ITINERARY BY DAY
Day 1: Hanoi - Evening street food tour
Welcome to Vietnam! Upon arrival, your guide will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel. After freshening up you’ll meet with your guide in the hotel lobby.
Tonight your guide will take you on a culinary adventure, sampling street food in the Old Quarter. It’s a great opportunity to try all those weird and wonderful foods you see but just aren’t sure what they are! Start your Hanoi Street Eats tour at Bia Hoi corner to try the local brew, a draft beer that traces its roots to Eastern Europe. Do as the locals do and pull up a stool and enjoy a drink while watching the world go by.
Continue through the old quarter’s narrow streets as your guide points out a range of tasty noodles, breads and snacks. At night the sidewalks are packed with locals perched on stools, amongst sizzling woks and bubbling pots. These small pop up restaurants are a nightly feature that all but disappear during the day. Sit down and enjoy a flame grilled Vietnamese barbecue of beef, chicken, tofu and vegetables on skewers. End the night with dessert from Hanoi’s best-known ice-cream parlour before getting a good night’s rest.
Day 2: Hanoi city tour
Start your morning with a visit to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the resting place of President Ho Chi Minh who led Vietnam to independence from French colonial rule. His preserved body has been an important landmark in the capital city since 1969, and a perfect place to learn more about Vietnam’s rich history. From there, wander through the beautiful surrounding gardens toward the One Pillar Pagoda and Presidential Palace, where a replica of Ho Chi Minh’s simple working space is on display.
Afterward, set off through central Hanoi toward the Temple of Literature, the oldest university in Hanoi and a perfect example of ancient architecture built in homage to the Chinese scholar Confucius. Then tend to your rumbling stomach with a traditional Vietnamese lunch with a chance to get a bit more “hands on” during a cooking demonstration! The tour ends at Porte D’Annam Restaurant. From there either return back to your hotel for some rest or explore Hanoi’s burgeoning nightlife scene –your next activity doesn’t start until the afternoon, so you’ll have plenty of time to sleep in.
Day 3: Essence of Hanoi
Beginning in the afternoon, start your city excursion not by foot, but on board a “cyclo”. Equal parts transportation and travel experience, these traditional bicycle rickshaws move at a leisurely pace that’s perfect for photos and slow-moving sightseeing. Sit back and relax while your driver weaves through some of the Old Quarter’s busiest streets, dodging speeding motorbikes and rolling past French colonial houses on the way to your next destination.
Next, hop off your cyclo at the Northern Gate of the Ancient Citadel, a gargantuan fortress in the heart of the city. Learn a bit about the history of the imposing structure and the nearby Cua Bac Church, a beautiful example of French and catholic influence in the city.
From there, set off to your meet at the front of Quan Thanh Temple. The 11th Century Taoist temple is one of the oldest and most culturally significant in the city, and about a ten minute walk from the citadel. Then embark on a lengthier stroll toward West Lake, hearing the story of John McCain and this temple along the way. Head off along a quieter back road, and stop next at historic Pho Cuon Restaurant for a quick snack.
Set off again to Chau Long Market for a closer look at Hanoian culture in the flurry of a local market. After exploring the street stalls here, set off along Nguyen Truong To Street - famous for its desserts -- toward Hang Than Street, the epicentre of Hanoi’s thriving wedding cake stores. Learn a bit about Vietnam’s unique wedding culture while sampling some wedding cakes. Shake off your sugar rush on a stroll to nearby Hang Cot Street for a look at Hanoi’s mat weaving borough before stopping off along Hang Ga Street for a local coffee shop. End your walking tour with a traditional Vietnamese coffee, and head back to Buffalo Tours tour desk at Silk Path Hotel to rest your feet before being transferred back to your hotel. Enjoy the rest of your evening at your leisure.
Day 4: L'Azalee cruise in Halong Bay
After breakfast, depart from Hanoi and travel by shuttle bus to the seaside port of Halong Bay. On board the L'Azalee Deluxe, a beautifully restored traditional wooden junk boat, admire the sublime beauty of the limestone karts rising out of the water like giants.
Your first day on the water promises a visit to a local Pearl Farm, and a leisurely cruise through the Kiem Lam Bay, a secluded area within Cat Ba National Park. If you’re feeling adventurous, disembark here for a swim or go kayaking to discover sea caves and secluded inlets that the bigger boats can’t reach. Back on board the junk, wrap up your evening with a Vietnamese cooking demonstration from the on-board chefs!
Day 5: L'Azalee cruise in Halong Bay
Wake up refreshed from a good night’s sleep as the boat motors towards Surprise Cave, the biggest in Halong Bay. Board the tender for a short trip to the cave and prepare to be amazed - the entrance to the cave is deceptively narrow but, once through, the cave opens up to a large chamber with impressive limestone formations. Surprise! Then it’s back to the boat for one last cruise to Halong Port, arriving in the early afternoon. From there you will continue on to Hanoi, arriving in the early evening. Spend your final night in Hanoi relaxing, or head out on the town to discover some fun nightlife spots.
Day 6: Fly to Hue
After breakfast your guide will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to the airport for your flight to Hue. Upon arrival, a guide will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel. The rest of the day is spent at your leisure. Walk around the town, exploring its quaint charm or just relax and enjoy the atmosphere.
Day 7: Hue city tour
Enjoy breakfast at your hotel before embarking on a day of exploring Hue’s famous royal tombs and the illustrious examples of grand dynasties past, the garden houses.
Begin your day by floating down the peaceful Perfume River by boat, taking in the endless surrounding greenery. At the end of your hour-long boat trip, hop off at the pier and transfer to the tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh. Admire the unusual combination of architecture that blends a traditional Chinese past with a modern Western future. Then, continue to Minh Mang Tomb to explore the opulent and exotic resting place laid out in formal Chinese style.
For lunch, feast on a vegetarian meal prepared by nuns at Dong Thuyen Pagoda, a temple located on the top of a hill with a fantastic view. Visit the kitchen to see how your meal is prepared in a wood burning stove, then dig into your food in the company of the nuns who made it. Take the opportunity to learn about Buddhism or just get to know your friendly hosts.
Next, make your way to Thanh Tien Village, well-known for over 300 years of crafting paper flowers. Meet one of the local villagers and learn how to make your own ornate paper flower. You can be sure that your visit is backing a good cause as it is supported by Backstreet Academy, a social enterprise providing struggling artists, craftsmen and home-based workers with additional income and recognition.
Finally, visit Tha Om Garden House and its owner, Mr Vinh. Explore the traditional 19th century Hue residence and listen to Mr Vinh’s stories of his royal heritage before returning to your hotel.
Day 8: Essence of Hue
In the morning, enjoy a 40km drive out of the city centre and into the scenic countryside. Arrive at Phuoc Tich Village, an untouched residential area dotted with 27 ‘Nha Ruong’ - Hue’s traditional houses - and unique gardens. Take a walk through the peaceful streets, admiring the historical sites nestled within the scenery, and pay a visit to one of the traditional homes. Try making ‘banh gai it’, one of the most famous traditional cakes in Hue, with your welcoming host, Mrs Kieu. Part of your tour fee will be directly contributed towards Mrs Kieu, helping her to earn an income as a home-based chef.
After trying your hand at baking, hop on a bicycle and take a 30km ride from Thanh Toan to Tam Giang lagoon. Wind through the countryside, watching the daily life of the local people and the peaceful atmosphere of the ancient villages. On your way, stop at Quang Cong Village, known locally as the ‘City of Ghosts’, and behold the increasingly lavish and elaborate tombs that the villagers build for their ancestors.
Upon arrival at Tam Giang lagoon, enjoy a lunch of fresh seafood and take a boat trip on the lagoon. Float past local families living on the riverbank, stopping to meet some of them on your way. Finally, transfer back to your hotel in the late afternoon with plenty of time to enjoy your evening as you please.
Day 9: Hoi An street food tour
Depart from the hotel in Hue in the morning and continue south to the riverside town of Hoi An. The five hour trip hugs the coastline along the South China Sea with breath-taking views, particularly as the road winds its way up Hai Van Pass (“Pass of the Clouds”), one of the most scenic stretches of road in Vietnam.
As you pass through the city of Danang, stop at the Cham Museum. The Cham civilization ruled central Vietnam from the 2nd - 13th centuries and was considered extremely important for religion and learning.
Afterwards, set off on a culinary adventure in Hoi An to discover the flavours and dishes that make this coastal town and its cuisine so unique. Alongside an expert local guide, your journey introduces you to the stories behind Hoi An’s most iconic dishes at the town’s most famous eateries.
Start your tour at a local restaurant famous for white rose dumplings, found exclusively in Hoi An. Sit back and enjoy the wonder of the locals working here, who churn out up to 6000 of these dumplings every day! Your visit here includes a chance to try making a few of your own dumplings before sampling a few.
In a nearby try another local specialty: banh can crackers. Served with quail eggs, pork and a tasty salad, this dish is a highlight of Hoi An street food culture and a must-try for every visitor. Pull up a small street-side stool and enjoy it with your guide.
Continue onward to sample grilled pork satay and spring rolls at a local restaurant. Next up is fried wonton - lovingly referred to as a “Hoi An pizza” - and finally try the famous Cao Lau noodle or chicken rice. Wrap up the tour with a stop at Sky Coffee Bar, a local favourite within the Hoi An Museum. Chat with your guide over a beverage here before heading back to your hotel for a restful evening.
Day 10: Hoi An city tour
After breakfast, meet with your guide for an interesting and insightful tour of Hoi An’s highlights and learn about its history.
Hoi An is a former trading port that welcomed Chinese, Dutch, French, Japanese, Portuguese and Arab merchants between the 16th to 18th centuries. Today Hoi An is famous for its restored architecture, homemade silk, expert tailors and delicious noodles and seafood. Its relaxed vibe and pedestrian streets make this town a pleasure to walk around and discover new things.
The first stop is Chua Ong Pagoda, dating back to 1653 and built in honour of the Chinese general Quan Cong, who is worshipped by many as a symbol of loyalty and justice.
Next, pop into Phuc Kien Assembly Hall, to see the Jinshang Temple which is dedicated to the goddess of the sea and the protector of sailors. From there it’s a short walk to Tan Ky House, a 200 year old ancestral house and finally, stroll across the often photographed 17th century covered bridge built by Japanese craftsmen. The beautifully built bridge doubles as a temple and is a major landmark of Hoi An. End your afternoon with a boat trip along Thu Bon river before returning back to your hotel. Tuck in early for the evening or head out to the riverside promenade to explore its lantern-lit charm under cover of night.
Day 11: Essence of Hoi An
Enjoy breakfast at your hotel. Then, hop on a bicycle for a picturesque half-day tour of the countryside surrounding Hoi An. Pass rows of serene rice paddy fields en-route to Cam Thanh Village where you’ll get a taste of local life. Once a shelter for locals and soldiers during the war, the village is now famous for its thatched roof cottages, woven from water coconut leaves of the region. Spend some time with a local family and learn about the villagers’ way of life. Then, board a bamboo basket boat and learn how to catch crabs alongside local experts. Take a well-earned rest and savour the refreshing flavour of fresh coconut water before cycling on to Ha Linh for a lantern workshop. There, you’ll learn how to make these delicate creations in a hands-on master class. With your hand-made lantern in hand, enjoy the charming scenery as you cycle back to Hoi An and return back to your hotel. Enjoy your last evening in Hoi An with a stroll along the river, being sure to float a lantern for good luck.
Day 12: Fly to Nha Trang
After breakfast your guide will meet you to the airport for your flight to Nha Trang. Upon arrival, your guide will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel. After freshening up, take a stroll to the beach where you can enjoy a bit of sand and sun before tucking in for the evening.
Day 13: Free day in Nha Trang
After breakfast today, enjoy the tropical delights of Nha Trang at your leisure. Hop on a boat and head to some of the gorgeous surrounding islands, relax on some of the pleasant mainland beaches, or take a daytrip to some of the surrounding attractions such as Long Son Pagoda, Po Nagar, or Vinpearl Park.
Day 14: Transfer to Dalat
Your guide will meet you at your hotel after breakfast and transfer you to Dalat, a scenic drive of about four hours. After arriving at your hotel, head out for a leisurely stroll around the town and discover why it’s known as the “City of Eternal Spring,” or simply relax and enjoy the view from the comfort of your hotel.
Day 15: Free day in Dalat
Famous for its charming mountainous scenery, pine forests, lakes and waterfalls, Dalat is the perfect place to unwind. It is for this reason that the French developed the area as a retreat during the early 1900’s. Spend today at your leisure as you discover why the area has been known for over a century as a refreshing respite from the rest of Vietnam.
Day 16: Fly to Ho Chi Minh city - Evening street food tour
After a rejuvenating time in Dalat, your guide will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to the airport for your flight to Ho Chi Minh City – formerly known as Saigon. Upon arrival, your guide will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel.
In the evening, taste the culture of Saigon. Set off on a culinary adventure in the heart of the city where locals eat. Walk along small alleys, and see the streets come alive at night. With the help of our guide, try all those weird and wonderful foods and see how they’re made. Pull up a stool and taste a selection of different Vietnamese favourites. Begin with a unique rice paper pizza, then enjoy some banh beo or water from cakes, try some fresh snail dishes, and savour a Vietnamese pancake known as banh xeo. End the night with dessert from one of Saigon’s little sweet soup places. Then head back to your hotel for some rest or head out and explore some of the city’s vibrant nightlife.
Day 17: Ho Chi Minh city tour
In the morning, get off of the tourist track to experience the local life of bustling Ho Chi Minh City. Learn about Vietnamese and Chinese communities as you travel to Cho Lon, one of the world’s largest and oldest Chinatowns. Start with a visit to the iconic Binh Tay Market, famed for its warren of food stands and grand Sino-French architecture. Learn about the everyday life of the fruit and vegetable sellers here before stopping for a glass of traditional Café Sua Da - Vietnamese iced coffee, and the chance to try some of Vietnam’s exotic fruits. Afterwards, hop on a cyclo and pass through the chaotic backstreets where everything from spare motorbike parts to religious artefacts are frantically traded! Stop at historic Cha Tam church, where President Diem was seized during the 1963 coup and hear about the city’s turbulent past before walking through the oldest streets of Cho Lon. Visit a traditional Chinese medicine shop and see how herbal tea is prepared before arriving at the Minh Huong communal house - home to one of Cho Lon’s oldest Chinese communities. Hear the stories of the families that moved from China over 3 centuries ago and learn how Vietnamese and Chinese culture has blended over the years. Finish your morning on board the beautiful Lady Hau Rice Barge, where you will enjoy a cooking master class before sitting down for a tasty Vietnamese lunch as Saigon slips past you. Then, transfer back to your hotel for an early rest.
Day 18: Mekong Delta Le Jarai Cruise
Depart from your hotel in the morning and drive approximately two hours to Ben Tre, and the gateway to the delta. Here, you will board a small boat to start your sightseeing around the waterways of Mekong Delta. Known also as the rice bowl of Vietnam because of its large rice production, the area has also diversified into activities related to aquaculture, rearing of animals, cash crops and fruit trees.
Visit a brick factory and board a small boat to meander through the canals and waterways in the area. Then, stop at a small homemade coconut processing plant to see how coconuts have been turned into oil, candy and woven mats that are later sold in the market. After the boat trip you will have a short walk to a local village to see mat weavers at work, before jumping on the Delta’s version of a tuk tuk and travelling down country roads to the pier. Here you will board a beautiful teak boat, the Le Jarai, and continue your cruise along the river. While onboard, join in the demonstration of Vietnamese cooking before sitting down to a sumptuous three-course lunch of Mekong specialities. After lunch relax on the top deck and take in the scenery back to Ben Tre where, on arrival you will transfer back to Ho Chi Minh City, arriving late in the afternoon. Enjoy one last night out on the town exploring the famous nightlife of Saigon and your final taste of Vietnam.
Day 19: Depart Ho Chi Minh city
Your guide will meet you at your hotel in the morning and transfer you to the airport for your onward flight.