Day 1 Hanoi 2/4
Meeting, Temple of Literature; Hoa Lo Prison; Dinner
Our tour starts this afternoon around 2 pm. We’ll have our get-acquainted meeting, meet our Vietnamese guide, and head out to explore the city. Our walking tour takes in the major sights including the Temple of Literature and Hoa Lo Prison (nicknamed the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ by American POWs). We’ll explore the Old Quarter whose streets are named for the goods once offered here, including Silk Street, Rice Street and Jewelers Street. We’ll end our day with a traditional Vietnamese dinner.
Lan Vien Hotel (2N)
Day 2 Feb 5 Hanoi
Bai Dinh; Tam Coc
Today we take a 2 hour drive from urban Hanoi to the rural province of Ninh Binh. Our first destination is Bai Dinh, the largest complex of Buddhist temples in Vietnam and a popular site for Buddhist pilgrimages. After having lunch at a local restaurant, we depart for a visit to Tam Coc (which translates as “Three Caves”). This leg of our journey is by small boat. Sit back and enjoy the two-hour journey through caves, past villages, and beside the lush green rice paddies of the Red River Delta, always with the stunning backdrop of karst crags and towers. Bring extra storage cards for your camera! After our full day in the countryside, we return to Hanoi for a free evening.
Day 3 Feb 6 Halong Bay
You can leave your luggage behind at our Hanoi hotel and pack an overnight bag. We are off to Halong Bay, Vietnam’s most impressive scenic wonder. Views of sailing junks navigating the 3000+ karst islands and rocky outcrops jutting out of the bay are nothing short of spectacular. We travel to Bai Chay (Halong City West) where we board our sailing junk for an exploration of the bay, enjoy a seafood lunch and dinner and spend a night on board (private twin rooms). We visit a sea cave in the area, kayaks are available, and there is always the option to enjoy a swim. It is a wonderful experience to spend a night on the bay. The views at sunset and sunrise are incredible!
Day 4 Feb 7 overnight train
Water Puppet Theater
After breakfast, we continue cruising around Halong Bay, before returning to port and driving back to Hanoi. Arriving back in the capital, we check into our hotel day use rooms until leaving for an overnight train around 20:00. Before then we’ll see a performance of the famous Water Puppet Theater, Vietnam’s signature performing art. Later we board the Reunification Express for our overnight train journey down to Quang Binh. We travel in ‘soft sleeper’ class – a compartment for two people. Note - a single supplement does not provide for a private cabin on the overnight train.
Day 5 Feb 8 Hue
Son River Cruise; Phong Nha Cave
After disembarking from the train we’ll take a short break to refresh in hotel day use rooms and have breakfast before visiting the Phong Nha cave. Once again we travel by boat, cruising along the Son River to the cave, another of Vietnam’s great natural treasures. We’ll journey through the first half mile of the cavern in our boat, then continue on foot into the heart of the cave. Inside we’ll see the remains of Cham Altars in addition to the fantastic rock formations. After our return to the sunlit world we have an afternoon’s drive to our final destination, Hue, a Unesco World Heritage site. Located on the Perfume River, Hue is the former capital of the Nguyen dynasty. We’ll have dinner together in a local restaurant this evening.
Alba Spa Hotel (2N)
Day 6 Feb 9 Hue
Citadel Tour; Thien Mu Pagoda; Perfume River Cruise; Royal Tomb
This morning we take a tour of the partially ruined Citadel, capital of Vietnam in the 19th century. Its six miles of walls contain the palaces and pavilions of the ruling Nguyen emperors and the remains of the Forbidden Purple City, where only the emperor or his eunuchs and concubines were allowed entrance. Many buildings remain blackened and crumbling, creating an evocative ambiance, ideal for photographing or imagining the ghosts of the mandarins. Before leaving Hue we’ll visit the famous Thien Mu Pagoda, a center for anti-government protest in the early 1960s. This afternoon another waterborne excursion on the Perfume River takes us to the surrounding countryside where we’ll have a local lunch and visit one of the extravagant royal tombs in the area.
Day 7 Feb 10 Hoi An
Walking Tour Hoi An
One of Vietnam’s most scenic road trips over Hai Van Pass begins our day. Our destination, Hoi An, was originally a Cham port town so has been influenced down the centuries by traders from many cultures. The town is a living museum, with Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and European architectural influences. There are pagodas, assembly halls, attractive wooden merchant’s houses, and colorful tiled houses scattered along the small streets. Once a bustling port, today Hoi An’s ambiance, tranquility, and charm make it one of the most delightful places to visit in Vietnam. This afternoon will include a guided walking tour of the city center and tonight we’ll dine together.
Belle Maison Hadana Resort (3N)
Day 8 Feb 11 Hoi An
This morning, we visit My Son, the Cham civilization’s spiritual home, where Cham kings were buried as early as the fourth century. There are many carved stone towers, sanctuaries, and tombs to explore and photograph at this intriguing archaeological site. This afternoon is free to explore, shop, or relax in Hoi An.
Day 9 Feb 12 Hoi An
Today we continue our vacation from our vacation. Hoi An is a marvelous place to wander and enjoy the thriving riverside market – a good place to buy silk. Local tailors can create fine garments for a bargain price, all within a day. Imprint can arrange a Vietnamese cooking class for those interested. Rent a bike for the day or just relax by the hotel pool.
Day 10 Feb 13 Ben Tre Homestay
Homestay; Cao Dai Temple
This morning we depart Hoi An for nearby Danang, where we board our flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon; flight included). Upon arrival we’ll travel directly to our homestay visit in the Mekong Delta. Enroute we’ll stop to visit a vibrant and colorful Cao Dai temple. Indigenous to Vietnam, Caodaism is a unique fusion of Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Confucianism. At Cai Be we begin a Mekong River boat trip that takes us past a floating market and lush scenery with many ‘photo ops’ along the way. We’ll stop to visit riverside businesses and observe the locals plying their trades. After sampling various tropical fruits and local specialties we continue to our overnight homestay on an island in the river. Our traditional dinner is prepared by locals. Note: our homestay accommodations are clean and comfortable but rustic (shared facilities)
Vinh Long Homestay (1N)
Day 11 Feb 14 Mekong Delta
Cu Chi Tunnels; Saigon street food tour
On the way back to Saigon you’ll visit one of the most important sites in the area, the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. These complex tunnels were used by the Viet Cong in the long war against the Americans and were instrumental to the Vietnamese victory. Cu Chi is actually the name of the district that covers an extensive underground network (approximately 125 miles) of tunnels. They contained storage, refuge, hospitals, accommodations, and even schools. A section of the tunnels has been widened to allow tourists a feeling for what underground life must have been like. After arrival, for dinner we'll embark on a Saigon street food tour.
Signature Saigon Hotel (2N)
Day 12 Feb 15 Ho Chi Minh City
City Tour; War Remnants Musuem
This morning, take a tour of the city, passing the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Opera House. We'll visit the War Remnants Museum for a sobering yet informative lesson on the Vietnam War. Your afternoon is free to relax or explore. We'll then gather for our final dinner together.
Day 13 Feb 16 Ho Chi Minh City
The tour ends after breakfast.
[Itinerary details & hotels subject to change] *As flight costs fluctuate, we reserve the right to add a flight supplement should flight costs rise more than 10%.
9 nights hotel accommodation, 1 overnight on-boat cruise, 1 overnight train, 1 night homestay, day use rooms day 4 Hanoi and day 5 Quang Binh; all tour transportation – bus, train, boat, plane (Danang-HCMC*); all breakfasts, 5 lunches, 6 dinners; all activities and entrances - Hanoi city tour, Temple of Literature, Hoa Lo prison, Tam Coc boat trip, cave excursion Halong Bay, Son River cruise, Phong Nha Cave, Perfume River cruise, Thien Mu pagoda; Hue tomb; Hue Citadel & Forbidden City, Hoi An walking tour, HCMC city tour, War Remnants Museum, Cu Chi excursion, Mekong boat trip with villages and floating market visits, Cao Dai temple; services of English speaking escort and Imprint tour director throughout; tips for escort, local guides, drivers, boat captains, group meals, hotel staffs
International flights to/from tour; airport tax; Vietnam entry visa; free time meals and sightseeing; beverages; expenditures of personal nature