See the very best of Vietnam in just thirteen days — a greatest-hits tour of this fascinating country. Starting from Hanoi in the north, cruise the waters of Halong Bay, and visit the charming town of Hoi An a UNESCO heritage site and delicious foods, plus markets; rice paddies and traditional villages. Down south, discover the story of Ho Chi Minh City, squeeze into the Cu Chi Tunnels and end your tour with a cruise in the Mekong Delta.
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 (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
After breakfast at your hotel, you will be taken to visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and historical presidential relics and then the Temple of Literature "Vietnam's 1st University built in the 10th C". Afterwards you will head to Ngoc Son Temple and Hoan Kiem Lake. The Ngoc Son temple is set on a tiny island on the Hoan Kiem Lake and dates back to the 13th century. The lake itself is a picturesque focal point of Hanoi, frequented by tourists and locals alike. In the afternoon, you will visit Museum of Ethnology, widely acknowledged as the best in the country which houses a display dedicated to Vietnam's 54 ethnic minority peoples. Then you will 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. You will spend the night in Hanoi.
Day 3: 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 4: Halong Bay - Hanoi - Hue (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
You’ll wake in fresh air of the bay with a swim and/or a Tai Chi session on the large sundeck (beginners welcome!). After a light breakfast pastry and tea or coffee, you’ll dock to visit one of the most famous caves in the Bay. You’ll return to the junk for a brunch while cruising back to dock around noon whereupon you’ll leave for Hanoi airport for the flight to Hue. When you arrive in Hue airport, you will be transferred to your hotel. You will spend the night in Hue.
Day 5: Cycling to get closer to Hue’s lifestyle (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
In the morning, your bicycles will be at your hotel ready for you to ride through Hue’s rural villages towards the Thanh Toan Bridge (roofed in Chinese style). Nearby, a local market will provide you with views of daily life and local products. You'll then return to Hue’s city centre with en-route visit the Ngoc Son Princess ‘garden house’. It has an attractive family altar and the owner is an expert on Hue’s culture and history – he will be pleased to explain the geomantic principles underpinning the building and garden’s construction.
After lunch, your route will take you past the Imperial Citadel to visit some of the garden houses in Phu Mong Kim Long village, thence ride toward one of the handicraft villages in Hue’s hinterland that specializes in a single product range of traditional cakes - ‘banh it’ and ‘banh phu the’ before looping back to your 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 6: Hue - Danang - Hoi An (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 Danang 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. You will stay overnight in Hoi An.
Day 7: Hoi An Tours (Breakfast, guide)
In the morning, you will enjoy a walking tour with first stop is the bustling fish and vegetable market and then you will go through the Old Quarters to see the town's landmarks of Japanese Covered Bridge, ancient Assembly Hall, Phuc Kien Temple. You will then take a river trip and you will enjoy the scenery along the Thu Bon River and the general view of Hoi An Ancient Town. It transforms itself at night, when many of the shops hang lanterns outside. You will transfer you back to the town and rest of time at your own leisure. Hoi An is well known for souvenir shopping with great prices and also famous for its large number of tailor shops, so if you want to get a cloth tailor made to measure, this is the time to do it. You will stay overnight in Hoi An.
Day 8: Hoi An – Cooking class (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
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 9: Hoi An – Danang - Ho Chi Minh City (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, you’ll also call in at the Jade Emperor Temple. It’s one of the best Taoist temples in Vietnam, with superb effigies, remarkable carved panels of the descent to Hell and somewhat incongruous terrapin and tortoise sanctuaries. You’ll then return your hotel for freshen up or wander around the huge Ben Thanh market, one of the liveliest areas of Ho Chi Minh City, is packed with every conceivable commodity. You’ll spend the night in Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 10: Ho Chi Minh City - Tay Ninh - Cu Chi Tunnels – Ho Chi Minh City (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
A morning drive will take you to Tay Ninh to visit the Cao Dai Holy See in time, home to a unique religion combining the disciplines of Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Confucianism, Hinduism and Geniism. The aim of this sect is to achieve a synthesis of all religions. Followers consider Joan of Arc, Rene Descartes, William Shakespeare, Victor Hugo, Winston Churchill and Napoleon Bonaparte their respected saints or spirit intermediaries. You will arrive at the temple in time for the midday service giving you the chance to listen to chanting devotees. The temple’s exterior is decorated with multi-coloured dragons of all shapes and sizes.
After lunch, you will enjoy a scenic drive through idyllic paddy flatlands and countryside. Arrive to Cu Chi tunnels for a fascinating guided tour of this amazing three-floor labyrinth of underground passages stretching a staggering 250kilometres from Saigon to the Cambodian border. The network included innumerable trap doors, specially constructed living areas, storage facilities, weapons factories, field hospitals, command centers and kitchens. Today the remaining tunnels have become a major tourist attraction giving the visitor a unique experience and a feel of what underground life in war was like. You will spend the night in Ho Chi Minh City
Cao Dai is a ‘new’ religion unique to Vietnam with around a million followers. Both its creed and its architecture are remarkable and exotic. The service lasts about half an hour – the rituals are based upon an eclectic mixture of Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. Discreet photography is OK, but shoes must be left outside
Day 11: Ho Chi Minh City – Vinh Long – Cai Be – Can Tho(Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
After breakfast, you will start the trip at 07:30 am and head for Vinh Long province. After boarding the beautiful traditional boat, you will have five hour to cruise along the river. It will take you through Vietnam’s most productive agricultural area. You will enjoy the beautiful landscapes of coconut palms, sugar-cane groves and fruit orchards from the vessel as you head to the Cai Be floating market. Here you can cruise through the colourful barges full of fruits and vegetables and then proceed to local home factories such as rice paste making, rice pop corn, coco candies, and longans drying processing. The trip continues along the Mekong canals to Dong Hoa Hiep Island located between Vinh Long and Cai Be. Along the way you will find the local people engaged in their daily tasks and see brightly colored Khemer pagodas. Stops on the way can be made upon request for particular visits or photos making. These evergreen islands among the Mekong River still remain unknown to many people. After that, you will arrive at La Residence de Phu An resort where you will be welcomed and served Vietnamese culinary delights. You will then walk along a narrow canal to an air-conditioned vehicle that will transport you to Can Tho where you will stay overnight.
Day 12: Can Tho – Ho Chi Minh City (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 13: 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)