This ideal introduction to Vietnam takes you on a journey from north to south, contrasting bustling cities rich in culture and history with magnificent landscapes both coastal and rural. You'll begin in Hanoi, where grand colonial buildings share streets packed with thronging markets. Then, a change of pace entirely, as you turn away from the colour and chaos of the capital to find peace and beauty amid the limestone towers of Halong Bay. After a junk ship cruise on its emerald waters, you'll fly south to explore Hoi An's culinary riches and Hue's imperial past before tours of Ho Chi Minh City, the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels and the meandering waterways of the Mekong Delta bring your holiday to a spectacular conclusion.
Day 1: Depart UK
Begin your holiday with included VIP airport lounge access, leaving you relaxed for your overnight flight to Hanoi.
Days 2-3: Hanoi
Arrive into Vietnam's capital where a private transfer will bring you to your chosen hotel, both set amid the faded mansions and tree-lined boulevards of the French Quarter. It's the ideal base for the following day's guided tour, which begins with former leader Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum, calls in at the 1th-century Temple of Literature and ends with the notorious Hỏa Lò Prison prison, known to American POWs as the Hanoi Hilton. Then, in the afternoon, explore further by cyclo as you race through bustling Old Quarter streets lined with busy market stalls to the shores of Hoan Kiem Lake.
Day 4: Halong Bay
Leaving the bustle of the city far behind, a private transfer will take you deep into northern Vietnam's verdant interior, a bucolic patchwork of rice fields dotted with those unmistakable conical hats worn by farmers across the country. After three and a half hours you'll arrive at the shores of the South China Sea to begin what is perhaps Vietnam's most iconic experience - a junk cruise on Halong Bay. Stepping aboard your favoured ship, you can look forward to an afternoon of relaxation and adventure as you strike out through a seascape of towering limestone pillars, hidden grottoes and secluded bays, perhaps stopping to explore remote villages and fish farms or to swim in the emerald blue. And, whichever ship you choose, you can expect first-rate service and dining that perfectly showcases Halong Bay's ocean bounty.
Stay: Halong Violet (Deluxe) or Paradise Peak (Deluxe)
Day 5: Halong Bay to Hoi An
Rise early to see sunrise filtering through the early-morning mist as you continue your journey through the bay; perhaps enjoy Tai Chi class or sip coffee on the sun deck as the day drifts slowly by. Before you disembark, there'll be time for a shore excursion, either to a remote island for hiking or swimming, or to meet the locals at a floating village. Then, after bidding farewell to the crew, you'll return to Hanoi for a flight hop south to Danang and a private transfer to Hoi An, a former trading port on the Thu Bon River's pretty banks.
Days 6-7: Hoi An
After a day at leisure to relax and enjoy the facilities of your chosen hotel, a guided walking tour will introduce you to the unique charms of Hoi An's old town. Packed full of old buildings and narrow, cobbled streets, it's home to all manner of traditional shops selling everything from local crafts to finely tailored silk skirts and suits. You'll also stop by the home of a local craftsman who'll introduce you to intricacies of silk lantern making; there's even the opportunity to make one for yourself, a wonderful momento of your stay.
Day 8: Hue
Food is an important part of life in Vietnam and it's cuisine is one of the most exciting elements of a visit to the country. This morning, you'll have the chance to enhance your culinary skills with a cookery class at Morning Glory Restaurant in Hoi An's old town. Learn to make a selection of the most popular regional dishes before sitting down to enjoy the lunch you've prepared. Then, depart Hoi An for the drive north, over the spectacular Hai Van Pass to Hue.
Day 9: Ho Chi Minh City
Spend a morning in Hue in the company of a local guide, exploring Vietnam's former imperial city with its impressive 14th-century citadel and the Thien Mu Pagoda. In the afternoon, a private transfer will bring you to Hue Airport for a flight south to Ho Chi Minh City. The rest of the day is free, so perhaps head out on a Vespa Tour – one of the best and most authentic ways to explore Vietnam's largest city. Or, why not join a guided night out on the town? You'll experience the best of the city after dark, calling into out-of-the-way bars and tucking into traditional Vietnamese street food. The next day, you'll enjoy a thoroughly absorbing and contrasting view of the city that begins with a stroll through the backstreets of Districts 4 and 7, where you'll find colourful houseboats and the open spaces of Vietnam's 'Garden City'. Then, In the afternoon, explore historic Dong Khoi Street, the former Rue Catinat, Reunification Palace and the War Remnants Museum for a fascinating insight into the Vietnam War.
Stay: Intercontinental Asiana (Deluxe) or Park Hyatt Saigon (Deluxe)
Day 10: Mekong Delta
Depart early for a drive south past rice paddies and fruit farms to Cai Lay, gateway to the Mekong Delta. Here you'll board a traditional wooden junk to explore the Delta's sprawling landscapes and get a taste of life in a region often referred to as the country's 'rice bowl'. You'll then hop on a bicycle for a short ride along narrow village lanes, passing fruit orchards and cottage industries to the home of a local farmer. Take time to explore his orchards before boarding a small sampan boat for a relaxing journey along the Delta's tropical waterways, calling in for lunch at a family home. This evening you'll return to the city, this time checking in to a secluded riverside retreat.
Day 11: Cu Chi Tunnels
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