4 days, 3 nights
For a taste of culture, heritage and breath-taking natural beauty served in simply stunning landscapes, this compact four-day exploration of Tonkin is a must. The four-day tour introduces the diverse landscapes, people and nature that surrounds the vibrant capital city of Hanoi. We get to meet hill tribe people who live in rugged remote mountainous regions and the fishermen who call the floating villages that dot the waterway home. In Mai Chau, we take leisurely strolls through ethnic minority villages and meet residents to learn about their way of life and walk through the area’s verdant valleys and sprawling rice fields.
We take a scenic drive from Hanoi to Mai Chau (3.5 hours), stopping for photographs at the most picturesque parts along the way. When we arrive at Mai Chau Valley, which is mostly inhabited by White Thai and Muong ethnic minorities, we delve into local life with an authentic lunch at a family home. We then start our exploration of our breath-taking surroundings on foot, walking to nearby Lac and Pom Coong villages. Our trail meanders through rice fields studded with stilted wooden houses. Those who want to visit villages deeper in the verdant valley can rent a bicycle (rental fee is not included). Dinner is at our overnight accommodation in Mai Chau.
After breakfast, you have some free time to take a leisurely stroll around the village and surrounding rice paddies and farmland before we set off on our scenic drive to take Ninh Binh (about four hours). Nestled at the south end of the Red River Delta, this small city boasts a blessing of natural beauty. The ancient capital of Vietnam boasts a dramatic backdrop of limestone mountains, is surrounded by vast patchworks of emerald rice paddies and farmland and sits close to a stunning stretch of coast. We soak up the area’s rich history with a visit to another ancient capital, Hoa Lu, to explore the temples of King Dinh and King Le before continuing to Tam Coc or Van Long for a scenic rowing boat ride amidst a spectacular limestone landscape. Lunch is at local restaurant. Dinner and overnight accommodation are in Ninh Binh.
After an early-morning breakfast, we set off on our scenic drive to Ha Long Bay, stopping at Nam Dinh to visit ancient Tran temples on the way. Upon arrival at Ha Long Bay, we board a boutique junk for an overnight cruise. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to thousands of dramatic limestone karsts that jut out of the ocean. After a welcome lunch and introduction to the itinerary and boat, we start our overnight exploration of this fascinating natural phenomenon. We take part in a variety of activities, including swimming and kayaking among the ancient rock formations, visiting caves that date back millions of years, fishing and learning to cook like a local with an on-board cookery class. Alternatively, you can kick back and relax on the sun deck, soak up the sublime surroundings and enjoy a sundowner cocktail or two. Dinner and overnight accommodation are on board the boat.
Early-risers can wake at dawn to enjoy sunrise as we set sail on our return journey through Ha Long Bay. A hearty breakfast is enjoyed on the boat as we pass by more of the bay’s intriguing rock formations and dramatic limestone islets that have been created over millions of years by being whipped by the weather and seas. There are a range of activities for passengers to enjoy, including fishing and informative talks from the crew about the sites we sail to. Alternatively, kick back on the deck and soak up the seascapes. We arrive at the pier by late morning and disembark to enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before driving back to Hanoi. On the way, we stop at But Thap pagoda to explore this ancient religious site. Upon arrival in Hanoi, we transfer to your hotel, bringing this charming exploration of Tonkin to an end.