Lan Ha Bay is a beautiful enclave of green waters and strange rock formations. Explore them by boat and kayak, then spend the night on nearby Cat Ba Island.. Take a walking tour through the Old Town of Hoi An, where the city looks exactly like it did over a century ago.. With all of this exploring, you deserve some time to relax. Spend two days in the beachside haven of Phan Rang – swimming, snorkelling and chilling out is all on the cards.. This trip gives you plenty of free time – perfect for the traveller who appreciates a bit of independence. Food crawl in Hue? Beach hopping in Phan Rang? You decide!
Get a taste of adventure in Vietnam on an 11-day experience bought to you by Lonely Planet and Intrepid. This escapade from north to south takes you from French-influenced Hanoi to heaving Ho Chi Minh City on a journey that balances local guidance with freedom to explore independently. Discover the countryside around Hue by bicycle, kayak between limestone karsts off the coast of Cat Ba Island and chill out in seaside Phan Rang. Let an expert local leader show you around this vivacious nation so you can see the real Vietnam.
Breakfast Included: Lunches Included: 1 Dinner Included:
Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm tonight. If you happen to arrive early, take the day at your own pace and wander the Old Quarter admiring the city’s French-colonial architecture and manicured parks, or simply enjoy some street food. Better yet, consider booking the Hanoi Highlights Urban Adventure with an expert local guide to introduce you to the city and its sites, including the Temple of Literature, the Hoa Lo Prison museum and Hoan Kiem Lake. Head to urbanadventures.com/destination/hanoi-tours for more information.
Cat Ba Island
An early start is necessary to get the most out of your day. Take a 7.30 am bus ride and ferry transfer to the steep karsts and tiny beaches of Cat Ba Island, arriving before midday – you’ll have a quick stop to stretch your legs en route. The largest of all the islands in World Heritage-listed Halong Bay, charming Cat Ba will be your base for exploring the limestone cliffs and turquoise water that define this area. Get acquainted with this stunning spot with an afternoon cruise around the bay, enjoying lunch on the boat while floating past the karsts covered in emerald-green foliage. Later, get closer to the water and explore on a kayak, perhaps stopping at one of Cat Ba’s many beaches for a swim. Stay overnight on Cat Ba Island and enjoy the sunset with a cold beer.
Hanoi – Overnight Train
Wake up in paradise and enjoy some free time lazing on the beach. Maybe go for a swim, kick back with a book or take a stroll along the sand. In the afternoon, head back to Hanoi. Hopefully you’ll have some time to grab dinner with the group before boarding an overnight train for a 12-hour journey to Hue later on. Although conditions are basic, overnight trains are the best way to travel long distances and brush shoulders with the locals. Most trains have a dining carriage which serves simple food, but some travellers like to take some fresh bread, cheese, fruit and other snacks for the journey.
As the former imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue holds the treasures of Vietnam's royal past and is a curious mix of bustling streets and tranquil settings. Packed with historic monuments, Hue is also perfectly located to explore the surrounding countryside, which features stunning scenery, quaint villages and the peaceful Tam Giang Lagoon. The bustling Dong Ba Market offers a plethora of goods and foods to see and sample, and it's a good place to try some of the specialities that graced the Nguyen emperors' banquet tables, such as the banh khoai – a royal rice cake. You have a free day to explore, which you could easily spend exploring Hue’s massive walled citadel and the Forbidden Purple Palace enclosed within. Perhaps jump on board a dragon boat and enjoy a cruise up the Perfume River to visit the Thien Mu pagoda, or cycle out to one of the Royal tombs such as the tomb of Emperor Tu Duc. Otherwise, set off on an optional motorcycle tour of the sights in Hue and some surrounding villages.
Continue on your journey and travel to the World Heritage-listed town of Hoi An, where on arrival, your leader will take you on an orientation walk around town. The city was a major trading port with the west from the 17th century onwards, and has various architectural influences from Europe, China and Vietnam. Today, the city is being restored and looks exactly like it did over a century ago. The rest of the day is free for you to do some optional activities or soak up the ambience of the place. You may like to wander Hoi An Market and the street stalls selling paintings, woodwork, ceramics, lanterns and much more. It’s also famous for its talented tailors who can make beautiful items to order within 24 hours, so be sure to check that out!
Enjoy a free day to further explore Hoi An. Perhaps take a cruise up the Thu Bon River or learn the secrets of cooking delicious Vietnamese dishes. Visit some of the main art galleries or simply wander around the beautifully restored Chinese shop houses. There’s also the option of cycling around the surrounding countryside – a truly relaxing way to get off the beaten track and see rural Vietnam up close. Your leader will be able to suggest activities to help you get the most out of your time.
Hoi An – Overnight Train
Make the most out of another free day in Hoi An. Perhaps do some of the activities you couldn’t fit into your schedule over the past couple of days, or go pick up your fresh threads from the tailors. There’s also Cua Dai Beach nearby – the perfect place to rest up before continuing on your way. This evening, board another overnight train bound for Phan Rang. Remember, it’s always a good idea to have some snacks and a book on hand.
Arrive in Phan Rang early this morning for two days of beachside bliss and relaxation. With arguably the best weather in Vietnam, Phan Rang is a low-key coastal city where swimming, snorkelling and seafood take priority. While you’re here, look out for banh can and banh xeo – egg, squid, shrimp and vegetables cooked into a pancake. Delicious!
Phan Rang – Overnight Train
Take a break with another day in Phan-tastic Phan Rang. You could squeeze the sand between your toes and grab some rays on the beach, or take a quick ride out to Dinh Cape – one of the most picturesque bays and stretches of sand in the area. Otherwise, perhaps ask your leader where you can get a massage to really get your zen on. Keep in mind that there’s your overnight train journey waiting for you this evening, so get outside and enjoy all that Phang Rang has to see, and eat! Tonight’s overnight train journey will take approximately 7 hours and drop you right into bustling Ho Chi Minh City.
Ho Chi Minh City
Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City very early this morning and transfer to your hotel. Today you’ll have plenty of free time to explore Vietnam’s largest city. Ho Chi Minh City has a busy atmosphere and many French influences. In your free time, it’s recommended to visit the Reunification Palace and the War Remnants Museum. There’s also the historic Dong Khoi Street, and the chaotic markets of Ben Thanh and Cholon (Chinatown). Ho Chi Minh City has a different style of cuisine to its northern counterpart Hanoi, so be sure get out for restaurant meals and street food with your travel crew. Your group leader has all the best people in the right places, so they’ll know of some delectable places to eat, for any budget.
Ho Chi Minh City
With no planned activities today, you can depart at any time, provided you comply with the hotel’s internal check-out times. As we don’t spend much time in Ho Chi Minh City on this tour, why not stay a few extra days to make the most of your time here? You could take a day trip to the renowned Cu Chi Tunnels, where you can witness the strategic underground labyrinth that helped the locals during the Vietnam war. Ask your leader for more recommendations or book in on an Urban Adventure. Find out more at urbanadventures.com/destination/ho-chi-minh-city-tours. If you would like to spend more time in Ho Chi Minh City, we’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation (subject to availability).