Day 1: Arrival at Hanoi (D, GP). Arriving at Noi Bai airport in Hanoi, you’ll be met and driven to your hotel. You’ll have time to relax after your journey before a ‘Welcome’ dinner at a restaurant in a restored French colonial building. In the evening, you’ll have tickets for a performance of traditional Water Puppetry, an art form unique to northern Vietnam, and a good, light-hearted introduction to its rural culture. You’ll spend the night in Hanoi.
Day 2: Hanoi/Lao Cai (B, L, G). You’ll have the whole day to explore Vietnam’s capital city. Your guide will take you to the Temple of Literature, the first university in Vietnam dating back to the 11th century, and a popular attraction, as is Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum. You’ll then drive to the excellent Ethnology Museum for an overview of Vietnam’s 54 distinct ethnic groups in anticipation of your trip to Sapa.
After lunch, you’ll call in at the serene Tran Quoc Pagoda, the oldest in Hanoi, on the banks of Hanoi’s Ho Tay (West) Lake. The bustling Old Quarter is a magnet for visitors. It’s a maze of shopping streets and restaurants with a hotchpotch of architecture - traditional tube houses, religious buildings, artisans’ workshops and cottages, colonial houses and modern concrete edifices. It’s noisy and hectic, but definitely a ‘must-see’ attraction. You’ll be free until your car arrives to take you to Hanoi railway station in time to board the 10 p.m. overnight sleeper to Lao Cai.
Day 3: Lao Cai/Sapa (B, L, G). You’ll arrive in the early morning, where you’ll be met and taken up into the mountains to Sapa, a small town perched on the mountainside opposite Mt. Fan Si Pan, Vietnam’s highest peak. After breakfast at your hotel, you’ll be driven along a scenic valley to visit some of the H’mong ethnic minority villages. After a stream-side picnic lunch, you’ll visit the Red Dao ethnic minority people of Giang Ta Chai village. Later in the afternoon, you’ll return to Sapa for your overnight accommodation.
Day 4: Sapa/Ethnic market/Hanoi (B, L, G). After breakfast, your transport and guide will arrive to take you to visit a market frequented by ethnic minority peoples. The first part of your journey will take you through Lao Cai, which is a border crossing point, and alongside the river marking the boundary with China. After a picnic lunch, you’ll return to Lao Cai for a shower and to freshen-up before boarding the sleeper train to Hanoi.
Although it’s quite a long drive, the landscape is attractive and the ethnic markets are a fascinating experience. Unlike those in the tourist areas, the markets that we choose are not only for buying and selling, but are also meeting places for ethnic minority people to meet and exchange news. There will be plenty of colour and authentic costumes, but very little to buy as souvenirs unless you want to barter for a water buffalo or a sack of fertiliser!
Day 5: Hanoi/Ha Long (B, L, D, G). After an early breakfast, you’ll leave for Ha Long Bay, one of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Areas and the world’s largest marine limestone ‘karst’ landscape. There you’ll board your boat, a wooden junk built from the model of the old Vietnamese court vessels with sails, a wide transom and rectangular superstructure, that will take you first to the busy World Heritage area and then to some of the less well-known grottoes and caves. Weather permitting, you’ll be able to swim, fish, climb a hill (not a mountain!) for an overview of the Bay’s remarkable seascape, or venture into some of the sea level caves in a small sampan. All your meals will be provided on board, usually based on fresh seafood, and you’ll sleep in a twin cabin with an en suite toilet and shower.
Day 6: Ha Long/Hanoi (Brunch G). You’ll spend the morning cruising Ha Long Bay, followed by lunch just before docking around noon and leaving for Hanoi. You should arrive in the late afternoon and spend the night in Hanoi.
Day 7: Hanoi departure (B, GP).
- Breakfast and accommodation sharing a twin or double room.
Pick-ups and transfers by private air-conditioned vehicle as specified in the itinerary above.
- Overnight train Hanoi – Lao Cai – Hanoi in air-conditioned sharing four berth cabin.
- Boat cruise as programme. For Ha Long Bay, you’ll join other passengers on a high quality wooden boat with comfortable accommodation, good facilities and an experienced crew. The boat will be fully licensed and comply with current safety regulations.
- Road travel in an appropriate private vehicle.
- The services of experienced English-speaking guides as indicated in the itinerary
Where necessary, entry fees for all visits as mentioned in the programme.
- Lunches and dinners, as specified, in the best local restaurants, picnics where suitable restaurants are not available, and full board on the boat in Ha Long Bay.
After breakfast, you’ll be free until your driver arrives to take you to Noi Bai airport for your departure flight. Trip ends.
Prices vary depending on level of accommodation, group size and dates of travel. Contact us to customize a vacation itinerary and price to meet your needs and budget.
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