This in-depth journey traverses Vietnam from south to north – travel from fast-paced Ho Chi Minh City to the Old Quarter of Hanoi, via the tranquil hill tribes of Sapa and stunning Halong Bay and Ninh Binh Province – dubbed ‘Halong Bay on land’. Travel by boat, cyclo, train and road while discovering cultural sights, natural wonders and historic landmarks.
Upon arrival in HCMC, still called Saigon by the locals, being transferred to your hotel and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure. Ho Chi Minh City is now the hustle and bustle metropolis of Vietnam. Overnight in HCMC.
Today you begin your discovery of this fascinating nation with a choice between two optional tours. Ben Tre is nestled deep within the ricebowl of Vietnam – the Mekong Delta and this peaceful retreat offers enchanting scenery. Ben Tre is famous for keo dua (coconut candy) and you can observe techniques of how this is made, alongside rice paper and grass mats. Alternatively, visit the famous Cu Chi Tunnels, a unique network of tunnels that provided a home to both fighters and families during the Vietnam War.
Suggested destination today: Ben Tre Province
Enjoy a half-day city tour, visiting the Reunification Palace, the area surrounding the Notre Dame Cathedral and the . Transfer to the airport for your flight to Danang. Upon arrival transfer to your hotel in the pretty UNESCO-listed city of Hoi An (approx. 1 hour) which boasts a captivating combination of history and culture.
Today is at leisure so you can choose to spend your time lazing on a white-sand beach, photographing the Ancient Town’s charming French-colonial architecture or sightseeing. Early-risers can join the optional morning cookery class at Red Bridge Cooking School. There is also an optional afternoon tour to the UNESCO-listed Cham ruins of My Son which are scattered in a lush valley.
Discover the history of Hoi An with a walking tour that visits the colourful local market, Tan Ky Old House, the Fujian Assembly Hall and the iconic 400-year-old Japanese Bridge. You can also observe the raising of silkworms and the intricate process of silk production for which the city is renowned. Visit Cham Museum in Danang before departing for Hué via the Hai Van Pass. Sit back and enjoy the scenery and stunning ocean views as you drive past red-tiled villages, orchards and forests.
Local Market, Tan Ky Old House, Japaneses Bridge, Cham Museum
Cruise along the tranquil Perfume River (Huong River), visit the Thien Mu Pagoda, see the Royal Tomb of Khai Dinh and discover the city’s royal past at the impressive Imperial Citadel. The afternoon and evening is at leisure. Overnight in Hue.
Continue your journey north, following the Ho Chi Minh Trail towards Dong Hoi. Pass the Truong Son Cemetery, Dong Ha Town and the ruins of Quang Tri Citadel as you traverse stunning mountain and jungle landscapes. Continue along the Ben Hai River and through the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) which surrounds the former border between north and south Vietnam.
- Muong Thanh Quang Binh Hotel
After an early morning visit to the Nhat Le fish market visit the UNESCO-listed Phong Nha Cave. Journey to the city of Vinh, stopping at Dong Loc Junction en route to hear the moving story of the ten young women who sacrificed their lives to try and keep the Truong Son Road open between bombings in 1968.
- Sai Gon Kim Lien Hotel
This morning begin your journey to the city of Ninh Binh which is famous for its spectacular surrounding scenery. Take a sampan (small wooden boat) ride to Thung Nang – also known as Sunshine Valley, an incredible landscape of flooded paddies encircled by towering limestone karst formations. You will also visit the Temples of the Dinh and Le dynasties.
Thung Nang Valley, Temple of Dinh & Le dynasties
- Ninh Binh Legend Hotel
Today you can enjoy another of the tour’s highlights – a cruise on beautiful Halong Bay. Board a traditional Chinese junk and enjoy lunch onboard whilst gliding past the bay’s stunning limestone peaks and islands. Explore Surprise Cave where you will join a one-hour walk and later there will be time for swimming or kayaking. Learn how to make Vietnamese spring rolls during a demo and enjoy canapes on the sun deck. After dinner there will be a screening of the classic film Indochine.
- Bhaya Legend 1 Cruise
- Princess Junk
Early-risers can join a tai chi exercise on the deck (6.30am). Head back to dry land and enjoy lunch at a local restaurant and some free time before a traditional water puppet show in the evening. Transfer to the station to board the overnight train to Lao Cai.
Livitrans Express Train
Arrive early and continue to the mountain town of Sapa by road. Visit Sapa’s market and admire panoramic views over the town and valley from Ham Rong Mountain. Visit the nearby Cat Cat village to gain an insight into the life and culture of these unique hill tribes. The evening is at leisure.
Sapa Panorama Hotel
Spend a day of trekking through local villages including Lao Chai and Ta Van. After lunch in a local home, continue your walk to Giang Ta Chai, visiting a Red Dao minority village. Return to Lao Cai for your overnight train journey back to Hanoi.
Lao Chai, Ta Van, Giang Ta Chai villages
Explore the city, taking in sights including the Marble Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh (closed Monday and Friday, and during Oct and Nov). This afternoon enjoy a one-hour cyclo tour through Hanoi’s famous Old Quarter and then a local historian will give a talk on Vietnam’s compelling past.
Bid the city farewell and transfer to the airport for your overnight return flight to the UK. Alternatively, you could choose to extend your holiday.
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