The Best of Vietnam
Vietnam’s Capital and the North
Travel from north to south in this exciting tour of Vietnam. Take in lush scenery and bustling cities, ancient temples and skyscrapers. During this tour, explore the beautiful capital city, Hanoi and stand on the iconic red Huc Bridge. Experience the fascinating landscape of Halong bay, where limestone islands rise up from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. Float past tiny forest-topped islets and wave eroded grottoes on board a Vietnamese junk boat.
The imperial city of Hue is a charming and atmospheric stop. The capital of the Nguyen emperors, Hue demonstrates the glories of imperial Vietnam though the citadel walls now crumble. Travel over the Hai Van Pass – a winding route along mountains which presents stunning views of coastline – to Hoi An. At night, thousands of colourful lanterns illuminate Hoi An’s cobbled streets and ancient buildings. Once a major port, Hoi An was a melting pot of cultures consequently boasting Chinese temples, bright French colonial buildings and the famous Japanese bridge. Read more
Tunnels and Rivers in the South
Formerly called Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is a buzzing hub of history and culture. Haggle at the city’s vast marketplace, see the French influence architecture and visit Ho Chi Minh’s tomb. Descend underground to explore the Cu Chi tunnels – a vast, cramped underground network which sheltered thousands of Vietcong guerrillas. For a little more space, travel to the Mekong Delta and explore this paradise of rivers. A myriad of shades of green carpet this area, criss-crossed by rivers and streams. Boats, houses and markets float along, their rhythm and movements determined by the beating heart of the Delta- the Mekong river.
Vietnam is a land of culture, contrast and culinary delights. Explore the urban chaos of Ho Chi Minh and the coconut groves of the Mekong Delta.
Dates available throughout the year
Good Morning, Vietnam
Your local guide will greet you at the airport in Hanoi and you will transfer to your hotel. Spend the afternoon at leisure before a welcome dinner at Nha Hang NGON Restaurant. Begin exploring the culinary delights of Vietnam by sampling a range of authentic Vietnamese street food dishes.
Explore Hanoi, Vietnam’s Capital
After breakfast, start your day of sightseeing at Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, his former residence and the beautiful One Pillar Pagoda. Now restored, this is a typical Buddhist temple dating from the 10th century. Continue to Vietnam’s first university and the thousand year old Temple of Literature, dedicated to Confucius, sages and scholars.
In the afternoon, visit the Ethnology Museum to learn about the 54 different ethnic groups that make up Vietnamese culture. Enjoy a leisurely walking tour through the Old Quarter, visiting the Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple. Hanoi is known as the cultural centre of the country and has more than 250 art galleries dotted throughout the city. Gain meaningful insight into the local fine arts scene by meeting to experts in the field. Later in the afternoon, join one of the artists for a cocktail reception at either galleries or their studio. Spend the evening at leisure.
Magical Halong Bay
This morning, you will be picked up at the hotel with your guide for a transfer to Halong Bay – a stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site with 3,000 islands of towering limestone rising from the bay and Gulf of Tonkin (180 km – 3.5 hours driving). Board a traditional junk and begin your exploration of magical Halong Bay, one of Southeast Asia’s premier travel destinations. A fresh seafood lunch and dinner will be served on the boat while you are cruising. Overnight on board.
Note: After roughly 2 hours driving, a rest stop is scheduled for a toilet break and stretching your legs.
Fly to Hue
Wake up early in the morning to enjoy the bay at its best. After breakfast, the junk will cruise quietly through the spectacular limestone formations of Halong Bay. Check out of the cabin at 9:00am and enjoy brunch which is served in the restaurant at around 9.30am. Transfer to Yen Duc village (50kms – 1.5 hours driving), a small, peaceful village with a famous water puppet show. After lunch stroll around the village admiring the picturesque scenery of flooded rice fields and vegetable gardens, and watch the water puppet show performed by local artists. Transfer directly to Hanoi Airport (100kms – 2.5 hours driving) for a one-hour flight to Hue. Meet your local guide at Hue Airport and transfer to your hotel. Enjoy dinner at leisure.
Hue – an Imperial City
Following breakfast, take a cyclo tour to the Royal Citadel, built by Emperor Gia Long and situated on the Northern bank of the Perfume River. It was designed for the exclusive use of the Emperor and his household, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Continue to the ancient village of Phu Mong. The guide will briefly explain the history of the village and the design of the houses. Built in 1894, the ancient garden house called “Xuan Vien Tieu Cung” is beautifully preserved. This house was originally the residence of Pham Huu Dien (a minister of Rite under the Nguyen dynasty), and has now been passed down to his granddaughter – Mrs. Pham Thi Tuy. Hear stories full of humour and learn about Hue’s history over a cup of green tea with the house’s owner.
After lunch at a local restaurant, visit the famous Tomb of King Gia Long – the first king of Nguyen Dynasty. The tomb is a wonderful picture of nature and architecture, which provides a superb view of the boundless mountains and the solitary pine forests. Sip a cocktail while watching the sun set over the Imperial City. Return to the hotel and spend the evening at leisure.
Through the Mountains to Hoi An
After breakfast, depart for the ancient town of Hoi An (145km – 3.5 hours driving). Another UNESCO Heritage Site, Hoi An is known for its lanterns. En route you will have the chance to view the scenic Hai Van Pass: a spectacular panorama of coastline, which featured in Top Gear. Stretch your legs on the white sandy beach of Lang Co and enjoy a seafood lunch at a local restaurant where you will only find locals. Arrive in Hoi An in the early afternoon and spend the remainder of day at leisure.
Hoi An – the City of Lanterns
After breakfast, take a stroll to explore ancient Hoi An, recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site because of its unusually well-preserved ancient streets and homes. Explore the quaint cobblestone streets of the town, the Japanese Bridge, the Chinese Temple, and Phung Hung Chinese-style trading house. Spend the rest of your day at leisure, but be sure to see the town at night when the lanterns glow.
Hello Ho Chi Minh!
Enjoy breakfast and a morning at leisure before transferring to Danang Airport (40kms – 1 hour driving) for a short flight to Ho Chi Minh City – the most populous, modern and lively city in Vietnam. Upon arrival at Ho Chi Minh City Airport, meet your local guide and transfer to the hotel. Spend the rest of the day at leisure, perhaps go and watch the locals playing đá cầu in the park (a sport involving keeping a shuttlecock type object in the air with your feet).
Ho Chi Minh City and Tunnels
Visit the amazing tunnel network of Cu Chi (60km – 1.5 hours driving). This incredible system, covering almost 250kms in length, was shelter to over 16,000 Vietcong guerrillas during the wars. Initially started in 1948 to provide shelter against the French air and ground sweeps, the network went on to serve as communication routes, storage facilities, hospitals, and living quarters for Vietnamese fighters throughout the American war. Descend into the tunnels to learn more about the harsh conditions faced by Vietcong guerrillas who lived there.
En route back to the city centre, enjoy lunch at a local restaurant by the Saigon River, then visit the Thao Dien area to discover a modern aspect of this dynamic city.
Then set out on a sightseeing tour of the former capital of French Indochina. Historic landmarks include the Old Saigon Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral and Opera House. Round off your day tour at Ben Thanh Market; do not forget to use your bartering skills! Return to the hotel late in the afternoon and spend the evening at leisure.
Discover the Mekong Delta
In the morning, depart from Ho Chi Minh City to explore Ben Tre in the breathtaking Mekong Delta (130km – 2.5 – 3 hours driving). Cruise from the Phong Nam Pier along the Chet Say river (a branch of the Mekong) and stop off at various local workplaces. To discover how the local economy works, visit the brick kilns; coconut activated charcoal factory where coconut shell is put into high heat kiln to produce coconut charcoal; a coconut processing workshop, where you can sample fresh coconut and see how every single part of this versatile nut is turned into food and other products. Then the boat will cruise through the small canal, discovering the local life. The boat will then stop at a quiet village where you can take a short walk to experience real Delta village life. Visit a mat weaving house, where straw mats are woven using a hand loom – you can even have a go at weaving yourself before boarding your “xe loi” (a kind of motorized rickshaw) or biking into the village. Stop at a local house for a delicious and filling lunch, featuring such local specialties as elephant-ear fish and river shrimp. Board a sampan for a relaxing trip along narrow canals. Take the boat back to the pier then transfer back to Ho Chi Minh City in the late afternoon. Spend your final evening in Vietnam at leisure.
After breakfast, enjoy some free time or pack your suitcase before transferring to Ho Chi Minh City Airport for your return flight.
Vietnam is subject to two main seasons, wet and dry, but it can still be visited and enjoyed all year round. The dry season, from November to April, is the most popular time to visit the country, but the wet season isn’t as bad as the label implies, and can actually be a pleasant time to go thanks to lower visitor numbers.
You can get an e-visa for Vietnam online for visits of up to 30 days, the visa is limited to certain entry and exit points but you will be asked to specify these when applying for the visa. For visas longer that 30 days contact the nearest Vietnamese embassy.