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Essential Vietnam

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Must-see Vietnam

All the highlights in around a week and a half

One of our most popular tours of Vietnam – and it’s easy to understand why!

We’ve carefully designed this trip so that you experience all of the key places in Vietnam. Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An, Hue City and Saigon are visited in this 11 days / 10 nights tour.

At a glance...
  • 3 nights in Hanoi
  • 1 night Cruise on Halong Bay
  • 2 nights in Hoi An
  • 2 nights in Hue City
  • 2 nights in HCMC
  • Two internal flights included

Sights you'll see

Viet Orchid Travel HanoiViet Orchid Travel Hanoi Hoan Kiem LakeViet Orchid Travel Halong BayViet Orchid Travel Halong BayViet Orchid Travel Hoi An VietnamViet Orchid Travel Hoi An VietnamViet Orchid Travel Hue VietnamViet Orchid Travel Hue VietnamViet Orchid Travel HCMC Saigon VietnamViet Orchid Travel HCMC Saigon VietnamViet Orchid Travel Mekong Delta Vietnam


Enjoy this tour as-is, or we'll tailor it to suit you.

Day 1Arrival in Hanoi

Your guide will meet you at the airport and private transfer to your hotel.

After your hotel check-in, you may wish to take a late afternoon or evening stroll of 2.5km around Hoan Kiem Lake. The lake is considered the center of Hanoi, not only physically but also symbolically.

Day 2Hanoi Discovery

Today, discover the highlight sites and sights iof this vibrant capital city including: Streets of the Old Quarter, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex, One-pillar Pagoda, Temple of Literature and museums of interest.

Day 3Hanoi to Halong Bay and cruising

This morning leave Hanoi for the approximately 3 hours drive through the Red River delta to Ha Long. Board your traditional junk and set sail through the extraordinary and scenic Karst rock formations. 

Enjoy lunch and dinner on-board as you cruise to your anchor location in the bay. Overnight is in your spacious air-conditioned cabin.

Day 4Halong Bay to Hanoi

Wake to sunrise over the bay. If you feel energetic try Tai Chi on the deck. Breakfast or brunch is served as you cruise back to the mainland by late morning. Arrive back in Hanoi around mid-afternoon and check back into your hotel, for your final evening here.

Day 5Hanoi to Hoi An

Check out and say farewell to Hanoi. You’ll have a private transfer to the airport and then a one-hour flight south to Da Nang, where your local guide will meet you and continue around 40 minutes to Hoi An.
This beautifully preserved UNESCO Old Town is an absolute joy by day and evening, when traditional lanterns illuminate the shophouses.

Day 6In and around Hoi An

Begin with a few km cycle ride (or by traditional cyclo) around country lanes to Tra Que village. The locals here cultivate and grow many kinds of herbs. Enjoy a herbal foot massage and a short and fun – but instructive cooking with herbs class. Enjoy lunch here.

In the afternoon, we’ll return to the Old Town – ideal for a couple hours walking tour to understand the historical and commercial development of this former 16th century trading port.

Day 7Hoi An to Hue via the Hai Van Mountain Pass

Following National Highway 1 to Hue City is around 4 hours drive. We’ll stop at Da Nang Beach, followed by a scenic drive over the stunning Hai Van Mountain Pass. This is the highest pass in Vietnam (500m above sea level).

The rugged pass is the final section of the Truong Son Range stretching to the sea.Hai Van is translated “Sea Clouds”, since the peak of the mountain is in the clouds while its foot is close to the sea.

The views over Lang Co Bay are stunning. We’ll make stops along the way for photos and refreshments as required.

Day 8Hue and the Forbidden City

Begin early to miss the crowds and see Hue Citadel in the best light. The citadel palace complex is located on the North bank of Huong River (Perfume River), inside Hue city. Even though suffering extensive damage from the war, it is still a very impressive site.

We’ll take time for a Hue coffee and also walk around the largest market in the region at Dong Ba. Continue to discover the history of the former emperors’ tombs, before a cruise back to Hue on the Perfume River and catch a sunset.

Day 9Hue - Cu Chi Tunnels and Saigon

Take a morning flight to HCMC, where your local guide will meet you at the airport. We’ll dead straight to the famous Cu Chi Tunnels, which were originally dug in the 1940’s during the French occupation and extended to some 250km by the time of the 1960’s war.

Find out how the tunnels and surrounding areas were used by locals for both refuge from bombing and also to plan attacks. Going inside the tunnels is optional. There’s a lot to see and understand at ground level too!.

Day 10Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

What’s in a name? Following the fall of Saigon on 30th April 1975, Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. However the old Saigon name is still often used by both Vietnamese and visitors, especially when referring to the most central part of the city, District 1.

This energetic city of some 11 million people (seemingly all on motor scooters together) is the backdrop for exploring the more modern history and stories it’s enduring people.

There are amazing markets, stunning architecture, wartime sites and so much more that you’ll discover.

Day 11Departure day

Depending on time before your airport transfer, we’ll visit Ben Thanh Market where you can find all kinds of stuff – from local coffee, to candy to jewelry to branded fakes!

You could also extend this tour by one or two days to discover the Mekong Delta, or to continue through the Delta and upstream the Mekong River to Cambodia.


  • Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City (or v.v)
  • 11 days / 10 nights Private Tour
Tour Includes
  • 9 nights hotel with breakfast
  • 1 night cruise
  • 3 Lunches
  • 2 Evening Meals
  • Two internal flights
  • Experienced Tour Guides
  • All Entrance Fees
  • All transportation and transfers
Main Exclusions
  • International flights
  • Visa / Immigration Fees
  • Any Private Expenses
  • Tips / Gratuities
Always Included
  • Expert planning
  • In-country support 24/7
  • Bottled drinking water on tour

Main places visited

More details on the towns and cities you visit