Hanoi, Halong Bay, Lan Ha Bay, Sapa
Hanoi is arguably Asia's most charming capital city. Hanoi, meaning ‘embraced by the river', is a city of broad, tree-lined boulevards, elegant French villas and colonial-era buildings painted in muted hues of mustard and white. It is also one of Asia's greenest cities with an abundance of parks and lakes as well as a host of cafes and art galleries and an Old Quarter steeped in history. By day the city hums with commerce and moves at motorbike speed; by night the city is an enchanting, 19th century Asian village best experienced from the seat of a silent cyclo.
Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay are perhaps the most spectacular of Vietnam's natural wonders. Located in the Gulf of Tonkin 170 kilometres from Hanoi, they are an impressive collection of nearly 3,000 islands covering an area in excess of 1,500 square kilometres forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars and cliff faces. The breathtaking scenery and unusual geology of the bay led UNESCO to designate Ha Long Bay a World Natural Heritage site in 1994. Because of their precipitous nature, most of the islands and islets are uninhabited and untouched by man.
Sapa is situated in the country’s northwest at an altitude of 1,600 meters. In the early 20th century the French took advantage of Sapa's cool climate, developing it into a summer retreat from the heat and humidity of Hanoi. Today, Sapa town still retains its European feel, largely due to the French architecture and gardens and today is a popular destination due to its beautiful scenery and colourful ethnic people.
Time to Visit
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A full day to explore the architecture and history of Hanoi. In the morning, visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Ho Chi Minh’s former residence, the One Pillar Pagoda (CLOSED ON MONDAY & FRIDAY & EVERY AFTERNOON) and the Temple of Literature. In the afternoon, visit the Vietnam Museum of Fine Arts, the Lake of Restored Sword, Ngoc Son Temple and the Old Quarter. The tour includes a stop at an ancient Vietnamese “long house”.
Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site found on the coast of Northern Vietnam. Ha Long Bay is one of the best examples of a karst limestone landscape anywhere in the world, and consists of around 1600 islands and islets topped with lush green rainforest. Not only is Ha Long Bay biologically diverse, but it also holds historical and cultural significance with artefacts found on the islands mountains and caves dating back to ancient cultures of the New Stone Age. Today the Bay is perfect to explore by boat where you can do day trips, or stay for multiple days on a 5* luxury junk ship, exploring different islands, kayaking and swimming in the emerald waters.
Why not depart your hotel in Hanoi early in the morning through the beautiful countryside of Northern Vietnam down to Ha Long Bay. Upon arrival, transfer immediately to a boat and begin a four-hour cruise through the limestone monoliths where you’ll see a plethora of marine life, and perhaps if you’re lucky you’ll see some of the rare gibbon primates of Ha Long Bay. You can then enjoy a fresh seafood lunch after cooling off in the beautiful emerald waters before returning to enjoy the rest of your evening in Hanoi.
Ninh Binh is a beautiful and diverse province in the north of Vietnam that is often referred to as Halong Bay on land, for the simple reason that it looks like Halong Bay but on land. The landscape is dominated by karst limestone, the same mountainous features that make Halong Bay so mesmerising. As you’d expect from a mountainous limestone landscape, rivers and caves are prominent in the region, with some of the caves being accessible by boat allowing you to admire their beauty up close. Ninh Binh is also in close proximity to Hanoi, with a day trip being possible from your hotel in the city.
Imagine this… Upon arrival, you will take delight in a scenic bicycle ride around paddy fields, pagodas, small villages and markets. A visit to Vuon Thi Village will offer you a chance to interact with the local people by partaking in their daily activities. Discover the lifestyle, hospitality and friendliness of the Northern Vietnamese people when you prepare lunch with a local family. Later, work alongside the farmers in the field and learn how wet rice is cultivated. Sit back and take in the mesmerizing limestone cliffs while cruising on the Van Long reservoir. Then drive back to Hanoi to enjoy the city at your own pleasure before setting your head down in your hotel in preparation for another inspiring day in Vietnam.
See one of our offers that includes a stay in Ninh Binh here
Reviving the Golden Age of Travel, the stylish, Indochina-inspired Victoria Express Train is all about a restful 8-hour overnight journey between Hanoi and Lao Cai ( Sapa )
Train carriage features:
2 elegant sleeper carriages accommodating 48 passengers (part of local train), 13 cabins (4 shared berths - can be converted to 2 private berths), Snack cabin (refreshments and drinks for purchase), Restroom facilities, Free Wi-Fi
Train cabin features:
Air-conditioning, Individual reading light, Individual amenity kit / slippers, Luggage storage, Large picture window
Hanoi to Lao Cai (SP3): Depart at 10:00 pm, arrive at 6:10 am (Daily, except Saturday)
Lao Cai to Hanoi (SP4): Depart at 9:40 pm, arrive at 5:30 am (Daily, except Saturday)
Sapa town stands at the head of a deep valley of magnificent rice terraces that are still farmed today as they have been for centuries. Backdrops don’t get much more spectacular. Enticing ribbons of road lead the eye down to the valley floor, white-water rivers rush among rice fields, and lush green mountains stretch into the distance as far as the eye can see. The highest peak in the region, Mount Fansipan, crowns the ragged ridge line high above town.
The Mai Châu’s proximity to the capital makes it an ideal escape for nature lovers. Here, small ethnic minority villages sit among a patchwork of paddy fields surrounded by green mountains. Spend a night or two immersed in Vietnam’s rural culture, dining on delicious home-cooked cuisine, and learning about the traditions of the ethnic groups. The Mai Châu Valley is home to two excellent homestay tourism villages: Lác and Pom Coọng. In both villages, White Thai families offer simple accommodation in stilt houses in an idyllic setting of verdant jungle, limestone outcrops, and mountain tops. Explore the many quiet ribbons of paths that connect clusters of stilt houses might be the greatest pleasure you'll have in Mai Châu. It doesn’t take long to feel like you’ve found your own quiet corner, riding past humble villages and rice paddies.