Essential Vietnam

Vietnam

Culture | Christmas

Discover Vietnam's charms and its people

14 days £1,945 pp This is the per person group tour price, based on 2 sharing. The price is subject to change with exchange rate and flight cost fluctuations.
Dates & Prices

Intro

An ideal introduction to Vietnam, this tour will allow you to meet Vietnam's friendly people and discover its diverse regions - the natural splendour of the North, the historic charm of the Central provinces and the vibrancy and beauty of the South. Discover Hanoi`s historic districts and take a traditional boat through the limestone karsts of Halong Bay before heading South to imperial Hué and the atmospheric old town of Hoi An. Sample delicious cuisine and explore the stunning beaches of Vietnam's coastline before heading to Ho Chi Minh City. Discover this lively city and explore the Viet Cong's Cu Chi tunnels and the picturesque Mekong Delta.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Contrasting histories of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City
  • Learn about the chilling history of Hoa Lo Prison
  • The natural beauty of Halong Bay
  • The eclectic town of Hué
  • The historic city of Hoi An
  • The beautiful coastline of Nha Trang
  • Discover the vast Cu Chi Tunnels
  • The rural life of the Mekong Delta

Places Visited

Hanoi - Hoa Lo Prison - Halong Bay - Hué - Hoi An - Nha Trang - Ho Chi Minh City - Cu Chi Tunnels - Mekong Delta

What's Included

Arrival & departure transfers
Ground transport with driver
Domestic flights
Accommodation
Breakfasts and some other meals (refer to itinerary for meal plan)
English-speaking guides
Entrance fees to sites
Itinerary & Map
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Day 1 : Arrival

Arrive at the airport where you will be greeted by a Travel The Unknown representative. Transfer to hotel. Rest of the day free. Overnight in Hanoi. 

Meal plan: n/a

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Day 2 : Hanoi

Explore Hanoi like a local
This morning, you will meet your guide and driver around 07:00 am and head towards Hoan Kiem Lake. It is a cultural thing in Vietnam to wake up very early and start the morning with some exercise. It is very interesting to see how the local people, mostly women of varying age, start their busy routine. Several groups of people can be found practising tai chi and aerobics. Be part of Vietnam and join the locals in their morning routine!
 
After visiting the Ngoc Son Temple, located in the middle of the Hoan Kiem Lake, we will visit a traditional, local and charming coffee place, where you will be able to try Vietnam’s local coffee: Cà phê sữa đá (Iced coffee) and if you feel more adventurous, you can also try the ‘Egg coffee’! After our coffee, we will continue walking and we will stop in a street food place, where you will try the delicious ‘bánh mì’ –typical baguette sandwich filled in with a variety of things! Later, we will get deep into Hanoi’s Old Quarter and you will start a walking tour where you will be able to witness the French architecture in different Vietnamese buildings. Our first stop will be the St. Joseph Cathedral, a French gothic building constructed in 1886. Next, we will walk just 10 minutes until we arrive at the Hoa Lo Prison, where Vietnamese as well as American and French prisoners of war used to be imprisoned. To finish our morning, we will pay a visit to the Huu Tiep Lake, better known as ‘B-52 lake’, where US B-5 bomber wreckage can be seen.
 
At noon, we will return to the Old Quarter. Vietnam is very well known for its food, so we will stop at a ‘Bún Chả’ restaurant, where you will try Hanoi’s speciality. After our super local lunch, we will visit the Temple of Literature, built in 1076. Vietnam’s first university was established within this temple to educate Vietnam's royalty, mandarins and members of the elite. The university functioned for 700 years and its gardens and well-preserved architecture offer a fascinating glimpse into Vietnam’s past.
 
Our last stop of the day will be in Hanoi railway tracks. This is something very particular from this city as the railway tracks are sometimes located meters away from entrance door of houses! Together with our guide, you will walk along the railway tracks and take some of the most beautiful pictures of the city. After a long day, we will finish with evening beers at the typical and well known Bia Hoi, where you will taste local draft beer; finishing the day as a local!
 
Along the tour, you will be trying different street specialities, therefore, we recommend avoiding breakfast at the hotel this day!       

Meal plan: Breakfast

Sitting on the banks of the Red River, Vietnam's capital is the second largest city in the country. Steeped in an intriguing history, many of Hanoi's historical monuments and palaces have been destroyed by both civil war and foreign aggression, although some do still remain - for example the Temple of Literature, which is Vietnam's first university and was built as a tribute to Confucius. It is home to the Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long which was built by the Ly Dynasty in the 11th Century on an old Chinese Fortress. Hanoi is famous for its lakes, in particular Hoan Kiem Lake, also called the 'Lake of the Restored Sword', which is linked to the legend of the magic sword when the Golden Turtle God reclaimed Emperor Le Loi's magic sword, Heaven's Will. 

The Hoa Lo Prison was built by French colonists in 1896 to hold political prisoners, though was later used during the Vietnam War by North Vietnam for US prisoners of war, who ironically nicknamed it 'Hanoi Hilton'. Originally intended to house 450 inmates, records show there were a staggering 2000 prisoners by the 1930s, though hundreds escaped the walls through the sewer grates. The prison complex was demolished during the 1990s, with only the gatehouse remaining as the museum. Most of the exhibits relate to the prison's use up to the 1950s and the Vietnamese struggle for independence from France, with a particularly chilling display of the French guillotine used to execute Vietnamese revolutionaries. 

Devoted to Confucius, the Temple of Literature is set amidst immaculate grounds that are divided into five courtyards. The temple has a great academic history and possesses engraved stone tablets that feature the names of its top performing students, some of which date back to 1070.

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Day 3 : Halong Bay

Take a boat trip along Halong Bay and visit fishing villages. Overnight on board in Halong Bay.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Halong Bay is a collection of magnificent limestone islands rising from the ocean. Several of the islands have grottos inside them which have been decorated by 19th Century French tourists and some of the paintings and messages can still be seen today. It has been the backdrop for many sea battles and Kublai Khan’s Mongol boats were defeated there in 1288.

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Day 4 : Halong Bay - Hué

In the morning take part in a yoga session and visit one of the most famous caves in the bay. Transfer to Hanoi for flight to Hué. Overnight in Hué. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 5 : Hué

After an early breakfast, you will meet your guide and you will visit the Forbidden Purple City, constructed under the Emperor Gia Long's, in the early 19th century. It is located in the Citadel of Hue, which was badly damaged during the Tet offensive of 1968. Established as the capital of unified Viet Nam in 1802, Hue was not only the political but also the cultural and religious centre under the Nguyen dynasty until 1945. Hue was declared a UNESCO World Heritage in 1993. At noon, we will stop for lunch at a local restaurant.
Later, you will board a dragon boat for a pleasant boat trip on the Perfume River to visit the characteristic Thien Mu Pagoda. Then, you will visit the tombs of the emperors Tu Duc and Khai Dinh. Tu Duc was Vietnam's fourth emperor and lived from 1829 until 1883. During his reign, Vietnam lost its independence to France. Tu Duc is said to have had 104 concubines.  Khai Dinh King was Vietnam’s Emperor from 1916 to 1925. His tomb represents a fusion of traditional Vietnamese style and modern influence, as it is almost entirely made of concrete and includes many European architectural details. Overnight in Hué.

Meal plan: Breakfast & lunch

Once the capital of feudal Vietnam, Hué is known for its historical monuments and is home to the Imperial City. Along the Perfume River lie the tombs of the rulers of the Nguyen dynasty including Minh Mang, Tu Duc and Khai Dun as well as the Thien Mu Pagoda, regarded as the unofficial symbol of the former imperial capital. It is also home to the Dong Baa Markets, the largest marketplace in central Vietnam which has all the typical features of a traditional Vietnamese market.

The Forbidden Purple City can be found at the centre of the Imperial Enclosure, a structure that resembles the Forbidden City of Beijing. Build by the Nguyen Dynasty who ascended the throne in 1802, this city was intended solely for the emperor’s use. The Forbidden Purple City has been victim to many natural disasters and was heavily damaged during the war with the U.S.

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Day 6 : Danang - Hoi An

Transfer to Hoi An, stopping in Da Nang to visit the Museum of Cham Sculpture on the way. Take a walking tour of Hoi An in the afternoon. Overnight in Hoi An. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Once the country's trade centre, Hoi An is steeped in history. Shipwrecks that have been recovered show that Vietnamese and Asian ceramics have been transported as far as Sinai, Egypt. Foreign influence can be seen in the buildings and streets of the city. Nearby are the ruins of  My Son, Cua Dai Beach and China Beach, which is a hot spot for activities such as windsurfing and snorkelling. It is home to many ruins and pagodas, which have given it UNESCO World Heritage Site Status and there is archaeological evidence of a port being there since the 2nd Century BC.

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Day 7 : Hoi An - Nha Trang

Spend the morning at your leisure. You will be transferred to Da Nang airport for your flight to Nha Trang. Overnight in Nha Trang. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 8 : Nha Trang

Spend the day at your leisure. Overnight in Nha Trang. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Boasting beautiful beaches and a glorious coastline, Nha Trang is known for being a scuba diving hotspot as well as being a centre for marine science. Home to the famous Po Nagar Tower which was built by the Champa, the area boasts its own tropical savanna climate with a lengthy dry season

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Day 9 : Nha Trang - Ho Chi Minh City

Free morning to spend as you wish. Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 10 : Ho Chi Minh City

You will depart from your hotel after breakfast, and our first stop will be the Jade Emperor Pagoda, one of the most spectacularly atmospheric temples in HCMC, stuffed with statues of phantasmal divinities and grotesque heroes.  Continue on to the Reunification Palace, the former residence of the presidents of South Vietnam before 1975. Next, you will visit two iconic architectural landmarks the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office built between 1877 and 1883 by renowned designer Gustav Eiffel. Then we will head towards the War Museum, one of Vietnam’s most popular museums which primarily exhibit the American phase of the Vietnam War. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City has a rich military history. Named after the Communist leader, the French colonial influence is reflected through the Western Style buildings and French Villas. It is home to the Reunification Palace, the archives of the Vietnam War, and the Ben Thanh market. It has become a sprawling, rapidly growing city that is unlike anywhere else in Vietnam. It is also home to the Vinh Nghiem Pagoda, which was named after the Pagoda in Bac Giang and is the first pagoda in Vietnam to be built in the traditional Vietnamese architectural style, but in concrete. 

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Day 11 : Cu Chi Tunnels

Drive to Cu Chi Tunnels and learn about life underground for Viet Cong soldiers. Transfer back to Ho Chi Minh to visit the Fito Museum. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City. 
 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Located in the Cu Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City, the Cu Chi Tunnels were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding places during combat. Part of a larger tunnel network that underlies much of the country, at its peak the Cu Chi tunnel system stretched from Ho Chi Minh City to the Cambodian border and allowed the Viet Cong to maintain control in the surrounding rural area as it allowed them to make surprise attacks. The tunnels also feature constructive living areas and kitchens as well as field hospitals and command centres.

The Fito museum is a museum dedicated to Vietnamese traditional medicine. It exhibits around 3,000 items related to Vietnamese traditional medicine, some dating back to the Stone age.

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Day 12 : Mekong Delta

This morning, after an early breakfast, you will be picked up at your hotel around 8 am and head towards Cai Be. Arriving at Cai Be, you will get on our charming shuttle boat to reach Mekong Lodge – the green pearl of Mekong Delta. The boat transfer is your first contact with the Mekong’s fertile alluvial water, which shapes the richness of the land.
 
Disembark and welcome you to Mekong Lodge. Check-in your private bungalows and enjoy a delicious lunch in Mekong Riverside Restaurant.
 
After lunch, you will begin the cycling tour to Tan Phong Island; go to one of the orchards along village paths.

In the evening, get some hands-on culinary experience by joining the Vietnamese cooking class. The chefs will instruct you to prepare the Mekong Lodge signature. Enjoy dinner in a cosy atmosphere in the restaurant.  And Riverside Bar is open until midnight.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Known to the Vietnamese as Cuu Long or 'Nine Dragons', the Mekong Delta is the recent agricultural centre of Vietnam. Under the sway of the Cambodia until the end of the 17th Century, the Mekong Delta showcases the diversity of the area. There are many towns and villages dotted along the tributaries. The Mekong Delta is also home to over 10,000 new species of animal.

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Day 13 : Mekong Delta - Ho Chi Minh City

Visit a floating market to observe how people go shopping in the Mekong delta. Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City. The afternoon is free to enjoy at your leisure. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 14 : Departure

Breakfast. You will then be transferred to the airport to connect with your onward flight. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Accommodation

Accommodation Title

All accommodation subject to availability. Final accommodation choices will be confirmed after booking.

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Medallion Hotel

The Medallion Hotel is situated at the heart of Hanoi's old quarter. The spacious hotel has a modern decor and fittings for guests, which include wifi access and air-conditioned rooms. Medallion's restaurant serves a mixture of Western and Asian cuisine, along with a buffet style breakfast. 

Visit hotel's site
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Glory Legend Cruise

Glory Legend Cruises provides a tranquil way to explore Halong Bay. The boats are made up of modern cabins, comfortable communal lounges and restaurants. Guests can enjoy the panoramic views from the sundeck on board - before retiring to their cabins which also boast views from large windows that overlook Halong Bay. Cabin rooms provide for a comfortable stay and are fitted with air-conditioning and private toilets. Guests can also enjoy the other facilities whilst on board the Glory Legend Cruise, which includes a spa and fitness room. 

Visit hotel's site
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Romance Hotel

Romance Hotel is located in central Hue, near to many of the cities historic sights. It has a modern decor that, in some parts of the hotel, also displays traditional Vietnamese design. The bedrooms are spacious, providing a comfortable stay for guests who are exploring the city. The hotel also boasts a rooftop pool, which provides a relaxing spot for visitors to enjoy a panoramic view across Hue. 

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Thuy Duong

Thy Duong can be found just outside of the charming town of Hoi An, where visitors can visit famous heritage sites and see historic pagodas. The hotel is surrounded by gardens and hosts additional services, such as an outside swimming pool and spa, that guests can access during their stay. The comfortable bedrooms have modern fixtures and fittings, including satellite television, air-conditioning and wifi. The hotel has a number of restaurants and cafes, serving Hoi An specialties, along with Asian and European dishes. 

Visit hotel's site
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Starlet Hotel

The Starlet Hotel can be found just a few minutes away from Nha Trang Beach. The hotel has a bright and spacious interior, boasting views of the sea and the city. Its bedrooms have a simple, yet modern design and provide guests access to wifi, satellite television and bottled water. The Starlet restaurant serves both Vietnamese and Western dishes. Other facilities include communal lounge space and an outdoor swimming pool. 

Visit hotel's site
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Ruby River Hotel

Ruby River Hotel is located at the heart of the city of Ho Chi Minh. It provides the perfect base for exploring local sights, that include the Opera House and the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica. The en-suite bedrooms are decorated in an elegant and modern style - allowing guests a comfortable space to relax, where they will have access to wifi, satellite television and air-conditioning. The hotel restaurant serves a daily breakfast buffet, whilst its evening menu features both local dishes and Western cuisine. 

Visit hotel's site
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Mekong Lodge

The quaint bungalows of Cai Be Mekong Lodge offer a tranquil respite from the bustle of Vietnamese cities. The lodge is set on the banks of the Mekong River, and is surrounded by lush gardens. The simple design of the bedrooms compliments the relaxed atmosphere of Cai Be Mekong Lodge. Guests can enjoy dinner at the restaurant, which offers provides guests with views across the river and offers a selection of both local and international delicacies. 

Visit hotel's site
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Reviews

A well-planned itinerary that crammed an impressive amount into 16 days, without ever feeling rushed. Cambodia and Vietnam are both fantastic destinations, offering stunning natural scenery and beautifully preserved historical sites, together with truly delightful and welcoming people. Our guides made our trip extraordinary, weaving their personal histories in to the many insights they gave us of two countries that have experienced such difficult pasts.

Mark Pettengel & Jo Martin , Tailormade Vietnam & Cambodia

TTU created a first class tailor made tour for my sister and I. We couldn't have had better service, from the tour guides, the hotel, the cruise and even the transport between places.

Ciorsdan Taylor , Tailormade Vietnam

Our holiday to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam with Travel the Unknown was a huge success. We had a fascinating itinerary, well-informed and friendly guides who really looked after us, and lovely accommodation. Every time there was a change of vehicle or guide, the next one was always there and waiting. All stages of the planning and booking process were efficiently done, so all we had to do was enjoy it!

Erika & Robert Hollingdale , Tailormade Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam

Our trip with Travel The Unknown was one of our best trips ever. All went as planned, wonderful guides, perfect hotels - best of all: excellent scheduling of activities and time to rest - balance was just what we needed!! Thank you to all staff involved!

Greg & Jan Sheffer , Classical Indochina, Indochina
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