Cultural Treasures of Northern Vietnam & Laos
Based on the expeditionary nature of our trips, there may be ongoing enhancements to this itinerary.
Below please find the day-by-day itinerary for this expedition. Unless otherwise noted, daily excursion options are included in the cost of the trip. We do our best to adhere to the scheduled itinerary, but in the spirit of our expeditionary style of travel we may deviate slightly to take full advantage of encounters with the destination and its people, culture, and wildlife.
Depart USAMarch 23
Board your independent flight to Hanoi.
Hanoi, VietnamMarch 24
Arrive in the late evening and transfer to the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel for overnight.
Millions of motorbikes zip through Vietnam’s tree-lined capital, noted for its French colonial architecture and contemporary arts scene. Explore the Old Quarter, home to Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum and the 11th-century Temple of Literature. Ever mindful of its past, the city’s many war-themed museums include the Military History Museum complex and notorious Hoa Lo Prison, aka “Hanoi Hilton.”
Hanoi / Haiphong / Lan Ha BayMarch 26
Halong Bay’s little sister, Lan Ha, is equally stunning, but with far fewer tourists. This morning, take a leisurely drive to Haiphong and board the luxe Orchid Cruise for a two-night journey, enjoying lunch while passing amazing karst formations. Spend the afternoon cruising through this magical landscape and watch the sun set over the Gulf of Tonkin. Evening activities may include squid fishing, watching a movie, or relaxing in your contemporary suite with floor-to-ceiling windows and private balcony.
Lan Ha BayMarch 27
Greet the day surrounded by spectacular scenery as the ship cruises past some of La Ha Bay’s 400 verdant islands. Stop for a bicycle tour of Viet Hai village and a dip in cliff-enclosed Ba Ham Lake before an afternoon cooking class.
Lan Ha Bay / Haiphong / Tam CocMarch 28
Rise early for a guided session of Tai Chi, then board kayaks to explore the hidden charms of Ao Ech Bay. Return to the ship for brunch before disembarking in Haiphong. From there, head out on an overland journey along the Red River, second only to the Mekong in its rice production. Meditate upon its lustrous rice paddy fields on the way to Tam Coc; upon arrival, check into Tam Coc Garden Hotel for dinner and overnight.
Tam CocMarch 29
Encircled by paddy fields—which locals call “the green sea” and dotted with dramatic karstic formations, Tam Coc (Three Caves) is the terra firma version of Halong Bay. A scenic drive takes you past rocky outcrops on the way to Hoa Lu, the capital of Vietnam during the 10th to 11th centuries. Visit a lovely pagoda before enjoying lunch in a lush garden setting. In the afternoon, board a local boat for a cruise through Bird Valley to search for a variety of storks, herons, teals, and other waterfowl, and make a stop at beautiful Galaxy Cave. Return to the hotel for an afternoon at leisure. After dinner, attend a folkloric performance and learn how to play traditional Vietnamese games.
Tam Coc / Pu LuongMarch 30
Today, travel overland to Pu Luong, a landscape of jagged limestone mountains and terraced rice paddies dotted with small villages. Check in to Pu Luong Homestay for lunch and a chance to savor this idyllic setting. In the afternoon, visit a nearby White Thai settlement where you can observe traditional homes built on stilts and join villagers in creating hand-woven baskets.
Pu Luong / Sam Neua, LaosMarch 31
Today, cross the border into Laos and visit the Vieng Xai caves en route to Sam Neua, the capital city of the remote Hua Phan Province. Nestled in a scenic valley surrounded by rice fields and mountains, Sam Neua is recognized for producing the region’s finest textiles. Wander amidst its red-roofed buildings before relaxing in your rustic, but gracious guesthouse.
Sam NeuaApril 1
Take a hike in Phu Pha Thi park, then visit some of the many ethnic villages around the Sam Neua area, home to the Black Thai, Lue, Khum, Hmong Kho, and White Hmong tribes. This will be a great day to shop for local handicrafts, including high-quality textiles.
Sam Neua / PhonsavanApril 2
En route to Phonsavan, make a stop at one of the most important prehistoric sites in Laos—Hintang Archaeological Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is also known as the “Asian Stonehenge.” Here you will find 2,000-year-old standing stones that were only discovered in 1931. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant Arrive in Phonsavan this afternoon and check into the Vansana Plain of Jars for a two-night stay.
Spend a full day visiting the UNESCO-designated Plain of Jars, where giant megalithic stone urns lie scattered about the hills. Spend the afternoon exploring this surreal archaeological site. Thought to be 2,500 years old, little else is known of the Plain of Jars, a remote, mysterious place where thousands of massive stone urns—some reaching 10 feet in height—are randomly strewn across the undulating landscape. Some archaeologists believe the jars were associated with prehistoric burial practices.
Phonsavan / Vientiane / Luang PrabangApril 4
Take a morning tour of Muang Khoun, ancient capital of the Xieng Khouang Province. While invaders and heavy bombardment have ravaged the once royal city, glimmers of its former glory are evidenced in the Buddha statue standing guard over the Wat Phia Wat ruins. After lunch, board our flight to Luang Prabang via Vientiane, and check into Sofitel Luang Prabang. Relax or take a dip in the pool before attending a traditional Baci ceremony, dance performance, and dinner.
Luang PrabangApril 5
Girdled by lush mountains, Luang Prabang has long been considered the heart of Laotian culture. The town received UNESCO status for its distinctive blend of traditional colonial architecture. Today, take a tour of the old town, Wat Mai, Wat Xieng Thong, Wat Pa Phai, and the Traditional Arts and Ethology Center. This afternoon, hike to the summit of Mount Phousi for gorgeous sunset views. Then enjoy a dinner of exquisite French cuisine.
Luang Prabang / Bangkok, ThailandApril 6
Join a community of monks for morning prayers. After breakfast at the hotel, take a tour of the Botanical Gardens. After lunch, board your flight to Bangkok and transfer to Novotel Bangkok Airport Hotel for a farewell dinner and overnight.
Bangkok / USAApril 7
Board your independent homeward flight, arriving in the USA the same day.