This five-day excursion is the perfect chance to visit a side of Vietnam that many tourists never get to see. This is southern Vietnam, known for the gorgeous Mekong River Delta and of course Ho Chi Minh City, the historic metropolis once known as Saigon. You'll visit both, traveling by both land and water on an adventure that also includes visits to fascinating wartime tunnels and a tour of the famous floating river markets on the delta.

Highlights

  • Visit Ho Chi Minh City and its historic French-colonial landmarks
  • Travel up the Mekong Delta on a wooden paddleboat
  • Visit the floating river markets of Cần Thơ

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Ho Chi Minh City Ho Chi Minh City
Day 2 Củ Chi Tunnel & Ho Chi Minh City Tour Ho Chi Minh City
Day 3 Day Trip on the Mekong River Can Tho
Day 4 Cần Thơ Floating market Ho Chi Minh City
Day 5 Departure from Ho Chi Minh City  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Ho Chi Minh City

Sunset over Ho Chi Minh City
Sunset over Ho Chi Minh City

Welcome to Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City!

Once upon a time, this metropolis in southern Vietnam was known as Saigon. Despite a communist revolution and devastating war, the city has retained much of its unique cultural mix of Asian and western traditions. In fact, many of its French Colonial landmarks still stand today. 

The biggest change to Ho Chi Minh City is that it's only gotten bigger, busier, and more energetic. The streets swell with mopeds whizzing past markets and modern shopping districts as the sidewalks overflow with vendors selling everything from delicious street food to golden lucky cats. This city has it all: French-era Art Deco buildings, ancient Buddhist temples, hidden alleyway eateries, outdoor night markets, Chinese pagodas, 21st-century skyscrapers, and hotels and restaurants for every budget.

You'll see and feel Ho Chi Minh's surging energy firsthand during the private transfer from the airport to your hotel. After check-in, you'll have the remainder of the day free to spend as you see fit. You can relax in your hotel room and have dinner in, or head out and get carried away in the energy of the city.

Day 2: Củ Chi Tunnel - Ho Chi Minh City Tour

Reunification Palace
Reunification Palace

After breakfast, you'll leave Ho Chi Minh in a private car for the short drive north to Củ Chi. This area is home to a massive tunnel network made famous during the Vietnam War as the Viet Cong's base of operations, particularly during the Tết Offensive of 1968.

This 155-mile (250-km) tunnel network once sheltered over 16,000 Vietcong guerrillas. First constructed in 1948 to guard against French air and ground sweeps, the tunnels then served as supply routes, storage facilities, hospitals, and living quarters for Vietnamese fighters throughout the American war. Here you'll have the option to go into the tunnels and get a glimpse of the harsh conditions faced by Vietcong guerrillas who lived here, plus see the innovative booby traps they left for unlucky enemy soldiers.

Later in the afternoon, you'll discover the highlights of this former capital of French Indochina on a tour. Historic sights include the 19th-century Gothic/Renaissance Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral (built in the late 19th century with materials imported from France), and the Opera House, which was built in 1897.

You'll also visit the Reunification Palace, also known as Independence Palace. This is the former home of the president of South Vietnam, which was taken over when Saigon fell in 1975. You'll end the tour with a visit to the Buddhist Thien Hau Temple and the Ben Thanh Market for some souvenir shopping. 

After the tour, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 3: Day Trip on the Mekong River - Transfer to Cần Thơ

Travel down the Mekong
Travel down the Mekong

Today you'll experience firsthand the lifestyle lived by those on the Mekong Delta. In the morning you'll leave from your hotel to the waterfront province of Ben Tre. Upon arrival at the Hung Vuong Pier in Ben Tre City, you'll hop in a boat for a ride down a tributary of the Mekong River. 

As you travel amid the thick mangrove forests of this waterway, you'll see the morning hustle as fishing boats and coconut cargo ships pass back and forth. A stop at a traditional brickworks reveals how local workers still make bricks the old fashioned way: by hand. After that, it's a stop at My Long, a village famous for the tasty rice cakes made by its residents. While the recipe is secret, you'll get to see the process as the villagers making the cakes from rice paper, followed by a sampling of these treats. 

Back on the water, you'll travel down canals lined with looming coconut palms. Here you'll stop at a coconut workshop to have a look at the various stages of coconut processing, from removing the husk to the peeling, which is all done by hand. After a short trip down a smaller canal, you'll stop at a honey-bee garden for honey tea accompanied by some local music. Then it's a visit to a candy mill to try local sweets followed by a visit to the country home of an artisan who makes traditional sleeping mats.

You'll then get to experience some of the stunning countryside when you embark on a bicycle ride (or motorized scooter trip) through the coconut groves and vegetable gardens around the river. Then take a sampan rowboat along a tranquil canal shaded by palm fronds to a riverside restaurant where you'll stop for lunch.

After lunch, you'll transfer to Cần Thơ, a riverfront city that's home to some floating markets. You'll check into your guesthouse and can end the evening on a relaxing walk along Cần Thơ's waterfront promenade.

Day 4: Visit Cần Thơ Floating market - Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City

Browse the Cần Thơ river markets
Browse the Cần Thơ river markets

In the morning you'll board a traditional local boat for a cruise to the lively, colorful floating markets in and around the river town of Cần Thơ. At 4:00 am every day dozens of wooden paddleboats laden with fruits, vegetables, and other products take to the water and sell their goods to passersby. It's a market with quite a long history, dating back to the Nguyễn Dynasty of the 19th century.

You'll certainly be surprised by the wide variety of fresh produce sold from these paddleboats, which includes well-known fruits like mangos and bananas to the more exotic mangosteens, star apples, sweet longans, and odoriferous durians. After touring the market, you'll paddle down the tranquil channels and creeks that branch off from Cần Thơ and get a glimpse into the lives of rural river residents as they go about their daily business. 

In the early afternoon you'll disembark the boat and meet a car that will transfer to Ho Chi Minh City. On the way, you'll stop for lunch at a local restaurant before returning to your hotel. You'll have the remainder of the day free.

Day 5: Departure from Ho Chi Minh City

Goodbye, Ho Chi Minh City
Goodbye, Ho Chi Minh City

Take the morning to enjoy one last stroll around Ho Chi Minh City. At the appropriate time, you'll transfer to the airport to catch your flight home. This concludes your grand Vietnam adventure. Until next time!

Map

Map of Southern Vietnam Tour: Ho Chi Minh City & Beyond - 5 Days
Map of Southern Vietnam Tour: Ho Chi Minh City & Beyond - 5 Days