DAY 1 - Arrival Day
Touring Hanoi & afternoon tea at the hotel | The Apricot Hotel
Our guide meets you at the airport and accompanies you to your hotel in Hanoi. (Shuttles from the airport are also available and included for the previous day, if needed. An extra night at the hotel before the tour can be arranged for an added fee.)
Meet at 1 p.m. in the hotel lobby for a guided walking tour of Hanoi and the bustling Old Quarter. This section of town is a maze of shopping streets and restaurants with a hodgepodge of architecture — traditional tube houses, religious buildings, artisans’ workshops and cottages, colonial houses and modern concrete edifices. Bring your camera!
Return to the hotel at 3 p.m. for elegant treats included in the famous afternoon tea at the Apricot along with a tour briefing about the rest of the trip. This evening, enjoy your first meal together as a group at a local restaurant.
DAY 2 - Hanoi, mountain & birds
Walking tours | Emeralda Ninh Binh Resort
After the included breakfast, check out of your room at 8 a.m. and join the group for a bike fitting.
Then your guides will escort you to see some iconic sites in Hanoi. You visit the John McCain monument at Truc Bach Lake. Then visit the Ho Chi Minh complex where he lived and worked. For a light lunch, you can taste local specialties like “pho” (Hanoi’s famous beef noodle soup), or bun cha (fresh noodle with grilled pork and a spicy sauce).
After lunch, you travel to Ninh Binh to visit Mua Cave. Climb 500 stone steps to the top of the mountain to enjoy a stunning view of the countryside and the wonderful Ngo Dong River. From there, you shuttle to Thung Nham Bird Park, where you can see nearly 40 species of birds ... such as storks, herons, teals, and tropical starlings. Especially at sunset, many flocks of white storks can be seen sheltering densely over the area of the Thung Nham wetland. Overnight at the elegant Emeralda hotel in Van Long.
DAY 3 - Caves, temples & agriculture
Distance: 25 miles | Terrain: Easier to Intermediate | Emeralda Ninh Binh Resort
In the morning, you travel by car to Tam Coc (three caves), a peaceful valley among limestone “karst” hills. There, you are rowed along a gentle river between paddy fields and through the caves.
After lunch at a local restaurant, you pick up your bike and cycle to Bich Dong pagoda for a visit. Next, learn about Vietnamese agriculture and cycle along a scenic canal.
Pedal through several villages and a unique area known for its magnificent limestone peaks to Hoa Lu — the former capital of Vietnam. There, you visit two temples ... one of them dedicated to Emperor Dinh and the other in memory of Emperor Le ... followed by a brief visit to the remains of the Old Palace. You spend a second night at the Emeralda in Ninh Binh.
DAY 4 - Cruise, Kayak & Swim
Travel to Cruise Ship | Bai Tu Long Bay Cruise Ship
After breakfast, you shuttle to Ha Long City. You then embark on a magnificent ship and she sets sail. Enjoy a welcome drink and a cruise briefing. A splendid lunch is served while cruising to magnificent Bai Tu Long Bay with its picturesque islands.
Visit the hidden Thien Canh Son Cave. Then you have the opportunity to enjoy the emerald water on a white sand beach on Hon Co Island with swimming or kayaking options. Then return to the ship for sunset and cocktails.
Delight in a flavorful gourmet dinner and social time before your night onboard.
DAY 5 - Fishing Village & Fly to Hue
Fishing village paddle and fly to Hue | Pilgrimage Village
Early risers can begin your new day with a Tai Chi session or a sunrise photo session. Then enjoy breakfast in the fresh air and peaceful beauty of the Bay. Visit a floating fishing village by rustic rowboat. See a floating school and fish farms. Then return to the ship to pack your luggage and check out of the cabin and enjoy an early lunch while cruising toward the port.
At midday, disembark the ship and return to Hanoi to board a flight to Hue. The flight departs at 4 p.m. Enjoy dinner and overnight at our hotel in Hue, at a peaceful resort surrounded by lush gardens. Hue is known for its religious, cultural and historic heritage. Many significant buildings have been restored after damage in the Tet Offensive in 1968.
DAY 6 - Biking, Royal Tomb, Dragon Boat
Distance: 22 miles | Terrain: Easier | Pilgrimage Village
In the morning, you ride along country lanes accompanied only by light local traffic – (mainly bicycles, buffaloes and motorbikes!) to the Royal Tomb of Emperor Gia Long.
Keep riding through Thuy Bieu village to enjoy the fresh air of Hue’s suburbs. After lunch, board a dragon boat to cruise along the Perfume River to visit the famous Thien Mu Pagoda with its moat now filled with lotus flowers.
Travel by bus to the hotel to freshen up. Tonight, you dine in a pleasant local restaurant. You are served a splendid meal based on the distinctive characteristics of classic Hue cuisine. You spend a second night in Hue.
DAY 7 - Covered Bridge & Hai Van Pass
Distance: 18 miles | Terrain: Easier | Royal Hotel Hoi An
After breakfast, transfer to Thanh Toan — a classic covered bridge in the picturesque countryside. Visit an agriculture museum to learn about planting rice and the traditional life of farmers in the past.
Next, drive to the An Bang Village Cemetery, which may surprise you with its elaborate sculptures and statuary. Known as “the city of ghosts,” this intriguing site has thousands of stunning mausoleums and is very important to local life.
After a picnic lunch at Lap An lagoon, you hop on your bike ready to conquer Hai Van Pass or “Pass of Ocean Clouds.” A new tunnel through the mountain means that the 7 miles up the pass is a very quiet section of highway. The gradient is manageable, and the views are breath taking!
After summiting the pass and riding down the other side, you shuttle to Danang to stop at My Khe Beach — a favorite rest and recreation center for American troops. Then transfer to Hoi An — a delightful old trading town and UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you spend three nights.
Hoi An was once the largest trading post in Indochina. Many cultures left their mark in the architectural features of its wooden buildings. Historically, it welcomed ships from all over East Asia and beyond. Many remained there for months at a time, waiting for favorable trade winds to carry them home.
There are plenty of good restaurants offering a variety of cuisines and price levels. The town is also a good place for shopping for silk. You can have clothes tailor-made here within a day or two at a reasonable cost.
DAY 8 - Rural life & pottery
Distance: 20 miles | Terrain: Easier to Intermediate | Royal Hotel Hoi An
After breakfast, you pedal to the hamlet of Thanh Ha, a modest village living mainly making small pottery objects and utensils. After a short rest, you continue cycling through the rural scenery to a small village located on the banks of the Tra Que Lagoon, 2 miles northeast of the old town. You meet local residents and join in the experience of their daily work of planting and watering vegetables. Your local village hosts provide you with a cooking demonstration and show you some of the local specialties – including how to make rice paper, ban xeo and the tam huu local spring roll.
After lunch, you ride to Cam Thanh water coconut village to learn about the daily life of families who fish on the local river. Learn how to paddle a unique Vietnamese bamboo basket boat. You spend a third night in Hoi An. Dinner is together in Hoi An.
DAY 9 - Ride to My Son Sanctuary
Distance: 15 miles | Terrain: Easier | Royal Hotel Hoi An
This morning, transfer to Vinh Dien where you cycle 15 miles to the My Son Sanctuary. At this World Heritage Site, see the remains of the remarkable brick towers. Your guide explains their origins and purpose.
The My Son Sanctuary was the spiritual capital of the Cham Kingdom, which dominated Southeast Asia for nearly a thousand years. Its remarkable brick towers were badly bombed, but are still impressive, as is its remote valley setting. It’s located in a quiet, richly forested area, bisected by a clear stream. However, the tree cover is not complete, and the sun is strong, so good sun protection is important.
When you return, the rest of the day is free to explore and shop in Hoi An. Dinner is on your own and you spend the night in Hoi An.
DAY 10 - Fly to & Tour Ho Chi Minh City
Flight to Ho Chi Minh City | Majestic Hotel
This morning, board a flight from Danang to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). Enjoy a special bahn mi sandwich along the way. Upon arrival, you visit the former Presidential Palace, renamed “Reunification Palace,” which was the site on April 30, 1975, of the symbolic victory of President Ho Chi Minh’s forces. Next, you visit Notre Dame Cathedral, which makes a great backdrop to the city’s bustling streets. Also see the Ho Chi Minh City Central Post Office, unchanged since its completion in the 1880s.
After the tour, check into your room with time on your own. At 7 p.m., you are picked up from the hotel for a 2-hour street food tour. This is a food and culture tour on which you not only dine, but also learn more about authentic Vietnamese cuisine … and the local lifestyles of Ho Chi Minh City residents. Overnight at a luxury hotel in Ho Chi Minh City overlooking the Saigon River.
DAY 11 - Village Riding & Mekong Cruise
Distance: 20 miles | Terrain: Easier | Majestic Hotel
This morning you travel by bus and head out of the hustle and bustle of city traffic to the tranquility of the countryside. You then pick up your bicycle in My Tho and ride along the many stunning villages. Rice grows – as do spices and fruit – and folks swinging in hammocks may wave as you cycle through this beautiful scenery. (Note that e-bikes are not available for this one day of cycling.)
On arrival in Cai Be, you have lunch onboard a river boat as you cruise on the Mekong River. See fruit orchards, a traditional family-run brick kiln and even workshops making items like candy or the unique huge local coffins. In the afternoon, you return to Ho Chi Minh City to spend a second night at the Majestic Hotel. Enjoy a farewell dinner together.
DAY 12 - Departure Day
After breakfast, you are free until your driver arrives to take you to Tan Son Nhat Airport near Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) for your departure flight. For an extra fee, you can arrange a late checkout or an added night at the Majestic. Chào from Vietnam!