Day 1 - Halong Bay
Leaving Hanoi early this morning, you will be driven to Halong City, a journey time of approximately 3.5 hours. On arrival, you will transfer to the Bhaya Classic boat for your over night cruise of Halong Bay. Sailing through emerald waters and past rocky islets and lush islands, a delicious lunch will be served on board.
Halong Bay is blessed with numerous grottoes, hidden pools and mystical islands and this afternoon, there will be the opportunity to disembark the boat and explore the region further. Off-boat excursions are usually by ship’s tender although often there is the opportunity to discover the beautiful landscapes of the bay by kayak or bamboo rowing boat. Visits to nearby caves or sandy beaches may also be on the agenda and of course there is always the option to remain on board and take in the glorious vista from the spacious sundeck.
As night falls, the boat will drop anchor in a peaceful spot. Enjoy a refreshing drink and the view from the sundeck before sitting down to a leisurely dinner which will either be served on deck or inside the dining room depending on the vessel and local weather conditions.
Hotels: Bhaya Classic Cruise
Meals: 1 Lunch & 1 Dinner
Day 2 - Ninh Binh
Early risers may have the opportunity to witness sunrise over the bay. Then enjoy a light breakfast, before disembarking the boat once more for further discovery. On the return journey to port, there is the opportunity to savour the glorious scenery of Halong Bay one final time. Arriving back into port mid morning, you will be met and transferred to Ninh Binh. Lunch will be served in a local restaurant en route.
Arrive in Ninh Binh, check-in your hotel and free at leisure.
Hotel: Emeralda Ninh Binh
Meals: 1 breakfast & 1 Lunch
Day 3 - Ninh Binh
This morning we visit the citadel of Hoa Lu, the ancient capital of the Dinh and Le Dynasties dating back to the 11th century. Temples that are still standing include the royal temple of the early Le Dynasty, Dai Hanh and Dinh Tien Hoang, another royal temple which contains a statue of Emperor Dinh Bo Linh and his sons. The energetic may undertake the climb of some 200 steps to explore the temples and for a rewarding bird’s-eye view of the surrounding countryside. Today Hoa Lu, and the surrounding province of Ninh Binh are better known for their outstanding natural beauty and the landscape with unusual rock formations jutting out of the rice paddies means the area is sometimes referred to as Ha Long Bay on land.
Afterwards visit Bai Dinh pagoda with a total area of 2000ha, the Bai Dinh complex is the biggest Buddhism centre in South east Asia with hundreds of statues of different sizes. Travellers will enjoy the architecture which is marvellous and majestic but still preserves traditional features.
Leaving Bai Dinh you will take to the river and enjoy the tranquil journey by rowing boat to the remarkable Thien Ha cave, a long cave with two areas: a 200m dry cave and a 500m water cave. After strolling along the curling rocky path at the foot of Tuong Mountain, visitors come to the cave gate. Spend time exploring Thien Ha Cave, where stalactites show the remarkable cave size. This cave used to be buried in deep mud and has only recently be discovered.
Instead of Thien Ha Cave, guest may have option to Tam Coc – Bich Dong, a very famous destination but touristy nowadays. Leaving Bai Dinh you will take to the river and enjoy the tranquil journey by rowing boat to the remarkable caves and pagodas of Tam Coc and Bich Dong. En route you’ll traverse a scenic landscape of rice fields and karst towers. Some of these caves in this region were used by the Viet Minh to hide from the French during the First Indochina War and now contain stalactites that have been carved into Buddhist images, as well as hollow stalactites that mimic flute-like sounds when played.
Lunch at local restaurant and transfer back to hotel.
Hotel: Emeralda Ninh Binh
Meals: 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch
Day 4 - Mai Chau
After breakfast, we depart Ninh Binh and transfer by road to Mai Chau. Stop along the way to visit the Muong tribe and then at Thung Khe Passfor, a spectacular view of Mai Chau Valley. Check in your hotel then have an authentic lunch with a local family of the White Thai Tribe and enjoy some free time to acquaint yourself with the villagers.
Sitting atop a private hill in Na Phon village, Mai Chau Ecolodge is the most secluded haven in Mai Chau with a stunning backdrop of lush rice paddies and emerald mountains embraced by clouds. Inspired by nature, they constructed the lodge to be a refuge of charm and serenity, providing guest a chance to forget about the worries of daily life and to enjoy the best Mai Chau has to offer.
In the afternoon, trek through terraced rice paddies and small villages, discovering the natural beauty of the valley. Encounter and witness the culture of the ethnic minority of Thai people with visits to the Pom Coong and Na Phon villages. Return to your hotel in late afternoon to enjoy the rest of your evening.
Hotel: Mai Chau Ecolodge
Meals: 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch
Day 5 - Mai Chau to Hanoi
The village rises early and after breakfast, you’ll have the opportunity to visit the nearby colourful market place where Vietnamese jostle with local ethnic groups over a variety of fresh food produce. Mai Chau is known for its production of colourful embroidery, which can be seen observed by being woven by hand in many of the nearby homes. You will enjoy a walk through the community inspecting the intricacies of this craft and will be able to see the many activities of rural life in this part of the north
If you wish to experience Mai Chau’s relaxed hill tribe life and breathtaking scenery, you can take a short drive through the surrounding countryside before setting off on a trek through rice paddies and down winding lanes to visit the Cum and Sam Khoe villages. Immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture and enjoy an authentic lunch at one of the villages.
Lunch at local house and transfer back to Hanoi
Meals: 1 Breakfast & 1 Lunch
5 day Private Tour - from £839
With flights from £1479