From £1,847 pp incl. UK flights
Designed for those who like to be active whilst on holiday and explore slightly off the beaten track, this itinerary focuses on north and central Vietnam including the newly opened cave system in beautiful Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park. Ideal from March to early September.
Start in Hanoi, the atmospheric and authentic Capital and then enjoy an overnight cruise sailing amongst the majestic islands of Halong Bay. Back on dry land take an overnight train journey in a private soft sleeper cabin to central Vietnam where you explore the DMZ and incredible caves & lakes of Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park. The holiday concludes on the central coast exploring Hue and Hoi An by bike, boat and vespa.
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: Morning Hanoi City Tour. Evening Street Eats & Market Tour
Day 4: Drive to Halong Bay - 1 night cruise exploring UNESCO World Heritage site
Day 5: Continue cruise then overnight train south to Dong Hoi in private soft sleeper
Day 6: Transfer to Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park for 2 nights. Afternoon tour of the caves
Day 7: Day trip exploring the Abandoned Valley and caves
Day 8: Transfer to Hue for 2 nights. Visit Visit DMZ tunnels en route
Day 9: Private cycling tour of countryside, Phuoc Tich Village & Tam Giang Lagoon
Day 10: Morning Citadel Tour. Afternoon transfer down dramatic coast road to Hoi An for 3 nights
Day 11: Private walking tour of Hoi An's UNESCO Old Town wih boat ride
Day 12: Vespa Tour out into the hills
Day 13: Overnight flight home (or add a few nights on the beach)
Day 14: 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 - City Tour & Evening Street Eats & Market Tour (B / L / D)
After breakfast you’ll be collected for a morning tour of Hanoi City. The day kicks off at Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum where you join thousands of Vietnamese as they pay their respects filing past in solemn silence. The complex is also home to his former stilt-house, Presidential Palace and One Pillar Pagoda. From here you walk a short distance to the Temple of Literature. Originally built as a temple dedicated to Confucius, it became the site of Vietnam’s first university dating back to 1070. For lunch, sit down for a traditional Vietnamese meal at the Porte D’Annam Restaurant. The tour ends at approx. 1.00pm and the rest of the afternoon is free.
Early evening your guide will collect and introduce you to Hanoi life on a private 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, enjoying 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's 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.
Day 4: Hanoi - Halong Bay Overnight Cruise (B / L / D)
This morning you’ll be transferred by minibus to Halong Bay (3 hours). Meet the crew and board the traditional wooden junk for 1 night, 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 refreshed & invigorated to relax on deck with a drink watching the sunset and enjoy dinner looking out over the bay. This evening there’s the opportunity to try squid fishing.
Day 5: Halong Bay (B / L) - Overnight Train South to Dong Hoi
Early risers can take an informal Tai Chi lesson on deck before enjoying breakfast as the boat continues to cruise through the bay to Ti Tov Island. Your final stop at Ti Tov leaves plenty of time to explore, hiking up to the scenic viewpoint or swimming off of the beach. On the final leg of your cruise pass by the well-known karsts of Thumb Island, Fighting Cocks and Incense Karst that is featured on the 200,000 dong note. Enjoy your last glimpses of Halong Bay over an early lunch.
At the dock you’ll be transferred back to Hanoi and then on to the station for the overnight train to Dong Hoi. Your guide will settle you into your private soft sleeper berth with bedding, large window and lockable door before leaving.
Day 6: Dong Hoi - Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park - Cave Tour (B / L / D)
Early morning arrival and your guide will be waiting at the station exit to take you for breakfast before transferring you 1 hour inland to Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park, a land of stunning 400-million-year-old limestone karst hills littered with caves and underground rivers. Here you will stay in a simple homestay lodge for 2 nights.
Leave your bags at the homestay and then spend the bulk of the day exploring some of the caves hidden within its hills. Your first stop is Phong Nha Cave that's reached by boat from the town passing through beautiful rural scenery right into the cave itself. Engines are cut and the boat is propelled by oar as you gaze at hundreds of spot-lit stalactites and stalagmites. Enjoy lunch in a local restaurant then move onto Paradise Cave, the longest dry cave in Asia and one of the most beautiful that was only discovered a few years ago. Once you get past the unassuming small entrance you enter a land of caverns 100 metres high with mind-blowing stalactite and stalagmite formations that can be viewed from the walkway that leads you through. To reach Paradise Cave involves a large number of steps and so you will need a reasonable level of fitness. Back at the lodge late afternoon and time permitting you'll have time to take a mountain bike out for a quick ride around the beautiful countryside and farming villages that dot the region. Return in time for dinner.
Day 7: Phong Nha - Day Trip Exploring the Abandoned Valley (B / L / D)
Today delve deeper into the park's caves and valleys on a full day excursion. The Abandoned Valley is a remote area of the Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park, and some of the tracks originated as part of the Ho Chi Minh trail, the supply route through Laos to south Vietnam during the “American war”. This morning's walk is through the countryside across several streams to the Dark Cave's least visited entrance. Helmets, headtorches and gloves are provided and then slowly walk (uneven surface) into the cave for about half a mile (1 hour). Once at the end you're encouraged (optional) to briefly turn out your light and discover how the cave got its name. An easier route can be arranged through the main entrance but this is now a backpacker haven with zipline and kayaking.
From here walk on another hour to Hang En Cave, a river cave who's cool water can be enjoyed whilst waiting for the BBQ lunch. This afternoon return to the main road via a different trail and enjoy a cold drink before being taken back to the homestay lodge early evening. Today involves a 12km walk across hilly terrain with some steep slopes and so you will need a reasonable level of fitness.
Day 8: Phong Nha - DMZ Tunnels - Transfer to Hue (B / L)
This morning your guide will collect and transfer you to historic Hue. On the way you'll pass through the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that became important during the Vietnam War as the battleground demarcation separating the North and South Vietnamese territories. You'll stop at the Vinh Moc Tunnels that were built to shelter people from the intense bombing. The American forces believed the villagers were supplying food and armaments to the North Vietnamese garrison. The villagers initially dug the tunnels to move their village 10 metres underground, but the Americans designed bombs that could burrow to this depth. Amazingly the villagers moved to a depth of 30 metres and it grew to include wells, kitchens and spaces for healthcare. As home to 60 families apparently no villagers lost their lives.Enjoy lunch in a local restaurant then continue on another 2 hours to Hue where you check-in to your choice of hotel for 2 nights.
Day 9: Hue - Cycle Tour of Countryside, Farm Villages & Tam Giang Lagoon (B / L)
This morning your guide will collect you for 40km drive out of the city into the beautiful surrounding countryside. Arrive at Phuoc Tich Village, a relatively untouched village dotted with 27 ‘Nha Ruong’ - Hue’s traditional houses - and unique gardens. Your guide will give you more of an insight into life in this part of Vietnam as you walk through the peaceful streets and pay a visit to one of the homes. Try making ‘banh gai it’, one of the most famous traditional cakes in Hue, with your host, Mrs Kieu. Part of the fee will be given to Mrs Kieu, helping her to earn an income as a home-based chef.
Then hop on a bike and take an easy 30km ride (can be shortened) to Tam Giang lagoon. Wind through the countryside, watching daily life and enjoying the peaceful atmosphere of the ancient villages. On your way visit Quang Cong Village, known locally as the ‘City of Ghosts’, and stop at the increasingly lavish and elaborate tombs that the villagers build for their ancestors. On arrival at Tam Giang Lagoon enjoy a seafood lunch and take a boat trip on the lagoon. Float past local families living on the riverbank, stopping to meet some of them on your way. Back at hotel late afternoon.
Day 10: Hue (B) - Private Citadel Tour - Transfer to Hoi An
This morning your private guide will collect you for the tour to 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.
Back at the hotel time for lunch (own expense) and then check-out for the private car transfer down the dramatic coast road to Hoi An via the Hai Van Pass, with plenty of time to stop and take some pictures looking down along the dramatic coastline. On arrival check in to your choice of hotel for 3 nights.
Extra....Hoi An is also blessed with superb beaches and so you can choose to stay on the beach or in the town, depending on where you'd like to spend most of your time If you’re here from Match to September the weather should be perfect to enjoy the beach, why not extend for a few days?
Day 11: Hoi An (B) - Private Guided Walking Tour of Old Town
This morning your guide will collect you for a private walking tour of Hoi An’s Old Town. Hoi An grew up as a trading port that welcomed Chinese, Dutch, French, Japanese, Portuguese and Arab merchants between the 16th to 18th centuries. Today it's famous for its restored architecture, homemade silk, expert tailors and delicious noodles and seafood. Its relaxed vibe and pedestrian streets make this town a pleasure to walk around and discover new things.
Historical highlights include the Chua Ong Pagoda dating back to 1653, the Jinshang Temple that is dedicated to the goddess of the sea and the protector of sailors, Tam Ky House a 200 year old ancestral house and the 17th century covered bridge built by Japanese craftsmen and is a major landmark of Hoi An. The historic streets also house some beautifully atmospheric restaurants and this evening we recommend that you come back for dinner, when the town is lit by lantern light. End the morning with a boat trip along Thu Bon River.
Day 12: Hoi An (B) - Countryside Afternoon Culinary Adventure by Vespa
Morning free then this afternoon you’ll be picked up from the hotel by your Vespa driver who will whisk you out over the river to explore the beautiful countryside and villages that surround Hoi An town. Your first stop will be Duy Hai fishing village where you learn how the distinctive bamboo basket boats are made and get a chance to try them out for yourselves. The area is also famous for making some of Vietnam’s best fish sauce and you’ll see how it’s made as well as sampling banh xeo, a delicious savoury Vietnamese pancake. From here head out further into the countryside zig zagging through the peaceful villages and crossing a bamboo bridge out into the emerald green scenery and lush farmlands. Stop to see how rice wine and crispy rice crackers are made. The afternoon ends in a farming village to learn more about daily life village and to try some My Quang, a famous local dish made with fresh noodles. From here it’s a short ride over the Cam Kim Bridge into Hoi An as the sun begins to set on this beautiful heritage town.
Day 13: Fly Hoi An (B) / UK Airport
Morning free then airport transfer and fly home overnight. 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 Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
Discover the largest cave system in the world set amongst dramatic limestone 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