For travellers who have limited time yet still want to discover the real Việt Nam, this 7-day programme neatly takes in the most interesting attractions in the north, centre and south of the country. It's the perfect introduction to one of Asia's most fascinating countries.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Enjoy city tours of Hà Nội and Hồ Chí Minh City
  • Cruise through thousands of karst limestone outcrops and spend the night in magnificent Hạ Long Bay on board a traditional junk
  • Relax in the charming old port of Hội An and discover the imperial capital of Huế, both recognised as UNESCO World Heritage
  • Visit the Cao Đài Holy See in Tây Ninh and the underground tunnel complex at Củ Chi

Day 1: Hà Nội city tour (L, D)

The city that celebrated 1,000 years in 2010 has countless fascinating cultural and historic sites and today’s full-day sightseeing tour will take in the highlights: the Hồ Chí Minh Mausoleum and Museum, built at the place where Hồ Chí Minh declared independence for Việt Nam in 1945; the famous One-Pillar Pagoda, built by King Lý Thái Tổ to thank the Goddess of Mercy for bringing him a successor; Trấn Quốc Pagoda on West Lake; the Temple of Literature, Việt Nam’s first university dating from the 11th century; Ngọc Sơn Temple; and the Hoàn Kiếm (“Restored Sword”) Lake. Perhaps the most interesting area you will visit is the the fascinating Ancient Quarter (known as the “36 streets”). Here, many tiny streets join to provide the shopper with a huge diversity of products. In the olden days, each street bore the name of the product it sold – “Shoe Street,” “Noodle Street,” etc. Today, the sellers sometimes sell a variety of items, but often the names are still accurate. The Old Quarter also houses some of the most interesting art galleries in the city. You can spend some time visiting several of the most respected galleries, meeting with the owners and artists.

Overnight in Hà Nội.

Day 2: Hà Nội - Hạ Long Bay (B, L, D)

Leave Hà Nội by road for Hạ Long Bay. Enjoy the journey through the rich farmlands of the Red River Delta and the scenery of rice fields, water buffalos and everyday Vietnamese village life. Arrive in Hạ Long and board your charming traditional wooden junk for the overnight journey into the Bay. Lunch will be served as the junk sets sail. We will cruise through intriguing karst outcrops with names such as “Sail,” “Dog” and Ðỉnh Hương (incense burner). Towards the end of the day we’ll set anchor for the night. As the sun sets over the bay, a delicious dinner of fresh seafood, salad and fruit will be served on board.

Overnight in Hạ Long Bay on board traditional wooden junk (comfortable double or twin cabin with ensuite bathroom)

Day 3: Hạ Long - Huế (B, L)

An early rise is recommended to witness the sunrise on the bay. On your return towards Hạ Long City, enjoy a wholesome brunch as your boat weaves through the magnificent karst formations. Upon disembarkation your driver will meet you for the transfer back to Hà Nội, stopping at the ancient Bút Tháp Buddhist pagoda, one of the loveliets in the north which features more than 100 compartments and 10 buildings spread over 100 metres from the traditional “three-entrance gate” to the bell-tower and rear sanctuary. Inside the temple are more than 50 statues of different sizes, the most remarkable of which is the "thousand-hands, thousand-eyes" Goddess of Mercy (Guanyin in Chinese), which was made in 1656 and took several years to complete. Continue to airport for flight to Huế where you will check into your hotel.

Overnight in Huế.

Day 4: Huế - Hội An (B, L)

This morning you will visit the Imperial City, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. Here you will see the ancient Royal Citadel, constructed in 1805 and the greatest legacy of the Nguyễn emperors. Like the citadel, the city of Huế itself is a walled city and was designed by a French architect. It was divided into three parts – the Common City, the Imperial City, and the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City was modelled after its namesake in Beijing. The moat that surrounded the city was a symbol of the ocean and the world. Afterwards you will visit one of the royal tombs. After lunch, you will drive to Hội An, passing the wonderfully photogenic fishing village of Lăng Cô and then travelling through the spectacular Hải Vân (“Ocean cloud”) Pass. On the way you’ll stop at Đà Nẵng city, where you’ll visit the Chàm Museum of Sculpture and Marble Mountain. Then you’ll take a short drive along the coast to Hội An. This town was major Asian trading port in the 17th and 18th centuries but has a relaxed lifestyle that has changed little over the years. 

Overnight in Hội An.

Day 5: Hội An - Đà Nẵng - Hồ Chí Minh City (B, L)

You’ll spend the morning touring Hội An – walking over the Japanese Bridge, visiting the different Chinese temples, assembly halls and pagodas, and exploring the market. Hội An is also a wonderful place to shop for silk. In the early 1980s, Hội An’s ancient quarter and historical monuments came under the protection and restoration efforts of UNESCO and the Polish government. In the afternoon we will leave Hội An for Đà Nẵng Airport, where we’ll take a flight to Hồ Chí Minh City. On arrival you’ll check into your hotel.

Overnight in Hồ Chí Minh City.

Day 6: Hồ Chí Minh City -Tây Ninh - Củ Chi - Hồ Chí Minh City (B, L)

Built on the site of an ancient Khmer settlement, Sài Gòn (now named Hồ Chí Minh City) did not begin to come into its own until the early 17th century. Today it is Việt Nam’s biggest city and economic centre, with a population in excess of seven million people. The tree-lined boulevards and French architecture harken back to the city’s colonial past, while the city’s bustling markets, changing infrastructure and dynamic people look to the future. After an orientation tour of the city centre (City Post Office, Town Hall, Notre Dame Cathedral), we’ll head for Tây Ninh province, the birthplace of the Cao Đài faith. This is a syncretic religion, founded locally in 1926, which worships a single supreme deity but has incorporated elements from a number of other major religions and ideologies, including Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam, Taoism and Christianity. Afterwards we will visit the fascinating underground tunnel complex at Củ Chi. At its height during the war with America, this place housed an extraordinary network of over 200 kilometres 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.

Overnight in Hồ Chí Minh City.

Day 7: Depart Hồ Chí Minh City (B)

Today you will be free at leisure until you transfer to the airport for departure.