Nature Immersion Vietnam Itinerary

13 Days 12 Nights

Itinerary Overview

This 12 – night itinerary takes in Vietnam’s best landscapes and natural sites. From Hanoi, drive up to Mai Chau Valley, home of the Thai ethnic people and view the limestone mountains in Hoa Lu, Tam Coc Ha Long Bay. Continue south to Phong Nha, home of King Kong, for some caving experiences. Hue and Hoi An are not only about culture, but also immersive experiences. Before leaving for Da Nang, explore Son Tra Penisnula Nature Reserve to see the red – shanked douc langurs, an endangered species.

Day 1 Hanoi

Xin Chào. Welcome to Vietnam !

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

Hotel: Pan Pacific Hotel
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 visit 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 entertained water puppet performance. This is a unique Vietnamese traditional art form that takes its origins from rural festivals in Vietnam.

Hotel: Pan Pacific Hotel
Day 3 Hanoi – Mai Chau

After breakfast, drive to Mai Chau (3.5 hours), a rural area, inhabited mostly by the Thai ethnic minority. This is a scenic road and there will be plenty of photo opportunities along the way.

Arrive in Mai Chau by noon. Nowadays, people from this hill tribe don’t wear traditional outfits in their daily activities but they are well-known for their weaving skills.

Lunch is at a local house.

After lunch, take a walk to explore the surrounding villages at Lac and Poom Coong. If you want, you can rent a bicycle and ride to discover areas further away.

Join a cultural performance of song and dance reflecting local culture.

Hotel: Mai Chau Ecolodge
Day 4 Mai Chau

Enjoy breakfast at the ecolodge.

Transfer to Pu Luong Nature Reserve. Take a leisurely trek thorugh a Thai ethnic village and rice fields to Buoc Village. Appreciate the peaceful nature and the local hospitality.

Afternoon is at leisure.

Hotel: Mai Chau Ecolodge
Day 5 Mai Chau – Ninh Binh

After breakfast, transfer to Ninh Binh (approx. 4 hours). Visit Hoa Lu, the ancient capital, and temples of King Dinh and King Le. Continue to Tam Coc or Van Long to take a scenic rowing boat ride amidst the limestone landscape.

Lunch is at a local restaurant.

Afternoon is at leisure or enjoy self-guided cycling in Van Long Village to absorb the rural and natural atmosphere.

Hotel: Emeralda Resort
Day 6 Ninh Binh – Ha Long

Breakfast is at the hotel.

Proceed to Ha Long with a stop in Nam Dinh to visit the Tran Temples.

Upon arrival in Halong Bay, board your boat for an unforgettable cruise. Welcome lunch on board. Afterwards, visit some islands and caves. There is a possibility of swimming and kayaking. Late afternoon, admire the sunset over the bay or participate in a cooking demonstration or have fun on the bar deck with happy hour. Enjoy dinner and overnight on board in Ha Long Bay.

Hotel: Paradise Elegance
Day 7 Ha Long – Hanoi – Overnight Train to Quang Binh

Breakfast is on board.

Return back to the pier before noon. Disembark and transfer to Hanoi for lunch.

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. The name is derived from a legend involving Emperor Le Thai To, in which he came across a giant tortoise while cruising on the lake. The tortoise took his sword that had secured victory against the Chinese aggressors of the Minh Dynasty. The Emperor named the lake after this episode. No one knows if the tortoises of Hoan Kiem Lake are real or fiction.

Enjoy a water puppet performance, a unique Vietnamese traditional art form, that takes its origins from rural festivals in Vietnam.

Transfer to Hanoi train station for an overnight train to Quang Binh (Dong Hoi City, near Phong Nhat). Dinner box.

Hotel: Overnight on the train
Day 8 Arrive Dong Hoi (Quang Binh) – Phong Nha

Arrive at Dong Hoi train station in the morning. Welcome and transfer to a restaurant for refreshments and breakfast.

Note: A flight is also available between Hanoi and Dong Hoi City.

Drive to Phong Nha, 30km from the city. Take a boat trip on Son River to explore Phong Nha Cave, designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Phong Nha Cave is the longest wet cave or river cave in the world. Once passing the cave entrance, the engine is turned off and you can enjoy peaceful moments while the boat is rowed deeper into the world’s longest underground river. Approximately one km inside the cave, you will be dropped off and will walk back on sandy beaches along breath-taking stalagmite and stalactite formations.

Dinner and overnight in Phong Nha/Chay Lap Village.

Hotel: Chay Lap Farmstay
Day 9 Phong Nha - DMZ - Hue

Wake up in the middle of nature. Enjoy early morning kayaking or cycling in the countryside.

After breakfast, proceed to Hue, the Imperial city of the last feudal dynasty, Nguyen (1802-1945). The Nguyen greatly contributed to territory expansion of Vietnam as it is today. However, the country went through decades of a war – torn history. The “March to the South” was still active during the revolution against the French and Americans via the “Ho Chi Minh Trails” that was driven on the day before. Stop at the DMZ, admiring the Vietnamese resilience at Vinh Moc underground tunnel-village, the nostalgic Hien Luong Bridge and the 17th parallel separating North and South Vietnam for 20 years.

Lunch is en route.

Arrive in Hue. Visit Dong Ba, a lively market, for some fun shopping.

Hotel: Azerai La Residence Hotel
Day 10 Hue

Breakfast is at the hotel.

Take a boat cruise along the romantic Perfume River to visit Thien Mu Pagoda, one of the most ancient architectural structures for religious worship in Hue. Continue on to visit the Imperial City from where the Nguyen Dynasty ruled between 1802 and 1945.

Lunch is at a local restaurant.

In the afternoon, visit the elaborate tomb of Emperor Tu Duc and stop en route to see the production of incense sticks and conical hats in artisan villages.

At sunset, take a scenic drive to an ancient village in the surrounding area of Hue. Walk in the countryside to see the local lifestyle, take photos when the sun is setting over green fields and flower gardens. Visit some local handicrafts or a hidden temple if interested. Be welcomed into an authentic ancient house where you will not only learn how people live but also help the host prepare dinner with typical local specialty food. Enjoy dinner in a rustic yet relaxing, family atmosphere. An herbal footbath from the garden plants will be a special treat of the day.

Hotel: Azerai La Residence Hotel
Day 11 Hue – Da Nang – Hoi An

Breakfast is at the hotel.

Drive to Danang via scenic Hai Van Pass (Pass of the Ocean Clouds), enjoying spectacular views of the sky and the sea. Visit Cham museum before proceeding to Hoi An.

Take a walking tour to discover the historic town that used to be a prosperous seaport city during the 16th to 18th centuries. Visit Hoi An Market, Tan Ky Old House, Fukien Assembly Hall and the Japanese Covered Bridge.

Hotel: Royal M Gallery Hoi An Hotel
Day 12 Hoi An – Son Tra – Hoi An

Visit Hoi An’s colorful market and experience the amazing sights, sounds and aromas of this busy trading enclave. You can interact with the local sellers and purchase some of the ingredients to be used in the cooking lesson. Enjoy a boat ride for 25 minutes along the Hoi An River to a riverside cooking school. This short journey is a good chance to see local life. Upon arrival, discover the cooking school’s herb and vegetable garden before learning about some of Hoi An’s and Vietnam’s best-known dishes. The cooking lesson lasts about two hours and each dish is demonstrated by the chef before you prepare the same dish yourself. Included in the class is a brief introduction to Vietnamese food carving (plate decoration). After the lesson, you can enjoy what you have cooked.

In the afternoon, drive to Son Tra Mountain (30-40km from Hoi An). Meet wityh an expert dedicated to studying the biodiversity and preserving the endangered red-shanked douc langurs, nicknamed “Treasures of Son Tra”.

Hotel: Royal M Gallery Hoi An Hotel
Day 13 Hoi an – Da Nang - Departure

Time at leisure until transfer to the airport for your departure flight.