Explore the north and center regions of Vietnam, gaining a deeper understanding of Vietnam’s diverse geography, intriguing history and rich culture. The program not only explores key historic, spiritual and cultural sites but also the architectural and natural wonders as recognized by the esteemed UNESCO organization. From the unknown parts of the vibrant Hanoi to the natural beauty of Ha Long Bay then venture southward to Hue’s imposing Imperial Citadel and the charming Hoi An ancient town.
The additional surcharge applies for bookings on Christmas, New Year & Tet (Lunar New Year).
Arrival in Hanoi in the morning, greeting by the Vietnamese tour guide and transfer to the hotel. Check-in is around 2 p.m. (NO early check-in included). Then experience Hanoi's pulsating Old Quarter and St. Joseph's Cathedral in an electric car ride. Walk through the narrow and turbulent streets, most of which are named after the crafts or goods that were originally sold here, such as fabrics, medicine, etc. Then visit the Ngoc Son Temple on Hoan Kiem Lake. In between you take a short break and enjoy the famous egg coffee in a typical Hanoi café. Welcome dinner in a local restaurant in the evening.
The city tour begins in the morning. First, explore the Ho Chi Minh Complex (mausoleum only outside). Continue to the Temple of Literature, Vietnam's first university (from the 11th century). Here you can enjoy a respite of peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. In the late afternoon, visit a water puppeteer in your private home and enjoy an exclusive performance. Free time in the evening.
The afternoon is free at leisure.
After breakfast, check out of the hotel and head to Halong Bay. The bay itself was declared as a UNESCO Natural Heritage Site, Halong Bay covers an area of 43,400 ha and including over 1600 islands and islets, most of which are uninhabited and unaffected by humans, it forms a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars and is an ideal model of a mature Karst landscape developed during a warm and wet tropical climate.
Arrive at Tuan Chau International Passenger Port, embark on the traditional wooden junk followed by a welcome drink while the cruise manager briefing about the itinerary and safety info. A tasty lunch will be served on board when our cruise starts sailing towards the southeast of Halong Bay, passing by many stunning rocks and islets. Then we can join some activities such as rowboat or kayak (Kayaks can be booked in advance at reception with extra cost). Return to our cruise and rest of the day at leisure. Later, take part in a cooking demonstration with traditional Vietnamese food on the sundeck (or in the restaurant if weather does not allow). The boat cruises back through the Bay to its overnight anchorage. Dinner & overnight on board.
Flexible program of each cruise - subject to change
No private guide on board.
Today you will spend another day in Halong Bay for more intensive impressions and excursions in less touristy areas.
At dawn, the most magical time in the bay, you can optionally do meditation or yoga on the upper deck. During breakfast you gradually cruise back to Halong and visit a cave and various islands along the way, where you can swim again. A delicious brunch on board can be enjoyed at early noon, after which you will disembark from the boat.
Then on to Ninh Binh.
One of the highlights of a visit to Ninh Binh, also known as the Halong Bay on Land, is a sampan ride in Van Long: On the river you can row in small boats through the impressive landscape. Afterwards you continue this exploration by bicycle, and cycle through the bizarre world of green paddies and limestone peaks to Hoa Lu - Vietnam's first capital under the Dinh dynasty, making a stop at Mua Mountain.
The afternoon is free (late check-out is included) until you board the night train to Dong Hoi at Ninh Binh station.
Overnight in private train cabin
Erly morning arrival in Dong Hoi, where your guide awaits the train station. On the drive to the national park, we stop for breakfast at a local restaurant or authentic eatery.
Then continue to the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park to visit some of its most famous caves. You will board the so-called dragon boats sailing down the Son river to the Phong Nha Cave. Just lean back and marvel at the landscape until you reach the "dragon's mouth" and through it you get into the interior of the cave. On a small expedition through the grotto, you can take some souvenir photos before continuing to the dry cave of Dong Tien. After the boat trip there is a small lunch before heading to your accommodation.
Early in the morning you visit the botanical garden and get an insight into the special features of Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, which is known for its unique cave systems and biodiversity.
Later you will visit the Paradise Cave, which is over 31 km long and is famous for its huge stalactites. After this visit, have lunch before visiting the Dark Cave, a smaller version of the famous Son Doong (the world's largest cave, also located in Phong Nha). Here you can use a 400m long zip line to reach the 6km long dark cave on the other side of the river after swimming about 20m. Explore the cave, and enjoy a natural mud bath. You will return by kayak, and will have time to relax and swim in the river.
Return to your accommodation in the late afternoon.
Today you drive to Hue. The approximately 4-hour drive will include exciting visits to important places in the history of Vietnam. Vinh Moc was one of the most heavily bombed areas during the Vietnam War. Here you will visit an impressive and thought-provoking tunnel system. This three-story tunnel system, which houses living areas, hospitals, theaters and command rooms, provided protection for around 100 families during the height of the Vietnam War. The tunnels here are more spacious than those of the well-known Cu Chi tunnel system.
You will reach Hue in the early afternoon and have the rest of the day free to rest or explore on your own.
Today you will explore the Imperial City of Hue, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After breakfast visit the Citadel that houses the Imperial Palace, then drive to Thien Mu Pagoda, a landmark of the city. Afterwards you visit a typical Hue garden house and have an opportunity to chat with your host. In the afternoon, take a boat trip down the Perfume River and visit the famous imperial tomb of Khai Dinh. Return to your hotel.
In the morning you will visit the Imperial Tomb of Minh Mang. Then you leave Hue and drive along the Lang Co lagoon over the Hai Van pass to the old trading town of Hoi An. In the afternoon, immerse yourself in the history of Hoi An, which has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This exploration includes stops at the Hokkien Temple, the Japanese Bridge and some ancient houses. Learn about the local craftsmanship through a visit to a small lantern factory. Dinner in the old town.
Today you ride your bike to a rural village that is known throughout Vietnam for its organic cultivation methods. Here you get to know some local herbs, used extensively in Vietnamese cuisine and traditional medicine. At the end, enjoy a relaxing Herbal foot massage, a light lunch including a short cooking class with a local chef.
The afternoon is free for individual activities or an excursion to the ancient sanctuary of My Son (for an additional charge).
Day at leisure. You will be brought to the airport in good time for your departure.