Authentic Vietnam - 8 Days
- Explore the ancient streets of Hanoi
- Cycle around villages and take cooking classes
- Enjoy an overnight cruise on Ha Long Bay
- Tour Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong River
|Day 1||Arrive in Hanoi, Optional Activities||Hanoi|
|Day 2||Hanoi Insider Tour||Hanoi|
|Day 3||Transfer to Ninh Binh, Tour Tho Ha Village & Cycling||Ninh Binh|
|Day 4||Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise||Ha Long Bay|
|Day 5||Morning Cruise, Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City||Ho Chi Minh City|
|Day 6||Vespa Tour of Ho Chi Minh City||Ho Chi Minh City|
|Day 7||Mekong Delta Boat Tour||Ho Chi Minh City|
|Day 8||Depart Ho Chi Minh City|
Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi, Optional ActivitiesWelcome to Vietnam! Home to one of the globe's oldest societies, this country has had states and functioning governments in some form or another dating back to around 3,000 BCE. There are few better examples of this rich history than the capital of Hanoi. It was founded way back in 257 BCE and has been a political center ever since. On its streets, you'll see a record of the city's long history in the form of temples, pagodas, monuments, and more.
Day 2: Hanoi Insider TourLeave the hotel at 8 am on a full-day guided tour of Hanoi's historic landmarks and experience the city like a local. It starts with a ride to historic Ba Dinh Square, where President Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the independence of Vietnam in 1945. Then head over to Lenin Garden, a park presided over by a bronze statue of Vladimir Lenin. This is a great place to people-watch, as the area is a popular local hangout.
From there, your guide will lead you down Hanoi's alleyways, which are lined with family-owned shops that have been around for generations. Continue to the 11th-century Temple of Literature, an impressive architectural landmark that was Vietnam's first-ever national university. To this day, students still pray at its altars for academic success. Next up is the Museum of Ethnology, which preserves the cultural heritage of the 54 different ethnic groups in Vietnam. Afterward, stop for lunch at a local restaurant.
Now that you've refueled, continue to Hanoi's charming Old Quarter to explore its warren of backstreets. This will lead to Nha Chung Street, an area abuzz with food stalls and vendors. Here, you'll visit a historic French colonial home for afternoon tea. Your host is a local who has lived in the neighborhood all his life and has many stories about this remarkable city and its past. End the day with one of Vietnam's more unique theatrical performances: a water puppet show. This cultural expression dates back over 1,000 years, having originated in the rice fields of the Red River Delta. Afterward, return to your hotel.
Day 3: Transfer to Ninh Binh, Tour Tho Ha Village & Cycling
Your driver will pick you up at your hotel in the morning for the two-hour drive south of Hanoi to Tho Ha village. It's 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, so much so that Galaxy Grotto is known as the "Milky Way of the mountain." When you leave the cave, you'll hop in a car and transfer over to the hotel where you'll overnight.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 4: 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 and thus has been bestowed with UNESCO World Heritage status.
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 you can spend hours 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.
Day 5: Morning Cruise, Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City
Wake up early and head to the deck for a sunrise tai chi session. Then sit down and enjoy breakfast in the open air as you cruise around towering karst islets. After another leisurely morning spent on the water, you'll return to the port in Ha Long Bay. From there, you'll transfer back to Hanoi where you'll catch a two-hour flight south to Ho Chi Minh City. A driver will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel in the city. You'll then have the remainder of the evening free.
Day 6: Vespa Tour of Ho Chi Minh CityWith a population of over nine million people, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is Vietnam's largest metropolis. Today, you'll get an insider's perspective of this city that is at once traditional and on the cutting edge of modernity. And what better way to cover as much ground as possible than by speeding along the streets on a vintage-style Vespa?
Day 7: Mekong Delta Boat TourWake up early and leave Ho Chi Minh City for a full-day guided tour of the Mekong Delta. One of the most famous regions in the country, it's known as Vietnam's rice bowl due to its abundance of rice paddies, mangroves, sugar plantations, and coconut groves. It begins with a van transfer from your hotel to a pier in the city. There, you'll board a speedboat for the scenic two-hour ride south to the delta province of Tien Gang and the riverfront city of My Tho. On the way, you'll stop in the town of Cho Gao to browse their riverfront market for fresh produce, seafood, and souvenirs.
Day 8: Depart Ho Chi Minh City
Enjoy one last leisurely morning in Ho Chi Minh City. After breakfast, spend a few hours soaking up the atmosphere, perhaps visiting local markets and shopping for souvenirs. At the appropriate time, your driver will take you to the airport for your flight home. Until next time!