Tailormade tour Highlights of Vietnam tour Vietnam

10 Nights/11 Days

Hanoi • Ha Long Bay • Hue • Hoi An • Ho Chi Minh City

This ten-night tour accompanied by local guide offers a brilliant first-time insight into Vietnam as you travel from Hanoi in the north, via the UNESCO site of Ha Long Bay, to the ancient cities of Hue and Hoi An, with time to relax on the beach at Hoi An before the bustling street life of Saigon and then a fascinating trip to the tropical fields near Ben Tre, about two hours’ south from Ho Chi Minh City and an area famed for its natural beauty and a wealth of food and craft products.

Holiday price guide

Available year-round subject to the opening period of the hotels, from about £3,600 per person.

Luxury touring holiday with local guides of the highlights of Vietnam to Hanoi, Ha Long, Hue, Hoi An, Saigon and Ben Tre


Hanoi • Tran Quoc Pagoda • Ha Long Bay overnight cruise • Hue • Perfume River cruise • Thien Mu Pagoda • Royal Tombs of Emperor Minh Mang • Cham Museum Danang • Hoi An • My Son • Ho Chi Minh City • Jade Emperor Temple • Ben Thanh market • Bicycle rides and sampan canal trip • Tea at home of rice paper makers • Ben Tre

Day by day

You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel. There is time to relax after your journey before your guide accompanies you to performance of traditional water puppetry (an art form unique to northern Vietnam, and an interesting, light-hearted introduction to its rural culture). In the evening, you will enjoy a welcome dinner at restaurant in a colonial building. You will stay in Hanoi for 2 nights.

You have the whole day to explore Vietnam’s capital city. Your guide will discuss with you about any places in particular you want to visit but in principle will take you to the Temple of Literature, the first university in Vietnam dating back to the 11th century, and Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, his simple stilt house where he lived and worked, and the museum dedicated to his memory. After an included lunch, visit the serene Tran Quoc Pagoda, the oldest in Hanoi, on the banks of Hanoi’s Ho Tay (West) Lake. The bustling Old Quarter is a magnet for visitors. It’s a maze of shopping streets and restaurants with a hotchpotch of architecture - traditional tube houses, religious buildings, artisans’ workshops and cottages, colonial houses and modern concrete edifices. It is noisy and hectic, but definitely a ‘must-see’ attraction in the city. Another famous market you can visit whilst in the Old Quarter is the Dong Xuan market. Alternative for Day Two: Cycling and exploring villages around Hanoi In the morning, you’ll be picked up and driven to Bat Trang. Stroll the small alleys of this old village, famous for its high-quality ceramics, watch local people producing their fine products and visit some of the houses used as workshops and showrooms. Collect your bicycles and ride along the river dyke, through more of the small villages that surround Hanoi. The total distance you cycle is about 7 kms and it is on a small road that runs beside a tributary of the Red River. At the end of the ride, you are driven to Dong Ho village, famous for its traditional paintings. After a picnic lunch, your driver will take you to Tam Tao village where you will enjoy the traditional Quan Ho music performed by villagers in the commune house. The singers have been officially designated as part of Vietnam’s living heritage. In the late afternoon, you’ll return to Hanoi for the night.

After an early breakfast, depart by car for Ha Long Bay, one of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Areas and the world’s largest marine limestone ‘karst’ landscape. There you will board your boat, a wooden junk built from the model of old Vietnamese court vessels with sails, a wide transom and rectangular superstructure. The boats vary in size, accommodating between ten and eighteen people. that takes you first to the busy World Heritage area and then to some of the less well-known grottoes and caves. Weather permitting, swim, fish, and climb a hill that affords a view of the Bay’s remarkable seascape, or venture into some of the sea level caves in a small sampan. All meals are provided on board, usually based on fresh seafood, and you’ll sleep in a twin cabin with en-suite toilet and shower.

The morning is spent cruising Ha Long Bay, followed by lunch just before docking. You are driven back to Hanoi Noi Bai airport for your flight to Hue. Upon arrival in Hue, you will be picked up and transferred to your hotel for the night. Hue is traditionally a main cultural, religious and educational centre of Vietnam and houses the remarkable tombs of the Nguyen emperors, whose dynasty lasted from 1802 until 1942, a citadel in the Vauban style dating from 1804, a palace and the 21 metre-high Thien Mu Pagoda, astride the Perfume River.

This morning you will cruise along the Perfume River to the Thien Mu Pagoda, and then travel by road to the Royal Tombs of Emperor Minh Mang. Each royal mausoleum reflects the personality of the Emperor it commemorates. The most majestic is that of Emperor Minh Mang, who ruled from 1820 to 1840, a staunch follower of Confucianism with many wives, concubines and a small army of children. Planned by the Emperor and built shortly after his death in formal Chinese style, it is opulent and exotic, and a good example of classic Sino-Vietnamese architecture. In contrast to Emperor Ming Mang’s flamboyant creation, the tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh is an uneasy combination of Vietnamese and European features, using fragments of ceramics and glass for decoration, but with striking views from the courtyard in front of the mausoleum. After an included lunch, your guide will arrive to take you on a tour of Hue’s ancient citadel, once the seat of the Emperors of the powerful Nguyen Dynasty that ruled Vietnam from about 1800 until 1945. You begin with a stroll around the area between the Citadel’s giant walls and the defensive moat, now filled with lotus flowers. You then enter the Noon Gate to wander around the Thai Hoa Palace, the Pavilion housing the Nine urns of the Nguyen rulers and the remains of the Royal Palaces. You then visit Dong Ba market before returning to your hotel before dinner. In the evening, you’ll have dinner in the charming surroundings of the garden houses, that are a unique feature of Hue. The houses are traditional, privately owned and set in attractive formal gardens. Some have connections with the old Royal Imperial Court but each is highly individual where house and garden, plants, air and water co-exist harmoniously. The narrow streets and abundant flora give the garden house area the feel of a country village.

You leave the hotel in Hue this morning for the drive to Danang, crossing the high mountain pass of Hai Van with excellent views from the top, built on a spur of the Truong Son Mountains that juts into the South China Sea. You should be able to see Lang Co beach and village, with Danang to the south. In Danang, you’ll be shown the remarkable Hindu statuary in the Cham Museum, a fine open-air collection of Cham sculpture. After an included lunch, you have a guided visit of the ancient town of Hoi An. Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage site. An ancient trading port, once the largest in Indochina, Hoi An was a meeting point for many cultures that left their mark on the different architectural features of its wooden buildings. Untouched by the American War, the original street pattern still exists, as does the quay that once welcomed ships from all over East Asia and beyond. Many remained in port for months at a time, waiting for the trade winds to carry them home. Today there is still an array of interesting houses, shops, family chapels, pagodas and temples, tombs, bridges and clothes shops where tailoring will be carried out on demand. There are plenty of good restaurants and it is a good place for shopping for silk. You spend 3 nights in Hoi An.

A day at leisure in Hoi An to spend the day on the beach or exploring the town. The night is spent in Hoi An. Own arrangements for dinner. Alternative for Day Seven: Visit My Son My Son was once the spiritual capital of the Cham kingdom that dominated the region for nearly a thousand years until the 15th Century. My Son is the Cham equivalent to other Indian-influenced cities in the region such as Angkor and Bagan. Although My Son was heavily bombed during the American war, its remarkable brick towers, a hallmark of its civilisation, are still impressive, as is its remote valley setting in a quiet, richly forested area, crossed by a clear stream and with coffee plantations nearby. Elements of the Cham civilisation can still be seen in the local peoples from their pottery, silk production and rice fields. (Good sun protection is important as the tree cover is not complete and the valley acts as a sun trap). Return to Hoi An and have the rest of the day free. Or Farmer to Fisherman tour This is a half day tour that begins with cycling the narrow roads through the countryside, passing by rice paddy fields, water buffalos, bamboo bridges and local farmers on their daily work. You then board a boat that takes you to the mouth of the Thu Bon estuary where the river meets the Cua Dai Sea. You cruise along the coastline, observing the lives of local fishermen. You join the fishermen to try your hand at catching fish in a traditional ‘Thung Chai’ basket boat. (These are light and portable, circular and constructed of bamboo then tarred for waterproofing. Each boat can carry up to five people. Life jackets are provided). Then the boat meanders through the water palm coconut canal. During the American war, Viet Cong soldiers made use of this area as a highly effective hiding place. You visit a local fishing village and enjoy a fresh seafood lunch before cycling back to your hotel.

Enjoy a morning at leisure before an afternoon flight to Ho Chi Minh City. After transferring to your centrally located hotel, you’re free to wander around District 1. During your time in Ho Chi Minh City it is possible to swop some of our suggested visits for others. For example, instead of Ben Tre you could vist the Cu Chi Tunnels (Ben Dinh is about 20 kms from Ho Chi Minh City) or these could be visited on the last day, depending on the time of your flight. Another possibility is to extend your time in Ho Chi Minh City by one night. Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is a thriving metropolis which has nevertheless preserved 300 years of traditions and ancient culture. For the evening there are a couple of options: Nightlife by Vespa This evening you are picked up at the hotel for a tour on the back of a vintage Vespa scooter, to experience the nightlife of Saigon the way the locals do. Your first stop is at Café Zoom to enjoy a cocktail and appetiser (included) before adventuring to a favourite local eating spot. The ride takes you through Chinatown into District 4, through busy streets and alleys, into District 3 and downtown District 1 on the way to taste Banh Xeo, Saigon’s speciality snack. A O Show The A O show captures much of the uniqueness of Vietnam in the engaging style of contemporary circus. The hour-long show is a fusion of dance, acrobatics and live music with theatrical drama tracing the passage of Vietnam from a rural village culture to the modern, urban society it is today.

After breakfast your local guide will arrive to take you on a tour of Ho Chi Minh City. You visit the History Museum, where there is a special exhibition of the 5th century Oc Eo civilisation (as an alternative you might visit the Fito Museum which hosts a large collection of relics, including traditional Vietnamese medicinal implements and chronicles the history of medical practice in Vietnam from 2000 BC). You also visit the Museum of War Remnants (not for the squeamish) which provides a fascinating perspective of the ‘American War’. Another site visited is the Jade Emperor Pagoda, one of the best Taoist temples in Vietnam with superb effigies, carved panels of the descent to Hell and also terrapin and tortoise sanctuaries. After the sightseeing there is time to rest and freshen up or visit the lively Ben Thanh market. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.

This morning you are taken south from Ho Chi Minh City on a two-hour drive to Ben Tre Province, in the Mekong Delta, famous for coconut production and quiet, peaceful waterways. On arrival, ride a xe loi through Huu Dinh Village to enjoy the green fields and gardens. Continue a short distance on foot to Huu Phuoc Bridge, where you begin your boat trip through small canals amidst tropical scenery. On board the Mango cruise boat enjoy a welcome drink of fresh coconut juice and tropical fruit. At your first stop visit a brick making workshop where locals still use centuries-old traditional methods to make bricks by hand. Then, back on the boat, you cross the An Hoa river and take a sampan along narrow canals. The sampan will take you to a local household where three generations live under one roof and make a living on fishing, shrimps and fruit. You are invited to sample their fresh fruit and tea before you move on to visit a rice noodle factory producing Hu Tieu noodles, one of the most popular breakfast dishes in the region. After that there is bicycle ride along village roads past gardens and local houses, where families live on the traditional business of sampan boat building. Your next stop will be at the home of Mr Sau Tuong, a former Vietcong soldier who survived two years’ fighting the Khmer Rouge in Phnom Penh. He and his wife now make rice paper, the speciality of My Long village. Time to chat to him and to enjoy the crispy rice paper made by his wife. The bike ride continues to a riverside restaurant nearby for lunch. Relax and stroll through the garden. After lunch you visit the nearby house of Mr Hung, a famous sticky rice maker. He has catfish you can feed and an orchard to visit. Then your boat will be waiting for you at the nearby pier to bring you back to Ben Tre City, and then it’s back by car to Ho Chi Minh City for your final night’s accommodation.

Enjoy the rest of your time until your transfer to the airport for your return or onward flight.

This holiday exceeded my expectations. The quality of the hotels and excursions were superb.
Ms W, December 2018

Holiday price guide From about £3,600 per person based on two people sharing a double room and including for economy flights from London.

Holiday Code VNDG01

Luxury touring holiday with local guides of the highlights of Vietnam to Hanoi, Ha Long, Hue, Hoi An, Saigon and Ben Tre

This holiday exceeded my expectations. The quality of the hotels and excursions were superb.
Ms W, December 2018

Holiday price guide From about £3,600 per person based on two people sharing a double room and including for economy flights from London.

Holiday Code VNDG01

Our prices include ● Return scheduled flights with Vietnam Airlines from London to Hanoi, returning from Ho Chi Minh City to London in economy class
● Domestic flights from Hanoi to Hue and Danang to Ho Chi Minh City
● 2 nights’ bed and breakfast in Hanoi
● 3 nights’ accommodation plus full board on the boat in Ha Long Bay
● Seven lunches and two dinners (as specified in the itinerary) plus full board on the boat in Ha Long Bay. Some of the optional alternative excursions may also include lunch.
● 1 night’s bed and breakfast in Hue
● 3 nights’ bed and breakfast in Hoi An
● 3 nights’ bed and breakfast in Ho Chi Minh City
● Private transfers and sightseeing tours in an air-conditioned car appropriate to the size of your party
● Boat cruises as specified in the itinerary. All Ha Long boats are fully licenced and comply with current safety regulations.
● Services of an English-speaking guide as indicated in the itinerary (free days or part-free days as well as transfers unless specified do not include the services of the guide)
● Concierge service and Expressions Holidays regional helpful hints

Our prices do not include ● Early check-in or late check-out at any hotels (although we can arrange this on request at additional cost)
● Any other services not mentioned above, such as transfers and meals except breakfast at hotels
● Personal holiday insurance. This is essential and cover should be in place from when you book the holiday.
● Local tourist tax, payable locally to the hotel
● Visas – our local agent in Vietnam offers a free visa service
● Meals, except as specified above
● Drinks, gratuities and personal expenses
● Camera fees where applicable
● There may be supplements for compulsory Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve gala dinners, sometimes payable locally

Luxury touring holiday with local guides of the highlights of Vietnam to Hanoi, Ha Long, Hue, Hoi An, Saigon and Ben Tre

Expressions Holidays includes these hotels in this touring holiday as suggestions, but they can be substituted by others in the same region, if you have a preference to stay elsewhere.
Hotels included in this tour
Silk Path Hotel Value option

The Silk Path Hotel in Hanoi is a modern and sophisticated hotel in an excellent central location.

Premium deluxe room

Sofitel Metropole Hanoi Luxury option

The Sofitel Metropole Hotel is a beautiful five-star hotel in Hanoi that combines wonderful facilities with historic elegance and luxury.

Luxury room historic wing

Ha Long Bay
L'Amour Junk Value option

The L’Amour Junk is a beautiful, traditional style boat which offers both charm and privacy whilst exploring Ha Long Bay.

Paradise Luxury Cruise Luxury option

The Paradise Luxury Cruise is an elegant and luxurious boat in which to explore Ha Long Bay and its magnificent scenery.

Terrace suite cabin

Saigon Morin Hotel Value option

The Saigon Morin Hotel is a wonderful hotel, full of historic charm in the centre of Hue.

Colonial deluxe room

Azerai La Residence Hotel and Spa Luxury option

The Azerai La Residence is a stylish hotel with distinctive art deco influences, in an excellent location near the centre of Hue.

Colonial suite

Hoi An
Boutique Hoi An Resort Value option

The Boutique Hoi An Resort is an elegant and contemporary resort with wonderful facilities, in a striking beachfront location.

Superior room

Palm Garden Resort Luxury option

The Palm Garden Resort is an excellent hotel with a wide range of facilities in a wonderful beachfront location near Hoi An.

Bungalow beachfront

Ho Chi Minh City
Liberty Central Saigon Value option

The Liberty Central Saigon Centre Hotel is a sophisticated and modern hotel in an excellent location at the centre of Ho Chi Minh City.

Premier deluxe room

Park Hyatt Saigon Luxury option

The Park Hyatt Saigon is an elegant and luxurious hotel with excellent dining options, in a wonderful location at the centre of Ho Chi Minh City.

Park garden view room

This holiday exceeded my expectations. The quality of the hotels and excursions were superb.
Ms W, December 2018

Holiday price guide From about £3,600 per person based on two people sharing a double room and including for economy flights from London.

Holiday Code VNDG01

Luxury touring holiday with local guides of the highlights of Vietnam to Hanoi, Ha Long, Hue, Hoi An, Saigon and Ben Tre

Highlights of Vietnam

Boat trips on Halong Bay, with the more adventurous able to explore its caves and secret lagoons by kayak, paddling around its limestone peaks; the long, sweeping beaches of Nha Trang; Vietnamese cuisine, bursting with fresh, vivid spices, as delicious in roadside food stalls as in top restaurants such as Mango Rooms in Hoi An; historic, riverside Hoi An, with superb galleries, particularly Apricot and Mai Tai galleries in the Old Quarter, and Dong Phong Art Gallery in the French Quarter; full-moon ‘Legendary Nights’ in Hoi An, when vehicles are banned from the Old Town, which is transformed into a magical land of silk lanterns, traditional food, song and dance, and games in the streets; explore Phong Nha Cave, the largest and most impressive cave in the country; cycle through Ho Chi Minh City, the city where bike is king; the beaches and unique Cham architecture of Quy Nhon; the rugged mountain retreat of Sapa, home to a plethora of minority tribes, and gateway to the Tonkinese Alps; the mountain town of Dalat; Cat Tien National Park, a lush refuge for city dwellers with ample hiking and bird-watching, plus elephants, crocodiles and the endangered Javan rhino; the beaches of Mui Ne; river trips on the Mekong river, past river towns and sleepy villages, floating markets and fish stalls; the white-sand beaches of Phu Quoc, a little developed forested island gem; Hue, the old imperial capital and now the intellectual, cultural and spiritual heart of Vietnam.

Travel around Vietnam

The 1,600-mile Vietnamese railway system, operated by Vietnam Railways, runs along the coast between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, and links the capital with Hai Phong and northern towns. While sometimes even slower than buses, trains offer a more relaxing way to get around and more room than the jam-packed buses. Vietnam has an enormous number of rivers that are at least partly navigable, but the most important by far is the Mekong River and its tributaries. Scenic day trips by boat are possible on rivers in Hoi An, Danang, Hué, Tam Coc and even HCMC, but only in the Mekong Delta are boats used as a practical means of transport. Boat trips are also possible on the sea. Cruising the islands of Halong Bay is a must for all visitors to north Vietnam. In the south, a trip to the islands off the coast of Nha Trang is popular.

Facts in brief

Capital Hanoi
Airport There are three international airports in Vietnam. They are Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City, Noi Bai airport in Hanoi and Da Nang Airport in Da Nang.
Size 128,000 sq. miles
Population 95 million
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