Highlights of Vietnam Itinerary

14 Days 13 Nights

Itinerary Overview

Experience the highlights of Vietnam on a 13 – night journey from Hanoi, the cultural capital in the north, to Ho Chi Minh, the economic metropolis in the south. In between, marvel at the natural wonder of Lan Ha Bay, trace the Imperial Imprint of Nguyen Dynasty in Hue and visit the ancient town of Hoi An. Diverse landscape, culture, art and architecture, food and local lifestyle and more are to be learned, lived and loved in this country.

Day 1 Hanoi

Xin Chào. Welcome to Vietnam!

Meet your guide at the exit of the airport and transfer to your hotel.

In the late afternoon, take a leisurely walk through the Old Quarter of Hanoi with 36 old streets. With your expert guide’s explanations, sample some local delicacies or street food to learn about local cuisine. An enticing egg coffee called Cà Phê Trứng is not to be missed.

Hotel: Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi
Day 2 Hanoi

Breakfast is at the hotel.

Begin your day with a visit to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (outside only) and the former President’s Stilt House where Uncle Ho lived from 1958 to 1969. Visit One Pillar Pagoda that was built between the years of 1028 and 1054 during the reign of Emperor Ly Thai Tong of the Ly Dynasty. One Pillar Pagoda is one of Vietnam’s most iconic temples. Continue your vis-it to the Temple of Literature, a wonderful example of traditional Vietnamese architecture.

Enjoy a Vietnamese lunch at KOTO restaurant.

In the afternoon, explore scenic Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple. Hoan Kiem Lake or the Lake of the Restored Sword is located directly in the center of Hanoi. Enjoy a well enter-tained water puppet performance. This is a unique Vietnamese traditional art form that takes its origins from rural festivals in Vietnam.

Hotel: Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi Hotel
Day 3 Hanoi – Ha Long – Lan Ha Bay Cruise

Breakfast is at the hotel.

Drive to Ha Long (3 hours) to embark on a less traveled cruise on Lan Ha Bay and Cat Ba Is-land which is known as the largest island in this area.

Your luxurious floating home sets sail around noon. Upon boarding, enjoy a welcome drink while being acquainted with the facilities on board during the welcome briefing. While lunch is served, start you unique journey of exploring one of the wonders of nature, Lan Ha Bay. Relax on the sun deck and soak in the aura of the fascinating scenery that emanates from the surreal seascape. There will be enough time to enjoy onboard activities while on board.

In the afternoon, hop on bikes (electric buggy available) for a tour in Viet Hai Village on Cat Ba Island. Meet and greet local inhabitants doing their daily work, see their homes and the village school. Back on board, partake in an interactive cooking class in the open kitchen at the restaurant. Learn about local ingredients, preparations and cooking of particular dishes to imitate easily at home. Arrive at a tranquil anchor spot for the night. A hidden place to reminisce on the day’s adventures and enjoy cocktails under the stars. Dinner is served in the dining room.

At night, hang out at the bar for Happy Hour, visit the evening cinema or enjoy squid fishing.

Hotel: The Ginger (Boat)
Day 4 Lan Ha Bay – Flight to Da Nang – Hoi An

Wake up early to join a Tai Chi session on the sun deck with the first rays of the sun touch-ing the water. Coffee, tea and breakfast pastries await you in the dining room to start the new day. The cruise anchors at a secluded spot which is perfect for your morning excursion. While kayaking or swimming, enjoy a close encounter discovering the bay. Back on board a hearty breakfast is served in the dining room as the boat heads back to the pier arriving around 11am.

After disembarking, drive to Hanoi/ Noi Bai airport for your flight to Da Nang.

Upon arrival at Da Nang airport, meet your guide and drive to Hoi An, a picturesque river-side town and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hotel: Royal M Gallery Hoi An Hotel
Day 5 Hoi an

Breakfast is at the hotel.

Visit the local village market with a shopping list in hand and purchase a range of local in-gredients including star anise, cardamom, sesame rice paper, water spinach and banana flower. Take a leisurely boat ride along Thu Bon River watching life along the bank to reach the riverside cooking school. Take a walk around its herb garden to learn about the freshly sourced ingredients used in the cuisine.

Work together with a very engaging and instructive chef. Learn the traditional ways of pre-paring and cooking Vietnamese food from scratch. Using the freshest ingredients and tradi-tional Vietnamese utensils (still in use today), cook four famous dishes including the national dish, ‘Pho’. After the class, sit down and savor the prepared dishes.

Transfer back to Hoi An.

In the afternoon, enjoy a walking tour to discover this historic town which used to be a prosperous seaport during the 16th to 18th centuries. Visit Hoi An’s colorful local market, Tan Ky Old House, Fukien Assembly Hall and the 400-year-old Japanese Covered Bridge. Sit down and enjoy the beauty of silence in Reaching Out Tea House, a tranquil oasis in the cen-ter of bustling Hoi An. Delicious coffee, tea, fruit juices and biscuits are served in the char-ming atmosphere of an ancient, tastefully decorated house in the heart of the town. The grace and charm of the speech and hearing impaired staff will warm your heart as you savor the silence of this experience.

Visit Precious Heritage Art Gallery Museum, dedicated to showcasing the Vietnamese people, landscape and culture through photographs and artifacts of various hill tribes.

Hotel: Royal M Gallery Hoi An Hotel
Day 6 Hoi An – Danang – Hue

Breakfast is at the hotel.

If weather permits, drive to Hue via the scenic Hai Van Pass (Pass of the Ocean Cloud). Enjoy spectacular views of the sky and the sea. Visit the Cham Culture Museum in Da Nang. Enjoy a photo stop at Lang Co Beach.

Lunch is en route.

In the afternoon, visit Tu Duc Royal Tomb and the nearby ancient Tu Hieu Pagoda. Visit the Imperial City, where the last dynasty, Nguyen, ruled during the feudal time of the 19th cen-tury.

Check in at the hotel.

Hotel: Azerai La Residence Hotel
Day 7 Hue

Breakfast is at the hotel.

In the vicinity of Hue, explore Kilm Long Village on a leisurely bike ride to immerse youself into the greenery of the so-called “Garden City”. Slow down to unveil Hue’s unique land-scape-architecture, philosophy of gardening, the Mandarin and village temple and handicraft workshops on the way. Be welcomed to an ancient garden house of a three – generation fa-mily who will not only share with you their lifestyle, traditions but also warmly invite you to cook and enjoy an authentic home meal. Indulge yourself with a relaxing herbal footbath before returning to Hue. (Total cycling 7-15km, alternately go by cyclo.)

Hotel: Azerai La Residence Hotel
Day 8 Hue – Ho Chi Minh City

Breakfast is at the hotel.

Take a morning flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Transfer to the hotel for check-in.

Visit the Reunification Hall, one of the most historic landmarks in Ho Chi Minh City, built on the site of the former Norodom Palace. Designed as the Presidential Palace during the Viet-nam War, it was where the official handover of power took place during the Fall of Saigon in 1975. The building is preserved almost as it was under the old Saigon regime with elegant interiors decorated with fine Vietnamese arts and crafts. One of the many attractions within the building is the underground Command Post of the now exiled President. Make a brief photo stop at Notre Dame Cathedral in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City. It has a Neo-Romanesque façade and two bell towers tipped with iron spires that reach a height of 190 feet, dominating the skyline. Your next stop will be the classic 19th century French Colonial Post Office. This is the largest post office in Vietnam and is an important communication hub for most of the city’s inhabitants. Inside, the building has huge vaulted ceilings with vast maps of Vietnam on both sides of the main hall.

In the late afternoon, visit the Saigon Opera House built in 1898. It is not only a fantastic ve-nue to explore but also offers a unique cultural experience. The live Vietnamese cultural shows have sophisticated lighting and mesmerizing live music played from 20 traditional Vietnamese instruments. Daily life and work is highlighted in these productions and are in-corporated with some truly heart-stopping feats and wonderfully choreographed snapshots of rural and urban life.

Hotel: Hotel Des Arts Hotel
Day 9 Ho Chi Minh City – Cu Chi Tunnels – Ho Chi Minh City

After breakfast, drive 70 km southwest of Ho Chi Minh City passing through picturesque rice fields and garden and rubber plantations before visiting Cu Chi tunnels. Upon arrival in Cu Chi and after a short introduction to the tunnel network of more than 200km, you will have a chance to crawl into a short section of the tunnels to feel the oppressive narrowness and heat inside. Documentaries and displays of bloody traps will give you a vivid idea of the life and struggle in the tunnels.

Return to Ho Chi Minh City for lunch, followed by a visit to the Saigon War Remnant Mu-seum.

Hotel: Hotel Des Arts Hotel
Day 10 Depart Ho Chi Minh City

Breakfast is at the hotel.

A full day is at leisure until your airport transfer for your departure flight. However, if you have a late evening flight, you can take a full day excursion to Ben Tre in the Mekong Delta.

Drive to Ben Tre (65km, 1.5hours), a quaint town in Mekong Delta, (70km, 1.5hour), where life on the water has remained unchanged for centuries. The drive will take you through lush rice fields and fruit farms along side narrow village roads. Your very own private boat will be waiting for you at the waterfront and will be your mode of transport while on the Mekong.

First stop of the day is at a coconut farm where you will witness the step by step process of growing the sought after delicacy, finishing with a refreshing glass of fresh coconut juice. Next, visit a brick making shop, where the locals still use century – old traditional methods to make the bricks by hand. Push bikes will be available for a 4km bike ride through Phong Nam village finishing with the opportunity to stop at a rice noodle factory known for making a de-licious Hu Tieu which is a specialty dish of the region. Mrs Huong will be expecting you for honey tea in her garden before taking you on a tour of the rowing sampan showing you how her family makes a living off fishing and shrimp farming.

Lunch is at a riverside lodge.

After lunch, meet Mr Sau Tuong, a former Viet Cong soldier, who survived two years fighting the Khmer Rouge in Phnom Penh. Now he and his family are known for making the best rice paper in the My Long Village. After the visit, the boat will be waiting for you at the pier nearby to bring you back to Ben Tre where your car will be ready to take you back to Ho Chi Minh City for your transfer to the international airport or for another night in Hanoi if you are extending your trip to include Sapa.

Day 11 Hanoi – Sapa (About a 6 hour drive)

After breakfast, leave the hustle and bustle of Hanoi for Sapa by private transfer via the ex-press road. Your knowledgeable guide will provide insightful information about these beau-tiful highlands with rice terraces. The Fansipan Peak is nicknamed the Roof of Indochina with many authentic hill tribe people living here.

Lunch is en route.

Arrive Sapa. Check into the best hotel in town where you will have a pampered stay for 2 nights. Time at leisure or chill out at the rooftop bar overlooking the Muong Hoa Valley.

Hotel: MGallery Hotel de la Coupole
Day 12 Sapa

Breakfast is at the hotel.

Option 1: Half Day Easy Trekking Ma Tra –Ta Phin Village (5-7km, easy level)

Drive to Ma Tra village inhabited by the H’Mong people. Continue through rice terraces and stunning scenery before visiting a local school. Enjoy lunch then visit Ta Phin Village. Explore the culture of the Red Dzao and the H’Mong, the two important ethnic groups that maintain their identity and traditions. Take an easy walk around the village, learn about their lifestyle, handicrafts and the art of batik. Stop at a local home for tea and conversation. Transfer back to Sapa.

Option 2: Half Day Trekking Lao Chai – Ta Van Village (5km, easy level)

A short drive south of Sapa town, start on a descending walk through the beautiful Muong Hoa Valley along amazing terraced rice fields. With the help of your guide, learn the secrets of rice farming and you may join with locals in the field depending upon the season. The ethnic H’Mong people live in Lao Chai Village and the ethnic Giay peole live in Ta Van Village. Stop by a local school, see hamp weaving and take time to learn batik art painting. Create one for yourself as a souvenir. Transfer back to Sapa.

Note: Longer and harder treks are available.

Hotel: MGallery Hotel de la Coupole Hotel
Day 13 Sapa - Departure by Train

Breakfast is at the hotel.

Spend your morning at leisure on your own or enjoy a guided walk (guide at disposal) to ex-plore Sapa and surrounding villages.

After lunch take the Valley Train and Cable Car Ride across the cloud to “The Roof of Indo-china”. Spend the afternoon conquering Fansipan Mounts, which used to be a 3 – day hard trek. Now it can be reached with a scenic train ride and spectacular cable car ride across the cloud. Embark on a Muong Hoa mountain train connecting Sapa with the Fansipan cable car station. With a total length of approximately 2 km, this is the longest mountain railway in Vietnam. The train goes through several mysterious tunnels, crosses the viaduct and offers passengers a view of the majestic natural beauty of Muong Hoa Valley and peaceful villages. This is followed by a 15-minute cable car ride to Fansipan Mount at 3,143 meter above sea level. The journey has magnificent views of Hoang Lien Son primitive forest and mountains ranges. Once at Fansipan Peak, spend your time breathing in the fresh air and stunning vis-tas. You will feel the sense of being on the roof of Indochina. After getting down by cable car, your driver will be waiting to transfer you back to Sapa by passing the Silver Waterfall on the way to Lao Cai train station.

Note: Visitors with a history of cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases are highly recom-mended not to go to Fansipan because the elevation is above 3,000 meters.

Board a deluxe colonial charmimg Victoria train for an overnight ride back to Hanoi.

Day 14 Hanoi - Departure

Arrive in Hanoi early morning by train.

Transfer to Hoan Kiem Lake where you will mingle with locals to practice Tai-Chi.

Enjoy a healthy breakfast at a local restaurant.

Day at leisure until time to transfer to the airport. A day room can be booked.