Savor breathtaking beauty and enduring traditions as you travel from Vietnam's imperial cities to the Mekong River Delta, where you will experience local cuisine and get an up-close look at a farming settlement near Da Nang.
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This was our first Smithsonian tour and we were impressed! It combined first class transportation and accommodations with intelligent and thought provoking seminars plus knowledgeable tour directors and study leaders. It won't be our last Smithsonian Journey.”
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With its breathtaking physical beauty and enduring traditions, Vietnam provides endless rewards for the thoughtful traveler. Highlights of this magical journey include a boat ride through Ha Long Bay, with its ethereal natural landscape of thousands of limestone islands, and two days along the tributaries and colorful floating markets of the Mekong River Delta.
You’ll experience the country’s fascinating culture in the imperial capital of Hué, once home to emperors and mandarins, and in the royal settlements and villages of Da Nang and Hoi An, a World Heritage site. You’ll also savor the local cuisine as you engage in a private cooking lesson in Hoi An, get a close-up look at a farming settlement near Da Nang, and have lunch in the home of a local historian in Hué. Take a morning cruise along Hué’s Perfume River to peaceful Thien Mu Pagoda, a Buddhist monastery, then to the palatial Tomb of Minh Mang. Enjoy in-depth guided tours of Vietnam’s most important cities, including Hanoi, the political and cultural capital with French style, and Ho Chi Minh City, which has figured so prominently in recent history and is now a spirited and cosmopolitan city.
Days 1 & 2 — Depart the U.S. for Hanoi
Upon arrival on the evening of Day 2, transfer to the InterContinental Hanoi Westlake Hotel.
Day 3 — Hanoi
Hanoi is both the political and cultural capital of Vietnam with its stylish French accents and thousand-year-old landmarks. Explore the complex of cultural and historic sites of Ba Dinh Square, then visit the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, the Presidential Palace, and One Pillar Pagoda. Continue on a city tour to view Hoan Kiem Lake, the marvelous Temple of Literature, Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the “Hanoi Hilton”, and the narrow streets of the diverse Ancient Quarter. Tonight gather for a welcome dinner. (B,D)
Day 4 — Hanoi and Ha Long Bay
Early this morning depart on a full-day excursion to Ha Long Bay, a breathtaking waterway with over 3,000 limestone islands. Take a boat ride though this fairytale landscape of dramatic cliffs, secret grottoes, and lush vegetation. (B,L)
Day 5 — Da Nang
Journey south this morning to Da Nang. Tour the famed Cham Museum, which celebrates the Cham peoples’ Hindu legacy with a fine collection of sculpture and artifacts dating from the 7th to 15th centuries. Later this afternoon, check into your beachfront hotel and enjoy leisure time in this magnificent setting. (B,D)
Day 6 — Da Nang and Hoi An
Enjoy a walking tour of the nearby World Heritage site of Hoi An. This fascinating village still reflects many ancient traditions as well as the diverse architectural styles from the Dutch, Chinese, Portuguese, and Japanese traders who helped build it. The afternoon is at leisure to remain in the pleasant pedestrian-only Old Town of Hoi An or to return to your resort. (B)
Day 7 — Da Nang
Today, witness the daily life of a local farming community in rural Da Nang. Here endless rice paddies checker the land, water buffaloes plow the fields, and villagers ride to market with produce piled high on their bicycles. Later we enjoy a private cooking lesson and dinner in Hoi An. (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Hue
Depart for the ancient imperial capital of Hue. Hue’s ruins evoke its past grandeur as home to emperors and mandarins. Upon arrival, visit the Imperial Citadel, once housing the Forbidden Purple City where emperors lived with their families. Visit the Central Market where locals buy fish, meat, produce, and sundry goods. Dinner tonight is accompanied by traditional music. (B,D)
Day 9 — Hue and the Perfume River
Start the day with a morning cruise on Hue’s Perfume River to peaceful Thien Mu Pagoda, a Buddhist monastery that counts among the city’s oldest monuments. Enjoy a visit to the palatial Tomb of Minh Mang, before departing for a special home-hosted visit in the home of a local historian, a member of a former royal family. This afternoon, visit the tombs of Tu Doc, with their lovely grounds and lake, and colorful Khai Dinh Tomb. Finish the day with an engaging visit to a Buddhist orphanage. Meet the children, speak with the head nun, and learn about the inspiring work done to provide these children with a better future. (B,L)
Days 10 & 11 — Mekong Delta and Can Tho
Fly to Ho Chi Minh City and head south to the Mekong River town of Cai Be. From there travel by coach and ferry to the busy river port and provincial capital of Can Tho. Enjoy time to relax and take advantage of the hotel’s amenities before tonight’s group dinner. Rise early the next day for a journey by boat to the bustling floating market at Cai Rang on the Mekong’s lower reaches. After this scenic excursion, enjoy the afternoon at leisure. (2B,1L,1D)
Day 12 — Mekong River and Ho Chi Minh City
Today travel by coach to the upper reaches of the storied Mekong. Board motorized sampans for a close-up look at river life. The maze of tributaries and inlets lead to tiny settlements and villages populated by fishermen and farmers who work the fertile fields. Stop for lunch at a local restaurant and continue by coach to Ho Chi Minh City. (B,L)
Days 13 & 14 — Ho Chi Minh City
Get to know Ho Chi Minh City during a city tour, beginning at the Reunification Palace, which served as the South Vietnamese government’s wartime headquarters. Enjoy visits to a local contemporary art museum and modern art gallery. The next day explore the Cu Chi Tunnels, the infamous underground network from which North Vietnamese forces operated in wartime. The afternoon is at leisure to discover Ho Chi Minh City further on your own. Gather for a festive farewell dinner tonight. (2B, 2D)
Day 15 — Ho Chi Minh City/Depart for the U.S.
Enjoy a day at leisure before departing this evening for the airport and the overnight flight to the United States. (B)
Day 16 — Return to the U.S.
Arrive in the United States and connect with domestic flights home.