More than a classic programme covering major attractions from north to south, this trip also takes you, from time to time, off the beaten track to savour unspoiled places or experience genuine contact with the local population. Depending on your taste, you can choose to include or skip some of the activities to enrich your travel experience or to extend your trip to other destinations which may be of interest to you.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Enjoy a home-hosted dinner at the home of a communist party member where you can join in preparing the meal and share an analysis of local current issues from your host’s perspective.
  • Visit a school and interact with teachers and students to understand about the education system
  • Enjoy a real “gastronomic” experience, from preparing dinner with your host family to eating a sumptous royal banquet prepared by a member of the royal family to a vegetarian lunch prepared by the nuns at a Buddhist convent.
  • Visit an ethnic minority village, a cricket farm, ride the “Xe công nông” or Vietnamese truck
  • Talk with a Củ Chi war veteran to get an insider’s views about the war.

Day 1: Arrive Hà Nội (D)

Arriving at Nội Bài International airport, you will be met by your tour leader and driver, then transferred to your hotel for check in. You will have an opportunity to enjoy a cup of Vietnamese coffee or tea while being briefed by your tour leader about the planned itinerary. In the evening you will enjoy a performance by the famous Hà Nội Water Puppet Theatre.

Overnight in Hà Nội.

Day 2: Hà Nội - city tour - cycle ride - home-hosted dinner (B,L,D)

Your day will start with a visit to the Hồ Chí Minh Historic Vestiges complex, which includes the Hồ Chí Minh Mausoleum (where the late president’s embalmed body is displayed), the historic Ba Đình square, the Presidential Palace (from the outside only), Hồ Chí Minh’s house on stilts and the famous One-Pillar Pagoda. Then we will take a short drive to the Temple of Literature, Việt Nam’s first university, founded in 1070. Lunch will be taken at the famous Chả Cá restaurant, which is listed in the book “1,000 places you must eat before you die” and serves just one dish – grilled fish cooked in turmeric and dill sauce. In the afternoon you will visit the remnants of the so-called “Hà Nội Hilton” prison and drive by the West Lake to see the memorial marking the place where John McCain landed after being shot down in 1967. Our next stop is the National Museum of Ethnology, widely regarded as the best in country, which displays a rich collection of artefacts relating to the 54 ethnic groups of Việt Nam and includes several reconstructed traditional houses belonging to various ethnic groups. Then you will enjoy a fascinating cyclo ride through the busy “36 streets” of the Old Quarter, where the streets are named after the merchandise once made or sold there. In the evening you will visit the home of a communist party member and have dinner with his family so that you can find out what it means to be a “Party member!”

Overnight in Hà Nội.

Day 3: Hà Nội – Ninh Bình (B,L,D)

We’ll leave the hotel at 8am for the 2½-hour drive through rural northern Việt Nam to the site of Việt Nam’s first royal capital of Hoa Lư. There you can visit temples dedicated to King Đinh Tiên Hoàng (924-979), who united the country following its liberation from the rule of the Chinese Southern Han Dynasty, and his successor King Lê Đại Hành (979-1005). The ancient Hoa Lư Citadel (most of which has since been destroyed) once covered an area of three square kilometres. In the late morning you will depart for Tam Cốc town, stopping on the way to take photographs of local villages nestling in the stunning landscape. After lunch, we take a relaxing boat trip in Tam Cốc or Tràng An, as the boat gently glides through the water, gaze in awe at the enormous limestone karsts jutting out from the green rice fields, which have given the area its popular name “Hạ Long Bay on Land.” Should you feel adventurous, you can climb nearby Ngũ Nhạc Mountain to visit Bích Động Pagoda, which was originally built in 1428 and comprises three sanctuaries: Hạ, Trung and Thượng, in ascending order.

Day 4: Ninh Bình - Hạ Long Bay (B,L,D)

Today you will depart for the famous Hạ Long Bay – Hạ Long means “Descending Dragon” in Vietnamese (4h drive). Located in the Gulf of Tonkin, this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an area of great natural beauty, with over 3,000 limestone islands rising dramatically out of the water. The islands assume intriguing formations and local legends and stories abound, inspired by their shapes which have been likened to chickens, dragons, sails or human heads. Upon arrival, we board an elegant classic junk and start cruising the bay. After a seafood lunch on board, you can enjoy beach walking or climb one of the limestone peaks for a panoramic view of the bay.

Overnight on board ship in Hạ Long Bay

Day 5: Hạ Long Bay – Huế (B,L,D)

Start your day with a tai-chi lesson on board before visiting Sửng Sốt or Surprise Cave, one of the most beautiful caves in the bay. On returning to the junk, enjoy a buffet brunch before leaving the boat for the drive to airport for a flight Huế

Overnight in Huế

Day 6: Huế (B,L,D)

A full day exploring the former imperial capital of Việt Nam beginning with a visit to the Imperial Citadel and Forbidden City, built in 1802 by the Emperors of the Nguyễn dynasty and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. This complex functioned as a fortress, office place and residence for the Nguyễn emperors and the royal court. Afterwards you will take boat ride along the Perfume River to visit a fishing village and take a walk off the beaten path to visit a scenic village on Hến island. The boat trip ends with a visit to the historic Thiên Mụ Pagoda, Huế’s best-known religious site. In the evening you can enjoy a multiple-course royal banquet at a family-run restaurant whose chef is the descendant of the royal family.

Overnight in Huế

Day 7: Huế - Hội An (B,L)

This morning we will visit Tự Đức Royal mausoleums, followed by a delicious vegetarian lunch at a Buddhist convent. This will be a great chance to learn about the daily life of the nuns, as well as the most popular religion in Việt Nam. In the afternoon we will drive down the coast to Hội An via Đà Nẵng, passing Lăng Cô beach and the spectacular Hải Vân (“Ocean cloud”) Pass. After arriving in Hội An and checking into our hotel, we will take a walking tour around this delightful UNESCO World Heritage town, visiting the Japanese Covered Bridge, the local market, Tấn Ký House and the Phúc Kiến Assembly Hall. The town is a paradise for local artists and there are galleries galore. Hội An is also particularly well known for its tailors. 

Overnight in Hội An.

Day 8: Hội An (B,L)

We start the day with a two-hour bike ride along the banks of the Thu Bồn river. This scenic route will take you through lush green fields and gardens and into many local villages, giving you a great view of the daily life of local people. Arriving at a harbour, you will board a private boat and cruise through the fishing villages before returning to town for lunch and a free afternoon.

Overnight in Hội An.

Day 9: Hội An (B)

Today you will be free to explore the charming town of Hội An by yourself.

Overnight in Hội An.

Day 10: Hội An - Nha Trang (B,L)

Today we will take the morning flight from Đà Nẵng Airport to Cam Ranh, followed by a one-and-a-half-hour bus ride along one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in all of Việt Nam to the seaside resort of Nha Trang. On arrival we will visit the Ponagar Chàm Towers, Long Sơn Pagoda and the Đầm Market. After checking into your hotel you can spend some leisure time on the beautiful sandy beach.

Overnight in Nha Trang

Day 11: Nha Trang (B,L)

Today we will take a morning boat cruise to visit a fishing village and experience travelling in a local “basket boat” or coracle. We will walk through the village to the other side of the island to have a close look at the fishermen’s living quarters before continuing on to Tằm island in Nha Trang Bay, where you can enjoy the turquoise water and white sandy beach. We will return to Nha Trang for lunch, after which the rest of the day will be free.

Overnight in Nha Trang

Day 12 : Nha Trang - Đà Lạt: City tour of Dalat/ cable car ride (B,L)

After breakfast we will take the beautiful route “from sea to mountain.” Đà Lạt is situated in a mild temperature region, dotted with lakes, waterfalls, evergreen forests and gardens. The cool climate and park-like environment make this, in some respects, one of the most delightful cities in Việt Nam. It was once called “le Petit Paris” and is a favourite destination for Vietnamese honeymooners as well as artists. On arrival you will check-in to your hotel and have lunch before starting a city tour which will include King Bảo Đại’s Summer Palace, and the “Crazy House” or Hằng Nga Guesthouse and Art Gallery, so named because of its architectural uniqueness. The tour will end with a visit to the famous Trúc Lâm Pagoda by cable car which offers a panoramic view of Đà Lạt.

Overnight in Đà Lạt

Day 13: Đà Lạt (B,L)

This morning you will take a countryside tour outside Đà Lạt to visit a flower farm, a cricket farm, a silk factory and a coffee plantation. We will also stop in Buôn Chuối village to meet with some local ethnic minority people, before experiencing a ride on an old-style truck called a “Xe công nông.” Then it’s back to town for lunch, after which you will be free for the rest of the day.

Overnight in Đà Lạt

Day 14: Đà Lạt - Hồ Chí Minh City (B,L,D)

Today we will leave Đà Lạt and take a flight to Hồ Chí Minh City (or Sài Gòn as it is also known), Việt Nam’s biggest city and economic centre, which has a population in excess of seven million people. The most prominent French legacy can be seen today in the colonial buildings of the downtown area, District 1. In the afternoon, after checking into your hotel and having lunch, you will visit the city’s major sites in an essential half-day tour which includes the former Presidential Palace and Việt Nam’s only Chinatown, Chợ Lớn. We take a walk through a herbal medicine street to learn about different types of traditional Chinese medicine, and finally visit the bustling Bình Tây market. On the way back to your hotel you will pass the Notre Dame Cathedral and the historic City Post Office. In the evening you will enjoy a wonderful dinner while cruising on the Saigon river in a Bonsai boat.

Overnight in Hồ Chí Minh City

Day 15: Hồ Chí Minh City - Cái Bè (B,L)

The Mekong River is one of the longest rivers in the world, and the lifeblood of Southeast Asia. Today’s journey into the Mekong Delta region will take us along the country’s most important highway, passing through picturesque countryside and seemingly endless paddy fields. Upon arrival at Cái Bè, you will board a motor boat for a fascinating cruise along the river, observing the daily life of local people on the waterways. The tour includes a sampan ride through the winding canals and will include a visit to the floating market at Cái Bè, a visit to a coconut factory and an opportunity to sample some local tropical fruit in an orchard. Lunch will be served at a local restaurant on an island before your return to Hồ Chí Minh City.

Overnight in Hồ Chí Minh City.

Day 16: Hồ Chí Minh City - Củ Chi (B,L)

This morning we will enjoy a half-day trip to the underground tunnel complex at Củ Chi. At its height during the war with America, this place housed an extraordinary network of over 200km of underground tunnels from which VC guerrillas infiltrated Sài Gòn to carry out attacks or to spy on the American airbases that ringed the city. It was equipped with bunkers, trenches, kitchens, dining rooms, water wells, hospitals and many other facilities necessary for the guerrillas’ survival underground for weeks on end. After a talk and video presentation you can tour the site and crawl inside specially-enlarged sections of tunnel. You can also view the underground meeting rooms where campaigns such as the Tết Offensive were planned and enjoy a simple meal of food that VC fighters would have eaten. While you are there you can meet with a veteran guerrilla to understand more about the war from a local perspective. Return to town and try the local flavour of “phở” (noodle soup) at a branch of the the famous “Phở 24” chain. The afternoon is free for your own exploration.

Overnight in Hồ Chí Minh City

Day 17: Depart Hồ Chí Minh City 

This morning you will be free until your transfer to the airport for departure.