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Our Discovery of Vietnam trip with the extension to beautiful Sapa.
Your Discovery of Vietnam takes you along the length of the country from Saigon to Hanoi. Starting in the bustling metropolis of Saigon, explore the Cu Chi Tunnels, visit a Wildlife Rescue Centre and journey through the fascinating waterways of the tropical Mekong Delta. Enjoy a break in Vietnam’s beach capital of Nha Trang before heading to the magical merchant town and ancient trading port of Hoi An, with ample time to stroll the charming laneways or relax on Cua Dai beach. Discover the citadel and tombs of Hue, the former royal capital and seat of the Nguyen Dynasty, and visit an ancient village, providing a glimpse into this area’s royal past. Travel to Hanoi with its French colonial architecture and tree lined boulevards, and marvel at the natural beauty of Van Long, the largest wetland reserve of northern Vietnam. Travel to the beautiful mountain valleys of Sapa with their colourful hill tribe minorities, before ending your trip with a two day cruise on the emerald waters of Halong Bay, where thousands of limestone rock sculptures jut dramatically from the sea.
Our Discovery itineraries explore a destination in depth, with carefully selected experiences, and ample free time for relaxation. Like all GetAboutAsia trips, Discovery itineraries can be customised to create your perfect holiday. Discuss itinerary options and extensions with our Asia Travel Experts.
You will meet your guide on arrival, transfer and check-in to your hotel. During the drive your guide will provide an introduction to Saigon, answer any questions you have, and make arrangements for the following day. Enjoy free time for the remainder of the first day.
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in southern Vietnam is a sprawling metropolis of ten million people. Formally renamed Ho Chi Minh City in 1975 at the end of the Vietnam-American war, locals still refer to Saigon. With thousands of motorbikes zipping past luxury cars, French colonial buildings dwarfed by modern skyscrapers and traditionally dressed school girls riding bicycles past trendy city workers, Saigon is an exciting city of contrasts.
Saigon is a city that never sleeps and offers a plethora of great restaurants and bars catering to all tastes, from street food vendors to the rooftop bar at the Rex Hotel, where international correspondents covered the Vietnam War and where the U.S. military attaché’s press briefing was held daily and dubbed the “Five O’clock Follies”. Whatever your interests, be sure to ask your guide for personal recommendations.
Itinerary Option: If you’re arriving to Saigon in the morning, discuss additional day 1 activities with our staff.
Tour Saigon with your guide and learn about the historic landmarks of this historic city. Visit the Notre Dame Cathedral, a red brick building with twin spires based on the original construction from Paris, then head across the square to the Central Post Office designed by the French architect Gustav Eiffel. Next stop is the former Presidential Palace, headquarters to the Saigon Government during the Vietnam-American war. You may also like to visit the War Remnants Museum for a vivid insight into the Vietnam-American war from a Vietnamese perspective.
In the afternoon, enjoy free time to continue your exploration of Saigon.
The Cu Chi Tunnels are an immense network of interconnected tunnels near Saigon that are part of a much larger network lying below much of the country. A guided visit to these tunnels provides a better understanding of their history, the hardship of life underground and the resilience of the Vietnamese during combat.
The tunnels were built and used initially by the Viet Cong guerrillas as hiding spots to protect them from the French air and ground sweeps. They later served as communication routes, storage facilities, hospitals and living quarters for the guerrilla fighters throughout the Vietnam-American war.
You're invited to enter a section of the tunnels to witness the secrets of the tunnels firsthand. Your guide will also show you various mantraps employed from this period, the remains of an American tank and numerous B52 bomb craters. There is also the opportunity to fire an M60, M16 or AK47 rifle at the range next to the tunnel complex.
Optionally visit the Cu Chi Wildlife Rescue Station to understand the risk to wildlife in this area of the world and what this non-government organisation is doing to assist. The Animal Rescue Station is operated by Wildlife at Risk (WAR) which is dedicated to protecting the biodiversity of Vietnam by combating illegal wildlife trade, raising environmental awareness and by promoting the conservation of endangered species and their habitats. The Rescue Centre located near to the Cu Chi Tunnels rescues wild animals and returns them to their natural environment.
In the afternoon, return to Saigon and enjoy free time to continue your exploration of the city.
Skyscrapers are replaced by rice paddies and fruit farms as you travel by road into the Mekong Delta, the rice bowl of Vietnam. Witness daily life in the stilt houses and fish farms that you pass as your driver navigates the maze of canals in the traditional wooden motorboat.
Experience the vibrant energy of the floating markets where vendors trade their produce between the floating boats in a uniquely Mekong Delta fashion. Sample freshly picked exotic fruits from a small island orchard as the farmer before lunch served in a traditional Mandarin house where four generations of one family live. Walk back or be rowed in a sampan to your motorboat to return to the pier before travelling by road back to Saigon.
Depart Saigon for the beaches of Nha Trang.
Meet your guide in the airport on arrival. During the drive to Nha Trang your guide will provide an introduction to the area, answer any questions you have, and make arrangements for the following day. Enjoy free time for the remainder of the first day.
Nha Trang is located in central Vietnam and overlooks 7 kilometres of sandy beaches. The clear blue seas dotted with offshore islands provide the opportunity for diving and snorkelling, while the town itself offers interesting sightseeing, with a massive white Buddha statue and a cluster of Cham towers built between the 7th and 12th centuries. Popular with visitors are the mineral mud baths warmed by natural hot springs.
Nha Trang is relatively small and easy to find your way around and your guide can point you in the right direction regarding restaurants, bars and beach activities. If in doubt and you’re looking for a western style experience, head down to the classy Sailing Club restaurant, bar and nightclub on the beach. Run by an Australian, it’s a favourite among visitors.
Spend your time in Nha Trang with a balance of activities and free time to relax on the beach or by your hotel pool. For those that require additional action and a surge of adrenalin, activities like jet skiing and parasailing are available on the beach.
Today’s highlight is a cruise to tropical Mun Island, a protected marine area in the bay of Nha Trang. The island is also known as Ebony Island due to the black rock cliffs in the south eastern part. Every year swallows flock to the area to build their nests in the black stone caves found in the cliffs. Relax on the island or snorkel and explore the coral reef where you will be able to see some of the 350 species of sea life biodiversity that Vietnam has to offer. Cruise to an island restaurant for lunch passing fishing villages along the way, before returning to Nha Trang for an afternoon of free time.
Mid morning enjoy a meandering bike ride along the coast to Thap Ba Hot Springs. Treat your skin to a therapeutic mud bath followed by a swim in the mineral rich hot thermal springs. On your ride back to town, visit the Cham Po Nagar Temples built between the 7th and 12th centuries, before returning to your hotel.
Later in the afternoon accompany your local chef to the colourful central market and help select the fresh vegetables, spices and other ingredients for your shared group cooking class. Arriving at the award winning Lantern Restaurant, roll up your sleeves and learn how to prepare typical Vietnamese dishes including fresh spring rolls and fish or meat cooked in clay pots. Complete the session by dining on your finished dishes.
Fly to Hoi An where you will meet your new guide on arrival at the airport. First stop is the Marble Mountains, a cluster of five limestone and marble peaks that rise dramatically from the surrounding flat land. The local Vietnamese believe that the five peaks represent the five elements of fire, water, earth, wood and metal. Previously celebrated in the religion of the Cham people, the mountains were later used by the Viet Cong in the Vietnam-American war to monitor the US air base at Danang.
The mountains contain many caves and tunnels. Climb the cut stone steps or take the elevator up to the top of one of the peaks, and explore the caves, temples and pagodas. There are panoramic views of Danang and the coast from the many lookout points.
Continue on to the beautiful old merchant town of Hoi An. Built on the site of an ancient Cham village, Hoi An was a prosperous port from the 16th to 19th centuries trading with merchants from China, Japan, India, Indonesia and Europe who came to buy silk, spices and porcelain. Hoi An’s UNESCO World Heritage Old Quarter is beautifully preserved with ornate pagodas, antique trading houses and old tile-roofed shops. It is a rich architectural fusion of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and European styles. Many of the historic buildings lining the canals and pedestrian streets have been converted into art galleries, boutique restaurants, bars and cafes. Hoi An is surrounded by attractive countryside with traditional farming and fishing, and by sandy beaches with modern seaside resorts.
Experience the charm of Hoi An on a walking tour with your guide. Wander along the narrow lanes and gain an insight into Hoi An’s illustrious past as you explore this heritage listed town. Take in the old merchant houses with influences from Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese architecture. See the 400 year old Japanese Bridge, a unique covered structure built by the Japanese, and the only known covered bridge with a Buddhist pagoda attached to the side. Visit the Assembly Hall of the Chaozhou Chinese Congregation with its outstanding wood carvings and explore the colourful market with stalls brimming with local specialties including silk which can be turned into fashionable garments within one or two days.
Enjoy free time for the remainder of the day. There is plenty to see and do in Hoi An, but many visitors find themselves relaxing by the beach, browsing the markets and boutique shops, or visiting one of the many tailors in town.
Enjoy free time today to relax or further explore Hoi An.
GetAboutAsia Favourite: Our customers rave about Hoi An, so check out our suggestions on personalising your trip to get the most out of your visit.
After breakfast join your guide for a cycling tour around Hoi An. Set off along the Thu Bon River where you will be able to photograph the fishing boats and the small riverside houses. Continue cycling through Thuan Tinh Ecological Village where you will see betel nuts growing, family shrines and the villagers going about their daily lives. Pedal along quiet inland trails, past palm trees, fishing farms and rice paddies to Cua Dia Beach and Cam An fishing village with its picturesque ocean views, kumquat gardens and corn fields.
As you head back to Hoi An there is the opportunity to stop at Tra Que village where the farmers cultivate herbs and vegetables. Learn about the traditional farming methods and maybe help out with watering the plants or even fertilising the land.
Enjoy free time for your afternoon in Hoi An.
Itinerary Option: Some customers prefer to switch the cycling activity with something more suited to their interests.
This morning accompany your guide to the 500 year old village of Phuoc Tich near Hue. Here there are a number of impressive garden houses, each house being connected to the history of a traditional Hue family and containing ceramic antiques and heirlooms dating back many centuries. Explore the village and visit a typical Hue style traditional wooden house with its spacious garden influenced by Feng-shui. Chat with the family to gain an insight into and understanding of what life was like back in the heyday of the village. Phuoc Tich was also renowned as a famous pottery village and there are still some families who undertake this craft today.
This afternoon you are driven to the ancient royal capital of Hue where you will spend the next two nights.
Hue served as an imperial capital to the Nguyen Lords, a feudal dynasty which reigned from the 17th to the 19th century. Despite heavy bombing during the Vietnam-American war, many historic monuments from this period remain, and even though Imperial rule ended more than six decades ago, Hue still bears the marks of its royal past. The city retains its royal charm with its emperors’ tombs, ancient pagodas and the remains of the Citadel
A short cyclo ride takes you to the towering main gate of the UNESCO World Heritage Imperial Citadel. As you explore the grounds your guide will talk through the history of Hue, and you will be able to wander amongst the beautiful and ornate red lacquered pavilions of the Citadel, gaining an insight into the luxurious and secretive world of the court.
Next stop is Thien Mu pagoda, Hue’s best-preserved religious monument, which stands on the riverbank with its impressive seven storey tower.
The afternoon includes visits to Khai Dinh and Tu Duc Royal Tombs, and there is also the opportunity to visit an incense stick making house.
Visit Ming Mang Royal Tomb near Hue before transferring to the airport for your flight to Hanoi.
Minh Mang was the second Nguyen Emperor whose interest in architecture brought major new construction to the Imperial City of Hue. His tomb is set in a large garden on the west bank of the Perfume River, with lakes and pavilions built in the old Chinese traditional style.
You will meet your guide on arrival in Hanoi. During the drive your guide will provide an introduction to Hanoi, answer any questions you have, and make arrangements for the following day. Enjoy free time for the remainder of the first day.
Hanoi is Vietnam’s capital city and home to seven million people. Traditional and refined, with French colonial architecture, tree-lined boulevards, scenic lakes and a bustling Old Quarter, Hanoi has a sophisticated charm. Observe elderly people practicing Tai Chi by the lake, with barbers and food vendors plying their sidewalk trade.
Hanoi has many great restaurants with French, Vietnamese and international cuisines available. Ask your guide for personal recommendations.
Situated in Ninh Binh province is the ancient capital of Hoa Lu. This was the first centralised feudal state in Vietnam at the end of the 10th century. The temples of King Dinh and King Le still stand to this day amongst the rice paddies, and offer a fascinating glimpse into Vietnam’s ancient past.
Continue with your guide to Van Long Nature Reserve, known as Halong Bay on land, the largest wetland reserve of northern Vietnam and an area of astounding natural beauty. Marvel at ancient pagodas clinging to the rock formations as you meander by boat along the river, passing under rocky outcrops and through limestone caves. Look out for the rare Delacour’s Langur and Bonelli’s eagle which breeds in this region.
Return to Hanoi in the late afternoon.
Accompanied by your guide, the day starts with a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, an imposing monument lavishly built using marble and granite, where the preserved body of “Uncle Ho” resides. See the lotus shaped One Pillar Pagoda which rests on a single stone pillar emerging from the water, and then explore the Temple of Literature, the first University for the sons of mandarins, to gain an overview of Hanoi culture and ancient Vietnamese architecture.
In the afternoon, visit the Museum of Ethnology offering a fascinating insight into Vietnam’s 54 ethnic minority groups. Enjoy a walking tour through the bustling Old Quarter before ending the day with a show at the water puppet theatre – a uniquely northern Vietnamese art form depicting scenes of rural life and episodes of national history.
Your guide will assist you with checking in to your overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai, for your trip to Sapa.
Arriving early, you meet your guide and visit a nearby hotel for a quick refresh and breakfast.
The former French hill station of Sapa is characterised by rocky mountain ridges, terraced rice paddies and lush green valleys. Sapa is located in the picturesque Hoang Lien Son mountain range on the border with China. Colourful hill tribe minorities inhabit the surrounding mountains, each with their own distinctive style of dress. From early childhood, girls learn to grow and weave hemp, dye cloth, and decorate the families clothing with traditional embroidery motifs.
Visit a colourful market where the many different ethnic groups such as Flower H'mong, Phu La, Black Dao, Tay and Nung minorities gather to buy and sell local products that cannot be found elsewhere. Explore a remote village market where ethnic people sell homemade wares and produce such as embroidery, tobacco, rice wine, chickens, pigs, horses and buffaloes. Observe locals haggling, catching up with friends, and going about their business.
At another hill tribe village, take an optional water buffalo cart ride and later enjoy a peaceful trip on a local boat down the Chay river with more stunning scenery.
Spend the day touring and light trekking the beautiful mountain countryside. Take your time to photograph one of the world’s most breathtaking farmland vistas with its terraced valleys that employ traditional agricultural methods.
Trekking through the Muong Hoa valley, marvel at ancient engineering techniques employed by the local farmers as they control water flow through the rice paddy terraces on the steep mountain slopes. See the different costumes of the Zay minority and Red Dao people as you trek through Giang Ta Chai village.
Say goodbye to your guide as you depart on the overnight train back to Hanoi.
Arriving early, you will meet your guide and have the opportunity to freshen up and have breakfast.
Travel to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay and board your deluxe junk for your overnight cruise. Marvel at the dramatic vista and relax onboard, as you sail amongst the thousands of limestone islands that rise from the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. Rock sculptures jut dramatically from the sea and the numerous caves and grottoes have created an enchanting, timeless world.
Set sail through Bai Tu Long Bay whilst a seafood lunch is served, then sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery as you cruise past various islands en route to Cua Van fishing village. Explore the floating village by bamboo rowing boat. Visit Tien Ong Cave before returning to the junk for sunset cocktails and canapés, followed by dinner served on the deck or in the restaurant.
Why not begin the day with a Tai Chi class on the top deck? Or just admire the beautiful scenery as the sun rises over the azure waters. Choose between an excursion to a secluded island with a sandy beach for a morning swim, or join the chef for a cooking demonstration to learn more about Vietnamese cuisine. Enjoy a buffet brunch as your junk cruises Halong Bay, passing islets and caves as you make your way back to the dock.
You have the option to visit a pottery workshop on the trip back to Hanoi before you your departure transfer and onwards flight.
Phone now to discuss options to personalise your itinerary.
Ideas to upgrade or extend your itinerary:
Note that the schedule above refers to the Image Legend Cruise, Victory Cruise & Paradise Luxury Cruise. All our GetAboutAsia cruise itineraries adhere to the highest standards of safety whilst providing our guests with an outstanding level of comfort and quality.
Image Legend Cruise, Victory Cruise & Paradise Cruise Photos
All Get About Asia trips have been designed to make sure you have an unforgettable travel experience. We have developed several trip styles to cater for our diverse range of travellers. Read what your ideal Get About Asia experience might look like here.
|Standard:||from AU $3,943|
|Superior:||from AU $4,730|
|Deluxe:||from AU $5,602|
All GetAboutAsia prices are based on twin share and depend on availability and season. All our itineraries can be customised including international flights and extra nights. For questions or further information, Enquire Now!
Hotels, Halong Bay Junk or overnight train each night of the itinerary (excluding your departure day). All GetAboutAsia accommodation is handpicked by us. Upgrades are available for this itinerary.
This trip package includes 2 internal flights (Nha Trang - Hoi An and Hue - Hanoi) which retail at about 200AUD per flight.
Visa for Vietnam
When obtaining your visa you should allow 2-3 weeks for processing, the cost is approximately US$60 to US$100. Check with your embassy or consulate for further details. The Vietnamese Embassy in Edgecliff, Sydney has been known to issue a visa in 4 working days if all the correct documents are submitted at the time of application.
Availability of accommodation and season.
|Physical:||Medium (light hiking)|
"The highlands of North Vietnam are a fascinating experience of many ethnic tribal groups living, dressing and speaking in their unique old ways. Apparently very cold in the winter, we found that June was a good time to be there with fewer visitors and a comfortable but humid climate. You need a reliable car and good driver to access the right places." — Mr and Mrs Clark, Bribie Island QLD, June 2016
"I would like to say huge THANK YOU to you and your organisation for my trip to Cambodia and the tours arranged during Vietnam. It has been quiet the adventure. All guides where punctual and well informed and each tour was amazing. One of our favourite guides was in Sapa. I will be happy to recommend Get About Asia to all my friends and relatives." — Natalie and party, Willamsdale NSW, March 2016
"My Sapa trip was great! The guides spoke clear English and were very friendly, informative and nothing was too difficult. I learnt so much, even about their families. They certainly tried to accommodate and were attentive to needs. I would definitely recommend GetAboutAsia." — Kylie, Australian working in Cambodia, April, 2015