For those with a little more time, this Vietnam highlights holiday covers nearly everything you wouldn’t want to miss - from bustling cities to the spectacular Ha Long Bay, terraced rice paddies and the quiet waterways of the Mekong Delta. But we’ve given it a bit of a twist to avoid the crowds and give you a taste of real Vietnamese life with local families. This trip is best in July and August due to the weather patterns, but it can be rejigged with beach time in the south for other times of year.
This is a suggested itinerary. Dates, stops & activities are all flexible.
18 Days: Hanoi - Pu Luong - Trang An - Ha Long Bay - Ho Chi Minh City - Mekong Delta - Hue - Hoi An - Beach
Activities: sightseeing and history, rural villages, gentle cycling, food tasting and cooking class, trekking, cruise, kayaking, floating markets, beach time
Day 1: Welcome to Hanoi, where you will be met at the airport and taken to your hotel for check-in.
Day 2: This morning you will learn about Hanoi villagers’ lives, traditions and customs. Walk and cycle through the villages, visiting small markets, old houses, temples and communal houses. Then have a cooking demonstration and lunch at a local family’s house. Continue to Lien Mac, where you hop on the bike again to explore the colourful fields and chat with farmers caring for their crops.
In the evening, take a stroll around the old quarter called "36 streets", where you will visit some foodmaking families, stalls, local restaurants as well as everyday shops. You might even want to catch a rickshaw for the full experience! (B/L)
Day 3: Today starts with a visit to Uncle Ho at his mausoleum and the nearby Temple of Literature, where you will enjoy traditional music performance. After a lunch of authentic Hanoian cuisine, head to the museum of ethnology to learn about the varied groups of people living in Vietnam. In the afternoon visit the “Temple of the Jade Mountain”, before you finishing the day with a water puppet show - a favourite experience for all visitors to Vietnam. (B/L)
Day 4: Transfer to Mai Chau via a spectacular 4 hour drive, where you visit an ethnic Thai village before lunch. Then start your hike through the beauty of Pu Luong nature reserve – it requires some walking up hills but it’s worth it for the many spectacular and photogenic views of villages and rice terraces. Arrive at your eco-lodge around 17:00. (B/L/D)
Day 5: Drive to the UNESCO-listed Trang An and board a a local rowboat. For the next 3 hours or so you will meander peacefully through the spectacular karst landscape, accompanied by the gentle splashing of the paddle. After some fun cycling around the area, a short transfer to Hoa Lu, Vietnam’s 9th century capital, for some storytelling about the kings of old. (B/L)
Day 6: Depart for Ha Long Bay, which takes around 4 hours. Arrive at the port around noon, where you are welcomed on board. Enjoy a fresh seafood lunch while you cruise to Bai Tu Long Bay, a different part of Ha Long Bay that is not so crowded with day trippers. Enjoy padding around Vung Vieng fishing village and take out one of the complimentary kayaks to explore by yourself before dropping anchor amidst the incredible landscape. (B/L/D)
Day 7: Take in the fresh air and gentle breezes on the water - a deeply relaxing and rejuvenating experience in the early morning. The last stage of your trip is to Thien Canh Son cave, a wild and mysterious spot in the middle of this World Heritage site. Cruise back to shore and transfer to Cat Bi airport for a flight to Ho Chi Minh City. (B/L)
Day 9: This morning head south to Cai Be and board a boat through the one of the Mekong's small floating markets. Then visit a local family that makes coconut candies, rice-paper and pop-rice crispies, which you will sample along with fresh jasmine tea. From there you will take a bike ride on to Tanphong islet to taste mouthwatering seasonal fruit, before a small rowing boat glides you through the canals and creeks to Vinh Long, where your vehicle awaits to take you to Chau Doc. (B/L)
Day 10: Up early for a gentle cruise through a floating village where tons of fish are farmed underneath the stilted houses. Continue by water to a Muslim Cham village with its famous Mubarak Mosque and watch the locals go about their traditional weaving.
Afterwards, head to the Cambodian border area to visit Tra Su mangrove forest. Explore this unique natural wetland habitat and picturesque ecotourism site, home to 140 species of plants and 70 of birds. Drive on to Can Tho, pausing to visit Bang Lang stork garden and Binh Thuy ancient house. (B/L)
Day 11: Another early start to experience Cai Rang floating market, the largest wholesale market in the Mekong Delta. Walk on a quiet country road to take in the magnificent scenery and chat to the locals as they go about their daily routine. Return to Ho Chi Minh City for a short flight to Hue. (B/L)
Day 12: Today explore the sights of Hue, including the Royal Citadel and Thien Mu Pagoda to learn more about Buddhism in Vietnam. Then embark for a peaceful boat ride along the Perfume River. After lunch, the afternoon is devoted to gentle cycling (14km) through the beautiful countryside, stopping in at villages where they make traditional handicrafts. (B/L)
Day 13: Drive across the hills to Hoi An. As you traverse Highway 1 you will see beautiful landscapes of rice fields, local villages and Cau Hai Lagoon, as well as Lang Co beach – one of the most beautiful beaches in Asia. Along the way you can stop at the Cham Museum and cave pagodas of the Marble Mountains, arriving in Hoi An around 14:00. Later on, your guide will take you around the old streets to see the sights of this charming UNESCO listed town. (B)
Day 14: Today you will have a chance to learn about authentic and delicious Hoian cuisine by joining a cooking class. After visiting the morning market, cruise along the Hoi An River to the cooking school with lots of chances for great photos. The cooking lesson runs for about 2 hours and at the end you will enjoy your delicious creations! Transfer to your beach hotel at Da Nang. (B/L)
Days 15 - 17: Free days to relax and reflect on all the amazing sights and smells and sounds of your trip and the people you have met along the way. Enjoy the beautiful beaches, or we can arrange optional day tours back to Hoi An or snorkelling at Cham island. (B)
Day 18: Sadly all good things come to an end… today it’s time to pack up and head to Da Nang airport for your onwards flight, leaving Vietnam with lots of amazing memories and photos! (B)
Prices from: £1560 per person
Services included: hotels on shared room basis, meals, transfers and activities as mentioned, entry fees, English speaking guide, 24 hour assistance
Services not included: flights, drinks, tips and personal expenses.
Note: stops can be extended, added or cut - just ask us!