Day 1 Arrive Hanoi
Arrive to Hanoi where you are met and transfer to your hotel. If time permits this evening, take a tour through the old quarter and around Hanoi Hoan Kiem lake before heading to a restaurant for a welcome dinner and trip orientation.
Day 2 Explore Hanoi | Night Train to Lao Cai
This morning spend a few hours exploring Hanoi by touring the backstreets, starting at Long Bien Bridge and through the old quarter and towards the Temple of Literature. The One Pillar Pagoda, founded in 1049, is the next visit. This iconic temple is located by the mausoleum of the historic figure and father of modern Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh. Continue to the picturesque West Lake and the 6th century Tran Quoc Buddhist Pagoda, the oldest in the city. Enjoy lunch in one of the city's finest restaurants.
This afternoon visit either the Ethnology Museum or the Vietnam Women's Museum. The Ethnology Museum functions as a research center and public museum exhibiting the ethnic groups of Vietnam. The Vietnam Women's Museum is located near Hoan Kiem Lake and offers an insightful look into the lives of Vietnamese women. Learn about women's role in society and the historic and modern-day traditions surrounding births, weddings, motherhood and spirituality.
Enjoy dinner this evening before transferring to the station for your night train to Sapa.
Day 3 Sapa Hiking
Early this morning you arrive to Lao Cai, located along the northwestern border with China. After breakfast take time to repack for your trek. You have the choice of two treks for the day:
Mong Sen – Ta Phin Trek
Drive 8 Miles (13 kms) to Mong Sen, where you start trekking uphill through a mountainous area by following a dirt trail. En route take in the spectacular view over rice paddy terraces and cornfields. Visit local houses of the Black H’mong minority people and a primary school to see life in the mountainous areas of Vietnam. After a hearty local lunch, continue the trek by descending toward Ta Phin village. Ta Phin village is inhabited by Red Dao and Black H’mong minorities, two largest ethnic groups in Sapa. Your guide will tell you about daily life and tradition of these two ethnic minorities. Meet your vehicle and transfer on to Sapa.
Hiking Distance: 5 hours
Driving Distance: 1 hour
Y Linh Ho – Lao Chai – Ta Van Trek
Take a short walk through the town of Sapa before turning on a footpath running through vegetable gardens. Descend down the valley on a dirt trail through rice paddy terraces, enjoying the spectacular scenery on the way. At the bottom of the valley walk along a narrow riverbank until you arrive at Y Linh Ho village of Black H’mong minority, for lunch nearby the river. After lunch, continue deeper into Muong Hoa valley. Pass through Lao Chai village of Black H’mong minority and then Ta Van village of Giay minority by following a popular trekking route wher eyou will meet your van for a transfer to Sapa.
Hiking Distance: 5 hours walking
Driving Distance: 30 mins
Day 4 Sapa Hiking
- 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
This morning you drive an hour south to Ban Lech Dao in the Thanh Kim Commune. Here you set out for a two hour trek along a narrow trail that follows terraced rice paddies mostly downhill to Muong Bo River. Cross the river by a suspension bridge and then trek uphill for another hour to Muong Bo Village of the Tay people. Enjoy an easy walk around the village to explore the Tay with their spacious stilt houses. Enjoy a lunch break in a local home and learn more about their way of life. Enjoy an afternoon trek along a large path following a hill up to Nam Cum village of the Red Dao minority, an isolated settlement in a remote valley. Walk around this village and interact with some of the local villages before you continue your trek along the Suoi Thau Valley another hour to Sin Chai village. Here you arrive at your destination for the evening. Stay with a local family here and enjoy the rest of the day exploring this charming village.
Hiking Distance: 6-7 hours
Day 5 Sapa Trek and Return Hanoi
Enjoy breakfast in the village today before your set out along the valley and uphill to pass other villages on your hike out. Enjoy several visits to local homes as you hike through a fabulous mountainous area. Follow a large and rocky road to the top of a mountain and where the path gradually descends downhill to Nam Ket Village of the Red Dao and Tay peoplem where you will break for lunch. Continue along the same trail downhill for about two hours to Ta Thang Village where you can enjoy a wide view of the Red River Valley which runs through the Bao Yen District. You are picked up at Ta Thang for an hour drive back to Lao Cai. Here collect your bags and board the night train back to Hanoi. Overnight on the train to Hanoi.
Hiking Distance: 6 hours
Driving Distance: 1 hour
Day 6 Ha Long Bay
- 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Arrive in Hanoi this morning and drive to a small nearby hotel for a shower and breakfast before you depart to Ha Long Bay. This journey takes you through rich farmlands of the Red River Delta and beautiful rice field scenes of everyday Vietnamese life.
Arrive to the pier where you embark your vessel, a traditional Vietnamese junk boat. Settle into your cabin and enjoy a fresh seafood lunch while the boat sails away into the emerald water of the pay. Cruise to the magnificent Bai Tu Long Bay, admiring the fascinating Karst limestone formations. Stop at Cap La and Tra San for some kayaking or swimming near the ship. In the evening, the junk will cruise back through the bay to its overnight anchorage in Cong Do. The rest of the evening will be free at leisure.
Day 7 Ha Long Bay Exploration
- 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Enjoy the morning view of the Bay’s landscape at breakfast in the fresh air. Cruising to Cong Dam to discover the geological values of Bai Tu Long Bay by kayaking through the hidden lagoons and geological park in Cong Dam, or go swimming in the crystal clear waters. Return to the ship for lunch and relaxing. In the afternoon, arrive Hon Co Island for swimming and exploring the well-hidden Thien Canh Son cave then back to the ship for a relaxing dinner.
Day 8 Bat Trang Pottery Village | Fly to Hue
Enjoy breakfast on board and one last visit to Luon Cave by day boat before you cruise pack to the pier. Disembark the vessel and meet your driver where you drive the 3-4 hours back to Hanoi. Stop at Bat Trang pottery village en route. Here village life centers around ceramics. Visit a ceramic factory an the home of a well known artist and pass by vendor stalls of women selling betel nuts as you explore. Drive the rest of the way to Hanoi for an evening flight on to Hue. upon arrival here, meet your local guide and settle into your hotel for the night.
Day 9 Explore Hue | Cruise the Perfume River
This morning set out to explore the countryside around Hue by bike with your guide. Thuy Bieu is an ancient village long known as a symbol of transition and harmony. Beside the multiple well-preserved communal houses, the nostalgic beauty of the garden-houses, their aesthetic wooden architectures and Fengshui-based gardens, suggest a mingling of royal legacy and rustic lifestyle. Visit the royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc and Tiger Arena, known as Hue Royal Colosseum. Here the fights of Tigers and Elephants were held by kings. Visit some villages near the tomb where local people make traditional incense sticks and conical hats. Continue the tour with a cruise on the poetic Perfume River to visit the characteristic Thien Mu Pagoda and the Forbidden Purple City, constructed under the Emperor Gia Long's, in the early 19th century.
Day 10 Drive south to Hoi An
After breakfast head south to Hoi An, a major Asian trading port in the 17th and 18th centuries whose architecture and relaxed lifestyle have been well preserved over the years. The drive takes you through some spectacular scenary along the National Highway 1, such as the breathtaking Hai Van Pass. The pass, which once formed the boundary between the kingdoms of Dai Viet and Champa, also forms a boundary between the climates of northern and southern Vietnam. It is also the highest and longest pass in Vietnam, which provides some great photos of Lang Co beach.
Upon arrival to Hoi An take a half day city tour today to discover the charming and enchanting World Heritage city. Hoi An a charming old world trading port combined with beach and new resorts along a stretch of clean white sand. The town's tiny shops now house a range of craft shops and artisan workshops. Visit former merchants' houses, the 400 year old Japanese Covered Bridge, a communal hall, and the colorful market. Despite the passing of 200 years and the effects of the war, Hoi An remains much the same as it was in its heyday.
Spend the rest of the day continuing to explore this town on your own.
Day 11 Choose your own Hoi An Adventure
Today's options (to be selected in advance) are either a hiking at Bach Ma or snorkeling at Cham Island:
Bach Ma National Park: Head out of Hoi An about 28 miles (47km) to Bach Ma National Park, a hill-station founded by the French during the colonial period in the early 1930s. This mountainous area close to the coast has interesting jungle flora & fauna, but also spectacular views over the beautiful coastal beaches and lagoons. Bach Ma is not on the popular tourist route, so you are likely to enjoy this natural wonder away from the crowds. Upon arrival, visit Bach Ma's information Center to learn about the ecological system of the National Park. Trek along the trails through the forest to Do Quyen waterfall at a height of 980 feet (300m). Continue on to Ngu Ho (Five Lakes) to stop for lunch and swimming in the jungle. Return to your hotel in the late afternoon.
Cham Island Snorkeling: Located just off the coast from Hoi An Cham Island is surrounded by nice beaches and cool water. Visit the place where local boats hide during big storms. Walk around the rice field to discover the 100 year old temple. Later, the boat will take you to a beach where you can swim and snorkel to see the great coral sea forest. We eat a lunch at the beach and have time for to relax on the quiet beach. In the afternoon, the boat cruises back to Cua Dai for a transfer back to your hotel.
Day 12 Fly Ho Chi Minh | Return Home
Enjoy a free day before you transfer to the airport for a flight on to Ho Chi Minh City. Here connect with your international flight home or spend some time exploring this city.
An optional cycling trip in the Mekong Delta may be added here. Overnight with local families in Can Be and a hotel in Can Tho on your countryside ride south through the Mekong Delta.