Grand Tour Indochina
27 Nights/ 28 Days
Classic Tour ¦28 Days¦Physical Level 3
Saigon – Hoi An – Hue –Hanoi – Mai Chau – Halong Bay – Luang Prabang – Vang Vieng – Vientiane – Phnom Penh – Siem Reap
For those with more time to explore this magnificent region of Southeast Asia, this tour not only covers the highlights of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, helps you explore further into the region’s magnificent beauty, fascinating culture and friendly communities.
● Glide on the Mekong Delta
● See local life in charming Hoi An
● Marvel at Hue's Imperial Citadel
● Walk Mai Chau's rice terraces
● Practice Tai Chi on Halong Bay
● Witness sacred Takbat
● Be captivated by Angkor
Grand Tour of Indochina Inclusions:
All sightseeing and entrance fees
All transportation and transfers
English speaking National Escort (if your group is 10 or more passengers) or Local Guides
Visa fees for UK and EU passport holders (except for Laos, please see visa section below for further information)
Specialist advice from our experienced travel consultants
Comprehensive travel guides
Safe and secure with ABTA, ATOL and IATA
Please ask our sales agent to price the International Flights
The only thing you may have to pay for are personal expenditure e.g. drinks, optional excursions or shows, insurance of any kind, early check in or late checkout and other items not specified on the itinerary.
Itinerary – Grand Tour of Indochina
Day 1-2: Saigon
Fly to Saigon, where you will be met at the airport in the arrivals hall by your Local Guide or National Escort. Together with all other group members who may be arriving at a similar time, you will transfer 45 minutes to your hotel and check into your room or store any luggage if arriving before the check-in time. There is no sightseeing today.
Saigon – Officially renamed Ho Chi Minh City, but still locally known by its older name of Saigon, this exuberant city is driving Vietnam forward into the modern world, but is also a treasure trove of fascinating heritage. It was a major base of the American military during the Vietnam War, and was the seat of the South Vietnam government until the events that led to the country's reunification. Today, the old mixes seamlessly with the new and you can wander through timeless alleys to incense-infused temples before catching up with the present in designer malls beneath sleek skyscrapers.
Day 3: Saigon
This morning, confront the reality of guerrilla warfare at the Cu Chi Tunnels. The cramped tunnels were central to a few of the war’s strategic operations, including the famous 1968 Tet Offensive, and they did not escape damage. American B52 bombers dropped hundreds of missiles leaving huge tell-tale craters behind. The Cu Chi experience can be emotional for some visitors, but it offers a fascinating window into the hardship and traumas of war. This afternoon, explore bustling Saigon with its heady mix of local culture and colonial influences. You’ll pass the Notre Dame Cathedral, visit the Central Post Office before strolling along Dong Khoi street to Saigon Opera House. Then visit the Reunification Palace and the chilling War Remnants Museum. You will spend approximately 4 to 5 hours on foot today sightseeing.
Please note: The Notre Dame Cathedral will be under renovation until 2023. During this time, we are unable to enter the Cathedral; however we can view it from the outside.
Cu Chi – The tunnels of Cu Chi are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels located in the Cu Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). They are part of a much larger network of tunnels that underlie much of the country. The Cu Chi tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War, and were the Viet Cong's base of operations for the Tet Offensive in 1968. The tunnels were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters. The tunnel systems were of great importance to the Viet Cong in their resistance to American forces.
Notre Dame Cathedral
● Influenced by French design and built between 1863 and 1880, the red brick exterior and 60-metre bell towers overlook downtown Saigon.
Central Post Office
● Located next to the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Central Post Office building was constructed in the late 19th century. It counts Gothic, Renaissance and French influences and was designed by Auguste Henri Vildieu and Alfred Foulhoux, but is often erroneously credited as being the work of Gustave Eiffel.
● Built on the site of the former Norodom Palace, is a landmark in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It was designed by architect Ngô Vi?t Th? and was the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It was the site of the end of the Vietnam War during the Fall of Saigon on 30th April 1975, when a North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through its gates.
War Remnants Museum – Comprised of numerous buildings displaying military equipment, photographs and artefacts relating to the Vietnam War and focusing especially on the years from 1961-1975. This museum illustrates a harrowing period in this nation’s history.
Day 4: Mekong Delta
Drive 2 and a half hours down to the picturesque province of Ben Tre situated along the mighty Mekong. This area is known as the ‘Rice Basket of Vietnam’, because its rich and fertile lands produce large amounts of rice, coconuts, vegetables and tropical fruit. Spend the day cruising and exploring these waterways by traditional Sampan boat. Sightseeing involves hopping on and off these boats, often on unsteady and slippery surfaces, sometimes without handrails or assistance.
● Although primarily rural, the Mekong Delta is a densely populated area where life progresses around its fertile banks. The Mekong is the 13th longest, and the 10th largest river by volume alone and people live, trade, travel and even go to school on the riverbanks. The rice which is cultivated in the many farming lands is said to be enough to supply the entire country with a little extra.
Day 5: Saigon – Hoi An
This afternoon, fly 1 hour and 20 minutes to Danang, and transfer 45 minutes to the ancient town of Hoi An for your 3 night stay. Enjoy a walking tour this afternoon of this laid back and traditional UNESCO listed town to see a traditional house occupied by the same merchant family that originally built it over 200 years ago, Quan Cong Chinese Temple and the elaborate Japanese Covered Bridge. Also visit the Reaching Out arts and crafts workshop.
● Perhaps more than any other place in Vietnam, Hoi An retains the feel of centuries past. Once known as Faifo, Hoi An was an influential port along the Silk Road. For over 500 years merchants from China, Japan, France and Portugal settled in the prosperous town resulting in a distinctive blend of culture, cuisine, religion and architecture.
Reaching Out – Provides opportunities for people with disabilities to learn skills and gain meaningful employment. The arts and crafts workshop provides a platform for local people to showcase their talents.
Day 6: Hoi An
This morning, visit a local community farming project just outside of Hoi An
● Tra Que village where the community has come together to create a large vegetable farm. Learn the traditional methods the farmers use to plant, fertilise and harvest the crop, then try your hand at raking the ground and sowing seeds. The remainder of the afternoon is free at your leisure.
Tra Que Village
● Located a few kilometres from Hoi An, this picturesque village is renowned for its agriculture. Witness local farming techniques and learn about different exotic Vietnamese produce.
Day 7: Hoi An
Today is free for you to explore the ancient town, or relax on the beach.
Day 8: Hoi An
This morning drive approximately 4 hours to Hue; this journey will take you over the scenic Hai Van Pass. Hue is the epitome of Vietnam’s dynamic past, and considered a scholarly city. Explore the Royal Tomb of Minh Mang; the complex comprises of almost 40 monuments and is surrounded by gardens and pools, making it one of the more beautiful tombs.
● Having been the imperial capital from 1802 until 1945 after the last emperor abdicated; Hue is still regarded as the centre of Vietnam’s culture and religion. The city is dominated by the Imperial Citadel that is modelled on the Forbidden City in China. There are many wonderful pagodas and temples of high significance and it contains the Grand Tombs of the Nguyen Emperors.
Royal Tomb of Minh Mang
● Emperor Minh Mang reigned in the Nguyen Dynasty, the last of the Vietnamese dynasties, from 1820-1840. The construction of his tomb was completed after his death and is said to have taken approximately 10,000 workers to complete. The complex comprises of almost 40 monuments and is surrounded by gardens and pools, making it one of the more beautiful tombs in Vietnam.
Day 9: Hue
Visit the Imperial Citadel and the Forbidden Purple City, which is still being restored many years after the destruction caused by street fighting and bombing during the American War in Vietnam. Continue by road to Thien Mu Pagoda before taking a cruise on the Perfume River.
Forbidden Purple City
● Constructed for personal use by the Imperial family, their concubines and eunuchs. This royal structure is still being restored many years after the destruction caused by street fighting and bombing during the American war in Vietnam.
Thien Mu Pagoda
● This seven-storey octagonal tower built on a hillock, overlooking the Perfume River is Hue's oldest and most beautiful pagoda.
Day 10: Hue
This morning, fly 1 hour and 20 minutes to the charming city of Hanoi. Experience an exhilarating cyclo ride through Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Each cyclo takes one passenger and is operated by a cycle driver behind the carriage. Wrap up your cyclo ride with a strong Vietnamese coffee at a café overlooking Hoan Kiem Lake
● an important symbol of Vietnamese folklore.
● With a population of approximately four million, Hanoi is a charming and richly historic city of lakes, shaded boulevards and leafy open parks. The centre is an architectural museum piece housing groups of ochre coloured buildings with an air of the provincial French towns of the 1930s; a “Paris of the Orient” as people have called it. Hanoi Old Quarter
● A maze of streets weaving through Hanoi and dating back to the 13th century. Each street specialises in merchants and artisans selling their wares of silk, silver, wood and more.
Day 11: Hanoi – Mai Chau
Enjoy a morning visit to the Temple of Literature. This afternoon, take the picturesque mountain road to Mai Chau, a beautiful region of scenic rice terraces very similar to Sapa, though not as steep.
A smaller overnight bag is recommended for your trip to Mai Chau. Main luggage will be left in safe storage at the hotel in Hanoi and picked up your return. Please ensure you have sturdy walking shoes as the mountain trails can be slippery when wet.
Temple of Literature
● Hanoi's first university dating back to 1070 and a historical centre of learning, now dedicated to Confucian worship. Ethnology Museum
● Numerous artefacts from 54 different ethnic minorities across Vietnam are on display here. Gain an insight into the heritage and diversity of the country while wandering the exhibitions.
Day 12: Mai Chau
Drive higher into the mountains to visit the H’mong hill tribe village of Xa Linh, a mixture of modern and traditional thatched wooden buildings sitting 1000 metres above sea level.
● Located 1,000m above sea level, southwest of Hanoi, this mountainous area with its spectacular landscapes and temperate climate is sure to make a lasting impression on its visitors.
Day 13 Mai Chau
This morning, explore the rice fields and visit the White Thai community villages of Pom Coong and Lac with their traditional stilt houses. This afternoon, return to Hanoi along the scenic mountain route. You will stay in Hanoi overnight.
Day 14: Halong Bay Cruise
Transfer around 2 and a half hours to Halong, where you will take an overnight cruise to the far-most corners of the bay by boat. Boarding your boat could involve navigating your way over and through other boats, moored between it and the dock, sometimes without handrails, ladders or assistance from staff. Enjoy lunch onboard as you cruise out into the bay, stopping to anchor for an afternoon of activities (which are subject to change due to cruise selection and weather conditions). Sightseeing includes visiting underground caves on the islands, which require climbing up and down steps inside and outside of the caves. End the day on deck with a drink in hand to watch the sunset over the bay followed by a freshly prepared dinner, before retiring to your cabin for the night. You will need to pack a smaller overnight bag for your trip to Halong Bay. Main luggage will be left in safe storage at the hotel in Hanoi and picked up your return.
Please note: Weather conditions such as mist, fog, wind, rain and storms may delay the departure time of your cruise, or in some cases your cruise may be cancelled. Notifications of any delays or cancellations may not be known until your group’s arrival in Halong Bay. If your cruise is cancelled after your arrival in Halong Bay, you will have lunch in Halong City and return to Hanoi. If notification of the cruise cancellation is given prior to your departure for Halong Bay an alternative day trip will be arranged to Hoa Lu and Tam Coc or ‘Halong Bay on Land’, an area located approximately 2 hours from Hanoi. Our guides will make every effort to inform the group at the earliest possible moment should there be any itinerary changes.
Day 15: Halong Bay – Hanoi
Spend the morning sailing through Halong Bay. After brunch, disembark your cruise and return to Hanoi for an afternoon at leisure. This evening, attend The Quintessence of Tonkin show, an artistic open-air performance celebrating the rich history of northern Vietnam.
Day 16: Hanoi – Luang Prabang
Discover more sights of Hanoi this morning. First stop will be the Ho Chi Minh Quarter and pass Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, followed by the Humble House on Stilts and the One Pillar Pagoda. This evening, say goodbye to Vietnam, transferring to the airport for your 1 hour flight to Luang Prabang.
Ho Chi Minh Quarter
● Dedicated to the father of modern Vietnam and where Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum stands in Ba Dinh Square. Ho Chi Minh first declared independence from French rule in 1945.
One Pillar Pagoda
● Rebuilt in 1955 after damage during the French evacuation, the pagoda is made of wood and sits on a single pillar. Designed to reflect the shape of a lotus flower emerging from the water, it has become a popular spot for locals to enjoy the tranquil surroundings.
Humble House on Stilts
● In the grounds of the Presidential Palace sits the 2 storey wooden home of Ho Chi Minh, who ruled Vietnam from here until his death in 1969.
● The capital of Luang Prabang Province in northern Laos, lies in a valley at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. It’s known for its many Buddhist temples, including the gilded Wat Xieng Thong, dating to the 16th century, and Wat Mai, once the residence of the head of Laotian Buddhism.
DaY 17: Luang Prabang
Rise early this morning to view Takbat, a Buddhist ceremony before climbing Phousi Hill for panoramic views of the city. Visit Wat Xieng Thong; before boarding a boat to cruise the mighty Mekong up to the sacred caves of Pak Ou, known for the hundreds of miniature Buddha sculptures that reside within. Return to Luang Prabang visiting the local villages to witness the daily life of the local people.
● A 100m high hill in the centre of the old town of Luang Prabang. It lies in the heart of the old town peninsula and is bordered on one side by the Mekong River and on the other side by the Nam Khan River. The hill is a local religious site, and houses several Buddhist shrines. Halfway up the hill, overlooking the Nam Khan is Wat Tham Phou Si, a Buddhist temple. At the summit of the hill, overlooking the town and surrounding countryside, is Wat Chom Si, which is also a Buddhist temple and is a tourist highlight of Luang Prabang.
Pak Ou Caves – Near Pak Ou (mouth of the Ou river), the Tham Ting (lower cave) and the Tham Theung (upper cave) are caves overlooking the Mekong River, 25 km to the north of Luang Prabang, Laos. They are a group of two caves on the west side of the Mekong River, about two hours upstream from the centre of Luang Prabang. The caves are noted for their miniature Buddha sculptures. Hundreds of very small and mostly damaged wooden Buddhist figures are laid out over the wall shelves. They take many different positions, including meditation, teaching, peace, rain, and reclining (nirvana).
Wat Xieng Thong
● A Buddhist temple (wat), located on the northern tip of the peninsula of Luang Prabang, Laos. Wat Xieng Thong is one of the most important of Lao monasteries and remains a significant monument to the spirit of religion, royalty and traditional art. There are over twenty structures on the grounds including a sim, shrines, pavilions and residences, in addition to its gardens of various flowers, ornamental shrubs and trees.
DaY 18: Luang Prabang
This morning, visit the National Museum. Drive 1 hour to Kuang Si Waterfall. Sightseeing at the waterfall will involve around 1 hour of light walking and on the way up to the waterfall you follow a bush walking track which has a slight upward gradient. It is possible to take a swim in the river near the falls and if you wish to do this, please remember to bring along your swimsuit and a towel. Changing rooms are available on site. Return to Luang Prabang stopping at Ban Na Ouane village and Ock Pop Tok Weaving Centre.
National Museum – Built in 1904 in the French colonial era, the original building was the Royal Palace but was later converted into a museum.
Kuang Si Waterfalls
● A three tier waterfall about 29 kilometres south of Luang Prabang. The falls begin in shallow pools atop a steep hillside. These lead to the main fall with a 60 metres cascade. The falls are accessed via a trail to a left of the falls. Water collects in numerous turquoise blue pools as it flows downstream. The many cascades that result are typical of travertine waterfalls. There are walkways and bridges for your enjoyment. Most of the pools are open to swimming.
Day 19: Luang Prabang – Vang Vieng
Fly 50 minutes to Vientiane and drive approximately 3 and half hours to Vang Vieng, with the rest of the day at leisure.
● A town in Vientiane Province about four hours bus ride north of the capital. The town lies on the Nam Song River. The most notable feature of the area is the karst hill landscape surrounding the town.
Day 20: Vang Vieng
Today, venture into the cave of Tham Chang. Sightseeing here involves approximately 1 hour on foot over uneven surfaces, and climbing steps to get up to the cave. Later, enjoy an easy walking tour on the banks of the Nam Song River. The cave was used as a bunker in the early 19th century during the ChineseHo invasion.
Day 21: Vang Vieng – Vientiane
Stop at Nam Nguem Lake on the drive back to Vientiane. A delightfully quaint city, Vientiane feels more like a friendly backwater than a chaotic capital. Spend the afternoon exploring That Luang Stupa, Wat Si Saket, and Wat Phra Keo. Continue your sightseeing at the Patuxai Victory Monument, resembling Paris’ Arc de Triomphe. Sightseeing today involves around 2 to 3 hours on foot. Tonight, enjoy dinner and a traditional performance showcasing Lao music and dance.
That Luang Stupa
● A gold-covered large Buddhist stupa in the centre of Vientiane. Since its initial establishment, suggested to be in the 3rd century, the stupa has undergone several reconstructions as recently as the 1930s, due to foreign invasions of the area.
Wat Si Saket
● Wat Si Saket is a Buddhist wat built in 1818 on the order of King Anouvong (Sethathirath V.) It was built in the ‘Siamese style’ of Buddhist architecture, with a surrounding terrace and an ornate fivetiered roof, rather than in the Lao style. This may have kept it safe, since the armies of Siam that sacked Vientiane following Anouvong's rebellion in 1827 used the compound as their HQ and lodgings. It may be the oldest temple still standing in Vientiane. The French colonial government restored Wat Si Saket in 1924 and 1930. Wat Si Saket features a cloister wall with more than 2,000 ceramic and silver Buddha images.
Patuxai Victory Monument
● Patuxai means Victory Gate or Gate of Triumph. and, is a war monument in the centre of Vientiane. It was built between 1957 and 1968. The Patuxai is dedicated to those who fought in the struggle for independence from France.
DAY 22: Vientiane – Phnom Penh
Fly 1 and half hours to Phnom Penh. Enjoy a sightseeing tour of the city this afternoon, spending around 3 hours exploring on foot, visiting the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda and the National Museum.
Phnom Penh – The capital of the Kingdom of Cambodia is built around four river arms formed by a sharp curve in the Mekong River, near the junctions of the Bassac and the Tonle Sap tributaries. This charming city has a pleasant blend of oriental and colonial architecture, but reminders of a troubled past are also evident.
The Royal Palace – Built in 1866 by the French, these ornate buildings are the official residence of the reigning Cambodian royal family and King Sihamoni.
Silver Pagoda – This concrete and marble structure includes a floor with over 5,000 silver tiles, each a kilo in weight. Famous artefacts include a 90kg solid gold Buddha, made in 1907, and the Emerald Buddha; opinions differ as to whether the latter is made of emerald, jade, or French Baccarat Crystal.
DAY 23: Phnom Penh
Visit Tuol Sleng Museum for a moving insight into Cambodia’s harrowing and tumultuous past. This museum commemorates the atrocities that occurred during the regime of Pol Pot. Many people find it quite confronting and emotional; you will be given time to explore on your own. Stop at the Apsara Arts Association before visiting the Russian and Central Markets to explore the many stalls selling souvenirs in abundance.
Tuol Sleng Museum
● This former school was used by the Khmer Rouge as a detention and torture centre in the late 1970s. Today this building houses paintings and photographs of the victims. You can see the crude cells built in the classrooms and the torture devices used to extract confessions by the regime.
Apsara Arts Association
● Established to cultivate traditional arts; dance, music and theater of Cambodian culture whilst keeping Cambodian culture alive.
Central and Russian Markets
● One of the liveliest areas in Phnom Penh. Everything that is used, worn or eaten is piled high throughout the labyrinth of stalls.
DAY 24: Phnom Penh – Siem Reap
This morning visit Wat Phnom. Sightseeing here involves a climb of 30 metres high and on ladders up to the hilltop temple. Later, transfer to the airport for your 45-minute flight to Siem Reap. On arrival, travel to Banteay Srei to explore the fascinating Hindu temple. Later, relax on-board a boat and view the sunset on Angkor Thom’s moat.
● Home to a hilltop temple that carries the cities namesake. Locals flock here to pray for good luck and success.
● Siem Reap is a bustling tourist destination due to its proximity to both the ancient Khmer national capital city of Angkor as well as Tonle Sap Lake. Angkor Wat is one of the main attractions and is the world's largest religious monument, in addition to being the spiritual and cultural heart of Cambodia.
● A Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva and considered by many to be the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of Angkorian art. The temple is cut from stone of a pinkish hue and contains some of the finest stone carvings in the world.
Pre Rup Temple
● A popular place to view the sun setting as the view over the rice fields is spectacular. Pre Rup was built by Rajendravarman II and may have been an early royal crematorium.
DAY 25: Siem Reap
Spanning from the 9th to 15th century, the Angkor complex with over 1,000 temples was the seat of the thriving Khmer Empire. UNESCO manages the complex and to enter, your group will drive approximately 6km out of town to the main entrance gate to get your entrance passes, which you must carry with you. If you choose to climb at any site, you must be able to climb and descend without assistance. Begin at the city of Angkor Thom and the enigmatic Bayon, the Elephant Terrace and the Terrace of the Leper King, before continuing to the temple of Ta Prohm, enveloped in a labyrinth of jungle. This afternoon is devoted to the fascinating and awe-inspiring Angkor Wat. In the evening, watch a performance by the PHARE Cambodian Circus, an NGO which teaches street children to become internationally renowned circus artists.
Please note: The Central Tower of the Angkor Wat complex is closed on Buddhist holidays and on all other days has a limited number of visitors allowed at any given time, under regulations from UNESCO. If you wish to visit this tower, you will be required to wait in the queue alongside all other visitors. The ability to do this will be determined upon the groups’ schedule.
● Swallowed by the jungle where Strangler Figs and Kapok Trees have entwined themselves around the ruins. Undoubtedly, the most atmospheric ruin at Angkor with several towers, closed courtyards and narrow corridors to explore.
● This fortified city is flanked by a row of 54 stone figures on each side, which leads you through a 23-metre imposing stone entrance gate to the various temples inside.
● Beautifully crafted central towers, decorated with four opposing faces representing King Jayavarman VII. Bayon’s stone galleries display extraordinary bas-reliefs incorporating over 11,000 figures.
Elephant Terrace and Terrace of the Leper King
● Giant viewing platforms used for public ceremonies, which served as a base for the King's grand audience hall.
● Surrounded by a 190-metre moat and taking 30 years to build, Angkor Wat represents the Khmer civilisation at its grandest. With its fascinating decorative flourishes, extensive bas-relief and multiple tiers, it is the best-preserved temple within the complex.
DaY 26: Siem Reap
Today explore the less-visited Beng Mealea, a mysterious temple completely overrun by the jungle where you will explore on foot for approximately an hour and half. In the high-water season, you will also visit Kompong Khleang, a unique village on stilts. In the lower water season, you will visit Chong Kneas floating village. Return to Siem Reap via a Cambodian artistry assembly
● Les Artisan D’Angkor before arriving back at your hotel this evening.
● Dating from the 11th century, this sprawling temple covers over one square kilometre. Largely overrun by vegetation and constructed in a distinctly Angkor Wat-style, Beng Mealea precedes and may even have served as a 'prototype' for Angkor Wat.
● Established in 1998, this community workshop teaches the unique arts of painting, silk weaving, wood and stone carving in traditional Cambodian style to local young people.
DAY 27-28: Depart Siem Reap
Fly home, arriving the following day.
Please note: Only breakfast and lunch are provided on the groups day of departure; no refund will be given for meals missed.
29/01/23 & 19/02/23 & 01/10/23 & 22/10/23 & 12/11/23 & 18/02/24 & 29/09/24 & 20/10/24 & 10/11/24