Vietnam South to North
Vietnam is a land of striking landscapes in the north, heritage sites in the centre and the fertile Mekong delta in the south. Halong Bay in the north, is known for the jungle-covered outcrops of Karst, in the Gulf of Tonkin. Further north, the Sapa countryside, is an ideal base for trekking among the Hmong and other tribal villages. In the northeast, Ba Be National Park, with three interlinked Ba Be Lakes at its heart, rimmed by jagged karst peaks, is absolutely stunning.
In central Vietnam, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, one of the world's best caving destinations is home to superb stalactite and stalagmite displays. My Son, the old Hindu religious centre, is a ruined Cham era temple city that dates from the 4th century. Close to Ho Chi Minh City, Cu Chi Tunnels, an extensive tunnel network during the war, offer a fascinating experience. In the far south of Vietnam, Mekong Delta, offer cruises to the floating markets of Phong Dien and Cai Rang, and to the U Minh Mangrove Forest and Cau Mau Nature Reserve.
TRAVEL UNTAMED ON THIS 14-DAY SOUTH-TO-NORTH VIETNAM ADVENTURE…
And, explore Saigon in the south, Central Vietnam & Halong Bay in the north.
The largest of the three countries of the Indochina Peninsula, Vietnam is blessed with a ravishing coastline, emerald-green mountains, national parks, dynamic cities and one of the world’s best cuisines.
From the limestone peaks of Halong Bay, the French boulevards of the capital Hanoi and the thick forests of the north-west, to the charming cultural town of Hoi An, the glorious beaches of Nha Trang, and the floating markets of the mighty Mekong River, you'll find cultural diversity and natural wonders around each and every corner.
This is an outrageously fun country to explore, the locals love a laugh (and a drink) and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to socialise with them and hear their tales.
Start in Saigon, the vociferous, crowded capital city whose colonial French boulevards contrast sharply with pagodas and food stalls. Explore the vast underground network of tunnels from where the North Vietnamese waged their guerrilla warfare and marvel at their ingenuity.
Continue to Central Vietnam, once the centre of the Cham Dynasty. Visit the World Heritage ruins of My Son, dating from the 7th to 13th centuries and Hoi An, an exquisitely preserved town of colourful shop houses and handicraft workshops. Then, take a beautiful coastal drive to Hue, an ancient imperial city and home to the commanding Citadel, modelled after the Forbidden City in Beijing.
Venture north to Sapa, a charming mountain town, surrounded by picturesque mountains and cascading rice terraces and then Halong Bay where you will board the luxurious Chinese style junk, the Emeraude for a 1-night cruise. The tour concludes in Hanoi.
This tour combines nicely with touring elsewhere in Southeast Asia e.g. Cambodia, Vietnam & Thailand. Throughout your tour, AwimAway will arrange for you to experience the best the country has to offer. Please let us know your interests and we will be happy to tailormake your itinerary.
Vietnam South to North Discover Saigon and Central Vietnam to explore Hue before travelling north to Sapa and cruise on the waters of Halong Bay.
Saigon, Hoi An, Hue, Sapa, Halong, Hanoi
(14 Days. Travel Any Day)
Day 1 – Arrive
Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) Meet and greet on arrival at Tan Son Nhat International Airport After a warm reception, our representative will escort you to your hotel for 2 nights stay.
Park Hyatt Hotel (Nil)
Day 2 – Tour
Saigon Your private tour starts with a drive to Cu Chi (70 km), an amazing complex of underground tunnels built first as a defence against the French and later expanded during the American (Vietnam) war. It’s a thrilling experience to crawl through this amazing system and later to try your shooting skills on original AK47s and other guns from past war times (subject to a surcharge).
Return to Saigon and enjoy an afternoon tour of the city. After lunch (own account), take a tour accompanied by your private guide to visit the former Presidential Palace, which is now preserved as a museum, including the underground communications bunkers, headquarters for the Saigon Government during the Vietnam War. Continue to Notre Dame, an impressive neo-Romanesque cathedral in the centre of city, and Dong Khoi street, formerly the centre of haute couture in Saigon, when it was known as Rue Catinat.
Park Hyatt Hotel – Park Room (B)
Day 3 – Cruise
Saigon Transfer to Cai Be and embark the Cai Be Princess, an exclusive river junk to explore the fascinating life on the Mekong River. You will cruise through small floating markets, stop for photo shoots and visit local villages enroute to learn their way of life. Dine at a superb Indo Chinese villa located in a lush tropical garden by the river. Continue cruising, passing several islands and make unscheduled stops on the way to see an ancient Church or a Bonsai Garden before returning to hotel.
Park Hyatt Hotel – Park Room (B, L)
Day 4 – Transfer
Hoi An Transfer to Saigon airport for your flight to Danang. On arrival meet your private guide and tour the Cham sculpture museum in Danang, which houses the largest and most impressive collection of Cham artefacts anywhere in the world, dating from the 4th to the 14th centuries. The Chams are descendants of the great kingdom of Champa and are known for their beautiful textiles and patterns.
Hoi An is a UNESCO-listed riverfront town with colourful historic homes, charming cafes and bustling silk and fish markets. In the afternoon, take a leisurely bicycle ride to Tra Que village along picturesque country roads to visit a farm and learn about Vietnamese food and ingredients. Alternatively, explore the beautiful back streets and learn about the history of Hoi An. In the evening enjoy a sunset cruise on the river.
The Nam Hai Resort – One Bedroom Villa (B)
Day 5 – Explore
Hoi An With your private guide, take an early morning drive through rolling countryside, passing through small towns, often journeying alongside the wide reaches of the Han River. The last few kilometres of the journey are rather bumpy and we walk the final 500m through lush hillsides, before emerging into the main site of My Son, which translates literally as "Beautiful Mountain".
My Son is an imperial city of the Champa Empire (4th-12th century). It is a large complex of over 70 religious structures and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your private guide will offer full commentary on the Cham heritage of My Son while you wander around this historic site.
Return to Hoi An and take a private guided tour of the ancient city and a boat trip to explore villages famous for making pottery.
The Nam Hai Resort – One Bedroom Villa (B)
Day 6 – Tour
Hue Today we take a spectacular overland drive to Hue. Visitors to Hue are often taken aback to discover that this sleepy provincial town was once the religious, economic and cultural epicentre of Vietnam, the mighty imperial headquarters and the political capital of the country until 1945. Hue today has regained its royal demeanour and is a calm, peaceful and pleasant place to visit.
The remaining French colonial garden houses and villas, the quiet streets, the riverbanks, the outlying tombs and pagodas that escaped damage – all give Hue a unique atmosphere of tranquillity. Enjoy a visit to the Imperial Citadel. The remainder of the afternoon may be spent wandering the stalls at the local Dong Ba market or taking a leisurely stroll along the banks of the Perfume River.
La Residence Hotel and Spa – Deluxe River View Room (B)
Day 7 – Cruise
Hue Take a scenic cruise along the Perfume River and visit ancient pagoda and learn about the Buddhist way of life as a monk. Visit the Royal Tombs; the first tomb is of Emperor Tu Duc, resplendent in traditional architecture, paved walkways and resting pavilions overlooking tranquil lotus ponds. In stark contrast is Khai Dinh's Tomb. Remembered as the 'Puppet Emperor' because of his affiliation with the French, this tomb was designed with colonial flair, and a glass mosaic frieze dominates the interior.
Later, explore local markets, the beautiful Bonsai gardens, sample Hue's vegetarian cuisine, and dine at a private home that once belonged to the royal family.
La Residence Hotel and Spa – Deluxe River View Room (B)
Day 8 – Train
Sapa Transfer to the airport for your flight to Hanoi. After a warm reception, our representative will escort you to your hotel.
This evening, transfer to the theatre where the ancient and unique art form of water puppetry is enacted. The puppets, 16 inches high, attached to a long bamboo pole are dipped in and out of the water by a person behind a rattan curtain. But how to manipulate these puppets is usually a family held secret passed over generations. Try if you can unravel the mystery. In the evening transfer to railway station for your for your train to Sapa.
Overnight on the train – Superior Cabin – Sharing 4 berths/cabin (B)
Day 9 – Tour
Sapa On arrival at Lao Cai, drive to Sapa, home to a great diversity of ethnic minority people. While there, tour lively hill tribe markets or take a short hike through a bamboo forest to local villages, and explore spectacular mountains covered with terraced rice fields. A boat ride can be arranged on Chay River, with a visit to Coc Ly market on Tuesdays or with a visit to Bac Ha market on Sundays only.
Victoria Resort & Spa – Superior Room (B, L)
Day 10 – Train
Hanoi Sapa has beautiful countryside and your private guide will take you to explore the Muong Hoa valley, one of the most beautiful valleys in northwest Vietnam. Descending into the valley by foot you will see the largest terraced rice paddy fields in the area. Visit orchid gardens and villages to see the different traditions and costumes of the the minority people who live there. Time permitting visit Ham Rong mount to see the orchid gardens. In the evening take the train to Hanoi.
Overnight on the train – Superior Cabin – Sharing 4 berths/cabin (B, L)
Day 11 – Tour
Hanoi On arrival you will be received by our representative and escorted to your hotel. After refreshments take a private guided tour of Hanoi. We start with a visit to Ba Dinh Square, where silent sentries guard the marble and granite mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh. Nearby visit the Ho Chi Minh Museum, an extraordinary tribute in abstract form to the life of the 'father of the country'. See also the One Pillar Pagoda, and hear the legend about how it was constructed as a memorial to the love of an emperor in the 11th century. Continue to the Temple of Literature, built in 1070 and now Vietnam's first university.
Sofitel Legend Metropole – Premium Room (B)
Day 12 – Cruise
Halong Bay Take a private transfer to Halong Bay and check in on board the luxurious M/V “Emeraude” for an overnight cruise. Few places anywhere rival the extreme natural beauty and serenity of Vietnam's Halong Bay. A noted Vietnamese poet and scholar described it as a "rock wonder in the sky". In modern times, it has been a backdrop for countless movies including the Oscar-winning French epic, Indochine. It is now universally acknowledged as an unmissable corner of Vietnam.
The cruise commences with and a lavish buffet lunch. Then weather permitting, visit the Sung Sot Cave (Cave of Surprises). Watch a Vietnamese cuisine demonstration will take place on the sundeck and attend a happy hour with complimentary canapés followed by an evening movie show. A scrumptious International buffet dinner is served at the restaurant.
Onboard M/V Emeraude – Superior Cabin (B, L, D)
Day 13 – Transfer
Hanoi Wake up at sunrise and practice Tai Chi on the sun deck with one of the instructors or spend your morning swimming in the clear waters of the Halong Bay. After an energizing western breakfast, check out from M/V Emeraude and return to Hanoi. Rest of the day at leisure
Sofitel Legend Metropole – Premium Room (B)
Day 14 – Depart
Hanoi Transfer to the airport for your onward flight.
The true price is customised based on final choice of hotels, travel dates, and other custom preferences. All prices exclude international flights.
Price Includes: hotels, airport transfers and transportation within the country, unique experiences guided by local experts and 24X7 support during your trip.
Make this your holiday
When to go The high season in Vietnam is from November to March. Prices peak over the Christmas and New Year period, and if you don’t fancy crowds then it is best to avoid this busy time. During this period it is warm and dry in the South but as you travel north of Nha Trang, it begins to get cooler.
From April or May to October, summer monsoon brings hot, humid weather except in the mountains up north. A slight break in monsoon during July and August makes it the second high season in the South but violent and unpredictable typhoons can hit central and northern Vietnam. May, June and September are usually the quietest months.
Getting There There are few direct flights from Europe to Vietnam’s three main international airports – Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Da Nang, but these are steadily increasing over the years. The majority of visitors take indirect flights routed through Bangkok, Singapore or Hong Kong. It can be cheaper if you fly to Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore or regular international carriers and from there take one of the low cost carriers to Vietnam. Vietnam Airlines and Jetstar are the two main domestic carriers. Fares are very reasonable and the frequencies of flights to main hubs are good.
Getting Around: In the cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, there is a sophisticated local bus network. Taxis and bikes are the easiest way to get around the larger cities – just be sure to agree on a fare before you ride. Slow but scenic, the two-seater pedal powered cyclo, is a fun and cheap way to travel short distances. It is not uncommon to flag down a passing motorbike for a lift. Many people will be happy to give you a lift for a fee a little higher than the equivalent cyclo fare. You can also hire a car with driver at a reasonable cost.
Shopping Shopaholics will discover that of all the places in the world, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) in Vietnam offers the best-value shopping. This vibrant metropolis is bursting at the seams with bric-a-brac markets, local brands and international design houses. If you’re adventurous, jump on the back of a motorbike to save your dong for shopping. Explore Diamond Plaza on the Le Duan Street or explore local designer boutiques like Cindy’s Workshop that offers bright and funky printed dresses and unique belts for less than £30.
Hanoi is the artistic heart of Vietnam, so you’ll find the best range of art and handicrafts the country has to offer. It is the best place to shop for your home, with a bevvy of stores selling beautiful furniture, linen and home wares. There are galleries throughout Hanoi but if your time is limited, be sure to visit Art Vietnam on Nguyen Khac Nhu street, where you’ll find a wide range of contemporary Vietnamese art and photography.
Tipping Tipping is a personal expense and depends entirely on the quality of services provided to you and your appreciation of those services. Whilst tipping is not mandatory, it is expected at restaurants and by drivers, guides and tour escorts. The following estimated guideline may help you in determining the tip amount, should you wish to tip any service provider. Tipping in restaurants is about 5-10% of the bill, if not included.
Passport/Visa Visas are required to enter, exit or transit through Vietnam territories. The most common is a single entry 30-day visa. Multiple entry, 60-day and 90-day visas are also available. Passports must have a minimum of six months validity. Enquiries should be directed to the nearest Vietnam embassy or consulate.