Whether by boat, bike, motorcoach, or on foot, here’s an itinerary just right for you
on September 4, 2018
With such an array of striking sights, sounds, and sensations, Vietnam can deliver sensory overload.
A land of astonishing natural beauty and cultural complexities, Vietnam intrigues with its modern megacities and centuries-old tribal villages, world-class cuisine and exotic markets, fertile rice fields and lush jungles, and complicated history and hyper-charged economy. With such an array of striking sights, sounds, and sensations, Vietnam can deliver sensory overload.
Here are four itineraries that will help you make sense of one of Asia’s most intriguing nations.
There’s no better way to experience this bicycle-crazed country than on a 14-day bike tour with VBT, “Journey Through Vietnam.” Cycle past centuries of history, through stunning landscapes — including a pristine coastline, rice fields, orchards, and water-coconut palm forests — and along the Perfume River and Mekong Delta. Along the way, you’ll explore Hanoi’s vibrant Old Quarter with its tree-lined boulevards and French-Colonial architecture on a cyclo, or rickshaw, ride. Visit such iconic sites as pagodas, mausoleums, temples, the Imperial City and the Forbidden Purple City of Hué, and Emperor Khai Dinh’s tomb. Take in a water puppet show, a uniquely Vietnamese form of entertainment. Embark on a luncheon cruise on the Perfume River, with views of dragon boats, sampans, and traditional houseboats. Tour the herb garden and participate in a cooking class at a culinary school in Hoi An, a UNSECO World Heritage Site. Experience daily life in country villages and open-air markets, where you can meet local artisans, farmers, and merchants. Explore Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh City) and its former Presidential Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the notorious 75-mile-long Cu Chi tunnels built by the Vietcong on its outskirts. Finally, cap off your tour with a special farewell dinner at the former home of a U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam.
Vietnam’s inextricable link to the sea — with its 2,140 miles of coastline on the Indochina Peninsula, pristine bays, two major delta systems, and rich tradition of water puppetry — is on full display on the Vietnam portion of Country Walkers’ 12-day guided walking tour, “Vietnam & Cambodia: Trails of Indochina.” You can delve into this water-connected world in Vietnam by sailing on a private overnight junk among the 2,000 limestone karst islands of Halong Bay and their floating fishing villages. You can delight in the magical musical performance of the Thang Long Water Puppets, whose art dates back to the 11th century. You can visit the tranquil fishing village of Cam Ha, then continue to An Bang Beach for a lunch of fresh-caught fish and relaxation on the sand.
Beyond those water-focused experiences, you can walk through country villages, and thick forests; along the ancient streets of Old Hanoi, lined with traditional and French colonial architecture; and through atmospheric Old Hoi An, with its merchant houses, temples, and cloth markets. And everywhere savor the country’s pungent spices and exotic cuisine — experiences that will linger long after you’ve returned home.
Following a classic Vietnam route from the comfort of a motorcoach with Holiday Vacations’ 13-day “Vietnam and Hong Kong” tour that begins in the capital of Hanoi. Included in the city visit are the One Pillar Pagoda, one of Vietnam’s most iconic temples; Hoa Lo Prison, where American prisoners were held during the Vietnam War; Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum; several museums; a tour of the historic Old Quarter by electric car; and a water puppet show, featuring operatic songs based on Vietnamese folklore. Next comes a Halong Bay overnight cruise, where you can explore by rowboat or kayak and enjoy onboard cooking and tai chi demonstrations. A visit to the imperial capital of Hué offers impressive emperors’ tombs, ancient pagodas, and royal residences. In the historic trading center of Hoi An, learn the secrets of traditional Vietnamese cuisine at a local cooking school after shopping for ingredients at a colorful market.
End the Vietnam portion of the tour in Saigon, a city that never sleeps. Visit architectural icons such as the Notre Dame Cathedral, patterned after the Paris original; the Central Post Office, designed by Gustave Eiffel; and the former Presidential Palace. Don’t-miss reminders of the Vietnam War include the War Remnants Museum and the Cu Chi Tunnels built by the Viet Cong. For a glimpse of local life, explore the Mekong Delta’s lush rice paddies and fruit farms via rickshaw, then relax aboard a small sampan boat as you are paddled along tropical canals. A home-hosted lunch of local specialties offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will not soon be forgotten.
Do you prefer to unpack only once on your multi-day Vietnam tour? Then consider going by small luxury cruise ship. Windstar Cruises offers a 15-day itinerary, “Southeast Asia Coastlines & Angkor Wat Cruise Tour,” and a 12-day itinerary, “Icons of Southeast Asia,” that both visit the same ports in Vietnam. The first stop in Vietnam is Halong Bay, where you can explore its mystical landscape by traditional fishing junk. About 3.5 hours away is Hanoi, a fascinating blend of East and West with its Chinese influences and French design. Highlights include the One Pillar Pagoda; the Temple of Literature; 36 Streets District in Old Town Hanoi, Vietnam’s oldest city district and merchant and artisan quarter for more than two millennia; and Hoa Lo Prison, known as the “Hanoi Hilton.” During a two-night stop at the port of Da Nang, you’ll explore three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. My Son Sanctuary is Vietnam’s most important Champa ruin dating back to the 4th century. The imperial city of Hue is the spiritual heart of Vietnam as home to Nguyen Dynasty emperors. And Hoi An is a tranquil 16th-century trading town that has changed little over the centuries.
In the beautiful port of Nha Trang, famed for its crystalline waters, visit its open-air markets and scenic shoreline, and get a glimpse of the fascinating civilization of the Cham people, ancient rulers of Vietnam and Cambodia. Your final stop is Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, where you can admire the city’s colonial landmarks and barter with market vendors before learning Vietnamese cuisine from a renowned local chef.
How to Explore by Bike
VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations offer more than 55 deluxe, small-group bicycling, walking, and barge & sail vacations in 27 different countries and 10 U.S. states. They are the value leader in active biking vacations and have been rated among the “World’s Best Tour Operators” by the readers of Travel + Leisure for seven years. Each trip includes all accommodations, many meals, two expert local trip leaders, unique sightseeing and cultural activities, and full van support. Unlike other companies, VBT also includes round-trip international airfare from more than 30 U.S. cities and select Canadian cities for all overseas vacations. Visit vbt.com or call 800-245-3868 for more information.
How to Explore on Foot
For more than 39 years, Country Walkers has provided active, immersive, and unforgettable travel experiences on five continents. They offer two distinct ways to explore: scheduled, small-group Guided Walking Adventures and independent Self-Guided Walking Adventures. On tour, guests enjoy superb local cuisine, first-class guides, fine accommodations, and authentic cultural and natural encounters. Visit countrywalkers.com or call 800-234-6900 for more information.
How to Explore by Motorcoach
Holiday Vacations is one of America’s most reputable tour companies, with more than 45 years of experience. As a nationwide provider of air, rail, motorcoach, and cruise guided vacations to more than 65 destinations worldwide, their packages are inclusive of all airfare, fine hotels, meals, and must-see attractions. Expert tour directors handle all travel details, assuring you a carefree and memorable vacation. Visit HolidayVacations.com for more information.
How to Explore by Cruise
Recognized by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler on the 2016 Gold List of Favorite Cruise Lines and by USA TODAY readers for Best Boutique Cruise Line, Windstar’s fleet of small luxury sailing ships and all-suite power yachts with 148 to 310 guests bring you closer to smaller ports and exclusive local experiences around the world. Visit windstarcruises.com or call 888-460-5098 for more information.
For more travel experiences to Beautiful Places on Earth™ available from the Xanterra Travel Collection and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore.