Discover a slice of Paris in the East in the picturesque town of Dalat. Explore the opulent summer palace of Bo Dai and stop in at the mouth-watering local market.. Trek through the lush forests of the Central Highlands, where homestays in tiny villages give you a rare insight into rural life and ethnic minority cultures.. Enjoy a guided walking tour through the atmospheric streets of Hoi An’s historic Old Town, one of Vietnam’s most charming destinations. Learn the ways and history of the ethnic Co Tu people during an overnight stay in the highland village of Bho Hoong
From hidden highland villages to intricate underground tunnels, there’s more to Vietnam than meets the eye. Join us on an exploration of southern and central Vietnam and uncover a country filled with intrigue, rich culture and an eclectic mix of Eurasian cuisine. Encounter the extraordinary war remnants and tantalising street food of Ho Chi Minh City, the French charisma of Dalat, and the folk history of Buon Ma Thuot. Take a healthy dose of adventure with your history too, with motorbike rides around the Forbidden Purple City of Hue and spelunking through the underground caves in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. With surprises waiting in just about every forest, market and pagoda, this is an adventure you won’t soon forget.
TRIP CHANGES FOR 2018:
Due to flight schedule changes, we will now be staying overnight in Buon Ma Thuot on Day 7 and flying to Danang on Day 8.
Breakfast Included: 17 Lunches Included: 6 Dinner Included: 4
Ho Chi Minh City
Xin chao! Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. Afterwards there will be an optional welcome dinner, a great chance to bond with your fellow travellers.
Ho Chi Minh City
In the morning, visit one of the most important sites in Ho Chi Minh City, the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. These complex tunnels were used by the Viet Cong in the long war against the Americans and were instrumental to the Vietnamese victory. You will be amazed at the ingenuity of these dangerous tunnels. You will also visit a local home in this area. Later, in the afternoon, enjoy a Ho Chi Minh City tour. This stops in at the War Remnants Museum, Cathedral, GPO and Ben Thanh market. Don't miss the chance to try some delicious street food at the market.
Head to Dalat by bus today (approximately 7 hours). Although it's a long travel day, some of the scenery is delightful – take the opportunity to sit back and soak it up. You'll have free time on arrival to spend as you please. Explore this pleasant region and all it has to offer – lakes, palaces, flower gardens, pagodas and churches. You'll soon discover this is one of Vietnam's most beautiful cities.
Embark on a city tour today. This takes you into Bao Dai's Summer Palace, the gorgeous 1930s villa built for the last king of the Vietnam feudal court. Explore its two storeys and some of its 25 rooms, including the impressive bedroom and balcony upstairs. You will also visit the vibrant Dalat Market, whose upper level is a great place to get a cheap and tasty bite of the local food. In the afternoon you will have free time to explore as you please. Perhaps take the train to Trai Mat Village and enjoy its peaceful ambience and fresh air spiked with the smell of pine trees.
Depart Dalat at approximately 1pm and then drive approximately four hours to the starting point of the walk. From here, enjoy an easy 3km (1.9mi) walk to Nam Ka village. The walk should last around one hour. Tonight's accommodation is a traditional long house built on wooden stilts. It's simple yet clean and comfortable. This local homestay is a great opportunity to experience a home cooked meal prepared by your village hosts.
Your long house accommodation is basic as it is traditional style of accommodation elevated on stilts with a traditional step ladder at the entrance. You will be sleeping on foam mattresses on the floor in a communal area. You will also share the long house with our host family, who usually stay at one end of the house. Bedding and mosquito nets are provided. Bathroom facilities are communal, with one squat toilet approximately 20m (65ft) from the long house (this is where a head torch will come in handy), and one communal bucket shower area with cold water only. There is electricity however power sockets are limited. Regardless of the simplicity, the opportunity to stay with a local family, observe village life and visit an area little seen by tourists is more than worthwhile.
Set our on a full day of trekking (approximately 15 kilometres/9 miles). Start with a short walk from the village through rice paddies, then reach a steep 1.5km/1 mile walk uphill before descending down the other side. The path then takes you through rural farmland and bamboo forest. Continue on to Buon Triet Lake, where you'll be picked up by a boat and enjoy a cruise across the lake. Depending on time and weather, there may also be an opportunity to stop for a refreshing swim along the way. Some more walking through the lush valley to reach your homestay. Spend the evening in Jatu Village with friendly M’Nong hosts.
Buon Me Thout
In the morning, travel by bus to Jun Village, where you can walk around and greet the locals. This visit is a nice insight into daily village life in the Central Highlands. After some time to explore the sprawling Lak Lake, board a bus headed to Buon Me Thuot (approximately two hours). Be sure to try the coffee here, as this region grows arguably the best in the country. In the afternoon, visit the quality Ethnographic Museum to learn more about the Dak Lak province, including information about the region's ethnic cultures, war history, and everything in between. The museum displays include stone artefacts, photography, musical instruments and quirky taxidermy.
Transfer to the airport this morning for a flight to Da Nang (approximately 1 hour). From here take a bus to lovely Hoi An. Declared a World Heritage site, the Old Town is beautifully preserved and exudes a tranquil atmosphere. It's perfect for strolling around at a leisurely pace, with many beautiful Japanese houses and Chinese temples lining the narrow lanes. Parts of Hoi An look exactly as they did more than a century ago. The rest of the day is free – if the weather is fine, perhaps hire a bike and head to the nearby beaches, or sign up for a street food tour and try some of famous Hoi An specialties.
Make the most of a free day in Hoi An. Perhaps wander through the town's Central Market and its street stalls, where you'll find everything from paintings to woodwork, ceramics and lanterns. Hoi An is also famous for its talented tailors, who can make beautiful items within only a few hours. Bring your favourite piece of clothing, or even just a picture of what you'd like, and you'll usually be able to collect it the very next day. Alternatively, you might like to visit a local workshop to learn how to make your own rice paper. A Vietnamese cooking class is also a great way to familiarise yourself with some of the age-old culinary techniques (not to mention being able to feast on the fruits of your own labour).
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
Become versed in the colonial history of Hoi An on a walking tour with your trip leader around its Old Town. This is a place oozing with charm and, having largely escaped the destruction of successive wars, its streets and architecture are a delight to explore. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Old Town is packed with buildings of historical and cultural significance and boasts a number of streets that are off-limits to cars. Stroll past the many Chinese Assembly Halls – from the Cantonese Chinese Congregation, with its impressive main altar, to the Hainan Chinese Congregation. Stop by the Japanese Covered Bridge, which was constructed in the 1590s by the town’s Japanese community to link them with the Chinese quarters across the stream.
Bho Hoong Village
Travel by bus to Bho Hoong, a small village located in the Truong Son mountain range that's home to the ethnic Co Tu people (approxiamtely 150km). This village came into existence during the closing stages of the Vietnam War, when the Co Tu, their hill country homelands largely destroyed in the fighting, migrated here from near the Laos border. The Co Tu practice a traditional way of life characterised by small-scale agriculture, weaving, the holding of harvest festivals and building of stilt bungalows. The drive here will include stop-offs at tea plantations. During an evening here you'll be treated to a traditional dance performance and home-cooked dinner.
Following a morning walk around the village, hop back in the bus for the onward drive to Hue (approximately 195 km). Packed with temples, tombs, palaces and pagodas, the former imperial capital of Hue is an eclectic mix of busy streets and peaceful beauty. After lunch you will visit the Imperial Citadel – a sprawling complex of temples, pavilions, moats, gates, and walls. The Ngo Mon Gate, Thai Hoa Palace and the Ancestral Altars are still impressive, and the complex must have been awe-inspiring during its heyday in the 19th century. In your free time you might like to visit to Dong Ba Market, which offers locally made goods, fresh produce and tantalising street food. This is a good place to try the specialties enjoyed by Emperor Nguyen such as the banh khoai royal rice cake.