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12 Days - Highlights of Vietnam

There are not many countries where a short tour can take in six distinct destinations inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage list, but this is Vietnam, where cultural heritage and scenic wonder combine to create a unique and remarkable experience. Our Highlights of Vietnam tour commences in Hanoi's romantic Old Quarter; we go on to visit the majestic scenery of Halong Bay; explore the remarkable caves of Phong Nha; bask in the unparalleled beauty of Hoi An, cycle through history in Hue, dive right in to the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City! As with all our Essential style tours, the Highlights of Vietnam includes some really good value, well-located accommodation, all transfers and connections and a number of great excursions where we feel you'll benefit most from the support of your Tour Leader and expert guide. The remainder of the time is yours to explore, have your own adventures and make your own discoveries, with the help of your Info-Pack and recommendations from your Tour Leader of course. The pace of the tour is quite high to enable us to fit in so many highlights, but with a night spent onboard a lovely Chinese-style junk on Halong Bay, a full day in Hoi An, one of Asia's most laid-back towns, and a day exploring the quiet backwaters of the Mekong Delta there's plenty of time to kick-back and relax if that's your style. We travel by a combination of plane, boat and private coach to get you from place to place in the most convenient and efficient manner possible, and include an overnight journey on the atmospheric Reunification Express. For the first-time visitor to Vietnam this is an exciting, active and great value journey covering all of the highlights. We hope you'll join us!

 Highlights Checklist:
- Mix with locals on a street food tour of ancient Hanoi
- Cruise through the spectacular scenery of Ha Long Bay
- Cycle through the rice paddies in Hoi An
- Explore the spectacular caverns of Phong Nha
- Be chauffeured by cyclo around imperial Hue
- Relax in a riverside café in Hoi An's Old Town
- Experience the electric atmosphere of Ho Chi Minh City
- Explore the myriad waterways of the Mekong Delta

Private day by day itinerary:
Day 01: Hanoi ( Dinner included)
The tour commences today in Vietnam's capital; the fantastic jumble of styles and influences that is modern-day Hanoi. Many of our customers choose to come in a day or two early to get over jet-lag and get the most out of the tour. Whatever you choose we will have someone there to meet you on arrival at Noi Bai International Airport and escort you the short distance to our hotel. Our base here is the Medallion Hotel, located bang in the heart of the city's old town, surrounded by street food stalls, markets and cafes, and within a few minutes walk of Hoan Kiem Lake. Tonight, once all members of the group have arrived we will venture out into the city to indulge in an included welcome dinner of your Tour Leader's choice.

Day 02: Hanoi (Breakfast included)
Ho Chi Minh died before the conclusion of the Vietnam War, but the reverence in which he was held was such that his body was preserved and a grand mausoleum created in Hanoi to allow the Vietnamese people to pay their respects. Our exploration of the city commences here, at the complex that houses the Stalinist mausoleum, the Presidential Palace and Ho Chi Minh's more humble private residence. Our next stop is the Temple of Literature, Vietnam's first university constructed in 1070, with lovely gardens and well-preserved architecture. After lunch you are free to head off under your own steam, or see what your Tour Leader has planned. You may like to stop in at one of the city's excellent museums - the recently-opened Ethnology Museum, where Vietnam's diverse minority cultures are explained in a thoughtful and hands-on manner, and the Women's Museum are both highly recommended. Later this afternoon a visit to see the unique Water Puppets, a traditional northern Vietnamese folk art is included. 

Day 03: Halong Bay (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner in cluded)
We leave Hanoi early this morning for the four hour drive east to Halong Bay. We board our comfortable Chinese-style junk boat, the Bai Tho, in late morning and set sail into the wonderful scenery of the bay. During the afternoon we will disembark to explore one of the remarkable floating fishing villages that shelter in the lee of the towering karst pinnacles that stud the bay. There is also the chance to swim or hire a kayak for some personal water-borne exploration.

Day 04: Hanoi ( Breakfast included )
We drive back to Hanoi in time for a quick dinner before boarding the Reunification Express, the train that links north and south Vietnam, for our overnight journey south to Dong Hoi. Facilities onboard are simple but clean, and very much part of the Vietnam experience!

Day 05: Phong Nha National Park Breakfast Lunch
We arrive early this morning, and after a chance to freshen up and have a spot of breakfast we drive an hour inland to the towering peaks of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, home to the region's most spectacular cave systems. We spend the day exploring this remote and beautiful jungle region; swimming at Nuoc Mooc Spring, where warm waters usher forth from a nearby cavern, and experiencing some of the largest and finest caves in Asia. An undoubted highlight will be the vast cathedral-like edifice of Paradise Cave, deep in the mountains of the park.

Day 06: Hue Breakfast Lunch
From Dong Hoi where we have stayed overnight we head south this morning toward Hue. En route we stop in at the DMZ and Vin Moc Tunnels, constructed at the height of the war by local villagers living close to the notorious 17th Parallel of the Vietnam War-era, to protect themselves from the relentless carpet-bombing. We cross the Ben Hai River and continue to Hue, arriving mid-afternoon; after checking in to our hotel overlooking the Perfume River the remainder of the day is at leisure to explore.

Day 07: Hue (Breakfast included)
Following a morning guided exploration of the huge Citadel, home of the Nguyen Emperors, and a cyclo tour through the Old Town, we take a picturesque boat ride up the Perfume River, named for the fragrance of tropical flowers carried down from orchards upriver, to the Thien Mu Pagoda. The afternoon is then yours to continue your exploration. The countryside surrounding the city is dotted with the tombs of the former emperors, and you may wish to add one or more of these into your itinerary. Two of the finest are the imposing Mausoleum of Tu Duc, and Khai Dinh's Tomb; the European-influenced resting place of the final Nguyen Emperor.

Day 08: Hoi An ( Breakfast included)
After breakfast today we head onward to the ancient port town of Hoi An, on one of the most scenic drives in the country, passing the wonderfully photogenic fishing village of Lang Co before ascending the Pass of Ocean Clouds. Our hotel in Hoi An is located on the edge of the pedestrianised Old Town, making it an ideal spot for personal exploration. The remainder of the day is at your leisure.

Day 09: Hoi An ( Breakfast included)
A short walking tour of the Old Town this morning helps you get your bearings sufficiently to make the most of your afternoon at leisure. The pool at the resort hotel is inviting, or the many wonderful riverside cafes and restaurants might appeal for a spot of people-watching. For those of a more active persuasion bikes can be hired to get out into the countryside, or your Tour Leader could help you to arrange a cookery class or a visit to the Cham Dynasty ruins at My Son, an hour's drive from town.

Day 10: Ho Chi Minh City ( Breakfast included )
This morning we continue our journey south with a flight to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam's most energetic and electric city. We are staying at a great value hotel in a fantastic location just behind the Opera House and surrounded by bustling streets full of cafes, restaurants and shops. District One, where our hotel is located, is an incredibly accessible area with many of the city's highlights, including the former Presidential Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, Benh Thanh Market and Dong Khoi Street, all within walking distance. Take your pick and head out this afternoon to make your own discoveries.

Day 11: Ho Chi Minh City (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner included)
After a high-paced few days, we slow things down today as we head south from the city into the evocative Mekong Delta. There are few more relaxing experiences than a cruise through the laid-back tropical world of the delta - we board in Ben Tre and sail downriver past mountains of coconuts and heavily-laden rice barges to the Mango Homestay where we stop for a tasty home-prepared lunch. After lunch we explore the local villages and fruit orchards on foot or by bike, seeing local handicrafts and cottage industries, before returning to Ho Chi Minh City in the late afternoon. A final group dinner rounds off our adventure, with a last chance to reminisce on the highlights of the trip and exchange addresses before parting ways the following day.

Day 12: Ho Chi Minh City (Breakfast)
Sadly the adventure is over and we all have to say our farewells and go our separate ways. Unless you have chosen to extend your trip with a few nights on one of Vietnam's excellent beaches, or by crossing the border to explore the incredible temples of Angkor in neighbouring Cambodia, you will be taken to Ho Chi Minh International Airport by your tour leader or a guide and waved off on your return flight home.

Sadly the adventure is over and we all have to say our farewells and go our separate ways. Unless you have chosen to extend your trip with a few nights on one of Vietnam's excellent beaches, or by crossing the border to explore the incredible temples of Angkor in neighbouring Cambodia, you will be taken to Ho Chi Minh International Airport by your tour leader or a guide and waved off on your return flight home.

What is included:
- 9 nights hotel accommodation
- 1 overnight boat, the Ginger Cruise on Halong Bay (private two berth cabins with ensuite facilities)
- All transport between destinations in Vietnam including airport transfers on arrival and departure
- Meet and greet upon arrival at Hanoi International Airport
- Breakfast every day
- 4 lunches
- 3 evening meals
- All excursions and experiences as outlined in the day-by-day itinerary
- Full time services of your Tour Leader
- InsideVietnam Tours’ complimentary Info-Pack
- Tips for local guides and coach drivers
- Services of an expert local guide in most destinations
- 1 overnight train journey (shared four berth cabins)

What is NOT included:
- International flights
- Entrance fees or additional transport costs not outlined
- All drinks and any meals not outlined above
- Any tips for hotel porters, tour leader and others

Private Holidays off beaten paths in Vietnam

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