- Tour the historic sights—and street food vendors—in Hanoi
- Sail through the dramatic karst islets of Ha Long Bay on an overnight cruise
- Take hands-on classes from locals, including two cooking lessons
- Let a local guide show you the UNESCO-listed Imperial City in Hue
- Ride on the back of a Vespa for a memorable tour of Ho Chi Minh City
|Day 1||Arrive in Hanoi, Explore||Hanoi|
|Day 2||Afternoon Sightseeing & Street Food Tour||Hanoi|
|Day 3||Day Trip to the Countryside, Cooking Class||Hanoi|
|Day 4||Transfer to Ninh Binh, Cycling in Tho Ha, Visit the Galaxy Grotto||Ninh Binh|
|Day 5||Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise||Ha Long Bay|
|Day 6||Ha Long Bay Cave Tour, Transfer to Hanoi, Fly to Hue||Hue|
|Day 7||Tam Giang Lagoon Half-Day Tour||Hue|
|Day 8||Imperial City Half-Day Tour, Transfer to Hoi An||Hoi An|
|Day 9||Free Day in Hoi An||Hoi An|
|Day 10||Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City, Explore||Ho Chi Minh City|
|Day 11||Day Trip to the Mekong Delta||Ho Chi Minh City|
|Day 12||Ho Chi Minh City Vespa Tour||Ho Chi Minh City|
|Day 13||Depart Ho Chi Minh City|
Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi, ExploreWelcome to Vietnam! This nation boasts thousands of years of settled history, and many of its ancient landmarks remain. There's plenty to see and do in Hanoi, your first destination on this epic 13-day adventure. Vietnam's capital is clearly a modern metropolis but it has quite the history, too, as it has been a central hub of government in the region dating all the way back to 200 BCE.
Day 2: Afternoon Sightseeing & Street Food TourStart the day with a leisurely breakfast and spend a few hours enjoying Hanoi at your own pace. Then, around 2 pm, you'll embark on an afternoon city tour. Famous landmarks you'll see on this guided excursion include the 11th-century Temple of Literature, which is dedicated to Confucius. This was the first-ever university in Vietnam, and even today, students burn incense and pray at its altars for academic success. You'll also visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum to see the final resting place of "Uncle Ho," the former president.
In the evening, you'll embark on another guided city tour to experience Vietnam's famous street food. Dishes you'll try include bun cha (grilled pork and noodles) and banh cuon (ground pork rice rolls). After stopping at outdoor barbecue stalls where chefs flame-grill meats and vegetables over fiery coals, you'll finish the tour with dessert. Perhaps try a famous egg coffee. This drink was innovated when, during shortages of fresh milk, egg yolks were used as a substitute. It eventually became a staple drink of Hanoi.
Day 3: Day Trip to the Countryside, Cooking Class
In the morning, you'll head west from Hanoi on a full-day guided eco-tour of the beautiful Ba Vi countryside. Your first stop is Ri, a village where you'll enjoy welcome drinks and snacks with Mr. Duoc, a war veteran and tea plantation owner. Listen to Mr. Duoc's stories about life during the war and visit his workshop and tea fields, where you'll learn the process of selecting the very best tea leaves.
Next, you'll take a short drive to another village called Moc where Mrs. Chin will teach you how to cook Vietnamese dishes that you'll enjoy for lunch in her tropical garden. Then join Mrs. Chin for a walk around the village to visit families and learn how to make tofu, conical hats, and other regional products. Finish with an easy cycle ride through Vietnam's iconic rice paddies, followed by a Muong herbal foot bath, before returning to Hanoi.
Day 4: Transfer to Ninh Binh, Cycling in Tho Ha, Visit the Galaxy Grotto
Today your driver will pick you up at your hotel for the two-hour drive south of Hanoi to Tho Ha. This village is located in the Ninh Binh province of Vietnam's Red River Valley, which is famous for its riverine landscapes and karst mountains rising dramatically out of vast rice paddies.
Upon arrival, you'll hop on a bike for a leisurely cycling trip around the village. Depending on the schedule, you'll ride 3-10 miles (5-16 km), passing sleepy villages and picturesque rural landscapes. Eventually, you'll arrive in the hamlet of Dong Tam and join the locals for regional activities like fishing, crabbing, and gardening. After an hour of fun masquerading as work, you'll return to town. There, a local family will welcome you into their home and teach you to cook the traditional cuisine of the region.
After lunch with your host family, you'll board a traditional rowboat at the Nha Le Pier and enjoy a trip into the Galaxy Grotto, a 2,953-foot (900 m) deep water cavern. This is a uniquely beautiful cave due to its massive stalactites that gleam in different colors, which is why it's known as the "Milky Way of the mountain." Afterward, hop in a car and transfer to your hotel where you'll stay overnight.
Day 5: Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise
In the morning, you'll leave Ninh Binh with your driver for the 3.5-hour ride north to Ha Long Bay. Located on the Gulf of Tonkin, over 1,500 karst islets rise above jade waters and resemble the spine of some mythological creature ("ha long" actually translates to "descending dragon"). The unique beauty of this region is unlike anywhere else.
Upon arrival at the marina, you'll board a multi-level cruise ship for an overnight tour of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. After settling into your cabin, head up to the deck where a delicious seafood lunch awaits. Then spend some time relaxing on the sun deck as the ship sails across glassy emerald waters to the most secluded corners of the bay. Later that afternoon, you'll stop at a secret cove for a swim and a kayak trip to explore hidden beaches and grottoes.
Return to the ship just in time to participate in a cooking masterclass offered by the onboard expert chef. During the workshop, you'll learn to make traditional specialties like nem (Vietnamese fried spring rolls) and enjoy them for dinner. Spend the remainder of the evening relaxing, or head out on a small boat for a bit of night fishing with the locals.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 6: Ha Long Bay Cave Tour, Transfer to Hanoi, Fly to Hue
Wake up early to see the sunrise on deck, perhaps joining the morning Tai Chi session. Then enjoy an al fresco breakfast of coffee, tea, and pastries as the ship cruises to its next destination: Sung Sot Cave. This is the largest limestone cavern in Ha Long Bay, and you'll get to marvel at its massive stalactites on a caving excursion. From there, you can take a steep hike up to the top of Bo Hon Island, where you'll be treated to panoramic views of the bay.
Upon returning to the ship, you'll be served lunch as you cruise back to the harbor. Once there, hop in a vehicle for the 2.5-hour ride back to Hanoi where you'll catch a one-hour flight south to the city of Hue. Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will pick you up and transfer you to your hotel.
Day 7: Tam Giang Lagoon Half-Day TourToday you'll have the morning and early afternoon to enjoy Hue at your own pace. This historic city sits on the banks of the Perfume River and is most famous for its Imperial City, a walled citadel that was the capital of Vietnam during the Nguyen dynasty from 1802 to 1945. You'll see the citadel tomorrow, so feel free to take a leisurely walk around the city's historic streets and stop in at a local restaurant for lunch.
Day 8: Imperial City Half-Day Tour, Transfer to Hoi An
This morning you'll head out on a half-day guided tour of Hue's most famous enclave, the Imperial City. Within this walled enclosure are emperors' tombs, ancient pagodas, and the remains of an iconic citadel. You and your guide will enter this UNESCO World Heritage Site through the towering main gate, and the historic architecture will immediately make you feel like you're stepping back in time. During the tour, you'll visit impressive royal mausoleums dating to the 19th century, like the Tu Duc Royal Tomb and Khai Dinh Royal Tomb.
After touring the Imperial City, you'll meet a driver for the 2.5-hour ride south from Hue down the coast to Hoi An. During this scenic 13-mile (21 km) drive, you'll cross over the magnificent Hai Van Pass. Also known as the "Cloudy Pass" due to the great tufts of white that often settle on these coastal mountains, the viewpoints here on clear days are incredible. You'll make plenty of stops on the ride to snap pictures of the seaside vistas. Upon arrival in Hoi An, transfer to your hotel.
Day 9: Free Day in Hoi AnToday is yours to enjoy Hoi An however you like. Enjoy a leisurely walk or rent a bicycle and ride along the quiet streets (motorized vehicles are banned in the city). Later, perhaps get measured for a custom-made outfit (Hoi An is famous for its expert tailors), or head to one of the city's nearby white-sand beaches. For dinner, try local dishes such as com hen (sauteed clams), nem lui (ground pork), and cao lau (pork and greens).
Day 10: Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City, ExploreThis morning your driver will pick you up at the hotel for the one-hour ride north to the airport in Da Nang, where you'll catch a short flight south to Ho Chi Minh City. Upon arrival, another driver will pick you up for the ride to your hotel. Vietnam's largest city is fascinating in that it has managed to preserve its cultural roots and traditions in the face of a communist revolution, a devastating war, and ever-encroaching modernity.
Day 11: Day Trip to the Mekong DeltaRise and shine! At 8 am a driver will pick you up from your hotel for a trip outside of Ho Chi Minh City to one of the most famous regions in the country: the Mekong Delta. You'll drive south for about 2.5 hours to the heart of the delta region and the town of Cai Be, which sits on the Mekong River. During the drive, you'll be treated to scenes of traditional countryside life.
Upon arrival in Cai Be, you'll visit its famous floating market. Each morning hundreds of boats ply the waters selling fresh produce, and your guide will introduce you to this world of aquatic commerce and teach you how to barter like a local. Then you'll visit a workshop run by a local family that makes "pop rice." Since Vietnam is the "rice bowl of Vietnam," the Mekong Delta region produces much of this crop, and this tasty puffed rice snack has become a staple of the local diet.
In the early afternoon, you'll stop at another local home for a traditional lunch followed by some free time to relax in a hammock. Or, hop on a bicycle for a leisurely ride along the delta's famous fruit orchards. Later, you'll return to the car for the ride back to Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 12: Ho Chi Minh City Vespa TourThis morning you'll embark on a tour to see the backstreets of Ho Chi Minh City like a true local—on the back of a Vespa. After a safety briefing, you'll hop on the back and hang on as your professional guide leads you around the city on a day tour. You'll pass through local neighborhoods with apartment buildings, shops, and restaurants dating to the 1960s. There will be plenty of stops to appreciate the historic architecture and do a little street photography. You'll even stop at the lively Ban Co Market, where you can sample some delicious street food.
The tour continues with a ride to District 5 and District 10, both traditional neighborhoods where you'll witness a slice of local life. Then stop in Chinatown and take a walk along Hai Thuong Lang Ong and Trieu Quang Phuc, streets that are lined with traditional food and medicine shops, clinics, and stores selling Chinese herbs. After visiting the 18th-century Thien Hau Temple (dedicated to Mazu, the Chinese goddess of the sea), you'll sit down for a lunch of local favorites like com tam (broken rice) and bun bo (beef noodle soup).