Fly into one of the most culturally rich and charming cities in the world; Hanoi. With its mix of local, French and modern architecture, its buzzing streets and delicious cuisine, Hanoi is a treat for the traveller, just waiting to be explored. We explore the fascinating historic sites in the city, including the austere mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh – major historical figure and hero to many Vietnamese. From Hanoi, we venture to the world-class beauty of Ha Long Bay, enjoying a breathtaking overnight sightseeing and gastronomic experience aboard a luxury cruise. Fly south from Ha Long to the imperial city of Hue – seat of Nguyen Dynasty emperors and the national capital from 1802–1945. Riverside Hue is a town of leafy calm, with the Imperial City the dominant attraction, and with numerous fascinating tombs within a very short drive of the city. We head south from Hue over the Hai Van Pass, experiencing superb scenery over Vietnam’s Coast, before continuing through to Hoi An, with its beautiful UNESCO-listed Old Town. We fly onward to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s largest city and a thriving mass of energy and color. The city offers a superb balance of architectural charm, historical interest, fabulous cuisine and pulsating energy. Explore the Cu Chi tunnels – built by the Viet Cong as they fought the American’s during the Vietnam War – and visit the culturally rich Mekong Delta region before concluding your time in Vietnam.
After you clear customs at Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport, your tour guide will pick you up and transfer you to downtown Hanoi. Check-in time is 2pm , but you can leave your bags so that you can explore before returning later on. Your guide provides transfer only today, and there is no guided touring included, so feel free to book a flight arriving at any time of day.
Hanoi is truly a city of contrasts. A blend of local & French architecture, where ancient lifestyle merges with the imprints of communism, and traditional etiquette sits alongside a fresh wave of global integration. Our guide will lead you on an orientation of the city, including its tree-lined streets and delightful examples of French colonial architecture such as the exquisitely restored Opera House. We’ll pass the iconic Hoan Kiem Lake, also known as the ‘Lake of the Restored Sword’ and proceed to the Temple of Literature. A peaceful contrast to the vibrant tempo of the city outside, the temple – built in 1070 and dedicated to Confucius – became Vietnam’s first university. We head a short distance to Ba Dinh Square, where silent sentries guard the marble mausoleum in which Ho Chi Minh lies in state. Subject to opening hours, the interior of the mausoleum may be visited before continuing to the modest stilted wooden bungalow where Uncle Ho lived and worked. Just a short distance away is the tiny but iconic One Pillar Pagoda, founded by King Ly Thai To in 1049, it is designed to resemble a lotus blossom, a Buddhist symbol of purity. Later, continue to Hanoi’s Old Quarter is best explored on cyclo, and we enjoy a 45 minute exploration of the area of the city known as ’36 Streets.’ The area was once an important center of commerce, where goods were sold on the street named for the commodity transacted on the premises within. The streets form a labyrinthe that are perfect for exploring, and bear names such as Sugar Street, Tin Street and Paper Street. In the evening, enjoy Vietnamese water puppetry, a tradition that dates to the 11th century when villagers would wade into the flooded rice fields and entertain one another with puppet play.
Hanoi to Ha Long Bay
Approximately 170 km from Hanoi, the mystical landscapes of Ha Long Bay are amongst Asia’s most iconic sights. Translated as the ‘Bay of Descending Dragons’ and located in the Gulf of Tonkin, Ha Long is made up of some 1,600 islands and islets, forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars, lush islands and emerald waters. Breathtaking beyond words, Ha Long Bay is justifiably one of the world’s natural wonders and more than deserves its UNESCO World Heritage status. Following private transfer from Hanoi to Ha Long, board our vessel and begin a cruise amidst this outstanding natural wonder. Lunch is included and can be enjoyed onboard as we explore the superb beauty of this geological art work, comprised of thousands of limestone islets soaring dramatically from emerald waters. Within this stunning backdrop, enjoy another take on Vietnamese village life as we visit the floating farms, floating houses and floating schools that form communities within this dream-like wonder. During the afternoon as we cruise amidst the beautiful islets and rock piles, we’ll stop for a cave and beach visits, and you’ll have opportunities for swimming in the bay before dinner. Later, relax to enjoy the postcard Ha Long sunset and enjoy a drink or two before turning in for the evening.
Ha Long Bay to Hue
As the fresh ocean air drifts in your bedroom window in the morning, early risers will be rewarded with a spectacular view of sunrise over the postcard green waters of Ha Long bay. You’ll have the opportunity to embark on a smaller boat for some further exploration of this unique natural environment. Breakfast will be served on board, and our boat will cruise deeper into the maze of islets that spread across the bay. Swimming in the bay is always enjoyable, but those prefering to stay dry may choose to rent a kayak and enjoy some independent exploration. Late morning, our vessel returns to Tung Chau Island where you’ll meet your transfer for the to Hanoi Airport and evening flight to Hue. On arrival in Hue, you’ll be transferred to your accommodation.
Hue to Hoi An via Hai Van Pass
The capital of the Nguyen dynasty’s empire from 1802 until 1945, Hue was the religious, economic and cultural epicentre of Vietnam for more than a century. Begin the day with a visit to the Imperial Citadel. Built between 1804 and 1833, this heavily fortified structure is still very much the centrepiece of modern-day Hue. Despite a chequered history, the fortress remains superbly intact. Continue with an interesting boat ride along the Perfume River to the Thien Mu Pagoda. Consisting of seven stories, the pagoda is the tallest religious building in Vietnam. Within its grounds can be seen the Austin car in which Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk demonstrating against the South Vietnamese Government during the Vietnam War, was driven to his self-immolation in Saigon in 1963. After your tour of Hue, transfer from Hue to Hoi An via Hai Van Pass.
Hoi An’s relatively small size allows wonderful access to an intimate experience of village life. We enjoy a very leisurely cycling ride through some of the peaceful local trails and colorful fishing villages. Devoid of most forms of motorised transport, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town of the ancient port of Hoi An is ideal for exploring on foot. So, we set down our bicycles and proceed to discover beautifully preserved old merchant houses, atmospheric temples and lively markets as we stroll through the back streets of this enchanting destination. You will visit the iconic 400-year-old Japanese Bridge and the busy waterfront, where colourful fishing boats bob up and down on the Thu Bon River. There will also be time to peruse the numerous boutiques and galleries that line the narrow streets and perhaps make a purchase or two. During the walk, visit a traditional houses and experience the picturesce tranquility of traditional life in Hoi An. In the late afternoon, take a boat trip down the Thu Bon River, enjoying a relaxed perspective on the peaceful lives of local fishermen. Take in the exquisite sunset views from the boat, before disembarking in Hoi An town for a free night at leisure.
Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh City
You’ll be transferred by private vehicle directly to Da Nang Airport for your morning flight to Ho Chi Minh City. With a population of nearly 8 million inhabitants and an almost equal number of scooters – the city’s pulsing streets showcase a spectacular interweaving of traffic that must be seen to be believed. Bustling and vibrant Ho Chi Minh City is quite literally a metropolis on the move. The most western of Vietnamese cities, Saigon, as it is still commonly known, is a city of contrasts; a place where ultra-modern shopping malls and fashionable restaurants vie for space with local retailers selling all manner of wares, and quiet roadside cafes offer Vietnam’s unique (and intense!) interpretation of iced coffee (cafe sua da) and other liquid refreshments. There is always something going on in Saigon and a friendly roadside cafe is the perfect place to take five, enjoy a coffee and absorb the dynamic scene unfolding around you. On arrival in Ho Chi Minh, you’ll be met by your friendly guide and taken on a delightful afternoon’s tour of this thrilling city. From the center of the city, the first stop is the Reunification Palace. Formerly named the Presidential Palace, this important city landmark was assured its place in history on 30th April 1975, when the first North Vietnamese tanks rumbled past, signalling the Fall of Saigon and ultimately the end of the Vietnam War. Now a museum complete with period meeting areas, war rooms and a basement communication centre, after your visit, walk the short distance to Notre Dame Cathedral. At the centre of HCMC’s government district, this romantic church dates back to the late 19th century and is a popular backdrop for wedding photographs. Across the street from the cathedral is the city’s striking French colonial-era post office, whilst Hotel de Ville de Saigon, officially Ho Chi Minh City Hall, is another of the city’s more prominent buildings. The Museum of Vietnamese History is housed in yet another fine example of Sino-French architecture. Dating back to the 1920s, it contains an excellent series of exhibits dating from the Bronze Age to the Nguyen dynasty, the last ruling family of Vietnam.
Daytrip to the Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta is a richly fertile region of farmland, interlaced with countless waterways and crisscrossed by low-lying rice paddies. One of the Delta’s most ubiquitous sights is its floating markets and the first stop today will be at the colourful Cai Be market, one of the best-known in Vietnam. Although development of the road network means there is less waterborne trading than in previous years, you can still can a strong sense of the brisk activity as vendors barter with shoppers and goods are transferred from one boat to another. These waterborne shops each specialise in a few kinds of fruit or vegetable and samples of their goods hang from tall wooden poles allowing customers to easily identify what is for sale. Navigate the Delta’s tributaries to Dong Hoa Hiep Island, en route exploring the beautiful riverine landscapes and observing typical life in the Mekong Delta. On the island, visit an ancient Mandarin house dating from the 19th century where several generations of the same family live together. Back on board, we head off to observe the activity at the largest rice markets in the region. Additional stops will allow you to see a traditional brick and tile factory, as well as learn how locals are able to use palm leaves in their house-building. A further twenty minutes or so brings you to the hamlet of Phu An, passing by the beautiful Cai Be church. You will also visit some interesting home factories to see how local products such as rice paste, coconut candy and rice paper are made, and learn about the drying process for longan fruit, another cottage industry in the Delta. In the afternoon, we make the return drive to Ho Chi Minh City.
Cu Chi Cooking Class & Tunnels
About 70km from central Ho Chi Minh is Cu Chi – the area known for its vast network of underground tunnels used by Viet Cong fighters during the Vietnam War. We’ll make our way to Cu Chi by private transfer, but start out our experience of the area by meeting an experienced chef for a professional Vietnamese cooking course. Here, you’ll enjoy an accessible, insightful introduction to the unique culinary heritage of Vietnamese cuisine and the exotic ingredients it uses. Featuring a combination of five fundamental taste elements, each Vietnamese dish has a distinctive flavour. Check out the on-site vegetable garden and experience an expert intoduction to the cuisine – a full farm-to-table encounter of the process that makes Vietnamese cuisine so wonderful. Following lunch, our guide will lead you to the Cu Chi tunnels. Synonymous with the Vietnam War and a testament to the determined spirit of the Vietnamese, work on the tunnels began during the war against the French in the 1940s and over the next 25 years as the conflict with America escalated, they were improved and expanded to create an underground city of meeting areas, storerooms, living quarters and much more. The tunnels allowed the Viet Cong to control a vital area of South Vietnam and at their height, extended for more than 200KM in length and stretched from what was then Saigon to the Cambodian border. Preserved as a memorial park, two sections of this remarkable network are open to the public. Visiting the area at Ben Dinh, there is the option to go below the surface and visit sections of the tunnels first hand. The more adventurous may go deeper and your guide will be on hand to give guidance on the degree of expected difficulty. There is plenty of interest above ground as well and it is recommended to bring good footwear, sunscreen and a hat. Please note you may get a little dusty if you decide to go underground.
End Tour in Ho Chi Minh City
Spend your day at leisure until transfer to Ho Chi Minh Ton Son Nhat airport for your flight home. If you’re on a flight departing late in the day and prefer to keep busy, activities can be added on request.
- Private transfers to/from airport on arrival and departure day.
- Private guide on all touring days.
- All Breakfasts.
- Daily itinerary for your trip.
- Optional free local sim card.
- Full phone support and assistance.
- Domestic Flights
- Ha Long Bay Overnight Cruise
- 2 nights in Hanoi
- 1 night in Ha Long Bay
- 1 night in Hue
- 2 nights in Hoi An
- 3 nights in Ho Chi Minh City