Fly into Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), meet your group, and experience 23 days adventuring through one of Southeast Asia's most diverse countries. You will spend each day traveling throughout the 960 miles of vastly diverse coastal lowlands, rainforests, and jagged mountain ranges that extend as far as the eye can see. Although trekking, cycling, sea kayaking, and snorkeling are among the adventure highlights of this exploration, the foundation of the program lies in experiencing the intense and unique cultural aspects of Vietnam. Throughout the trip, you will learn about the fascinating and enduring history of Vietnam and its people while experiencing their traditions, customs, and ecological diversity.
As you and your group trek, cycle, and snorkel your way through Vietnam, you'll take frequent breaks to explore the historical and provincial cities and villages of Hanoi, Haiphong, Cat Ba, Danang, Nha Trang, Ho Chi Minh City, and Dalat. During the three days of this journey, you and your group will embark on a three-day cruise down the Mekong Delta where you'll explore the adjacent land by bicycle along the way. Your group will travel north to the province of Sapa to end your journey in Hanoi. From Hanoi we will catch a short flight back to Ho Chi Minh City. It is here that your adventure comes to an end and you catch your flight home. From the ancient temples and isolated villages that represent Vietnam's unadulterated simplicity, to its bustling cities and floating markets, Explore Vietnam is an all-encompassing overseas experience that fuses an adventure with a culture that is undeniably Vietnam.
Day 1: Fly from US to Tan Son Nhat Airport (SGN), in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) Vietnam. You will gain a day between the long flight and time zone changes.
Day 2: Meet your group and Leaders at the airport and transfer to hotel.
Days 3-5: Ho Chi Minh City - Mekong Delta Cruise. In an intense change of pace, you and your group will be swept into a world with a traditional atmosphere, fused with an industrialized, western influence that is Old Saigon. Then, you will transfer to My Tho, where you will launch onto the Mekong River for a 2-day cruise deep into the southern delta and its tributaries. The Mekong supports 80 percent of the country’s population, and you will see first hand, the life and lifestyles that have remained relatively unchanged for several generations. You will travel by boat, foot, and bike through the region of nine major tributaries also known as the ‘nine dragons’, and explore the tableau of small villages that dwell throughout. Finally on the third day, you will make your way back to Saigon.
Day 6: Ho Chi Minh City - Dalat. Upon your arrival in Dalat, the heat of the country dissipates into cooler mountain air while green, rolling hills, lakes and pine trees begin to take over the landscape. Set at an elevation of 4,425 feet above sea level, Dalat has the characteristics of a bustling mountain town.
Day 7: Langbiang. You’ll take a mountain bike ride through the foothills of Langbiang, to camp for the evening in the mountain corridor of Langbiang. The highlight of this section is that you’ll be having dinner in a cozy atmosphere by the camp-fire, enjoying dancing and listening to folk-songs, Cong and Chieng - domestic instruments.
Day 8: Dalat - Nha Trang. After breakfast, you’ll transfer to Nha Trang. This resort town is well known for its miles of beach and the friendliness of its people.
Day 9: Nha Trang. Visit the Stone Bridge, on boat to Tri Nguyen Fish Pond, then to Mun Islet. Swim on pristine beaches and go snorkeling in coral gardens for the afternoon.
Day 10: Nha Trang - Hoi An. Transfer to Nhatrang railway station to Danang. Visit China Beach, Marble Mountain (Huyen Khong Cave, Tam Thai and Linh Ung Pagoda). Here you will make your way through a maze of cave temples, hidden within five sacred, marble hillocks. Then you will transfer to Hoi An.
Day 11: Hoi An. Following breakfast, you will visit the Hoi An Old Quarter with Pray Pagoda, Quan Cong Temple, Phuc Kien Club – house, Phung Hung Old House. After your tour of Hoi An, you’ll experience the history of a 7th century ancient city with golden brick temples built by the Cham civilization near My Son, to finally return to Hoi An to spend the evening hanging out in the Old Quarter.
Day 12: Hoi An – Hue. After breakfast, your group will travel to Hue, traversing the central mountains over the beautiful Cloud Pass. Upon arrival to the Imperial City of Hue, you’ll hop on a boat to unwind down the Perfume River, to conclude the evening in Hue.
Day 13: Hue – Hanoi. The next morning, meeting at the Hue station, you will continue on the Dragon boat down the Perfume River to visit Thien Mu (Heavenly Lady Pagoda), Hon Chen temple, Minh Mang Tomb. In the afternoon, you will visit Dai Noi, then you will head to Hue station for an overnight train ride to Hanoi.
Days 14-17: Hanoi – Cat Ba - Monkey Island - Kim Gian Forest. You will arrive in Hanoi and be shuttled to Haiphoung, at which time you will take a trip to Cat Ba aboard a ship from Binh ferry. Once at Lan Ha Bay, you will begin a two day trip through the archipelagos of Vietnam. In addition to your tour on the water, you will sea kayak and rock climb the limestone pinnacles that make up the thousands of uninhabited islands. Hidden coves, white sand beaches and exploratory ocean caves make this section of your trip more memorable than you could imagine. You will then transfer to Cat Ba National Park and Trung Trang Cave to explore the caverns, then hike through the immaculate forest of Kim Giao, home of the Vooc (white faced monkeys) - one of the rarest animals in the world that can only be found in Vietnam. In the afternoon you will visit Viet Hai fisher village, and then board a boat to visit Monkey Island to observe the primates in this unique and natural habitat.
Day 18: Cat Ba – Hanoi - Lao Cai (Sapa Province). Get on ship go to Hai Phong (Binh ferry). Van pick up back to Hanoi railway station get on the train to Lao Cai.
Days 19-21: Lao Cai – Sapa Province. When you step off the train in Lao Cai, you’ll take a brief shuttle to the highlands of Sapa. Situated in remote mountains, vast views of lush green ridges fade into the foreground of sharp rocky peaks and the country’s highest mountain (Mt. Fanispan, elev. 9,750ft). Here you will embark on a two-day trek through the Northern Hill Tribe Villages of the Sien Chai (Tay people) and the Zay. You will live among these indigenous peoples for the evening, lodging overnight in houses within the village. The third day you will return to Su Pan Slope, with a trek up the mountain to Nam Toong and Nam Keng (Xa Pho) to visit Ta Phin Village (Red Dao & H’mong). By afternoon you’ll get picked up and transferred to Lao Cai for dinner and then re-board the train retuning to Hanoi.
Day 22: Hanoi City Tour. You will be transported to the streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Here you will find fascinating venders demonstrating their trades and specialties such as traditional medicines and herbs, hand spun silk, and jewelry of jade, silver and gold. The people of Hanoi keep tradition alive as reflected through every passerby and corner of every building; from the brown robed monks on their way to Tran Quoc Pagoda, Quan Thanh, and Ngoc Son Temples, to early morning tai chi classes by Sword and Hoan Kiem Lakes. As the evening begins, you will enjoy dinner while entertained by the 11th century production of Roi Nuoc, or the Vietnamese Water Puppetry Show. This incredible display of technical and creative ingenuity paints a vibrant mural of vivid colors, fantastic choreography with traditional dances and characters that rise mysteriously from the water's surface, and includes an accompaniment of a live orchestra. Following the performance we will catch a flight back to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).
Day 23: Ho Chi Minh City – United States. You and your group await the shuttle to airport (SGN) in Ho Chi Minh at which point you will say good-bye to Vietnam!