About Vietnam Travel
Can Dao Islands: Con Dao encompass a group of 16 islands. The largest island is Con Son, which served as a political prison during the French colonial era and then again when Saigon imprisoned opponents of the regime in infamous cells known as “tiger cages”. The old prison buildings still stand and are open to the public, as is a small museum tracing the island’s history. Con Dao has immense natural beauty with forested hills, deserted sandy beaches and extensive coral reefs which make for excellent diving. The Con Dao Islands separated from the mainland about 15,000 years ago, which resulted in the development of dozens of endemic species of wildlife and flora. Beautiful beaches and hidden lagoons are also found here – and with very few tourists. Con Dao is a paradise off the beaten track.
Dalat: At an elevation of just under 1,500 meters/4,929 feet, this is Vietnam’s premier hill station with winding streets, scenic churches, vegetable gardens and waterfalls. In the South Central Highlands, this was originally the playground of the French who built mountain villas to escape the heat of the coast. Dalat has some of the best mountain biking, hiking and canyoning opportunities in Vietnam as well as coffee and tea plantations.
Halong Bay: Halong Bay is famed for its quiet beauty. Thousands of islands and islets inhabit the bay, adjacent to the Gulf of Tonkin. Monolithic limestone islands jut skyward topped with dense jungle, looking like skullcaps. Many islands have cave systems such as Hang Dau Go, with its huge, three chambered cave reached via 90 steps. The cave was used in the 13th century to store bamboo stakes used against Mongol invading armies. An overnight journey aboard a Chinese-style junk offers the perfect way to experience this exquisite setting.
Hanoi: Hanoi has served as a capital city for more than a thousand years, through wars, invasions and name changes, yet it still has the feel of youth with all the energy of a teenager. Perhaps part of that impression comes from the hoards of motor scooters that jam the streets every day: young women in heels on their way to work, parents with children piled on, and young men balancing impossibly cumbersome loads on their scooters. The Old Quarter’s chaotic hodgepodge of skinny lanes contrasts with the French Quarter’s wide, tree-lined boulevards. Founded in 1070, the Temple of Literature became Hanoi’s first university. A visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is an intriguing cultural experience. Beginning early in the morning, a few Westerners intermingle with the hundreds of Vietnamese uniformed school girls, old men in caps and young soldiers in lines that snake down the street. Quietly, they file past the glassencased body of their former leader. Nearby are two houses he lived in until his death in 1969.
Ho Chi Minh City & Cu Chi Tunnels: Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, is Vietnam’s largest city. More than 300 years of history and tradition thrive in pockets amid the markets, sleek bars, sidewalk cafés and office buildings. Cholon, “Big Market,” a separate China town in the 18th century, is a jumble of shops, offices and houses packed into one neighborhood. Notre Dame Cathedral, built between 1877 and 1883, sits in the heart of the government quarter. The French-style Central Post, 1886, is the country’s largest. The Reunification Palace and War Remnants Museum stand witness to troubled times. Jade Emperor Pagoda was a meeting place for Chinese secret societies. Ben Thanh is the city’s central market. Giac Lam Pagoda is city’s oldest. Some 40 kilometers/25 miles from the city, Cu Chi Tunnels, is a complex of underground tunnels dug during the French occupation in the 1940s, and further expanded in the 1960s during the war with the U.S.
Hoi An: Hoi An is a delight for shoppers. Rows of shops sell souvenirs, trinkets, silk pashminas, colorful prints of street scenes and more. It is famous for its tailors, who produce fine made-to-measure clothes virtually overnight, and for a fraction of the cost of upscale ready-made western clothing. Internet cafés, bars and restaurants have opened along the riverfront. Hoi An is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its old town, an exceptionally well-preserved example of a Southeast Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th centuries, encompassing both indigenous and foreign influences.
Hue: Hue’s Old Imperial City is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Forbidden Purple City was built early in the 19th century, modeled after the much larger original in Beijing. The central passageway, with its yellow doors, and the bridge across the lotus pond were for the exclusive use of the emperor. Thai Hoa Palace, built in 1803, has a spacious hall with an ornate roof of huge timbers supported by 80 carved, lacquered columns.
Mai Chau & Sa Pa: Mai Chau is the closest authentic Montagnard village to Hanoi where most of the people are ethnic White Tai, distantly related to tribes in Thailand, Laos and China. White Thai are also found in Po, Coong, Lac Village and Van Mai. The Hmong live in the villages of Xa Linh and Pa Co. Ba Vi National Park is on Mount Ba Vi, an isolated mountain west of Hanoi. The forest includes lowland evergreen forest, coniferous and broadleaf forest. Sa Pa is known for its steeply terraced rice fields, verdant ridgelines, mud thatched villages, raging rivers and astounding waterfalls. The French-built hill station is high in the Tonkinese Alps near the Chinese border. Villagers in the area don colorful costumes for market day on Saturday.
Mekong Delta & Can Tho: The delta is characterized by a labyrinth of waterways and channels. The Vietnamese cultivate the fertile agricultural lands of the Mekong River’s delta and produce about half of Vietnam’s total agricultural output. The inhabitants are largely ethnic Viet, with Khmer minorities and a large group of Hoa (ethnic Chinese). Some of the delta islands are home to villagers who create traditional handcrafts, harvest honey on bee farms and produce sweet coconut candy. Markets, stores, ship yards, and repair shops also thrive along river banks and in the delta. Can Tho is the delta’s biggest city and is noted for its floating market. The region has recently been dubbed a ‘biological treasure trove’ for the more than 1,000 new species of plants that have been found in newly explored areas. The Mekong is the longest river in Southeast Asia, flowing 4,184 kilometers/2,600 miles from inland China southeast through Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam before emptying into the South China Sea. The Mekong is the lifeblood of the region for millions of villagers dependent on the river as a source of economic livelihood and food. Cruises travel between Vietnam and Cambodia, taking in floating markets selling fish, tropical fruit, vegetables and flowers; and scenes of rural life that are repeated daily as they have been for centuries.
Nha Trang: Nha Trang is a favorite vacation spot for well-heeled Vietnamese. A wide palm-lined boulevard separates elegant Mediterranean-style villas and modern hotels from one of Vietnam’s loveliest beaches. The Oceanographic Institute was founded in 1923, and has an aquarium that includes seahorses. A seawater aquarium on Mieu Island is an important fish breeding farm where over 40 species of fish are raised. Lang Son Pagoda was founded in the late 19th century. A huge white Buddha on a lotus blossom sits on the hill behind the pagoda. At Po Nagar Cham Towers, Hindus have worshipped since the second century.
Suggested Vietnam Tour Itinerary
Day 1: Hanoi, Vietnam
Hanoi is an intriguing blend of East and West – Chinese influence mixes with its French colonial past.
Day 2: Hanoi
Busy narrow lanes, traditional shop houses, lakes, broad tree-lined boulevards and monuments give the city an air of both energy and elegance unique to Asian capitals.
Day 3: Hanoi / Halong Bay
Halong Bay embodies the concept of serenity: towering limestone outcroppings, still waters and ancient caves.
Day 4: Halong Bay / Hanoi / Hue
Hue, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an imperial city in the Citadel modeled after the Forbidden City in Beijing.
Day 5: Hue / Hoi An
Hoi An’s old town is an exceptional example of a Southeast Asian trading port from the15th to 19th centuries.
Day 6: Hoi An
This town is a shoppers’ delight with rows of shops and its famous tailors.
Day 7: Hoi An / Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is bustling with street markets, cafés and sleek new bars that mix with 300 years of traditions.
Day 8: Ho Chi Minh City - Cu Chi Tunnels
Discover the dramatic Cu Chi Tunnels, a stark reminder of past conflicts.
Day 9: Ho Chi Minh City/Depart
Custom Travel Options
Can Dao Islands (4 days)
In southeast Vietnam, Can Dao Islands encompass a group of 16 stunning islands.
Dalat (2 days)
Vietnam’s premier hill station in the South Central highlands offers cool retreat.
Mai Chau (3 days)
Authentic Montagnard village is home to ethnic White Tai, distantly related to tribes in Thailand, Laos and China.
Mekong Delta & Can Tho (3-7 days)
Timeless scenes of farmers planting and harvesting rice, the bustling Can Tho floating market, a rice-paper-making village and busy rural canals are part of the delta experience.
Nha Trang (3 days)
Here are some of Vietnam’s loveliest beaches and stylish resorts with activities ranging from water sports to cultural explorations.
Sa Pa (5 days)
Sa Pa is a quiet market town in the lush mountains. Several of the country’s prominent ethnic minority groups such as Hmong, Dao and Tay live in nearby villages.
Land price, per person, double occupancy: From US$400 per person per day