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Day 1-2, Ho Chi Minh City: Reunification Palace, War Remnants Museum, learn about the Cu Chi Tunnels from a local guide. In your free time take a walk through the open-aired market at Pham Ngu Lao Street.
Day 3, Danang to Hoi An: Drive from Danang to Hoi An passing beautiful scenery such as the Marble Mountains, and historically significant My Khe Beach.
Day 4, Hoi An: Discover Hoi An’s Old Town, with its many architectural influences from European to Chinese, explore Dong Ba Market in your free time.
Day 5, Hanoi: Temple of Literature, One Pillar Pagoda, enjoy the quiet nature of the city’s many lakes and green spaces.
Day 6-7, Halong Bay: Enjoy a day cruise through one of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders. Stay overnight on board ship.
Day 8, Hanoi: Return to Hanoi for the end of your trip
Trips that follow this itinerary:
Treasures of Vietnam with Intrepid - 8 Days, premium trip
Essence of Vietnam with Peregrine - 8 Days, value trip
Vietnam South to North with Mountain Travel Sobek - 8 Days, premium trip
Day 1, Ho Chi Minh City: Arrive in Vietnam. Take a walk through the open-aired market at Pham Ngu Lao Street.
Day 2-3, Mekong Delta: See the area know as the “rice bowl” of Vietnam. Take a boat ride to explore the canals on the Mekong River, stay overnight in a local home along the river. In the morning visit the Cai Be floating market.
Day 4, Ho Chi Minh City: Return to Ho Chi Minh City and take a tour with a local guide to see the Reunification Palace, War Remnants Museum, and see the Cu Chi Tunnels which were used by the Viet Cong during wartime. Take the train to Nha Trang.
Day 5, Nha Trang: Visit the picturesque beaches of Nha Trang, see the archaeological site at Po Nagar Cham Towers.
Day 6, Danang to Hoi An: Drive from Danang to Hoi An passing beautiful scenery such as the Marble Mountains, and historically significant My Khe Beach.
Day 7-8, Hoi An: Take a guided walking tour of this old port city which dates back to the mid-sixteenth century. My Son ruins, local markets, rent a bike and take an afternoon by the beach.
Day 9-10, Scenic Drive to Hue: Hai Van Pass, Lang Co Beach, visit the Imperial Citadel, cruise on a traditional dragon boat on the Perfume River, visit Thien Mu Pagoda.
Day 11-12, Hanoi: Temple of Literature, One Pillar Pagoda, Vietnam Fine Arts Museum. Enjoy the quiet nature of the city’s many lakes and green spaces.
Day 13-14, Halong Bay: Enjoy a day cruise through one of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders. Stay overnight on board ship.
Day 15, Hanoi: Return to Hanoi and enjoy a local meal and souvenir shopping before heading home.
Trips that follow this itinerary:
Classic Vietnam with Intrepid - 15 Days, premium trip
Vietnam Adventure with Exodus - 14 Days, value trip
Magnificent Mekong with Viking River Cruises - 15 Days, premium trip
Day 1-2, Hanoi: Explore the city, with its calming atmosphere, and enjoy a local beer known as be bia hoi, at a traditional brew hall. The next day, tour Chau Long Market, sample local delicacies and coffee. Visit the Hanoi Cooking Centre.
Day 3-4, Halong Bay: Visit picturesque Halong Bay. Watch a demonstration of fishermen throwing nets, and learn how to do it yourself! Enjoy a dinner of fresh seafood and stay overnight in a traditional houseboat.
Day 5, Transfer to Hoi An: Take an overnight train or fly from Hanoi to Hoi An.
Day 6-7, Hoi An: by local ingredients at the markets to make traditional dishes. See the sights in Hoi An such as My Son ruins.
Day 8, Tra Que: A half day trip from Hoi An, Tra Que is a village known for its herb gardens. Bike ride out to the village and learn about various herbs and spices and how they feature in Vietnamese cuisine. Attend a cooking class.
Day 9-10, Ho Chi Minh City: Visit the bustling market of Ben Thanh for fresh produce and other souvenirs. Enjoy the French influenced cuisine of pastries and coffee.
Trips that follow this itinerary:
Real Food Adventure with Intrepid - 12 Days, value trip
Vietnam Food Adventure with Exodus - 10 Days, value trip
Gourmet Explorer Vietnam with Peregrine Adventures - 12 Days, value trip
For those whose impressions of Vietnam were formed in the wartime 1960's, a visit to this beautiful Southeast Asian country may yield some real surprises. With the vast majority of Vietnamese born after the war, it's largely ancient history here, and visitors (certainly including Americans) are warmly welcomed. There's much to explore, too, from stately Hanoi to bustling Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), gorgeous Halong Bay, the Mekong River (best seen by river boat), deep green rice paddies, golden sandy beaches, and some of Asia's best cuisine. Once you come to Vietnam, your impressions of it will never be the same.
Perhaps the best way to tour Vietnam is to start at either the southern hub of Ho Chi Minh, aka Saigon, or the northern capital city of Hanoi. If starting in HCMC, the first thing you might notice is the buzz of motorbikes all around you. To cross the street, just be brave and go against everything you were ever taught - slowly but purposefully, walk out into the street and maintain a steady pace. Amazingly, the motor bikes will swerve around you until you find yourself, harried but unscathed, on the other side of the street. Once you’ve mastered that, be sure to check out Ben Thanh market. At first, what looks like a glorified flea market opens up to reveal all sorts of Vietnamese culinary stalwarts like Pho. Go in the morning to escape the crowds (and the heat!).
Other highlights in HCMC include the War Remnants Museum, the exhibits of which might be offputting to many American travelers, Cu Chi tunnel system, and the various historic hotels in the city center.
Heading north, visit Nha Trang, which is a typical beach destination for tourists and locals alike. Enjoy a day-cruise where snorkeling and scuba diving are among the options for activities. Fresh seafood is the specialty in this city by the sea.
Next stop, Hoi An, and its labyrinth of ancient buildings and pathways. Historically rich, the city was influenced by the French, Japanese, and Chinese, which is apparent in the architecture and cuisine. Go in search of the famous Hoi An noodles, Cao Lau, which can only be authentically enjoyed in this town. Many different galleries and craft shops offer everything from custom-made shoes to vibrant oil paintings.
A short drive brings you to Hue, or the ‘imperial city’ as it was here that the Nguyen dynasty ruled from before ceding power to the French in 1945. Explore the old, walled citadel and also book a tour to visit the demilitarized zone (DMZ) for a bit of war history.
Last stop is the capital of Hanoi. With its beautiful urban lakes and government seat, Hanoi is calmer relative to HCMC, but still quite the urban center in its own right. For history buffs, a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is a must, where one can see the body of the former Vietnamese ruler lying in state. Also of interest is the Temple of Literature and One Pillar Pagoda.
If culinary travel is your thing, then Vietnam should be high on your list! From pho, to Cao Lau, to french baguettes that rival Parisian boulangeries, Vietnam has a plethora of spicy samples to tempt the foodie traveler. Street food is quite good and cheap, and can be found in night markets throughout the country. Or, just pull up a (short) stool at almost any roadside restaurant for an authentic taste of Vietnam. Specialities include Banh xeo, a crunchy shell containing bean sprouts, soy bean, prawns and pork, Banh bo - sweet rice cakes usually found in white, red and green, and of course, pho. For the more daring, sit down at a corner ‘bar’ to sample bia hoi, the local brew of choice. This unpasteurized but fresh beer is served on the street for basically a few cents per glass. You’ve been warned!
Trips Farther Afield
Other guided tour options in Vietnam include Phu Quoc island, an idyllic spit of land off the coast of southern Vietnam. Also consider the mountainous Sapa region in the northeast or a River boat cruise along the Mekong River.