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Explore the atmospheric towns and cities of Vietnam, filled with crumbling palaces, towering pagodas and ornate tombs. Sail the tranquil waters of the Mekong Delta and Halong Bay, and learn about the traditional crafts and pastimes of this fascinating country.
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Your Example Itinerary
Fly from the UK to Ho Chi Minh City.
Ho Chi Minh City
Meet the rest of your group and spend some time exploring the bustling streets of Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known by the more evocative name of Saigon. See the contrast of old and new with the traditional shops dotted among the skyscrapers. Look out for stalls selling baguettes, a throwback from French colonial times.
Head south to Ben Tre, board your boat and cruise the network of waterways that make up the Mekong Delta, sampling tropical fruits and admiring the verdant scenery on the way. The canals are lined with palm trees and carpeted in lush greenery, making for a picturesque and peaceful setting. On the way you’ll visit traditional villages and experience life on the river at your homestay, where you’ll feast on a delicious home-cooked meal.
Ho Chi Minh City
Return to Ho Chi Minh City and join your guide for a city tour where you’ll visit the War Remnants Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral and grand post office. Later on, perhaps visit the infamous Reunification Palace, site of the end of the Vietnam War.
Start with a day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels, formerly used by the Vietcong during the Vietnam War. You’ll be amazed at just how narrow the chambers are as you crawl through, especially as they have been widened for tourists. Back in town, board your flight to Cam Ranh, from where it’s 1.5 hours by bus to Phan Rang. With two days in Phan rang you have plenty of time for snorkelling in Vinh Hy Bay, visiting the Bau Nai fish market and admire the beautiful Vietnamese countryside that you pass along the way, including the local salt fields. You’ll also visit the fossilised coral reefs of Hang Rai and have plenty of time to chill out in Phan rang itself. On your last day, board your overnight train to Da Nang, a basic, yet adventurous way to travel, and part of the Classic Vietnam experience.
Arrive into Da Nang, and continue on to atmospheric Hoi An old town, a World Heritage site. The town is filled with elegant mansions, craft stalls and handicraft shops, and is particularly photogenic. Those in search of an unusual souvenir can have a suit tailor-made for them for a very good price at one of the numerous local tailors – just bring a photo of what you’d like and they’ll make it for you. While you are here, head out into the countryside and explore the ruins of the World Heritage-listed temples of My Son, Vietnam’s most important Cham site (optional, extra cost).
Take the scenic mountain route to Hue, Vietnam’s former imperial capital, a charismatic city filled with crumbling imperial ruins. Float downstream in a dragonboat on the Perfume River and call in at the Thien Mu Pagoda, a 17th century Buddhist monastery. Take a look around the exquisitely ornate tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, set around a tranquil lake reflecting a grove of frangipani trees. Gain an insight into life in a Buddhist monastery or nunnery with a tasty lunch, which also benefits the monks and nuns economically.
Head to Hanoi by plane, a delightfully elegant town filled with lakes and pagodas and blessed with a particularly atmospheric old town. After enjoying a delicious lunch at KOTO restaurant, check out the pretty Temple of Literature, built in 1070 and featured on the back of the 100,000 dong banknote, the gravity-defying One Pillar Pagoda and the tranquil Hoan Kiem Lake. Spend the evening watching a water puppet performance, a traditional show that originated in the flooded rice fields of northern Vietnam and involving wooden puppets performing in a waist-deep pool.
Glide between the towering karst peaks of Halong Bay on a junkboat cruise and explore the peaceful caves, bays and coves that you pass. There are over 2000 islands rising out of the Bac Bo Gulf, a beautiful bay of glistening green water, and an undoubted highlight of Vietnam. Cool off with a dip in the sea, venture into cave systems and dine on board, before spending the night sleeping under the stars on a traditional cruiseing boat.
Return to Hanoi, where you’ll have some free time to explore or do some last-minute souvenir shopping. Stop off at the Dong Trieu ceramic factory to see the traditional ceramic artworks being made, with the opportunity to buy one if you like. Perhaps visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and house (optional, extra cost).
Depart Hanoi and return to the UK.
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