Go where few tourists have gone – to the astounding Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, where caves as long as 30 kilometres were discovered only recently. The Vinh Moc tunnels and Khe Sanh Combat Base provide an eye-opening insight into the history of the America-Vietnam war. Be enchanted by the dreamlike scenery of Ha Long Bay, Vietnam’s must-see natural wonder of limestone islands. Witness the great scene of early morning ritual at Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi. Here you might encounter anything from laughing yoga to ballroom dancing
Much of Vietnam’s stunning coastline, hundreds of miles long, is seen mostly by local fisherman. Small-ship adventure cruising, however, is a way of experiencing not only the must-see limestone scenery of Halong Bay, but also those destinations most travellers haven’t discovered yet. The star of this particular show is Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, an unspoiled haven of cliffs, mountains, rivers and impossibly long caves that were discovered barely a decade ago. Add in historic Hue, vibrant Hanoi and the important war sites of Vinh Moc and Khe Sanh, and this becomes one unforgettable week of leisure and discovery in Vietnam.
Breakfast Included: 9 Lunches Included: 4 Dinner Included: 6
On arrival in Danang, you will be transferred from the airport to your hotel in Hoi An. Enjoy an evening getting to know the city and indulging in some amazing Vietnamese cuisine.
This morning, get to know Hoi An as local guides take you on a walking tour around this World Heritage listed city. The city was a major trading port with the west from the 17th century onwards, and has a various architectural influences from Europe, China and Vietnam. Today the city is being restored and looks exactly like it did over a century ago. The rest of the day is free for you to do some optional activities or soak up the ambience of the place. You may like to wander Hoi An Market and the street stalls selling paintings, woodwork, ceramics, lanterns and much more. It’s also famous for its talented tailors who can make beautiful items to order within a few hours.
The morning is free for you to continue your exploration of Hoi An, or perhaps for that last fitting of some new tailored clothes? In the afternoon, we will transfer back to Danang to join the Panorama II. Enjoy a welcome dinner on board before setting sail.
Depart at 9 am for the short sail to Chan May. From there, take a bus to Hue, the former imperial capital and hub of Vietnam's historic past. Here the group will split up into smaller groups for a tour of the city with local guides. You will visit the Thien Mu Pagoda (an active Buddhist monastery that dates back to 1601) and enjoy tasty vegetarian fare for lunch. Also visit the elaborate royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, with its beautiful lake, frangipani and pine trees. Later, return to the ship for dinner, and set sail at midnight for Vinh Moc.
Visit the intriguing Vinh Moc Tunnels today. These were built to shelter local communities in the Demilatarised Zone that separated North and South Vietnam during the war. As you'll learn, the the tunnels grew in sophistication as well as depth, and many families resided in this underground village in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Some 17 children were born underground in this period. Today you'll also visit the Khe Sanh Combat Base, where the bloodiest conflict of the Vietnam-America conflict took place. Sail overnight toward Hon La.
Arrive in Hon La at around 9 am, then transfer by bus to the unspoiled Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Spanning 885 square kilometres and boasting some of Asia's most ancient limestone karst landscapes, this chunk of land is one of the last true paradises of Vietnam. You'll visit the Thien Duong cave, also known as Paradise Cave, which is an astounding 31 kilometres long and was only discovered in 2005. Later, set sail for Halong at 7 pm.
Sailing to Halong Bay
Settle into a full day's sailing, heading north towards Halong, which is located just north of Na Trang. Take the opportunity to relax with a drink, play some board games, chat with fellow travellers, or curl up on a comfortable chair on deck with a good book as the sea streams by.
Transfer to a smaller local boat today for a tour around beautiful Halong Bay. Embarking at Bai Chay (Halong City West), soak up the views of this World Heritage-listed beauty and its pretty limestone islands. You'll also visit a cave in the area. During the warmer months your leader will discuss the option for swimming from Ti Top Island. Kayaking along the bay is another great option.
Halong Bay to Hanoi
Disembark after breakfast, then transfer by bus to Hanoi, arriving around midday. Your leaders can offer suggestions for lunch. In the afternoon, embark on a walking tour of Hanoi, which includes a visit to a traditional water puppet show. Your host Liem invites you into his home, a small-scale theatre that continues a long running family tradition passed down from generation to generation. Witness not only the show itself but gain a behind-the-scenes insight into how the puppets are made and animated. For the final night of the trip, head out on the town with fellow travellers for an optional farewell dinner, and retire to a local hotel.
Those feeling active can rise early for an optional leader-led walking tour this morning. This includes 'laughing yoga', tai chi, and other lakeside activities enjoyed by Hanoi's local population. The trip comes to an end after breakfast at the hotel.