Witness the spectacle of early morning exercise at Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi. Here the local rituals could be anything from laughing yoga to ballroom dancing. Be enchanted by the dreamlike scenery of Ha Long Bay, Vietnam’s must-see natural wonder of limestone islands. Venture to where relatively few tourists have gone before – the extraordinary Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, where caves as long as 30 kilometres were discovered only recently. Spend time at the Vinh Moc tunnels and Khe Sanh Combat Base, both of which provide an eye-opening insight into the America-Vietnam war
Vietnam has hundreds of miles of beautiful coastline, but it’s mostly the local fisherman who get to see it. This new small-ship adventure cruise offers a chance to experience it in a way few tourists have. Starting in Hanoi, visit not only Halong Bay, historic Hue, and the important war sites of Vinh Moc and Khe Sanh, but also the largely unknown natural paradise of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. This immense, unspoiled haven takes the ancient limestone scenery to the next level – or more precisely, underground. If there’s one natural wonder to see in Vietnam before it changes, this is the one.
Breakfast Included: 7 Lunches Included: 3 Dinner Included: 6
Welcome to Vietnam. A complimentary arrival transfer is included if you're arriving today. In the evening after a welcome meeting at the hotel, you may like to sit down to an optional dinner with fellow travellers. Enchanting Hanoi stands in contrast to its southern counterpart Ho Chi Minh City, with an atmosphere that's a little less frantic, due in no small part to the abundance of lakes and parks to escape to.
Hanoi to Halong
Those feeling active can rise early for a leader-led walking tour this morning. This includes 'laughing yoga', tai chi and other lakeside activities enjoyed by Hanoi's local population. It's a great first taste of everyday life in Vietnam. Today you'll also visit a traditional water puppet theatre. Here 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. Afterwards, return to the hotel for a 2 pm bus transfer from Hanoi to Halong, to board the Panorama II.
Transfer to a smaller local boat today for a tour around beautiful Halong Bay. Take in glorious views of this World Heritage-listed beauty and its pretty limestone islands. You'll also visit a cave in the area and have the option for swimming from Ti Top Island. Overnight on board the Panorama II.
Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay
Settle into a full day's sailing, heading south towards Hon Lang, 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 simply curl up on a comfortable chair on deck with a good book as the glorious coast streams by.
Hon La and Phong Nha National Park
Arrive in Hon La at around 8 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. Visit the Thien Duong cave (aka Paradise Cave), which clocks in at an astounding 31 kilometres long and was discovered only in 2005. Later, set sail overnight for Vinh Moc, departing at midnight.
Vinh Moc and Khe Sanh
Arrive at 9 am in Vinh Moc, where another incredible, but very different, underground site is found. The tunnels here were built to shelter local communities in the Demilatarised Zone that separated North and South Vietnam during the war. As you'll learn, the tunnels grew in sophistication and depth, and many families resided in this underground village in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Some 17 children were born down here. Today you'll also visit the Khe Sanh Combat Base, where the bloodiest conflict of the Vietnam-America conflict took place.
Dock at Chan May, then transfer by road to Hue, the former imperial capital and hub of Vietnam's historic past. Here the group will split up into smaller groups for a guided tour of the city with local guides. This includes a visit to the Thien Mu Pagoda, an active Buddhist monastery that dates back to 1601. You'll enjoy some tasty vegetarian fare for lunch at a pagoda. Also visit the elaborate royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, with its beautiful lake, frangipani and pine trees. In the evening, enjoy a final dinner onboard with your shipmates.
Disembark in Da Nang after breakfast.