14 days / 13 nights
This trip will get the adrenaline buzzing with some adventurous cycling and beautiful hiking in the mountains, kayaking and climbing in Halong Bay and some fun when finishing up on the coast. Starting out in elegant Hanoi with a cyclo experience through the buzzing Old Quarter, we then head north by night train to Sapa, the unofficial capital of Vietnam’s highlands. We enjoy some trekking and biking around the valleys and villages of the Sapa region before travelling to majestic Halong Bay. Heading off the visitor trail, we kayak some caves and grottoes and then wind up on Cat Ba Island where we can try some rock climbing amid the karsts or explore some of the remote and hidden coves and beaches. We then fly south to extrovert Saigon. To finish off our adventures, we travel by road to Mui Ne. Try kite surfing on the waves, hike through the striking Red Canyon or try sand-sledging on the immense dunes. If it's adventure you want, Vietnam will deliver.
- Day 1: Arrive Hanoi. Old Quarter Tour by Cyclo
- Day 2: HCM Mausoleum and Museum of Ethnography. Night Train to Sapa
- Day 3: Trekking to Villages around Sapa.
- Day 4: Mountain Biking around Sapa.
- Day 5: Day Train back to Hanoi.
- Day 6: Transfer to Halong City. Exploring Halong Bay by junk .
- Day 7: Kayaking in Halong Bay. Continue to Cat Ba Island.
- Day 8: Rock Climbing/Kayaking in Lan Ha Bay area.
- Day 9: Cat Ba to Hanoi. Fly to Saigon.
- Day 10: Sightseeing Saigon.
- Day 11: Transfer to Mui Ne.
- Day 12: Kite-surfing, windsurfing or sandboarding.
- Day 13: More activities or free time on the beach.
- Day 14: Transfer to Saigon for onward flight.
Day 1: Arrive Hanoi. Old Quarter Tour by Cyclo
Transfer to hotel. In the afternoon, we will visit The Old Quarter of Hanoi by cyclo. The cyclo has become an iconic symbol of Vietnamese cities and towns. While travelling by this charming mode of transport we can marvel at the amazing array of architectural styles in the city: Tube house, pagodas and communal houses with Chinese features. The Vietnamese are incredibly industrious and on every street corner, in every street side stall people are busy bartering, selling and gossiping. The comfort of our pedal powered chariots offers the perfect vantage point to appreciate all the vibrant activity that is so characteristic of Old Hanoi. We finish the day being dropped off at our hotel.
Overnight in Hanoi.
Day 2: HCM Mausoleum and Museum of Ethnography. Night Train to Sapa
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, Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, his modest stilt house where he chose to live and work. We will also visit the museum dedicated to his memory.
In the afternoon, we will proceed to the most beautiful of Hanoi’s museums, The Ethnology museum. This showpiece provides a fascinating insight into the histories and lifestyle’s of the 54 ethnic groups of Viet Nam.
In the evening we depart to Sapa by air-conditioned train.
Day 3: Trekking to Villages around Sapa.
We arrive early in the morning at Lao Cai. A short ride uphill takes us to SaPa, there are incredible views of the mountains and rice terraces as we snake our way to our destination. Once refreshed its time for a short drive to the Golden Stream Valley, stopping at Lao Chai village (Black Hmong). This is where local life takes place and depending on the time of year we may see people ploughing their fields with water buffalo or harvesting rice. The local rhythms of life are centuries old and still preserved to this day. Eventually, we arrive at Ta Van village (Dzay). The Dzay people are traditionally very hospitable and we visit a local home for a picnic lunch. This afternoon, we will trek to Giang Ta Chai village (Red Dzao). The vegetation is dense as the trail leads up to a peaceful village perched on the Hoang Lien mountainside.
***The first part is light trek which is suitable for all fitness levels. The second part of the trek is more demanding (especially during the rainy season when it can get rather slippery). There are alternative routes for those not confident with the more demanding trails.
Overnight in Sapa.
Day 4: Mountain Biking around Sapa.
After breakfast we depart from our hotel. Once kitted up, we start our bicycle ride downhill towards Ma Tra valley. The road is scenic and exciting and we’ll have ample opportunity to stop and take photos or chat with the locals. There's also time to visit the Black H'mong village of Ma Tra, a very small village hidden away from civilization. After a picnic lunch, we continue the ride and enter Ta Phin village. Here we can get an insight into the daily life of the Black Hmong and Dao minorities. Then its time to take to the saddle once again, we cycle through the village to the main road, where will be picked up and transferred back to Sapa.
Overnight in Sapa.
Day 5: Day Train back to Hanoi.
Enjoy a morning to explore SaPa town, great shopping in the market for local produce and you can buy handicrafts from many of the local hill tribes selling their wares there.
We take the day train back to Hanoi so we can reflect on our experiences as we watch the mountain views fade into the distance. Day train back to Hanoi and overnight hotel.
Day 6: Transfer to Halong City. Exploring Halong Bay by junk .
After breakfast we depart for Halong Bay. Listed as a natural world heritage site by UNESCO in 1994 it is now one of the most visited places in Vietnam. Halong Bay is a place of breathtaking beauty! The island and mountains are steeped in local legends and are dotted with caves and grottoes. We plan to explore one of the biggest and most beautiful caves in Halong – Sung Sot cave. Our guide will lead us through this amazing chamber of stalactites and stalagmites formed over millions of years. Once we emerge from the cave we continue our cruising to Ti Top beach where you can have a swim or walking up to Ti Top mountain for a bird‘s eye view over Halong bay. For those feeling active there is time for Kayaking from the beach. After a busy day its time to relax on deck with a cool drink to watch the setting sun. A delicious seafood dinner is served before we retire to our cosy cabins.
Overnight on junk.
Day 7: Kayaking in Halong Bay. Continue to Cat Ba Island.
We wake up to the sounds of the waves in the morning and the beautiful landscape of Halong bay. After breakfast our Captain will sail us to Luon Cave . Here we disembark from our from our floating home and join the local families on small rowing boats. Our new friends will take us through a cave which opens out into a natural auditorium carved into the limestone through millions of years of erosion. The silence and solitude is interrupted only by the singing of birds or maybe the chattering of monkey’s playing in the vegetation.
Back to our junk, and depart to another part of Halong – Bai Tu Long. Famous for its rock formations and millions of shapes from limestone, this is a must see place during your trip in the bay. Formations have been imaginatively named by fishermen and sailors over the years, among the most famous are “kissing Chicken Islets and Dragon Island and Dog Rock.
Following lunch on board we then board a smaller boat which takes us to Cat Ba Island. This is a rugged, rocky island with a jungle interior. There are a scattering of fishing villages and beaches along the coast and a bustling central town.
Upon arrival at Ben Be port in Cat Ba, we are met by our driver and transfer to our hotel.
Overnight on Cat Ba Island.
Day 8: Rock Climbing/Kayaking in Lan Ha Bay area.
An early start sees us leave Cat Ba Island for a cruise to Lan Ha Bay. Today is an active day for those who want to exert some energy. Upon arrival at Moody’s beach, we are free to enjoy Kayaking or rock climbing. Of course, for those wanting to take it easy you can relax with a good book or explore by foot. We take lunch on the beach before transferring to Thap Ngiem (Hai Pai Beach). This afternoon is spent at leisure and there will be more opportunities for rock-climbing or Kayaking. In the late afternoon we cruise through Lan Ha Bay and back to Cat Ba Island.
Overnight on Cat Ba Island.
Day 9: Cat Ba to Hanoi. Fly to Saigon.
This morning is kept free for personal exploration of Cat Ba Island. After lunch, we transfer to Cat Ba port where we board the express high speed boat to Hai Phong. Upon arrival in Hai Phong, our private car will take us back to Hanoi and onto Noi Bai airport where we take the flight to Saigon.
Overnight in Saigon.
Day 10: Sightseeing Saigon.
Today, we will explore Ho Chi Minh City once known as Saigon. If Hanoi and Hué represent the colonial past of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City stands for its future. We learn about the legacy of war at the dramatic War Remnants Museum. The Requiem photo exhibition showcases the work of the era's most famous combat photographers and is a must. We also visit Reunification Hall, formerly the Presidential Palace of South Vietnam. It was here that a North Vietnamese tank famously crashed through the gates bringing an end to the long Vietnam War and the building has been preserved exactly as it was in 1975. We then take a stroll around the impressive old French-built post office and Notre Dame Cathedral before continuing to the City Hall area, another grand old colonial-era relic. We then leave guests free to explore the famous Dong Khoi area, home to the legendary Continental Hotel, made famous by Graham Greene in the Quiet American, and lots of popular restaurants, bars and boutiques.
In the afternoon, we will visit Cholon, the dense ghetto that first housed ethnic Chinese (Hoa) who immigrated around 1900. Cholon literally means Big Market, and the overwhelming impression it gives is of full-blown mercantile mania. We’re off, next, to Thien Hau Pagoda, one of the most active in all of Cholon. Just west of Cholon, Binh Tay Market has seemingly infinite rows of merchant’s stalls. Le Cong Kieu Street is the heart of the antiques district in town. We head over there for a look at the quiet little shops that sell reproductions as well as authentic antiques, furniture, handicrafts, pottery, lacquerware. Then back to our hotel.
Overnight in Saigon.
Day 11: Transfer to Mui Ne.
In the morning we leave Ho Chi Minh for Mui Ne. Located 300 km to the north of Saigon, Mui Ne has just been developed recently and is still largely un-spoilt. We drive along Highway 1 passing through rural areas before arriving in Phan Thiet which is famous for ‘Dragon fruit’ and ‘Fish source’. We stop for lunch in a local restaurant before continuing to Mui Ne. Once checked in to our hotel the afternoon is free to take a walk on the miles of sandy beach or just relax and enjoy the SunSet.
Overnight in Mui Ne.
Day 12: Kite-surfing, windsurfing or sandboarding.
Today we are free to enjoy numerous beach activities. Mui Ne beach is famous for Kite-surfing, windsurfing or sand boarding. Mui Ne is also one of very few places in Vietnam that has sand dunes. These have become an attraction in themselves and people travel here to see, photograph and sand board the dunes.
Overnight in Mui Ne.
Day 13: More activities or free time on the beach.
Today is another day left free for leisure activities in Mui Ne beach. You can wake up early and take a tour visiting the famous Mui Ne sand dunes. A local guide will introduce you to spectacular photographic opportunities of the sand dunes and the fishing villages with hundreds of brightly coloured fishing boats. Of course, there is more time to practise your windsurfing or kite-boarding skills. Or, if you prefer, you can stay at the hotel to relax and enjoy the facilities.
Overnight in Mui Ne.
Day 14: Transfer to Saigon for onward flight.
After breakfast, we transfer to Saigon’s Tan Son Nhat airport.