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A holiday that explores the exciting diversity of Vietnam on foot. Enjoy walking tours around the must-see city sights in Hanoi, Hue and Ho Chi Minh City, and rural rambles between tribal villages and to ancient jungle temples. Extend your trip to visit the laid-back Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh and incredible temple complex at Angkor.
Explore Tour Leader
1 nights comfortable homestay
9 nights comfortable hotel
7 nights premium hotel
1 nights simple overnight train
2 nights simple stilt house
Leisurely and Moderate
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
The trip starts today in Hanoi. Vietnam's bustling capital is architecturally styled like a French provincial town, with tree-lined boulevards and low-rise buildings. It's a wonderful city to explore on foot.
Your Leader plans to meet everyone in the hotel reception at 4pm for a welcome meeting. Afterwards, for those that wish, we'll head to a restaurant for dinner. On the way to dinner your leader will orientate you and introduce you to life in Vietnam as you head through some of the bustling streets and markets of Hanoi's Old Quarter. The maze of fascinating alleys is known for its interesting 'tube' houses, whose narrow frontages give way to long rooms that stretch back from the road. There are no other activities planned today. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Noi Bai International Airport (HAN), which is 45 minutes from the hotel. Please note that if you wish to join the afternoon orientation tour today, you must arrive at the hotel by 4pm. If you are booking your own flights, we recommend giving yourself at least 30 minutes to clear the airport. From the airport to the hotel is around 45 minutes' drive, so therefore the latest your flight can arrive is 1pm. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information by note left at the front desk.
La Sante (or similar)
Leaving Hanoi behind this morning, we drive west to the Pu Luong Nature Reserve, a beautiful region of limestone cliffs, forests and terraced fields that is richly biodiverse. This area is a home to the Thai ethnic minority tribe who live in villages of stilt houses. We will be staying in the heart of the Reserve at the Pu Luong Valley Home, a stilt house built from traditional materials in a boutique style, with breathtaking views all around that is part of the Pu Luong Retreat, an eco resort. This beautifully appointed and traditional structure features comfortable mattresses in one very large room that can be divided into sections by curtains. The shared bathrooms are connected to the stilt house and open to the elements. See https://puluongretreat.com/traditional-shared-stilts-house/. On arriving at the Nature Reserve, we hike across the paddy fields to our accommodation while the bus continues there with our luggage.
We can expect today's eight kilometre walk to take around two-and-a-half hours across gently undulating terrain.
Pu Luong Retreat (or similar)
Simple Stilt House
We spend today hiking among the beautiful landscapes of the Reserve and will enjoy plenty of stops along the way, planning to spend time in some of the villages of the Thai minority tribe and have a picnic lunch en route.
Today's leisurely paced hike of approximately 10 kilometres will take around five hours across gently undulating terrain.
In the morning we enjoy another walk, rambling alongside the bubbling river with its vast wooden waterwheels which transport its waters to irrigate the terraced paddy fields. We return to the hustle and bustle of Hanoi later today with time in the evening to enjoy a performance of traditional water puppets (optional). These puppet shows date back to the 11th century, and performances took place in the flooded rice fields of the villages in the Red River Delta.
This morning's walk covers approximately five-and-a-half kilometres and is expected to take around two hours.
This morning we will discover more of Hanoi outside of the Old Quarter on a walking tour. Architecturally styled like a French provincial town with tree-lined boulevards and substantial low-built houses, the city is wonderfully nostalgic. Among the interesting sights that we will visit are the charming One-Pillar Pagoda, Confucius Temple and the Presidential Palace. Ho Chi Minh himself, a spartan-living and scholarly man, chose not to live in the Presidential Palace; he preferred instead a simple teak stilt-house specially built for him and which we will see in the Palace grounds. In the afternoon we drive to our hotel at Halong Bay in the Gulf of Tonkin.
We can expect today's five kilometre walking tour to take around four hours including sightseeing.
New Star Ha Long 2 Hotel (or similar)
This morning we enjoy the romantic scenery of Halong Bay on a junk cruise amongst the thousands of jagged limestone islands that rise out of the jade green waters like the hairy scales of a submerged dragon! In fact Halong means: 'Where the dragon descends to the sea'. As legend has it the rugged seascape was created by the pounding tail of a dragon as he ran from the mountains into the sea, carving the islands in his wake. During our cruise we'll have the chance to stop at a grotto beneath towering cliffs and perhaps visit a beach and enjoy a delicious freshly caught seafood lunch on board the boat. After disembarking, we return to our hotel in Hanoi to freshen up before boarding the 'Reunification Express' to Hue. We travel 'soft sleeper' class on the train, with four people to a compartment with all bedding provided.
Overnight train from Hanoi to Hue
Simple Overnight Train
Awaking aboard the train, we pass through a rural landscape of seemingly endless rice paddies before arriving in the city of Hue mid morning. This afternoon we will discover Hue's fascinating history on a walking tour around the Imperial Citadel. Located on the left bank of the river, the palace was built by the Nguyen dynasty, Vietnam's ruling emperors from the early 1800s to 1945. The Citadel has formal moats and impressive ramparts that were constructed by 20,000 men and was a copy of the Forbidden City in Beijing. Although most of the inner part of the city was totally destroyed during the month-long Tet Offensive in 1968, the vast outer walls and the west wing remain an eloquent reminder of the palace's former glory.
We can expect today's seven kilometre walking tour to take around three-and-a-half hours including sightseeing.
Thanh Lich 2 Hotel (or similar)
This morning we drive out of the city to enjoy a hike through the countryside and villages overlooking the Huong Giang River, better known as the Perfume River. Exploring on foot enables us to observe rural life up close and our leader is always on hand to explain what we see. Various cottage industries take place in the villages here including silk painting, bronze casting and incense stick production. The river supposedly got its name from the aromas carried by the river downstream from the forests and mountains of its source. Near the end of our walk we'll stop on Vong Canh Hill to admire the great view of the river down below before descending to board our own boat for a leisurely cruise along the river back to Hue.
Today's hike of approximately eight kilometres will take around three hours. We will walk along village footpaths and the terrain is undulating.
Today we enjoy a scenic drive south to Hoi An, crossing the spectacular Hai Van Pass en route and passing through rural scenes of thatched, wooden houses and lime-green rice paddies as well as panoramic sea views. The UNESCO World Heritage town of Hoi An was one of the busiest international trading ports of Southeast Asia in the 17th and 18th centuries. First colonised by the Portuguese in the 16th century, it still retains its medieval charm today, with many of its old buildings superbly preserved. The afternoon has been left free to explore Hoi An at your own pace. You may choose to visit the Japanese Bridge or some of the Chinese temples and meeting halls in the Old Town. There are also many shops, bars and restaurants and it is a great place to buy souvenirs, have clothing tailored or simply watch the world go by in a riverside cafe.
Vinh Hung Old Town Hotel (or similar)
Today we drive for around an hour from Hoi An and enjoy a hike through a hilly landscape of pine forest and grasslands to the ancient Cham site of My Son. The Chams were dynastic lords who rejected the authority of China in the second century and established their own kingdom in what is now Vietnam. Although they benefited from strong sea links with the rest of South East Asia, the kingdom's interior could not supply sufficient food for a strong military force. For 1000 years they managed to stave off attacks by the Vietnamese and Chinese, before being overcome by the Vietnamese in the 15th century. The site is impressive, despite the fact that much of it was bombed in the 1960s and there are several groupings of Cham temples which we can visit.
We can expect today's nine kilometre hike to take around four-and-a-half hours across undulating terrain with a high point of 168m.
After a short drive to Danang Airport first thing this morning, we fly to Ho Chi Minh City, from where we drive further south to Cai Be in the Mekong Delta. Surrounded with lush and fertile land the area is home to small villages and swaying coconut palms. We take a walk on Tan Phong Islands to see local Delta life. Later we travel by boat to the island of Binh Hoa Phoc where we spend the night in a local homestay-cum-guesthouse. At the homestay we will be accommodated in a mix of twin and triple rooms with attached bathrooms. The rich soil of the Mekong provides an abundant harvest, including coconut, fruits, rice and of course fish and tonight we will enjoy a dinner of local produce
We can expect today's four kilometre hike to take around one-and-a-half hours.
Ut Trinh & Ut Quynh Homestay (or similar)
This morning we plan a walk on the island, stopping off along the way to observe some of the traditional cottage industries of the Delta such as the production of rice paper and coconut sweets. Other glimpses of everyday life may include seeing people catching fish from the river, or mending baskets and repairing tools by the river bank. Departing by boat once more we meet our bus in Vinh Long and drive to our final destination of the trip, Ho Chi Minh City. Still unofficially referred to as 'Saigon', the city is the largest in Vietnam with a population of around eight million. You will find an eclectic mix of the traditional and the new, where pagodas and markets compete alongside the trappings of Vietnam's newly discovered entrepreneurial spirit.
We can expect today's eight-and-a-half kilometre hike to take around three hours across at a leisurely pace. The terrain of the Delta is flat.
Sonnet Saigon Hotel (or similar)
This morning we walk around the central sights of Old Saigon, now known as District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City. We see the Notre Dame Cathedral and the GPO building as well as some of the old French Colonial hotels such as The Rex. We then continue to the Independence Palace (renamed the Reunification Hall) and the War Remnants Museum. The afternoon is free for you to explore the city further, perhaps with a visit to the huge Ben Thanh market for some shopping.
This morning we take a short drive out of the city to the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels, which formed an incredible underground command base for 10,000 Viet Cong troops and were a major part of the 1968 Tet Offensive. The site is a fascinating insight into the resourcefulness of the Vietnamese. There is the opportunity to crawl through a small specially adapted section of the tunnels should you wish to sample the claustrophobic conditions in which the Viet Cong lived. Afterwards we bid farewell to our tour leader who continues back to Ho Chi Minh City while you join with customers who have been enjoying other trips in Vietnam to continue by road into Cambodia. Border formalities take place at the Moc Bai (Vietnam) and Bavet (Cambodia) crossing point. Our final destination is Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital.
Rooted in history and myth dating back to the 14th century with the divine discovery by 'Grandmother Penh', the city is a treasure trove of historical architecture. From grand monuments to glittering temples and French Colonial buildings, each construction reflects the city's rich history and character.
HM Grand Central Hotel (or similar)
Phnom Penh took over from Angkor as Cambodia's capital city in the 1440s. It is now a lively city with many French colonial buildings and plenty to see. Accompanied by a local guide we visit the National Museum, a treasure trove of beautifully preserved carvings and lintels rescued from Angkor; the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda as well as the temple of Wat Phnom.
This afternoon we visit the emotive Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, formerly a high school that became the Khmer Rouge's main torture and interrogation centre; and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek - the memorial stupa is a glass tower filled with human skulls - a gruesome reminder of the scale of Pol Pot's atrocities before returning back in the city.
Today is free allowing you the opportunity to explore the city or its surrounds further. Optional excursions close to the city include a trip to Silk Island, Chiso Mountain or the abandoned Royal City of Oudong. Each of these excursions are half a day in duration and may be combined, your tour leader will discuss in more detail. Silk Island or Koh Dach is reached by a short boat journey along the Mekong where the majority of villagers on the island earn a living through producing handicrafts. It is a great opportunity to learn more about traditional ways of life and interact with locals as you learn about silk weaving. Chiso Mountain (380m), located in Sia village about 62 km south of Phnom Penh, is topped by the ruins of an 11th century Khmer Brahmanic Temple with fine views of the surrounding paddy fields. Oudong is about an hour north of the capital and offers the opportunity to explore attractive historic temples and stupas.
This morning we make an early start for our drive to Siem Reap, stopping somewhere for lunch on the way. Later in the day we journey to nearby Tonle Sap Lake where we board our charter boat for a leisurely cruise through the fascinating floating village of Chong Kneas, where we see stilt houses, floating markets and an array of boats.
HARI Residence & Spa (or similar)
Our exact programme over the next three days may change slightly at our local guide's discretion (to avoid crowds, coincide with sunsets, etc.). Angkor was actually a series of cities, built between the 9th and the 13th centuries by the Khmer kings, with a population of 750,000 in its heyday. The Angkor complex is spread out over some 155 square kilometres, scattered with magnificent carved stone temples, elegant sculptures and incredible bas reliefs. We visit the Rolous group, which are some of the earliest temples. In the afternoon we visit the temples of Banteay Srei, a small but beautiful temples with exquisite carvings. We end the day at East Mebon, with a visit to Pre Rup temple for sunset.
We continue our exploration with a visit to the temples of King Jayavarman Vll, reputedly Angkor's greatest king. The fortified city of Angkor Thom, which he built at the end of the 12th century is enclosed by a square wall with five monumental gates decorated with stone elephant trunks. Originally, crocodiles inhabited the moat and huge statues of 54 different gods protected each gate. The city contains another of Angkor's true gems - The Bayon. Although not as impressive as Angkor Wat from a distance, The Bayon is nevertheless incredible for its maze of corridors, gothic style towers and magical central temples. We'll explore The Terrace of the Elephants and the Leper King, the Baphuon and Phimeanakas, and some of the surrounding temples such as Preah Khan.
Please note that from the 1st January 2020 the third tier of the Bayon Temple - the striking centrepiece of the ancient city of Angkor Thom - will be closed until 2022 for extensive restoration. As a result, it will only be possible to view the large stone faces from a distance and it will not be possible to get up close. However, the two lower tiers will remain open and accessible, so it will be possible to view the impressive bas-reliefs and intricate stone carvings around the temple.
On our final day we make a visit to the 2nd Angkor capital that includes the temples of Prasat Kravan, Banteay Kdei and Takeo. A highlight for many is a visit to the atmospheric temple of Ta Prohm, where the film Tomb Raider was filmed, lying half consumed by the jungle. We leave the best known and most breathtaking of all the sights, Angkor Wat, to the end - where we stay until the sun sets on the last night of our adventure.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Siem Reap.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Siem Reap at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Siem Reap International Airport (SIA), which is approximately 60-80 minutes from the hotel.
If you have time you may choose to browse the old market for some last minute bargains, visit a fish spa or enjoy afternoon tea at The Foreign Correspondent's Club.
Total distance : 72 kilometres
As Vietnam is a long, narrow country from north to south climate conditions vary considerably. The climate can be divided into three distinct patterns between the north, central and south regions. The climate in the north is generally humid and subtropical, although the winter months from November to March can be colder with temperatures from 10 - 15 degrees. Summer months, May to September can be quite hot with temperatures from 30 - 35 degrees. Meanwhile south Vietnam enjoys a tropical climate all year round, with little variation throughout the year (around 27 - 32 degrees), however May to November is the rainy season when short, heavy downpours are quite frequent. Central Vietnam lies somewhere in between. The coastal strip is usually dry and hotter from April to October while November to March is wetter and cooler. A light rain jacket and small umbrella are recommended year round.
2 Pin Round
Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism
Hanoi - Discover a unique part of Vietnamese culture at the Thang Ling water puppet theatre. Duration: Approx. 1 hour. USD $10 per person Hoi An - Learn about the complex flavours that makes Vietnamese food so delicious. USD $ 39 to USD $45 per person. Phnom Penh - Sunset cruise US$ 10, Koh Dach Island - US $24, Oudong Mountain - US $32, Chiso Mountain - US $35 Siem Reap - Scenic helicopter flight over Angkor temples from US$ 135-260; Apsara traditional khmer dance and dinner US$ 22,Tonle Sap boat optional US$ 42; cookery class US$ 12; National Museum Culture Show US$ 12 - US$20 (limited availability during low season May - September) The prices stated are based on a minimum number of participants (usually 5-6). Please be aware that the optional excursions can run with fewer people but the price may be higher. Likewise, a slightly reduced price may be applicable where the participation greater. The prices listed are generally only entrance fees and do not include the price of transport to and from the excursion, Your Explore Leader will quote this when you are on tour, as the price for transport will depend on the number of participants. These excursions are generally run via our agent in the country. Local companies may offer similar excursions at a cheaper price. Should you want to use these companies please be aware that a lower price may mean that not all costs are included (entrance fees etc.) or services will not operate at the same safety and quality standards.
Lightweight breathable clothing of loose cottons and technical fabrics is ideal for Vietnam's generally warm and humid conditions although during the winter, (December through to February), some warmer clothing is needed for the North. Lightweight rainwear is essential year round. You will need a sunhat and may like to bring a swimming costume as some of the hotels have pools.
We recommend you take a pair of lightweight walking boots or trail shoes. For the city walking tours and some of the walks, sports sandals will also be fine.
One main lockable bag/case, an overnight bag for your trip to Halong Bay (when your main luggage is left behind in Hanoi) and a daypack.
Bring a high factor sun cream, sunglasses, water bottle and a torch for use in power cuts and in dimly lit streets at night. Even though bed linen is provided on the train journey, you may want to bring your own sleeping sheet, (it can be purchased in Hanoi), and don't forget mosquito repellent. There is no need for a mosquito net as when necessary, it is provided.
Bus, Boat, Flight, Train
Days two and three you stay in a traditional-style large house on stilts divided into two wings, each contains four bedding areas, set up as twins or doubles. The house has open-air bathrooms and open-air rest rooms. Day six - the train has four berth cabins (two bunks), all the bedding is provided. There are western style toilets and wash basins at the end of the carriage. We advise you to take your own drinks and snacks for the journey. On Day 11 you will stay in a local house with typical Mekong architecture located directly on a river bank, surrounded by gardens, bonsai trees and a variety of tropical fruit orchards. Excellent home cooking is served in the dining room or outside in the garden. This is a great opportunity to spend time with a local family and get to know more about their culture. The homestay conditions are basic; however they have western toilets and showers and are clean.
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Vietnam: 'British Citizen' passport holders can visit Vietnam for up to 45 days without a visa. A visa will be required if you wish to re-enter within 30 days of your departure. Visas are required for citizens of the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and can be obtained in the form of an eVisas via: \ul \ulnone Please note that it is a pre-requisite for entry into Vietnam that your passport is valid for a minimum of 6 months from your date of entry All visa related issues including information for other nationalities should be confirmed with the relevant Embassy prior to departure. If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See \ul www.travcour.com \ulnone to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on \ul 0208 5431846 \ulnone . It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination. Cambodia: A single visa is required by UK, New Zealand, Australian, US & Canadian citizens and can be obtained on arrival. The current cost is 30USD, a passport sized photograph for immigration will also be required. Alternatively, you can arrange your visa in advance in the form of an e-Visa. To make your application, and for more information contact the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affair's direct at www.mfaic.gov.kh.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
Nothing compulsory, we recommend protection against malaria, typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria, polio and hepatitis A. Consult your travel clinic for latest advice on Malaria and Zika Virus. Although not compulsory travellers may also wish to immunise themselves against Japanese encephalitis. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.