Days 1-2 DEPARTURE/EN ROUTE
Departure from West Coast North America for Hanoi; upon arrival you'll be met and taken to your hotel.
Day 3 HANOI
The modern-day capital of Vietnam, Hanoi retains the charm of past eras with its many narrow lanes, traditional shophouses, beautiful public spaces, lakes, parks, and tree-lined boulevards. Enjoy a tour of the city starting with a visit to the Temple of Literature. Founded in 1070 and built in the style of a Confucian Temple, it is the site Vietnam's first university.
Continue to One Pillar Pagoda, also dating from the 11th century, then on to vast Ho Chi Minh Memorial Complex, commemorating the 20th century Vietnamese leader. Your tour will take you past colonial landmarks, including the Opera House and St. Joseph's Cathedral, Hoan Kiem Lake in the heart of the city, and the Old Quarter, which you'll tour by cyclo or pedicab. This fascinating network of narrow alleys and shophouses is also known as 'The 36 Streets,' each street being named after the merchandise traditionally sold there.
In the afternoon, visit one of Hanoi's famous museums, either the History Museum or the Museum of Ethnology, and attend a Water Puppet Show, a singularly Vietnamese art form best seen in Hanoi. At 9 pm board the overnight deluxe train to Lao Cai Province, 250 km northwest of Hanoi near the border with China. The soft sleeper coach has just two beds per compartment; accommodations are rated four-star
Victoria Express Train B L D
Day 4 SAPA
Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa B
Upon arrival at around 5:30 a.m., you'll be met and taken to Sapa, 35 km from the train station. You will have time to freshen up at the hotel before starting the day's activities, whine include an excursion to the Black Hmong village of Cat Cat, past beautiful mountain scenery, and then on to the enchanting handicraft village of Ta Phin, inhabited by the Red Dzao, known for their distinctive red head scarves.
Day 5 SAPA
Enjoy a walking tour of Sapa, a former colonial mountain retreat. Stroll through parks and squares, enjoying the beautiful mountain scenery. On a clear day it is possible to see the summit of Mount Fansipan, which at 3,143 metres, is the highest mountain in Indochina.
Travel on mountain roads to the Black Hmong village of Lao Chai, where the local ethnic minority population still wear the distinctive traditional clothing, made from deep blue indigo. Continue walking along relatively flat footpaths past beautiful terraced rice fields to Tavan, home to the Zay ethnic group. Visit Ham Rong Mountain and San May (Cloud Yard). In the evening transfer to Lao Cai for the overnight train back to Hanoi.
Victoria Express Train B
Day 6 HALONG BAY
Today you'll go by coach to Halong Bay passing Haiphong, the major port serving northern Vietnam. The ride takes about one-and-a-half hours. Arriving in Halong Bay around noon, you'll board a traditional wooden junk-style boat for a cruise in the islet-studded bay whose natural wonders have earned raves from travelers and World Heritage Site status from UNESCO. The cruise takes you by floating villages, fishermen casting their nets, and pearl fisheries. A seafood lunch is served on board. The cruise ends in the late afternoon; return to Hanoi for the night.
Melia Hotel B L D
Day 7 HANOI/HUE
Have a leisurely morning prior to flying to Hue, 700 km south in central Vietnam. The historic capital of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945) is another of Vietnam's World Heritage Sites. Enjoy a cruise on the prosaically named Perfume River, stopping at Thien Mu Pagoda, a venerable shrine, and the elaborate mausoleums of emperors Tu Duc and Khai Dinh of Nguyen era.
Saigon Morin Hotel B L D
Day 8 PHONG NHA-KE BANG/DONG HOI
Today relish in a day trip to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, one of Vietnam's newest World Heritage Sites. The karst formations here are the most extensive in Asia The area extends to Laos, containing spectacular formations: caves and rivers including the longest underground river in the world (17 km). The tour includes a boat ride on the Son River, the world's longest underground river. You'll visit several caves renowmed for their magnificent stalacite formations, as well as natural spring. O)bernight in Dong Hoi.
Saigon Quang Binh Hotel B L D
Day 9 DONG HOI/DANANG/HOI'AN
After a hearty breakfast, you'll travel back to Hue and then south across Hai Van Pass (Pass of the Ocean Clouds) passing colorful villages and enjoying spectacular views of the sky and sea. Lunch in Danang followed by a visit to Cham Museum to see art and artifacts from the Champa Kingdom that ruled this part of Vietnam for more than a millennium, from the 7th century to 1832. The ride to Hoi'an takes you by Marble Mountain and China Beach. Dinner will be on your own tonight.
Palm Garden Resort & Spa B L
Day 10 HOI'AN
The exquisitely preserved merchant town of Hoi'an was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. Its colorful shophouses and temples reflect a diverse heritage, dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, when it was a major port for Western, Chinese and Japanese traders. Today it is a thriving center of traditional crafts and a shoppers’ paradise, best explored on foot.
The streets are cobbled; the low-roofed buildings are tiled, the central market is a hive of activity, and the small harbor is filled with colorfully painted boats. The walking tour will include a visit to a private house, a typical Chinese style pagoda, and a 400-year-old covered bridge built by the Japanese community of Hoi'an to connect the town with the Chinese quarters across the river. In the afternoon enjoy a cruise on the Thu Bon River, with stops at a pottery village and woodcarving village.
Palm Garden Resort & Spa B L
Day 11 MY SON/HO CHI MINH CITY
In the morning depart for My Son Sanctuary, 50 km southwest of Hoi'an, and the fifth World Heritage Site visited on this tour. My Son was capital of the Cham nation (7th to 13th centuries). The ruins here are in the same league as Angkor Wat and Ayutthaya. Return to Hoi'an around noon. After lunch travel back to Danang for a flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).
Equatorial Hotel B L
Day 12 HO CHI MINH CITY(SAIGON)
Situated 1,760 km south of Hanoi, Saigon is Vietnam's largest and most dynamic city. It was capital of both French Cochin China and South Vietnam until 1975 when north and south Vietnam unified. In 1976, Saigon merged with the surrounding province of Gia Định and was officially renamed Hồ Chí Minh City. It is situated on the banks of the Saigon River, some 60 km from the South China Sea. Your tour begins with a stop at the Reunification Palace, once the home of the South Vietnamese president. The palace has been preserved from the time it was stormed by tanks on April 30, 1975 signifying the fall of South Vietnam. You'll then go to the War Remnants Museum detailing the long Vietnam-American War.
A tour of the city centre follows where you'll visit the Emperor of Jade Pagoda and drive by Notre Dame Cathedral, Central Post Office, City Hall and the old Opera House, each in own way a wonderful example of French provincial architecture. The tour winds up at the central Ben Thanh Market, where you can put your bargaining skills to test. In the afternoon, visit Cu Chi Tunnels, an incredible underground labyrinth created by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War and which had command posts, hospitals, shelters and weapons factories, all ingeniously concealed.
Equatorial Hotel B L D
Day 13 HO CHI MINH CITY
In the morning you'll go by coach to My Tho, a bustling town in the rich agricultural region of the Mekong Delta. The town features a beautiful temple and pagoda as well as a sanctuary for orphans and other needy children. A local boat will take you into the delta, stopping at a farm on Thoi Son Islet to taste delicious fruit and sip tea while being entertained by local musicians. You can also take a ride in a sampan through the tiny waterways that thread the islet. Return to Saigon for the night.
Equatorial Hotel B L
Day 14 HO CHI MINH CITY/HOME
Breakfast at the hotel. You will be free to explore sites on your own, shop or relax until your flight departs. Transfer to airport for your flight home OR add another segment (see Vietnam & Cambodia Tour).