One of our most popular tour takes you to visit all must see destinations in Vietnam covering the bustling Saigon metropolis and vibrant Mekong Delta in the South. You will visit and relax at one of the world’s most famous beach of Danang, ancient town of Hoi An and ancient citadel of Hue. The trip could not be complete without a trip to visit Hanoi city, the city of thousands years of history and culture with a side trip to the most colorful land of hill tribes in Sapa and famous Halong Bay….
Day 1: Ho Chi Minh City arrival (Dinner, Guide)
Arriving at Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll be met and driven to your hotel. You’ll have time to relax after your journey before a Welcome dinner. In the evening, you’ll have 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). You’ll spend the night in Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 2: Ho Chi Minh City - Cai Be - Vinh Long - Sa Dec (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide on boat)
Escaping from Ho Chi Minh City’s urban sprawl, you’ll be driven to Song Xanh’s pier in Cai Be town. Shortly after embarkation, you will visit Cai Be colorful floating market where you will see local barges full of fruits and vegetables and visit an ancient mandarin house dating from 1890. Further, another stop at some local home factories will allow you to observe how rice paste, coconut candies and other specialties are traditionally made. Proceeding to Phu An hamlet, a delicious lunch will await you at "Le Longanier", a superb Indochinese villa located by the river, in a lush tropical garden. The cruise will continue toward Sa Dec. En route; you will be transferred to a small boat cruising along a narrow canal through fruit plantations and visit one of the largest artisanal bricks and tiles factories.
Sa Dec town will appear like a little “Venice” with numerous narrow canals. You will disembark for a very interesting visit at a beautiful ancient house or “Nha Co” dating from the early 19th century, home of Mr. Huyh Thuy Le, former “lover” of famous French novelist Marguerite Duras… A delicious dinner will be catered for you on board. You will spend the first night onboard.
Day 3: Sa Dec - Long Xuyen - Cho Moi (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide on boat)
The breakfast will be served on board at 07AM. You will disembark for a guided visit of the charming and peaceful Sa Dec town, walking along its narrow streets where beautiful French old houses, Chinese & Vietnamese temples are dating from the last century. You will visit the local market, one of the most attractive in Vietnam.
Back on board, your sampan will slowly leave Sa Dec and proceed upstream to Long Xuyen, you will pass by several luxuriant islands, crossing countless sampan boats carrying sand, rice, fruits … showing an intense activity on the river. Your lunch will be served on board.
Later, you will have a quick tour of Long Xuyen typical center before cruising further to “Cu Lao Ong Ho” (The Tiger Island) for a visit at Ton Duc Thang museum, the second president of Vietnam. you will then proceed upstream on the Mekong River to Chau Doc. Some stops on the banks will be possible for cycling tours to discover deeper the inhabitants’ life style.
In the evening, you will have an exciting experience at an ancient house located by the river in the suburbs of Cho Moi, where your dinner will be arranged then back on board your private sampan for your second night on the river.
Day 4: Cho Moi - Chau Doc (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
Early morning, your breakfast will be served on board while we will be cruising to Chau Doc. Then you will cruise on a little arm of the Mekong where several traditional activities can be observed on the banks (artisanal boat factories, bamboo baskets making, palm leaves cutting, net fishing), as well as old Vietnamese temples dating from late 19th century.
After that, you will reach Chau Doc late in the morning. Located on the upper Mekong Delta, the town is 280 km south-west of Saigon on to the Cambodian border. With such proximity the local population is an eclectic mix of Cham, Khmer, Chinese and Vietnamese sharing different cultures and historical richness.
At around 11am, you will disembark at Chau Doc main city pier then be transferred back to Ho Chi Minh City airport to take the flight to Danang. When arrival, you will be transferred to Hoi An where you will spend the night.
Day 5: Walking and Photographing Hoi An (Breakfast, Lunch, 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. After that, you will get on the boat to cruise along the river to enjoy the scenery along the Thu Bon River and the general view of Hoi An Ancient Town then you will the Kim Bong pottery and carpentry villages to learn the traditional way of making clay products and fishing boat building. 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 spend the night in Hoi An.
Day 6: Hoi An – From Farmer to Fisherman Tour (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 06: 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 7: Hoi An – Hue (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
In the morning, your car will arrive to drive you to Hue. On the way, you'll cross the high mountain pass of Hai Van. The views from the top are excellent – you should be able to see Lang Co beach and village, and the lagoon far below, with Danang spread out before you to the south.
Upon arriving in Hue, your guide will take you on a tour of Hue’s ancient citadel, once the seat of the powerful Nguyen Dynasty Emperors that ruled Vietnam from approximately 1800 to 1945. You’ll begin with a stroll around the area between the Citadel’s massive walls and the defensive moat, now filled with lotus flowers. You’ll then enter via the Noon Gate to wander around the Thai Hoa Palace, the Pavilion housing, the Nine Urns of the Nguyen rulers, and the remains of the Royal Palaces before crossing the river to modern Hue and the bustling Dong Ba market.
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, Guide)
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 8: 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 specialises in a single product range of traditional cakes - ‘banh it’ and ‘banh phu the’ before looping back to your hotel for overnight accommodation.
Day 9: Hue - Hanoi (Breakfast, Guide)
Your morning will be free until your car and driver arrives to take you to the airport for your noon flight to Hanoi. When you arrive, you’ll be met by our guide and driven to your hotel in downtown Hanoi. In the afternoon, you’ll cruise round the Colonial Quarter in a cyclo to discover the city’s architectural mixture of French colonial style, social realism (mostly public buildings - designed or influenced by the USSR), pagodas and communal houses with many Chinese features, merchants’ residences, ‘tube’ dwellings, modern buildings and vernacular houses. You’ll spend the night in Hanoi.
Day 10: 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 nearby. 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, Enjoying the famous traditional water puppetry show in Thang Long Theatre where you will have chance to get a general picture of the daily activities typical to Vietnam's rural areas. You will spend the night in Hanoi.
Day 11: Hanoi – Ninh Binh – Lao Cai (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
After breakfast, your guide will take you to Ninh Binh. It takes 2-hour drives through rural northern Vietnam to the site of Vietnam's first capital, Hoa Lu. You will then enjoy a 2 hour boat cruise through Tam Coc which boasts some absolutely breathtaking scenery, along the way stop where you wish to take photographs. Afterwards, you will travel along rural roads amongst the rice fields and magnificent rock formations of the Hoa Lu area.
After lunch, you will visit Van Long Nature Reserve (2 hours) before commence our journey back to Hanoi. You will then stop at a market garden during the return trip to photographs rural life up close. You will come back to Hanoi for refreshment then free to wander the downtown area through the old section of 36 streets and 36 wares, where each street hosts vendors of particular trade. You will be free until the drive takes you to the station at 21:00 to board a night train to Sapa. You will spend the night on the train.
Day 12: Lao Cai – Sapa market (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
You’ll arrive in the early morning then be picked will be picked up and taken to the local hotel to have breakfast and a short rest before continuing driving to Bac Ha market, which is one of the most interesting hill tribe markets in North Vietnam. Here you will observe and photograph Nung, Flower H'Mong, Black Dao and Dzay minority people buying and selling their local produce. After spending the morning casually strolling around and photographing the markets, you will visit a Flower H’mong village called Ban Pho.
After a picnic lunch, you’ll return to Lao Cai and continue your journey into the mountains to Sapa, a small town perched on the mountainside opposite Mt. Fan Si Pan, Vietnam’s highest peak. You’ll arrive with time to relax and stroll around the town.
After checking into hotel you can soak up the fresh climate as much as you want by spending time to wander around. The ethnic people are frequently seen in this hill town and small vendors along the street sell local textiles and handicraft. You will spend the night in Sapa.
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 for buying and selling, but are 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 13: Village Trek - Overnight Train to Hanoi (Breakfast, Lunch, Guide)
After breakfast, you will trek down the mountain to Ta Van village. Along the way you will photograph the magnificent terraced rice fields and local minority people going about their day-to-day activities. After an enjoyable picnic lunch, you will continue our trek, walking through a number of minority villages and getting up close to the terraced rice fields. You will take photograph the sunset over the terraced rice fields before coming back to Sapa town to refresh. In the afternoon, you will be transferred back to Lao Cai station to take night train back to Hanoi. You will spend the night on the train.
Day 14: Hanoi - Halong Bay (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide)
Arrival in the early morning, you will be pickup and transferred back to your hotel for breakfast and refreshment. You’ll then leave for Ha Long Bay, one of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the world’s largest marine limestone ‘karst’ landscape. There you’ll board a wooden junk that takes you first through Bai Tu Long Bay. You’ll continue your cruise to an island beach. Weather permitting, you’ll be able to swim or climb a hill (not a mountain!) for an overview of the bay’s remarkable seascape. You’ll then continue your cruise to visit Cua Van floating fishing village where you’ll have an opportunity explore the village by rowing bamboo boat. The cruise route is designed to avoid busy areas and includes a very quiet location for your overnight stay.
For your three-day Halong excursion, you'll board Indochina Sails, one of the best wooden boats on the bay. It’s a wooden junk modelled after the old Vietnamese court vessels with two barge sails, a wide transom and rectangular superstructure. The boat has 14-15 cabins in total, 11 Superior cabins in the lower deck and 4 Deluxe cabins in the upper deck, accommodating a maximum of 30 people, so you're likely to be joining other travellers for the cruise.
All cabins are air-conditioned and have windows overlooking the bay. In size, the Deluxe cabins are 14.5 m2 and Superior cabins are 13m2. Each cabin is furnished with two twin beds or a double queen size bed. The interior panelling, floor and furniture are of hardwood. Each cabin has a wardrobe, desk, pillows, white cotton sheets, and an en-suite toilet and shower with a good selection of high-quality toiletries. All meals, usually based on fresh seafood, will be provided on board. Kayaking is available upon request and at a surcharge.
Day 15: Ha Long Bay (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Guide on boat)
The Indochina Sails’ route is for two days only, starting from noon of the first day to noon of following day. If you book a three-day cruise on the bay, you’ll be transferred after breakfast to your day–trip boat with private crew to cruise to the bay’s most deserted areas with opportunities to swim from quiet beaches or kayak to visit water tunnels, fishing villages, or your choice of other locations. A personal chef will prepare and serve your lunch on board. In the late afternoon, you’ll return to the Indochina Sails boat for dinner and your overnight stay.
The smaller boat’s facilities are limited and at a lower standard compared to the Indochina Sails boat, but you’ll have its exclusive use to cruise around the further reaches of the bay well away from the tourist area. Pack lightly; you’ll want swimwear and a set of dry clothes, and, as there are different activities during the day, bring both shoes (such as trainers) and flip-flops or sandals.
Day 16: Ha Long - Hanoi (Brunch, Driver Pickup)
You’ll awake to the fresh air of the bay, and can take a swim or enjoy a Tai Chi session on the large sundeck (beginners welcome!) After a light breakfast of pastries 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 brunch while cruising back to the main dock, and around noon you’ll leave for Hanoi. You will arrive at your hotel in Hanoi in late afternoon, and the remainder of the day will be your own time.
Day 17: Hanoi Departure (Breakfast, Driver pick up)
After breakfast, you will be free at leisure until the driver arrives to take you to the airport to take your flight onward. End of service
- 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: Ho Chi Minh City – Danang, Danang - Hanoi, 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)