From £1,911 pp incl. UK flights
The perfect trip for those looking for a varied holiday, squeezing in a fantastic mixture of history, culture, nature and beach as you travel overland through the North & Central coast of Vietnam. Keep flights to the minimum - perfect for Spring (Mar-May).
Start in Hanoi, the atmospheric and authentic Capital, before heading out for an overnight cruise amongst the majestic islands of Halong Bay. Back on dry land head with your private guide to Ninh Binh, a rural region full of dramatic limestone & jungle landscapes. The holiday ends with an overnight train journey in a private soft sleeper cabin to Hue, the last Royal Capital and the beaches of Hoi An. Pedestrianised and lantern lit at night with galleries, shops, restaurants and cafes, it’s a firm favourite for those looking for somewhere that’s more than a purely a beach.
Day 1: Depart on your choice of overnight flights to Hanoi
Day 2: Arrive Hanoi for 2 nights. Private transfer to your hotel. Rest of the day to settle in
Day 3: Hidden Hanoi Walking tour with Vietnamese lunch. Evening Street Eats & Markets tour
Day 4: Drive to Halong Bay - 1 night cruise exploring UNESCO World Heritage site
Day 5: Cruise through bay then drive to Ninh Binh (2 nights), a land of dramatic limestone landscapes
Day 6: Private walking day tour to Cuc Phuong National Park, a true jungle experience
Day 7: Bike & boat ride through beautiful Van Long Wetlands. Overnight sleeper train to Hue
Day 8: Full day Citadel, Thien Mu Pagoda and Perfume River tour. 1 night Hue
Day 9: Car transfer down dramatic coast road over Hai Van Pass to Hoi An for 5 nights on beach
Days 10-13: Free days to enjoy the beach, explore UNESCO Old Town and surrounding countryside
Day 14: Overnight flight home
Day 15: Arrive home
Day 1: UK Airport / Hanoi
Depart on a choice of overnight flights to Hanoi.
Day 2: Arrive Hanoi
On arrival you’ll be met by your private guide and transferred to the city centre where you check in to your choice of hotel for 2 nights.
Hanoi offers the chance to enjoy authentic old school Far East. The hotel is in the centre and we’d recommend that you take a walk through the Old Quarter. Don’t be put off by the thousands of motor scooters, just dive in.
Day 3: Hanoi - Hidden City Tour & Evening Street Eats & Market Tour (B / L / D)
This morning join the small group (max 8 people) Hidden Hanoi City Tour. Start the morning with a walk to the Northern Gate of the ancient citadel, a gargantuan fortress in the heart of the city. Learn a bit about the history of the imposing structure and visit Cua Bac Church, a beautiful example of French and Catholic influence in the city. Stroll along leafy Phan Dinh Phung Road in the shade of the ancient dracontomelon trees that line one of Hanoi’s most romantic boulevards. Admire the magnificent French-colonial villas along the way before heading to Quan Thanh Temple. The 11th-century Taoist temple is one of the oldest and most culturally significant in the city.
From here West Lake is a short stroll away and make your way along its shore to Chau Long Market for a closer look at Hanoian culture in the flurry of a local market. After exploring the street stalls, follow a quiet alley and take a short break at a local restaurant, sampling Pho Cuon, a delicious snack similar to fresh spring rolls. Continue to Hang Than Street, the epicentre of Hanoi’s thriving wedding cake stores. Learn a bit about Vietnam’s wedding culture and then continue to the historic Long Bien Railway Station, located on the bridgehead of the impressive Long Bien Bridge.
Wrap up the tour with a cyclo ride. Equal part transportation and travel experience, these traditional bicycle rickshaws move at a leisurely pace that’s perfect for photos and slow-moving sightseeing. Sit back and relax whilst weaving through some of the Old Quarter’s busiest streets and end the tour with lunch at a local restaurant. The rest of the afternoon is free.
This evening your private guide will collect you for an introduction to Hanoi life on a tour that explores the flavours of northern street food amongst the alleys of the Old Quarter. Your guide will take you through a local night market, watching the bustle and array of goods on display, before setting off into the maze of alleys. Here stop at a famous pho stall to try this world renowned beef noodle soup, before grabbing a stool at a ‘bia hoi corner’ where you can try the local brew while watching the busy streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Bia Hoi is a draft beer that is brewed daily and usually drunk by locals sat on small plastic stools. Continue through the bustling old quarter and listen as your guide tells you about the various foods on offer. Stop and try some local delicacies such as savoury steamed rice rolls with wood ear mushroom and pork before you head for a Vietnamese style barbeque dinner. Here your guide will select an array meats, tofu and vegetables on skewers while you sit down as they flame grill the food for you. Dessert will be fresh tropical fruits over shaved ice, drizzled with condensed milk as a perfect way for Hanoians to finish off a street food evening. Finishes approx. 9pm.
Day 4: Hanoi - Halong Bay Overnight Cruise (B / L / D)
This morning you'll be transferred 2.5 hours to Halong Bay.On arrival meet the crew and board your choice of traditional wooden junk then relax and enjoy lunch while the boat heads toward the secluded islands. Visit ancient limestone caves and go sea kayaking and swimming (weather permitting). Return to the junk to relax on deck with a drink watching the sunset and enjoy dinner looking out over the bay.
Day 5: Halong Bay (B / L) - Ninh Binh
Enjoy breakfast as you continue to cruise through Halong Bay and visit the floating fishing village of Vong Vieng to learn about daily life living on the water. From here cruise back to the dock over a light lunch and meet your private guide who will drive you on to Ninh Binh (3.5 hours) a land of dramatic scenery and beautiful countryside. On arrival check-in to your choice of hotel for 2 nights. Time for a swim before dinner.
Day 6: Ninh Binh - Cuc Phuong National Park - Jungle Walk (B / L)
This morning your guide will collect you for a day tour to Cuc Phuong National Park, the first in the country and a true jungle set in beautiful limestone hill country. The exact day can be adapted to suit your energy levels and interest, but your guide will plan to take you on the loop trail that takes you on a 3 hour moderate walk through the centre of the park and is a rare chance to experience an authentic jungle environment that has all but disappeared in Vietnam.
Over a picnic lunch enjoy the sounds of the forest as you dine between 1000-year old giant trees. You may be lucky enough to hear or spot the gibbons that live here, but you’re more likely to see butterflies and birds. On the way out of the park take a short walk to caves once inhabited by prehistoric humans.
Day 7: Ninh Binh (B / L) - Van Long Wetlands & Overnight Train to Hue
This morning drive with your guide to Gia Van District where you swap the car for a bike and embark on a short cycling journey through paddy fields en route to the nearby Van Long Wetlands. Along the way stop at Mai Trung hamlet for an in-depth experience learning how locals farm and tend to their rice. Follow the lead of your local host for seeding, putting down fertilizer, scooping water or harvesting, depending on the time of year. If you’d rather not cycle this can be removed.
From here cycle to a local family home, and get an up-close demonstration of traditional cooking using rice crackers or fried crab dishes. Then sit down with your local family hosts and enjoy these local specialties along with another Vietnamese favourite - rice wine.
This afternoon take a boat tour through the Van Long Wetlands that forms part of a series of dramatic interlinked waterways, surrounded by impressive limestone scenery and nicknamed 'Halong Bay on the Rice Paddies' . Mornings or late afternoons are the best time to paddle through the wetlands, passing by towering limestone peaks, through grottoes and past rice paddies. If you’re lucky you’ll hear and perhaps see the threatened Delacour’s Langur (ape), but you will see plenty of birds as you’re gently rowed through this beautiful scenery.
Back at the hotel by 4.30pm and late check-out is included so you can shower and change. Leave your luggage with the concierge whilst enjoying dinner (payable by you). Your guide will collect you at approximately 8.30pm and transfer you to Ninh Binh station for the overnight train to Hue. They will settle you into your private soft sleeper berth before leaving. The berth is a private cabin with bedding, large window and lockable door.
Day 7: Hue - Private Citadel, Thien Mu Pagoda & Perfume River Tour (B / L)
Arrive in Hue early this morning. Your private guide will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel for 1 night. Early check-in with breakfast is included so you can eat and change before rejoining your guide for a tour of the Imperial Citadel, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Straddling the Perfume River, this was the Nguyen capital, the last dynasty in Vietnam. It dominates Hue and its moated walls protect the forbidden Purple City, the former home of the royal family that’s modelled on the Forbidden City in Beijing.
Take your time wandering through the fascinating tombs, temples and museums and past pagodas, lakes and pavilions. As you walk around you’ll also see the scars still visible from the Citadel’s prominent role during the Tet Offensive. You may also have time to visit the Minh Mang tomb, perhaps the most majestic of all Hue’s elaborate Nguyen mausoleums that are scattered around the countryside.
Lunch will be at a local restaurant, then short cruise down Perfume River to Hue’s best-known religious site, the Thien Mu Pagoda. Built on a hill between the river and pine forest the distinctive seven-tiered octagonal tower is the focal point of the complex and is one of the oldest and most attractive in the country. Continue through the working monastic complex to a beautifully kept garden and cemetery at the base of the Truong Son Mountains. Back at the hotel late afternoon. This evening perhaps take a walk through the small night market that runs through the town.
Day 9: Arrive Hoi An - Beach Days
This morning enjoy a few hours travelling through central Vietnam's countryside, winding your way down the dramtic coast passing through Hue to Hoi An. On arrival you will be met by your guide and transferred to your choice of hotel for 5 nights (or more) on the beach.
Days 10-14: Hoi An (B) - Free days - Beach, Old Town & Countryside
Hoi An is a great place to spend a few days by the beach, but don’t ignore the old town, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Beautifully preserved and car free at night, visitors can leisurely explore the historic streets, spending time watching local artisans at work with silk, ceramics, paint and wood. Hoi An is famous for its tailoring heritage and is a popular place to have a little something run up. The town is lantern lit by night and its cobbled streets house some beautifully atmospheric restaurants & cafes. There are a host of excursions we can offer, for example a cycling tour or the surrounding countryside or perhaps an informal cooking course in a beautiful setting.
Extra…If you’d like to extend your holiday in Saigon this can easily be arranged.
Day 15: Fly Hoi An (B) / Saigon / UK Airport
Morning free then airport transfer and fly home via Saigon. Arrive back in UK the following morning.
Each featured itinerary is really a starting point from which to create your ideal holiday.
We can include as much or as little as you like, mix and match hotels, excursions and experiences, add extra nights and change the destinations you'd like to visit.
The common thread is that each is a privately guided holiday, allowing you to travel where and when you want, with your own private transport and dedicated guide.
- Return scheduled international flights (optional if you would like to arrange your own)
- English speaking, local guide & driver
- Choice of hotel accommodation
- Transport in private air-conditioned vehicles
- Domestic flights detailed in itinerary
- Admission fees to all attractions, temples and activities as mentioned in the itinerary
- All meals as detailed (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner)
- Entry visas (if applicable)
- Optional Tours / Excursions
- Any meals not listed in the itinerary
- Personal expenses
- Tips for Guides / Drivers (discretionary)
- Travel insurance
- Any camera or video fees charged at sites
The hotels below are there as examples, designed to act as a starting point from which to create your holiday. There are plenty of alternatives to choose from and when we quote we will include other suggestions so we get to understand your likes and dislikes. Quite often clients mix and match hotel categories throughout their holiday.
Hotels in Hanoi
The bustling but elegant city of Hanoi understandably provides a wealth of hotel choice.
Halong Bay Cruise Boats
An overnight cruise on Halong Bay is often seen as an essential part of a Vietnam holiday
Hotels in Cuc Phuong Area
Cuc Phuong can be found in the Ninh Binh region just south of Hanoi, a land of dramatic scenery and beautiful countryside
Hotels in Hue
Historic Hue is an ancient citadel but with a great selection of high quality accommodation
Hotels in Hoi An
Hoi An is a stunningly atmospheric UNESCO town, and we know all the great places to stay