Vietnam is a country filled with captivating natural beauty and tranquil village life. Its highlands and rain-forest regions yield new species and teem with exotic wildlife. Its islands and beaches are among the finest in all of Southeast Asia and its cuisine offers exquisite dishes. Over three decades have passed since Vietnam was officially united, and the war was over. Today, this gracious and graceful country is an outstanding travel destination with among its major destinations Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, the northern mountainous regions, Hue, Hoi An, Saigon the Mekong Delta along with the beaches on the coastlines and its myriad of islands.
• International flight tickets and airport taxes. All internal/ regional flight tickets in economy class
• Accommodation in the category chosen or similar (subject to availability)
• Meals as mentioned in the programme. B: Breakfast, L: Lunch, D: Dinner.
• All local boat rental and cycle hire as mentioned in the programme. Day cruise on non-private junk in Ha Long Bay.
• Transfer from and to the airports by private vehicle with A/C. Transportation by private vehicle with A/C.
• All entrance fees and sightseeing as mentioned in the programme.
• Local English speaking guide(s) as mentioned.
• Meals and drinks which are not mentioned in the programme.
• Tips & personal expenses. Personal insurance. Any services not clearly mentioned in the programme.
Day 1: Overnight Travel
Depart London Heathrow for overnight flight to Hanoi via Bangkok
Day 2: Silk Path Hotel Hanoi, Hanoi
Upon arrival at Hanoi Airport, you will be welcomed by your local guide, followed by a car transfer to the hotel for check-in.
In the afternoon, you will set off from Sword Lake, passing by Hang Hanh - the famous coffee street and heading towards the Catholic Church. Wandering in these peaceful alleys, your eyes will catch the daily scenes of street vendors quietly napping in the shade or a motorbike taxi-driver (or xe om in Vietnamese) sleeping precariously on his bike. Then, suddenly you will again find yourself in a noisy and busy street. Throughout the tour, your senses will be bombarded with a cascade of different sights, sounds, smells and characters that harmonize to the music of life in Hanoi. At the end of the walk, you will have time to enjoy a cup of coffee from one of the many small shops in the area.
Day 3: Silk Path Hotel Hanoi, Hanoi
In the morning you will visit the Temple of Literature (Van Mieu in Vietnamese), situated in the place once known as the first university of Vietnam. Built in 1070 by emperor Ly Thanh Tong, the university was first opened for princes and mandarins exclusively. With its ancient courtyards, altars and roofs, Van Mieu is a very fine example of Vietnamese architecture.
You then move onto Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (a tribute to the architecture of Lenin Mausoleum in Moscow), his traditional stilt house and the One-Pillar Pagoda - built in the 11th century. Later , continue on your way to the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long - built in the 11th century by emperor Ly Thai To. The imperial city of Thang Long (former name of Hanoi) was built as the embodiment of an independent Dai Viet (former name of Vietnam). It was constructed on the remains of a Chinese citadel from the 7th century and was the representation of the King’s political power continuously for nearly thirteen centuries. Now a symbol of the city, the citadel contains the Tower of Hanoi on which flies the national flag. Besides being an architectural relic, the citadel complex is also home to the Museum of the Vietnam War, presenting war remnants and weapons used not only by the Vietnamese army but also by its invaders.
In the afternoon, you will begin your visit at the West Lake (Tay Ho in Vietnamese) where you will enjoy the relaxing atmosphere, a contrast with the hustle and bustle of the capital’s centre. Often referred to as the district of expats, here you will find embassies, fashionable coffee shops and a favourite place of the Hanoians for morning exercises by the lake. Then, continue your visit to Tran Quoc Pagoda, which is located on a serene peninsula by the West Lake. Dating back to the early 10th century it is considered one of the most ancient pagodas in Hanoi. At the end of the trip, you will be able to enjoy a nice cup of coffee at Manzi, an exhibition space and well known artistic area of Hanoi located in an old colonial house. During your time at Manzi Art Space, you will have the chance to meet a modern Hanoian artist and converse about all types of art throughout Vietnam and especially in Hanoi. Contrary to Ho Chi Minh City’s more modern vibe, Hanoi is still a traditional city, and modern art exhibitions are fairly new to the city. Manzi takes a collaborative approach with local artists, working together with them, along with artistic intellectuals and social activists, as well as international cultural institutions to make their voices heard.
If time permits, you can take a stroll on historical Long Bien Bridge before going back to your hotel to rest.
Day 4: Silk Path Hotel Hanoi, Hanoi
In the morning, you will travel to Duong Lam village. Upon arrival, enjoy a bicycle ride through the peaceful village to visit the Mong Phu temple, Mia pagoda, King Ngo Quyen and Phung Hung’ temples. Built in the 15th century, the Mia pagoda is surrounded by nearly 300 statues representing Buddhist gods. Visit a local family and have a cup of tea while having a good chat with them. After lunch at a local house, continue the visit to Thay Pagoda, one of the most famous pagodas in Vietnam. It was built in the 11th century under the reign of King Ly Nhan Tong to honour monk Tu Dao Hanh, father of the art of water puppetry in Vietnam.
On the way back to Hanoi, you will stop at Baara land complex to experience the first wow show of Vietnam: the Quintessence of Tonkin. First, you will have a buffet dinner in the Food Court Restaurant then walk to the entrance of The Quintessence of Tonkin and enjoy the performance. The spectacle draws inspiration from the pagoda’s spiritual history, with the help of a world-class sound and lighting system, but the sounds of the spectacle keep reflecting the peaceful sounds of rural Vietnam, including wooden drums and brass gongs, night crickets, and flowing water. The spectacle also blends different elements of traditional music styles, including Quan Ho and Ca Tru, both of which are now recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible World Heritage.
After the show, you will meet your driver and travel back to Hanoi around 21:45.
Day 5: Emeralda Resort Ninh Bình, Ninh Binh
In the morning you will travel to Ninh Binh province. On the way, you will visit Phat Diem Cathedral Ninh Binh. Upon arrival, you will visit Hoa Lu, one of the most famous sites of Vietnam for its historical remnants and impressive limestone peaks, which gives it the name “Terrestrial Halong Bay”. There, you will also discover in the heart of the forest the temples of King Dinh and Le dating back to the 10th century.
Having lunch with the locals is always a unique and rewarding experience. It is all the truer when lunch takes place at the heart of a small village in the region of Ninh Binh, amongst the limestone peaks. A lovely family will welcome you into their home, ideally located beside a rice field. Your hosts will lay for you a small, simple but very copious table in the outside courtyard, in the shade of an old tree. Then you will be able to savour this delicious meal of local specialities which have been prepared by the house’s cooking experts. For those who wish, it is even possible to help out in the kitchen and to learn one or two precious family recipes usually passed on from mother to daughter. This moment will be a true opportunity to meet a traditional Vietnamese family and to discuss with them the concept of family and daily life.
Later on, you will step onto a sampan for a boat ride to admire the protected site of Trang An with its natural caves, aquatic landscapes and fresh air. You will travel to the hotel to rest in the late afternoon.
Day 6: Indochina Sails(Ha Long Bay)
In the morning, you will depart towards the famous Ha Long Bay. On the way, you will pass through Thai Binh province and the large port city of Hai Phong before arriving in Ha Long around noon. There, you will embark on a cruise in the must-see Ha Long Bay. This world-famous bay is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Vietnam, with its giant rock islets covered in luxuriant vegetation overlooking the waters. Ha Long Bay includes some 1,900 islands and islets of rocky peaks, often uninhabited and unvisited. This scene creates a spectacular marine landscape, which earned it UNESCO World Heritage status in 1994. You will be served lunch and dinner aboard with excellent and freshly caught seafood from the bay. At the end of the day, you will have the chance to enjoy a night fishing session on your boat.
Day 7: Pilgrimage Village Boutique Resort & Spa, Hue
Early in the morning and depending on the season, you will wake up to enjoy sunrise over the aquamarine waters of the bay. Then the cruise will tour around the bay until you disembark at the end of the morning.
After that, you will then return to Hanoi on a road lined with typical rice fields of the Red River Delta. En route, you will make a stop at Yen Duc village, known to be one of the birthplaces of the art of water puppetry. You will then attend a water puppet show portraying the daily life of the peasants in the delta: rice cultivating, buffalo herding, fishing, singing and dancing to celebrate an abundant harvest. After the show you will have time to stroll around to discover the rural life and workshops of craftsmen before heading to the airport for your flight to Hue.
Arrival at Hue Airport and travel to the hotel to check in.
Day 8: Pilgrimage Village Boutique Resort & Spa, Hue
This morning, start your trip with a visit to the Imperial Citadel, built in 1804 and located along the Perfume River. Remarkable for its fortress-like look and entrenched in the heart of the city, the Citadel has a perimeter of more than 10 kilometers. Inspired by the fortifications of Vauban, it is composed of three parts: the capital city (Kinh Thanh), the imperial city (Hoang Thanh) and the forbidden city (Cam Thanh). Although it was largely destroyed in 1968 during the Vietnam War, many improvements have been made to restore and revive this invaluable heritage site.
Continue on to Thien Mu Pagoda (meaning "Heavenly Lady"). Located 3 kilometers from the Imperial Citadel, this pagoda, built in 1601, is the highest in Vietnam. Next, have lunch at a garden house typical of Hue city, which was built according to precise rules of geomancy. The peacefulness of this home will offer you a chance to experience the true serenity of such a place.
In the afternoon, continue your journey to discover Tu Duc Mausoleum, one of the most beautiful sites of Hue. Built during the emperor's lifetime, in a narrow valley about 8 kilometers from the centre of Hue, the tomb is a model of traditional Vietnamese art and architecture. In a calm and peaceful atmosphere, about 50 buildings are spread over the entire area of the tomb site. Altars, pavilions, theatres and temples are united in what is called the area of worship. Then you will be guided along the paved paths beside the lake to the Emperor's grave, its enclosure, the main courtyard and the stele pavilion of the tomb. You will probably be surprised by the size of the imperial tombs reflecting the dream of greatness, power and beauty of their founders. Continue to the tomb of Gia Long, located 18km from Hue making it the most distant of the major tombs and lesser known tombs among the tourists even though Gia Long is the first emperor of Nguyen Dynasty. It’s a sprawling, serene complex set in the picturesque hill country. Return to your hotel in Hue.
Day 9: Boutique Hoi An Resort, Hoi An
In the morning, you will depart from Hue to Danang city, taking the spectacular "Hai Van Pass" route. This road, which overlooks the bay, will offer you an incomparable panorama. You will make several stops along the way, including one at the paradise beach of Lang Co. Arrive at your hotel in Hoi An with the afternoon free at your leisure.
Option: Spa treatment
You will be treated to a massage while taking in the view of the beautiful surrounding rice paddies. Na Spa Beauty is well known by locals as well as visitors. The Spa will offer you an opportunity to experience a world of tranquility and rejuvenation. You will be able to choose from a menu of blissful hand and foot treatments, fragrant oil massages, radiant facials and much more
Day 10: Boutique Hoi An Resort, Hoi An
In the morning, you will travel by jeep to My Son (which means: “Beautiful mountain”) – the most important Cham archaeological site in the centre of Vietnam. This adventure, off the beaten track, will take you along a narrow but beautiful lane that normal tour buses cannot access. On the way, you will have a chance to witness the fascinating lives of the local people: farmers who work in the rice fields, fishermen returning home from their boat trip and merchants bringing their products to sell at vibrant and colourful markets. You can also chat with some locals when taking a break at a local coffee shop and see just how charming and friendly they are. The beautiful scenery of the region is another highlight of this activity, with luxuriant green forests, lush fields of rice and corn and slow flowing canals to see along the road.
Eventually you will arrive at My Son, the holy land of Champa culture in Vietnam. The complex was the religious and cultural centre of this ancient Kingdom for many centuries, with the oldest temples constructed in the 4th century. Partially ruined, My Son still has numerous exquisitely decorated and detailed temples and shrines and has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Return to Hoi An to visit the small town, recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site for its well-preserved ancient streets and houses. The town features a harmony of Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese and French architectural elements, which can be seen in the famous Japanese Bridge, the Chinese Temple and Tan Ky trading house (which used to belong to a rich Vietnamese merchant 200 years ago and has been kept original ever since).
Finally, take a stop at the Reaching Out Teahouse, a branch of the Reaching Out brand – which is a retail outlet in Hoi An selling home décor, clothing, bags, jewellery, lacquer ware and other customized and unique products. Each item is carefully hand crafted by disabled artisans; the designs inspired by traditional Vietnamese culture and folklore. The Reaching Out Teahouse also employs hearing impaired staff, and proceeds are put back into the business to train and employ people with disabilities all over Vietnam. Within the teahouse, you can sit back and sip on one of the various types of teas and coffees available as you enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
Day 11: Boutique Hoi An Resort, Hoi An
The day is yours to spend at your leisure or maybe consider a tour option as detailed below.
Meals included: Breakfast
Accommodation: Hotel in Hoi An
Option: Experience the various stages of rice processing in Hoi An
Today you will travel to Cam Thanh countryside and meet the inhabitants who still use their century-old techniques for rice cultivating. In this peaceful setting, you will be able to observe and take part in the various stages of rice processing: husking the paddy grains (the rice still covered in its shell), pounding and bleaching. Finally, you will enjoy an excellent lunch that you have just prepared along with other local specialties, such as tam huu (small skewers of pork and prawns), which are lovely to look at and enjoy as well eat, nem (spring rolls), soups and caramelized pork.
You will travel back to Hoi An in the afternoon.
Meals Included: Lunch
Option: Special dinner in Tra Que Village
You will head to Tra Que village to enjoy a countryside dinner. Be welcomed by the host or a member of the family before diving into a feast of the best local cuisine made with fresh ingredients that have just been picked that afternoon from the local farm nearby.
Duration: 2h 30min
Day 12: Grand Hotel Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City
In the morning, you will check out and travel to Da Nang Airport for your flight to Ho Chi Minh City.
Upon arrival, you will meet your guide and driver then travel by car to the hotel to rest.
Day 13: Grand Hotel Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City
Located one hour from Ho Chi Minh City and originally dug by hand by the Viet Minh (resistance forces) during the French Indochina War, this network of underground tunnels was expanded during the Vietnam War. At its peak, it was 200-kilometers long, 3 to 4 meters deep and was very well equipped, including meeting rooms and medical and sanitary posts. Today it is one of the largest historical sites of the Vietnam War. You will begin the visit by watching a documentary on the tunnels and the war in the 60s-70s, then you can pass through various narrow underground ducts in order to discover the rooms: offices, kitchens, meeting rooms, weapons stores and even hospitals. At the end of the tour you will have the chance to taste the specialty of Cu Chi, the khoai my luoc (boiled cassava), a Vietnamese dish eaten daily during the war.
After Cu Chi Tunnels, travel back to hotel in Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 14: Grand Hotel Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City
The colonial French quarter stretches along the Saigon River on the lengthy Nguyen Hue Avenue, which was built over a filled-in canal and today symbolizes the economic development of the city at its best. Along your stroll, you will discover the former City Hall, with its over-the-top colonial style, the Municipal Theatre, Notre-Dame Cathedral, with its red bricks standing isolated in the midst of the traffic on a large square, and the Central Post Office, with its imposing architecture of Gustave Eiffel distinguished by its superb metal structure. This quarter is also home to the most famous hotels, which will give you a flavour of Vietnamese splendour and modernity: the Rex, the Continental, the Majestic.
Cholon (“The Great Market”), founded in the 18th century by the Chinese and located 7 kilometers from the city centre, is and has always been a Chinese enclave set on Vietnamese soil. After many years of tumultuous cohabitation, the Chinese community (the Hoa people) has been revitalized and now lives without fear. As a result, Cholon has slowly become an essential part of the city’s economic scene. Your discovery of Cholon will definitely take you to one of the traditional pharmacies, the Thien Hau Pagoda - sitting majestically in the city and Binh Tay market. This market is located in a vast ochre-coloured building, designed by a French architect and financed by a Chinese merchant. It is famous for the thousands of stalls and a great variety of goods, making it a true temple of commerce in Ho Chi Minh City!
At the end of the day, you will discover traditional Vietnamese music in a warm and friendly home belonging to a couple of passionate artists: Dinh Linh and Tuyet Mai. These two professionals will provide you with a traditional Vietnamese music concert and be delighted to help you discover and try out the many traditional music instruments they own. These range from a stone xylophone to a bamboo flute, as well as a Vietnamese zither with an elongated sound box. If you are a music lover, this visit will be the opportunity to purchase some instruments on the advice of renowned professionals without having to worry about counterfeits.
Day 15: Overnight Travel
Travel to Ho Chi Minh City Airport for departure flight to London Heathrow via Bangkok
Day 16: End of Itinerary
Arrival at London Heathrow