ITINERARY BY DAY
Day 1: Arrive Hanoi
With food stalls on every corner Hanoi is famous for its street food cuisine and Bia Hoi, a draft beer that is brewed daily and sold on street corners. Start your evening at ‘Bia Hoi corner’ and pull up a stool to taste the local brew and do a spot of people watching. Then walk through the bustling streets of the Old Quarter as your guide introduces you to the various foods on offer. Stop at one of the many pop up restaurants and try a Vietnamese barbeque of flame grilled meats, tofu and vegetables on skewers just like the locals. End the evening with a walk along Hoan Kiem Lake for dessert at Hanoi’s most famous ice-cream street.
Day 2: Hanoi - Sapa
Begin your Story of Hanoi with a visit to the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum. Here, you will hear about the man who led Vietnam’s campaign for independence from French colonial rule. Next, visit the Imperial Citadel, the apex of regional political power for more than a millennium, where research and excavation is still underway. After a Vietnamese lunch, head to another 11th century relic, the Temple of Literature, which was built as an homage to the Chinese scholar Confucius. Then take a stroll across the iconic Long Bien Bridge. Constructed across Red River between 1899 and 1902, when Vietnam was still ruled by the French, it is now jammed with whizzing motorbikes and an occasional passenger train chugging into nearby Long Bien Station.
Travel by cyclo through Hanoi’s bustling Old Quarter, a place where Hanoians buy everything from noodles to Buddha statues. In the days of old, the quarter’s 36 streets were named after the products that were sold from their shops and today, vendors on Tin and Bamboo Streets still sell the same wares. After exploring the old quarter’s shady alleyways, sip a strong Vietnamese coffee in a café overlooking Hoan Kiem Lake. Tonight board your train for Sapa.
Day 3: Sapa
Upon arrival, your guide will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel. Meet your guide at your hotel and transfer a short way north of Sapa town to the quiet valleys and gorges surrounding the village of O Quy Ho. The shallow winding valley sits in the shadow of Indochina’s highest peak, Fangxipan Mountain, and on clear days you can enjoy superb views of the range. Away from the major tourist routes, this trek is the perfect escape. Pass by oolong tea farms before joining a local footpath that clings to the contours of the rice terraces and takes you gently down the valley past grazing buffalo and working farmers. Walk along ancient stone paths and hear the story of the Black H’Mong migration to these mountains centuries before. Learn about the distinct cultures, languages and lifestyles that make northwestern Vietnam so fascinating, and visit an authentic Black H’Mong house, home to a local family.
Transfer back to Sapa town in the early afternoon. Upon arrival, your guide will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel.
Day 4: Sapa
This morning, meet your guide at your hotel and walk south of Sapa towards the busy village of Cat Cat. The valleys that surround the village of Y Linh Ho are some of the most picturesque in the region, and this route allows you to explore one of Sapa’s less-traversed areas. Make your way along a gentle incline, through emerald paddy fields above a deep river gorge, before arriving on the river bank. Take a rest, dip your toes in the cool mountain waters and watch local children fishing with nets, before continuing deeper through the villages and terraces of the Black H’mong. Walk at your own pace and take in some of the best panoramas Vietnam has to offer. Enjoy lunch with a view at a local village restaurant before continuing through the valley towards the village of Lao Chai.
Take a well-earned rest and enjoy a soothing cup of tea before learning the art of Batik painting. The beautiful textiles of the Black H’mong are famous around the world and Batik is a traditional part of H’mong culture. Under threat from modernization, Batik is now only practiced by a handful of villagers. Join a hands-on master class led by a local expert and take your creation home! You will be supporting a sustainable tourism project that supports local women and ensures this amazing art form is handed down to the next generation.
Afterwards, head to Ta Van village where you will be picked up and transferred back to your hotel in Sapa.
Day 5: Sapa – Hanoi
Relax and enjoy the cool mountain air as you have a free day to do as much or as little as you like! Shop for handicrafts in the market, climb to the top of Ham Rong Mountain for impressive views over Sapa or get a well-earned foot massage! This evening return to Lao Cai and board the overnight train to Hanoi.
Day 6: Hanoi – Halong Bay
Upon arrival, your guide will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel.
Leave the noise of the city behind as you travel about four hours to Halong Bay. Hop aboard a small tender boat to arrive at L’Azalee, a beautifully restored traditional wooden junk and explore the jade green waters of Halong Bay over lunch. This afternoon the tender will take you to a secluded part of the bay where the water is perfect for swimming and kayaking around the limestone karsts. You’ll return back to L’Azalee just in time to watch the sunset from the top deck before enjoying the bay’s freshest seafood dinner.
Day 7: Halong Bay – Hanoi - Hoi An
Wake up refreshed from a good night’s sleep as the boat motors towards Surprise Cave, the biggest in Halong Bay. Board the tender for a short trip to the cave and be amazed - the entry to the cave is deceptively narrow but once through, the cave opens up to a large chamber with impressive limestone formations. Surprise! Then it’s back to the boat and cruise to Halong Port arriving around noon, where you will continue to Hanoi and the airport for your onward flight to Danang. From Danang its a short flight to the delightful town of Hoi An.
Note: The above itinerary may change with or without prior notice due to prevailing weather conditions.
Day 8: Hoi An
With its stunning mix of architecture, that tells a story of days gone by, to the colourful boats bobbing in the harbour, Hoi An is has a charm and style all of its own. Once a 15th century fishing village, the town is now a renowned for its tailors, galleries boutiques and of course its food! This morning, explore the beautifully restored town starting with the Chua Ong Pagoda, dating back to 1653 and built in honour of the Chinese general Quan Cong, who is worshipped by many as a symbol of loyalty and justice.
Next, pop into Phuc Kien Assembly Hall, to see the Jinshang Temple which is dedicated to the goddess of the sea and the protector of sailors. From there it’s a short walk to Tam Ky House, a 200 year old ancestral house and finally, stroll across the often photographed 17th century covered bridge built by Japanese craftsmen. The beautifully built bridge doubles as a temple and is a major landmark of Hoi An. After a Vietnamese lunch, take a short boat trip down the river and visit a craft village where local artisans make ceramics. Then visit a local boatyard full of traditional fishing boats and the unusual round basket boat that ply the water. You will then be driven back to your hotel by late afternoon - just in time for an early dinner or a sunset stroll along Hoi An’s sleepy Thu Bon River.
Day 9: Hoi An - Ho Chi Minh City
Drive to Danang and fly to Ho Chi Minh City formerly known as Saigon. Discover the story of Saigon, from a city of conflict to a modern metropolis on this fascinating half-day tour. Start with a visit to the War Remnants Museum, where your guide will tell you the story of the city’s darkest and most tragic hours during the Vietnam War. The museum contains displays of military aircraft, weaponry and many photographs - some that are quite graphic in nature. Although many of Vietnam’s 90 million people are now too young to remember the war, its legacy is still felt strongly across Vietnamese society.
Next, visit the Reunification Palace, once a symbol of the South Vietnamese Government. See the war room, the banquet hall and the presidential office with the unusual gifts which have been received. Next up is the Central Post Office, designed and constructed by the renowned architect Gustave Eiffel, and just behind the post office is the Notre Dame Cathedral, an iconic Saigon landmark built in neo-Romanesque style by the French between 1863 and 1880. Then, stroll down follow Dong Khoi Street, which figured prominently in Graham Greene’s famous Vietnam novel, The Quiet American, as Rue Catinat. The walk ends at the Saigon Opera House. From a bomb shelter to housing the parliamentary Lower House, the Opera House has had an interesting history. End your day with a speedboat trip along the city’s ancient canals where life carries on unchanged. Return to your hotel as the sun sets on this fascinating city.
Day 10: Ho Chi Minh City – Cu Chi Tunnels
Travel by speedboat along the Saigon River, taking in the scenery and river life as you leave the bustling city behind. The Cu Chi Tunnels were an underground city for Viet Cong soldiers during the Vietnam War. The cramped tunnels were central to a few of the war’s strategic operations, including the famous 1968 Tet Offensive. The tunnels also have “mantraps” - large camouflaged holes dug deep into the ground that ensnared enemy soldiers by bamboo spikes. But don’t worry, you won’t step in one!
Next, it’s a short drive through the countryside to visit a cricket farm. Some Vietnamese consider crickets a delicacy, and local lore says that hungry soldiers ate them to beef up their nutrient-poor diets. At the farm you’ll see crickets in various stages of growth. You’ll also have a chance to sample crickets wrapped up in tasty spring rolls. Make sure you snap a photograph so that your friends will believe your unusual tale! Stop for a traditional Vietnamese lunch - it won’t include cricket - en route to Ho Chi Minh City, arriving mid afternoon.
Day 11: Ho Chi Minh City – Le Jarai Cruise - Can Tho
This morning depart from your hotel and drive approximately two hours to Ben Tre, and a gateway to the delta. Here, you will board a small boat to start your sightseeing around the waterways of Mekong Delta. Known also as the rice bowl of Vietnam because of its large rice production, the area has also diversified into activities related to aquaculture, rearing of animals, cash crops and fruit trees.
Visit brick factory and board a small boat and meander through the canals and waterways and stop at a small homemade coconut processing plant to see how coconuts have been turned into oil, candy and woven mats that are later sold in the market. After the boat trip you will have a short walk to a local village to see mat weavers at work, before jumping on the deltas version of a tuk tuk and travelling down the country roads to the pier. Here you will board the beautiful teak boat Le Jarai to continue your cruise along the river. While onboard join in the demonstration of Vietnamese cooking before sitting down to a sumptuous three-course lunch of Mekong specialties. After lunch relax on the top deck and take in the scenery back to Ben Tre, where on arrival you will transfer to Can Tho in late in the afternoon.
Day 12: Can Tho – Chau Doc
Rise early and travel by boat to the township of Cai Rang to see the hustle and bustle of a floating market. Watch as vendors hawk their wares from boats teeming with produce and buy a coffee from one of the floating cafes. Then, drive approximately three hours to the township of Chau Doc, a colourful and sleepy town near the Vietnam-Cambodia border.
This afternoon drive approximately 20kms from Chau Doc to Tra Su Forest and travel by sampan through endless waterways flanked by mangroves and lush greenery. This eco reserve spans 850 hectares and is an ecological haven for fauna and flora, with more than 100 species of water birds and colonies of bats. The best time to visit Tra Su is from September to November when the water is high, although it is accessible all year round. On the way to the forest you will visit a small village of ethnic Khmer, where you will learn about the importance of Buddhism in the community and have the opportunity to chat with monks at the local monastery.
Day 13: Chau Doc
The Mekong Delta is a land of winding waterways, lush paddy fields and floating markets where life is governed by the ebb and flow of Vietnam’s most iconic river. Today wake early and cruise aboard a small boat to Chau Doc’s famous floating market. Drawing traders and farmers from the surrounding countryside watch as fruits, vegetables and fish are bought and sold en mass. Continue past the floating fish farms on your way to a local Cham Village, where you will hear the story of one of Vietnam’s most fascinating peoples. After return to your boat and continue cruising towards the iconic Sam Mountain, passing along the fascinating Vinh Te Canal built from 1819 to 1823 by Emperors Gia Long and Minh Mang from the Nguyen Dynasty. Arrive at the banks of Sam Mountain and visit two of the iconic temples that draw pilgrims from miles around. Finish with lunch at the beautiful Nui Sam Lodge, with spectacular panoramic views of the countryside below.
The lush green paddy fields of Chau Doc are the perfect place to escape modern life and discover the authentic Mekong Delta at its very best. Cycle out along quiet dirt tracks, through villages where life has changed little over the decades and through fields busy with busy farmers and water buffalo. Stop for a picnic breakfast and recharge over a glass of traditional ice tea or coffee before getting back on the saddle and continuing your journey. Stop along the way for a chat with locals and some of the best views Southern Vietnam has to offer. Return to your hotel and a well earned break! Overnight in Chau Doc.
Day 14: Chau Doc – Ho Chi Minh City
Say good bye to the delta and travel to Ho Chi Minh City about seven hours by car. There will be plenty of stops along the way to stretch your legs and take photos.
Then fly to Siem Reap and the magnificent temples of Angkor.
Day 15: Siem Reap full day tour
Start with a visit to the South Gate of Angkor Thom where statues of the gods of good and evil line the entrance. Your next stop is the Bayon, known for the hundreds of smiling faces that grace the towers. The bas reliefs are quite impressive and tell stories of daily life and the great battles that were fought between the Khmers and ancient Thais. Move on to Phimeanakas, shaped a bit like a pyramid with two ponds in the rear. The ponds were once used for religious rituals but today serve as swimming pools for Khmer kids. Walk to the top of the temple for impressive views of the Angkor complex.
See the rows of trunks that form the wall of the Terrace of the Elephants, a platform from which King Jayavarman surveyed his army. Close by is the Terrace of Leper Kings, which includes a statue depicting Yana, the Hindu god of death. Then it’s a short drive to one of the most loved temples of all - Ta Prohm. This small crumbling temple is held together by giant tree roots giving it a magical feel.
Return to Siem Reap for lunch and to escape the hot sun. Then later in the afternoon explore the magnificent Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious monument. This visually spectacular temple is a massive three-tiered pyramid, rising 65 metres from the ground and crowned by five lotus towers. It’s the national symbol of Cambodia and proudly appears on the country’s flag. End your day with sunset views over the jungle from the top of Pre Rup Temple before returning to Siem Reap.
Day 16: Siem Reap
Your guide will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to the airport for your flight.