All senses will be engaged on this active exploration of the natural and cultural treasures of Vietnam.
Vietnam Trip Overview
Our exploration of one of Southeast Asia's most interesting countries begins in the southern capital of Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, where we explore poignant war sites such as the Cu Chi Tunnels. In the following days, you'll discover sacred caves, relax aboard longboats on scenic rivers, cruise Ha Long Bay in a traditional junk, immerse yourself in historic towns, and peruse evening markets with your expert local guide. Our journey ends with Hanoi, long called the “Paris of the Orient.”
Vietnam Tour Itinerary At a Glance
Days 1-2: Explore the former city of Saigon, from the Chinese quarter of Cholon, to the Reunification Palace and Cu Chi Tunnels. We'll discover that this city and its surroundings have many stories - both ancient and modern - to tell. Enjoy Vietnamese specialties and learning about the incredible variety of dishes, flavors, and spices.
Days 3-4: Hué. Explore the life and times of Vietnam's greatest Emporer, Tu Duc. Visit the Citadel, Imperial Palace, and Forbidden Purple City. Enjoy a sunset boat ride on the Perfume River.
Day 7: Early morning flight to Hanoi. Tour historic and cultural sites of Hanoi including Ho Chi Minh’s house, the One Pillar Pagoda, Temple of Literature, and the city’s Old Quarter. Dine at renowned restuarants featuring a fusion of Asian and colonial influences.
Day 8: Driving transfer to Ha Long Bay (an optional, scenic seaplane transfer can be arranged at additional expense, subject to availability). Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ha Long Bay while on an overnight cruise on a luxury traditional junk.
Day 9: Morning cruise in Halong Bay; Disembark cruise mid-day and transfer to Hanoi. Enjoy a farewell dinner in Hanoi on final night of the tour.
Days 10: You may depart from Hanoi at your leisure during the morning.
The Boundless Journeys Advantage:
- A passion for travel. Simply put, we love to travel, and that is woven into every one of our journeys.
- Unique, award-winning itineraries. Our flexible, hand-crafted journeys have received accolades from the world’s most revered travel publications.
- Insider connections. There is simply no substitute for traveling with a knowledgeable insider.
- Small groups. We tread softly, and our average group size is just 6-8 guests.
- Flexibility to suit your travel style. We offer both small-group departures and Private Collection trips, so that you can choose which works best for you.
- Customer service that goes the extra mile. There is no request that is too big – or too small – for our staff to handle.
- Sustainability. We are committed to traveling responsibly – striving to preserve traditions and cultures around the world, and to protect fragile natural habitats.
Our tours often fill months in advance, and our maximum group size is smaller than most tour operators. It's very quick and easy to reserve a trip. Give us a call at 800-941-8010 or complete the online Reserve a Trip form. We will confirm your reservation with a $500 per person deposit, payable by check or credit card.
Trip Rating (1 Easiest - 5 Most Strenuous)
Traveling To and From
Most Convenient Airport for Arrival:
Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (airport code SGN)
Meeting Time and Place:
Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by 12 p.m. on Day 1 of the tour.
Most Convenient Airport for Departure:
Noi Bai International Aiport, Hanoi, Vietnam (airport code HAN)
Departure Time and Place:
Day 10, at your leisure. Airport transfers will be provided.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Boundless Journeys’ trips are designed for energetic and flexible individuals who like to be active and have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. Cultural Explorer is rated 1+, easy with some moderate options on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being the most strenuous). The walks on this trip are day walks with some vehicle support. Much of the walking will be flat terrain, in and around villages, towns and temples, 4-6 hours per day, broken up by rest and meals.
Preparing for this Trip
It is very important that you realistically assess your physical condition with regard to the demands of this trip. The more well-prepared you are for the activities on this trip, the more you will enjoy yourself! Please engage in moderate aerobic activities (walking, jogging, cycling) for at least 30-45 minutes several times a week for 4-6 weeks before the trip. If you live in a flat area, try to incorporate some stairs into your workout, or use a treadmill with varying incline capability. Consult your doctor before undertaking any new fitness program.
During our trip, you will likely experience a range of weather conditions, as various locations fall within different climate zones. While Hanoi will be relatively cool, Ho Chi Minh City will be warmer. The range of temperatures you might expect to encounter is listed here:
October: 84°F - 71°F
November: 76°F - 66°F
December: 71°F - 59°F
January: 68°F - 55°F
February: 67°F - 60°F
March: 73°F - 63°F
Ho Chi Minh City:
October: 87°F - 76°F
November: 87°F - 74°F
December: 87°F - 72°F
January: 88°F - 72°F
February: 90°F - 73°F
March: 92°F - 76°F
You can obtain more detailed weather information at www.weatherbase.com.
When to Go
The cooler dry season lasts from October to March. In October and November, arriving just after the rainy season, you’ll have the benefit of being there for the newly greened trees and rice paddies, as well as the much clearer air quality that can be expected at this time of year. December through March remain much drier and a bit cooler than during the summer months. However, it is possible to have some rain at any time of year.
Vietnam Tour Accommodations
Overview: Deluxe, first-class hotels, ideally located, and a deluxe Ha Long Bay junk (a traditionally rigged Asian sailing vessel). All with private baths and many amenities.
Night 1: Rex Hotel
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Strategically located in old downtown Saigon, Rex is a luxury heritage hotel dating to early 20th century when it originally opened as a French garage. For over 80 years, the Rex has been a landmark, as well as a witness the ups and downs of the city’s history.
Nights 2 & 3: La Residence Resort and Spa
La Résidence Hôtel and Spa in Hué, Vietnam is an enchanting boutique hotel on the banks of the Perfume River, overlooking the former Imperial Citadel.
Nights 4, 5 & 6: Anantara Resort
Hoi An Town, Vietnam
Located in the French colonial quarter of Hoi An, this tranquil property has landscaped gardens and is situated on the riverbank, just a few minutes walk from the center of town. All rooms have a bedroom, living area and private porch.
Night 8: Jasmine Luxury Cruiser
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
This traditionally rigged Asian sailing vessel offers the highest standard of service and amenities on Ha Long Bay. This junk has 24 cabins, stylishly decorated with an antique Asian motif. There is also a restaurant, lounge, and sundeck offering uninterrupted views of the bay.
Nights 7 & 9: Sofitel Legend Metropole
On Condé Nast Traveler’s prestigious 2010 "Gold List" as one of the best hotels in Vietnam.
This colonial-style building has stood proudly in the heart of Hanoi since 1901. The hotel has a rich history and lovely rooms, a recently built spa, and swimming pool.
Vietnam Tour Itinerary
Ho Chi Minh City
Upon our return to Ho Chi Minh City, we’ll enjoy lunch at a popular local restaurant before transferring to the airport for our flight to Hué.
Here, a network of palaces, gates, and courtyards served as his home and the core of his empire. Largely destroyed during the 1968 Tet Offensive, the city has now been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and those buildings that remain have been painstakingly restored. We explore the perimeter of the Citadel by foot to gain a glimpse into daily life. Afterwards we enjoy a special lunch prepared by nuns at a local pagoda (perhaps featuring Banh Khoai, a delicious Hué trademark).
Following lunch, we focus on the lives of some of the many interesting emperors of Vietnam. On our list this afternoon may be a visit to the royal tomb of Khai Dinh. This final resting place of the Emperor of Vietnam from 1916-1925 represents a fusion of traditional Vietnamese style and modern influence, and includes many European architectural details.
We may also visit the elaborate grounds of Tu Duc’s tomb and see where he spent the latter years of his life. Tu Duc was Vietnam’s fourth emperor, living from 1829 until 1883, and is said to have had 104 concubines. During his reign, his country lost its independence to France. As these historic sites are often undergoing refurbishment, these ones listed may be substituted by the many other tombs in the area.
At some point during the day we board a dragon boat for a pleasant journey on the Perfume River (this will depend on timing of the other excursions). Along the way, we may stop at a pagoda that is very characteristic of the architecture of its time. Dinner tonight is at one of our favorite restaurants, situated just outside the Forbidden Purple City in the Citadel, enjoying the ambience of a quieter pace and ancient history.
La Résidence Hotel and Spa, Hué
Meals Included: B, L, D
We then continue to Hoi An, a picturesque town along the Thu Bon River. This exceptionally well-preserved example of a Southeast Asian trading port, dating from the 15th century, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. Upon our arrival, we enjoy some regional specialties for lunch.
In the afternoon, we embark on a walking tour of Hoi An’s charming old town with its numerous historic houses, congregation halls, pagodas, and other structures. Its buildings and street plan reflects the varied influences, both indigenous and foreign, that have combined to produce this unique heritage site. Among our stops this afternoon will be the Museum of History and Culture, Tan Ky house, the Japanese Bridge, and the Fujian Assembly Hall. As Hoi An is known for its extraordinary talent in tailoring, we’ll also visit the local cloth market, where we are introduced to this trade.
This afternoon, we have the unique opportunity to visit the art studio of a local Vietnamese painter, Sinh Trong. Sinh grew up in an orphanage in Hoi An, and through the Lifestart Foundation (an organization supporting disadvantaged youth through skills and employment training) he was able to become a successful artist. Over Vietnamese tea, we learn more about the Lifestart Foundation, and may have the chance to make a miniature Hoi An lantern, under the instruction of workshop staff. You will see these lanterns at night glimmering along the Tu Bon River.
Optional Cycling - 1-2 hours.
Our bucolic drive will take us through the countryside outside of Hoi An. Although the temples of My Son are in relative disrepair, the partially overgrown vegetation encroaching on the temples actually adds to the mystique and intimate feel of the sight. We will have the chance to walk around for about an hour to take in the tranquil setting and learn about these ingenious and spiritual people.
We return to Hoi An in time for lunch, which you may enjoy on your own. This afternoon, we have some time for independent exploration to perhaps stroll the quaint markets, or take in the quaint ambience of Hoi An while enjoying drinks on one of the many balconies overlooking the Tu Bon River.
There is the option this afteroon to go for a cycling excursion outside of Hoi An where you will board a small boat for a 35 minute cruise along the tranquil waterways of Quang Nam Province. From the boat landing, you will peddle your way through the green rice paddy fields and outlying villages, stopping at traditional handicraft villages along the way where you can still see local craftsmen producing rice paper and sleeping mats.
Flight to Hanoi; Ho Chi Minh’s House, One Pillar Pagoda, Temple of Literature, Old Quarter
Walking – easy city tour.
This morning we take an early morning flight to Hanoi, where we embark on an exploration of Hanoi’s many historic and cultural sites. The Presidential Palace where Ho Chi Minh lived and worked from 1954 to 1969 will be our first stopover. Originally the home of the Governor General of Indochina, the immaculate grounds became the center of revolutionary activity once North Vietnam achieved independence in 1954. Ho Chi Minh opted not to move into the palace at that time, believing it belonged to the North Vietnamese people, and instead lived in the neighboring “House on Stilts.” Here the revered Uncle Ho worked amid the gardens, mango alley, and carp-filled pond. The whole structure has been preserved in perfect condition, a tribute to the well-loved leader.
Next we visit the One Pillar Pagoda and the Temple of Literature. Built after King Ly Thai To’s vision of a bodhisattva sitting on a lotus in 1049, the lotus-shaped One Pillar Pagoda sits atop a pillar jutting out of a lily pond. Soon after the temple was built, the King’s wife gave birth to a son, and today childless couples visit the pagoda to make prayer offerings. The Temple of Literature is perhaps Hanoi’s best-preserved ancient site. Also built in the 11th century, Van Mieu, as it is known in Vietnamese, served as the national university for 700 years.
Following a walk around Hoan Kiem Lake, we take a midday break for lunch at a local restaurant, and may have the chance to try Cha Ca, a delightful mixture of lightly fried fish and fresh herbs over rice noodles. After this we take a relaxing one hour “cyclo” tour through the Old Quarter. Also known as the “36 Streets,” this bustling area of narrow alleys is home to hundreds of small businesses and shopkeepers. It’s a great place to explore, with plenty of photo opportunities.
This evening we attend a special performance of Ca Tru, an ancient genre of chamber music featuring female vocalists, combining a unique style of poetry and music. Ca Tru originated in northern Vietnam dating back to the 11th-century, and was performed at royal receptions and religious rituals (Please note that this show does not take place on Mondays and Wednesdays. We will switch days this is offered if needed).
Sofitel Legend Metropole, Hanoi
Meals Included: B, L
Transfer to Ha Long Bay and overnight cruise
Cruising aboard a traditional junk; optional swimming and kayaking – easy.
This morning after breakfast, we transfer to Halong Bay, either by road (approximately 3 hours) or seaplane (optional at an additional cost). Ha Long Bay, in the Gulf of Tonkin, includes some 1,600 islands and islets, forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars. In 1994, this unique landscape was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Upon arrival you will board a deluxe Asian “junk” for a two-day trip through the bay.
We enjoy a lunch of Asian-fusion specialties on board while sailing into the bay, soaking up the scenic views and unwinding for the last leg of our journey. Various excursions are available including a visit toTien Ong Cave. The Cave is about 2.000 square meters and is peppered with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, formed out of ancient limestone karsts about 700,000 years ago. The voyage continues with an excursion to the floating fishing village of Cua Van, the biggest and oldest fishing village in Halong Bay. Once we are back on board, there will also be a cooking demonstration by the ship’s chef to reveal some of the secrets of Vietnamese cuisine.
This evening, we enjoy the sunset from the deck before an elegant five-course dinner in the restaurant. Afterward, you can relax on the deck and socialize with other travelers before retiring to your cabin.
Jasmine Sailing Junk, Ha Long Bay
Meals Included: B, L, D
Ha Long Bay; return to Hanoi
Early risers will be treated to ideal light for photographs, and perhaps you’ll join other guests on deck for a morning Tai Chi lesson. After breakfast, we continue our cruise through the unforgettable landscape, stopping at one of the most spectacular beaches – Ti Top – where you are free to disembark and hike up 400 steps for a panoramic view of the bay.
We disembark the cruise by midday, and return to Hanoi by road. This afternoon, our guide will take us on a street food tour of the old quarter of Hanoi. There will be plenty of opportunity to purchase handicrafts to take home with you or you may simply choose to take in the vibrant scene of street vendors, while enjoying coffee at a traditional Vietnamese coffee house.
After freshening up at our hotel, if there is time, we may enjoy a traditional Vietnamese water puppet show at the Thang Long Opera. We then have a farewell dinner, savoring Vietnamese cuisine one last time while we toast to our journey.
Sofitel Legend Metripole, Hanoi
Meals Included: B, L, D
- Feb 28–Mar 08, 2016
- Nov 06–15, 2016
2016 Land Cost
$4,595 per person
Accommodations (hotels, tents, cruise cabins) are based on double occupancy. A single supplement is paid by participants who specifically request single accommodations, subject to availability. If you reserve at least 120 days prior to departure, you may be eligible for a reduced or free single supplement.* This is generally limited to the first one or two solo travelers to reserve, and the reduction is outlined in the pricing for each trip. Please note, free or reduced single supplements are not combinable with other offers or promotions.
If you are traveling alone and wish to share accommodations, we will try to match you with a roommate of the same gender. If you reserve at least 120 days ahead and a roommate is not available, you will only be charged a “forced” single supplement in the amount of 50% of the standard single supplement* (unless otherwise noted in the detailed itinerary). Single accommodations are limited so you are encouraged to reserve early!
*This does not apply to cruises in the Galapagos Islands. Please see these trip pages for more details.
Ho Chi Minh City-Hué; Danang-Hai Phong
- Expert leadership
- All accommodations, including an overnight on a deluxe traditional junk on Ha Long Bay
- Private, air-conditioned ground transportation
- All meals as noted in the itinerary
- Entry fees
- All activities as noted in the itinerary
Gratuities for included meals and luggage porters
Please complete the following information to request a reservation. A trip deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your reservation (payable by check or major credit card). Once we receive your request we will contact you within one business day to confirm availability and answer any questions you may have.
About our guides
With a Boundless Journeys guide, your experience is that of friend and local adventurer. We believe strongly in working with local guides, experts in the areas to which we travel, and they hold the keys to unlocking the hidden delights of your chosen destination. Although you will never know they are at work – the mark of a truly great leader – our guides make magical things happen and add a dimension to your trip that you could not experience on your own.
Over the years we have forged bonds with some of the best guides in the world, and we typically work with a small team of guides in each region. You will be informed of the guide for your trip one month prior to your departure.
Son To Laki (Laki): Born in southern Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, Laki’s love of sharing his homeland with others led him to a career in guiding. With his deep knowledge of the various histories of South, Central, and North Vietnam, a keen sense of humor and a love of adventure, Laki has been among the most sought out and highly respected guides in the region for nearly a decade. In addition to leading active tours, Laki enjoys cycling and a good book.
Doi Van Hoi: Hoi’s love of sharing his homeland with others and passion for travel led him to a career in guiding. He came to Hanoi in 1995 to study tourism with a focus on sustainable tourism, and he now has over 15 years of experience as a guide. Along with his deep knowledge of the various histories and cultures of South, Central, and North Vietnam, he has a lighthearted attitude and spontaneous spirit that make him a joy to travel with.
Picture Yourself Here:
Exploring the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Ha Long Bay, Hué, and Hoi An
Immersing yourself in Hanoi, the "Paris of the Orient"
Discovering poignant sites of war history, from the Cu Chi Tunnels to China Beach
Perusing markets and indulging in authentic Vietnamese cuisine with its blend of French and Asian influences
- Feb 28–Mar 08, 2016
- Nov 06–15, 2016
You may also be interested in:
Prefer a private departure?
Latest Blog Posts About Vietnam
"The trip was absolutely wonderful from start to finish. Dawa and Pema are both very special people and just could not have been nicer, more caring, or more professional. Every day, in every way, they were excellent! The itinerary was perfectly planned and executed. I can't wait for you to use me as a reference for future Boundless Journeys travelers – I will give you a glowing recommendation!"
- Kim Cox, Bhutan: A Journey Into the Peaceful Kingdom