Arriving at Da Nang International Airport by early afternoon, we greet one another and meet our drivers, who take us to our first stop: the historic city Hoi An. A mix of Chinese, Japanese and Portuguese heritage helped contribute to the beauty and culture of this stunning colonial city, and for the next two days we'll enjoy and explore every inch of it we can. Our hotel sits on the banks of the Thu Bon River, a short walk from the city center. It features rooms with river views and an outdoor pool. This afternoon, our guides welcome us with a trip orientation and bike fitting before we head out into the Hoi An evening for a food tour by bike. An inspiration to foodies worldwide, we sample many of Hoi An's signature dishes as we pedal through town. We visit hole-in-the-wall food stalls, low-key local restaurants, and even a private home on an organic farm as we experience the full range of mouthwatering food that makes Hoi An a culinary treasure. Overnight in Hoi An. Dinner included.
Biking: 8?10 miles; mostly flat
Start the day off with sun salutations at the optional yoga session, if you're the kind of person who wakes at dawn even when on vacation. After breakfast, we jump on our bikes for a fun ride. The streets of Old Town quickly give way to rural pathways where artisans and farmers live lives not too different from their ancestors. We stop to check out a savory rice cake shop and continue our ride past tranquil fields of rice and abundant shops with local charm. Back at the hotel by lunch, we've got these bikes for the rest of the day, so let's go exploring. It?s just a 15-minute ride to An Bang Beach for swimming and relaxing by the sea, or you could head into town to get fitted for a tailored suit or dress?one of Hoi An's specialties. With loads of relaxing bike paths winding through town, riding around aimlessly is a perfectly acceptable activity in our humble opinion. Dinner on your own. Our guides will happily tell you all about their favorite local spots if you'd like. Overnight in Hoi An. Breakfast and lunch included.
Biking: 12?14 miles; mostly flat
We meet our guides just as the sun's rising, ready to kayak or stand-up paddleboard our way through the mangrove and water coconut forests just downriver from Hoi An. Paddling at a gentle pace, we pass a tiny fishing hamlet as we make our way through labyrinthine local vegetation. It makes for a very zen morning, paddling the placid river, and gliding through a wondrous place that most travelers will never see.
After the morning paddle, the rest of the day is yours, so go get into whatever you'd like. Hoi An has several highly rated cooking schools, so you might want to immerse yourself in the tastes of Vietnam by learning how to create some of its signature dishes. Our guides can point you toward the most trusted classes in town. More interested in the beverage side of things? There are a bunch of fun and educational (but who are we kidding: mostly fun) cocktail and craft beer tours in town that have popped up recently. Overnight in Hoi An. Breakfast included.
Kayak or SUP: 4?6 miles; 3 hours; on calm water
Today we saddle up for an exciting cycling challenge as we spin our way up and over Hai Van Pass, aka Pass of the Ocean Clouds. This iconic mountain pass has come to signify a demarcation between the north and the south of Vietnam. We have a full support van for the uphill ride and will enjoy a spectacular long descent into Lang Co Bay on the other side. The views are stunning, the route legendary, and the reward of lunching on one of the largest inland lagoons in the region make this ride truly one for the ages.
After lunch, we transfer into Hue, a beautiful town that?s easily covered on foot, but still brimming with history and unique culinary heritage. Our hotel is centrally located and surrounded by restaurants, bars, cafes, and stores. With help from our guides, you?re sure to uncover a food treasure nearby. Overnight in Hue. Breakfast and lunch included.
Driving: 2 hours; Biking: 25.5 miles; hilly terrain; Elevation gain: +1,640' over 13 miles; several climbs at a 10% grade
A beautiful city with ancient and modern significance, Hue also held strategic importance during the Vietnam War. This morning we walk along the Perfume River, ending at the Citadel where we explore the highlights of this iconic walled city. Lunch today is in the Old Quarter followed by a short transfer to the railway station. In the early afternoon we board the Reunification Express bound for Dong Hoi, the gateway city to Phong Nha National Park, and the caves!
The colorful, bustling station in Hue dates from French colonial times and the train is a nice change of pace from the van rides. Upon arrival in Dong Hoi, it?s a 45-minute drive to our farm stay resort outside of Phong Nha, one of the most beautiful valleys in Vietnam. This evening our guides give us the rundown on our upcoming trekking, spelunking and camping adventure. Overnight in Phong Nha area. Breakfast and lunch included.
Walking: 4 miles; Transfer: 4 hours by train and van
An early breakfast helps set the stage for two days of trekking through the spectacular caves and jungle of Tu Lan. Once we gear up, our adventure begins with a hike across fields of rice and peanut crops before crossing the Rao Nan River. Here we climb a hill through the jungle before descending into the next valley. We cover stable but rocky terrain as we trek through dense vegetation, then into the caves where we end the day with a quick dip. Swimming through the eerie underground caves is an incredibly surreal and unique group experience.
As the day?s adventure concludes, we get ready for a night in the jungle at our secluded Tu Lan campsite. Enjoy a delicious BBQ dinner beside the campfire before falling asleep to the sounds of jungle life and a rushing waterfall. Overnight at a tented campsite. All meals included.
Hiking: 4.5 miles; Through open fields and dense jungle; Swimming: 100 yards
What better way to wake up than in a backcountry campsite to freshly roasted coffee and a hearty breakfast? Once we've had our fill, we swim back across the river into the heart of the Tu Lan Cave system, making our way up to the dry inner chamber. After a little climbing, we step back into daylight and trek a short way through the valley and then into Kim Cave. Here we share a picnic lunch next to another waterfall before descending through the valley where hot showers and cold drinks await.
Dinner tonight will be on your own in Phong Nha, a lively town with a wide array of restaurants serving everything from real-deal Vietnamese to other worldly vegetarian. There are pizza and burger joints too, in case your stomach's getting homesick. Our guides will gladly offer suggestions and a van will transport us back to the lodge when we're ready. It's about 20 minutes from town. Overnight in Phong Nha area. Breakfast and lunch included.
Hiking: 2.5 miles; Swimming: 700 yards
Sunrise is the ideal time to kayak or SUP the quiet stretches of the Chay River across from our lodge. After breakfast we drive to Dong Hoi to catch a flight to Hanoi, where our hotel is located in the lively and historic Old Quarter. This afternoon is free for you to explore or relax however you see fit. At sunset, join a tasting session at the Pasteur Street Brewery, the epicenter of southeast Asia's burgeoning craft beer movement. At dinner, we raise a toast and celebrate our time together in Vietnam. Breakfast and Dinner Included.
Kayak or SUP: 1 hour (optional); Flight: 1 hour
Following breakfast, set off with our guides to wander Hanoi?s most famous neighborhoods, the Old Quarter & French Quarter. Surrounded by the architectural influences of French colonial times, we explore the "36 guild streets," where artisans formed strategic alliances and built temples to honor their ancestors.
And of course, we can't leave Hanoi without trying out the local specialty: egg coffee. Not quite as weird as it sounds, it's traditional Vietnamese coffee with creamy, meringue-like egg white foam spooned on top. It's like an egg-accino. Or maybe a coffee brulee? Whatever you call it, it's delicious. We make a few more stops to sample traditional street food before heading back to the hotel for checkout. For those extending their stay to explore on their own, our guides are happy to offer their advice and assistance. We check out of the hotel after lunch and transfer to the airport for our onward flights. Breakfast and lunch included.
Walking: 2 hours