South & Central Vietnam Tour: Ho Chi Minh, Mekong Delta & More

A 14 day trip to Vietnam 
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Ancient imperial citadels continue to hold powerful walls and endless gateways. Tunnels stretch for miles deep beneath the landscape. Markets float along the river in colorful displays of delicious fruit and traditional cuisine. On this custom tailored tour through Vietnam you will find the endless wonder of history and the remarkable beauty of the local culture. Cruise down the famous Mekong River and witness the continued elegance of French architecture found effortlessly decorating wide city avenues. See the remnants of ancient empires and taste the flavors of local specialties on your trip through South and Central Vietnam. 

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General Information

Homemade lanterns for sale in Hoi An.
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Ho Chi Minh, Mekong Delta, Hoi An, Danang, Hue

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: The Express Route

Your journey begins with your arrival at the airport. The flight is ready to be boarded and you can feel your heart pounding against your chest with excitement. Vietnam is a country that is both exotic and cosmopolitan. It is filled with modern urban neighborhoods that contain pockets of tradition. Your plane soars through the air and brings you closer to the iconic images of the country that you have only imagined until now. Soon you will step off the plane and find the true wonders of Vietnam.

Day 2: The Dividing Line

Today you cross the famous International Dateline and are propelled into the future by a single day. You aren’t thinking about the Dateline, or that you will get the day back on your return journey home. You’re thinking about the myriad of cultures that have influenced the history of Vietnam. You’re thinking about the energetic and gregarious people. You imagine the dramatic blues of the ocean and sweeping greenery of the hillsides. You will land in Vietnam soon and will be ready to explore. 

Day 3: The Pulsing South

Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City, previously known as Saigon. The city has a dizzying effect of energetic streets and stretching skyline. It is considered the commercial capital of the entire country. Your private transfer meets you at the airport and escorts you to your luxurious hotel. The city bursts with life and vitality. You can’t help but be swept up into the contrasts of modern boutique markets that hide away timeless alleys. Sleek designer malls are found hiding small temples that are infused with incense and that are bright with decoration. The remainder of the day is at your whim and pleasure to stroll through the city and feel its genuine rush. In the evening you can enjoy the flavors of the Refinery Bar and Restaurant, known for its French bistro charm, from its colonial fixtures to the garden terrace.

What’s Included: transfer, accommodation

Day 4: The Depths of the Underground

The morning light breaks through the window and brightens the early hours of the day. You are once again seduced by the remarkable aroma and flavor of the fresh brewed coffee. This morning you try the coffee as many of the locals drink it, by adding a bit of condensed milk to add sweetness to the coffee’s almost chocolaty richness. Your guide meets you at your hotel and escorts you through the historic neighborhoods and sites of the city. The city maintains pieces of its French Colonial past which date back to the 19th century. You see it in the wide boulevards and elegant architecture that grace downtown. The city center is still known to locals and visitors as Saigon.

The Reunification Palace was home to General Ngo Dinh Diem until 1963. Today the palace appears to be frozen in time. The fountain sprinkles water into the air. The quiet breeze blows through the surrounding trees. A tank is displayed on a small platform to the building’s right. When you enter the complex you will find the basement to be a fascinating display of an historic war room. The telecommunications center remains. Old radios and gear remain stacked as if their use is consistent and necessary. Maps line an office wall and detail the military positions of both sides. The action has been over for decades but the rooms inside the palace are emotive in a way that brings the past to the present.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 5: The City’s Remnants

The day is charged with excitement from the moment you wake up. The rich scent of fresh brewed Vietnamese coffee is enticing. The streets are filled with the herbaceous aromas of ginger and coriander. After breakfast your private guide meets you at your hotel. In the countryside outside of Ho Chi Minh City is the renowned underground network of the Cu Chi Tunnels. The complex is known for its use by the Viet Cong as a hiding spot during combat, as well as for supply routes and living quarters. The tunnels wind over 75 miles through the Vietnamese countryside. They are positioned far enough beneath the ground to have survived air raids and tanks trundling overhead.

Follow your guide through the tight-knit system that is now lined with light fixtures for you to find your way. The walls are cold to the touch. The tunnel looks as though it goes on forever. You make your way to one of the underground conference rooms and find maps and pinpoints of the Tet Offensive. When you exit the grounds you understand the intense planning and dedication that went into the complex system of passageways. You return to Ho Chi Minh City in the evening and enjoy the luxuries of the open space.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 6: The Coursing Water

The endless rush of Ho Chi Minh City’s streets will soon be behind you as you make your way through the countryside to the Mekong Delta. A large portion of southwestern Vietnam is encompassed by over 15,000 square miles of the Mekong Delta. You reach Vinh Long by midmorning and can see the spectacular life of the waterside city. On the riverbanks you find fishing boats buoyed near the shore. Cafes and restaurants offer beautiful views of the water. You can hear the gentle rush of the river even though the water looks serene on the surface.

The delta is one of the most important waterways in all of Southeast Asia and is home to exceptional biodiversity and culture. Archeologists have discovered remnants of civilizations along the delta that date back to the fourth-century. As you travel down the water you find the flatlands beside the river to be filled with lush greenery. Farmers maintain rice paddy fields along the water. You immediately notice the farmers’ iconic conical hats which shield them from the sun. Fishermen sit near the back of their shallow skiffs and wave to you as they pass. In the evening you will settle alongside the riverbanks at Can Tho.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 7: The Colorful Network

You are up with the dawn today and once again eagerly cruising down the Mekong. There is a chill in the dawn air. You can see the vivacious sunrise stretching over the horizon. The canal network around Can Tho is relaxed but vast. Suddenly you are mesmerized by the familiar scent of mint and ginger. The colors up-river do not come  from the sunrise but  from a collection of boats swarming around the riverbanks of Cai Rang. You have come to the celebrated floating market. Instead of stalls people hold their goods on their boat. Oranges and pineapple, bananas and lychees are stacked in pyramids and offered to anyone that wishes to buy them. You can even see two women on the shore selling large, luscious watermelon.

Vendors navigate through the water and paddle to people situated both on the shore and in boats. A flower seller has a tremendous collection of yellow lilies. Another vendor creates remarkable bahn mi, fresh bread, right there on her boat. The market is most active in the morning and when the crowd begins to disperse you make your way to the floating farmhouse where you can see houseboats surrounded by submerged nets. The fishermen raise catfish beneath their floating home and feed the fish through a floor hatch. In the evening you will come to Chau Doc and enjoy the nightly comforts.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation  

Day 8: The Ancient River Life

You can see Sam Mountain reach over the ocean of paddy fields. The summit reaches 690 feet high. When you look out over the expanse of patty fields you notice the spectacular scenery that surrounds the mountain and which is made up by the Mekong. Tay An Pagoda is a temple that was built in the 19th century. The scent of incense surrounds the sanctuary. A black and white elephant guards the pagoda and the interior is filled with hundreds of Buddha images. Culture and landscape in the delta region are not separate things. As you ventured along the Mekong you came to understand that they are, in fact, connected, often shaping and conforming to one another. In the afternoon you will return to Ho Chi Minh City to make your flight to Danang. A private transfer will meet you at the airport and take you to the quaint historic city of Hoi An.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, accommodation

Day 9: The Special History of Hoi An

The morning sunlight shimmers on the antique buildings that line either side of the Thu Bon River’s banks. The city’s rich history dates back to the 15th century and was the center of Vietnamese trade, including such delicacies as silk and cinnamon. After breakfast your guide will meet you at your hotel. Your tour takes you through the elegant streets which are steeped in the illustrious merchant past. The Tran Family Chapel was constructed in the early 19th century and commissioned by a family member who served as an ambassador to China. You can see the Chinese influence in the architecture.

The roof is shingled and sloped over the portico at a sharp angle. When you enter the chapel you find wooden boxes on the altar that contain stone tablets each chiseled with Chinese characters which mark the birth and death dates of family members. The ambiance of the sanctuary fits into the atmosphere of the town: charming, elegant, and a combination of cultures. In the evening you can indulge in the flavors of Hoi An’s special cuisine. The sliced pork and crunchy noodles add tremendous taste and texture to the cao lau, and the chili jam gives a touch of heat to this succulent noodle dish.

What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, tour, accommodation

Day 10: Welcoming Leisure

Paper lanterns line the streets and glow well past dawn. You have the day to explore and experience Hoi An and its surroundings at your leisure, whether digging your toes into the warm sand at Cua Dai Beach or venturing up the rocky outcrops of the Marble Mountains to see the impressive panorama. For a special taste of the city you could enjoy the traditional flavors at Morning Glory Cooking School. An acclaimed local chef who owns many of the restaurants around town directs the course.

You will become intimate with the particular ingredients and tastes of Hoi An in an organized and instructive manner as you learn to construct the depth of flavor needed in a cao lau or “white rose.” The aromas of ginger and sweet chili are mesmerizing. Your teacher encourages you to chop the vegetables and seafood in a particular way to better stuff the rice paper. Eventually you will taste the mixture of savory shrimp and crunchy garlic. The best part of this experience is that you get to take the recipe home with you.

What’s Included: breakfast, accommodation

Day 11: The Center of History

My Son is a Hindu sanctuary that was part of the Champa Empire, which dates back to the second-century. Today you will venture to the remarkable temple complex that is located around 40 miles outside of Hoi An. The sanctuaries were built beginning in the 4th century and continued all the way up to the 14th century. You will find over 70 temples situated in the complex, each one dedicated to the god Shiva. There is elegance within the architecture and tranquility on the breeze as you stroll between the stone structures. The storehouse represents the classical design of the most graceful temples on the complex. The roof is saddle-shaped and the exterior walls glow a rich red against the surrounding emerald hills. You see intricate images etched into the walls, idols of gods that are surrounded by detailed geometrical shapes. The techniques used to create the elaborate temple complex are not understood but the continuous beauty of each remaining structure is.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 12: One Capital Deserves Another

Outside of Hoi An you can see the towering Marble Mountains that look out over the sapphire water of the South China Sea. In Danang you will find the Cham Museum. Ancient sculptures and artifacts of the ancient empire are housed in an expansive 20th century French building that is embellished with Cham elements. The house sits beside the calm rush of the Han River. The Indic civilization created sensational religious artwork that continues to mesmerize and inspire people today.

In the open space of the museum you can find exceptional stone reliefs that display elephants and dragons. You can even find a stone sculpture in high relief that displays Shiva holding his trident and his famous third eye adorning his forehead. The relief’s intricate design not only displays the empire’s artists preferred medium but also the dedication and care of which the artist took in the image’s creation. Later in the afternoon you will arrive in the imperial city of Hue where you can settle in alongside the elegant expanse of the ancient citadel.  

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 13: The Impression of Royals

Hue is a city whose imperial grandeur dates back to the 19th century. The strength and grace of the Imperial Citadel emanates over the entire landscape. Your guide will meet you after breakfast and escort you through the tremendous sites of the city that range from the remaining interior walls of the stronghold that once held the forbidden city to the impressive complexes of the emperors’ tombs. The tomb of Tu Duc was constructed in the 1860s and has a specific division between the temple quarter and the tomb.

Step onto the entrance path and follow it to the shore of Luu Khiem Lake. The water is decorated with lily pads. When you come to the Honor Courtyard you pass between guards of elephants, horses, and stone Mandarins. Each statue is stoic but contains unique characteristics. A breeze blows through the courtyard. The surrounding trees rustle. Exceptional foliage surrounds the strong stone complex and brings the delicate touch of nature to the imposing tomb.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 14: The Endless Allure of Home

The Imperial Citadel continues to mesmerize locals and visitors alike. The ramparts run around one and half square miles and are surrounded by an encompassing moat. In the morning your private transfer meets you. The sun shines bright over the citadel and the imperial history that has helped shape Hue’s elegant allure. After breakfast you will be escorted to the airport to begin your journey home. Your memories of Vietnam will always be filled with charm, culture, and history, but home will always call you back.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer


Starting Price 

This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.