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Halong Bay and the Red River

This 13-night adventure travels well off the beaten track into the highlands and mountain villages of northern Vietnam. In contrast visit bustling Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital, plus an overnight cruise in the amazing limestone island scenery of Halong Bay.

Fly Cruise
13 nights from £4595pp

River Adventures Holiday
Halong Bay
Hanoi rickshaws
Hanoi houses
Da River Terraces
Viet Tri, Vietnam
Upper Red River

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Halong Bay and the Red River Special Offer

For the first time cruise travellers can explore Northern Vietnam by river ship, traversing the Red River delta and its main tributaries. Starting at the scenic wonders of Halong Bay, experience downtown Hanoi, and then venture on into the interior, well off the beaten track.

Our river expedition starts in amazing Halong Bay with an overnight cruise amongst the limestone islands and floating villages. Following the Kinh Thay river to Hanoi, from our mooring visit highlights including the notorious 'Hanoi Hilton' Vietnam war prison and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

Cruise deep into the highlands of northern Vietnam along the Red River and discover the mountain scenery and villages which are home to many of Vietnam's ethnic communities. Travel as far as is navigable up the Red River and then down the little known Da or Black River. In the following days take a morning boat ride on the reservoir of Hoa Binh and explore the inner workings of the power station. In the afternoon, visit a museum and local village where villagers still wear traditional dress, before being treated to a traditional performance by local hill tribe people.

The itinerary for this expedition is indicative only - as it travels into remote areas changes to the itinerary will inevitably occur. A flexible approach is required if you book this cruise.

PD243 Operated by Pandaw River Adventures

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Itinerary

Day 1 - UK - Hanoi (Vietnam)

Board your overnight flight to Hanoi.

Day 2 - Hanoi

Transfer to your hotel for an overnight stay.

Day 3 - Ha Long Bay

Today you board your ship and your cruise begins.

Days 4-5 - Ha Long Bay

A visit to the north is not complete without a trip to Halong Bay, where placid waters give way to more than 3,000 limestone karsts and wind-sculpted limestone formations that jut from foggy lagoons. Dotting the bay are tiny islands bordered by white sandy coves and hidden caves, adding to the majestic landscape of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Adding to this naturalist’s dream is the biodiversity of islets, grottos, and Cat Ba Island National Park. The bay, however, shows tourism’s impact: the clearing of mangrove forests to make way for jetties and piers, marine life threatened by game fishing, and garbage from passenger boats and fishing villages washed up on the shores.Beyond its geological uniqueness are activities like hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, or exploring one of the many floating villages where fishermen bring in their daily catch. The downside to all this allure is the large number of unlicensed boats it draws to the bay each day.Boat trips out onto the bay are the main tourism stock in trade farther north, but a more multifaceted side of the area can be experienced at Cat Ba Island. The largest island in Halong Bay, Cat Ba is very much its own entity. Its national park offers incredible biodiversity, with more than a thousand species of plants having been recorded here. Animal life is slightly thinner on the ground, but alert visitors may spy inhabitants such as the endangered golden-headed langur, wild boar, deer, civets, and several species of squirrel. Trekking through the wilderness is a highlight with a number of fascinating trails to follow.Cat Ba Island has also become a firm favorite with the adventure sports set. Indeed, along with Railay Beach in Thailand, it is recognized as one of the top spots in the region for rock climbing. Other outdoor pursuits include sailing and kayaking around the karsts. Although Halong Bay has arguably been tainted by over-exposure, Bai Tu Long Bay farther east toward China, retains all the majesty of Vietnam’s premier bucket-list natural attraction but sees a fraction of the traffic of its immediate neighbor to the west. Here, visitors will find islands of substantial size with deserted beaches and untamed jungle. Halong Bay's 3,000 islands of dolomite and limestone cover a 1,500-square-km (580-square-mile) area, extending across the Gulf of Tonkin nearly to the Chinese border. According to legend, this breathtaking land- and seascape was formed by a giant dragon that came barreling out of the mountains toward the ocean—hence the name (Halong translates into "descent of the dragon"). Geologists are more likely to attribute the formations to sedimentary limestone that formed here between 300 and 500 million years ago, in the Paleozoic Era. Over millions of years water receded and exposed the limestone to wind, rain, and tidal erosion.Today the limestone formations are exposed to hordes of tourists—but don't let that discourage you. Hundreds of fishing trawlers and tour boats share space on these crystal waters, yet there seems to be room for everyone. Most people use the main population center, Halong City, as a base from which to venture into the bay. Although it's now officially one municipality, Halong City was, until 1996, two separate towns: Bai Chay is now Halong City West, where Halong Road winds its way around the coast and past the lifeless central beach; Hon Gai is the grimier Halong City East, where a coal transportation depot dominates the center of town and covers nearby roads and buildings with a sooty film. Locals still refer to the towns by their old names, but they are now inexorably lassoed together by a bridge. Boat trips through Halong Bay are the main attraction. Little of the majesty of this region can be found in the city, so head out onto the water and start exploring. Countless 10- and 30-foot fishing boats have been converted into Halong Bay's formidable tourist-boat fleet. Hotels or travel agencies in Halong City or Hanoi can arrange boat trips for you (often they are part of organized tours from Hanoi). It is still possible to go down to the wharf and bargain yourself onto a boat for the day, but you are likely to be charged (sometimes significantly) more than you would pay for a prebooked tour, so this is not advised. Self-sufficient travelers have fallen victim to the old bait-and-switch: they've arranged a next-day boat tour with local fishermen, only to be told in no uncertain terms the following morning that they could not board their chosen boat, but they could take a different one for quite a bit more money. You may have no choice in the end. Usually travel agencies, however, have their tried-and-true favourites.

Day 6 - Sailing Kinh Thay River

Observe the lively and interesting life of the KinhThay river, a key commercial waterway. Meet your guide in the dining room for a lecture on Vietnam, its history, geography and the boat people.

Day 7 - Bát Tràng

The day is spent cruising towards Hanoi. Enroute, stop at Bat Trang in the afternoon, a ceramic village. On the way back to the ship watch a traditional unicorn and lion dance at the jetty. This dance originated in China and spread over Southeast Asia.

Day 8 - Hanoi

Drop anchor in the capital and bustling city of Hanoi to visit some highlights of this Asian metropolis. Must-sees include the notorious Vietnam War prison known as the Hanoi Hilton, temple of literature where Confucius did his thinking, and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

Day 9 - Sailing Lower Red River

Morning sail through the day from Hanoi up the Red River to Viet Tri - not the most picturesque of towns, but an excellent base for going deeper into Highland Vietnam. Go ashore to visit a timeless Arcadian Vietnam with emerald green rice paddies punctuated by limestone rock formations. Of particular interest are the Thay and Tay Phuong Pagodas.

Day 10 - Sailing Lo River

In the morning cruising to Tien Du ferry station to the village of Gia Thanh, makers of the conical hats (known as ‘non la’). Take in the sights and sounds of the bustling river with all kinds of craft and activity.

Day 11 - Da River

Day sailing upstream while admiring the unspoilt beauty of the Da River. We stop to visit K9 Ho Chi Minh Memorial House, a small museum newly opened to international visitors introducing the life of President Ho Chi Minh and his contributions to the country’s revolution. We moor overnight mid-river alongside Ba Vi National Park with its rich and diverse tropical and sub-tropical flora and fauna.

Day 12 - Hòa Bình

Hoa Binh was the site of a major battle with the French in 1951 & 1952 and is home to the Muong ethnic group. The Hoa Binh Dam at the Black River is the largest hydroelectric dam in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. Take a morning boat ride on the reservoir of Hoa Binh and explore the inner workings of the power station. In the afternoon, visit a museum and local village where villagers still wear traditional dress before being treated to a traditional performance by local hill tribe people.

Day 13 - Hòa Bình - Hanoi

Disembark after breakfast (08.30am) and transfer to Hanoi. Lunch will be served at a local restaurant, followed by a transfer to Hanoi Noi Bai International Airport for your overnight flight to the UK.

Day 14 - Hanoi - UK

Arrive in the UK.

The itinerary for this expedition is indicative only - as it travels into remote areas changes to the itinerary will inevitably occur. A flexible approach is required if you book this cruise.

Price Includes

  • 10-night full board cruise
  • Overnight pre-cruise hotel stay in Hanoi
  • Return flights from London
  • Overseas transfers
  • All taxes and port charges
  • All gratuities
  • Selected drinks
  • Cultural performances and all scheduled excursions

Price Does Not Include

  • Travel insurance
  • Visa required for Vietnam
  • Premium wines, premium spirits, branded soft drinks, speciality coffees on board
  • Tips to tour guides, bus, boat and cycle operators
  • Port taxes

Cruise Extensions

  • We can arrange additional nights in Vietnam
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2024 Departures £ price per person based on 2 people sharing

  • May
    • May 30th - Ha Long Bay to Hoa Binh - Sailing on: Angkor Pandaw From: £5195
      Main Deck
      £5195
  • June
    • Jun 8th - Ha Long Bay to Hoa Binh - Sailing on: Angkor Pandaw From: £5195
      Main Deck
      £5195
    • Jun 30th - Ha Long Bay to Hoa Binh - Sailing on: Angkor Pandaw From: £5195
      Main Deck
      £5195
  • July
    • Jul 2nd - Ha Long Bay to Hoa Binh - Sailing on: Angkor Pandaw From: £5195
      Main Deck
      £5195

2025 Departures £ price per person based on 2 people sharing

  • April
    • Apr 13th - Ha Long Bay to Hoa Binh - Sailing on: Angkor Pandaw From: £5195
      Main Deck
      £5195
  • May
    • May 5th - Ha Long Bay to Hoa Binh - Sailing on: Angkor Pandaw From: £5195
      Main Deck
      £5195

Price Information

  • Please note prices are updated regularly from a third party price feed and may fluctuate from those shown. Please contact us for latest prices
  • Prices shown usually include all available discounts
Map for Halong Bay and the Red River