From the emerald green rice paddies of the countryside and the sounds of its cities’ bustling markets, to the intoxicating flavors of its renowned cuisine with its blend of French and Asian influences, Vietnam is a feast for the senses. It’s also one of Southeast Asia’s most captivating countries.
On Boundless Journeys’ Cultural Explorer tour of Vietnam, you’ll have 10 days to see the very best of it. The journey begins in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, where you’ll visit poignant war sites including the Cu Chi Tunnels.
In the following days, you’ll explore UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the Forbidden Purple City of Hue, the 15th century trading port of Hoi An, and the spectacular seascape of Ha Long Bay, via a deluxe boutique cruise boat for a two-day trip through the bay.
You’ll also discover sacred caves, relax aboard longboats on scenic rivers, and immerse yourself in Hanoi, the Paris of the Orient. Consider this your greatest hits tour of Vietnam with Boundless Journeys!
Ho Chi Minh City
Our first day begins with meeting our guide and fellow guests for lunch. After lunch and a tour briefing, we set out to explore some of the hidden highlights of the city.
First, we pay a visit to the Tan Dinh Market, one of the oldest markets in Ho Chi Minh City. The Ta Dinh Market continues to be a popular place for locals to buy food, clothing, textiles, and various household items, and allows one a glimpse of daily city life in Vietnam.
Next, we learn the story of a Saigon resident who dug a secret cellar beneath his home to hide a large arsenal of weapons and explosives during wartime. Gain an understanding of what life was like for city residents during the war.
We then conclude our touring with a visit to the home of a family of musicians trained in a variety of traditional Vietnamese instruments. Enjoy a demonstration of several of these unique Vietnamese musical instruments.
For more information about Ho Chi Minh City, be sure to check out our Vietnam City Guide
Hotel Grand SaigonHo Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Well-located in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, Hotel Grand Saigon is a 5-star luxury hotel that was originally built in 1930 and restored in 1997 providing historical charm and modern amenities.
Cu Chi Tunnels; Transfer to Hue
This morning we'll depart early for a journey down the Saigon River by speedboat, gaining a unique perspective of our surroundings and avoiding the congestion of the busy roads. Watching the city fade into the background, we enter the countryside and eventually reach the Cu Chi Tunnels. We visit the Ben Duoc Tunnel system, which is less visited by tourists and allows us the opportunity to learn about the unique history of the tunnels.
Following our visit to the tunnels, we travel through the countryside to a local organic farm and enjoy a lunch sourced right from the farm. After lunch, we depart southern Vietnam for the city of Hué.
Saigon Morin HotelHue, Vietnam
The Hotel Saigon Morin is located in the heart of Hue, making it ideally situated to explore the city. It was originally built in 1901, and is now one of the oldest hotels in Vietnam with views of the Perfume River.
Today we head to the ancient, walled Citadel and explore this former Imperial Palace of Hué. We learn about the Citadel's intriguing architecture, inspired by Beijing's Forbidden City.
For lunch, we go to Lien Hoa Pagoda where the resident nuns prepare a vegetarian meal for us. Over lunch we have the opportunity to learn about Buddhism in Vietnam and the nuns' daily lives.
Next, we make our way to Thanh Tien Village, well-known for its tradition of crafting paper flowers for more than three centuries. We learn from a local how to make an ornate paper flower. Our visit today supports the Backstreet Academy, a social enterprise providing struggling artists, craftsmen, and home-based workers with additional income and recognition for their efforts in preserving their craft.
We return to Hué via boat, floating down the Perfume River.
Transfer to Hoi An; Marble Mountain and Walking Tour of Hoi An
This morning we transfer to Hoi An. En route, we ascend Hai Van Pass, with scenic views over the Lang Co Lagoon and the South China Sea. Just south of Danang, a major commercial center of Vietnam, is Marble Mountain. Although Marble Mountain is no longer actively mined for its marble stone, it is still a popular destination as it contains many enchanting holy shrines and limestone caves.
We continue on 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. This afternoon we embark on a walking tour of Hoi An's charming old town admiring its traditional buildings reflecting varied influences, both indigenous and foreign. Hoi An is known for its talented tailors, so a visit to a local tailor shop completes our introduction to Hoi An.
Little Riverside Hoi AnHoi An, Vietnam
This boutique hotel’s ideal location on the north bank of the Thu Bon River provides peace and tranquility while still being walking distance to the local shops, restaurants, and the lively Hoi An market.
Lantern Making; Optional Cycling Excursion
Today we have the to opportunity learn a popular local craft. Under the instruction of Hoi An craftsmen, we practice the art of making lanterns from bamboo and silk. These lanterns are visible at night along the Tu Bon River, and make a wonderful (and collapsible!) souvenir.
In the afternoon, an optional cycling tour in the nearby countryside gives us a sense of rural life. We head out toward Cam Thanh Village, a small community located in the outskirts of central Hoi An. On the nearby river, we visit a water coconut forest by bamboo basket boat before returning to Hoi An by river boat.
Excursion to My Son Cham Ruins; Free Afternoon
We begin our day with a one hour drive outside of Hoi An, through the countryside to explore the ancient Cham ruins of My Son. The Champa people reigned over central Vietnam from the 2nd to 15th centuries and you can still see cultural influences of their kingdom today. We will have the chance to walk around and explore the ruins and learn about these ingenious and spiritual people.
We return to Hoi An in time for lunch and the afternoon is yours to explore Hoi An independently, perhaps stroll the local market, visit the local shops, or take in the charming ambience of Hoi An while enjoying drinks on one of the many restaurant balconies overlooking the Thu Bon River.
Flight to Hanoi; Cooking Class
This morning we fly to Hanoi and try our hand at making some of the delicious Vietnamese dishes we have indulged in while on tour. We learn about the various ingredients essential for traditional Vietnamese cuisine-the fresh herbs, spices, vegetables, and handmade noodles-while perhaps sampling some exotic fruits. We enjoy our final product for lunch.
This evening we witness a traditional Vietnamese water puppet show at the Thang Long Opera House. This uniquely Vietnamese performance art dates back as far as the 11th century and originated in the rural villages of northern Vietnam where the performances were held in the flooded rice paddies. Stories from Vietnamese folklore are performed much the same now as they were in the past, using the lacquered wooden puppets accompanied by the music of a traditional Vietnamese orchestra.
Sofitel Legend MetropoleHanoi, Vietnam
This award-winning French colonial-style hotel has stood proudly in the heart of Hanoi since 1901. Once a gathering point for diplomats and high class society, the hotel has a rich history and lovely rooms, a recently built spa, and swimming pool. Within walking distance of Hoan Kiem Lake and the magnificent Opera House, the hotel is one of the few remaining hotels of its era.
Sights of Hanoi
Today we visit some of the many historic and cultural sites of Hanoi. We begin at the Temple of Literature, which is perhaps Hanoi's best-preserved ancient site. Built in the 11th century and dedicated to Confucius, it served as the national university for 700 years.
Next, we visit the Presidential Palace where Ho Chi Minh lived and worked from 1954 to 1969. 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.
Another notable site we visit is the One Pillar Pagoda. Built in 1049 after King Lý Thái Tông's vision of a bodhisattva seated on a lotus flower, 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.
This afternoon we have time to walk around Hoan Kiem Lake and enjoy some independent exploration or relaxation before our evening performance from the Lang Toi troupe which combines acrobatics with traditional music depicting rural Vietnamese life.
For more about Hanoi, be sure to check out our Guide to Vietnamese Cities
Transfer to Ha Long Bay
This morning after breakfast, we transfer to Ha Long Bay, either by road (approximately 2-3 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 cruise boat for a two-day trip through the bay.
We enjoy lunch 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 to Tien Ong Cave and the floating fishing village of Cua Van.
This evening, we enjoy the sunset from the deck before an elegant dinner is served.
Ginger CruiseHai Phong, Vietnam
This traditionally rigged Asian sailing vessel offers the highest standard of service and amenities on Ha Long Bay. This "junk boat" as they are called, has stylishly decorated cabins in an antique Asian motif. The ship includes a restaurant, lounge, and sundeck offering uninterrupted views of the bay. Excursions such as walks and kayaking admidst the limestone karsts are offered by the boat’s professional and friendly staff.
Ha Long Bay and Departure
Early risers will be treated to ideal light for photographs, and perhaps join other guests on deck for a morning Tai Chi lesson. After breakfast, we continue our cruise through the unforgettable landscape, with the option to take an excursion to Ti Top beach - where you are free to hike up 400 steps for a panoramic view of the bay, or simply relax and enjoy the beach.
We disembark the cruise by midday, and return to Hanoi by road, transferred to the airport for your departure flight, or to your post-tour hotel.
Please note that this is a typical itinerary, and actual activities may vary due to weather conditions, local events, and to allow serendipity to play a hand in your experience. Accommodations are as outlined in the itinerary, although we reserve the right to change these or the order visited should the need arise.
Feb 28-Mar 9, 2023
Nov 7-16, 2023
Take over a date for your group! See "Make It Private" on Dates & Prices tab.
From $5,295 Per Person
$295 Per Person
Ho Chi Minh City-Hué; Danang-Hai Phong; subject to change
First two reserved:$595
See single supplement policy below.
Optional seaplane flight to Ha Long Bay $425
MAKE IT PRIVATE
9+ Guests: $5,295 per person
5 to 8 Guests: $5,795 per person
Make it Private price is based on Land Cost only, and a guarantee of the specified number of guests in double occupancy. For groups smaller than the numbers shown, or those requiring single occupancy, we reserve the right to adjust the per person price. Additionally, some trips have minimum group sizes. Please call 1-800-941-8010 for details.
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 may not apply to certain trips with unique accommodation arrangements. Please see specific trip information for more details.
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. Vietnam: 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, 2-3 hours per day, broken up by rest and meals.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Most Convenient Airport for Arrival:Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (airport code SGN)
Most Convenient Airport for Departure:Noi Bai International Aiport, Hanoi, Vietnam (airport code HAN)
Meeting Time and Place:Our group will meet with the guide in the lobby of the RexHotel at 12:00 pm on Day 1 of the tour.
Departure Time and Place:Day 10, upon returning from Halong Bay (departure flights can be scheduled for anytime after 5pm)
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.
You can obtain more detailed weather information at www.weatherbase.com.
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.
The ingredients and flavors of cuisine in Vietnam are complex and vary, as everything else does, according to its region of northern, central, or southern Vietnam. In Hanoi you may notice a bit of Chinese influence in the food, along with the inevitable French offerings. A bowl of pho in the Old Quarter is a must; this hot soup is hearty, with noodles and bean sprouts, chicken, pork, or beef, and fresh herbs and spices for flavoring. In central Vietnam, on the coast, seafood is abundant and the food tends to have a bit more chili-derived heat. To a large extent, you have the opportunity to dictate the flavors of your food, as dipping sauces and condiments are yours for the taking. Please note that everywhere we travel, you are likely to find some Western dishes that are familiar should you need a bit of comfort food. Vegetarians can be accommodated.
Laki was born in southern Vietnam's Mekong Delta and pursued a career in guiding because he loves sharing and teaching about his homeland. Laki's deep knowledge of the various histories of South, Central, and North Vietnam, a keen sense of humor, and a love of adventure, have made him one of 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.
Guests love his friendly demeanor and ability to make each day of the tour unforgettable!
Born in the Vietnamese countryside, Toan initially intended to follow in the family business of rice farming. But his dream of traveling and being a tour guide led him to leave the family farm for Ho Chi Minh City. There he studied English and Tourism. Since obtaining his degree and his certification as a tour guide several years ago, he has been sharing the food, culture, and sights of his country with adventurous travelers who appreciate his enthusiasm and sense of humor. He looks forward to introducing you to his Vietnam!
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.
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