Take a peek at each day in more detail as you travel through Vietnam.
Arrive to the airport and transfer to your central hotel. Enjoy the rest of the day at your leisure, taking a stroll in the Old Quarter if you want to get stuck in straight away.
Hanoi is home to Vietnam’s very best museums, covering everything from the military history of the nation to the colorful ethnic diversity. Choose one from three of the best: the Vietnamese Women’s Museum, the National Museum of Vietnamese History, or the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. Then head to the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s oldest university and still a place of worship, especially for students during exam season.
Enjoy a local lunch, either on the street or in a local restaurant, before understanding more about Hanoi’s 1000-year-old history in the monstrous Citadel. Stroll around the leafy gardens, marvel at the ancient architecture, and learn about the Citadel’s central position of power – which it maintains even today. Then explore one of the Old Quarter’s most picturesque houses, with tiled flooring, ancient wooden beams, and antique furniture.
Finish the day with a beer in one of the local fresh beer stalls. This light and refreshing drink is one of the (many) beverages that keeps Hanoi buzzing. Enjoy it with a whole host of local snacks, from fried tofu to grilled meats.
Ninh Binh remains one of Vietnam’s most captivating locations and an excellent day trip from Hanoi, combining stunning natural splendor with an engrossing history that spans a millennium.
Hoa Lu, established a thousand years ago, was the capital of Vietnam under the Dinh and Le dynasties. The sights and smells still evoke the atmosphere of a lost kingdom, with stunning temples and pagodas built by the different dynasties and elaborate tombs to commemorate them. You’ll also uncover evidence of ancient palaces and royal pavilions that reference an ancient era, surrounded by towering karst mountains and vivid jungle. Take a bicycle and dive into the Van Long Nature Reserve and adjacent countryside, passing small villages and bright green rice paddies along the way.
Ninh Binh is famous for its river cruises – and with good reason. Various snaking rivers meander around sky-high karst mountains covered in lush jungle. Some parts of the river are home to birds and butterflies, whereas other sections are designated spots for water farming. Swap your bicycle for a boat and hop into a small sampan rowed by a local – sometimes with their feet! Keep your head low as you pass through cave passages and keep your camera ready for riverside temples and pagodas inaccessible by road. Some temples are even large enough for you to disembark your sampan and discover them by foot.
Lan Ha Bay is Halong Bay’s sister seascape; an extension of the otherworldly natural masterpiece of jungle-topped mountains and waterway networks. The difference is Lan Ha Bay sees only a fraction of the visitors of its world-famous relative while still matching its aesthetic grandeur.
Jump in the lounge chair limousine at 9am of day one and head to Hai Phong, just over an hour from Hanoi and significantly closer than Halong Bay. Welcome aboard! Check in to your cabin and get accustomed with your cruise ship. Tuck into an onboard lunch then disembark on Cat Ba, the bay’s largest island and national park. Explore an island cave before hiking a portion of the park to understand more about the flora and fauna of the area. Enjoy a swim and a kayak in the bay and then dinner and overnight on the cruise ship. Not ready for bed? Enjoy some late-night squid fishing to see what’s biting in the watery depths of the bay.
Wake up in the bay, setting your alarm a little earlier than normal if you want to enjoy an onboard sunrise. Board the tender and explore a local fishing village before coming back to the cruise ship for breakfast. Then take to a bamboo row boat and head to the Dark & Bright Cave, one of Halong Bay’s most atmospheric water caves. Look out for monkeys on the jungled shores, sometimes visible in the gaps between the trees. Head back to the cruise ship before slowly cruising back to Hai Phong. Disembark and head back to Hanoi – you’ll arrive before 7pm on day two.
Hue is one of Vietnam’s calmest cities; an excellent city to explore by bicycle. Head down the colonial Le Loi boulevard looking out for colonial mansions along the way before crossing Hue’s iconic Truong Tien bridge, built by none other than Gustave Eiffel (who also built the Eiffel Tower). Visit the cities business market before delving into the Hue Citadel, a grand walled city of parks and lakes. Explore a traditional garden house, for which Hue is famous, before hopping onto the river.
On a colorful dragon boat, head to the rarely-visited Royal Arena, a colosseum where elephants once fought tigers. Uncover the Elephant Temple nearby to understand the symbolism of the battles before moving onto a grapefruit village and tucking into some delicious fruit following a homecooked lunch. Explore two traditional villages where locals make incense and conical hats and then head to the tombs.
Hue’s tombs are recognized by UNESCO for their cultural heritage, and they’re also fascinating and beautiful places to visit. Explore the tomb of Tu Duc, one of Vietnam’s least effective kings, though he had an affinity for poetry and architecture. He designed his own garden tomb, which blends with the trees and rivers of the area. Enjoy the views over the Perfume River, take in the sunset by a lagoon, and then head back to your hotel.
Hue is connected to Hoi An along a stunning coastal road where you’ll glimpse lagoons, mountains, and the vast ocean. Explore the gorgeous and colorful An Bang “ghost city” along the way, an example of how the Hue people venerate their ancestors.
Hoi An is one of Vietnam’s most charming towns, with beautiful old streets decorated with hanging lanterns. Enjoy the day, getting to know the restaurants, cafes, and tailors.
Enjoy the day in Hoi An until you head for Ho Chi Minh City and take on the town at night. Zoom from place to place on a vintage vespa, stopping off for street food as you go. Start at a café and watch the city roar before your eyes and prepare for what’s to come. Then hop on the bike (don’t worry, you’ll have a driver) and you’re off! Eat some of the city’s best local food at two different establishments, stop by a café for some live music, and then head to a music bar to see the night through. The tour includes free-flowing food and drinks, so come with an appetite!
Start the day by delving into the Cu Chi tunnels, a vital base during the wars and a fascinating piece of Vietnam’s history. Pick up from your hotel in the morning and head to this 200km underground network of passages, chambers, and living quarters. An energetic guide will explain how it all worked, and why these tunnel systems were so important during Vietnam’s most turbulent years. The journey there and back is an activity in itself, taking you through classic southern Vietnamese countryside. Then lunch back in the city.
Time to explore Vietnam’s southern metropolis. Start by exploring the heart of Ho Chi Minh City by delving into the striking Reunification Palace. This is the former presidential palace and is one of Vietnam’s most storied pieces of architecture. Then head to the Post Office, a colonial-era masterpiece, before gawping at the Notre Dame Cathedral. The cathedral’s red bricks make it a unique structure in Vietnam. Visiting the War Remnants Museum is an important activity when visiting Ho Chi Minh City, as it details the atrocities of war and the human spirit to rebuild in the aftermath. After this sobering experience, you’ll return to your hotel.
Leaving Ho Chi Minh City behind, head to the fertile rice bowl of Vietnam: the Mekong Delta. This lush land of palm trees and great rivers is home to some of the best fruit farms found anywhere in the world. Check in to your riverside lodge and relax in the surroundings.
The Mekong Delta is remarkably flat – perfect for push bikes. Take on two wheels and explore the area to understand how this part of the country feeds much of Vietnam. Explore duck farms on water, vibrant green rice paddies, and a dragon fruit farm where you can sample the goods straight from the tree. Then relax and absorb the scenery with a sundowner – the Mekong Delta is famous for its dramatic sunsets.
Return to your lodge, enjoy a traditional music show, a cooking class, and then a delicious dinner using only local ingredients from the delta.
Get an early start and discover more about one of the produce items that keeps this region in business: coconuts. Witness the boats piled high with coconuts destined for the factory – nothing goes to waste! After the coconuts are shelled, the fibers are removed from the husk and used to make rope and rugs. You can watch the whole process before returning to the lodge.
If time, you’ll learn how even the coconut tree leaves are important, from their use in construction to being employed in the crafting of local instruments. Then check out and head back to the city.
Enjoy the last day until your final departure, taking the opportunity for a final coffee, meal, a bit of souvenir shopping.