After spending time admiring Hoi An’s World Heritage-listed ancient town, hop on a bike and pedal beside rice fields and through small villages on a guided bicycle tour of the surrounding countryside.. Spend two days on Cat Ba Island relaxing on tiny beaches, hiking through verdant jungle and kayaking around karst-studded Lan Ha Bay. It’s just like Halong, but with fewer tourists!. Cruise around the backwater canals of the Mekong Delta – the ‘rice bowl’ of Vietnam – and discover rural life and local interactions along the shores with your small group.. Explore the 36 streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, as well as the Dong Xuan Market and Hoan Kiem Lake, taking in the unique mixture of French Colonial and Buddhist architecture.
Trace Vietnam’s eastern coastline on this 15-day Lonely Planet Experience, tackling the country from south to north and discovering the many wonders that lie along the way. From the modern chaos of Ho Chi Minh City all the way up to old-world Hanoi, you’ll experience tumultuous history, colonial charm, vibrant colours, delicious food and inspiring scenery on your adventure. Take a boat cruise along the Mekong Delta, tour the backstreets of Hoi An with a local, enjoy a rural homestay in Da Bac and explore the beautiful karsts of Lan Ha Bay.
Breakfast Included: 2 Lunches Included: 4 Dinner Included: 2
Ho Chi Minh City
Xin chao! Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm today. As you won’t be spending much time in Ho Chi Minh City, we recommend arriving a few days early to see more of this fascinating city. See the ancient pagodas and cathedrals near the former Presidential Palace, historic Dong Khoi Street, and the chaotic markets of Ben Thanh and Cholon (Chinatown). Better yet, consider taking a day trip such as Urban Adventure’s Cu Chi Experience. See urbanadventures.com/destination/ho-chi-minh-city-tours for more information on the range of Ho Chi Minh City day tours.
This morning, head away from the city and make your way to the province of Ben Tre, where you’ll get on a boat to tour the canals of the Mekong Delta. This fertile area is famous for its abundance of fruit, flower and rice crops, and is known as the ‘rice bowl’ of Vietnam. During your boat ride you’ll visit some cottage industries along the river before heading to your guesthouse. Staying in simple local accommodation close to the delta, hosted by a Vietnamese family, will be one of the highlights of your trip, giving you a taste of community life as well as the chance to enjoy a traditional home-cooked meal.
Mekong Delta – Ho Chi Minh City – Overnight Train
Rise early to the sounds of the river coming alive, and enjoy a simple breakfast before boarding the boat back down the delta and catching a bus back to Ho Chi Minh City. Enjoy some free time in Ho Chi Minh City this afternoon, perhaps with a visit to the War Remnants Museum or Reunification Palace. If you haven’t already, head to Ben Thanh Market for some delicious street food, colourful shopping and even more colourful characters. This evening, board an overnight train bound for Danang. Trains are a common form of transport for the Vietnamese, so sit back and relax into this local experience.
Arrive in Danang by train and travel by minibus for approximately 1 hour to Hoi An. Hoi An was recently declared a World Heritage town and is being beautifully restored. It was a major trading port with the West from the 17th century. Today, parts of Hoi An look exactly as they did more than a century ago. Your leader will take you on a sightseeing walk through the Old Town and visit some of the city's major attractions. A sightseeing pass is included in your tour so you can visit a selection of the major sights. Hoi An is also a shopping mecca, so head down to the markets and street stalls to browse paintings, woodwork, ceramics and lanterns. It’s also famous for its tailors who can make beautiful items to order, and with almost three full days here you have the chance to have some unique pieces whipped up.
Wake up for a free morning to do as you please. It’s a great opportunity to take a trip out to the My Son temples – a World Heritage-listed site constructed between the 4th and 14th centuries that reflects the rich cultural traditions of the Cham civilisation. In the afternoon, swap walking for cycling with a bike ride through the countryside near Hoi An. There's no better way to explore the peaceful area than on two wheels. You’ll see places few tourists get the chance to see among the green rice paddies and small creeks, which will give you a true insight into rural life in Vietnam.
You’ve got another day to explore this historic haven. Perhaps book in your final tailoring fitting this morning to make sure the threads you’re getting made fit like a glove, or hire a bike for a lazy ride out to the South China Sea to relax on An Bang or Cua Dai beach. Hoi An is also known for its great food, so you could book yourself in for a cooking class to take some culinary secrets away with you. Most tours include a trip to the local food markets, and some take you on a short boat journey along the Thu Bon River. Let your local leader know what you're into and they will be able to recommend some activities to suit.
Bid farewell to Hoi An this morning and make your way to Hue. The drive in a private vehicle will take around 5 hours. You’ll be travelling on the incredible Hai Van Pass, through lush mountains and past scenic lookouts, and there’ll be some good places for a photo stop. Once in Hue, you’ll have a free afternoon to explore. Hue was once Vietnam’s imperial capital and has a curious mix of bustling streets and tranquil enclaves. Perhaps visit the Dong Ba Market, which sells everything imaginable and is a great place to spend some time. It’s important to know that Hue is renowned for its cuisine, with some delicious dishes originating from this region, including bun bo hue (Hue’s delicious take on pho), and banh khoai (a filled turmeric crepe). Time to give your tastebuds a workout.
Hue – Overnight Train
Enjoy a free day in Hue. Perhaps visit the Imperial Citadel which includes the Forbidden Purple City that was almost totally destroyed during the Vietnam War. The gaping holes left by bombs give you an idea of how much destruction occurred in this country. Another optional activity is a dragon boat cruise along the Perfume River and then a visit to Thien Mu Pagoda – the unofficial symbol of Hue. Here you’ll see an active Buddhist monastery dating back to 1601 and a car belonging to the monk who tragically set himself alight in public to protest against the treatment of Buddhists. You may also like to visit one of the royal tombs, that of Emperor Tu Duc, with its central lake set amid a grove of frangipani and pine trees. This evening, take another overnight train bound for Hanoi. The journey will take approximately 12 hours.
Arrive in Hanoi at about 5 am and transfer to your hotel. Once you’ve dropped off your bags and freshened up, embark on a walking tour of Vietnam’s charming capital. Explore the 36 streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter – locally known as this because of each street originally selling a specific type of product. Continue on to the Dong Xuan Market and Hoan Kiem Lake, making sure you check out the unique architecture along the way. Hanoi has a French provincial feel left over from colonial times, but it also has a Buddhist influence and striking modern buildings. The rest of the day is yours to explore Hanoi as you please. In the evening, why not get your group together and head out to a bustling night market for some local fare. Sitting on plastic stools and eating on the roadside is a rite of passage in Vietnam.
Leave Hanoi after breakfast around 8 am and make the drive to Sung Village (approximately 4 hours). There are around 70 families living at Sung Village and the majority are Dzao ‘Tien’ people. Farming and forest plantations are their main source of income. Enjoy lunch at your homestay then take an introductory walk around the village. After getting to know the village better, take a short trek (approximately two kilometres) to the alluring Sung Cave and visit a 100-year-old tea plantation. The trek has some steep and slippery sections so make sure you’ve packed suitable footwear for this activity. After a local handicraft workshop, return to your homestay accommodation for a nice hot shower and a delicious dinner.
This morning, take the opportunity to encounter more of the Vietnamese highlands on a ten-kilometre (6.2 mi) trek from Sung Village to Da Bia. The first eight kilometres of the trek is on mostly flat ground along well-worn buffalo tracks. The final two kilometres gradually incline and for a period of approximately 300 metres there are some steps to climb, but the walk will be at a steady and relaxed pace. Keep an eye out for the monumental stone at the peak of Da Bia Mountain during the hike while you walk through local villages, meeting people from the ethnic Muong tribe. Stop for lunch at Da Bia before enjoying a scenic 1.5-hour boat cruise on Hoa Binh hydropower reservoir. Arrive at Thung Nai then board a bus transfer to Hanoi (approximately 2 hours), arriving at around 6 pm. This evening is free for you to explore this delightful city. Why not relax with a bia hoi (freshly brewed draught beer) at one of the microbars in the Old Quarter?
Cat Ba Island
Get up early for the 7.30 am bus, stop for a quick break, then jump on the ferry. This morning of travel will deliver you to beautiful Cat Ba Island before midday. There's no time to waste, so begin exploring the stunning waters of Lan Ha Bay around Cat Ba. Located in the greater Halong Bay area, Lan Ha Bay is one of Vietnam’s most scenic places, where limestone islands and caves rise from the emerald waters. You’ll have a free afternoon to explore at your own pace, so perhaps get active on a hike, or just enjoy a dip at one of the beaches. Have a relaxing evening on Cat Ba Island.