Stretching over 3,200 kilometers in length with countless mountains, rivers, forests, and beaches, Vietnam is one of Asia’s most diverse and fascinating countries. Introducing you to the country’s three main regions, this 11-day journey starts with the natural splendor and majesty of the north, continues to the historic charm of the central provinces before concluding with the beauty and the vibrancy of the south.
Begin your tour of Vietnam in the atmospheric capital of Hanoi. Here the wide streets buzz with motorbikes and street vendors, yet peaceful parks and scenic lakes can also be seen around the city. A short drive from Hanoi lies Hoa Lu, an ancient capital that is also home to stunning limestone peaks and lush paddy fields. An overnight cruise on Ha Long Bay unveils a spectacular landscape of dramatic limestone formations jutting out of the emerald waters.
In central Vietnam, the UNESCO heritage towns of Hue and Hoi An await your discovery. Having served as the old imperial capital city, Hue still remains the cultural heart of the country with its many ancient buildings, museums and buildings. Hoi An was once an important trading port town and the traditional shop houses and small lane-ways offer a glimpse into Vietnam’s storied past.
Your tour concludes in the bustling south. Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is the fast-paced commercial capital of the country yet is still filled with architectural remnants of the French Indochina period. Travel to the nearby Mekong Delta and experience the rustic lifestyle of this region as you explore the labyrinth of waterways, floating markets and fertile rice fields.
Enjoy the best that Vietnam has to offer as the experts at LV Travel take you through the highlights of this dynamic country.
Day 1: Hanoi Arrival – Arrive in Hanoi, welcome by your guide and transfer to hotel. The rest of the day is at your leisure. Overnight in Hanoi.
Day 2: Hanoi – The capital of Vietnam, a city that celebrated 1.000 years in 2010 has countless fascinating cultural and historic sites and our days’ tour will visit the highlights. See the grand and solemn mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh (viewed from outside; closed Mon and Fri and from Oct-Nov), the ‘icon of Hanoi’ – The One Pillar Pagoda, the beautiful Temple of Literature, West Lake’s Tran Quoc temple and Quan Thanh pagoda as well as the fascinating Ethnology Museum, the bustling Old Quarter and at the end of the day – a water puppet performance.
- Depart your hotel for the Temple of Literature. In 1076, Vietnam’s first university Quoc Tu Giam, was established within a temple to educate Vietnam’s royalty, mandarins and members of the elite. The university functioned for an incredible 700 years and its gardens and well-preserved architecture offer a fascinating glimpse into Vietnam’s past.
- Visit The One Pillar Pagoda, founded by King Ly Thai To in 1049, next. This structure is one of Vietnam’s most iconic temples. Close by is the mausoleum of the historic father figure of modern Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, and the former presidents house on stilts where he lived from 1958 to 1969. His former home illustrates the modesty of this Vietnamese revolutionary. (Viewed from outside; closed Mon and Fri and from Oct-Nov)
- Continue to picturesque West Lake and the sixth century Tran Quoc Buddhist Pagoda. From here transfer (or stroll along the lakeside) 700 meters to the nearby Taoist temple of Quan Thanh dedicated to Tran Vu, one of the principal deities in Taoism.
- In the afternoon visit the fascinating Ethnology Museum (closed Mondays), which is both a research centre and a public museum exhibiting the ethnic groups of Vietnam. As an alternative to the Ethnology Museum, visit the highly acclaimed Vietnam Women’s Museum. The museum is located near Hoan Kiem Lake and offers wonderful insight into the lives of Vietnamese women. Displays highlight Vietnam’s vast cultural diversity and educate on the significant role Vietnamese women play in Vietnamese society. Learn historic and modern-day traditions centered around births, weddings, motherhood, spirituality and more.
- At the end of the afternoon visit Hanoi’s Old Quarter also known as the ‘36 streets’. Take a walking tour through charming Hang Be Market and around Hoan Kiem Lake. This bustling area of narrow streets and alleys is home to literally thousands of small businesses and shopkeepers. It’s a great place to explore with plenty of photo opportunities all around you.
- Finish the day with a Water Puppet show. This is a uniquely northern Vietnamese art form depicting scenes from rural life and episodes of national history. Overnight in Hanoi
Day 3: Ha Noi – Hoa Lu -Tam Coc – Bich Dong – Depart your hotel this morning early for the 2-hour drive through rural northern Vietnam to the site of Vietnam’s first capital, Hoa Lu. Visit the temples dedicated to Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang of the Dinh Dynasty (968-80) and Emperor Le Dai Hanh of the Le Dynasty (980-1009). The ancient Hoa Lu Citadel (most of which has since been destroyed) once covered an area of three square kilometers. If time permits after visiting Hoa Lu take a half-hour walk up one of the surrounding limestone karst hills, the climb is rewarding with spectacular views.
- In the late morning depart for Tam Coc Town for a Vietnamese lunch, along the way stop to take photographs of local villages and the stunning landscape.
- After lunch board your private sampan (see options for Tam Coc sampan trip below*). As the boat gently slices through the water notice the enormous limestone karsts jutting out from the green rice fields giving rise to the area’s other name, ‘Halong on Land’.
- Should you feel adventurous, climb up to Bich Dong Pagoda on nearby Ngu Nhac Mountain, dating to 1428 and comprised of three structures: Ha, Trung, and Thuong Pagodas, in ascending order. Return by sampan to Tam Coc town before returning to Hanoi. Overnight in Hanoi
Day 4: Hanoi – Halong Bay – The scenery of Halong Bay where thousands of limestone islands jut out of the emerald sea, sculpted into bizarre shapes is truly an iconic image for Vietnam. An overnight boat trip is the best way to enjoy this Vietnamese must-see.
- After breakfast leave Hanoi for a 3hr30mins drive to Halong Bay including a 20-minutes stop on the way.
- Arrive at your jetty in Halong City towards noon and proceed with check-in formalities. After your welcome onboard, a lunch will be served while cruising towards the bay itself. In the afternoon, enjoy some visits and/or activities (depending on each boat’s itinerary) or just spend some time relaxing on board.
- Towards the end of the day the boat sets anchor for the night among the karst formations. Dinner is served on board. Overnight on Halong Bay.
Day 5: Halong Bay – Noi Bai Aiport – Danang – Hoi An – The sun rises on Ha Long in the morning and breakfast is served (also brunch on some boats) while the vessels cruises slowly back towards port.
- Disembark and transfer back to Hanoi or Haiphong
- En route visit Thanh Chuong Palace, the home and studio of Thanh Chuong, of the most celebrated painters in Vietnam. More a living space than a museum, the Palace is an architectural gem showcasing Vietnamese traditional cultural objects, exquisite antiques and remarkable structures.
- After the visit it’s a quick transfer to the airport for the short flight to the central port city of Danang. On arrival in Danang transfer 40-minutes to Hoi An, a major Asian trading port in the 17th and 18th centuries whose architecture and relaxed lifestyle has changed little over the years. Overnight in Hoi An
Day 6: Hoi An – My Son – Hoi An – Today, take a half day to visit the capital and religious centre of the former Champa Kingdom, My Son. Here, 40km southwest of Hoi An in a lush green valley, are dozens of red brick towers and sanctuaries dating from between the 7th and 13th centuries. On the way back to Hoi An stop to visit Tra Kieu, formerly known as Simhapura or the Lion Citadel, the capital of Champa between the 4th and 8th centuries. Some of the finest sculptures in Danang’s Cham Museum originated from here.
Upon return to Hoi An, take a walking tour of the ancient town centre to visit former merchants’ houses, the 400 year-old Japanese Covered Bridge, a Chinese communal hall and the colorful market. Hoi An is a destination with two faces – the charming, old-world trading port of narrow streets and traditional houses, and the beach with its new resorts and long stretch of clean white sand. In keeping with Hoi An’s heritage as a trading port, the town’s tiny shop houses now host a range of craft shops and artisans including some of Asia’s best bespoke tailors. Despite the passing of 200 years and the ravages of weather and war, the centre of Hoi An remains much the same as it was in its heyday. Overnight in Hoi An
Day 7: Hoi An – Hue – Enjoy this morning at leisure before leaving Hoi An for Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam. Its mesmerizing tombs and mausoleums of the last emperors of Vietnam reveal fascinating insights into the lives of the imperial families and their subjects. The ancient Citadel reflects the pomp and ceremony of the dynastic rulers as well as the scars of many years of turmoil, both ancient and modern. The Royal Citadel was badly damaged in the latter stages of the war but retains a sense of grace and majesty even today.
Drive through Da Nang and visit the Cham Museum, which contains the finest collection of Cham sculptures in the world before climbing over the Pass of Ocean Clouds and dropping down to the wonderfully photogenic fishing village of Lang Co. Overnight in Hue
Day 8: Hue
- Morning tour start at hotel to visit the Imperial Citadel where the Nguyen Dynasty ruled between 1802 and 1945. From here take a cyclo through dai noi ‘Old City’ to Tinh Tam Lake where the Emperors used to come to relax. It is full of lotus flowers in summer and there are many local style coffee shops around the lake where university students come to study.
- After exploring the ruins of this wonderful monument depart for Thien Mu (Celestial Lady) Pagoda overlooking the Perfume River Constructed in 1601, the 21-meter tower is the centerpiece of the pagoda and represents seven reincarnations of Buddha. On the pagoda grounds is the famous Austin car a resident monk drove to Saigon in 1963 to protest against the southern regime. The photo of his self-immortalization is one of the most well-known images of the war.
- Continue to former emperor Minh Mang’s tomb located in a tranquil setting of gardens and ponds. Journey on to Khai Dinh’s Tomb designed in traditional Vietnamese style with a European touch making it unique from the other tombs in Hue.
- Before heading back to your hotel take time to stroll around Dong Ba Market with your guide. The market is another of the must see sites in Hue, the stalls are teeming with color and a great place to catch a glimpse of everyday life. Overnight in Hue
Day 9: Hue – Ho Chi Minh City
- Transfer to Hue Airport after breakfast for the short flight to dynamic Ho Chi Minh City, still called Saigon by the locals. A full day city tour takes in Cho Lon, the Chinatown district, to discover the area’s markets, shops and the Cantonese Thien Hau Pagoda – dedicated to the goddess of the Sea. Visit Vietnam’s first traditional medicine museum, the FITO Museum, with an amazing collection of 3,000 items relevant to the development of traditional Vietnamese medicine. Implements used to prepare indigenous herbs and objects commonly found in traditional pharmacies can be seen in the galleries as well as ancient books and documents on traditional Vietnamese medicine.
- Head back to the city centre to visit Ben Thanh Market where an incredible display of fresh produce is offered. Simply stroll through the market exploring the variety of goods for sale.
- This afternoon visit the War Remnants or History Museum (choose which one you would most like to see) and the former Presidential Palace Stroll (your vehicle will be available at all times) to the major sights of colonial Ho Chi Minh City: the Old Saigon Post Office, Dong Khoi Street (formerly Rue Catinat), Continental Hotel, Opera House and City Hall. At the end of the afternoon head back to your hotel. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City
Day 10: Ho Chi Minh City – Mekong Delta – Ho Chi Minh City – The colorful floating market, vast emerald rice fields and lush back waterways; these are the things that make Cai Be such a desired destination.
- This morning, leave bustling Ho Chi Minh for the 2 hour drive to the delta town of Cai Be.
- On arrival board your boat for cruise in the Delta’s waterways. Start your journey by passing by Cai Be’s floating market, once a busy place to trade fruits and vegetables and nowadays a more quiet market.
- Then, continue to a cottage factory where ‘pop-rice’, rice paper and coconut candies are made. Return to the boat for the cruise to Dong Hoa Hiep Island; along the way admire the scenery and the daily life of the local villagers. Lunch will be local Mekong style serving specialties of the area. Return to Ho Chi Minh City late afternoon. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.