18 January 2017
This three-week tour is the perfect choice for the traveller who really wants to get to the heart of Vietnam. Taking in the cities of Hanoi and Saigon, as well as numerous tiny rural villages, you'll have the opportunity to see how the Vietnamese people live, as well to admire the country's spectacular scenery and learn about its history, both ancient and modern. You'll also have plenty of time to unwind and enjoy the stunning sights along the way.
Your tour begins as you're met on arrival at Hanoi airport and transferred to your hotel. This evening you'll meet your tour leader and the rest of your group for welcome drinks and a tour briefing.
You'll begin your exploration of the vibrant city of Hanoi with a walking tour through the bustling markets of the Old Quarter, before heading to Ba Dinh Square, site of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and where Ho Chi Minh first declared independence from French rule in 1945. You'll visit the house on stilts from which "Uncle Ho" ruled Vietnam, as well as the Presidential Palace, One Pillar Pagoda and the Ho Chi Minh Museum. Next you will visit the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" prison, before continuing to Hanoi’s first university, the Temple of Literature, founded in 1070 and dedicated to Confucian worship.
This morning you will head east to Halong Bay, passing fields of busy workers farming rice using traditional methods of cultivation. The spectacular bay, famous as the location of the Catherine Deneuve movie Indochine, has more than 3,000 islands that rise dramatically out of the sea. Here you'll board a boat and cruise out to the bay, spending the afternoon visiting some of the beautiful caves and islets and enjoying both lunch and dinner on board.
After breakfast this morning you'll visit more of Halong Bay's spectacular islets and caves before heading back to Halong City, enjoying a seafood lunch en route. In the afternoon you'll travel back to Hanoi, where you'll have the evening at leisure.
This morning you'll travel through sparsely populated mountain areas and breathtaking scenery to Mai Chau, a minority village situated in the remote Mai Chau Valley. Along the way you'll stop at the Ethnology Museum on the outskirts of Hanoi to learn more about the customs, traditions and beliefs of the Vietnamese, as well as at the Ho Chi Minh Trail Museum. Near Hoa Binh, you'll visit a group of Muong people, one of Vietnam's 54 ethnic minorities, to learn about their traditional way of life. You'll arrive at Mai Chau in the mid-afternoon and enjoy a cup of tea or rice wine before exploring the village. Tonight you'll enjoy a traditional local dinner and sleep in a family guesthouse.
This morning you'll rise early with the rest of the family and, after breakfast, enjoy a walk through the beautiful valley to the neighbouring villages to gain an insight into the local way of life. This afternoon you'll drive to the town of Ninh Binh, a beautiful area often referred to as “Halong Bay on land” due to the many limestone formations rising from the landscape.
This morning you'll take a boat ride along the waterways of Trang An, enjoying the views of temples, caves and wildlife. This afternoon you'll travel south to the town of Vinh, birthplace of Vietnam’s national hero, Ho Chi Minh.
This morning you will visit the small village of Kim Lien, where Ho Chi Minh was born, before continuing south to the seaside town of Dong Ha and your luxurious beachside resort.
You will spend today travelling through the border area between the former North and South Vietnam, once the most hotly contested piece of territory on earth. You'll have the chance to see the North Vietnamese tunnels at Vinh Moc, Ben Hai Bridge and the former US airbase at Khe Sanh, close to the border with Laos. In the late afternoon you will travel along the road once known as “the street without joy” south to Hue. Vietnam’s capital during the Nguyen Dynasty, Hue was a centre for Vietnamese Buddhism and scholarship, as well as the scene of some of the Vietnam War’s most bloody fighting.
Today begins with a visit to the Spiral Foundation, where the deaf and mute workers will help you to make your own souvenir from recycled materials. Next you'll visit the magnificent Citadel, home of the Nguyen Dynasty emperors, and the tranquil Thien Mu Pagoda. In the afternoon you'll visit the impressive tomb of the fourth emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty, Tu Duc, then, in the evening, you'll have the chance to sample some of Hue’s famous cuisine.
This morning you'll travel via the spectacular Hai Van Pass, considered one of Vietnam's most beautiful drives, to Danang, where you'll visit the Cham Museum, dedicated to the people who occupied this area from the fourth to the 16th centuries. You'll continue south to Marble Mountains, a series of large marble outcrops which house a number of sacred Buddhist shrines and served as a guerrilla hospital during the Vietnam War. After admiring the stunning views across the ocean and the surrounding countryside you'll continue south to the World Heritage town of Hoi An. This afternoon you'll take a walking tour of Hoi An, visiting an old merchant house, a Chinese Assembly Hall and the Japanese Covered Bridge, and this evening you'll dine at one of Hoi An’s restaurants or take part in an optional cookery class and learn how to prepare some of the local delicacies.
This morning you'll tour the market and backstreets of Hoi An, and learn about local produce when you join some local students at Streets cafe to enjoy a small tasting menu. The rest of the day is free for you to explore this beautiful town, with its many clothing shops and colourful fish market and river life, or you may wish to relax by your pool or venture to the nearby beach.
You'll set off early this morning for a full day’s drive through rolling hills, passing small villages and cotton, rubber and cassava plantations as well as small terraced rice paddies. You will head higher into the mountains, through Kotu and Coho ethnic minority villages, to arrive in Kontum, where you'll take a stroll through town and visit the colourful local market.
This morning you will visit the Wooden Church and the nearby orphanage, home to 200 young children and babies, where any gifts of stationery or donations are much appreciated. You will then visit an old French seminary set among beautiful gardens in the centre of town, home to a museum where you can learn more about the history of the area. Later, you'll drive past huge tea plantations on the way to the primitive village of Plei Phun, where you'll enjoy a countryside walk. You'll arrive in Pleiku by late afternoon with time for a stop at Bien Ho Lake, a large natural volcanic lake that supplies fresh water to Pleiku.
Today you'll continue south from Pleiku, through rolling hills and forests, as well as rubber and pepper plantations, to Buon Ma Thuot, the coffee-growing centre of Vietnam. This evening you'll enjoy a hearty meal at one of the local restaurants.
This morning you'll have a chance to see how the local Buddhist monks live at the town pagoda and monastery, before heading just outside Buon Ma Thuot to explore the waterfalls of Cum Thac. Afterwards, you'll head south to the former French hill station of Dalat.
You'll take a tour of the city this morning, including a visit to the colourful Dalat Central Market. You will then continue on to the Summer Palace of the last emperor of Vietnam, Bao, built in 1933 in the art deco style and containing many artefacts from the French occupation period. Afterwards, you'll take a drive around Xuan Huong Lake in the centre of Dalat to admire the architecture, then enjoy the spectacular views as you ride a cable car to a beautiful Zen monastery and wander through the tranquil gardens.
This morning you'll head down into the valley below Dalat to visit a Kriang village, then continue on downhill to visit the tea and coffee plantations for which the Central Highlands are famous. Your next stop will be at a floating fishing village on Lake Langa, before you arrive in Vietnam’s largest city in the late afternoon.
This morning you'll take a walking tour of Ho Chi Minh City, still commonly known as Saigon, along Dong Khoi Street (formerly Rue Catinat), past the Rex Hotel, Ho Chi Minh Square, Municipal Theatre and Notre Dame Cathedral. You'll then take a tour of the Reunification Palace (formerly the Presidential Palace) and the War Remnants Museum. For lunch you might like to try pho, the delicious Vietnamese noodle soup. This afternoon you'll travel to the Cu Chi Tunnels. This amazing network of tunnels extends over 155 miles, and was developed as a means of waging guerrilla war against French and American forces.
This morning you'll head south out of Saigon, to the Mekong Delta. This fertile area is known as Vietnam's "rice bowl". On the way, you'll stop at an unusual Cao Dai pagoda. At the Mekong River, you'll board a boat to begin a tour with the aim of gaining a real insight into the lives of local people. You'll visit a traditional brick factory, a coconut-processing factory and a local family home. After a lunch of local specialties, including elephant ear fish, you'll return to Saigon in the late afternoon.
Your adventure comes to an end this morning, as you're transferred to the airport for your onward travels.
Classic fr £1991pp
Rates based on twinshare
International flights not included unless otherwise stated