Vietnam Cultural Tour (Hanoi, Halong, Van Long, Sapa, Hue, Hoi An)
A trip back through time to the most significant cultural places of Vietnam. With only short interruptions, Hanoi has been the capital for almost 1000 years. In contrast to the bustling and progressive Saigon, Hanoi has stayed a city with a unique atmosphere and a touch of French charm. Between these two opposites, there lies not only a distance of 1500 kilometers but also a wonderful and diverse country that we will discover along with important spots such as the Imperial City of Hue, Danang and Hoi An. Up to 1945, almost 150 years in total, Hue was Vietnam’s capital. In this period the last imperial dynasty was in power. The Nguyen Dynasty erected the citadel with the “Forbidden City” and splendid imperial tombs, true “park gardens of death”. With full intent, this tour is set up to allow more time than the usual package tour to discover and experience the country and its people.
Noi Bai International Airport
VRT – 02
* Accommodation sharing a twin or double room.
* All transport and transfer with new 13-seat Mercedes
* Breakfast and Lunches in the best local restaurants, or picnics where no suitable restaurant is available
* Fully escorted English speaking tour guide at the places
* All entrance fee and permission
* Domestic flight tickets, including domestic airport taxes.
* International flight tickets and airport tax
* Visas and visa fee
* Drinks and other meals
* Gratuities and personal expenses
* Camera fees (if any)
TOUR COST per Person (in US $)
All inclusive in Twin or Double Room / Meal (Daily Breakfast and Lunch)
Particularly suitable for uncomplicated tourists with low requirements
Guesthouses and 2-Star Hotels, clean rooms w. window, A/C and bathroom
Private 16-Seat Minivan (Mercedes)
Soft berth, 4-bed compartment w. A/C (Ratraco Train to Lao Cai)
Particularly suitable for tourists with high requirements
3 and 4-Star Hotels (International Standard)
Private 16-Seat Minivan (Mercedes)
Soft berth, 4-bed compartment w. A/C (Livitrans to Lao Cai)
Particularly suitable for sophisticated tourists
4-Star Hotels (5-Star Hotels extra charge) or best Hotel on site
Private 16-Seat Minivan (Mercedes)
Soft berth, 4-bed compartment w. A/C (Victoria Train to Lao Cai)
Day 1: Hanoi (the capital of Vietnam)
Arrival in Hanoi. Transfer to the hotel. After a short break we walk to the “Lake of the Returned Sword”. We visit the jade mound with the red wooden bridge, one of Hanoi’s main attractions. Welcome dinner in one of the many In-restaurants.
Day 2: Hanoi (city tour)
In the morning we go on a bus tour to the capital’s most important and most interesting locations: the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Uncle Ho’s house (from here Ho Chi Minh led governmental affairs), the One-Column-Pagoda (Chua Mot Cot), the Temple of Literature (Van Mieu, Vietnam’s first university) and the Maison Centrale (a prison dating from the French colony). We eat lunch at KOTO, a restaurant managed by former street kids. We have an unhurried afternoon, exploring the old French quarter in cyclos (Vietnamese bicycle-rickshaws). The literary expression for Hanoi is “city of the 36 alleys”. In the tree-lined alleys we have a look over the shoulder of the local craftsmen.
Day 3 Hanoi - Haiphong - Cat Ba Island
Very early (6 am), a bus brings us to the unmatched Halong Bay (Ha Long means “descending dragon” contrary to Thang Long, “ascending dragon”, the old name of Hanoi). Trip to Haiphong where a speed boat (hydrofoil) at 9 am brings us in only 45 minutes to Cat Ba Island. Short walk to the hotel. We spend the afternoon at the beach, swimming, strolling around, relaxing or having a massage right at the beach. Prior to dinner, we go on a harbor round trip in small basket boats. It is unbelievable to see people dwell on the water cramped together like this.
Day 4: Cat Ba
On our today’s trip (partly on motobikes, partly on foot) through the national park we discover countless natural beauties of this unique island: bizarre rock formations, frog ponds, indigenous villages and a longer hike to the top of a viewing mountain at the end. We choose the cosiest of all places to have picnic, surrounded by untouched nature.
Day 5: Swimming in Halong Bay
After breakfast, our spectacular boat journey (private boat) through the breath-taking scenery of 2000 limestone islands begins. This bizarre insular world with up to 100 m high karst rocks and countless caves provides the picturesque backdrop of our boat trip of several hours. In the middle of Halong Bay, we come across a settlement of 300 families that have been living for generations on bamboo-thatched boats or in swimming houses. Let’s stop and explore one of the mysterious, romantic grottos! And have a fantastic fish lunch on board! Now and then we stop for a swim. Before dinner, we ascend the Ti Tov viewing mountain. Then we switch boats to spend the night on a junk (maybe shared boat with other guests, double room w/ bathroom and toilet, A/C).
Day 6: Bai Chay - Hanoi
On goes our trip through this magic world. Taking a rowing boat we advance into the interior of a laguna grotto. After a rich meal our boat has time to return to Bai Chay Harbor. Upon arrival, return trip to Hanoi with a stop at Bat Trang, a village renown through Vietnam for its pottery. The variety of ceramics that is produced by rudimentary craftsmanship is unbelievable. Transfer to the hotel.
Day 7: Van Long (Dry Halong Bay)
Today we depart on a two-days journey that lets every photographer’s heart beat faster. After breakfast we go by bus to the dry version of Halong Bay, arguably the most beautiful landscape in Vietnam. Still prior to lunch we arrive at Kenh Ga water village. A memorable boat trip is part of today’s tour. After lunch we head for Hoa Lu. The following bike trip along the rice paddies brings us to the former imperial city of the Dinh Dynasty. Visit to the restored imperial temple. Our bycicles take us further through this region that is today still almost untouched by tourism. Then a bus brings us to the resort.
Day 8: Vicinity of Van Long - Hanoi
Close to Hoa Lu is the largest mangrove reserve of the North. After breakfast, before the tour buses roll in, women row us through the wetlands of Van Long, a unique natural wonder backed by bizarre limestone formations. Then we hop on our bikes again. The journey leads us over the dike of the nearby river and through small villages. After a healthy meal, the bus brings us back to Hanoi. In the evening we watch a show of the unique puppet players.
Day 9: Surroundings of Hanoi - Night Train to Lao Cai
Today’s program takes us around the rural surroundings of Hanoi. We visit ancient Chua Thay, the Master’s Pagoda. The pagoda dates back to the 15th century and is beautifully located at the bank of the Dragon Lake, at the foot of a limestone mountain. The master is also the patron saint of the water puppet players. Return to Hanoi. In the evening we depart for the highlands, home to countless ethnic minorities. Longer train journey (A/C, couchette, 4persons) along the Red River to Lao Cai, the town at the Chinese border.
Day 10: Sapa
Arrival in Lao Cai at 5.40 am. Bus transfer to Sapa at 1560 m above sea level, at the foot of the Phan Si Pan (Vietnam’s highest peak at 3143 m). After checking into the hotel and a long breakfast, we explore the town that was turned into a mountain health resort by the French in the 1920s. Today, Hmong and Red Dzao people grow vegetables, tea and cinnamon. We walk the four kilometers to Cat Cat village, home to the Black Hmongs, famous for their indigo-dyed dresses. After a short peek into their everyday life (dying and weaving of hemp cloth), we walk down to the water fall. We find an old, defunct power plant from the French and cool our feet in the fresh river water. On our return trail we pass by rice terraces and water buffalos. Motobike taxis bring us back to the hotel.
Day 11: Sapa - Night Train to Hanoi
We board our bus. Our hiking trail leads us through the fantastic scenery to the village of the Ta Van Tribe. Here we witness the hard everyday lives of the Giay and the Hmong people. At the end of our three-hour walking trip through villages and over rice terraces we cross the May bridge where we cool off our feet in the water. Return by bus. We laze away the rest of the afternoon at the hotel swimming pool. After dinner the bus takes us to the station of Lao Cai. Short visit to the Friendship Bridge between China and Vietnam. Night train to Hanoi.
Day 12: Hanoi - Hue (Ancient Imperial City)
Early morning arrival. Transfer to a small hotel. Quick nap, breakfast and transfer to the airport. Short flight with Vietnam Airlines to Hue, the old emperors’ city in Central Vietnam. Transfer to the hotel. Cyclos (bicycle rickshaws) bring us to our lunch spot and to the colorful market that is well-known for its Cai Non, Vietnamese cone hats. Later in the afternoon we take a tour to the Forbidden Imperial City: Visit of the partly renovated Citadel. This was the emperor’s residence from 1802 until 1945. Although the most of the old Imperial City was bombed during the Tet Offensive in 1968, a visit is most worthwhile.
Day 13: Hue (Imperial Tombs)
Today we discover Hue’s most romantic side. Boat trip on the Perfume River to the Thien Mu Pagoda, the city’s oldest pagoda. After lunching on board, we go on to the palace-like tomb of emperor Minh Mang (second emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty) and Khai Dinh (last emperor that was acknowledged by the republican government). Friendly Honda drivers take us back to the hotel where we let the history of Vietnam sink in with a cup of coffee at the swimming pool.
Day 14: Hue (Countryside) - Lang Co Island - Cloud Pass - Hoi An
Our trusted Honda guides accompany us on an unforgettable tour to the Japanese wood bridge from 1776. The daily market, green rice paddies - time seems to stand still here. Before lunch we go by private bus to the lagoon peninsula Lang Co (lunch). Exciting trip over the Cloud Pass to Danang. Transfer to the old Chinese-Japanese port town Hoi An. Early evening arrival and check-in.
Day 15: Hoi An
Exploring the old center on foot: Japanese bridge, merchants’ houses from the 16th and 18th century, wood craftsmen, Chinese temples and communal houses. After a short lunch break, we board a wooden boat on the Thu Bon River. During the trip we enjoy Hoi An specialties in the Red Bridge Restaurant. On an entertaining boat journey we observe fishermen at work. We call it a day after a visit to Kim Bong Island, home to the most famous wood carvers in the region.
Day 16: Hoi An (Countryside)
Our Honda drivers take us on a memorable tour to rural Hoi An where time seems to stand still. We can spend the afternoon lazing away at the beach if the weather permits or browsing through the shops in the old city. In the evening we once again discover Hoi An’s special dishes - as students in a cooking class!
Day 17: Hoi An
Half-day trip by bus overland, passing through picturesque rice paddies, to My Son. Visit of the 7th, 11th and 13th century Cham temples. Prior to lunch we return to Hoi An. The afternoon is free.
Day 18: Hoi An - Hanoi
Transfer to Danang airport before lunch. Short Vietnam Airlines flight to Hanoi. Transfer to the hotel. We have time for a last stroll through the old city’s alleys
Day 19: Hanoi - Return Flight
Free time. Our journey ends after the airport transfer.