This eight-day adventure highlights the beauty, biodiversity, and culture of southern Vietnam. You'll arrive in the metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and from there explore national parks and the famous Mekong Delta. After enjoying trips along the river, you'll visit Da Lat, a romantic French-colonial town in the highlands where you'll go sightseeing and relax amid pine forests and tranquil mountain scenery.


  • Explore the streets of Ho Chi Minh City
  • See exotic wildlife in Cat Tien National Park
  • Take a boat ride down the famous Mekong River
  • Spend a couple of days sightseeing in Da Lat

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City, Optional Activities Ho Chi Minh City
Day 2 Transfer to Cat Tien National Park, Self-Guided Tour Cat Tien National Park
Day 3 Cat Tien Wildlife Tour, Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City Ho Chi Minh City
Day 4 Transfer to the Mekong Delta & Tien Giang Tien Giang
Day 5 Mekong Activities, Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City Ho Chi Minh City
Day 6 Transfer to Da Lat, Driving Tour Da Lat
Day 7 Sightseeing in Da Lat Da Lat
Day 8 Fly to Ho Chi Minh City & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City, Optional Activities

Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City
Welcome to Vietnam! This adventure will take you to some of the most beautiful parts of the country's south. Since you'll be arriving in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), you'll use Vietnam's largest metropolis as your base for various tours, day trips, and excursions. After touching down at the airport, a driver will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel in the city.
Once you've settled in, feel free to head out and explore. Ho Chi Minh 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. You can see its history exemplified in its famous landmarks like the Saigon Opera House and Reunification Palace, which was the headquarters of the Saigon government during the American War.

Day 2: Transfer to Cat Tien National Park, Self-Guided Tour

Explore the wetlands of Cat Tien

In the morning, your driver and guide will pick you up at your hotel for the four-hour ride north to Nam Cat Tien National Park. This park was established in 1998 to protect the largest tropical lowland forest in Vietnam. It’s actually comprised of two separate areas, Nam Cat Tien and Cat Loc, which are linked by Dong Nai River. Nam Cat Tien is famous for its wetlands and high biodiversity and variety of fauna and flora, which you'll get to see during your time here.

Upon arrival at the park, you'll check in to your eco-resort, where staff will be waiting to greet you. After settling in, enjoy lunch at the on-site restaurant amid views of the river and surrounding jungle. Around 2 pm, you can head out into the forest on a self-guided tour to spot exotic wildlife. If you like, hop on a bicycle and hit the trail on two wheels. After your forest adventure, you'll return to the resort for dinner.

Day 3: Cat Tien Wildlife Tour, Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City

See animals like gibbons in Cat Tien

After an early breakfast, you'll once again venture into the wetland forests of Cat Tien. This time you'll be embarking on a half-day guided wildlife tour in a 4WD vehicle combined with jungle hikes and a boat ride. The first stop is at Crocodile Lake, an area home to hundreds of crocodiles as well as exotic birds like storks, flycatchers, woodpeckers, and violet cuckoos. After about 20 minutes here, you'll head out on foot on a 3-mile (5 km) trail to a ferry terminal. Along the way, keep a lookout for animals like deer.

At the terminal, board a boat for a one-hour trip around the wetlands. As you go, your guide will point out exotic flora and fauna like the Siamese crocodile and the white lotus flower. You'll also learn about the history of the park as well as some fascinating myths and legends surrounding the forests. You'll return to the resort in time for lunch, and afterward, you'll make the drive back to Ho Chi Minh City.

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Day 4: Transfer to the Mekong Delta & Tien Giang

Take a ride down the Mekong

In the morning, your driver will pick you up at your hotel for the two-hour ride southwest from Ho Chi Minh City to the famous Mekong River Delta. Your destination is Tien Giang province, the cultural and political heart of the delta. This region is filled with attractions both natural and manmade including floating markets, fruit orchards, traditional fishing villages, and more. 

Upon arrival in the river town of Cai Be, you'll transfer to the pier and catch a boat to the river lodge and bungalows where you'll overnight. Once here, sit down for a relaxing lunch at a local restaurant serving traditional Vietnamese river cuisine. Then stretch your legs on a bike ride to Tan Phong, a forested river island. Here you can browse street vendors selling everything from handicrafts to handmade banana-leaf hammocks. Then stop for a tasting of the region's exotic produce like dragon fruit, mangoes, and star apples, with accompaniment by traditional Vietnamese folk music. 

Afterward, enjoy a leisurely 30-minute ride down one of the Mekong's smaller canals in a traditional rowboat. Then you'll return to your river lodge and will have free time to relax until dinner. 

Day 5: Mekong Activities, Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City

Browse the floating markets on the Mekong
Wake up early for breakfast at the restaurant in the lodge. Then you'll head out for a visit to one of the highlights of the entire region: the Cai Be floating market. Here, hundreds of local vendors ply the waters selling everything from fresh produce to flowers right from their boats. After browsing this aquatic market you'll check out of the lodge and transfer back to Ho Chi Minh City, with the remainder of your afternoon and evening free to enjoy the city.

Day 6: Transfer to Da Lat, Driving Tour

The alpine oasis of Da Lat

Your driver will pick you up this morning for the six-hour drive north out of Ho Chi Minh City to the highland town of Da Lat. It's indeed a long drive but a scenic one, as along the way you'll pass expansive tea, coffee, and mulberry plantations. You'll also make stops along the way for lunch, to stretch your legs, and to snap photos.  

Eventually, you'll arrive in Da Lat. Situated 4,921 feet (1,500-m) above sea level, it's known as the "City of the Eternal Spring" due to its cool climate. The pleasant weather and beautiful mountain location amid lakes and pine-covered hills initially drew French occupiers, who founded Dad Lat in the 19th century. Even today much of the attractive French-colonial architecture remains. 

Upon arrival, check in to your hotel and take some time to tour a few highlights. One unique landmark you'll visit is the Hang Nga Gueshouse, also known as the "Crazy House." This building's well-earned nickname derives from its avant-garde architectural style that's like an expressionist painting come to life. After touring what is easily the most bizarrely beautiful guesthouse in Vietnam, you'll return to your hotel. 

Day 7: Sightseeing in Da Lat

The colorful Dalat Railway Station
Embark on a full-day guided sightseeing tour around Da Lat. The first stop is at the Dalat Railway Station. This marvel of French-colonial architecture dates to 1932 and is done in the Art Deco style with nods to the ethnic cottages of the region. One of the most beautiful train stations in Indochina, it also houses an old steam locomotive and box cars. Continue the history tour with a visit to Linh Phuoc Pagoda. Located a couple of miles outside of town, this 160-foot (49 m) dragon temple is built from thousands of beer bottles, which comprise one of the most distinctive mosaics in the country.

Then, experience some local culture on a drive to Lat. Located at the base of Mount Lang Biang, this village is home to the Lach ethnic minority people. The residents here live traditionally in thatched stilt houses, and they grow everything from coffee and vegetables to flowers. The villagers are also known for their hand-woven brocade products, and you'll see how they craft these impressive items using delicate looms. You'll also get to spend some time chatting with the locals.
Next, head south to Robin Hill. A famous cable car ride leads to the top, which offers incredible 360-degree views over Tuyen Lam Lake, the Zen Buddhist temple of Truc Lam, and past the city to Mountt Lang Biang. Then see the famous Bao Dai Summer Palace. Completed in 1937, it was the summer home of King Bao Dai, the last monarch of Vietnam's Nguyen Dynasty. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 8: Fly to Ho Chi Minh City & Depart

Stop and smell the flowers before heading home

Enjoy one more leisurely breakfast in Da Lat while soaking up the fresh mountain air. Afterward, perhaps do some last-minute souvenir shopping. Then you'll transfer to the airport in Da Lat for the one-hour flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Here, you'll catch your connecting flight home. Safe travels!

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Map of Southern Vietnam Adventure - 8 Days
Map of Southern Vietnam Adventure - 8 Days
Written by Hien Do, updated Jan 31, 2023