Overview for Vietnam
The far north is stunning, with jagged mountains and rice paddies, while the beach lined east coast extends to the south where the mighty Mekong flows to the sea. The country’s recent colonial history and colourful local traditions rub shoulders with a past filled with ancient glory and tragedy.
Each city has it’s own charm and sampling local dishes when travelling is the fast-track to understanding a country’s culture. The bustling chaos of local markets presents the opportunity to experience the true taste and smells of Vietnam.
The best way to experience Vietnam is by booking the 'Highlights of Vietnam Tour'.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Vietnam's north is between September and December when it's less humid. In the south, December to April avoids the rainy season.
Part of Vietnams charm is the transportation on offer for travellers. In the cities, cyclos are the most common means of transport. For travel between major cities, a private car and driver is recommended. Ask us about our private tours taking in many of Vietnams popular destinations.
The capital Hanoi is a city of broad, tree-lined boulevards, parks, lakes elegant French villas and colonial-era buildings painted in muted hues of yellow and orange. The tree-lined shore of Hoan Kiem Lake is the heart of Hanoi, where you can see local residents perform mesmerising 'Tai Chi'.
Visit the Old Quarter, also known as the '36 Streets', where each street is named for what it sells, eg. Silver St, Gold St & Shoe St.
Water Puppetry, a remarkable Vietnamese art form combining music, fireworks and elaborate puppets floating gracefully on the water, is a traditional form of theatre dating back to the 11th century depicting stories of Vietnamese legends, and festivals. Explore the sights on our 'Hanoi Uncovered' 3 night tour.
Located in the Gulf of Tonkin 170 km from Hanoi, Halong Bay is an impressive collection of nearly 3,000 islands covering an area in excess of 1,500 sq km forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars and cliff faces. Many of the forested islands in the Bay have hidden caves and grottoes which are easily explored by boat or kayak.
A full exploration of Halong Bay takes 2 to 3 days, though a day trip from Hanoi is an option. Cat Ba Island, home to Cat Ba National Park, is the largest island in Halong Bay and comprises of 366 islets and islands. Experience this unique destination on our 'Halong Bay Escape' itinerary.
Hue (pronounced 'whey'), is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit the remnants of the royal past with tombs of Emperors, moated ruins of Citadels and Vietnam's best known pagoda, Thien Mu - a seven-storey stupa, 21 metres high, with each level dedicated to one of the various human forms taken by Buddha.
A sampan trip on the Perfume River is a must, as many of the attractions can be found on the River, like the Thien Mu Pagoda and a number of Royal Tombs. Hue's spectacular Citadel is built on the same principles and design as Beijing's Forbidden Palace. The ten-metre thick outer walls enclose a vast compound of palaces, temples, meeting halls and pavilions, many of which are now sadly victims of war and the passage of time. See the best of Hue on our 'Essential Hue' tour.
The old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has narrow pedestrian-only streets and is a great place to wander around. Silk abounds, and many clothing shops can be found in Hoi An - it is cheaper to have clothes made here than in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. The town is also home to dozens of art galleries, textile houses and museums.
View the Japanese Covered Bridge built over a small canal in 1593 to link the Japanese and Chinese quarters. The best way to get around Hoi An is by cyclo, on foot or hire a bicycle. A half-hour pedal (5kms) at a leisurely pace along a country road brings you to popular Cua Dai Beach. Visit the key sights of this amazing destination on our 3 night 'Hoi An Uncovered' tour.
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon):
A stroll along Saigon's most famous street, Dong Khoi takes you past the Caravelle and Rex hotels made famous in the war. Reunification Palace (former Presidential Palace), originally built for the French Governor-General in 1868 has over the years been abandoned and occupied.
The War Remnants Museum leaves most visitors shocked and stunned at the graphic war photos on the walls. Visiting Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum is an unforgettable experience - inside this imposing building lies the embalmed body of the founder of modern Vietnam. Ben Thanh Market is the largest market in Ho Chi Minh City. Local and imported products ranging from garments and textiles to handicrafts, flowers and vegetables can be found here.
Cu Chi Tunnels are 250kms of underground tunnels dug by hand during the Vietnam War. The Viet Cong lived in these underground tunnels, out of sight of the Americans who eventually knew they were there but couldn't get at them. Sections of tunnel are open to visitors. Visit these tunnels plus other sights on the 'Saigon Uncovered' tour.
Known as the food bowl of Vietnam, it is formed by various tributaries of the mighty Mekong River. The gateway is My Tho, approx two hours drive south of Ho Chi Minh City. Day trippers will get to ride on sampans along the busy Mekong River and see the hundreds of boats plying the water with market goods. On land you can visit coconut candy factories, fruit farms and small local villages. We recommend spending a few nights in this area so you can get right into the Delta. For an overnight taste of the Mekong, our one night Mekong Delta tour is a great option. For those seeking a longer experience, a Pandaw Mekong Exploration visits hard to access destinations with superb levels of comfort and service.
Can Tho is located in the very heart of the Mekong Delta. This bustling city, the largest in the region has broad boulevards and an elegant waterfront which connects it to the rest of the Mekong Delta via a system of rivers and canals. Chau Doc is a port town near the Cambodian border. Visit these off-the-beaten-track places on our 'Deep in the Delta' private tour.