by Theodora Sutcliffe from The Telegraph, March 12, 2018
Longing to discover Vietnam? Theodora Sutcliffe selects tours for the intrepid and the not-so-daring.
1. Foodie fandango
From pho to banh mi, and spring rolls to steamboat, Vietnam’s cuisine is fascinating. Savour the full magic on boats, in private homes and at street stalls and restaurants. You’ll visit Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hue, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta, tour markets, take cooking classes and taste regional cuisines.
A 12-day Vietnam Food Explorer costs from £1,695 including accommodation, many meals and most activities but not flights. Departures in March, July and Sept-Nov 2018. Peregrine Adventures (020 7408 9021; peregrineadventures.com).
2. Family fantastic
With rickshaw rides, water puppet shows, snorkelling, water parks, beaches and tunnel networks, this family holiday strikes the perfect balance of fun, adventure and education. You’ll visit Hanoi, Halong Bay, Danang, Ho Chi Minh City, the Mekong Delta and Whale Island. If your children are blonde and blue-eyed, be sure they’re happy posing for snaps.
A 16-day Chopsticks and Coconuts trip costs from £2,249 per adult and £2,024 per child, including flights, accommodation, some meals and activities. Minimum age is eight: child discount applies up to age 14. Departures in March, July, Aug and Dec 2018. Exodus Travels (020 3811 4374; exodus.co.uk).
3. Watery wonders
Board the Aqua Mekong, a sleek wood-and-glass ship, to cruise into the heart of Vietnam. Begin in Ho Chi Minh City and visit French colonial landmarks such as the Old Saigon Post Office. Head inland to pretty villages, including Binh Thanh and My An Hung. A skiff takes you along the Bassac Canal to the floating market of Chau Doc. From here you travel overland to Long Son Pagoda. Opt to cycle to Long Khanh Island or take a rickshaw to Tan Chau Market.
A 16-day Magic Through the Mekong cruise costs from £8,720, including B&B accommodation and flights. Departures all year: March and April recommended. The Ultimate Travel Company (02030 518 098; theultimatetravelcompany.co.uk).
4. The wild east
Get off the beaten track into the karst hills, misty lakes and tumbling waterfalls of the hinterland where China and Vietnam meet. Discover ancient Hue before exploring Bach Ma national park, relaxing on the white sand beaches of tropical Phu Quoc island, and exploring dynamic, ever-evolving Ho Chi Minh City.
A 14-day Unexplored Vietnam costs from £2,640 tailor-made, based on two sharing, and includes accommodation, breakfast, internal flights, private guide and vehicle but not international flights. Departures on request: March and April recommended. Wild Frontiers (020 3930 4596; wildfrontierstravel.com).
5. Classic vistas
From the surrealist seascapes of Halong Bay to the jigsawed rice terraces around Sapa, from the lantern-lit bridges of Hoi An to the floating markets of the Mekong Delta, enjoy some of Vietnam’s most photogenic locations on this all-inclusive holiday. Travelling south to north, you’ll explore Ho Chi Minh City, the Mekong Delta, Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi, the Sapa highlands and Halong Bay.
A 16-day Vietnam Trails costs from £2,440 including international flights, accommodation, all meals and most activities. 2018 departures in April and Sept-Nov. Wendy Wu Tours (0800 1445 621; wendywutours.co.uk).
6. Pedal power
Cycle some of Vietnam’s most stunning landscapes on this fully supported bike tour. You’ll pedal through mountain passes and seaside villages, the lush landscapes of Ninh Binh, the paddy fields and karst of the Mai Chau Valleys, and the imperial city of Hue. You’ll visit the classic cities and sights, travelling by train or private bus between cycle legs.
A 15-day Cycle Vietnam trip costs from £1,430 including hotels, bike hire, vehicle support, many meals and activities but not flights: bring your own (compulsory) helmet. Departures all year. Intrepid Travel (0808 274 5111; intrepidtravel.co.uk ).
7. Land of the dragon
On this comprehensive introduction, cruise the Mekong Delta and Halong Bay, then visit Viet Cong tunnels, floating markets, the colonial hill town of Dalat, and a working men’s pub. Feast on seafood aboard a classically styled junk, and discover the imperial monuments of Hue. Travelling south to north, you will also explore Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An and Hanoi.
A 12-day Vietnam Discovery tour costs from £1,635 including accommodation, two overnight cruises, three internal flights and some meals. Excludes international flights. One departure a month in 2018: March to April recommended. Insider Journeys (01865 268941; insiderjourneys.co.uk ).
Hop aboard the Reunification Express, which trundles more than 1,056 miles (1,700km) through Vietnam, for a 12-day voyage through the Land of the Dragon. Ride a tuk tuk through Hanoi, cruise overnight on Halong Bay, catch a sleeper to the walled city of Hue, wander the streets of Hoi An, and explore Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta. End with four days in Cambodia, including Angkor Wat.
A 16-day Vietnam, Cambodia and The Mekong Delta trip costs from £2,520, including accommodation, travel and cruise but not flights: some transfers by road or boat. Departures in March, Sept and Nov 2018. Great Rail Journeys (01904 521936; greatrail.com).
9. Tribal traditions
Discover a different side of Vietnam as you live among the hill tribes of its “chequerboard” highlands. Basing yourself in simple homestays, eco-resorts and the occasional stylish hotel, you’ll trek through stunning scenery, discover traditional minority lifestyles, and savour dazzling rice terrace vistas. You’ll also enjoy time in Hanoi.
A 16-day Hidden Hilltribes of Vietnam costs from £3,735, including international flights, accommodation and most meals. Departures run throughout the year: March and April recommended. Audley Travel (01993 838140; audleytravel.com).
10. Caves and culture
Discover Vietnam’s rich history as you explore three of the nation’s historic capitals: the walled city of Hue, vibrant, buzzing Ho Chi Minh City, and Hanoi, with its tranquil temples and colonial core. Yet there’s plenty of adventure on offer, too. Hike through the rice terraces to minority villages and stay in a traditional farmer’s home; trek through the jungle to vast Hang En cave, with its own climate and beach; and crawl through the war-era Cu Chi tunnels.
A 17-day Adventurous Vietnam costs from £3,685, including flights, accommodation, some meals and most activities. Departures throughout 2018. Audley Travel (01993 838140; audleytravel.com).