ITINERARY BY DAY
DAY 1 – ARRIVE HANOI
Upon arrival to Hanoi, our guide and driver will be waiting to provide transport to the hotel for check in. Enjoy the remainder of the day free at leisure.
Overnight in Hanoi.
For those who arrive early, it is possible to arrange some visits scheduled on Day 3 as well as the Water Puppets Show. This arrangement will allow more time to explore the sites on Day 3.
DAY 2 – HANOI CITY TOUR
Depart around 08:30 from the hotel for Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Take a walking tour through charming Hang Be Market, around Hoan Kiem Lake, and make a stop at Ngoc Son temple. This bustling region of the capital is home to literally thousands of small businesses and shops. It’s a great place to explore with plenty of photo opportunities all around.
Continue with a visit to the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first university. Founded in 1076, Quoc Tu Giam was established within a temple to educate Vietnam’s royalty, mandarins and members of the elite. Conclude the walk with a visit to the nearby mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam’s historic father figure. View the mausoleum from the outside, visit his modest house on stilts and wrap up the experience at the iconic One Pillar Pagoda.
In the afternoon, visit one of the water puppet masters in Hanoi to unveil the secrets behind this traditional performance. Take a short drive to Mr. Liem’s house and get the chance to explore his workshop. On site is a small-scale water puppet theater where guests can watch a 30-minute performance telling both ancient and modern stories of traditions and daily life. After the show, there will be a hands-on interactive experience with the water puppets. This tour is a great opportunity to gain deep insight into a local craft and rural traditions while having an unforgettable unique, behind-the-scenes experience.
Enjoy the evening free at leisure to rest at the hotel or explore the city independently.
Overnight in Hanoi.
DAY 3 – HANOI – LAO CAI
Begin the morning outside Hanoi on a cycling tour through the rural villages located across the banks of the Red River. Ride through the small back alleys of Bac Bien village to the banks of the Duong River, taking a local ferry across. Then, hop back on the bike and ride along the river winding through the quaint villages discovering traditional local houses, ancient pagodas and temples, lively markets, green rice paddy fields and gardens. During the ride, stop at a local family’s home for a cup of Vietnamese tea. Before transferring back to the hotel in Hanoi, visit a local temple where the unique, entrancing “Len Dong” ceremony may be taking place.
NOTE: This program may alter due to local conditions, the size of the group and other unexpected circumstances. We will do our very best to adhere to the set itinerary, however we cannot be held responsible for any last minute changes that might occur. In all such circumstances, the cycling leader or guide will have the final say.
Booking minimum 24 hours in advance.
This evening, enjoy a delicious Vietnamese dinner at a local restaurant before transferring to Hanoi Train Station for the overnight train ride to Lao Cai, the gateway to Sapa.
Overnight on the train in a soft sleeper compartment.
DAY 4 – LAO CAI – SAPA
After an evening spent on the train, arrive early in the morning to Lao Cai Station where our guide and driver will be waiting. Enjoy a local breakfast before driving to visit a local market. It is here that there will be the first opportunities to encounter the ethnic groups, particularly the Flower Hmong, Phu La, Black Dao, Tay, and Nung. The market offers a variety of local products not found in other areas such as an interesting animal market where pot-bellied pigs, cows and buffalos can be seen.
Afterwards pay a visit to another Sapa market where Red Dao, Black H’Mong, Tay and other ethnic groups converge from the surrounding countryside to sell their silverware and handicrafts, and to buy provisions. Continue with a light trek to discover Sapa’s quaint hill tribe villages set against the stunning Hoang Lien Son Mountain Range and Indochina’s highest peak, Mt. Fansipan.
A picnic lunch will be had en-route. Enjoy the rest of the afternoon and evening at leisure. Appropriate footwear must be worn on treks in Sapa. Note that if conditions are wet, programs may be diverted.
Overnight in Sapa.
DAY 5 – SAPA – LAO CAI – HANOI
This morning after breakfast, depart Sapa for the 30-minute road transfer to Ban Khoang Valley. Enjoy breathtaking views of Hoag Lien Mountain Range along the way, also known as The Tonkinese Alps.
The first stop will be in Ban Khoang Valley at Lu Khau Village, home to Blue Hmong and Red Dzao minorities. Explore the village on foot, meet the friendly local people and learn about their colorful culture and lifestyle in the countryside. Depart from Ban Khoang Valley for a 8-km road transfer to Ta Giang Phinh Valley and enjoy a local lunch there.
This afternoon, take a leisurely walk through the charming Ta Giang Phinh Valley. Walk on the village path which winds down the impressive valley, home to the Blue Hmong ethnic group. Visit some local houses to see some handicrafts workshops, observe villagers working in the fields tending their crops with buffalos.
In the late afternoon, transport will be provided back to Hanoi.
Arrive in Hanoi late in the evening.
Overnight in Hanoi.
DAY 6 – HANOI – HALONG BAY
Following an early breakfast, leave Hanoi for a 4-hour drive to Halong Bay. Arrive at the Halong City jetty around noon and proceed with check-in formalities. After a welcome onboard, lunch will be served while cruising towards the bay. In the afternoon, enjoy some sightseeing, on-board activities (depending on each boat’s itinerary) or just spend some time relaxing on board. Towards the end of the day the boat sets anchor for the night among the karst formations. Dinner is served on board.
Overnight on Halong Bay.
DAY 7 – HALONG BAY – DANANG – HOI AN
Early risers can enjoy a memorable sunrise over the karst formations of Halong Bay. Breakfast will be served (brunch on some boats) while the vessels cruises slowly through the magnificent rock formations and back towards port. Upon disembarkation, our guide and driver will be waiting to provide transport back to Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport for the flight south to Danang.
Upon arrival to Danang, our guide and driver will be waiting to provide transport (about 30 minutes) to the ancient town of Hoi An.
Overnight in Hoi An.
Note: This tour may be subject to change depending on weather conditions
DAY 8 – HOI AN – MY SON
Begin day 8 with a half-day visit to the ancient capital and religious centre of the former Champa Kingdom, My Son. Sitting 40km southwest of Hoi An, in a lush green valley, are dozens of red brick towers and sanctuaries dating from between the 7th and 13th centuries. After a few hours of exploring the sanctuary, head back to Hoi An stopping for a visit to Tra Kieu, the capital of Champa between the 4th and 8th centuries. Some of the finest sculptures in Danang’s Cham Museum originated from here.
This afternoon return to Hoi An for some explorations of the charming Old Town. Hoi An is marked by two different faces: the old world trading port with its narrow streets and traditional houses, and long stretches of yellow sand beaches. In keeping with Hoi An’s heritage, the old town’s tiny shop houses host a range of craft shops and artisans including some of Asia’s best tailors. The afternoon’s walking tour will display some of the main sites of the area, including the former merchants’ houses, the 400 year-old Japanese Bridge, a Chinese communal hall and the colorful market.
Overnight in Hoi An.
DAY 9 – HOI AN – HUE
Enjoy some time at leisure in Hoi An before heading for the imperial capital of Hue. Hue’s mesmerizing tombs and mausoleums of the last emperors of Vietnam reveal fascinating insights into the lives of the imperial families and their subjects. The city’s ancient Citadel reflects the pomp and ceremony of the dynastic rulers as well as the scars of many years of turmoil, both ancient and modern. The Royal Citadel was badly damaged in the latter stages of the war but retains a sense of grace and majesty even today.
Departing Hoi An, drive through Danang and pay a visit to the Cham Museum, which contains the finest collection of Cham sculptures in the world. Continue the drive over the Pass of Ocean Clouds, dropping down to the wonderfully photogenic fishing village of Lang Co. After passing through Lang Co, it’s about one hour more to reach Hue. Upon arrival, enjoy the remainder of the day free at leisure.
Overnight in Hue.
DAY 10 – HUE CITY TOUR
Begin the day with an 08:30 departure from the hotel in Hue. Start the day’s tour at the Imperial Citadel where the Nguyen Dynasty ruled between 1802 and 1945. From here take a cyclo through dai noi ‘Old City’ to Tinh Tam Lake where the Emperors used to come to relax. The lake is full of lotus flowers in summer and there are many local style coffee shops surrounding the area perfect for people watching.
After exploring the ruins of this wonderful monument, depart for the Thien Mu Pagoda overlooking the Perfume River. Constructed in 1601, the 21-meter tower is the centerpiece of the pagoda and represents seven reincarnations of Buddha. On the pagoda grounds is the famous Austin car a resident monk drove to Saigon in 1963 to protest against the southern regime. The photo of his self-immolation is one of the most well-known images of the war.
Continue to former emperor Minh Mang’s tomb, located in a tranquil setting of gardens and ponds, heavily influenced by Chinese Confucianism.
Journey on to Khai Dinh’s Tomb, designed in traditional Vietnamese style with a few added European touches, making it unique from the other tombs in Hue.
Before heading back to the hotel, take time to stroll around Dong Ba Market with the guide. The market is another of the must see sites in Hue, with stalls teeming with color and life.
Overnight in Hue.
DAY 11 – HUE – HO CHI MINH CITY
After breakfast at the hotel, transfer to Hue Airport for the short flight to dynamic Ho Chi Minh City. A full day city tour starts in Cholon, the Chinatown district, to discover the area’s markets, shops and the Cantonese Thien Hau Pagoda. Next, visit Vietnam’s first traditional medicine museum, the FITO Museum, which displays an amazing collection of 3,000 items relevant to the development of traditional Vietnamese medicine. Implements used to prepare indigenous herbs, objects commonly found in traditional pharmacies as well as ancient books and documents on traditional Vietnamese medicine can be seen in the galleries.
Head back to the city centre to visit Ben Thanh Market where an incredible display of fresh produce is offered. Enjoy strolling through the market exploring the variety of goods for sale.
This afternoon visit the War Remnants or History Museum (up to personal preference) and the former Presidential Palace. From here, take a stroll to the major sights of colonial Ho Chi Minh City: the Old Saigon Post Office, Dong Khoi Street (formerly Rue Catinat), Continental Hotel, Opera House and City Hall (a vehicle will be available at all times). At the end of the afternoon, head back to the hotel.
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
Note: History Museum is closed on Mondays.
DAY 12 – HO CHI MINH CITY – CAI BE
Begin Day 12 with a departure from bustling Ho Chi Minh City for the Delta town of Cai Be (2 hour drive.)
Upon arrival, board a local vessel for the day’s cruise through the Delta’s waterways. Start the journey by passing by Cai Be’s floating market, once a busy place to trade fruits and vegetables and nowadays a more quiet market.
Continue to a cottage factory where ‘pop-rice’, rice paper and coconut candies are made. Return to the boat for the cruise to Dong Hoa Hiep Island, soaking in the scenery and daily life along the way. Lunch will be local Mekong style serving specialties of the area. Return to Ho Chi Minh City late in the afternoon with the evening free at leisure.
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
DAY 13 – HO CHI MINH CITY – DEPART
Enjoy the morning in Ho Chi Minh until transport (provided) to Tan Son Nhat Airport for the departing flight.