Vietnam is a country that honors the past and celebrates the future. The Vietnamese culture has evolved on the basis of the wet rice civilization, and the local lifestyle is closely related to its village and native lands. On this comprehensive tour, explore the classic highlights of Vietnam: Dazzling French colonial architecture in Hanoi, ancient sites in Hue, the Old Quarter and beaches of Hoi An, historical narratives in Ho Chi Minh City, and the towering limestone islands of Ha Long Bay.
Ho Chi Minh City Arrival
Welcome to Vietnam! Upon arrival in Ho Chi Minh City, meet our representative and transfer to your hotel.
Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is the largest city in Vietnam. It was once known as Prey Nokor, an important Khmer sea port prior to annexation by the Vietnamese in the 17th century. It's also known for its French colonial landmarks, including Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the pivotal role it played in the Vietnam War. Food stalls line the city’s streets, especially around bustling Bến Thành Market. Overnight.
Ho Chi Minh City
Your morning is reserved for a cooking demonstration with an experienced chef. Start at the markets and later prepare seasonal, fresh dishes. A folder with printed recipes is also included.
In the afternoon, explore the highlights of the city. Start with the Reunification Palace. Surrounded by royal palm trees, the dissonant 1960s architecture of this government building and the eerie mood that accompanies a walk through its deserted halls make it an intriguing spectacle. The first Communist tanks to arrive in Saigon rumbled here on 30 April 1975. The building is deeply associated with the fall of the city in 1975, yet it's the kitsch detailing and period motifs that steal the show. You will also visit the Jade Pagoda and make a photo stop at Notre Dame Cathedral. Return to your hotel for an evening at leisure and overnight.
Ho Chi Minh City / Cu Chi
After breakfast, enjoy a tour of Cu Chi. Cu Chi is not only a peaceful countryside but also an iconic and heroic land. Its system of underground tunnels is the best proof of local people's resilience and intelligence that helped to win so many combats. You will drive 70 km southwest of Ho Chi Minh City, passing through picturesque rice fields, gardens, and rubber plantations.
Upon arrival in Cu Chi, and after a short introduction to the tunnel network of more than 200 km, you will have a chance to crawl into a short section of the tunnels to feel the oppressive narrowness and heat inside. Documentaries and displays of bloody traps will give you a vivid idea of the life and struggle in the tunnels. Lunch at local restaurant and then return to the city.
Optional night tour by scooter: In the evening, start your night tour of Ho Chi Minh City with pickup from your hotel lobby and transfer to the starting point, a Vespa-themed café called Café Zoom. Here, you can sip your first beverage while your guide briefs the group about the procedures ahead.
Each passenger will be assigned to his or her own Vespa with a personal driver. You will ride pillion to safely experience the thrill of your vintage scooter through sometimes hectic traffic conditions. All necessities are provided for including helmets, raincoats, and insurance to ensure a safe and pleasant ride.
Throughout the evening, stop to taste a variety of local Vietnamese foods and drinks at local restaurants; you'll sample the best authentic street food that Ho Chi Minh City has to offer. The 3- to 4-hour Vespa tour takes you into less-visited areas and hidden hot spots while you go off-the-beaten-track in the former capital.
Step foot inside a Vietnamese-style coffee shop with live music, then wrap up the evening at a hip bar where a new generation of Vietnamese unwind and flaunt their unique styles.
Ben Tre, a small town hidden within the Mekong Delta, has recently stepped out to be a destination in its own right. This peaceful retreat offers many charming surprises besides the lush vegetation, snaking canals, and enchanting smiles. A day to Ben Tre is a day when you are no longer a tourist but a true resident embarking on a sensory voyage of discovery.
Enjoy seeing how bricks and grass mats are made with age old traditional techniques as well as how products are extracted from cocoa. Admire stunning panoramic countryside pictures made of green coconut palms, yellow river streams, and colorful local products. Be warmed by the tropical breeze or feel the currents of the cool river water while exploring the earthy trails. Taste and smell local exotic fruits, garden-made cuisine, or stop to observe and satisfy your palate with a just-made wet rice paper or coco candies married with green tea. Complete your experience while hearing the sounds of boat, tricycle-motor engine, and certainly the chatting and laughing of local people, modest yet hospitable.
Return to Ho Chi Minh City and overnight.
Ho Chi Minh City - Hoi An
In the morning, transfer to the airport for your flight to Da Nang. Upon arrival, drive to Hoi An (2 hours). Nestled on Vietnam’s central coast, Hoi An is known for its well-preserved Ancient Town, cut through with canals. The former port city’s melting-pot history is reflected in its architecture, a mix of eras and styles from wooden Chinese shophouses and temples to colorful French colonial buildings, ornate Vietnamese tube houses, and the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge with its pagoda.
Evening at leisure and overnight.
In the morning, enjoy a walking tour of Hoi An Old Town with a boat ride. Visit the Japanese Covered Bridge, Tan Ky House, a handicraft market where you can observe the artists at work making beautiful silk lanterns, the Cantonese Assembly Hall, and temples and pagodas in the Chinese architectural style.
In the evening you will enjoy a show in Hoi An. Experience the richness of Vietnamese culture with this spectacular hour-long show that mixes acrobatics, theatre, traditional music, and poetry. Overnight.
Hoi An - Hue
In the morning, drive to Hue (3 hours). Hue owes its charm partly to its location on the Perfume River – picturesque on a clear day, atmospheric even in less flattering weather. Today the city blends new and old as sleek modern hotels tower over crumbling 19th-century Citadel walls.
Later, enjoy a cooking class specializing in Hue cuisine. Of the 2,700 Vietnamese dishes, nearly two-thirds hail from Hue, the country’s royal capital from 1802 to 1945. Hand-selected chefs churned out dishes as part of a rotating mix of 52-course meals for the kings. Very few of the dishes have ever been served outside this central Vietnamese city of 135,000. Many of Hue’s dishes are small bite-sized dishes, often made with glutinous rice rolls coated in dried shrimp. A typical basic Hue meal is clam rice, mussel rice, or water fern cake. Evening at leisure and overnight.
Today, boat along the Perfume River and visit the Thien Mu Pagoda. Continue to visit the grapefruit village of Thuy Bieu, an old village currently developing eco-tourism. During the walk, some stops are prevised: to the old temple dedicated to the genius of the village, a school, and a family which owns three of the older houses. These buildings are characterized by engravings and sculptures in wood: dragons, phoenix and other natural landscapes on columns, beams or rafters. Continue by bike all along the river of perfumes in the nature, among flowers and thousands of grapefruits.
Return by bike (or walking) to the family house. Participate in the preparation of the lunch with the family: figs, salad, and lemongrass duck. After the lunch, rest with a foot massage with medicinal herbs.
Cruise along the river and admire the sunset aboard the boat during the return to Hue. Overnight.
Hue - Hanoi
In the morning, transfer to the airport for your flight to Hanoi. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel. Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and known for its centuries-old architecture and rich culture with Southeast Asian, Chinese, and French influences. At its heart is the bustling Old Quarter, where the narrow streets are roughly arranged by trade.
Spend an evening at leisure and overnight.
After breakfast, begin your story of Hanoi with a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Complex to hear about the man who led Vietnam’s campaign for independence from French colonial rule. View the One Pillar Pagoda and the Presidential Palace before heading to the Imperial Citadel. Once the apex of regional political power for more than a millennium, the area is now undergoing archaeological excavation and research.
Continue to the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first university, and then the iconic Long Bien Bridge. Conclude with a Water Puppet Show, the unique Vietnamese traditional art. This art originates from rural festivals in Vietnam. The artists, men and women, stand waist-deep in the water to manipulate the puppets, making them move, talk, laugh, and even dance. Evening at leisure and overnight.
Hanoi - Ha Long Bay
After breakfast, drive to Ha Long Bay (3 hours) and board your overnight cruise. During lunch, cruise through Bai Tu Long Bay and Ha Long Bay to visit Cua Van Fishing Village. At the village, which has a population of about 600 residents living in 150 floating houses, guests can choose between kayaking through the village or visiting on small bamboo boats (sampans) rowed by the villagers.
Back on board, there will be free time before a Vietnamese cooking class. Dinner is a sumptuous buffet featuring an array of salads, seafood, meat dishes, seasonal fresh fruits, and desserts. After dinner, relax in the dining room and lounge or on the upper deck and enjoy the second happy hour. Also, experience squid fishing from the boat with help from the crew. Overnight.
Ha Long Bay - Hanoi
Enjoy coffee, tea, and breakfast pastries before a morning walking tour of Titov Beach Island. About one hour is spent on the island allowing time for a climb to the peak for a spectacular view of the Bay. There will also be an opportunity to visit the beach for a swim. Back on board it’s time for final packing and freshening up before enjoying a full breakfast buffet, including traditional Vietnamese Noodles (Pho). After breakfast, relax in the dining room and lounge or on the deck enjoying the last Bay views before disembarkation.
Return to Hanoi (3 hours) and transfer to the hotel. Optional evening street market food tour in the Old Quarter along the perimeter of the market. Overnight.
Today, transfer to the airport for your onward flight. Bon Voyage!
12 nights of hotel accommodations
Daily breakfast and some lunches
Airfare from Ho Chi Minh City - Da Nang and Hue - Hanoi
Overnight Ha Long Bay cruise including meals and experiences
Private air-conditioned vehicle with driver for touring and transport
Comprehensive touring as listed in the itinerary, including a private English-speaking guide and entrance fees to the monuments
Cooking demonstration and market visit in Hue
Private airport transfers with representative
Road/Interstate taxes, fuel surcharges, and parking fees