Essence of Vietnam, South to North 18 days
Routes: HCM City – Cu Chi – Mekong – Nha Trang – Hoian – Hue – Halong – Sapa – Hanoi
Duration: 18 Days / 17 Nights
Features: Explore Vietnam’s delightful melange of culture and history on a compact, insightful trip. Start your journey with a visit of Ho Chi Minh’s historic monuments then glide across the waters of the Mekong Delta. After a stop in poetic Hoian, travel to bustling Hanoi, amazing Sapa and cap off the adventure with a Halong Bay cruise.
Ho Chi Minh City/ Hanoi
Casual, comfortable athletic clothing, hiking shoes, hat and light jacket.
IncludedEssence of Vietnam, South to North 18 daysVehiclesEntry FeesAccommodationTour GuideMeals
Not IncludedAny services not mentioned in the itineraryBeverages and other personal expensesTravel Insurance
Day 1: Good morning HCM City Vietnam
Welcome to Ho Chi Minh, our driver will meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel for check-in if time permits. The rest of the day is free at your own leisure time to explore Hanoi – The thousand year capital city.
Inclusion: Transfer, guide and hotel
Day 2: Tay Ninh and Cu Chi tunnels
Depart Ho Chi Minh City at 08:00 in the morning for the drive to Tay Ninh. Observe the scenery as it changes from a city view to rice paddies, villagers drying noodles by the side of the road and other scenes typical of southern Vietnam. Visit the Cao Dai great temple at Tay Ninh, with its flamboyant architecture, where all the major faiths of the world blend together in a unique religious mosaic.
After lunch in a local restaurant visit the famous Cu Chi Tunnels which consist of an incredible underground tunnel network constructed by Vietnamese resistance fighters (Viet Cong) during both the French and American wars. Start the visit with the Ben Dinh or Ben Duoc sections of the tunnel.
Here, imagine what it was like to be a guerrilla complete with Russian Carbine rifles and AK 47’s on display. In the late afternoon journey back to Ho Chi Minh City.
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
Driving distance: 100km ~ 2hrs
Inclusion: Transfer, guide, entrance fees, breakfast, hotel.
Day 3: HCM City – Can Tho, visit the fertile Mekong Delta
Depart HCM City at 8:00 AM from your hotel. Head south to Cai Be. Upon arrival at around 10:30 AM, board a boat for a journey through the Mekong's floating markets. See how river life goes on here, watch the trading between merchant ships and local farmers. Alive and exciting! Cruise through the secluded canals and cross the Mighty Mekong to an island where we stop to enjoy fresh seasonal fruit before boating to Vinh Long. Back on the bus for our trip to Can Tho to overnight.
Inclusion: Transfer, guide, entrance fees, breakfast, lunch, hotel.
Day 4: Can Tho – HCM City
At 6:30 AM, we start for a boat trip to Cai Rang floating market, then we have some distance to cover. First a cruise, then a walk on a quiet country road taking in the magnificent scenery and getting a little bit closer to the locals as they go about their daily routine. In the afternoon, we head back to HCM City. We drop you at the same hotel by 6:00 PM.
Inclusion: Transfer, guide, entrance fee, local boat, breakfast, hotel.
Day 5: HCM City, half-day city tour – fly to Nha Trang
Breakfast at the hotel then 8:00 AM we leave hotel for our half of day tour to visit the bustling HCM City city. Visit War Remnants Museum, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the historic Central Post Office and Ben Thanh market if time permits. Back to hotel for check out at noon then drive to the airport for noon - flight to Nha Trang. Be met at the airport and be transferred to the resort of choice. Besides the pre-requisite golden stretches of land and crystal clear waters, the coast is dotted with many islands each with their own distinct character. The turquoise waters play host to a variety of marine life, snorkelling and scuba diving activities which are perennial favourites.
(Please note: A Nha Trang beach break is not recommended in November and December. )
Inclusion: Transfer, guide, entrance fees, domestic flight ticket, breakfast, hotel.
Day 6: Nha Trang, island boat trip
Morning pick up at around 8:00 AM from hotel and transfer to the boat station (about 15’). Hop on the private boat and begin a day on the water. The first stop is Tri Nguyen Aquarium. Then we cruise to Mot Island. This is one of the best places for snorkeling in Nha Trang. Hold your breath for as long as you can and dive deep into this colorful world of fish and coral. Next stop, Coral Island for sun bathing and relaxing on the off shore beach. Lunch is served with a selection of fresh seafood.
After lunch, cruise to Tranh Island for more swimming and relaxing then boat back to Nha Trang city for around 5:00 PM. Free time in the evening and overnight at your hotel.
Inclusion: Transfer, guide, entrance fees, breakfast, lunch, local boat, hotel.
Day 7: Nha Trang – fly to Da Nang then Hoian
Breakfast at the hotel and enjoy some free time in the morning until we pick you up for flight to Da Nang. Arrive in Da Nang and transfer to hotel in Hoian (~30 minutes). The rest of the day is at leisure.
Overnight in Hoian.
Inclusion: Transfer, guide, domestic flight ticket, breakfast, hotel.
Day 8: Countryside tour & visit ancient town of Hoian
At 8.00 AM, we meet at your hotel for a very short transfer to the boat docks, we boat to a fishing village where you see & experience the life of a fisherman here, activities from preparing the fishing tools to go fishing. Followed by a short basket boat row along the village of water coconut before our lunch.
We then cycle along the country road through the paddy fields of rice, coconut or corn heading to the main town of Hoian.
Our afternoon is continued with sightseeing to the famous cultural sites around Hoian, we end our trip at around 5:00 PM at your hotel.
Inclusion: Transfer, guide, local bike, local boat & basket, breakfast, lunch, water & snack, hotel.
Day 9: Hoian – Hue, city tour & handicraft villages
Start exploring Hue at the Imperial Citadel where the Nguyen Dynasty ruled between 1802 and 1945. After exploring the ruins of this wonderful monument take a cyclo ride to Tran Dinh Son museum, the first private museum in Hue, right at a “nha ruong” - traditional Royal house, once belonged to the Mandarin of King Minh Mang to contemplate his grandson’s valued collection of daily used items.
Drive onto Thien Mu Pagoda, constructed in 1601, the 21-meter tall tower is the centerpiece of the pagoda. From here depart for the Mausoleum of Minh Mang, located in a tranquil setting of gardens and ponds, inspired by the Chinese Confucianism, a harmonious design of balance and symmetry for the emperor’s resting place. Finish up the day at Khai Dinh’s Tomb which is traditional Vietnamese in design with a European touch making it unique from the other tombs in Hue.
Inclusion: Transfer, guide, entrance fees, breakfast, hotel.
Day 10: Hue, boat trip, Vietnam cyclo - afternoon train to Hanoi
Breakfast at your hotel then 8:30 AM, we start for a relaxing 1 hour Vietnam cyclo ride around the Imperial city for more enjoyment then going to Dong Ba market to experience the local life of the local here. Next, we Thien Mu pagoda and learn more about Buddhism in Vietnam. Lunch is served at a local restaurant in the centre of Hue city before getting to visit the former Imperial Citadel.
At 3:30 PM, be already for our afternoon train to Hanoi. Boarding at around 4:47 PM. You are in a shared AC soft sleeper cabin (basic condition).
Inclusion: Transfer, guide, breakfast, lunch, entrance fees, Vietnam cyclo, local boat, train ticket.
Day 11: Hanoi – Free and easy
Early arrival, our guide with your name welcome sign picks you up at the gate of station at around 6:30 AM then transfer to your hotel for early check in. Free time then to relax and explore Hanoi by your own taste. Stay the night here.
Inclusion: Transfer, station pick up – guide, breakfast, hotel.
Day 12: Hanoi village with bike - night train to Lao Cai
We pick you up at 8:30 AM for a short transfer outside of Hanoi; we have this morning to learn about Hanoi villages’ life, its traditions, and customs.
We walk and cycle along the villages, visit local markets, some old houses, their worshipping temples and communal houses. Then, we have a small food demonstration before our lunch at one of the local family’s houses here.
In the afternoon, we catch your van for a short drive to Lien Mac, a beautiful area of immaculately tended vegetables and flowers. Here you hop on the bike again and get a close-up look at the colourful fields and have the chance to chat with some of the local people out caring for their crops. Stop by a “tofu family” to explore how they make tofu and you can try their fresh products. Bid your farewells, and catch the van back to your hotel in Hanoi at around 4:30 PM.
Free to have dinner until 8:30 PM, our guide picks you up for night train to Lao Cai. Boarding is at around 9:40 PM. You are in a shared AC soft sleeper cabin.
(Our tour guide shows you prearranged hotel near the train station which you have a shower and breakfast before going on Halong on Day 16).
Inclusion: Transfer, guide, entrance fees, breakfast, lunch, local bike,community development fund, train ticket.
Day 13: Lao Cai - Sapa, trek to Ta Phin
The train arrives at about 6:30 AM. Look for the “Footprint Travel” sign when you exit the train station, as our guide is there to pick you up (about 1.5 hours to Sapa).When you arrive in Sapa we make sure that you have a time for a short rest, hot shower and some breakfast before your inspiring trek. A short transfer and we’re off. Chances to meet and talk with locals working in the fields are plentiful. Picnic lunch en route then continue trekking to Ta Phin village – home of the Red Dao people. Your Dao host family warmly welcomes you to their traditional home where we share in an ethnic style dinner and stay the night.
Trekking Distance: 14 km
Trail Difficulty: 3/5
Inclusion: Transfers, guide, train ticket, morning shower, entrance fee, all meals, permit, homestay
Day 14: More in Ta Phin and back to Sapa
At the first gleam of daylight, you see and hear the sounds of morning village life. You can join your host family in some of their morning activities like feeding the animals, cleaning the houses, gardening or preparing breakfast. After breakfast, we take a short wander around the village or spend more time enjoying the view and company at the homestay. Then, you are supported by our car / van back to Sapa (30 minutes).
Back in Sapa, check in to your hotel, shower, rest and lunch on your own. At 2:30 PM, we take an easy walk to Cat Cat village, home of Black H’mong. Take part in a traditional musical performance. Back in Sapa for dinner and the evening on your own. Overnight here.
Trekking Distance: about 5 km
Trail Difficulty: 2/5
Note: The music show in Cat Cat village is closed on Tuesday afternoon, an alternative is arranged.
Inclusion: Transfer, guide, entrance fee, breakfast, music show ticket, hotel.
Day 15: Sapa – Night train to Hanoi
Wake up in Sapa town, breakfast at the hotel then enjoy the morning activities in the town markets. Today your guide is available to you for the whole day, although you do have the option to enjoy the day on your own. Suggestions for today: visit the orchid gardens at Dragon Mountain or complete another day trek to a hill tribe village.
At 5:30 PM, transfer to the Lao Cai train station. Departure is at 8:15 PM on an AC soft sleeper class cabin to Hanoi.
Trekking Distance: around 6 km (optional trek)
Inclusion: Transfer, guide, train ticket, breakfast, entrance fee.
Day 16: Hanoi – Halong, Lan Ha bay welcome on boat
Leave Hanoi after breakfast for a 2.5-hour transfer to Halong City with a 15-minutes stop on the way. Arrive at Tuan Chau towards noon then proceed with check-in formalities. Welcome aboard, followed by lunch while cruising towards the bay. Spend the afternoon enjoying some visits and/or activities (depending on each boat’s itinerary) or relaxing onboard with panoramic views of the karst limestone formation. Complete the evening with dinner served onboard.
Overnight on Lan Ha Bay.
*Notes: The itinerary may be different between the cruises.
Inclusion: Transfer, guide on boat, morning shower, entrance fee, kayak, boat / junk, all meals, permits.
Day 17: Explore Lan Ha bay, back to Hanoi
Wake up to the fresh morning amidst the bay and have breakfast (brunch on some boats) while leisurely immersing in the serene setting of the spectacular rock formations. Proceed to checkout as the cruise arrives towards port. Disembark and transfer back to Hanoi.
Please note: This tour may be subject to change depending on weather conditions.
Inclusion: Transfer, guide, entrance fee, boat/junk, breakfast, lunch, hotel.
Day 18: Hanoi departure, goodbye Vietnam
Breakfast is at your hotel then depending on your flight you may have some more time for shopping. Then our driver will transfer you to the airport for your flight home. Goodbye, and hope to see you again soon!
Inclusion: Airport drop off and breakfast
HCM City – Cu Chi – Mekong – Nha Trang – Hoian – Hue – Halong – Sapa – Hanoi