iExplore Vietnam Experience

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  • Privately Guided
  • Starting Price: $2,489
  • Length: 10 days
  • Operator: iExplore Exclusive
  • 1-800-267-33479am - 5:30pm Eastern
    Destinations: South and Southeast Asia, Vietnam
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Tour Description

Most visitors to Vietnam are overwhelmed by the sublime beauty of the country's natural setting: the Red River Delta in the north, the Mekong Delta in the south and almost the entire coastal strip are a patchwork of brilliant green rice paddies tended by women in conical hats. There are some divine beaches along the coast, while inland there are soaring mountains, some of which are cloaked by dense, misty forests. Vietnam also offers an opportunity to see a country of traditional charm and rare beauty rapidly opening up to the outside world.

Itinerary

Day 1 - ARRIVE IN HO CHI MINH CITY 

When you arrive in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) you will be met after clearing Customs & Immigration and transferred to your hotel for check-in beginning at 2:00 pm. 

Day 2 - HO CHI MINH CITY 

In the morning we journey out of the city center to the Cu Chi region, where you will visit the vast underground network of tunnels built first as a defense against the French and later expanded during the American (Vietnam) war. It was from here that the North Vietnamese waged their guerrilla warfare and you will explore the secret trapdoors, underground kitchens, living areas and meeting rooms.

The more adventurous may venture to the deeper second, and even third level tunnels. For those preferring to remain above ground, there is ample opportunity to view excavated areas from here. Your guide will advise you on the length and level of difficulty of each tunnel before entering. We recommend good walking shoes and sun protection and be aware you may get a little dirty.

We return to Saigon and your hotel to freshen up followed by lunch in a local restaurant and an afternoon tour of the city. Ho Chi Minh is the largest of Vietnamese cities with hustle and bustle everywhere. There are street markets, sidewalk cafes and sleek new bars. The city churns and bubbles. Yet within this teeming metropolis are 300 years of timeless traditions and the beauty of an ancient culture. To the west of the city is District 5, the huge Chinese neighborhood called Cholon, which means “Big Market.”

Visit the Reunification Palace, the Independence Palace of the South Vietnamese President which was was stormed by tanks on April 30, 1975, signifying the fall of South Vietnam. It has been preserved in its original state and then we head to the History Museum. Once the National Museum of the Republic of Vietnam, the museum has an excellent collection of artifacts illustrating the evolution of culture from the Bronze Age Dong Son civilization to the Oc-Eo civilization to the Chams, Khmers and Vietnamese.

Afterwards you will visit one of Saigon’s top art galleries, such as the Tudo Gallery or the Particular Gallery, which exhibit the works of the best contemporary Vietnamese artists. Dinner this evening is at a local restaurant.

(B, L, D)

Day 3- HO CHI MINH CITY-HOI AN-DANANG                            

After breakfast at the hotel, you will be driven to the airport for your flight to Danang which takes about an hour.

Danang is a thriving regional center and one of the largest cities in Vietnam. Tour the Cham Museum, an elegant colonial building which houses the finest collection of Cham sculpture in the world and pass China Beach, a famous spot for American soldiers during the Vietnam War, which stretches many miles north and south of the Marble Mountains.

The tour continues south to Hoi An, stopping en route to visit the Marble Mountains, five stone hillocks, once islands, that now rise sharply from the surrounding rice fields. Riddled with caves and shrines, they are said to each represent one of the five elements of the universe. Hoi An is a picturesque riverside town south of Danang. Known as Faifo to early western traders, it was one of Southeast Asia’s major international ports during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Today, it is a beautifully preserved historic city best seen on foot.

You will enjoy a walking tour that will include the Japanese Covered Bridge Pagoda. The first bridge on this site was constructed in 1593 by the Japanese community of Hoi An to link the town with the Chinese quarter across the stream. The bridge was provided with a roof so it could be used as a shelter from rain and sun. We also stop at the Sa Huynh Museum located nearby, which contains exhibits from the earliest period of Hoi An’s history. Then it's on to the Tran Family Chapel. This house for worshiping ancestors was built about 200 years ago with donations from family members. The Tran family traces its origins to China and moved to Vietnam around 1700 and the architecture reflects the influence of Chinese and Japanese styles. You will also visit the Phuoc Kien Assembly Hall, a Chinese Pagoda built around 1690, which was restored and enlarged in 1900. It is typical of the Chinese clans that were established in the Hoi An area. The temple is dedicated to Thien Hau Thanh Mau (Goddess of the Sea and Protector of Sailors and Fisherman). Finally, you will visit one of the lantern making workshops in Hoi An to learn about the industry and observe locals making silk cloth for the lantern coverings.

(B, L)

Day 4 - DANANG  

Today enjoy a full day tour of My Son, often referred to as the “Angkor Wat” of Vietnam. The Cham ruins here are well worth the slightly arduous journey needed to reach them!

Your day will begin with an early morning drive from Danang through 60 km of rolling countryside, passing through small towns with markets in full swing, often journeying alongside the wide reaches of the Han River. As you draw closer to My Son, which translates literally as “Beautiful Mountain” the condition of the road begins to deteriorate and the last few kilometers of track are often rutted and potholed. On arrival at the My Son area after crossing a bamboo “Monkey Bridge,” you will transfer to a local jeep for the last spectacular 3 km bump and jolt along a river gorge. Finally, a 500 m walk through lush hillsides, trees and brush, before emerging into the main site.

There were over 70 classic Cham monuments at My Son dating from the 7th to 13th centuries. Set against the backdrop of the appropriately named Cat’s Tooth Mountain, they are an awesome sight. Until 1968 they remained remarkably in almost perfect condition, having been sheltered from the weather by the surrounding the hills. Regrettably, man achieved what nature could not and B52 bombers destroyed most of the towers when My Son found itself in a free-fire zone during the Vietnam War.

Your guide will offer full commentary on the Cham heritage while you wander around this historic site. Take the opportunity to do so now, as My Son is due to become part of UNESCO’s protected monuments list and access may be restricted in the future.

Lunch will be served at a local restaurant en route back to Danang, or a picnic lunch will be provided in good weather. 

(B, L)

Day 5 - DANANG-HUE 

This morning we depart for the spectacular overland drive to Hue, the former imperial capital. Visitors to Hue are often taken aback when they discover that the sleepy provincial town of Hue was once the religious, economic and cultural epicenter of Vietnam. In fact, it was the mighty imperial headquarters and political capital of the country until 1945. The glorious architectural masterpiece of a city was reduced almost to rubble during the French and American Wars, which was a tragedy in the deepest sense of the word.

Thirteen Nguyen Dynasty Emperors ruled Vietnam from Hue. They built a fortress around the ancient city, modeled after Beijing’s Forbidden City. Even this seemingly impenetrable defense was useless against some of the most intensive hand to hand combat of the Vietnam War. During the Tet offensive of 1968, the proud city was demolished and thousands were killed. Hue today has regained its royal demeanor and is a calm, peaceful and relaxed place to visit. The remaining French colonial garden houses and villas, the quiet streets, the riverbanks, the outlying tombs, and pagodas all give Hue a unique atmosphere of tranquility.

Enjoy an Imperial Citadel and Dong Ba Market tour. In the very early 19th century when the Nguyen Dynasty administered Vietnam from Hue, the Emperor Gia Long commenced construction of a mighty citadel from where he could both live and rule. Many of the pavilions, bridges, libraries and great halls are now being carefully restored with help from UNESCO. Marvel at the legends of the Nguyen Dynasty emperors who built the fortress and lived within its moated walls for nearly 150 years.

The remainder of the afternoon may be spent wandering the stalls at the local Dong Ba market or spent along the Perfume River bank. 

(B, L)

Day 6 - HUE 

Today you will depart for a Perfume River Cruise to Thien Mu Pagoda & Minh Mang Tomb and the Tombs of the Emperors Tour. One of the most notable features of Hue is the meandering Perfume (Huong) River that divides the city. As both the Imperial Citadel and the Thien Mu Pagoda are situated on the riverbanks, boating on a simple yet comfortable vessel offers a relaxing alternative to road travel.

Visit Thien Mu Pagoda and then continue to the lesser visited and perhaps most majestic of all of Hue’s tombs, the resting place of Ming Mang. Built between 1841 and 1843, this tomb is well known for its harmonious blend of architecture and natural landscape, and is the ideal location for a picnic. Alternatively, we can return to town for lunch at a local restaurant.

This afternoon we have a tour of the Tombs of the Emperors of the Nguyen dynasty (Tu Duc & Khai Dinh Tombs) in the hills surrounding Hue. Built not only as an eternal resting place, the tombs were designed for recreation; somewhere the Emperor could fish, hunt and enjoy the company of concubines in his twilight years. This tour combines visits to two of the most contrasting areas. First, we visit the tomb of Emperor Tu Doc, resplendent in traditional architecture, paved walkways, resting pavilions overlooking tranquil lotus ponds, and a small forest for hunting. In stark contrast, continue to Khai Dinh’s Tomb, who is remembered as the “Puppet Emperor” because of his affiliation with the French. Designed with colonial flair, a glass mosaic frieze dominates the interior. For the fit and willing, it is possible to cycle to the tombs. Dinner tonight will be at the Tropical Garden Restaurant.

(B, L, D)

Day 7 - HUE-HANOI 

Today you will be driven to the airport for your flight to Hanoi. Upon arrival, you will be met and taken to your hotel for check in, followed by lunch at a local restaurant.

Although Hanoi is the modern-day capital of Vietnam, it still retains the mystery and charm of past centuries. Narrow lanes and traditional shops invite exploration, while beautiful public spaces – lakes, parks, tree-lined boulevards and monuments – give the city an air of elegance and harmony with nature, unique among Asia’s capitals.

In the afternoon take to the streets on foot for a walking tour of the Ancient Quarter or 36 Street District. This densely populated corner of the city was once a center of commerce where goods were sold under the street name of a particular guild. Still a thriving community of sellers, you will see street names such as Sugar Street, Tin Street and Paper Street. Ancient homes and temples are interspersed with stores in this souvenir hunter’s paradise! Visit a selection of local artists’ homes open almost as public galleries managed by interesting characters. One of these, Mai Gallery, is one of the countries’ most respected and renowned. The owner, Mr. Doung Tuong, is at the center of Hanoi’s intellectual community of writers, composers and artists and spent time during the war as Vietnam’s foremost English translator (he even translated for Jane Fonda during her visit to Hanoi during the war).

This evening you will be taken to the theater where the ancient and unique art form of water puppetry is enacted. The "stage" is a pool in which the hidden puppeteer must stand (waist deep!) to skillfully maneuver the dancing puppets attached to bamboo poles. Each short skit relates to the daily life of the people, and featured are scenes such as "Returning Home after Graduation" and "Rearing ducks and chasing foxes."

(B, L)

Day 8 - HANOI 

After breakfast at the hotel, depart with your guide for a private city tour of Hanoi. A morning trip to Ba Dinh Square includes Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, Museum and cottage, with an afternoon of highlights for a thorough exploration of this “Paris of the Orient.” Lunch is included at one of Hanoi’s superb local restaurants.

Visit Ba Dinh Square where silent sentries guard the marble and granite mausoleum where Ho Chi Minh lies in state. See the simple cottage where Uncle Ho lived and worked. Nearby, the Ho Chi Minh Museum is an extraordinary tribute in abstract form to the life of the father of the country and the evolution of Vietnamese independence.

French architecture is a feature of Hanoi, and the nearby former Governor’s residence is a fine example. You will also see the One Pillar Pagoda and hear the legend of its construction, born from the love of an emperor in the 11th century.

Enjoy an orientation of the tree-lined streets of Hanoi, with its French colonial architecture, including the recently restored Opera House. Pass by Hoan Kiem Lake, also known as Lake of the Restored Sword from the legend that surrounds it, en route to the Temple of Literature. Built in 1070 dedicated to Confucius, it later became Vietnam’s first university, a serene retreat from the busy streets outside.

After lunch, you will visit the Museum of Ethnology, arguably the most informative museum in the country. Walk through an outstanding collection and array of artifacts and displays depicting life in the ethnic mountain areas and the traditions of the 54 different groups. Dinner is an elegant meal at Hanoi’s premier fine dining restaurant Wild Rice.

(B, L, D)

Day 9 - HANOI-HALONG BAY-HANOI 

Halong Bay is often called Vietnam’s eighth wonder of the world, and once visited, the claim is hard to dispute. 3000 spectacular limestone outcroppings, cliffs, arches, and coves compete for space in an area that is without doubt the most naturally beautiful in the country. After breakfast, you will travel across the port city of Haiphong to the massive area of Halong.

From here we will take a traditional Chinese-style sailing junk and meander through the area whose name translates to "Where the Dragon descends into the sea,” stopping off at an islet to climb through a series of breathtaking caves and grottoes, marveling at some of the most impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations anywhere in the world. Enjoy a seafood lunch on board. Mid-afternoon you will return to Hanoi by road.

Finally, enjoy a farewell dinner tonight at the opulent Hanoi Press Club.

(B, L, D)

Day 10 - HANOI 

You are at leisure today until you are driven to the airport for your flight home.

Departures

Depart any day! Contact an iExplore Adventure Consultant for details.

Pricing Information

January-April 2013 1 Passenger 2 Passengers 3-4 Passengers Single Supplement
Hotel Option 1 4622 2752 2549 1059
Hotel Option 2 5434 3110 2899 1399

 

May-September 2013 1 Passenger 2 Passengers 3-4 Passengers Single Supplement
Hotel Option 1 4499 2699 2489 1059
Hotel Option 2 5188 2999 2777 1399
Hotel Option 1 Option 2
Day 1-3 (2 nights, Ho Chi Minh City) Caravelle Hotel 5* Deluxe InterContinental Asiana Saigon 5* Deluxe
Day 3-5 (2 nights, Danang) Furama Resort 5* Garden Superior Furama Resort 5* Garden Superior
Day 5-8 (2 nights, Hue) Pilgrimage Village 4* Deluxe Las Residence Hotel & Spa 5* Superior/New Wing (no extra bed)
Day 8-10 (2 nights, Hanoi) Hilton Hanoi Opera 5* Hilton Deluxe Room Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi Hotel 5* Premium Room/Opera Wing

Inclusions:

  • English Speaking Guide
  • Meals According to the Itinerary, Breakfast Box on morning of early flight
  • Flights as Mentioned (Saigon-Danang, Hue- Hanoi)
  • Boat Tickets as Mentioned
  • Ground Transportation in Private A/C Vehicle
  • 1 Complimentary Bottle of Drinking Water and 1 Cold Towel per person per half day tour / 2 bottles and 2 cold towels per person per full day tour
  • Sightseeing including admission fees as specified
  • Accomodations mentioned above or equivalent
  • International and domestic airport taxes in Vietnam (automatically included in ticket price)

Exclusions:

  • International and domestic airport tax other than stated
  • Visa fees
  • Beverages
  • Personal expenses

Note: An additional surcharge may be applicable for bookings that fall within the Peak Season dates; Christmas, New Year and Lunar New Year (TET Festival). In these cases, we will automatically apply the additional charge and advise you immediately.

All prices are in US dollars and do not include international airfare, unless otherwise noted.

Prices displayed are based on the lowest season base price and assume double occupancy. Prices are shown in U.S. dollars and may or may not include administrative fees, taxes, meals, airfare (where applicable) and Single Supplements. Cancellation penalties, blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.

Options and Extras

Highland Places & Tribal Faces

Sa Pa. Escape to the rigged mountain region north of Hanoi inhabited by ethnic groups seemingly a world away from the fast pace of urban life. Located near the Chinese border, Sa Pa lies at an elevation of 4950 feet and is a former French hill station that has recently grown in popularity as a destination for those seeking adventure among Vietnam's highest mountain ranges.

Primarily Vietnamese in character, Sa Pa comes alive during the weekend market when the local ethnic Hmong and Dao people trek in from nearby villages to sell their wares. Surrounded by the vista of Vietnam's highest peak, Fansipan (9,426 feet), the region holds countless trails and walks for all levels of enthusiasts and provides an introduction into the lives of the isolated communities of the north.

Note: we recommend you make a visit to the Ethnological Museum in Hanoi prior to your departure for these northern areas in order to gain a greater understanding of the ethnic minorities that inhabit the region

Five night itinerary:

Day 1 - DEPART HANOI

This evening you will be transferred to the Hanoi Railway Station to board the Victoria Express Train for Sa Pa. (Note: train does not operate on Saturday)

Reaching Sa Pa has never been more appealing: travel in style on board the luxurious Victoria Express Train. The Victoria Express Train features one dining carriage and two sleeping carriages to make your traveling experience a most comfortable one. With its elegant carriages, the Victoria Express Train recalls a more romantic era. Passing through the exotic landscapes of North Vietnam, between the charming cities of Hanoi and Lao Cai (train station at a distance of 34 km (21 miles) from Sa Pa), it offers every visitor a wonderful traveling experience. Indulge yourself in the dining carriage, "Le Tonkin", where you can savor the delights of traditional Vietnamese and Western cuisine. The talented Chef Nguyen Tien Duc will be waiting for you with a selection of the best wines, adding a further exquisite touch to a memorable experience.

Victoria Express

Day 2 - LAO CAI- SA PA

Enjoy a walk through Sapa's colorful market (weekends only) and stroll down into the valley to visit the small community of Cat Cat. The Hmong that have settled here are a shy and private people although they are welcoming to visitors.

Afterwards, continue to the handicraft village of Ta Phin, inhabited by the Red Dzao, known for their distinctive red headscarves.

Overnight at the Victoria Sapa Hotel. The four star Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa, the only luxury hotel in Northwestern Vietnam, opened in March 1998. Built as a traditional mountain chalet with accented wooden décor and a welcoming stone hearth fireplace, the Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa overhangs the village, blending perfectly with the natural surroundings. The location and luxury services of the hotel have been carefully planned to allow guests to experience something different and unique, in close harmony with nature and with the local hill tribe people.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: Please ensure that you bring with you your valid passport and Vietnamese Visa. Due to the proximity to the Chinese border ALL guests are required to present their passport and visa upon check-in and will be refused otherwise.

Victoria Sapa Hotel (B, L)

Day 3 - SA PA

Today enjoy a full day trek to the village of Ta Van and Lao Chai with a picnic lunch.

You will commence your short journey by driving south toward Muong Hoa valley. You will then start your walk by descending into the valley, which is the largest terraced rice paddy in the Sa Pa area. The guide can provide you interesting information about rice. If you visit the valley sometime between May and October, you will be able to observe and experience how the local do planting and harvesting, one of the most important activities in the daily life. The walk takes you from Lao Chai village of Black Hmong minority to Ta Van village of Giay minority including a visit to the local Catholic Church. Duration: 1-hour drive/2-hour walk

Victoria Sapa Hotel (B, L)

Day 4 - SA PA

Situated in the mountains near the Chinese border, 20 km (12 miles) from Bac Ha, Can Cau is a small, but very colorful market. Taking place only on Saturdays, it always delivers a very photogenic display of Flower Hmong, Nung, Phu La ethnic costumes. Chinese people also come for trading. After spending the whole morning exploring the market, you will leave the market for Bac Ha town, where you will have lunch in a local restaurant. After lunch, you drive downhill for about half an hour. You will then start a short walk to Trung Do village, which belongs to the Tay minority. Here you can visit a traditional Tay house, before getting on a boat. You will have a cruise upstream the Chay River to experience the picturesque sceneries on the riverbanks. You will then cruise downstream to the Bao Nhai Bridge.

Victoria Sapa Hotel (B)

Day 5 - SA PA

Bac Ha is the largest and most colorful market in the area. Every Sunday morning, many different ethnic groups such as Flower Hmong, Phu La, Black Dao, Tay and Nung minorities gather to buy and sell local products that cannot be found elsewhere. After lunch, you will walk to the Tay minority village of Trung Do where you will get onboard a traditional boat and cruise along the Chay River. Duration: 5-hour drive/2-hour walk/1.5-hour boat cruise/1-hour lunch.

Afterwards, you will be taken to the Lao Cai Train Station to embark on the Victoria Express Train back to Hanoi.

Victoria Express Train (B, L, D)

Day 6 - HANOI

Today when you arrive back in Hanoi, you will be transferred to your hotel or the airport.

(B)

Three night itinerary:

Day 1 - DEPART HANOI

This evening you will be transferred to the Hanoi Railway Station to board the Victoria Express Train for Sa Pa. (Note: train does not operate on Saturday)

Reaching Sa Pa has never been more appealing: travel in style on board the luxurious Victoria Express Train. The Victoria Express Train features one dining carriage and two sleeping carriages to make your traveling experience a most comfortable one. With its elegant carriages, the Victoria Express Train recalls a more romantic era. Passing through the exotic landscapes of North Vietnam, between the charming cities of Hanoi and Lao Cai (train station at a distance of 34 km (21 miles) from Sa Pa), it offers every visitor a wonderful traveling experience. Indulge yourself in the dining carriage, "Le Tonkin", where you can savor the delights of traditional Vietnamese and Western cuisine. The talented Chef Nguyen Tien Duc will be waiting for you with a selection of the best wines, adding a further exquisite touch to a memorable experience.

Victoria Express

Day 2 - LAO CAI- SA PA

Enjoy a walk through Sa Pa's colorful market (weekends only) and stroll down into the valley to visit the small community of Cat Cat. The Hmong that have settled here are a shy and private people although they are welcoming to visitors.

Afterwards, continue to the handicraft village of Ta Phin, inhabited by the Red Dzao, known for their distinctive red headscarves.

Overnight at the Victoria Sapa Hotel. The four star Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa, the only luxury hotel in Northwestern Vietnam, opened in March 1998. Built as a traditional mountain chalet with accented wooden décor and a welcoming stone hearth fireplace, the Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa overhangs the village, blending perfectly with the natural surroundings. The location and luxury services of the hotel have been carefully planned to allow guests to experience something different and unique, in close harmony with nature and with the local hill tribe people.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: Please ensure that you bring with you your valid passport and Vietnamese Visa. Due to the proximity to the Chinese border ALL guests are required to present their passport and visa upon check-in and will be refused otherwise.

Victoria Sapa Hotel (B, L)

Day 3 - SA PA

Today enjoy a full day trek to the village of Ta Van and Lao Chai with a picnic lunch.

You will commence your short journey by driving south toward Muong Hoa valley. You will then start your walk by descending into the valley, which is the largest terraced rice paddy in the Sa Pa area. The guide can provide you interesting information about rice. If you visit the valley sometime between May and October, you will be able to observe and experience how the local do planting and harvesting, one of the most important activities in the daily life. The walk takes you from Lao Chai village of Black Hmong minority to Ta Van village of Giay minority including a visit to the local Catholic Church. Duration: 1-hour drive/2-hour walk

Victoria Sapa Hotel (B, L)

Day 4 - HANOI

Today when you arrive back in Hanoi, you will be transferred to your hotel or the airport.

(B)

Please call for current pricing if you are interested!

Tour Notes