the busy trade port here in the 16th century. This is even more evident in Phung Hung house that is a real mixing pot of Asian architecture. This mainly wooden sculpture was highly influenced by Japanese and Chinese design which is symbolic of the towns history when traders from all over the world worked in this lively port.
Just a stones throw away is the next point on this tour where you will be able to see the Japanese covered bridge. Built as a connection between the Japanese and Chinese living quarters, this elegant wooden bridge will take you back to the days when traders scurried over this striking stone and wood structure.
Day 20: Transfer from Hoi An to Da Nang airport (B)
After taking in the delights of Hoi An, you will be delivered to Da Nang airport for you flight to Ho Chi Minh. After your flight you will be taken to you hotel in Ho Chi Minh city where you are free to spend the night relaxing and taking in the buzz of the vibrant city.
Day 21: Ho Chi Minh to Ho Chi Minh Airport (B)
This will be the final day on your incredible Vietnamese adventure. Be sure to fit in one last delicious Vietnamese breakfast before we deliver you to Ho Chi Minh airport for your return flight.