Map of Explore Vietnam including Vietnam

A crash course in banh mi, karst-studded bays and bustling markets

Get a taste of adventure over 11 days in Vietnam. This escapade from north to south takes you from French-influenced Hanoi to heaving Ho Chi Minh City on a journey that balances local guidance with freedom to explore independently. Discover the countryside around Hue by bicycle, kayak between limestone karsts off the coast of Cat Ba Island and chill out in Ninh Binh. Let an expert local leader show you around this vivacious nation so you can see the real Vietnam.


Start
Hanoi, Vietnam
Finish
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Destination
Vietnam
Style
Basix
Theme
Explorer
Code
TVRR
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why you'll love this trip

  • Lan Ha Bay is a beautiful enclave of green waters and strange rock formations. Explore them by boat and kayak, then spend the night on nearby Cat Ba Island.

  • Take a walking tour through the Old Town of Hoi An, where the city looks exactly like it did over a century ago.

  • Travel to the UNESCO protected Ninh Binh, often referred to as ‘Ha Long Bay on land’, with its winding river etched between towering limestone mountains. Plus, get a chance to explore 10th century Hoa Lu – the temple of King Dinh and King Le.

  • Enjoy a cycling tour where you’ll discover Ninh Binh in a fresh way that gets your blood pumping and takes you off the beaten track – explore Hoa Lu – the temple of King Dinh and King Le along the way.

Is this trip right for you?

  • Some travellers find the pace of this trip quite fast as we are covering a lot of destinations in a short amount of time. If you would like a more relaxed pace with more time to explore, you might like to consider a longer trip (see trip code TVRN on our website) or adding additional days in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City before or after your trip.

  • Accommodation and amenities are shared and basic, but the experience of rubbing shoulders with the locals makes it all worthwhile.

  • Don’t let the heat keep you from exploring the world! Depending on where you come from, the weather in Vietnam might be hotter and more humid than what you are used to. We recommend checking our guide so you know what temperatures to expect: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/vietnam/weather-in-vietnam

  • Travel is always an adventure and, as destinations reopen, there are a few challenges as everyone gets back up to speed and adjusts to the new normal. Our leaders are experts when it comes to dealing with anything unexpected along the journey, so pack your understanding and flexibility, sit back and relax while they take care of the rest.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 Jan 2023 to 31 Dec 2023.
View the 2020 itinerary
Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm tonight. If you happen to arrive early, take the day at your own pace and wander the Old Quarter admiring the city’s French-colonial architecture and manicured parks, or simply enjoy some street food.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Hanoi - Fine Arts Museum - VND30000
  • Hanoi - Museum of Ethnology - VND40000
  • Hanoi - Street Food Experience Urban Adventure - USD35
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.
Enjoy a free day in Hanoi today. Perhaps check out one of the city’s museums, like the Museum of Ethnology which offers an insight into the different ethnic groups and cultures in Vietnam, or the Fine Arts Museum which houses a collection of more than 2000 pieces, some dating back to the 11th century. Alternatively, you might like to wander the grounds of the Temple of Literature, a historical complex in Hanoi. Tonight, you might like to meet up with some of your fellow travellers and try out a local dish like pho or Bahn Mi – enjoy!
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Hanoi - Street Food Experience Urban Adventure - USD35
  • Hanoi - Museum of Ethnology - VND40000
  • Hanoi - Fine Arts Museum - VND30000
  • Hanoi - Temple of Literature - VND30000
  • Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh Complex - VND80000
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
An early start is necessary to get the most out of your day. Take a 7.30 am bus ride and ferry transfer to the steep karsts and tiny beaches of Cat Ba Island, arriving before midday – you’ll have a quick stop to stretch your legs en route. The largest of all the islands in World Heritage-listed Halong Bay, charming Cat Ba will be your base for exploring the limestone cliffs and turquoise water that defines this area. Get acquainted with this stunning spot with an afternoon cruise around the bay, enjoying lunch on the boat while floating past the karsts covered in emerald-green foliage. Later, get closer to the water and explore on a kayak, perhaps stopping at one of Cat Ba’s many beaches for a swim. Stay overnight on Cat Ba Island and enjoy the sunset with a cold beer.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Cat Ba Island - Boat trip on Lan Ha Bay
  • Cat Ba Island - Lan Ha Bay Lunch
  • Cat Ba Island - Kayaking
Meals Included
  • Lunch
Today, you’ll travel to the UNESCO protected Ninh Binh. A naturally beautiful area, often referred to as ‘Ha Long Bay on land’, with its winding river etched between towering limestone mountains. Today, you’ll enjoy a cycling tour where you’ll discover Ninh Binh in a fresh way that gets your blood pumping and takes you off the beaten track. You’ll get a chance to explore Hoa Lu – the temple of King Dinh and King Le which were built in the 10th century and dedicated to two the two kings of Vietnam. The ancient citadel once covered 300 hectares of land, however the passage of time has left few remains of this once glorious capital of the Vietnam.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Hoa Lu - Temple of King Dinh and King Le
  • Ninh Binh - Bike Tour
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today, you’ll have a free day to explore Ninh Binh at your leisure. You might like to hike to Mua Cave – located underneath Mua Mountain, this culturally significant and naturally beautiful spot is well worth the visit. If hiking doesn’t take your fancy, a boat trip to Trang An might be just the thing to fill your day. A series of limestone mountains, some 250 million years old, tower over lakes, caves and valleys below. After a day of activities of your own choosing, you’ll meet with your group in the evening to take an overnight train to Hue.
Accommodation
  • Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Ninh Binh - Trang An Boat Trip (entrance fee, boat, taxi) - USD21
  • Ninh Binh - Mua Cave Hike (entrance fee and taxi) - USD12
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
As the former imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue holds the treasures of Vietnam's royal past and is a curious mix of bustling streets and tranquil settings. Packed with historic monuments, Hue is also perfectly located to explore the surrounding countryside, which features stunning scenery, quaint villages and the peaceful Tam Giang Lagoon. The bustling Dong Ba Market offers a plethora of goods and foods to see and sample, and it's a good place to try some of the specialities that graced the Nguyen emperors' banquet tables, such as the banh khoai – a royal rice cake. Here you have a free day, which you could easily spend exploring Hue’s massive walled citadel and the Forbidden Purple Palace enclosed within. Perhaps jump on board a dragon boat and enjoy a cruise up the Perfume River to visit the Thien Mu pagoda, or cycle out to one of the Royal tombs such as the tomb of Emperor Tu Duc. Otherwise, set off on an optional motorcycle tour of the sights in Hue and some surrounding villages.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Hue - Royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc - VND136000
  • Hue - Imperial City Full Day Tour - USD69
  • Hue - Highlights & back streets by motorbike (with lunch) - USD28
  • Hue - Highlights & back streets by motorbike (without lunch) - USD23
  • Hue - Perfume River cruise & Thien Mu Pagoda - VND220000
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Your hotel rooms will be available from the standard check-in time this afternoon. You can store your luggage at the hotel while you explore Hue.
Continue on your journey and travel to the World Heritage-listed town of Hoi An, where on arrival, your leader will take you on an orientation walk around town. The city was a major trading port with the west from the 17th century onwards, and has various architectural influences from Europe, China and Vietnam. Today, the city is being restored and looks exactly like it did over a century ago. The rest of the day is free for you to do some optional activities or soak up the ambience of the place. You may like to wander Hoi An Market and the street stalls selling paintings, woodwork, ceramics, lanterns and much more. It’s also famous for its talented tailors who can make beautiful items to order within 24 hours, so be sure to check that out!
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Hoi An - Old Town walking tour
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Enjoy a free day to further explore Hoi An. Perhaps take a cruise up the Thu Bon River or learn the secrets of cooking delicious Vietnamese dishes. Visit some of the main art galleries or simply wander around the beautifully restored Chinese shop houses. There’s also the option of cycling around the surrounding countryside – a truly relaxing way to get off the beaten track and see rural Vietnam up close. Your leader will be able to suggest activities to help you get the most out of your time.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Hoi An - My Son Cham tour (entrance fee, guide and transport included) - USD35
  • Danang - Marble Mountain - VND40000
  • Hoi An - Food Adventure Urban Adventure - USD37
  • Hoi An - Cooking class - VND240000
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Make the most out of another free day in Hoi An. Perhaps do some of the activities you couldn’t fit into your schedule over the past couple of days, or go pick up your fresh threads from the tailors. There’s also Cua Dai Beach nearby – the perfect place to rest up before continuing on your way. This evening, board another overnight train bound for Ho Chi Minh. Remember, it’s always a good idea to have some snacks and a book on hand.
Accommodation
  • Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Danang - Marble Mountain - VND40000
  • Hoi An - My Son Cham tour (entrance fee, guide and transport included) - USD35
  • Hoi An - Food Adventure Urban Adventure - USD37
  • Hoi An - Cooking class - VND240000
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City very early this morning and transfer to your hotel. Today you’ll have plenty of free time to explore Vietnam’s largest city. Ho Chi Minh City has a busy atmosphere and many French influences. In your free time, it’s recommended to visit the Reunification Palace and the War Remnants Museum. There’s also the historic Dong Khoi Street, and the chaotic markets of Ben Thanh and Cholon (Chinatown). Ho Chi Minh City has a different style of cuisine to its northern counterpart Hanoi, so be sure to get out for restaurant meals and street food with your travel crew. Your group leader knows all the best people in the right places, so they’ll know of some delectable places to eat, for any budget.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Ho Chi Minh City - Orientation Walk
Optional Activities
  • Ho Chi Minh City - War Remnants Museum - VND40000
  • Ho Chi Minh City - Reunification Palace - VND40000
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Please note that there are shared hotel rooms available this morning if you would like to freshen up before check-in time this afternoon
With no planned activities today, you can depart at any time, provided you comply with the hotel’s internal check-out times. As we don’t spend much time in Ho Chi Minh City on this tour, why not stay a few extra days to make the most of your time here? You could take a day trip to the renowned Cu Chi Tunnels, where you can witness the strategic underground labyrinth that helped the locals during the Vietnam war. Ask your leader for more recommendations or book in on an Urban Adventure. Find out more at https://www.urbanadventures.com/ho-chi-minh-city/products. If you would like to spend more time in Ho Chi Minh City, we’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation (subject to availability).
Optional Activities
  • Ho Chi Minh City - Cu Chi Tunnel Experience Urban Adventure - USD39
  • Ho Chi Minh City - Mekong Discovery Urban Adventure - USD63
  • Ho Chi Minh City - Saigon Street Food by Night Urban Adventure - USD32
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

1 lunch

Transport

Boat, Overnight sleeper train, Private minibus

Accommodation

Hotel (7 nights), Overnight sleeper train (3 nights)

Included activities

  • Cat Ba Island - Boat trip on Lan Ha Bay
  • Cat Ba Island - Lan Ha Bay Lunch
  • Cat Ba Island - Kayaking
  • Hoa Lu - Temple of King Dinh and King Le
  • Ninh Binh - Bike Tour
  • Hoi An - Old Town walking tour
  • Ho Chi Minh City - Orientation Walk

Dates & availability

Trip departures are unavailable.

There are currently no scheduled departures on our Explore Vietnam trip. If you are interested in other trips in the region visit one of the links below.

Prices may go up, so secure your trip today!
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Important notes

Travellers on Intrepid trips that start on or before 31 December 2022 are required to produce proof of full vaccination against COVID-19. Learn more about Intrepid’s COVID-19 policy.

1. Please provide your full name exactly as per passport at the time of booking (including any middle names listed on your passport) for train tickets. 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 new tickets.
2. A single supplement is available if you’d prefer not to share a room on this trip. The single supplement excludes Days 5 & 9 (overnight train) where you will be in shared accommodation and is subject to availability. Please speak to your booking agent for further information.

Essential trip information

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