Wide colonial boulevards complement meandering 11th century alleyways. Ho Ci Minh’s stilt house contrasts perfectly with his grand mausoleum.
Cruise Halong Bay in a traditional junk and you’ll be confronted with gigantic limestone dragon’s teeth rising out of the emerald waters. Amble around Hoi An and you’ll find ancient, wooden fronted merchants’ houses and a Japanese covered bridge. Laze beside the South China Sea and you’ll experience the perfect contrast to the visual frenzy of energetic Saigon.
London – Hanoi
Depart from London Heathrow late morning for your direct flight to Hanoi. You’ll arrive in this genteel city in the early morning and will be met at the airport and taken to your luxury hotel. You’ll be staying within easy walking distance of the elegant Opera House – built in the French colonial style over 100 years ago – and peaceful Central Lake.
On your first full day in Hanoi you’ll be able to take in this city of grand tree-lined boulevards, sophisticated European architecture, gaily decorated temples, pagodas and intriguing narrow streets. A morning tour will show you the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Presidential Palace and botanical gardens, Ho’s traditional stilt house and the One Pillar Pagoda. In the afternoon you’ll be in jail – with a trip to Hanoi Hilton Prison followed by a cycle ride around the old quarter dating back to 11th century and still an area of bustling shops and markets selling silks, jewellery and handicrafts. Your tour ends at the lake of the Restored Sword.
Stay: Two nights in a luxury room at the Sofitel Metropole.
A delightful morning drive takes you to Halong Bay, where you’ll board a deluxe junk to cruise around thousands of sculptured limestone towers looming up out of the tranquil waters like so many ghosts swathed in green cloaks, or jagged dragon’s teeth. Local legend says that an enormous dragon gouged out the flooded valley with its tail whilst charging towards the sea. You can believe the legend, because this is certainly a magical place. Today it’s listed as a World Heritage Site.
Stay: One night in a deluxe balcony cabin aboard the Paradise Luxury Junk.
Hanoi – Hue
Sunrise across the bay adds to the picturesque experience. A slow cruise takes you back to the pier where you alight and return to Hanoi, stopping en route to visit the renowned potters of Phu Lang Village. In Hanoi you’ll be staying in a boutique Art Deco hotel that was once the Governor’s Residence and has retained all its elegance and grace. It stands on the banks of the Perfume River overlooking the former Imperial Citadel.
The following day a boat trip along the Perfume River takes you to Hue’s beautifully-preserved Thien Mu Pagoda with its wondrous, seven-storey tower. In the afternoon you’ll be driven to the elaborately decorated Tu Duc and Khai Dinh tombs belonging to royalty from the Nguyen dynasty, followed by a relaxed stroll around interesting Dong Ba Market.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe river view room at La Residence.
A three and a half hour treat for the eyes takes you along the visually stunning Hai Van Pass and on to the beautiful town of Hoi An. You’ll be staying in a four star hotel on the scenic Thu Bon River in the stylish old French quarter – so you’ll be perfectly placed for absorbing the atmosphere of the UNESCO World Heritage town of Hoi An.
A walking tour will reveal the quaint, wooden fronted merchants’ houses, the genteel Japanese Covered Bridge and a market generally regarded as the best place in Vietnam to buy silks, handicrafts, antiques and paintings. For relaxation beside the sea, complete with seafood stalls, Cua Dai Beach lies just five kilometres away.
Stay: Two nights in a junior suite river view room at Anantara Hoi.
Today you’ll be driven to Danang Airport for a quick flight to Nha Trang and your opportunity to experience some true relaxation beside the warm and inviting South China Sea. You’ll have to take a boat ride though – your luxury resort is surrounded by distinctive, giant rock formations and protected by a range of dramatic mountains – so it is only accessible by water.
Once there you can indulge in river trips, nature excursions, trekking, water sports or simply lazing on the beach at a resort that exudes traditional Vietnamese style.
Stay: Three nights in a beach pool villa at Six Senses Ninh Van Bay.
A flight of about an hour’s duration takes you from Nha Trang to Saigon – now called Ho Chi Minh City. Your hotel is opposite the Opera House in the shopping and entertainment centre of this busy, young, energetic city.
A tour will show you the Old Saigon Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral. You’ll see the American-built Reunification Palace and the Thien Hau Temple, but you shouldn’t miss the great central food market with its tempting food stalls and eastern oddities, or the meandering backstreets that lead to small cafés, hidden bars and a diversity of tiny shops.
Stay: Two nights in a park room at the Park Hyatt.
Saigon – London
Spend more time exploring and photographing Saigon before transferring to the airport for your direct flight to London Heathrow, arriving early the next morning.