This cultural experience of a lifetime will give you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the diverse cultures of both Vietnam and China. Travel through small villages, minority quarters, and bustling cities as you embark on this 19-day itinerary full of adventure. The trip will first take you through Hanoi, Halong Bay, Lao Cai, Sapa, Matra, Hekou and several small villages in Vietnam. For the second half of your adventure, travel through Yuanyang, Jianshui, Shilin, Kunming, Lijiang, Shaxi, Shuanglang, Dali and Kunming in China. Go where few travelers have been able to go, and discover a whole new world for yourself.
Enjoy a full-day tour of Hanoi. Stroll through the Old Quarter’s narrow tree-lined streets. Visit the eerie Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, and then continue on to the One Pillar Pagoda, the National Fine Arts Museum, the Buddhist Tran Quoc Pagoda on West Lake, and finish up your day at the Museum of Ethnology.
Depart Hanoi this morning for Halong Bay. The 3.5-hour journey takes you across the fertile farmlands of the Red River Delta. After you arrive in Halong, board an authentic Vietnamese junk. This is the perfect way to see the stunning sites of Dinh Huong Island, Ga Choi Island, Dog Island and Binh Phong Mountain. Fall asleep to the lull of the waves from your cabin on the junk.
Rise early this morning to watch the stunning tangerine sunrise with the backdrop of Halong Bay’s mountainous landscape. Cruise along the gorgeous Bai Tu Long Bay in your traditional wooden vessel. Enjoy dinner and cocktails aboard the ship’s top deck this evening and spend one more night floating along in Halong Bay.
Depart Halong this morning for the drive back to Hanoi. This afternoon, go for a leisurely bicycle tour along some of Hanoi’s quieter streets. In the evening, enjoy a traditional water puppet show depicting scenes of rural life in Vietnam. Rest tonight back at the Sofitel Metropole.
Drive east out of Hanoi and across the lush countryside into the Bat Trang Ceramic Village. Here you can observe how local artisans have crafted ceramics and pottery for centuries. If you would like, try for yourself to craft a vase to take back home. Continue on to visit the But Thap Pagoda and the surrounding quiet rural villages. This evening, board an overnight train to Lao Cai, one of the mountainous northern provinces that border China.
Meet with your local guide over breakfast at your hotel - we recommend the Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa or Topas Ecolodge. Sapa is world renowned for its stunning landscape of vibrant tiered rice paddies and mountainous landscape. Travel through the Black Hmong ethnic minority village of Matra. Visit a local school and learn about the rare, quiet-kept culture. Stretch your legs with a hike through the area’s other fascinating local villages.
Stroll through the town of Sapa and see all of the local handicrafts on display at the Ethnic Market. Residents of the tiny villages that dot the province come here to display and sell their handicrafts. This is a good place to select a variety of authentic keepsakes as well as support a number of different villages. Shop and bargain your way through the authentic goods before relaxing back at your hotel this evening.
Cross the Chinese border at Hekou and journey to the Yuanyang stunning rice terraces, around 4 hours away. These particular rice terraces are considered to be the most beautiful in China. Head to Laohui, or “The Tiger’s Mouth,” to witness one of the most stunning sunsets in existence. Check in to your hotel in Yuanyang come evening time.
Rise early this morning to watch the sunrise at Duoyishu. Mornings here are brisk, so you can enjoy a hot cup of tea as you take in the scenery. After breakfast, visit a local market in the Hani Minority Village. This is a weekly stop for the Yi and Hani people. Next, enjoy a scenic trek from Duoyishu that finishes at Bada. Set amidst the rice paddies, grazing buffaloes and field workers, this is an incredible sight.
Today you travel 2 hours to the historic garrison town of Jianshui, a small city that has retained the atmosphere of an ancient feudal village. Visit the Zhu Estate in the heart of the old town. The labyrinth of a house covers two hectares of bamboo groves. This is a fantastic example of traditional housing during the times of imperial China. Visit the Twin Dragon Bridge, one of the oldest bridges in China before returning to Jianshui.
Today takes you through the stunning natural landscape of Lunan. Here you will discover Shilin or “The Stone Forest.” Next visit the Black Stone Forests to wander through the maze of jagged peaks. Travel to the Kunming Airport, 3 hours from Jianshui, where you will fly to Lijiang and gain an incredible aerial view of the area, while also reaching your final destination of the day.
Climb the majestic Jade Dragon Mountain and enjoy the view from the top. You can climb to the very top peak, Ganzidou, for the highest view possible. Next, pause at the Yak Prairie and enjoy even more stunning views. Continue for 2 hours on to Shaxi, an important stop on the ancient Silk Road. Here, you will check into your hotel to rest up for the night. We recommend either the Laomadian Lodge or the Old Theatre Inn.
Spend the morning exploring the area at your own leisure. The paved avenues create a maze through the quaint old town. The exquisite Three Terraced Pavillion is a highly obscure building near the town’s Buddhist Temple. Spend the afternoon exploring Shibaoshan – “Stone Treasure Mountain.” This collection of temples, caves and boulders never fails to amaze visitors. The famous “Stone Treasure” that is shaped like female genitalia is believed to provide fertility to those who touch the stone.
Sit back and watch as the countryside rolls by as you are driven the four-to-five hour journey to the Bai minority’s home of Dali. Stay at a famous local artists’ house in the village. The area is renowned for its unique, fantastic art. There’s an incredible market that runs five days a month that you may be lucky enough to experience. The lakeside province is said to have everything but the sea.