Uncover the balmy highlands of Vietnam on an active adventure

From hidden highland villages to intricate underground tunnels, there’s more to Vietnam than meets the eye. Join us on an exploration of southern and central Vietnam and uncover a country filled with intrigue, rich culture and an eclectic mix of Eurasian cuisine. Encounter the extraordinary war remnants and tantalising street food of Ho Chi Minh City, the French charisma of Dalat, and the folk history of Buon Ma Thuot. Take a healthy dose of adventure with your history too, with motorbike rides around the Forbidden Purple City of Hue and spelunking through the underground caves in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. With surprises waiting in just about every forest, market and pagoda, this is an adventure you won’t soon forget.

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Terms & Conditions

Start
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Finish
Hanoi, Vietnam
Country
Vietnam
Style
Original
Theme
Explorer
Code
TVSEC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 16
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why we love this trip

  • Discover a slice of Paris in the East in the picturesque town of Dalat. Explore the opulent summer palace of Bo Dai and stop in at the mouth-watering local market.

  • Trek through the lush forests of the Central Highlands, where homestays in tiny villages give you a rare insight into rural life and ethnic minority cultures.

  • Enjoy a guided walking tour through the atmospheric streets of Hoi An's historic Old Town, one of Vietnam's most charming destinations.

  • Learn the ways and history of the ethnic Co Tu people during an overnight stay in the highland village of Bho Hoong.

  • With its sprawling array of attractions, the imperial city of Hue is best explored from the back of a motorbike and with a dragon boat cruise down the Perfume River.

  • Sample the literal underground life on a two-day spelunking adventure through the enormous caves and subterranean rivers of the Tu Lan Cave system, just outside of Phong Nha

Is this trip right for you?

  • There is a considerable amount of walking and trekking involved on this trip, and a good level of fitness is required. For Tu Lan trek and caving from Phong Nha this includes a moderately demanding hike through remote and rocky terrain with over a 30 m (100 ft) ascent and then descent. In addition you will be swimming in rivers through subterranean caves sometimes against the current, and climbing up into natural caves

  • You will stay in simple homestays for two nights in multishare accommodation, with shared bathroom facilities. The experience of spending time with the local people will be more than worth it, not to mention the home cooked dinners prepared by your hosts.

  • This is South East Asia, so be prepared for some balmy conditions. Dalat tends to to be cooler, however the central highlands where your hiking takes place and Ho Chi Minh City can be really hot. At any rate, be sure to drink plenty of water and use adequate sun protection.

  • There is one night of camping in the forest with no facilities. Please be prepared for a camping expedition, although all the camping gear will be carried by porters.

  • In some parts of the Tu Lan Cave system you will swim through subterranean rivers surrounded by limestone formations, and climb, squeeze up into completely enclosed sections of dry cave with no natural light sources. If you suffer from claustrophobia perhaps reconsider if this is suitable.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2017 to 31 December 2017. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2018 - 31 December 2018

Xin chao! Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. Afterwards there will be an optional welcome dinner, a great chance to bond with your fellow travellers.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
In the morning, visit one of the most important sites in Ho Chi Minh City, the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. These complex tunnels were used by the Viet Cong in the long war against the Americans and were instrumental to the Vietnamese victory. You will be amazed at the ingenuity of these dangerous tunnels. You will also visit a local home in this area. Later, in the afternoon, enjoy a Ho Chi Minh City tour. This stops in at the War Museum, Cathedral, GPO and Ben Thanh market. Don't miss the chance to try some delicious street food at the market.
Included Activities
  • Ho Chi Minh City - War Remnants Museum
  • Ho Chi Minh City - Cu Chi Tunnels
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Head to Da Lat by bus today (approximately 7 hours). Although it's a long travel day, some of the scenery is delightful – take the opportunity to sit back and soak it up. You'll have free time on arrival to spend as you please. Explore this pleasant region and all it has to offer – lakes, palaces, flower gardens, pagodas and churches. You'll soon discover this is one of Vietnam's most beautiful cities.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Embark on a city tour today. This takes you into Bao Dai's Summer Palace, the gorgeous 1930s villa built for the last king of the Vietnam feudal court. Explore its two storeys and some of its 25 rooms, including the impressive bedroom and balcony upstairs. You will also visit the vibrant Dalat Market, whose upper level is a great place to get a cheap and tasty bite of the local food. In the afternoon you will have free time to explore as you please. Perhaps take the train to Trai Mat Village and enjoy its peaceful ambience and fresh air spiked with the smell of pine trees.
Included Activities
  • Dalat - Bao Dai Palace
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Depart Dalat at approximately 1pm and then drive approximately four hours to the starting point of the walk. From here, enjoy an easy 3km (1.9mi) walk to Nam Ka village. The walk should last around one hour. Tonight's accommodation is a traditional long house built on wooden stilts. It's simple yet clean and comfortable. This local homestay is a great opportunity to experience a home cooked meal prepared by your village hosts.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
As the next two days will involve a lot of hiking, your main luggage will stay in the bus, which will drive ahead to Buon Triet. You will be able to access your luggage after your hike tomorrow night. Before your departure this morning you will need to pack a back pack with clothes, a water bottle, and toiletries for the next 2 days. It's a good idea to pack lightly as you'll need to carry your own bag. Ensure you have warm layers, a hat, head torch, waterproof jacket and good walking shoes/boots.

Your long house accommodation is basic as it is traditional style of accommodation elevated on stilts with a traditional step ladder at the entrance. You will be sleeping on foam mattresses on the floor in a communal area. You will also share the long house with our host family, who usually stay at one end of the house. Bedding and mosquito nets are provided. Bathroom facilities are communal, with one squat toilet approximately 20m (65ft) from the long house (this is where a head torch will
Set our on a full day of trekking (approximately 15 kilometres/9 miles). Start with a short walk from the village through rice paddies, then reach a steep 1.5km/1 mile walk uphill before descending down the other side. The path then takes you through rural farmland and bamboo forest. Continue on to Buon Triet lake, where you'll be picked up by a boat and enjoy a cruise across the lake. Depending on time and weather, there may also be an opportunity to stop for a refreshing swim along the way. Some more walking through the lush valley to reach your homestay. Spend the evening in Jatu village with friendly M’Nong hosts.
Included Activities
  • Buon Triet - Boat trip
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Your homestay tonight is similar to last night, sleeping on mattresses on the floor in a traditional long house on stilts. Bathroom facilities are shared with the family, including a cold shower and western toilet.
In the morning, travel by bus to Jun Village, where you can walk around and greet the locals. This visit is a nice insight into daily village life in the Central Highlands.  It's also the perfect place to soak up some of Vietnam's idyllic countryside – little villages, rice fields, cows, and sprawling Lak Lake. After some time to explore, board a bus headed to Buon Ma Thuot (approximately two hours). Be sure to try the coffee here, as this region grows arguably the best in the country. In the afternoon, visit the quality Ethnographic Museum to learn more about the Dak Lak province, including information about the region's ethnic cultures, war history, and everything in between. The museum displays include stone artefacts, photography, musical instruments and quirky taxidermy.
Included Activities
  • Buon Me Thuot - Museum of Ethnology
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Catch a transfer to the airport this morning for a flight to Da Nang (approximately one hour). From here, take a bus to lovely Hoi An. After arriving and settling in, enjoy a guided walk around Hanoi's Old Town in the afternoon. Declared a World Heritage site, the Old Town is beautifully preserved and exudes a tranquil atmosphere. It's perfect for strolling around at a leisurely pace, with many beautiful Japanese houses and Chinese temples lining the narrow lanes. Parts of Hoi An look exactly as they did more than a century ago.
Included Activities
  • Hoi An - Ancient town walk and entrance ticket
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Enjoy a free day to explore Hanoi at your leisure. Ask your local leader for tips on what to see and do about town. If the weather is fine, perhaps hire a bike and head to the nearby beaches, or sign up for a street food tour and try some of famous Hoi An specialties.
Optional Activities
  • Hoi An - Street Food By Night Urban Adventure - USD28
  • Hoi An - Hoi An Boat & Bike Urban Adventure - USD51
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Make the most of a free day in Hanoi. Perhaps wander through the town's Central Market and its street stalls, where you'll find everything from paintings to woodwork, ceramics and lanterns. Hoi An is also famous for its talented tailors, who can make beautiful items within only a few hours. Bring your favourite piece of clothing, or even just a picture of what you'd like, and you'll usually be able to collect it the very next day. Alternatively, you might like to visit a local workshop to learn how to make your own rice paper. A Vietnamese cooking class is also a great way to familiarise yourself with some of the age-old culinary techniques (not to mention being able to feast on the fruits of your own labour).

As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
Optional Activities
  • Hoi An - Hoi An Walking & Cooking Class Urban Adventure - USD49
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Become versed in the colonial history of Hoi An on a walking tour with your trip leader around its Old Town. This is a place oozing with charm and, having largely escaped the destruction of successive wars, its streets and architecture are a delight to explore. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Old Town is packed with buildings of historical and cultural significance and boasts a number of streets that are off-limits to cars. Stroll past the many Chinese Assembly Halls – from the Cantonese Chinese Congregation, with its impressive main altar, to the Hainan Chinese Congregation. Stop by the Japanese Covered Bridge, which was constructed in the 1590s by the town’s Japanese community to link them with the Chinese quarters across the stream.
Included Activities
  • Hoi An - Ancient town walk and entrance ticket
Optional Activities
  • Hoi An - Street Food By Night Urban Adventure - USD28
  • Hoi An - Hoi An Boat & Bike Urban Adventure - USD51
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Travel by bus to Bho Hoong, a small village located in the Truong Son mountain range that's home to the ethnic Co Tu people (approxiamtely 150km). This village came into existence during the closing stages of the Vietnam War, when the Co Tu, their hill country homelands largely destroyed in the fighting, migrated here from near the Laos border. The Co Tu practice a traditional way of life characterised by small-scale agriculture, weaving, the holding of harvest festivals and building of stilt bungalows. The drive here will include stop-offs at tea plantations. During an evening here you'll be treated to a traditional dance performance and home-cooked dinner.
Included Activities
  • Bho Hoong Village - traditional dance
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Following a morning walk around the village, hop back in the bus for the onward drive to Hue (approximately 195 km). Packed with temples, tombs, palaces and pagodas, the former imperial capital of Hue is an eclectic mix of busy streets and peaceful beauty. After lunch you will visit the Imperial Citadel – a sprawling complex of temples, pavilions, moats, gates, and walls. The Ngo Mon Gate, Thai Hoa Palace and the Ancestral Altars are still impressive, and the complex must have been awe-inspiring during its heyday in the 19th century. In your free time you might like to visit to Dong Ba Market, which offers locally made goods, fresh produce and tantalising street food. This is a good place to try the specialties enjoyed by Emperor Nguyen such as the banh khoai royal rice cake.
Included Activities
  • Hue - Imperial citadel
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today’s adventure will be on the back of a motorbike! You’ll have your own driver who will take you first on a drive around the Imperial Citadel, including the Forbidden Purple City. The latter was almost completely destroyed during the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War, but its humble, foliage-covered ruins remain a testament to its proud history. Here you'll gain some insight into the horrific damage endured during the war. Then it's on to the Thien My Pagoda, the unofficial symbol of Hue. This site dates back to 1601 and is still an active Buddhist monastery. You’ll also see the scar left by a monk who set himself alight in protest at the treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime. Hopping off the motorbike, board a dragon boat for a cruise down the Perfume River. After the 40-minute journey, get back on your motorbike and ride to a special lunch spot at a convent or Buddhist monastery. Following lunch, drive to the tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, a royal mausoleum set beside a lake amid frangipani bushes and pine trees. This evening, perhaps ask your leader for the best place to try imperial street specialties.
Included Activities
  • Hue - Motorbike trip including lunch
  • Hue - Empoeror Tu Duc's Tomb
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
For those who prefer not to ride motorbikes, please ask your leader to request car transportation between destinations.
Boats along Perfume River may not be available during festival season. During these times, you’ll be transported by land to reach the activities.
The drive to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park includes two interesting stop-offs along the way: Hien Luong Bridge and the Vinh Moc tunnels. Hien Luong Bridge, a 178-metre long bridge that spans the Ben Hai River, marked the division between north and south Vietnam from 1954 until 1975. While it's not the most impressive sight you'll ever see, this humble piece of architecture came to symbolise a country's desire for reunification. Not far off, Vinh Moc is an underground tunnel complex dug by a local village in response to the American bombs that fell from above. Between 1966 and 1972 it's believed 60-odd families lived down here. After creeping through the tunnels, continue on to your night's accommodation.
Once settled in and refreshed, head out to see Paradise Cave and climb down the wooden staircase to admire is cavernous interior, and it's dramatic stactites, stagmites and seemingly unnatural pools. There is a full kilometre of this incredible cave to explore.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Quang Tri - Hien Luong Bridge
  • Quang Tri - Vinh Moc Tunnels Entrance
  • Phong Nha Ke-Bang NP - Thien Duong (Paradise Cave)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Caves and the area surrounding Phong Nha are subject to flooding. For safety reasons it may be necessary to amend your trip itinerary to avoid flood affect areas.
Today you'll be trekking to over the mountain range containing Tu Lan Cave. Start the day early and travel by bus (approximately 1.5 hours) to the headquarters of our local expedition partner. There is an important safety briefing and time to check and repack your gear for the next 2 days before your trek begins. Begin with a flat walk through farmland, past water buffalo, peanut crops and corn stalks (approximately 2.5 km, 1.5mi). Cross Rao Nan River, and then your trek starts to get more demanding with a 30 m (100 ft) climb up a rocky hill to a small jungle opening where you can catch your breath before a 100 m descent in elevation down to Hung Ton Valley.

Stop for lunch in an opening in Hung Ton Cave ready for some more serious trekking over to Mango Mountain, then back down into Tu Lan Valley (3 km, 1.9mi).

This afternoon you will explore Ken Cave located next to the camp site. Swim up into the cave entrance and have the chance to climb up on to a ledge for a photo! Afterwards return to the campsite for a delicious BBQ dinner.
Accommodation
  • Camping (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Phong Nha-Ke Bang NP - Overnight hike to Tu Lan Cave
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
This trek portion of the trip is run in conjunction with a local partner. Depending on your group size you may join with other travellers booked through our local partner.

You will be supplied with a PVC backpack, semi-dry bag, water bottle, life jacket, helmet and head torch/flashlight to use for the duration of the trek. There are shoes that you can borrow for the trek if you prefer not to wear your own. You will need to carry your own backpack, and swim with it through caves, so it is best to pack light. You will need to take clothing that is comfortable to swim and trek in. Any extra equipment can be stored at accommodation in Phong Nha, or at the headquarters overnight.

You will be camping tonight in tents set on a river bank near the entrance to Ken Cave. Camping is twin share, and all camping equipment is provided. Given our remote location there are composting camp toilets. All running water needs to be purified by your camp team, but is safe to drink. Please ensure that yo
Start the day with a good breakfast ready for your day of caving!
Commence with a brief swim across the river into the centre of Tu Lan Cave System. Stop to admire the the blue lagoon entrance before making your way 180 m (590 ft) downstream through Tu Lan Cave entrance. Climb up into the cave to explore the dry portion of it's interior. This section of your expedition my involve some climbing and squeezing, before you reach the exit and trek a short way through valley into Kim Cave entrance. Admire the natural window view in Kim Cave, before another swim of (450 m, 0.27 mi) and a further trek (500 m, 0.3mi) through Hang Kim to To Mo Valley.

Stop for a picnic lunch next the waterfall nearby Hung Ton Cave entrance. It's not long and you are back in the water, swimming out through Hung Ton cave. Some more exploration of a dry passage, and then then a trek back down into Hung Ton Valley (800 m) and return to your starting point.

After making your way out of the underworld, travel by bus back to Chay Lap Farmstay this evening for another night spent amid bucolic surrounds and a well deserved rest.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Special Information
Showers are available at the headquarters in Tan Hoa, and you will have time to return any borrowed equipment.
In the morning, travel by bus to Dong Hoi for an onward flight on to Hanoi. This afternoon, take a guided half-day tour of Hanoi that encompasses the beauty and history of Vietnam's laid-back, tree-lined capital. You’ll visit major sights including the Temple of Literature, One Pillar Pagoda and the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh. You’ll also pass by the Hoan Kiem Lake and enter the ’36 Streets’ of the historic Old Quarter. If you have some free time this afternoon, you may like to visit the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum. This Museum plays a crucial role in maintaining and promoting the cultural heritage of Vietnam’s ethnic communities. Hanoi has a huge array of excellent eateries, from buzzing streets stalls to upmarket restaurants. Why not ask your leader suggestions for a final group dinner?
Included Activities
  • Hanoi - Temple of Literature
  • Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh Complex: Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum, Stilt House and Museum
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. If you're planning to stick around in Hanoi a while, Urban Adventures are a great way to get to know the city. Head to urbanadventures.com to check out the five day tours on offer.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

18 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 4 dinners

Transport

Bus, Plane, Private Bus

Accommodation

Bungalow (1 night), Camping (1 night), Guesthouse (2 nights), Hotel (12 nights), Homestay (2 nights)

Included activities

  • Ho Chi Minh City - War Remnants Museum
  • Ho Chi Minh City - Cu Chi Tunnels
  • Dalat - Bao Dai Palace
  • Buon Triet - Boat trip
  • Buon Me Thuot - Museum of Ethnology
  • Hoi An - Ancient town walk and entrance ticket
  • Bho Hoong Village - traditional dance
  • Hue - Imperial citadel
  • Hue - Motorbike trip including lunch
  • Hue - Empoeror Tu Duc's Tomb
  • Quang Tri - Hien Luong Bridge
  • Quang Tri - Vinh Moc Tunnels Entrance
  • Phong Nha Ke-Bang NP - Thien Duong (Paradise Cave)
  • Phong Nha-Ke Bang NP - Overnight hike to Tu Lan Cave
  • Hanoi - Temple of Literature
  • Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh Complex: Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum, Stilt House and Museum

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Important notes

1. Passport Details: Please provide your full name exactly as per passport at the time of booking (including any middle names listed on your passport), for internal flights and train tickets. Ticketing fees may apply for amendments to details within 45 days of departure, and in some cases you will be required to cover the cost of issuing a new ticket
2. A Single Supplement to have your own room is available on this trip and excludes nights 5 and 6 (homestay) and 15 (camping) where you will be in shared accommodation.
3. Minimum age is 16 due to included trip to caves in Phong Nha.

Essential trip information

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