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Our Highlights of Vietnam itinerary with the options and extensions often chosen by customers with a taste for adventure. If this sounds like you, then this is the perfect itinerary for your trip to Vietnam.
Your action packed trip starts in the bustling metropolis of Saigon, where you’ll visit the Cu Chi Tunnels and see the sights and tastes of the city the fast way - via speedboat and Vespa! Explore the fascinating waterways of the tropical Mekong Delta by boat, bicycle and on foot. Learn some new skills the fun way in the magical merchant town and ancient trading port of Hoi An. Discover the citadel and tombs of Hue, the former royal capital and seat of the Nguyen Dynasty, by cyclo, bicycle, kayak and on elephant back. Next stop Hanoi with its French colonial architecture and tree lined boulevards, before taking the overnight train to Sapa where you travel by car, bike, boat and trek through the beautiful mountain valleys with their colourful hill tribe minorities. End your trip with a cruise on the emerald waters of Halong Bay, where thousands of limestone rock sculptures jut dramatically from the sea.
Our Highlight itineraries cover the key attractions at a relatively quick pace. Enjoy them as they are or extend them 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.
Transfer to the jetty to board your shared boat for the trip along the Saigon river to the Cu Chi Tunnels. Leave behind the glittering skyscrapers and busy commercial centres as you travel past orchards, rice paddies and stilt houses dotted along the riverside.
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. If time permits, there may be the opportunity to fire an M60, M16 or AK47 rifle at the range next to the tunnel complex.
Returning to Saigon, jump on the back of your guide’s vintage Vespa scooter to see the city’s attractions and historic landmarks the insider’s way. This whirlwind tour cruises past the Opera House, past Notre Dame Cathedral based on the original construction from Paris and past the Central Post Office designed by the French architect Gustav. Then head to China Town to visit Francis Xavier Church and the Thien Hau Pagoda.
Skyscrapers are replaced by rice paddies and fruit farms as you travel by road into the Mekong Delta, the rice bowl of Vietnam. On arrival in Cai Lay, board a traditional wooden boat and cruise through the maze of canals lined with stilt houses and fish farms, in amongst boats of every size, witnessing daily life in the Mekong Delta. With your guide, hop off the boat and onto a bicycle for a short 7km ride over easy, level terrain, along narrow lanes, past fruit orchards and local cottage industries. Locals will often greet you with “xin chao” (hello) as you pedal past. Visit a tropical fruit farmer, explore his orchard and taste some of the produce.
Relax as you are paddled in a small sampan boat slowly along the canals and tributaries. Disembark and walk through a Mekong village to a local home for a home-hosted lunch of local specialities. After lunch explore a local village with your guide before being driving to you hotel in Can Tho where your guide will take you on a short orientation tour of the riverside and local markets. Spend the night in Can Tho.
Rising early you board your boat and head out to the floating markets where you witness boats of every size plying their trade. Cruising in close to the excitement you can watch as traders and farmers buy and sell fruit, vegetables and other produce between their boats.
Later, visit a fish farm and learn how Vietnam produces an abundance of fish in the Mekong Delta that's shipped all around the world. In the afternoon, travel back to Saigon and check in to your hotel.
In the early evening head off with your guide on the back of a vintage Vespa scooter for your street food tour and discover what the thriving metropolis of Saigon has to offer. Enjoy food and drinks at Saigon's best authentic street food stalls. Set off with your driver to District 4 to taste various dishes including snail which is extremely popular in Saigon. Then return to District 3 to sample a southern Vietnamese specialty - Banh Xeo (rice pancake with pork and prawns). Finally, head to a local coffee shop and enjoy a Vietnamese coffee the local way.
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 afternoon. 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.
In the evening head off to Hai Café, located in the heart of old Hoi An, and sister restaurant to the famous Red Bridge.
Visit a local fishing village and learn about the lives of fishermen in this area. Stroll through the village and board a local river boat to start your trip down the Cua Dai River. Learn how to cast the Vietnamese fishing nets with help from the fisherman with their years of experience. Then learn how to paddle the small round basket boats and travel through the tranquil waterways. Your guide will talk through the Vietnam-American war history of this area and how these waterways were a hot bed of activity.
Back on the river boat enjoy a cool drink as you head back up river to Hoi An.
Itinerary Option: If swimming is more your thing, consider upgrading to a speedboat trip to Cham Island, famous for marine life and beautiful beaches (Not advised from October to March).
This morning accompany your guide to Hue where you'll tour the area and 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.
Enjoy a short royal elephant ride at the Imperial Citadel.
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.
Later in the afternoon you check in to your hotel in Hue where you'll spend the next two nights.
This morning head off on a half day cycling trip with your guide. A short drive takes you to Thuy Bieu village, located near to the perfume River, and one of the oldest and most unique villages in Hue. Take a bicycle trip, passing family temples, orchard gardens and paddy or corn fields before visiting a local home where the family members have been making incense sticks for generations. Engage in conversation with them to get a glimpse of their everyday daily lives and their effort to keep the traditional craft alive.
Continue your cycling trip to Voi Re Temple and the ancient Tiger arena where your guide will explain how the Emperors of the Nguyen dynasty were entertained, before returning to Hue.
Visit Minh 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 new 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.
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.
The day starts with a predominately downhill mountain bike ride from Sapa through the stunning Muong Hoa valley and onto Lao Chai and Ta Van villages, home to the Hmong and Dzay people, respectively. Visit a local house of the friendly Tay hill tribe for lunch before trekking past Ban Ho village to a nearby waterfall for a refreshing swim. Your support vehicle will return you to Sapa in the afternoon. The total cycling distance is approximately 25 kilometres (15 miles) with 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) of trekking.
Itinerary Option: The cycling day trip can be changed to a more rigorous cycling and trekking trip for the adventurous, or changed to a hike for non-bikers.
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.
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. On return from Halong Bay you are transferred to the airport for your onward flight.
Phone now to discuss options to personalise your itinerary.
Ideas to upgrade or extend your itinerary:
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 $2,575|
|Superior:||from AU $2,906|
|Deluxe:||from AU $3,483|
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 or overnight train for 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 flight (Saigon - 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.
"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
"Sapa and Hoi An were our favourites. These were much quieter places and gave us more opportunity to meet locals and spend time with them. Everything was as we expected and went to plan." — Kym Badyk & Anthony McGuire, Gladstone, QLD, December 2013