Vietnam is one of the world’s greatest travel destinations, with buzzing cities, gorgeous countryside, stunning beaches, and everything in between. From the natural wonders of Halong Bay and the river jungles of the Mekong, to the tasty Vietnamese cuisine and amazing traditional crafts, here are 7 of the best things to see and do in Vietnam with Trafalgar.
1. Spend the night in Halong Bay
As one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, cruising Halong Bay is way up there with the very best things to do in Vietnam. It’s a UNESCO-listed icon, where limestone karsts and sandy islets rise from the shimmering emerald waters.
We’ll take you on an unforgettable overnight cruise on Halong Bay, spending the night on a traditional Vietnamese junk boat. You’ll get to sail to all the best spots in the bay, like Tien Ong Cave. You’ll also visit the Cua Van Fishing Village, where the residents live in traditional floating houses.
After a day out on the water, you’ll return to your junk boat for the night. As the sun sets, you’ll enjoy a cooking demonstration with a chef and tuck into the delicious feast for dinner.
In the morning, you’ll get a tranquil start to your day with the option to join a Local Specialist on the deck to practice the peaceful art of T’ai Chi. You’ll also have time for a morning swim at a blissful beach before we take in our last views of this spectacular natural wonder.
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2. Float down the mighty Mekong
As the longest river in Southeast Asia, you’ll get to experience a slice of the Mekong when we take you to My Tho, a market town in the Mekong Delta region. We’ll board a sampan boat and set sail to explore the maze of small canals that lead into the Mekong, admiring the lush jungle all around.
After working up an appetite, we’ll enjoy a lunch of Mekong Delta specialities. Then we’ll take a walk along the village roads to meet your Local Specialist, a former soldier who survived the battles against the Khmer Rouge.
You’ll get to visit his home, meet his family and spend time listening to their heart wrenching stories. You’ll also learn how they make a living crafting rice paper, and even have a go at it yourself.
3. Explore ancient Hoi An
If you want to experience the best of Vietnam, you’ve got to visit Hoi An. It’s a truly enchanting place, with ancient temples, old merchant houses, cobbled lanes, and glowing lanterns. You’ll love exploring the narrow lanes lined with colourful buildings and bright bougainvillaea spilling out over the walls.
We’ll take a walk over the 400-year-old Japanese Covered Bridge and wander through the vibrant markets, before heading out into the countryside to the Thanh Dong Organic Village. You’ll be amazed by this lush green paradise that seems to grow every kind of fruit and vegetable. You’ll also get to spend some time chatting to the local farmers and learning about their daily life on the farm.
The treasures of Hoi An just keep on coming, and we’ll give you the chance to join a Lantern Making Workshop where you’ll make your own lantern… Just like the gorgeous ones you see all around the city. You could also join a Fishing Life Tour, where you’ll meet the local fishermen and learn all about their work. You can even have a go at casting your own fishing net, Hoi An style!
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4. Learn how to cook delicious Vietnamese cuisine
Vietnamese food is one of the world’s favourite cuisines and you’ll quickly find out why. With the freshest ingredients and amazing flavours, we’re sure you can’t wait to tuck into all the noodle soups, banh mi and spring rolls you could dream of.
We’ll even show you how to make your own Vietnamese food, so you can enjoy these wonderful dishes after you return home. We’ll cruise by boat to the Red Bridge Cooking School where the friendly chefs will share the traditional ways of cooking Vietnamese food.
Best of all, you’ll get to enjoy the dishes you’ve prepared for lunch! This is one delicious experience you’ll always treasure.
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5. Meet a local family in their historic house in Hue
Once the capital city of the country and the home of the Nguyen Dynasty emperors, Hue is dripping in old-world grandeur. It showcases the ancient best of Vietnam, with thick stone walls and a moat surrounding the 19th-century Citadel. Inside you’ll discover the palaces of the Imperial City, a replica of the opulent Royal Theatre, and the Forbidden Purple City, the former emperor’s home.
Can’t get enough of this incredible history? We’ll take you cruising on a dragon boat along the Perfume River to the former home of Princess Ngoc Son. It’s one of the last remaining garden houses, and you’ll meet the family who now lives there.
Wander the halls to marvel at their spectacular collection of artefacts from the days of the Royal Empire. You’ll also get to sit down to a lunch of local specialities and learn all about the family’s life in this historic home.
6. Make a Difference in Ho Chi Minh City
Travel is all about leaving a positive impact on the places you visit, and we give you the opportunity to do just that in Ho Chi Minh City. We’ll take you to lunch at Blanc Restaurant, which proudly employs locals who are deaf or hearing impaired.
You’ll have the chance to communicate with the staff using sign language, then enjoy a delicious lunch of local dishes. It’s a truly unique dining experience, and you’ll leave knowing you’ve supported this wonderful initiative.
We’ll also ‘Make a Difference’ at the HCMC Blind Centre, which teaches blind children how to play music and use the computer. Founded by blind musician Mr Dao Khanh Truong, who devoted his life to teaching the children music and life skills, the centre is now run by dedicated volunteers. Your visit not only enriches your trip to Vietnam but helps support this centre and their amazing efforts to change the lives of these children.
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7. Meet local farmers and learn about their natural medicines
Curious about the benefits of Vietnam’s natural medicines? We’ll take you to an organic farm outside Ho Chi Minh City, where you’ll explore the lush fields and meet the local family who runs the farm. You’ll get to learn all about how they make natural medicine from the organic vegetables, herbs, spices and fungi, then sit down in their home for an exclusive lunch.
As you enjoy the family’s favourite home-cooked dishes, you’ll hear their stories about life on the farm and get an incredible insight into how their business provides a living for many farmers in the area. You might even like to take home some of their natural medicines, as a special memento of your time in Vietnam.
What are your favourite things to see in Vietnam? Let us know in the comments below!