This well paced tour encompasses all the must see sights of Vietnam – historic and elegant Hanoi city, light adventure to the land of hill tribes – Sapa, a cruise around spectacular Halong Bay, the ancient capital Hue, multicultural Hoi An, the mystical Mekong Delta and the bustling metropolis of Saigon.
Hanoi Vietnam – The charming Vietnamese capital has aged well, preserving the Old Quarter, monuments and colonial architecture, while making room for modern developments alongside. Hanoi may have shrugged off several former names, including Thang Long, or “ascending dragon”, but it hasn’t forgotten its past, as sites such as Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and Hoa Lo Prison attest. Lakes, parks, shady boulevards and more than 600 temples and pagodas add to the appeal of this city, which is easily explored.
Experience the highlights of Sapa, nicknamed the ‘Tonkinese Alps’ by the French, is a wonderful destination if you want to experience any combination of trekking (or light walking), photography, minority village markets, and generally explore a region that’s stayed relatively untouched by modern life. Located in the far north of Vietnam, just a few miles from the Chinese border, Sapa and the surrounding region offers a completely unique holiday experience, not to be found elsewhere in Vietnam.
Halong Bay Vietnam was recognized as a World Natural Heritage Site by Unesco, Imagine 2000 or more islands rising from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin and you have a vision of breathtaking beauty. Halong translates as ‘where the dragon descends into the sea’, and legend claims the islands of Halong Bay were created by a great dragon from the mountains. As it charged towards the coast, its flailing tail gouged out valleys and crevasses. When it finally plunged into the sea, the area filled with water, leaving only the pinnacles visible.
Hue Vietnam – Another of Vietnam’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites is the ancient capitol of Hue. Comprised of some 300 buildings. Hue is a system of citadels, palaces, tombs of the kings of the Nguyen Dynasty, the royal court , folk architecture, temples, shrines, and gardens.
Hoi An’s town centre is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, protecting its unique Chinese, Japanese and European influenced architecture for future generations. Motorised traffic is banned for several days a week on its narrow streets. As darkness falls, all electricity is switched off. The town begins to glow, illuminated by hundreds of beautiful traditional silk lanterns.
Ho Chi Minh City – Vietnam’s bustling largest city sets the cultural and economic pace for the country. The former Saigon boasts charming French colonial architecture and wide boulevards, usually thronged and choked with traffic. Taxis are an option for seeing the sprawling city. The War Remnants Museum shows the Vietnam War through Vietnamese eyes. Don’t miss the impressive Jade Emperor Pagoda. Go to the frenetic Ben Thanh Market for food, flowers or frogs or tour through the Mekong Delta, past rice paddies and houseboats.
The Mekong Delta – The area is both riparian and deeply rural, but it’s also one of Vietnam’s most densely populated regions, with nearly every hectare intensively farmed. Visitors can dwell on southern charm in little-visited riverside cities, sample fruits traded in the colourful floating markets, or feast on home-cooked delicacies before overnighting as a homestay guest. Mangrove forests, sacred Khmer pagodas and off-the-beaten-track attractions round out the picture.
Best Of Vietnam 14 Days
Day 1: Hanoi Arrival (Dinner, Guide pick up)
Arriving at Noi Bai airport in Hanoi, you’ll be met and driven to your hotel, the capital city of Vietnam, is an elegant city located on the banks of the Red River with tranquil Restored Sword Lake at its heart. North of the lake are the bustling streets of the Old Quarter, each street named after the trade that used to take place there. Much of the city was transformed by the French when it became a French protectorate in the 1880s and there are wide boulevards and large colonial buildings which are now home to government departments and foreign embassies. You will have time to relax before having tickets for a performance of traditional Water Puppetry, an art form unique to northern Vietnam, and a good, light-hearted introduction to its rural culture. In the evening, you’ll have a ‘Welcome’ dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant in a restored French colonial building. You’ll spend the night in Hanoi.
Day 2: Hanoi Orientation – Lao Cai (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
After breakfast, your guide will take you to visit interesting sites in the city like Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, One Pillar Pagoda, The Temple of Literature "Vietnam's 1st University built in the 10th C". You will then have lunch before visiting the Vietnam National History of Museum with good collection of prehistoric artifacts and everyday items of early history through eras and dynasties. You will then take 1 hour by Cyclo ride through Hanoi's Old Quarters to experience daily life of people who are living in the oldest parts of the city then come back to your hotel to refresh before leaving for the railway station to board the 21.10 p.m. overnight sleeper to Lao Cai. You will spend the night on the train.
Day 3: Lao Cai - Sapa villages (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
You’ll arrive in the early morning, where you’ll be met and taken up into the mountains by carto Sapa, a small town perched on the mountainside opposite Mt. Fan Si Pan, Vietnam’s highest peak. After breakfast at your hotel, you’ll be driven along a scenic valley to visit some of the H’mong ethnic minority villages. After a stream-side picnic lunch, you’ll visit the Red Dao ethnic minority people of Giang Ta Chai village. Later in the afternoon, you’ll return to Sapa for your overnight accommodation.
Day 4: Sapa - Ethnic market - Hanoi (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
After breakfast, your transport and guide will arrive to take you to visit a market frequented by ethnic minority peoples. The first part of your journey will take you through Lao Cai, which is a border crossing point, and alongside the river marking the boundary with China. After a picnic lunch, you’ll return to Lao Cai for a shower and freshen-up before boarding the sleeper train to Hanoi.
Although it’s quite a long drive, the landscape is attractive and the ethnic markets are a fascinating experience. Unlike those in the tourist areas, the markets that we choose are for not only buying and selling, but also meeting places for ethnic minority people to meet and exchange news. There will be plenty of colour and authentic costumes, but very little to buy as souvenirs unless you want to barter for a water buffalo or a sack of fertilizer!
The trips to ethnic minority markets must be on Tuesday (Coc Ly or Ban Cam market), Thursday (Lung Khau Nhin market), Saturday (Can Cau) or Sunday (Bac Ha, Muong Hum or Muong Khuong markets).
Day 5: Hanoi - Halong Bay (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
You’ll arrive in the early morning, where you’ll be met and taken by car to your hotel to have breakfast and take a short rest before departure to Halong Bay. On the way, you will go through the scenic countryside. The wondrous Halong Bay is truly one of Vietnam’s most impressive scenic sights. Heading out of the town then you embark on a boat for an exploration of the legendary Halong Bay. This exciting cruise will provide you a fantastic view of the picturesque scenery blending with the sky and some 3,000 limestone islands rising amazingly from the clear and emerald water. The limestone karsts formations are littered with beaches, grottoes and beautiful caves. Along the way you will anchor for a leisurely swim in a secluded cove and an enjoyable visit to one of the many hidden grottoes beneath towering cliffs. You will stay overnight on the Junk Cruise
Day 6: Halong Bay - Hanoi (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
Greet the day with a morning Tai Chi exercise with an opportunity to view the sunrise over the bay. After breakfast, you will visit beautiful limestone grotto then back to the boat for a final glimpse of the Halong Bay while cruising back to the dock. Your driver will be waiting for you at the pier and drive you back to Hanoi where you will spend the night.
Day 7: Hanoi - Hue (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
After breakfast, you will be free until the driver arrives to take you to the airport for the flight to Hue. When you arrive, you will be picked up and taken to your hotel for refreshment for a while. Hue served as Vietnam's capital under the emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty from 1802 to 1945 and the city’s regal past can still be seen inside the walls of the Citadel and the Imperial City. Both were heavily damaged during the Tet Offensive of 1968 when the Hue served as Vietnam's capital under the emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty from 1802 to 1945 and the city’s regal past can still be seen inside the walls of the Citadel and the Imperial City. You visit the major sites including the Imperial Citadel with Forbidden Royal City like in Beijing after that you will visit the Dong Ba market before come back to the hotel for refreshment.
In the evening, you’ll sit down for dinner in the pleasant surroundings and a comfortable atmosphere of another of the garden houses. The owner will prepare and serve a traditional meal based on the distinctive characteristics of classic Hue cuisine. You’ll spend the night in Hue.
The garden houses are a unique feature of Hue. The houses are traditional, privately owned, and set in attractive formal gardens. Some have connections with the old Royal Imperial Court. Hue traditional architecture has long had close associations with the natural environment. The garden houses reflect this association. Each is highly individual - house and garden, people and scenery, plants, clouds and water co-exist and blend with each other in a harmonious context. The narrow streets and abundant flora give the garden house area a country village feeling.
Day 8: Hue (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Your morning will begin with a cruise along the Perfume River to visit to the Thien Mu Pagoda which also gives you a taste of the tranquil countryside. From there, you’ll drive to the Royal Tombs of Emperor Minh Mang. In the afternoon, your guide will take you to visit the Emperor Khai Dinh. After that, you’ll return to Hue to visit one of city’s ‘garden houses’ and then return to your hotel. You will spend the night in Hue
Each Royal mausoleum reflects the personality of the Emperor it commemorates. The most majestic is that of Emperor Minh Mang, a staunch follower of Confucianism with many wives, concubines and a small army of children. Planned by the Emperor and built shortly after his death in formal Chinese style, it’s opulent and exotic, and a good example of classic Sino-Vietnamese architecture.
The tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh is an unprepossessing concrete construction on the side of a wide valley. Its interest lies in the uneasy combination of Vietnamese and European features, the use of fragments of ceramics and glass for decoration, and the striking views from the courtyard in front of the mausoleum.
Day 9: Hue - Danang - Hoi An (Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
After breakfast, you will drive to Hoi An, crossing Hai Van Pass where you will have magnificent view of the stunning long sandy beaches and stop at Lang Co to have a short break. When you arrive in Danagn city, you will visit the fascinating Cham Museum and the Marble Mountains en route to charming Hoi An. Known as Faifo to early Western traders, Hoi An was one of South East Asia's major international ports and today it still retains that special old-world feel. Enjoy a walking tour through the Old Quarters to see the town's landmarks of Japanese Covered Bridge, ancient Assembly Hall, Phuc Kien Temple and then you will take a river trip to enjoy the scenery along the Thu Bon River and the general view of Hoi An Ancient Town. Visit ceramic village of Thanh Ha, carpentry village of Kim Bong and Dai Chiem Estuary. Hoi An is also famous for its large number of tailor shops, so if you want to have a new wardrobe made up, this is the time to do it. You will stay overnight in Hoi An.
Day 10: Hoi An – From Farmer to Fisherman Tour (Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
The day starts with cycling the narrow roads through the countryside, passing by rice paddy fields, water buffalos, bamboo bridges and local farmers on their daily work. You’ll then board a boat to the mouth of the Thu Bon estuary where the river meets the Cua Dai Sea and cruise along the coastline observing the lives of the local fishermen.
After joining the fisherman to try your hand at catching fish in a traditional ‘Thung Chai’ basket boat, you will meander through the water palm coconut canal. During the American War, Viet Cong soldiers made use of this area as a highly effective hiding place from enemy attacks through their long struggle. Following an insightful visit to a local fishing village, you’ll be free to relax and enjoy a fresh seafood lunch before cycling back to your hotel.
Thung Chai Basket boats, similar in style to coracles in use throughout the ancient world, are widely used throughout Central Vietnam, and are highly suited to the local terrain and lifestyles of local fishermen due to their relative light weight and portability, often doubling as a carrier for various handy items. Circular and constructed of bamboo and tarred for waterproofing, these small boats can typically carry up to five people, and represent a fun-filled opportunity to touch the authentic rural soul of Vietnam. As a precaution, life jackets are provided for your safety during this excursion.
Alternative for Day 10: Cooking Class in Hoi An (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide at cooking class)
In the morning, you’ll join a cooking class at the Red Bridge Restaurant. After visiting a market to purchase ingredients, a boat will take you along Hoi An River to the restaurant where you can investigate its herb and vegetable garden before learning how to cook traditional Vietnamese dishes. After lunch at the restaurant, your time will be free. You’ll spend the night in Hoi An.
- Fresh Rice Paper Shrimp Rolls – including making rice paper.
- Warm Squid Salad served in half a pineapple
- Grilled Eggplant stuffed with market vegetables
- Hoi An Pancakes (Banh Xeo)
- Food Decoration - pineapple boat, three coloured flowers and Vietnamese hand fan
Day 11: Hoi An – Ho Chi Minh City (Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
After breakfast, you will be free at leisure until the driver arrives to transfer you to the airport to take flight to Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam's largest city has an exciting buzz as millions of people rush around on their daily business. When you arrive, your guide will meet and take you to your hotel
In the afternoon, your first stop is Notre Dame Catholic Cathedral and short visit to French built Post Office nearby, and then you will proceed to see the Reunification Palace, formerly the Presidential Palace. Touring the building and you will then visit the War Remnants Museum, which primarily contains exhibits relating to the American phase of the Vietnam War. You will spend the night in Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 12: Ho Chi Minh City - Mekong Delta - Can Tho (Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
After escaping from Ho Chi Minh City’s urban sprawl, you’ll travel to My Tho. My Tho is located on the northern banks of the Mekong river and is the closest town in the Delta area to Ho Chi Minh City, about 2 hours drive away. In the center of the town close to the river there is a large market that sells just about anything that can be eaten or is used in day to day business. Around the My Tho area you will find a maze of small canals that can be explored on one of the many organized boat tours. Enjoy a boat ride on the Mekong River and visit an orchard on an island, with lunch en route. Continue driving to Can Tho. You will spend the night in Can Tho.
Day 13: Can Tho – Ho Chi Minh City (Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
After breakfast, you will enjoy an early morning board for a 3-hour cruise to Cai Rang floating market - The Cai Rang Floating Market is one of several floating markets in the Mekong Delta. This market is where locals go to buy and sell a variety of fruits and vegetables from boats of all sizes. During the early morning market hours, larger sized boats anchor and create lanes that smaller boats weave in and out of. The waterway becomes a maze of hundreds of boats packed with mango, bananas, papaya, pineapple, and even smuggled goods like cigarettes. Sellers tie their goods to a tall pole so that buyers can see from a distance what they are selling. Other boats sell beer, wine and soft drinks to the merchants and the buyers. Your guide will take you around the market to experience river lifestyles of local people. On your return to Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll stop by the beautiful and ancient Vinh Trang Pagoda, 3 km from My Tho centre. You’ll arrive in Ho Chi Minh City in the late afternoon with time to freshen up in your hotel before the evening.
Vinh Trang Pagoda is renowned for its architectural mixture of Chinese, Vietnamese and Angkor styles. Located on a 2 hectare block with 5 buildings, 2 ornamental yards, 178 pillars and many valuable statues (especially the 18 arahants, wooden statues carved in 1907), the pagoda will give you a deeper look into the relationship between Vietnamese art and Buddhist beliefs.
Day 14: Ho Chi Minh City Departure (Breakfast, Driver pick up)
After breakfast, you will be free until the driver will arrive to take you to the airport for your departure flight. Trip ends.
- Free Vietnam Visa invitation letter.
- Breakfast and accommodation sharing a twin or double room.
- Pick-ups and transfers by private air-conditioned vehicle as specified in the itinerary above (Please note: pick-ups will be by a guide and driver or, where a guide is not necessary, a driver only. All unaccompanied drivers will be briefed in advance, and will carry a mobile phone to ensure smooth transfer arrangements)
- Domestic flight tickets: Hanoi – Hue, Danang - Ho Chi Minh City, including domestic airport taxes.
- Boat cruises as specified in the programme. All Ha Long Bay boats will be fully licensed and comply with current safety regulations.
- Return train tickets: Hanoi – Lao Cai (air-conditioned soft four-berth cabin, good local standard in Fanxipan Train carriage or similar)
- Travel in an appropriate private air-conditioned vehicle with an experienced safe driver.
- The services of experienced English-speaking guides as indicated in the itinerary (please note: guides will be on hand from pick-up until guests’ return to their hotel or reaching their destination). Free days or part days will not include the services of a guide unless requested and included in the final itinerary.
- Where necessary, entry fees for all visits as mentioned in the programme.
- Lunches and dinners (as specified in the itinerary) in the best local restaurants and full board on the boat in Ha Long Bay.
- VAT and other taxes
- International flight tickets and airport tax.
- Lunches and dinners, except as specified above.
- Drinks, gratuities and personal expenses.
- Surcharges for Peak seasons (if any)
- Compulsory meal (if any)