Day 1 Arrive Hanoi
Arrive to Hanoi where you are greeted at the airport and drive to your hotel to settle in for the evening.
Day 2 Explore Hanoi
Spend today exploring the some of the main attractions of Hanoi, a 1,000 year old city. Start with a visit to the Temple of Literature, Vietnam's first university. Built in 1076, this temple was used to educate Vietnam's royalty, mandarins and other members of the elite class. The university operated for 700 years and now its gardens and well preserved architecture offer a fascinating glimpse into Vietnam's past. Next visit One Pillar Pagoda, founded in 1049. This iconic temple is located by the mausoleum of the historic figure and father of modern Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh.
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. End the city tour with a visit to Hanoi's old quarter, also known as the '36 streets'. This bustling area of narrow streets is home to thousands of small businesses and shops.
Finish the day with a traditional Vietnamese water puppet show. A uniquely northern Vietnamese art form depicting scenes from rural life and episodes of national history. Performed in a waste deep pool, the puppets are supported by a rod coming out of the water giving the appearance that they are walking on the water. After the show, return to your hotel for the evening.
Day 3 Monuments of Hoa Lu | Cruise Trang An
After breakfast, drive to Hoa Lu, a scenic area in Ninh Binh, the former capital of Vietnam in the 10th and 11th centuries. Explore some of the monuments dedicated to both emperors of the Dinh and Le Dynasties. Continue on to Tam Coc for a bike ride through paddies fields. Along the way visit Bich Dong pagoda on before heading back to the restaurant on Hoa Lu for lunch.
After lunch, continue the drive to Trang An, for a cruise up the rivers through karst hills and rice fields. Trang An is also known as the "Inland Ha Long Bay", as its beauty, to some, surpasses its coastal rival. We will arrive to Hanoi in the afternoon. The rest of the evening will be free at leisure.
*Other options a bit more off the beaten path to Tam Coc include a river float through Trang An through a series of caves or Thung Nang which passes through a cave, lotus fields and visits a small quaint pagoda. Please ask us for more options!
Day 4 Cruise Ha Long Bay
- 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Set out for your journey to Ha Long Bay this morning. After a 3.5 hour drive to the bay, board your vessel mid-day at Hon Gai Harbor and set sail to discover some of the magnificent Bai Tu Long Bay. Explore fascinating caves, pristine beaches, floating villages, and jagged limestone rock formations jutting out of the emerald water.
Spend the afternoon enjoying the services on board your vessel and taking part in various activities in the bay. Enjoy dinner on board and an evening socializing with other guests.
Day 5 Thanh Chuong Palace | On to Hoi An
Enjoy a leisurely morning cruise through the bay this morning as you make your way back to the pier. Disembark after brunch and set out towards Hanoi. En route, you stop to visit Thanh Chuong Viet Palace, the former residence of and studio of Thanh Chuong, one of the most celebrated painters in contemporary Vietnamese art. In 2002 the palace became famous as a unique preservation resort and spiritual legacy of Vietnamese art and culture that attracts many local and foreign visitors. This palace house became part of his own personal art collection and displays statues, paintings and various historical artifacts from the Dinh, Ly, and Tran dynasties. Here you get an interesting look at the culture and architecture of Vietnam.
After the visit transfer to the airport for your short flight south to Da Nang. Drive on to Hoi An and settle in to your new hotel for the evening
Day 6 My Son Sanctuary | Walking tour of Hoi An
This morning enjoy a visit to the nearby ruins of My Son, the religious center of the former Champa Kingdom. Located just south of Hoi An in a lush green valley, the dozens of red brick towers and remaining sanctuaries here date back to between the 7th and 13th centuries. On the way back to Hoi An, stop to visit Tra Kieu, known also as the Lion Citadel. This was once the capital of the Champa Kindgom from the 4th to 8th centuries. Some of the finest sculptures in Da Nang's Cham Museum were originally found here.
Return to Hoi An and set out on an afternoon walking tour of the city. Hoi An, a major trading port in the 17th and 18th century, has well preserved its charming architecture and relaxed atmosphere. Visit the 400 yr old Japanese Covered Bridge, a Chinese communal hall, and the colorful market. Hoi An retains much of its old world charm and combines it with modern resorts stretched out along its white sand beach coastline. The town's tiny shops now host an array of craft stores and artisan workshops. Despite the passing of 200 years and the ravages of war, the center of Hoi An remains much the same as it was in its heyday.
Day 7 Drive to Hue
After breakfast, meet your guide and driver to drive to the city of Hue. Along the way visit the Museum of Cham Sculpture, opened in 1915, and explore the villages around the Marble Mountains. Many skillful artisans work with marble / granite to create excellent stone products. The drive continues along National Highway 1, through the breathtaking Hai Van Pass. As the highest and longest pass in Vietnam it forms a boundary between the climates of northern and southern Vietnam. A photostop is a must along this stretch of the road!
Day 8 Explore Hue | Cruise the Perfume River
This morning set out to explore the countryside around Hue 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 9 Fly Ho Chi Minh City
Enjoy the morning at leisure until you transfer to the airport for your flight south to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. Settle into your hotel here and enjoy the rest of the evening free.
Day 10 Explore Ho Chi Minh City
Today explore the country's most dynamic city, Ho Chi Minh City. Still called Saigon amongst older generations, this city was renamed as Ho Chi Minh after North Vietnam's President in 1975. A day spent here reveals a bustling lifestyle with an interesting mix of modernity and traditional Vietnamese traits. Modern skyscrapers appear amidst Chinese style pagodas and food vendor stalls and create a truly dynamic urban area.
Start the morning by heading to Chinatown for a visit to the indoor Binh Tay Market where locals go to find good bargains. Visit Thien Hau, a 150 year old Chinese Temple, followed by the first Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine with nearly 3,000 items relevant to traditional Vietnamese medicine dating back to the Stone Age. Continue on the tour of Vietnamese history to the War Remnants Museum, one of Vietnam’s most popular museums which primarily exhibit the American phase of the Vietnam War.
Following this sobering experience stop at a local restaurant of your choice for lunch. This afternoon, visit the Reunification Palace, a landmark built atop the former site of the Norodom Palace. See the Notre Dame Cathedral, a french style construction from 1880, as well as the historic building housing the Central Post Office. Make a stop in to see XQ embroidery workshop where fine hand-made silk embroidery are made and sold. Finish up the day with a visit to Ben Thanh Market where visitors can find a variety of local handicrafts, souvenirs and taste local cuisine.
Day 11 Cruise the Mekong Delta
This morning leave the bustling Ho Chi Minh for a two hour drive towards the delta of the Mekong River and the town of Cai Be. Upon your arrival board a boat for a cruise in the waterways of the delta. Pass by the Cai Be floating market, a more quiet market and place for trading fruits and vegetables. Continue on to a cottage factory where pop-rice, rice paper and coconut candies are made. Continue to cruise along to Dong Hoa Hiep Island, admiring the scenery of daily life in the local villages along the way. Lunch is served Mekong style in a local restaurant. After lunch continue on to Vinh Long, passing through the beautiful landscapes along Dong Phu canal and the islands of Binh Hoa Phuoc and An Binh, famous for fruit orchards.
Return to Ho Chi Minh City in the afternoon and set out for a free evening to explore on your own and enjoy your last night in Vietnam.
Day 12 Return Home
Transfer to the airport today in time for your international flight home or to connect on to your next destination.