Vietnam

Vietnam is where we began way back in 1994 as the first American tour company in the country. Our headquarters remains in Hanoi and over our two decades, we've seen Vietnam become a destination on everyone's short list of places to visit (as we knew it would). Why? Vietnam is one of the most vibrant and exciting countries in the world. Every turn brings a new thrill, fascinating sights, and the unexpected. But without exception, the thing our past travelers marvel at more than anything else are the Vietnamese. One and all unfailingly friendly and gregarious—indeed they are the most social of Asians as you soon discover shortly after arrival.

Vietnam travel map Hanoi Halong Bay Sapa Mai Chau Hue Hoi An Nha Trang Dalat Saigon The Mekong Delta Phu Quoc China Laos Cambodia

Hanoi

Girl in prayer in Hanoi, Vietnam

Though it's the Vietnam War that lingers with those who know Vietnam through film and television, it's the elegant French presence that strikes those who actually visit, especially in the capital city, Hanoi. Here are stately French-built mansions and tree-shaded boulevards, as well as art galleries in the Old Quarter selling works heavily influenced by French styles, cafés that dot the lake area serving French bread and drip-filter coffee, and Grand French villas of the embassy quarter.

Yet, though the origin of some customs and style are French, the interpretation is purely Vietnamese. Locals still move at bicycle pace, schoolgirls in graceful white ao dais pedal by, and women with conical hats sway under loads of country produce. The Bohemian capital of Indochina, the arts too are everywhere. All in all, Hanoi remains one of Asia's most fascinating cities. Read more about Hanoi.

Halong Bay

Cruise ship on Halong Bay, Vietnam

To glimpse how utterly magnificent Halong Bay is, watch the French film Indochine. Now imagine gliding across those same placid, emerald waters past hundreds of majestic karst islets, through caves into hidden lakes, and white-sand beach coves, your luxury charter ship or kayak passing beneath towering limestone peaks... There is no other place like this in the world, a cruising experience on par with the Blue Voyage along Turkey's coast. Indeed, the romantic setting of rugged island peaks and bays dotted with sailing junks has inspired a whole genre of Vietnamese painting. Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with nearly two thousand picturesque limestone peaks is perfectly calm, wonderfully suited for kayaking close up to the limestone formations that offer fantasy wonderland for exploration. Read more about Halong Bay.

Sapa

Terraced rice fields in Sapa, Vietnam

Sapa has changed dramatically since we lead the very first trips there in the early 90s. The small town has been transformed by tourism and the weekend market is teeming with tourists. Still, the high-mountain setting is picturesque and offers extensive trekking for both light and extended trips when the weather permits. Unfortunately, the weather in Sapa is most adverse during the December through February high season when temperatures can dip to the 30s with heavy fog and drizzle. Mai Chau offers a warmer (and closer) option for exploring hilltribe villages during these months. Read more about Sapa.

Mai Chau

Hilltribe girl in Mai Chau, Vietnam

The small town of Mai Chau lies in a picturesque valley of the same name, featuring a bucolic setting of a towering limestone walls, patchwork quilts of rice paddies, and traditional long house villages. Not far from Hanoi (about a two and half hour's drive), Mai Chau offers some of the most spectacular scenery in Vietnam with a myriad of traditional hilltribes, mostly Tai and H'mong, scattered around the area. Much has change in many places in Vietnam, but not much is very different in this remote area. In the winter, Mai Chau is a pleasant and far less touristed alternative to Sapa (which may also socked in with fog and exprience freezing temperatures in winter). Indeed, Mai Chau offers some of the same attractions — hilltribes and beautiful scenery — at a more comfortable elevation, all without the crowds of tourists. Read more about Mai Chau.

Hue

Thien Mu Pagoda in Hue, Vietnam

Hue has largely been bypassed by the wave of development that has washed over Saigon and nearby Danang, remaining a pleasant outpost on the central coast. Located roughly halfway between Hanoi and Saigon, Hue is arguably Vietnam's most picturesque and pleasant city where many travelers miss its true charms. The landscapes here of endless emerald-green rice paddies, misty Perfume River, and colorful pagodas and tombs, are timeless inspiration for poets and painters. Read more about Hue.

Hoi An

Hoi An, Vietnam elderly woman

A small jewel on the central coast, Hoi An is an ancient port town situated on the Thu Bon River, just three miles inland from white sand beaches fronting the South China Sea. In the past, it was one of the most important trading ports in Southeast Asia before its port silted and influence ebbed. Although it is no longer bustling with international trade nor hosting sailors and merchants from China, Vietnam, and Portugal, it is certainly getting a new lease on life by attracting tourists in its uniquely charming way, with chunks of its Old Quarter given over to restored hotels, cafes, restaurants, and galleries, pedestrian area, and, in 1999, Hoi An became a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its efforts. Read more about Hoi An.

Nha Trang

Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, Nha Trang, Vietnam

Established as a port town in the 1920s, once sleepy and unknown Nha Trang now has a population approaching 300,000, largely due to a two-decade boom in tourism. Once an idylic, beautiful and undeveloped beach cove only a short hop north of Saigon, Nha Trang today is a bustling developed beach town popular with package tourists from around the world.

Although the town itself is no longer a recommended stop on your visit to Vietnam, there are two exceptional luxury resorts here to linger during longer trips when lounging in the sun by the pool is paramount and other beach destinations of Phu Quoc and Hoi An are inconvenient or experiencing cooler weather. Read more about Nha Trang.

Dalat

French villa in Dalat, Vietnam

Dalat was an entirely French creation, a small colonial-era town complete with its own railway station, cathedral, lycée, shops, cafes, and villas—all plunked down in a remote valley in the Vietnamese highlands. With its pine forests, rolling hills, and tranquil lakes, the area could have passed for anyplace in France and provided a pleasant escape for homesick French administrators from the high summer heat of Saigon. Unfortunately, Dalat is now a resort town, a favorite with honeymooners and droves of Vietnamese tourists tramping through the former French villas. The Vietnamese wax poetic about Dalat and rave on in awestruck detail about every waterfall and valley, but in fact the scenery is nothing special. and deforestation has done serious damage.

However, If you're looking for a place to exercise your lungs, however, the hills around Dalat are great for hiking, biking, or breathing in that pine-scented air. Or shoot a few rounds of golf. Dalat market has excellent and varied fresh produce, which means dining out in Dalat is great. A good spot to rest up for a few days and stretch those muscles atrophied from biking. Read more about Dalat.

Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)

City Hall in Saigon, Vietnam

A visitor arriving from the north of Vietnam could mistake Saigon for another country. Whether it’s the sea of thousands of scooters, modern gleaming towers, and simply the sheer scale of the city, Saigon provides little continuity from the relative calmer and rustic north. Although no longer on out short list of must-see places in Indochina (for several years). However, we can ensure sprawling Saigon will be thrilling for a half-day or longer stopover en route to Angkor or other destinations. With a delightful collection of the country's best cafes and restaurants, the busy and restless nature of its inhabitants, or the abundance of great shopping, Saigon is an invigorating and intoxicating place.

It’s no surprise that Saigon, (as most locals still call it) exudes a youthful, inventive energy — after all, over half of its eight million dwellers are younger than 35. This dynamic spirit shines through in quirky cafes, innovative cuisine, and boutiques selling homegrown fashion. And when you need a breather from all that’s new and fabulous, it’s easy to steal quiet moments in rustic colonial buildings, contemplative art spaces, and cutting-edge designer shops. Read more about Saigon.

The Mekong Delta

sampan in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

In the Mekong Delta the mighty Mekong River ends its run from the Himalayas, splitting into multiple branches before emptying sights and experiences for those who care to explore. If you make the effort you'll be amply rewarded. The delta is a region of extraordinary energy and market commerce, with burgeoning markets, the last floating markets in Asia, exotic fruit orchards, and more coconuts than you'd want to contemplate. The delta is a relaxing place, with good food (seafood!), pleasant river trips, cheap boats, and friendly people. You're never far from water in the delta, and boats in some districts are the main mode of transportation. Intriguing in the backwaters are the floating markets, which have disappeared in other parts of Asia.

If you've the time, we can organize Mekong Delta trip that travels through the heart of the delta (cycling is wonderful here), then by boat along the Mekong to Cambodia's sleepy capital, Phnom Penh. From Phnom Penh, the temples of Angkor are a short 30-minute flight to the north.

Phu Quoc Island Paradise

Phu Quoc palm-fringed beach

Treat yourself to Phuket of two decades ago. Only a 50-minute hop from Saigon lies Phu Quoc, Vietnam's, indeed Southeast Asia's best kept secret. A National Park, the 16-island archipelago of Phu Quoc (aka "the Emerald Isle") lies about 40 kilometers west of Ha Tien and, to many traveler's delight, is located within the Gulf of Thailand which has better weather than Vietnam's coastline destinations such as Nha Trang. The major island, Phu Quoc, is an 27 miles long and covering an astonishing 732 square miles. Lying only ten miles off the Cambodian coast, the island is disputed territory that also claimed by the Cambodians but the Vietnamese are beginning to develop the island. Phu Quoc Island boasts lush tropical forest and mountain zones.

The island is about the size of Singapore, but only about 75,000 people live here. Phu Quoc is blanketed with the largest remaining swath of tropical rain forest in Vietnam. The main activities are fishing and manufacture of the country's finest nuoc mam (fish sauce); about 18,000 inhabitants live mainly in the town of Duong Dong, on the west side of the island. Read more about Phu Quoc.

BEST TIME TO GO
October to March

NEED TO KNOW
Visa Required

COMBINES WITH
Angkor Wat - Laos

VIEW ALL NOTES
All Departure Notes


Where to go? Our over two decades years of organizing custom trips in Vietnam ensures you'll visit the places we know will be perfect for you and doing the things you are interested in. In fact, few of our guests experience the same trip, as we fine tune even the smallest of details such as where to dine in each location.

What to know? Vietnam is no longer as much a challenging for travelers. However, unlike places seasoned bylonger periods of tourism, such as Japan and Thailand, locl knowledge and arrangements will make the difference between a good trip and one that is one of the most incredible of your life. Benefit from our over two decades of experience in Vietnam, unsurpassed local knowledge and personal connections. Vietnam remains two countries with marked differences between the north and south and even various provinces within them, not only culturally, but geographically. Indeed, travel between Vietnam's many provinces can often seem like passing between countries. If your trip is short, you should not miss the north, where most cultural, historical, and geographic highlights are centered (and all UNESCO World Heritage Sites). The north is intriguing because it is full of unknowns; it is less commercial than the south, and the people have an entirely different mentality. The north feels like a foreign place; central Vietnam seems mysterious; but the south may seem a little too familiar with traffic, billboards, and sprouting up of high rises all over Saigon.

Most importantly for your travel plans — toss the guidebook. Vietnam is exceptional for it's people, and certainly not museums, historical sites, or other attr actions that draw package tourists. Geography and cuisine notwithstanding, almost every one of our travelers over the past two decades have been stuck by the people. Their warmth, easy demeanor, and gregarious nature are unsurpassed and you'll find a welcome smile almost anywhere you venture in the country. We will facilitate these unforgettable personal encounters, with premier artists to street food chefs, but also make sure your trip exposes you to the best of Vietnam's cuisine and other attractions.

Vietnam Private Custom Tours

Vietnam's greatest natural experiences lie in the undeveloped north and central coast. The north is intriguing, full of exotic and unknowns; far less commercial and more traditional than the south. Explore places you should not miss below, and our Vietnam tours page for itinerary ideas.

Unique Vietnam Travel Experiences

We organize unique, private activities and experiences tailored to your interests

Vietnam Places to Explore

Vietnam's most authentic places and experiences lie in the undeveloped north and central coast. The north is intriguing, full of exotic and unknowns. The stoic capital, Hanoi, sublime Halong Bay, the ancient Imperial Capital, Hue, and nearby Hoi An, an ancient port of trade, are all UNESCO World Heritage Sites that should be part any trip to Vietnam.

Vietnam Luxury Hotels

Below are a sampling of he finest luxury hotels best resorts in Vietnam to whet your appetite. Most important, Vietnam's climate is far more specific than other parts of Asia, such as Thailand, and there are definite times of the year for enjoying beach resorts—contact us for details.

Call us in San Francisco at (415) 680-3788 or submit your contact information below to have us contact you.

INDOCHINA Travel Company

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1283 12th Avenue San Francisco, California
Phone: (415) 680-3788