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I am totally captivated by Asia. Having lived in Singapore, Nepal, South Korea and Hong Kong, travelled extensively across all of our destinations in Asia, and worked in luxury travel for many years, curating exceptional trips comes naturally to me.
- from $2,999 PP
- 9 Nights
- Dec - Apr
- 11 hrs from London / 19 hrs from NYC
Discover the best of Vietnam on this action-packed 9-night itinerary. Start with two nights in the energetic capital city Hanoi before moving out to Lan Ha Bay, the quieter but no-less-dramatic sister to Halong Bay, for a memorable overnight cruise. You’ll then fly down to the ancient imperial city of Hue for two nights, followed by a further two in enticing Hoi An, which includes a mouth-watering cooking class. Your itinerary finishes up in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, where you’ll learn more about Vietnam’s remarkable history, and come face-to-face with it’s confident, thriving future. With accommodation at a high level throughout, and our engaging and knowledgeable private guides accompanying you for all sightseeing, you’ll be extremely well looked after for the duration of this thrilling introduction to Vietnam.
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- 9 nights in 4 or 5 star accommodation
- Daily breakfast plus other meals as per itinerary
- All tours and transfers on a fully private basis
- Private English-speaking guides for all mentioned sightseeing
- Internal flights as described in economy class
- 24/7 support from our dedicated staff
- Flexible, personalized itinerary based on your interests
Day by Day Itinerary
Day 1 Hanoi: Arrival into Noi Bai International Airport
Your 9-night trip begins with your arrival into Noi Bai International Airport. You’ll be greeted by your private English-speaking guide, and then private driver, and together they will transfer you to your downtown hotel.
Located in the northwest of the Red River Delta, Hanoi translates as “the hinterland between the rivers.” It’s also a city of lakes, with 18 found here, the most prominent of which is the picturesque Hoan Kiem lake situated right in the city center, just south of the bustling Old Quarter. A heady mix of Eastern and European styles, Hanoi is a fascinating and fun place to explore independently.
Your guide will provide a brief introduction to the city during the transfer and after checking into your accommodation you’ll have the remainder of the day to relax, or to head out and discover plenty of places to drink, dine and shop.
Day 2 Hanoi: A local's tour of the capital
After breakfast you will meet your guide and head out for a private tour of the city, focusing on its local life and culture. Head first to Hoan Kiem Lake, the spiritual center of the city, which is especially alluring in the morning with locals practicing Tai Chi – join in if you wish! – against the backdrop of the highly photogenic Ngoc Son Temple.
Continue to a small nearby cafe that specializes in ‘Banh Cuon’ – slippery rice noodle parcels, filled with fresh herbs, cucumber, bean sprouts, and invariably pork, chicken, or prawns. Learn how to make this Hanoian specialty, sampling as you go! You’ll then take a gentle rickshaw tour through the atmospheric and energetic Old Quarter, which includes a short stop at Dong Xuan Market, where you’ll stop to sample Hani’s famous ‘egg coffee’.
Later you’ll take in the Temple of Literature, the first university in the country, built in 1070 instructing the teachings of Confucius, and then return to the Old Quarter to visit a small family home. By this time you should have worked up quite an appetite, so the morning finishes with the heartiest of Hanoi lunches: a soothing bowl of pho at Pho Thin, thought to serve the best in the city. The afternoon is then yours to relax back at the hotel or continue exploring independently.
Day 3 Lan Ha Bay: Transfer to Lan Ha Bay for an overnight cruise
After an early breakfast you’ll be transferred out to the mouth of the Red River delta, making for Tuan Chau Marina, from where you’ll begin your overnight cruise in Lan Ha Bay. Lan Ha is the less-visited but equally stunning neighbor to Halong Bay (which has begun to suffer with over -ourism), made up of 100s of dramatic karst outcrops and islets. Your overnight cruise will pass through some truly breath-taking scenery, and will include excursions such as visits to small and sparsely populated islands, kayaking or swimming, and cooking demonstrations. Accommodation is in an extremely comfortable private cabin, with dining and service on board second-to-none. Please note that your local guide is not permitted to join you onboard; all excursions will be led by cruise guides and shared with other passengers.
Day 4 Hue: Disembark and fly down to Hue
You have the option of an early start for an energizing Tai Chi lesson on the sundeck, before the cruise begins its sail back the mainland. A good breakfast and a further excursion on board will be included before you disembark back in Tuan Chua. You’ll be met by your private guide and driver once more and then transferred to the airport for an onward flight down to Hue.
On arrival in Hue you’ll be met by a new guide and driver team and then transferred to your hotel. The rest of the day is then yours to explore this former imperial capital, set on the banks of the Perfume River, and former home of the Nguyen Dynasty from 1802 to 1945. Although Hue suffered heavy bombing during the ‘American War’, most of its cultural treasures thankfully still stand, and it remains a pleasant, laidback city with an easy-to-explore center and enticing riverside night market.
Day 5 Hue: Full day tours of ancient Hue
After breakfast your guide will take you for a leisurely walk around Dong Ba Market, where one can find anything from fabric to jewelry, fresh flowers to street food. Continue on to Imperial Citadel, once the capital of Vietnam, a sprawling complex covering an area of 520 hectares comprising three circles; the Hue Capital Citadel, the Royal Citadel and the Forbidden Citadel. In the afternoon visit the Royal Mausoleums of former emperors Tu Duc and Minh Mang, built according to the laws of geomancy. A short cruise on the Perfume River then brings you to Thien Mu Pagoda, a working Buddhist monastery which dates to 1601, and remains a symbol of the city.
Day 6 Hoi An: Transfer to Hoi An via the Hai Van Pass
After breakfast you will depart Hue and be driven south to Hoi An. Avoid the direct route and instead take the spectacular Hai Van Pass, passing up through the clouds and following a snaking path between the Marble Mountains and the South China Sea. You’ll then descend and pass through the port city of Danang, then the famous Da Nang Beach which was a R&R centre for American GIs, before arriving in Hoi An.
Hoi An is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port. It was most active between the 15th and 19th centuries, with much of the infrastructure dating back to the time still standing. The whole town is now listed as an UNESCO World Heritage site. On arrival your private guide will take you for a walking tour of the Old Town, with its narrow (and pedestrianized) streets full of historic shophouses. Take in the Phuc Kien Pagoda, the Japanese wooden bridge, and the lively central market. You will also find a great many tailoring outlets; Hoi An is famous for its tailors and is a great place to pick up well-priced bespoke clothing. Please speak to your guide for a recommendation.
Day 7 Hoi An: Private cooking class & cycling tour
This morning you’ll indulge in an exclusive cooking class during which you’ll discover the best of Vietnamese ingredients and cooking techniques. Visit the thriving local market then travel on to a small restaurant within the old town where you’ll find a private cooking station set up. With the help of your engaging chef hosts, you’ll create a series of delicious dishes that are then enjoyed for lunch.
After the class your guide will take you cycling out into the scenically and culturally rich countryside which surround Hoi An. Passing through paddy fields, coconut forests, farmland, and picturesque villages, you will cycle along quiet and flat tracks for approximately 6km, although this can be extended or shortened dependent on your interests.
Day 8 Ho Chi Minh City: Fly to HCMC; Afternoon city tour
This morning a private transfer brings you to nearby Danang airport from where you’ll catch a direct flight down to Ho Chi Minh City. Upon arrival you will be greeted by a new guide and driver who will transfer you to your downtown hotel. After settling in and freshening up head back out with your guide to discover the city. Start in Chinatown, the one of the busiest districts in the city. Visit the Thien Hau Buddhist temple, dedicated to a Chinese sea goddess, and then enjoy a cyclo ride across to Binh Tay market, where you’ll find a huge variety of wholesale and retail produce. Finish the tour with a drive through Ben Nghe district, the former French Colonial center of the city, which houses the Notre Dame Cathedral, Opera House, and still thriving central Post Office.
Day 9 Ho Chi Minh City: Cu Chi Tunnels by speedboat
After breakfast you will be transferred to Bach Dang jetty, where you will board a shared speedboat boat to the Cu Chi tunnels. This river journey provides a glimpse of the changing faces of Vietnam – the glittering skyscrapers and busy commercial center give way to green paddy fields and pottery villages dotted along the Saigon River. The Cu Chi tunnel complex was initially started in 1948 to protect the Viet Cong guerrillas from the French air and ground sweeps. The tunnels also served as communication routes, storage facilities for food and weapon caches as well as hospitals and living quarters for guerrilla fighters throughout the American war. A visit to the underground villages will provide a better understanding of how the tunnels were constructed, the hardship of life in the tunnels and the Vietnamese resilience during combat. Note that the Cu Chi tunnels have been widened in places for visitors, however they can still be dark, hot, and claustrophobic inside so please bear this in mind if you do not like enclosed spaces.
After returning to central Saigon you have the remainder of the day free. Relax back at the hotel, or head out to cram in some final shopping or sightseeing.
Day 10 Ho Chi Minh City: Departure day
Sadly your time in Vietnam has come to an end. At the appropriate time you will meet your driver and guide for private transfer back to Ho Chi Minh Airport to check in for your onward flight. Please speak to our consultants for ideas on how to tailor or extend this tour.
What's not Included
- As we have clients from all over the world. Our itineraries do not include flights. If you would like us to include flights in your trip, we are happy to do so. Please speak to your travel specialist at the planning stage to include them.
- Gratuities for local guides
- We strongly advise all guests to purchase comprehensive travel insurance
- Visas if required
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What makes our trips extraordinary is the unique immersive experiences we include. We pride ourselves in our black book of sought after expert guides, game rangers and local contacts who believe in our philosophy, unforgettable.
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