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Essential Vietnam - 9 Days / 8 Nights
Essential Vietnam - 9 Days / 8 Nights

Essential Vietnam - 9 Days / 8 Nights

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Ho Chi Minh City - Mekong Delta - Danang - Hoi An - Hue - Hanoi - Halong Bay - Hanoi

Designed to capture the real essence of Vietnam, this guided nine-day journey is a fascinating introduction to one of Asia's most captivating countries. From the enchanting waterways of the Mekong Delta in the south to the dramatic karst scenery that dominates Halong Bay in the north, each destination offers a window into Vietnam's timeless culture and centuries-old traditions as well as its vibrant present.

Ho Chi Minh City is the starting point of this Vietnam tour. Affectionately known as Saigon to locals, this throbbing metropolis still retains many traditional enclaves and mesmerizing sights. Feast your senses at the bustling Chinese district of Cholon, trace the development of Vietnamese medicine in FITO Museum, browse for interesting souvenirs at Ben Thanh Market and uncover the architectural legacy of French colonialism in the city's downtown.

Leaving the hustle and bustle of the city behind, this Vietnam tour heads south to the Mekong Delta. In this fertile region criss-crossed with countless lush plantations and waterways, spend a day cruising the colorful Cai Be floating market and cottage industries to catch a glimpse of rural Vietnamese lifestyles.

Journey up to Central Vietnam to Hoi An. In this ancient port city, amble through the well-preserved streets to discover the fascinating potpurri of cultural influences on its architecture and history. This Vietnam tour package then travels from Hoi An to Hue via the Hai Van Pass, a highly scenic stretch of coastline flanked between blue oceans and towering mountains. In Hue, the mesmerizing collection of old tombs, mausoleums and citadels provide insights into the grandeur of an imperial city that for centuries shaped Vietnam's cultural and intellectual development.

This Vietnam tour then ventures north to Hanoi to visit Halong Bay, located 2 and a half hours away. Embark on an overnight cruise and take in the magnificent vistas of soaring limestone cliffs jutting out of emerald waters. Head back to the alluring capital, home to ancient pagodas, picturesque lakes, French-style colonial buildings and wide tree-lined avenues. Stroll across the tranquil compound of the Temple of Literature, wander through the narrow alleyways of the Old Quarter and marvel at the fascinating exhibits in artifacts-rich museums.

Day 1 - Ho Chi Minh City Arrival


Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City and transfer to hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure.

Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.


Distances and journey time:

Route can change subject to client’s interest.

Day 2 - Ho Chi Minh City (B)

Depart your hotel for a full day Ho Chi Minh City tour. Head to Cholon, the Chinatown district, to discover the area’s markets, shops, and the Cantonese Thien Hau Pagoda - dedicated to the goddess of the Sea. Visit Vietnam's first traditional medicine museum, the FITO Museum, with an amazing collection of 3,000 items relevant to the development of traditional Vietnamese medicine. Implements used to prepare indigenous herbs, and objects commonly found in traditional pharmacies can be seen in the galleries as well as ancient books and documents on traditional Vietnamese medicine.

Head back to the city center to visit Ben Thanh Market where an incredible display of fresh produce is offered. Simply stroll through the market exploring the variety of goods for sale.

This afternoon visit the War Remnants or History Museum (choose which one you would most like to see) and the former Presidential Palace, Stroll (your vehicle will be available at all times) to the major sights of colonial Ho Chi Minh City: the Old Saigon Post Office, Dong Khoi Street (formerly Rue Catinat), Continental Hotel, Opera House and City Hall. At the end of the afternoon head back to your hotel.

Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.

Note: History Museum is closed on Mondays.


Distances and journey time:

Route can change subject to client’s interest

Day 3 - Ho Chi Minh City - Mekong Delta - Ho Chi Minh City (B,L)


The colorful floating market, vast emerald rice fields and lush back waterways; these are the things that make Cai Be such a desired destination. This morning, leave bustling Ho Chi Minh for the 2 hour drive to the delta town of Cai Be. On arrival board your boat for cruise in the Delta’s waterways. Start your journey by passing by Cai Be’s floating market, once a busy place to trade fruits and vegetables and nowadays a more quiet market. Then, continue to a cottage factory where ‘pop-rice’, rice paper and coconut candies are made. Return to the boat for the cruise to Dong Hoa Hiep Island; along the way admire the scenery and the daily life of the local villagers. Lunch will be local Mekong style serving specialties of the area. Following your cruise drive back to Ho Chi Minh City. 

Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.


Distances and journey time:

HCMC to Cai Be (100km):2hrs

Day 4 - Ho Chi Minh City - Danang - Hoi An (B)

After breakfast transfer to Tan Son Nhat Airport for the short flight to the central port city of Danang. On arrival in Danang transfer to Hoi An, a major Asian trading port in the 17th and 18th centuries whose architecture and relaxed lifestyle has changed little over the years. Take a walking tour of the ancient town centre to visit the former merchants’ homes, the 400 year-old Japanese Covered Bridge and the colourful market.

Rest of the day at leisure.

Overnight in Hoi An.


Distances and journey time:

Route can change subject to client’s interest

Day 5 - Hoi An - Hue (B)


Leave Hoi An for Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam. Its mesmerizing tombs and mausoleums of the last emperors of Vietnam reveal fascinating insights into the lives of the imperial families and their subjects. The ancient citadel reflects the pomp and ceremony of the dynastic rulers as well as the scars of many years of turmoil, both ancient and modern. The Royal Citadel was badly damaged in the latter stages of the war but retains a sense of grace and majesty even today.

Drive through Danang and visit the Cham Museum, which contains the finest collection of Cham sculptures in the world before climbing over the Pass of Ocean Clouds and dropping down to the wonderfully photogenic fishing village of Lang Co.

In Hue visit the Imperial Citadel where the Nguyen Dynasty ruled between 1802 and 1945. 

After exploring the ruins of this wonderful monument depart for Thien Mu (Celestial Lady) Pagoda overlooking the Perfume River. Constructed in 1601, the 21-meter tower is the centerpiece of the pagoda and represents seven reincarnations of Buddha. On the pagoda grounds is the famous Austin car a resident monk drove to Saigon in 1963 to protest against the southern regime. The photo of his self-immortalization is one of the most well-known images of the war.

Overnight in Hue.


Distances and journey time:

Route can change subject to client’s interest.

Day 6 - Hue - Hanoi (B)

Start your day with a visit to the city’s vibrant Dong Ba Market to see it’s abundance of fresh produce.  After exploring the market take a cycle through the ‘Old City’ to Tinh Tam Lake where the Emperors used to relax. It is full of lotus flowers in summer. Around the lake there are many local style coffee shops where university students come to study. 

Continue to former emperor Minh Mang’s tomb located in a tranquil setting of gardens and ponds.

Journey on to Khai Dinh’s Tomb designed in traditional Vietnamese style with a European touch making it unique from the other tombs in Hue.

From here transfer 30-minutes to Hue Airport for the 1-hour flight to Hanoi. On arrival transfer to your hotel.

Overnight in Hanoi.


Distances and journey time:

Noi Bai Airport to Hanoi (35km):1hr

Day 7 - Hanoi - Halong Bay (B,L,D)


Following breakfast leave Hanoi for a 3hr30mins drive to Halong Bay including a 20-minutes stop on the way. Arrive at your jetty in Halong City towards noon and proceed with check-in formalities. After your welcome onboard, a lunch will be served while cruising towards the bay itself. In the afternoon, enjoy some visits and/or activities (depending on each boat’s itinerary) or just spend some time relaxing on board. Towards the end of the day the boat sets anchor for the night among the karst formations. Dinner is served on board.

Overnight on Halong Bay.


Distances and journey time:

Hanoi to Halong Bay (120km): 3.5hrs

Day 8 - Halong Bay - Hanoi (B)

Enjoy your fresh morning in the middle of the bay, the sun rises on Halong in the morning and breakfast is served (brunch on some boats) while the vessels cruises slowly through the magnificent rock formations and back towards port. Disembark and transfer back to Hanoi arriving mid-afternoon.

After check-in at your selected hotel take a visit Hanoi’s Old Quarter, also known as the ‘36 streets’. Take a walking tour through charming Hang Be Market and around Hoan Kiem Lake. This bustling area of narrow streets and alleys is home to literally thousands of small businesses and shopkeepers. It's a great place to explore with plenty of photo opportunities all around you.

If time permits, finish the day with a Water Puppet show. This is a uniquely north Vietnamese art form depicting scenes from rural life and episodes of national history.  

Overnight in Hanoi.

The city tour this afternoon can be flexible base on your next day flight. If you have more time, we move some sites visit to next day.

Distances and journey time:

Halong Bay to Hanoi (120km): 3.5hrs

City tour’s route can change subject to client’s interest

Day 9 - Hanoi (B)


This morning depart your hotel for the Temple of Literature. In 1076, Vietnam's first university Quoc Tu Giam was established within a temple to educate Vietnam's royalty, mandarins and members of the elite. The university functioned for an incredible 700 years and its gardens and well-preserved architecture offer a fascinating glimpse into Vietnam’s past.

Visit The One Pillar Pagoda, founded by King Ly Thai To in 1049, next. This structure is one of Vietnam’s most iconic temples. Close by is the mausoleum of the historic father figure of modern Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, and the former presidents house on stilts where he lived from 1958 to 1969. His former home illustrates the modesty of this Vietnamese revolutionary.  (Viewed from outside; closed Mon and Fri and from Oct-Nov)

If time permits continue to picturesque West Lake and the sixth century Tran Quoc Buddhist Pagoda. From here transfer (or stroll along the lakeside) 700 meters to the nearby Taoist temple of Quan Thanh dedicated to Tran Vu, one of the principal deities in Taoism.

The remainder of the day is at leisure until your transfer to Noi Bai Airport for onward flight to next destination.

Distances and journey time:

Hanoi to Noi Bai Airport (40km): 1hr

Tour Duration: 9 Days / 8 Nights
Tour Operates: Year Round / On Demand
Tour Price: Available upon Request

Rates vary frequently. Please contact us to get the best possible price based upon your travel period and specific touring needs.

Our services include:

  • Accommodation in a shared twin or shared double room
  • Meals as mentioned (B= Breakfast, L= Lunch, D= Dinner)
  • English or French speaking guide (for other languages supplements apply)
  • Tours and transfers as mentioned by private air conditioned vehicle
  • Boat trips as mentioned in the itinerary
  • Entrance fees for mentioned visits

Our services do not include:

  • Other meals than mentioned
  • Other services than mentioned
  • Visa to enter Vietnam
  • International and domestic Flights
  • Laundry, telephone calls and expenditure of a personal nature
  • Tips, Travel insurance


Creating Unique Touring Experiences

All the touring itineraries on this website have been carefully crafted by our in-country management teams and represent a series of experiences we can certainly recommend. However, we understand that every travel experience should be as unique and individual as each traveler. Our consultants are waiting to hear from you so that we can tailor or custom design a Vietnam Tour to your individual specifications.

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icon-quote-l  You allowed us to truly enjoy our vacation in Vietnam - thank you so much!  icon-quote-r

Nell and Thomas

Exo Foundation