- Explore Hanoi's ancient streets and dine at its finest restaurants
- Travel to the countryside and prepare traditional cuisine
- Enjoy an overnight cruise on the emerald waters of Ha Long Bay
- Visit the ancient river city of Hoi An and make lanterns
- Tour the former Saigon and discover its hidden gems and landmarks
|Day 1||Arrive in Hanoi, Self-Guided Tour||Hanoi|
|Day 2||Hanoi Sightseeing Tour, Fine Dining at Press Club||Hanoi|
|Day 3||Day Trip to Ba Vi Countryside & Cooking Class||Hanoi|
|Day 4||Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Luxury Cruise||Ha Long Bay|
|Day 5||Morning Cruise, Transfer to Hoi An||Hoi An|
|Day 6||Cultural Exchange & Riverboat Dinner||Hoi An|
|Day 7||Cycling Cam Thanh, Farm Visit & Lantern Workshop||Hoi An|
|Day 8||Fly to Ho Chi Minh City, Sunset Dinner Cruise||Ho Chi Minh City|
|Day 9||Saigon Hidden Corners Tour||Ho Chi Minh City|
|Day 10||Depart Ho Chi Minh City|
Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi, Self-Guided Tour
Welcome to Vietnam! This nation boasts thousands of years of settled history, from imperial dynasties to colonialism, civil war, foreign invasions, and everything in between. Through it all, this jaw-droppingly gorgeous country has managed to preserve its cultural roots while embracing modernity. This is no more evident than in the county's major cities, which are a mix of historic enclaves amid gleaming skyscrapers and shimmering new buildings.
There's no better introduction to Vietnam's seductive mix of history, culture, modernity, and world-class cuisine than the capital of Hanoi, which is where your adventure kicks off. At the airport, a personal driver will pick you up at the terminal for the ride to your hotel in the city, the Sofitel Legend Metropole. Located in the heart of Vietnam's Old Quarter near historic Hoan Kiem Lake, the Metropole is set in a luxurious French colonial estate dating to 1901.
After checking in, you can head out and spend the rest of the day exploring Hanoi on foot or three-wheeled cyclo. If you're hungry, head to Bun Cha Huong Lien to try the beloved Hanoian dish bun cha (noodle soup with grilled pork). This restaurant is so famous that it's hosted notable guests like Barack Obama and Anthony Bourdain—who ate there together. Later, sip cocktails on the rooftop bar of the five-star Pan Pacific Hotel and enjoy sunset views over Tay Ho (West Lake) to wrap up your day in style.
Day 2: Hanoi Sightseeing Tour, Fine Dining at Press Club
Leave the hotel early on a private, full-day tour to see Hanoi's historic landmarks. It starts around 8 am near Hoan Kiem Lake at Hang Be Market, which has been a commercial hub in the city for hundreds of years. This is where locals come to shop for fresh produce, meats, seafood, and other items. There are many vendors here selling prepared foods as well as stalls serving up Vietnam's famous street eats, so bring your appetite. Then head over to the Tran Quoc Pagoda. Dating to the Ly Nam De Dynasty of the sixth century, this is the oldest Buddhist shrine in Hanoi.
Next is the Museum of Ethnology, which preserves the cultural heritage of the 54 different ethnic groups in Vietnam. After lunch, continue to the 11th-century Temple of Literature, Vietnam's first-ever national university. Then visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the final resting place of revolutionary leader "Uncle Ho," who died in 1969. Other highlights include visiting the 11th-century One Pillar Pagoda, a Buddhist temple regarded as the most unique pagoda in Asia due to its lotus-flower design perched on a stone pillar rising out of a pond. Afterward, you'll return to the hotel.
Later, you'll head to the Old Quarter and the Press Club Restaurant to enjoy an evening of haute French cuisine with a touch of Vietnam. Michelin-star chef Alain Dutournier designed the refined menu in this historic 1920s colonial building. It features everything from oysters and caviar to scallop tartare and slow-cooked suckling pig with foie gras terrine. There's also a superb cellar boasting over 600 wines from around the world. After this unforgettable dining experience, you'll return to your hotel—or spend the evening reveling in Hanoi's famous nightlife.
Day 3: Day Trip to Ba Vi Countryside & Cooking Class
In the morning, you'll head west out of Hanoi on a full-day guided eco-tour of the beautiful Ba Vi countryside. Your first stop is Ri village, where you'll enjoy welcome drinks and snacks with Mr. Duoc, a Vietnam War veteran and tea plantation owner. Listen to Mr. Duoc's stories about life during the war and visit his workshop and tea plantation, where you'll learn how to pick the best leaves.
Next, take a short drive to Moc village, where Mrs. Chin will teach you how to cook Vietnamese dishes that you'll enjoy for lunch in her tropical garden. Join Mrs. Chin for a walk around the village to visit families and learn how to make tofu, conical hats, and other regional products. Finish with an easy cycle through Vietnam's iconic rice paddies, followed by a Muong herbal foot bath, before returning to Hanoi and the Metropole.
Day 4: Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Luxury Cruise
Check out of the Metropole in the morning and meet your driver for the ride to the airport, where you'll board a chartered seaplane for a flight north to the famous Ha Long Bay. During this 60-minute flight, you'll enjoy incredible views of northern Vietnam's Red River Delta, its vast rice paddies, and its rugged coast. Eventually, you'll touch down in Ha Long Bay. Located on the Gulf of Tonkin, over 1,000 karst islets rise above emerald waters, resembling the spine of a giant reptile (Ha Long translates to "descending dragon"). Here, you'll board the Stellar of the Seas luxury cruise ship for a two-day adventure.
Once aboard, you'll sit down for a gourmet lunch and then get underway. The ship will pass several islets before arriving at a secluded lagoon in Lan Ha Bay, part of the Cat Ba World Biosphere Reserve archipelago. Then the boat will drop anchor, and you'll take a kayak tour. During the excursion, you'll pass through narrow waterways around the karst mountains and visit the famous floating villages. Continue through a natural tunnel to a lagoon where you can swim and relax on a secluded beach.
In the late afternoon, you'll return to the boat, and everyone will gather on the top deck to witness the golden sunset over the water. Then, join a cooking class on board the ship, during which the expert chef will teach your group how to prepare traditional Vietnamese dishes. Later, you can opt for activities like games and movies or go squid fishing.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 5: Morning Cruise, Transfer to Hoi An
Wake up early and start the day strong with a tai chi session on the sundeck. After a light breakfast, the ship will cruise to the Dark and Light Cave. You'll then board a traditional bamboo boat and enter this system of two sea caverns. The "dark" cave stretches over 328 feet (100 m), and you'll explore the interior with a flashlight. The "light" cave is shorter and is filled with natural light, illuminating the white limestone karst walls and emerald waters of the grotto. Its cathedral-like interior is a great place to snap photos.
Afterward, you'll return to the ship and cruise to the Ha Long Bay pier, enjoying a late brunch as you go. Then hop in a vehicle for the 3.5-hour ride back to Hanoi, arriving around 3 pm. Once back in the city, you'll transfer to the airport by private vehicle and catch a 1.5-hour flight south to Da Nang, located on Vietnam's central coast. There, another driver will pick you up for the one-hour ride south to the colorful and romantic city of Hoi An, which sits on the Thu Bon River. Upon arrival, you'll check into your five-star hotel, Anantara Hoi An, a sprawling resort in a stately French colonial building right on the water.
Day 6: Cultural Exchange & Riverboat Dinner
You're in for a treat as today you'll get to the heart of Hoi An's rich history and fascinating cultural legacy. This city was a major trading port with the West from the 15th through the 19th centuries, attracting merchants from around the globe. Its international legacy is represented in the assortment of architectural styles in Hoi An's Ancient Town. After breakfast at the hotel, head into the heart of Ancient Town to begin the day's discovery.
Your first stop is the Champa Amaravati House, a cultural center focused on the heritage of the Cham people, an ethnic Indigenous group with a long history in the coastal provinces of Vietnam. Here you'll enjoy a chat with Kieu Maily, a Champa cultural researcher (as well as broadcaster and writer) from the coastal province of Ninh Thuan. After the chat, you'll dine on some traditional Cham cuisine, view some art exhibits, and enjoy live performances at the center.
When the sun goes down, you'll hop aboard a traditional bamboo raft and head out on one of the most popular activities in the region: a ride down the river. As you ply the tranquil waters with your loved one, friends, or family, you'll enjoy a gourmet meal on the boat. Complimenting this unforgettable culinary experience will be the colored lights from the riverbank glimmering on the surface of the water. At the end of the evening, you'll return to your hotel.
Day 7: Cycling Cam Thanh, Farm Visit & Lantern Workshop
Wake up early and head out on a half-day adventure to the gorgeous countryside near Hoi An. From the hotel, your personal driver will transfer you to the riverside village of Vong Nhi. There, you'll leave the car and hop on a bicycle for a 4-mile (6 km) ride through the country. During the scenic ride, you'll pass unspoiled rural scenes dotted with coconut forests, rice paddies, and prawn and red snapper farms.
At the end of the bike tour, you'll visit Thanh Dong, a 107,640-square-foot (10,000 sq m) organic farm tended to by 10 or so local families. Take a stroll around the vegetable garden and learn how the farmers here have been cultivating produce and herbs organically using the same traditional methods they have for centuries. You'll even join in gardening activities like sowing seeds and picking vegetables.
Later, back in Hoi An, you'll participate in a private, hands-on workshop to discover the ancient art of lantern-making. Japanese settlers brought the first lanterns to this region in the 16th century, and they've been a cultural icon ever since. At the home of a local craftsman, you'll learn all about this rich history and then make your very own colorful paper lantern to take home.
Day 8: Fly to Ho Chi Minh City, Sunset Dinner Cruise
In the morning, your driver will pick you up at the Anantara Hoi An for the ride back to the airport in Da Nang. There, you'll board a 1.5-hour flight south to Ho Chi Minh City. Formerly known as Saigon, Vietnam's largest metropolis has preserved its cultural roots and traditions in the face of a communist revolution, a devastating war, and ever-encroaching modernity.
Upon arrival, a driver will transfer you to the Hotel des Arts Saigon. This five-star hotel delivers on luxury, boasting spacious rooms and suites, multiple fine-dining restaurants, and featuring an artistic decor that reflects the cultural heritage of Saigon. Make a beeline for the rooftop, where you can relax poolside with a drink in hand and enjoy some of the best panoramic views of Ho Chi Minh City's skyline.
Later in the afternoon, you'll hit the water again, this time on a three-hour cruise. It's a romantic ride down the Saigon River that coincides with sunset, so you'll get to witness the last rays of light glimmering against the towering high-rises of Ho Chi Minh City's skyline. Following this is a set dinner right on the boat, during which you'll enjoy gourmet dishes prepared by top chefs. Afterward, you'll return to the hotel.
Day 9: Saigon Hidden Corners Tour
Meet your expert local guide at the hotel in the morning and leave on a private, half-day tour of some of Ho Chi Minh City's most secluded corners. Go beyond the central districts as you travel down backstreets and alleys and find the lesser-known stories that shape the city. Your guide will lead you to a wide array of spots off the tourist trail, including a secret weapons depot that the Viet Cong used to store weapons during the Vietnam War (known locally as the American War). As you go, you'll meet a few locals who live on these backstreets in narrow houses.
After exploring the alleys, take a break and chill out at a coffee shop tucked away in an old French colonial-era apartment block. Then head to a local market to meet a street artist who has spent half his life making souvenir carvings. Finally, your guide will lead you to a hidden restaurant (accessed through an antique elevator), where you'll enjoy a meal before returning to your hotel.
Day 10: Depart Ho Chi Minh CityYour whirlwind luxury tour through Vietnam has, unfortunately, reached its last stop. Enjoy one last decadent breakfast at the hotel before transferring to the airport to catch your flight home. Tam biet!
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