Discovery tours are all about exploring & experiencing the world with like-minded people, dipping your toe beneath the usual tourist surface & discovering the real essence of a region. They are genuinely innovative, exciting & imaginative tours that offer that little bit more to travellers.
Our Plus tours allow you to immerse yourself within a destination or culture whilst travelling and sleeping in comfort. They are packed with highlights to ensure you get the most out of your valuable time away yet are also slower paced allowing you time to savour the culture, traditions and sights of your destination – the perfect balance.
At Imaginative Traveller we always aim to provide accurate information for our travellers. Unfortunately information such as the price of optional activities is occasionally subject to change, and this means that we are constantly revising our trip notes. In order to ensure that you have the most up to date information for your trip we suggest that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure.
Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam.
An airport arrival transfer is included. This transfer is only valid if arriving on day 1 or if you have booked pre-trip accommodation through Intrepid. Please provide your flight details at the time of booking, or at a minimum 15 days prior to travel (note - we may not be able confirm request made within 15 days of travel). Once you have provided your details a transfer representative will be booked to meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is characterised by a vast array of sights and sounds, and is a fascinating blend of old and new, East and West. The huge number of people rushing about their daily lives in Vietnam's largest city gives it a dynamic atmosphere and the French influence is evident in the excellent baguettes and coffee on offer. Much of city life takes place on the busy streets lined with shops, stalls and vendors, who have their wares spread out on the footpath and sell everything from soup to sophisticated electronics.
Accommodation: Hoang Hai Long Hotel or similar (1 nt)
Enjoy a buffet breakfast at KOTO restaurant, one of Intrepid's Responsible Travel supported programs which aims to teach street children hospitality skills.
Head south to Cai Be (approx 3 hrs).
Board our boats to cruise the Mekong Delta and explore its intricate waterways. This is our introduction to a world where life depends on the river. Often referred to as the 'rice bowl' of Vietnam, the fertile delta is famous for its abundant harvests of tropical fruits, flowers and rice, as well as it fantastic views while boating along the canals. Visit an orchard where you can sample tropical fruits, before continuing on to visit some local cottage industries. Around sunset we make our way up one of the many canals to our homestay where we enjoy a wonderful meal of local specialities. At our homestay we'll be sleeping on simple camp beds in a dorm-style arrangement. Bedding and mosquito nets are provided. Shared toilet and bathroom facilities are basic with cold water only.
Accommodation: Homestay (1 nt)
Activity in the delta starts at dawn, so we'll be up early. After breakfast, we visit the busy Cai Be floating market.
Return to Ho Chi Minh City via Cu Chi.
Visit the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. This former Viet Cong stronghold provides an insight into the resourcefulness and tenacity of the Vietnamese people, as well as a unique sense of what underground life was like during the American War.
Experience the hustle and bustle of old Saigon on a city tour and explore some of the city's more interesting sights, including the War Remnants Museum and Reunification Palace.
Board an overnight train to Nha Trang. Conditions are basic and cleanliness might not be as we would expect back home, however overnight trains are a truly Intrepid experience and the best way to travel long distances with the locals. Sleeper trains typically have 4 berth compartments (occasionally 6 berths depending on seasonal variations), which are made up of bench seats that convert into sleeping bunks. A sheet, pillow and blanket are provided, although some travellers prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. On occasion passengers of different genders will be required to share a compartment and there will be occasions where you will be sharing with local travellers or travellers who are not part of your group. Most trains have a dining carriage serving simple food, but some travellers take the opportunity to stock up on fresh bread, cheese and fruit prior to departure.
Accommodation: Hoang Hai Long Hotel or similar (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Once referred to as the 'Cannes of the Orient', Nha Trang's sandy palm-lined beach and island-dotted bay still make an idyllic picture, and a cosmopolitan feel prevails in the town itself.
A highlight for many travellers is our boat trip amongst the islands. From the main boat, we take basket boats to shore and visit a fishing village, snorkel in the turquoise waters, enjoy a seafood buffet lunch, and pass the afternoon lazing in deck chairs or swimming.
Accommodation: Hotel (2 nts)
Take a short flight to Danang and then travel by minibus to Hoi An (approx 1 hr).
Recently declared a World Heritage site, Hoi An is being beautifully restored and preserved. Known as Faifo to early western traders, it was one of South-East Asia's major international ports during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Today, parts of Hoi An look exactly as they did more than a century ago and it retains the feel of centuries past, making it the sort of place that grows on you the more you explore it.It's also a shopping mecca – with much to browse and buy. Choose from original paintings, handcrafted woodwork, ceramics, embroidery, lanterns and more. Hoi An has also become famous for its tailoring, with a great variety of fabrics and tailors to choose from. Bring your favourite piece of clothing or even just a picture, and you'll be able to have it copied.
On arrival, your tour leader will take you on an orientation walk around the Ancient Town, so you can get your bearings.
You have plenty of time to explore. Your leader can help you arrange an optional Vietnamese cooking course or you can rent a bicycle and take a trip out to the nearby Cua Dai Beach, also known as China Beach.If you can muster an early rise the next morning, the wonderful local market is well worth a visit to watch animated shoppers haggling over fresh fish, spices and vegetables.
Visit the ruins of My Son, Vietnam's most important Cham site. Set in a verdant valley, surrounded by hills and overlooked by the massive Cat's Tooth Mountain, the elaborate World Heritage-listed temples here reflect the rich cultural traditions of the Cham civilisation that flourished in this region between the 4th and 12th century.
Accommodation: Thuy Duong 3 Hotel or similar (3 nts)
Drive to Hue via China Beach (known officially as My Khe Beach) and the spectacular Hai Van Pass, an incredibly scenic and mountainous stretch of highway with spectacular views of Lang Co Beach. Make a lunch stop at beautiful Lang Co en route.
As the former imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue holds the treasures of Vietnam's royal past and is a curious mix of bustling streets and tranquil settings.
Visit the Imperial Citadel, including the Forbidden Purple City. The latter was almost totally destroyed during the Vietnam War's Tet Offensive, but the foliage-covered ruins are still atmospheric and the gaping holes left by bombs give an idea of the destruction wreaked upon the country during the war.
Enjoy a dragon boat cruise on the Perfume River, and a visit to Thien Mu Pagoda, considered by many to be the unofficial symbol of Hue. It's an active Buddhist monastery with its origins dating back to 1601. One of the most poignant displays is a car belonging to a former monk who, in 1963, drove to Saigon and set himself alight to protest against the treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime. We also visit one of the royal tombs, that of Emperor Tu Duc, with its central lake set amid a grove of frangipani and pine trees.
Please note, boats for the Perfume River trip may not be available if you are travelling during festival periods. During these times we will instead travel by land to reach the activities.
Most groups will visit either a Buddhist nunnery or monastery and have lunch while in Hue. Not only does the lunch provide economic benefits to these institutions, which rely on donations to survive, but it also enables our groups to get an insight into the unique traditions and food of Vietnamese Buddism. Due to the high passenger numbers visiting Hue, six different monasteries and nunneries are visited so as to share the wealth and minimise impact.
Accommodation: Romance Hotel or similar (2 nts)
Fly from Hue to Hanoi.
The capital of Vietnam is a charming city with a population of over six million. Hanoi is famous for its beautiful lakes, shaded boulevards, verdant public parks and its thriving Old Quarter, which is an architectural museum piece with blocks of ochre buildings retaining the air of a 1930s provincial French town. As Vietnam develops to compete with other South-East Asian countries, the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake reflects the contrasts of modern office buildings, old Buddhist temples and the tangle of ancient streets in its still surface.
We take a guided half-day tour of Hanoi that captures the beauty and the history of the laid-back, tree-lined capital, visiting the major sights including the Temple of Literature, One Pillar Pagoda, and paying a homage to Vietnam’s most famous revolutionary, Ho Chi Minh. You will pass by the Hoan Kiem Lake and visit the historic Old Quarter.
Take a city tour through the ancient '36 Streets' to discover an amazing selection of shops selling everything from souvenirs to exquisite silk clothing, beautifully embroidered tablecloths and CDs. Then take in a performance of the famous water puppet theatre.
Vietnam Fine Arts Museum is considered as one of the crucial museum in maintaining and promoting the treasure of cultural, artistic heritages of Vietnamese ethnic communities.
Accommodation: Lan Vien Hotel or similar (1 nt)
Travel by private minibus to the spectacular World Heritage site of Halong Bay (approx 4 hrs).
Halong Bay is a breathtaking secluded harbour with 2,000 limestone islands rising from the emerald waters of Bac Bo Gulf. One of Vietnam's most scenic regions, this area of about 1,500 sq km is dotted with innumerable beaches and grottos, created over thousands of years by waves and wind.
Board our private boat and cruise among the dramatic limestone peaks. There's an opportunity to swim in the famed South China Sea (known locally as the East Sea), as well as to explore caves filled with stunning stalactites and stalagmites. Spend a peaceful night on board, beneath a night sky alive with stars. Our sailing junk has twin-share cabins that have air-conditioning and private facilities. There's also a dining room and bar where we enjoy a sumptuous lunch, dinner & breakfast.
Due to recent unforeseen late changes by local authorities in Halong Bay a large proportion of boats are now no longer permitted to stay overnight, thus resulting in a shortage of boats. To ensure we can accommodate all Intrepid travellers overnight on a boat we are occasionally using a larger boat (approx. 12 cabins) and splitting our groups across different boats. An Intrepid group leader will be present on each boat, and the route taken and inclusions on board will remain the same.
Accommodation: Overnight boat (1 nt)
Return to Hanoi by bus (approx 4 hrs), stopping at Dong Trieu Factory to watch locals working on the traditional art of ceramics.
Your afternoon is free to explore Hanoi's sights and to do some last-minute shopping. You could also see Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and house.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Accommodation: Lan Vien Hotel or similar (1 nt)
International flights, departure transfers, departure and airport taxes, visas, all other meals, all optional tours or activities during free time, transfers outside of the tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature.
Please note for all flights in Vietnam, full names as per passport are required, including middle names. Please provide your exact name as per passport at the time of booking.
Tet is Vietnam's New Year festival, held annually in late January or early February based on the lunar calendar. While this can be a fascinating time to travel and experience this event, expect some shop closures and busier than usual local transport. Opening hours at some tourist sites may also be affected or closed. Although we make all reasonable efforts to avoid disruption, a flexible approach from the traveller is appreciated.
During the rainy months (approx. June to October), our mode of transport can be changed at short notice due to weather conditions.
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