Flying around Indochina you can pack a lot in, but you also miss a lot of what shapes each wonderful country. This won’t be the case on this holiday as you embark on an adventurous two week journey overland from Hanoi, up through the mountains into Laos and on to Luang Prabang; exploring some of the most beautiful and relatively untouched areas of both countries.
Day 1: Depart on your choice of overnight flights to Hanoi
Day 2: Arrive Hanoi for 2 nights. Private transfer to your hotel. Rest of the day to settle in
Day 3: Full day Hanoi City tour
Day 4: Overnight Halong Bay cruise exploring UNESCO World Heritage site
Day 5: Morning cruise then overnight Hanoi
Day 6: Depart with guide to beautiful Mai Chau Valley (1 night). Explore by bike or on foot
Day 7: Drive through mountains to Lao Border. Stay in Vieng Xai for 1 night & explore "Cave City"
Day 8: Pass through stunning mountain scenery to Xieng Khouang (1 night), gateway to Plain of Jars
Day 9: Explore the mysterious Plain of Jars with guide and overnight in Phonsavan
Day 10: Drive to atmospheric Luang Prabang for 3 nights by the Mekong in your choice of hotel
Day 11: Alms procession, walking city tour & Pak Ou Caves cruise
Day 12: Morning tour to Kuang Si Falls
Day 13: Overnight flight home
Day 14: Arrive home
Day 1: UK Airport / Hanoi
Depart on a choice of overnight flights to Hanoi.
Day 2: Arrive Hanoi
On arrival you’ll be met by your private guide and transferred to the city centre where you check in to your choice of hotel for 3 nights.
Hanoi offers the chance to enjoy authentic old school Far East. The hotel is in the centre and we’d recommend that you take a walk through the Old Quarter. Don’t be put off by the thousands of motor scooters, just dive in.
Day 3: Hanoi - City Tour (B / L)
After breakfast you’ll be collected for a small group full day city tour. The day kicks off at Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum where you join thousands of Vietnamese as they pay their respects filing past in solemn silence. The complex is also home to his former stilt-house, Presidential Palace and One Pillar Pagoda. From here you walk a short distance to the archaeological site of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long. The Citadel was built in the 11th century by the Ly Viet Dynasty and was the centre of regional political power for almost 13 centuries without interruption. Its history will be explained as you explore the site. After this, break for lunch in a lovely local restaurant.
The afternoon starts at the Temple of Literature, Hanoi’s first university. Originally built as a temple dedicated to Confucius, it became the site of Vietnam’s first university dating back to 1070. Then you’re off to Hanoi’s Old Quarter where you’ll visit Long Bien Bridge that was built between 1899 - 1902, whilst under French occupancy.
Your guide will take you across to the other side where you can see how close Hanoi is to countryside life. Back in the Old Quarter enjoy an hour’s exploration aboard a cyclo (Vietnamese cycle rickshaw). Also known as the 36 streets, this bustling warren of narrow streets is home to thousands of small businesses, including galleries, craft shops and restaurants.
End your day with a Vietnamese coffee in a local café overlooking Hoan Kiem Lake. Here you can spend some quality time with your guide and ask him questions about all the sights you have seen throughout the day. You will return to your hotel at 4.30pm.
Day 4: Hanoi - Halong Bay (B / L / D)
This morning you’ll be transferred by minibus to Halong Bay (3.5/4 hours). Meet the crew and board the traditional wooden junk for 1 night, then relax and enjoy lunch while the boat heads toward the secluded islands. Visit ancient limestone caves and go sea kayaking and swimming (weather permitting). Return to the junk refreshed & invigorated to relax on deck with a drink watching the sunset and enjoy a seafood dinner under the stars.
Day 5: Halong Bay (B / L) - Overnight Hanoi
Enjoy breakfast as you continue to cruise through Bai Tu Long and visit the floating fishing village of Vong Vieng to learn more about daily life living on the bay. Cruise back to the dock whilst enjoying a light lunch for return drive to the city and a further night in Hanoi.
Day 6: Hanoi to Mai Chau (B / L / D)
This morning depart Hanoi on a scenic four hour drive to the beautiful Mai Chau valley blessed with a verdant landscape dotted with small villages, meandering streams and countless rice fields.
On arrival lunch will be served at the Mai Chau lodge (1 night) and then you have chance to join a two hour cycling tour or hike through the stunning valley, exploring White Thai villages and enjoying everyday life that plays out around you. There is also the opportunity to explore the cave attached to the lodge that used to be a military base. During the tour you will learn more about the limestone karst cave and its local history. Dinner is accompanied by a traditional dance performance by the local White Thai ethnic group.
Day 7: Mai Chau / Nam Meo (Laos) / Vieng Xai (B / L)
After breakfast make a break for the border. On today’s drive continue to climb through dramatic scenery. At the border say goodbye to the Vietnamese guide and hello to your Lao guide. After a simple lunch, drive to Vieng Xai, where you will spend the night. Vieng Xai is set amongst beautiful limestone karst mountains that rise out of the rice fields and are a clue to the town’s main draw. Within them you’ll find ‘cave city’, which was home to the Lao Revolutionary Party during the Second Indochina War. In the company of a local guide travel to some of the nearby caves to see how the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party lived during the war. The dank, dark rooms are a stark reminder of the hardships they were prepared to endure to fight for their country.
Day 8: Vieng Xai / Sam Neua / Xieng Khouang (B / L)
Today’s drive is long but beautiful. On the way to Xieng Khouang you’ll pass through some spectacular mountain scenery, stopping along the way to take advantage of some great photo opportunities. Xieng Khouang was almost bombed out of existence during the Indochina war and the ruined wats and temples offer a mute testimony to the past set against a new green countryside. On arrival check into your simple hotel and enjoy a well deserved rest.
Day 9: Plain Of Jars Tour (B / L)
The intriguing Plain of Jars is the region’s main draw as archaeologists struggle to explain why thousands of large stone jars litter the plateau. Estimated to be over 2,000 years old and up to 3.5 metres tall they are all that remain of an ancient civilisation. These plains have been the centre of battles throughout history and it is thought that there were funerary urns. There are plenty of other more colourful theories and no doubt your guide will have their own.
Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant and then continue to visit the ruined capital of Muang Khoun that was bombed to destruction by the Americans and on to the nearby villages, home to the Hmong hill tribe and Tai Dam people. Overnight in Phonsavan.
Day 10: Xieng Khuoang to Luang Prabang (B / L)
Depart Xieng Khouang for the drive down into Luang Prabang. You’ll immediately feel you’re in a special place as the city’s exquisite river side setting nestled beneath protective hills helps create the relaxed, almost spiritual feel of this heavenly city. As you wander through the tangled streets, golden Buddhist temples give way to faded French villas and this fusion of architectural and cultural traditions convinced UNESCO to bestow World Heritage status on the city. Luang Prabang doesn’t intend to remain a forgotten backwater, boasting a growing portfolio of atmospheric boutique hotels, world class restaurants and shops showcasing local designers. Check-in to your choice of hotel for 3 nights.
The rest of the day is yours to explore. A good start could be a hike up to the Phou Si Temple with a spectacular city view that comes into its own as the sun sets. Then head back down to the night market where you can buy local handicrafts including textiles and jewellery. From there we’ll be happy to recommend a local restaurant.
Day 11: Luang Prabang - Private Almsgiving, City & Pak Ou Caves Tour (B / L)
Today rise early for a dawn (6.00am) start to watch the traditional Lao rite of Almsgiving to the 300+ monks that occurs each morning. Afterwards your guide will take you back to the hotel via the Morning Market, a feast of local and somewhat unusual (to us) produce. After a leisurely breakfast join your guide for a private guided Walking tour around this beautiful World Heritage town, visiting a number of Wats (temples) and the Royal Palace. Luang Prabang is best experienced by foot (we can arrange a car) and is home to a growing number of niche shops and galleries. The morning finishes with a climb up the 328 steps up Phousi Mountain for superb views of the area. Lunch will be in a local restaurant.
This afternoon your guide will take you on a boat ride up the Mekong to the Pak Ou Caves that rest high in the limestone cliffs and house thousands of Buddha statues that were hidden from the looting Chinese Haw. The caves were converted into Buddhist temples in the 15th century and are used as a site for old Buddha images that can no longer be venerated in a temple, either because they are damaged or the temple they were displayed in has been destroyed. Along the way stop at a riverside village to see weavers working on ancient looms before returning to town late afternoon.
Day 12: Luang Prabang (B) - Kuang Si Waterfall tour
This morning head out to the countryside to visit the Kuang Si Waterfall, whose multi-tiered cascading falls tumble down jagged limestone reliefs into emerald pools. Quite a climb but worth it as you can cool off with a swim in the pools. The tour ends with a visit to the Ock Pop Tok Living Crafts Centre, established to showcase the weavings of the Lao-Tai peoples. Other handicrafts such as paper making are also featured and the proceeds go back to the people who make them. The quality is good, so you might want to make room in your case for a few presents. Afternoon free.
Day 13:Luang Prabang (B) / UK Airport
Day free until your airport transfer a flight home via Bangkok or Hanoi. Arrive back in UK the following morning.
Each featured itinerary is really a starting point from which to create your ideal holiday.
We can include as much or as little as you like, mix and match hotels, excursions and experiences, add extra nights and change the destinations you'd like to visit.
The common thread is that each is a privately guided holiday, allowing you to travel where and when you want, with your own private transport and dedicated guide.
- Return scheduled international flights (optional if you would like to arrange your own)
- English speaking, local guide & driver
- Choice of hotel accommodation
- Transport in private air-conditioned vehicles
- Domestic flights detailed in itinerary
- Admission fees to all attractions, temples and activities as mentioned in the itinerary
- All meals as detailed (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner)
- Entry visas International airport departure taxes if payable locally
- Optional Tours / Excursions
- Any meals not listed in the itinerary
- Personal expenses
- Tips for Guides / Drivers (discretionary)
- Travel insurance
- Any camera or video fees charged at sites
The hotels below are there as examples, designed to act as a starting point from which to create your holiday. There are plenty of alternatives to choose from and when we quote we will include other suggestions so we get to understand your likes and dislikes. Quite often clients mix and match hotel categories throughout their holiday.
Hotels in Hanoi
Choose from a wide range hotels in the energetic & authentic Capital
Halong Bay Cruise Boats
An overnight cruise on Halong Bay is often seen as an essential part of a Vietnam holiday
Hotels in Mai Chau
Beautiful Mai Chau valley dotted with small villages, meandering streams and countless rice fields
Hotels on Plain of Jars
Thousands of large stone jars litter the plateau are all that remain of an ancient civilisation.
Hotels in Luang Prabang
This UNESCO World Heritage city is very special and should not be missed.