- See the highlights of Ho Chi Minh City
- Visit floating markets and river towns in the Mekong Delta
- Go hiking and rafting in the Pu Luong Nature Reserve
- Tour Hanoi and cruise Ha Long Bay
|Day 1||Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City, Optional Activities||Ho Chi Minh City|
|Day 2||Boat Trip to Can Tho, Optional Activities||Can Tho|
|Day 3||Floating Market, Transfer to Chau Doc & Sam Mountain||Chau Doc|
|Day 4||Tra Su Boat Tour, Fly to Hanoi||Hanoi|
|Day 5||Hanoi Free Day||Hanoi|
|Day 6||Transfer to Pu Luong, Hiking & Rafting||Pu Luong Nature Reserve|
|Day 7||Trekking to Kho Muong & Uoi Villages||Pu Luong Nature Reserve|
|Day 8||Transfer to Hanoi, Optional Activities||Hanoi|
|Day 9||Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise||Ha Long Bay|
|Day 10||Morning Cruise & Sea Cave, Transfer to Hanoi||Hanoi|
|Day 11||Depart Hanoi|
Day 1: Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City, Optional ActivitiesWelcome to Vietnam! You'll be arriving in the south, which has its own distinct culture compared to the rest of the country. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in Ho Chi Minh City, the largest metropolis in the country. Formerly known as Saigon before its fall in 1975, this city has not only survived but has thrived. Today it's a captivating mix of modern skyscrapers and historic buildings dating back to the days of French colonialism.
Day 2: Boat Trip to Can Tho, Optional ActivitiesThis morning you'll transfer south to the lush Mekong Delta. Known as Vietnam's rice bowl, this region is full of coconut groves, fruit orchards, and vast green rice paddies. Once at the delta, you'll board a boat for a two-hour ride on the Ben Tre River, one of the tributaries of the mighty Mekong. Your destination is Can Tho. This city on the banks of the Hau River is famous for its floating markets where hundreds of boats and junks ply the waters selling fresh fruits, vegetables, and other agricultural products.
Day 3: Floating Market, Transfer to Chau Doc & Sam Mountain
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 4: Tra Su Boat Tour, Fly to HanoiThis morning you'll head a few miles outside Chau Doc for a boat tour of another regional highlight: the Tra Su Sanctuary. This nearly 2,000,000-acre (800,000 ha) wetland forest is a protected area for wading birds like storks, herons, and egrets. Most of the park is closed, but you'll enjoy a 20-minute boat tour along the canals through sunken forests to admire the exotic birdlife. Afterward, you'll make the five-hour drive east to Ho Chi Minh City and take a two-hour flight north to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. Upon arrival, a driver will pick you up and transfer you to your hotel.
Day 5: Hanoi Free Day
Today is yours to explore Hanoi at your own pace. Spend the day exploring the labyrinthine streets of the Old Quarter by foot or on a traditional three-wheeled cyclo, as you pass temples, French-colonial buildings, and Vietnamese "tube houses." These space-saving buildings can be as narrow as 6 feet (2 m) wide and 12 stories high. Be sure to try street food staples like pho (noodle soup) and bun cha (grilled pork with rice noodles). Later, perhaps head to the Pan Pacific Hotel's rooftop bar and sip cocktails amid spectacular sunset views over Tay Ho ("West Lake").
Day 6: Transfer to Pu Luong, Hiking & Rafting
After breakfast, you'll hop in the car for the four-hour drive from Hanoi to Pu Luong. This nature reserve is home to the ethnic Thai people and is known for its forested mountains and green valleys dotted with terraced rice paddies and traditional villages. Upon arrival, you'll check in to your resort and have some time to unwind before lunch.
After a delicious lunch amid spectacular views, it will be time to hit the trail. You'll hike to hillside villages and meet the locals while learning about cultural traditions dating back centuries. Continue across a suspension bridge over the Cham River and stop at traditional wooden con nuoc (water wheels). Your guide will explain the mechanics of how these ancient yet efficient machines lift water from the river and distribute it through bamboo chutes to elevated farmland.
Then you'll arrive at a local fisherman's house, where you have a short rest before hopping on a traditional bamboo raft for a ride down the river. The guide will teach you how to paddle and steer as you float along the calm waters, enjoying the mountain and valley views along the banks. When you reach the wooden Tan Lap Bridge, you'll disembark and transfer to a local resort in time for dinner.
Day 7: Trekking to Kho Muong & Uoi VillagesWake up early and set out on a full-day guided hike through Pu Luong. This 8-mile (13 km) route begins with a descent down into a valley amid terraced rice fields. After following trails shrouded in vegetation, the forest then opens up as you arrive at the base of a mountain and Kho Muong, a traditional village of stilt houses. You and your guide will take a break here to engage with locals for a cultural exchange. Then visit the Bat Cave, a gaping karst cavern where the first ancestors of the Muong ethnic group once lived. As the name would suggest, it's also a habitat for four different species of bats.
Day 8: Transfer to Hanoi, Optional Activities
In the morning, you'll make the four-hour drive back to Hanoi and check in to your hotel. Then you can stretch your legs on a self-guided tour of Hanoi's historic landmarks. One example is Ba Dinh Square, where president Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the independence of Vietnam in 1945. Perhaps visit the Museum of Ethnology, which preserves the cultural heritage of the 54 different ethnic groups in Vietnam. Then head over to the Temple of Literature, Vietnam's first-ever national university. To this day, students still pray at its altars for academic success.
Day 9: Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise
Wake up early and board a shuttle bus for the four-hour drive east to the coast and Ha Long Bay. Located on the Gulf of Tonkin, over 1,000 karst islets rise above jade waters and resemble the spine of some mythological creature ("ha long" actually translates to "descending dragon"). The remarkable 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. 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 boat for dinner, then spend the rest of the evening relaxing, or head out on a small boat for a bit of night fishing with the locals.