DAY 1. ARRIVAL IN HANOI
Arrive in Hanoi, the national capital and the heart of Vietnam’s growing economy. After dealing with immigration formalities, meet the local guide and leave the airport for the city center to check-in at the hotel. After some time to recuperate from the long flight, and if time permit, take a first orientation tour of the city. Begin with a visit to the Museum of Ethnology with its striking exhibition on the diverse ethnic groups inhabiting the country, their rich culture, traditions, and unique customs and clothing. Then pay a visit to Ngoc Son Temple by the Hoan Kiem Lake right at the city center, the place at which city dwellers come to enjoy an evening in leisure as temperatures turn down. After a walk along the lakeside, hop atop a traditional rickshaw for a one-hour tour of the old city. In the evening revert to the hotel for the first night in Vietnam.
DAY 2. BA BE NATURE RESERVE
Leave Hanoi for the four-and-a-half hours’ drive to Ba Be, one of the best known Vietnam national parks. The drive takes through regions rarely visited by foreigners, offering us a glimpse of the rustic Vietnamese countryside, rural life, and sleepy towns scattered along the route. Dominated by Ba Be Lake, the namesake of the nature reserve, and Vietnam’s largest natural lake, the reserve consists of towering limestone peaks, and dramatic valleys, all covered with lush green rainforests. Within the reserve there are villages of ethnic minorities of the Dzao, Tay and Hmong people. Arrive in Ba Be in time for late lunch, and then take a first easy hike to Dau Dang Waterfall, an impressive cascade stretching for about 1 km through the jungle. After this first hike stop for a stroll through on of the 13 minority villages in the reserve’s vicinity before setting in the simple hotel for the night.
DAY 3. CRUISING BA BE LAKE
Early in the morning drive to one of the villages on the shores of the big lake, where a weekly tribal market takes place. The locals, from different ethnic groups, gather to trade here agricultural produce and a variety of handicrafts, and to purchase their own supplies. Then board a motorboat for a cruise throughout the huge lake. Pass by waterfalls, stop at the Fairy Pond, and get a glimpse of the lives of the locals as they fish around the lake, all amidst breathtaking landscapes of the mighty mountains surrounding the lake. Back on solid ground, and after lunch embark on a second hiking trip through the nature reserve. The trail takes through thick forests and across the hills surrounding the lake. Pause at local villages such as Coc Toc Village of the Tay People, and the beautiful Nam Dai Village of the Cash Dao People. Late in the afternoon revert back to the simple hotel for a second night in Ba Be.
DAY 4. WALKING ALONG TEA PLANTATIONS AND DRIVE BACK TO HANOI
After breakfast board the vehicle and drive out of Ba Be, heading to Thai Nguyen. Well off the beaten track, this is the center of tea production in Vietnam. Once at Thai Nguyen, drive to one of the many tea plantations to meet the family owning it. Join them for a traditional lunch, and end with a sip of their locally produced tea. After some time for a lively conversation with the family, embark on a walk through seemingly endless tea plantations covering the hill sides, see the local farmers as they pick and attend to their plots, and visit a local tea processing center to learn about the traditional methods of production of the drink so highly revered throughout Asia. Late in the afternoon revert to the car, and complete the one hour’s drive to Hanoi, arriving in town rather late in the evening.
DAY 5. TO NINH BINH
After breakfast leave Hanoi once again, this time towards Ninh Binh. Late in the morning arrive in Trang An and hop aboard a small boat for a private tour through Trang An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Situated at the Red River Delta, a cruise over this narrow river running amidst sheer towering cliffs would take through natural caves dug at the base of massive karst rocks through a scenery of evergreen rainforests. Before dawn take to Thung Nham Bird Sanctuary. The sanctuary provides shelter to a variety of birds typical to the region. Hop onto little boats, and together with a local guide cruise through the series of lakes and canals to observe the plethora of waterfowls inhabiting the sanctuary before driving to Ninh Binh for the night.
DAY 6. CRUISING LAN HA BAY
Leave Ninh Binh and drive to Lan Ha Bay. This is the recently developed part of Ha Long Bay. Even for those visiting Vietnam for the second time, the pleasant cruise through the unique karst formations of the bay is an experience to be taken again and again. Take a short ride in a small tender boat before boarding one of the many luxurious ships that cruising the bay. Then enjoy a 24 hours relaxing cruise, enjoying the many activities offered on board, including visiting pearl farms, explore natural stalactite caves, and kayak through the tranquil bay. Enjoy fantastic meals, and spend the night onboard the ship.
DAY 7. FLIGHT TO DONG HOI
Wake up amid the stunning landscapes of the bay. Those waking up early would enjoy the beautiful sunrise followed by a t’ai chi session onboard. After breakfast begin cruising back to the mainland.
Late in the morning disembark the ship, and drive along the newly built highway directly to Hanoi Airport for the flight to Dong Hoi the provincial capital of Quang Binh Province. Arrive in Dong Hoi, meet the local guide and drive to the hotel for the night.
DAY 8. PRISTINE JUNGLES AT TU LAN CAVE SYSTEM
Leave Dong Hoi early in the morning, and take a beautiful, mountainous, winding road to the village of Tan Hoa to explore one of the least known Vietnam national parks. After a thorough safety brief, embark on a two-day adventure through the Tu Lan cave system. Begin with a 2.5 km (1.55 miles) stroll across fields of peanuts, corn and by muddy water buffaloes. Then cross the river, leaving the vast fields behind and take on a climb over rocky slopes which lead up to the first cave, Hang Chuot (Rat Cave). Then another rather steep climb of some 60m (200 feet) ends at the mountain pass, offering a first glimpse of the pristine jungle the trails winds through. After a 3 km (1.86 miles) trek across the valley floor, arrive at the campsite, to enjoy lunch and a cool swim by the waterfall. Then go to explore and have the first cave-river swim through Ken Cave, returning back to the campsite just in time for a barbeque dinner made by the local support team. Enjoy dinner together, stories around the campfire, and a good night’s sleep in hammocks strung up beside the beautiful waterfall.
DAY 9. FROM TU LAN TO PHONG NHA
The second day of the Tu Lan adventure begins at Tu Lan cave. The cave has both dry and wet sections, so expect a thrilling morning of both hiking and swimming through the cave. Return to the campsite for lunch, before taking off to Hang Kim cave, to once again enjoy a mix of hiking and swimming. From Hang Kim continue to To Mo Valley, and on to the last swim of some 200m (660 feet) through Hung Ton Wet Cave, before the hike into Hung Ton Valley. Walk past the valley, and up to the mountain pass which leads out of the Tu Lan jungle and cave system. The adventure winds down with walking back 2.5km (1.55 miles), crossing the Rao Nan River and along the fields to reach Tan Hoa village. Here board the vehicle, and drive to Phong Nha, to check-in the cozy hotel by Phong Nha Lake.
DAY 10. FLIGHT TO HO CHI MINH CITY AND VISIT CAT TIEN NATURE RESERVE
From Phong Nha drive to Dong Hoi airport for the flight to Ho Chi Minh City, sometimes better known as Saigon. Upon landing embark on the three-and-a-half hours’ drive to Cat Tien. Covering an area of 720 Sq. Km, and considered by many as a well-kept secret, this is undoubtedly one of the most exciting Vietnam national parks! The park is the richest among all others with wildlife species. After checking-in the simple yet cozy ecolodge, pay a visit to Dao Tien Endangered Primate rescue center. Here, with assistance of foreign organizations, captured primates get a chance to be released back into the wild, enhancing the conservation efforts of these species. After dinner time take an evening drive into the reserve, to spot some of its nocturnal wildlife. Overnight in a lodge in Cat Tien.
Note: Cat Tien is by no means an African safari. The possibility of seeing animals in the wild varies, depending on local circumstances. However, whether or not one encounters the reserves’ wildlife, the visit to the primate and bear rescue centers, as well as the beautiful jungle walks offers a perspective over Vietnam and its natural beauty rarely seen by outsiders.
Note II: Accommodation in the nature reserve are rather basic, and based on large safari tents, with en suite toilets and shower facilities. Electricity is being shut down at about 22:00, and with it- the sketchy wifi connection. Though the camp’s staff are doing their best to fight the constant humidity and other decaying factors, the tents might be of different qualities. We would do our best to ask for the best available tents, but please do bear in mind that these would be basic, and prepare yourself for the worst.
DAY 11. EXPLORING CAT TIEN
Set off before sunrise with a Cat Tien guide and trek into the jungle. First pause by a listening post, to wait for the gibbons to start singing. This is the best way for the rangers to locate the gibbons - who sleep in different locations throughout their large habitat. Here one can relax and take in the vast array of wildlife that inhabits the reserve. As the nocturnal animals are all going to bed and the day-dwellers are rising, this is the perfect time of day to take advantage of Cat Tien's rich wildlife viewing opportunities. If quiet and patient enough, potential sightings can include sambar deer, mouse deer, wild boar, black-shanked douc and pigtailed macaque troops, as well as a huge array of birds and invertebrates.
Once the gibbons start to sing, be guided to their location to watch them as they indulge in their morning routine. The length of the viewing depends on the gibbons, but whether this experience is for a few minutes or for many hours, it is a rare and magical sight that will leave the traveler completely in awe of this beautiful family. This is truly a once in a lifetime wildlife experience.
Return to camp for lunch before taking a beautiful jungle walk. The jungle trail takes along ancient trees with lianas stretched in between them, and fungous grows on their trunks. The trail eventually leads to a pond infested with wild Siamese Crocodiles. This species has been nearly gone extinct, and this pond considered as one of the best preserve habitats for it. Upon arrival back at the park’s center, take a river cruise to view beautiful waterfowl on the lush vegetation along the riverbank. In the evening revert to the eco-lodge for a second night at the nature reserve.
DAY 12. TO HO CHI MINH CITY
The day’s program would depend on whether or not yesterday’s Gibbon Experience went as planned. If no sighting was recorded on the previous day, take again at dusk deep into the jungle for a second chance of watching these graceful apes.
After breakfast visit the Bear Rescue Facility within the park. The bears inhabiting this small sanctuary were rescued from either private people that kept the wild animals for entertainment purposes, often being held in disgraceful conditions, and against all laws and regulations, or either from farms harvesting bile, a digestive fluid stored in the gallbladder, used as a traditional Chinese medicine. This way or the other, the sanctuary aiming to provide these bears a dignified life, with the hope of releasing them back to nature. Around noon time leave the nature reserve and take the three-hours drive back to Ho Chi Minh city. After checking-in the hotel, enjoy an evening stroll through the bustling city, in a resonating contrast to the tranquil and remote nature reserves visited in the last few days.
DAY 13. DAY EXCURSION TO CAN GIO MANGROVE BIOSPHERE RESERVE
The last day of the trip provides a last opportintu to enjoy yet another Vietnam national park. Enjoy a full day excursion to Can Gio Biosphere Reserve. As its name suggests, the reserve features beautiful mangrove forests, beautifully reflects in the wide river. Take a ride on a small rowboat amidst these massive mangroves to watch a colony of bats taking their day sleep hanging from the treetops. Then visit a home of local fisherman and enjoy him and his family for a traditional lunch, and a chat about life in rural Vietnam. Continue for a visit in a small crocodile sanctuary and end the day visiting the Monkey Island before taking the journey back to Ho Chi Minh City for a last night in Vietnam.
DAY 14. DEPARTURE FROM VIETNAM
After breakfast drive to Tan Son Nhat International Airport to wrap up this trip of Vietnam national parks, say farewell to the local team, and board the flight out of Vietnam
Dates & Pricing
Vietnam national parks tour rates are quoted in US Dollars and are valid for two confirmed travelers and above.
Note: Vietnam national parks tours rates are valid all year round, but are not valid for trips that occur (in whole, or in part) during the following dates:
20 December - 10 January (Festive Season)
10 February - 20 February (Lunar New Year)
30 April - 01 May (Labor Day)
Please note that due to stormy weather in central Vietnam and danger of floods, the Tu Lan area is closed between August to December.
[email protected] reserves the right to change Vietnam national parks tour prices and programs due to changes in flight schedule, changes in airfares, and other local circumstances.
Prices are based on twin share occupancy.
Discounted rates for groups of 4 travelers and above:
4 travelers- US$2250/ person
6 travelers- US$2111/ person
8 travelers- US$2067/ person
- Applicable only for travel groups of 4 people or more booking their trip together.
21st April, 2021–3rd May, 2021
- $2,752 Per Person (From 2 people)
- $698 Single Room Supplement
21st November, 2021–3rd December, 2021
- $2,752 Per Person (From 2 people)
- $698 Single Room Supplement
- 2 Domestic flight Hanoi/Dong Hoi/Ho Chi Minh City
- Accommodation as per program
- Transfers by private A/C vehicle
- Meals as indicated in the program
- English speaking guide for each area as per program
- Floating vest and dry bag for Tu Lan caving
- Private cabin onboard a shared junk in Ha Long Bay
- Entry fees for all sightseeing as mentioned on the program
- Drinking water (2 small bottles/ person/ day)
- International airfare
- Travel insurance
- Vietnamese visa
- Excess luggage
- Expenses of personal nature (food and drinks beyond those provided, laundry, etc.)
- Anything not clearly mentioned in the program
- Hanoi- Boss Legend 4-star
- Ba Be- National Park guesthouse
- Halong- Pelican Cruise 4-star
- Phong Nha- Phnog Nha Lake House
- Cat Tien- Forest Floor Lodge
- Ho Chi Minh City- Renaissance Riverside 5-star
Note: the listed hotels are tentative. Final hotel list shall be confirmed upon placing a booking and paying a deposit.
We would like to thank you for the wonderful trip. Everything was well organized, and we brought home the best memories. Trekking in the jungle through the caves and a night in the cave was the most exciting part, indeed. Thank you again, Nastya/David
Nastya and David, USA
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