- Visit Ho Chi Minh City and travel up the Mekong Delta
- Discover the sights, sounds, and flavors of Hanoi
- Visit the Gulf of Tonkin and cruise gorgeous Hạ Long Bay
|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 Delta||Ho Chi Minh City|
|Day 4||Fly from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi||Hanoi|
|Day 5||Hanoi to Hạ Long Bay||Halong Bay|
|Day 6||Bus from Hạ Long Bay to Hanoi||Hanoi|
|Day 7||Departure from Hanoi|
Day 1: Arrival in 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
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, you'll discover the highlights of this former capital of French Indochina on a tour. Historic landmarks you'll visit 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. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel.
Day 3: Day Trip on the Mekong Delta
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, you'll see the morning hustle as fishing boats and coconut cargo ships pass back and forth, going about their daily business. 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 jungles of looming coconut palms. Here you'll visit a coconut workshop to see 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 a honey tea accompanied by local music. Then it's a visit to a candy mill to enjoy some local sweets followed by a visit to the country home of a local 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 return to Hung Vuong pier by motorboat and transfer back to Ho Chi Minh City by car. You'll then have the remainder of the day free.
Day 4: Fly from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi
In the morning you'll transfer to the airport in Ho Chi Minh city for the two-hour flight to Hanoi. Upon arrival at Hanoi's airport, you'll transfer by private vehicle to your four/five-star hotel for check-in. No doubt you'll be tired after the long journey, but after taking some time to relax and unwind you should head out and explore on foot. This modern yet traditional metropolis is well worth it.
Dating to 3,000 BCE, Hanoi is one of the most ancient capitals in the world. That said, it's a mix of the old and the new—a city defined by the contradictions of a rapidly developing yet deeply traditional society. Here glimmering office buildings sit alongside the French colonial Old Quarter. Rarely at rest, the kinetic energy of Hanoi's motorbike-packed streets spills over into the outdoor markets, Hang Gai silk shops, curbside bún chả /bánh mì vendors, and eclectic nightlife scene.
You can start your walk on the streets of Old Town, visiting markets and street vendors, and then take in some local history and mythology with a stroll around Hoàn Kiếm Lake. At the north end of the lake is an arched red bridge leading to Jade Island and the Temple of the Jade Mountain. This temple was built in the 18th century to honor Tran Hung Dao, a military commander who famously repelled two Mongol invasions.
Nearby, in the center of the lake, is Turtle Tower, a small stone tower built to commemorate the Golden Turtle God, Kim Qui, who, according to Vietnamese myth, reclaimed a magical sword from Emperor Lê Lợi in order to return it to the Dragon King. You should know that it's legends like these around which Vietnam's rich culture is based.
After a brief walk and taking in Hanoi's famous sights, feel free to dine out in Old Town. There's no shortage of incredible eateries in this neighborhood that run the gamut from delicious street food to fine dining to trendy fusion restaurants.
Day 5: Hanoi to Hạ Long Bay
After breakfast, you'll hop in a shuttle bus that will depart Hanoi for the coastal retreat and fishing community of Hạ Long Bay, arriving around noon.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the true natural wonders of the world. In this sweet spot where the land meets the Gulf of Tonkin, over 1,000 karst islets rise above emerald waters. Legend has it that these islands originated as precious jewels that were sprayed into the water by a great dragon who was doing battle with invaders in Hạ Long Bay centuries ago. Mythology aside, you can't deny the otherworldly beauty of the seascape here.
Upon arrival, you'll board a cruiser that will depart from the port for an unforgettable tour of the bay. Not only will you enjoy fresh seafood for lunch and dinner, but you'll overnight aboard the ship as well. This will give you an opportunity to see the sunset over the water.
Day 6: Bus from Hạ Long Bay to Hanoi
Wake up early and enjoy one of Hạ Long Bay's famously beautiful sunrises. After breakfast, the boat will cruise amid the emerald islets on its way back to the harbor. From here you'll hop in a shuttle bus for the 2-3-hour trip back to Hanoi.
Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and will have the remainder of the day free. Perhaps enjoy dinner out in the Old Quarter followed by indulging in a bit of Hanoi's convivial bar scene.
Day 7: Departure from Hanoi
After breakfast at the hotel, you'll transfer to the airport in Hanoi to catch your flight home. This concludes your Vietnam adventure. See you soon!