Cambodia & Vietnam
Mysterious cities, atmospheric forests and colonial grandeur await in these evocative parts of southeastern Asia. Home to some of the world’s most iconic archaeological sites, such as the legendary Angkor Wat, we also discover history and culture.
From breathtaking architecture and lectures from our experts on the areas we visit, to delicious regional cuisine - this tour provides the perfect introduction to these incredible countries. Journey back to the past as we wander ruined temple sites, explore collections housed in great museums and learn more about these much visited destinations in unique and immersive ways.
- See the historic One Pillar Pagoda, a Buddhist temple
- Walk through the landscaped ‘tomb’ of Emperor Tu Duc
- Enjoy enchanting lectures on local culture & history
- Discover Banteay Srei, home to exceptional carvings
- Explore the iconic Angkor Wat - a true grand finale!
We depart from London in the morning to take our flight via Bangkok to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.
Upon arrival, we transfer to our hotel and enjoy breakfast as a group. We take the rest of the morning to acclimatise. After lunch, we spend the afternoon exploring some of the city with our guide lecturer, including a visit to the National Museum of Vietnamese History, which contains bronzes from the Dong Son culture of 3 BC; the Temple of Literature, a Confucian temple for scholars which dates from 1070, and also the excavations at Hanoi Citadel.
After breakfast our tour of Hanoi continues. We visit the Governor’s Palace, a colonial building constructed to house the French Governor-General of Indochina; the iconic One Pillar Pagoda, a wooden temple built to resemble a lotus flower, and the traditional stilt house in which Ho Chi Minh once lived. Following an early lunch we hop on a flight south to Hue, Vietnam’s capital until 1945. Upon arrival, we view Ta Duc’s Mausoleum — one of the most beautiful works of royal architecture of the Nguyen Dynasty designed by the Emperor himself, and built amid frangipani and pine trees.
This morning we travel to the Thien Mu Pagoda, a seven-storey symbol of the city built in 1601, and home to a mighty bell said to be audible up to 10 kilometres away. Back on land, we enter the 19th century Imperial City of the Nguyen Dynasty, where the remains of the Forbidden Purple City lie. Little is now left of this once magnificent residence, to which only the emperor, his concubines, and eunuchs were admitted. Before lunch, we have a short transfer by buggy to the renowned Museum of Royal Antiquities, then in the afternoon, we visit the royal tomb of Emperor Dong Khan, the smallest of the imperial tombs of Hue with French influences and terracotta sculptures. The rest of the day can be spent how we wish.
We begin the day by heading south along the coast, via the spectacular Hai Van Pass, from where we enjoy transcendent views of the Annamite Range and the glittering South China Sea. Arriving in the city of Da Nang, we follow lunch by the river with a visit to the Cham Museum, in the company if its former director. This quaint building houses the world’s best collection of religious sculpture from the Cham culture, dating from the 5th to the 15th centuries. Our journey continues through the Marble Mountains to the well-preserved trading port and World Heritage Site of Hoi An, a delightful city whose patchwork of styles and architecture reflects a rich cultural heritage.
Accompanied by a leading historian in Cham art, we make our way inland to My Son, the religious centre of the Cham people, stopping at the Champa empire’s first capital, Tra Kieu, along the way. My Son is believed to be the longest inhabited archaeological site in Indochina. More than 70 Hindu temples and tombs are nestled amongst the wooded hills here, all dedicated to the goddess Shiva. The site was also a burial place for the Cham kings. We spend a full day exploring these romantic ruins before returning to the sea breezes and bustle of Hoi An in the late afternoon.
This morning is free to discover Hoi An at our leisure. Browse the shops for local arts and crafts, stroll past the creaking old merchant houses, cross the famous covered bridge, or breathe in the city’s ambience with a local coffee in hand. This afternoon we return to Da Nang for a flight to Siem Reap in northwestern Cambodia.
Our journey this morning includes a fascinating lecture about Cambodia from Dr. Sharrock who is a Khmerologist, as we make our way to the Roluos group of 9th century temples – some of the earliest Khmer structures ever found, and once the seat of the ancient Khmer capital Hariharalaya. A magical site fringed with palm trees. Following lunch we continue to the remote temple complex of Banteay Srei (‘Citadel of Beauty’) where exquisite Angkorian frescos shine out from pink sandstone, many as detailed and precise as if they had been carved only yesterday, not several centuries ago. Among the many highlights here are the ornate library buildings, and the three central towers, adorned with deities.
This morning we drive through scenic countryside north west to Banteay Chhmar. The Banteay Chhmar Temple is one of Cambodia’s most important and least understood temples from the Angkorian period. The temple complex, its moat, baray and surrounding unspoilt environment, comprises a unique archaeological site and a vital link in Cambodia’s cultural heritage. For these reasons, it is now one of Cambodia’s top priorities for inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Upon arrival, we visit the major temple and have the day to explore its nine satellite temples at our own pace.
An early start brings us to Cambodia’s most famous wonder: the outstanding Angkor Wat. We cross the moat into the site just after sunrise to avoid the crowds, and maximise our time exploring this enormous complex, with its assortment of Khmer capital buildings; a testament to the powers of this incredible civilisation. As well as taking in the site’s best-known monuments, we also visit the smaller temples of Ta Som, Preah Khan and Baray Reach Dak, which are rarely visited by Western tourists. In the afternoon we spend time at the Angkor National Museum, where fragments and finds from the temples are displayed alongside illuminating exhibits about Angkor Wat’s construction and inhabitants.
We enjoy a free day at Siem Reap today. Given that the world’s largest religious monument is on our doorstep, it is likely that you will want to return to Angkor Wat, where there are always new discoveries to be made. Take the ruins at your leisure on foot, or even by bicycle – an option allowing you to reach the further flung parts of the complex before the day is through.
We make the most of our last day, rising early to discover some of Cambodia’s lesser-known temples, beginning with Ta Prohm, a Buddhist monastery held together by banyan and strangler fig roots. We also stop at the 12th century stone temple of Ta Nei, and the impressive Ta Keo, thought to be the first wholly sandstone temple built by the Khmer. Before lunch we visit the Preah Norodom Sihanouk-Angkor Museum and then afterwards we delve into the fortified city of Angkor Thom. An astounding location dominated by giant stone heads of the Buddha, and which features the stunningly carved ceremonial Terrace of Elephants and the Leper King, the temples of Phimeanakas, Baphoun and Bayon, and the Royal Palace. This evening, we enjoy a farewell dinner together.
After breakfast, we transfer to Siem Reap airport for our return journey to the UK. We arrive in London late afternoon.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach and river boat
- Meals - Most meals included
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
- Field Notes
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