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If this is your first Vietnam luxury tour, there are some iconic cities, sites and destinations located throughout the country that are simply a must-see for first-time travel to Vietnam, which include Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hue, Hoi An,  My Son and Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).


Widely considered one of Asia's best cities, this is the capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Tree-lined avenues and French-colonial architecture offer a unique setting where visitors can enjoy touring in a cyclo (local-style rickshaw) or stroll around one of the many parks and lakes that dot the city.

Ho Chi Minh's legacy remains central to this city, and visits to his mausoleum, memorial museum and former residence are a must. Nearby stands one of the last statues in the world of Vladimir Lenin, a distinct reminder that Communism is not necessarily dead, even though Vietnam's progressive economic state indicates otherwise.

Hanoi's Old Quarter is a visual sensation. Each street offers its own distinct identity since the merchants sell their wares in groups. There is Banner Street, Shoe Street, Copper Wire Street and many more. Take in the Confucian Temple of Literature, Hoa Lo Prison (where John McCain was held), Hoan Kiem Lake, ancient pagodas and a water puppet performance. In the evening, dine at one of many sumptuous restaurants in Hanoi.


This famous bay is studded with karst limestone islands. Travel by sampan (Chinese junk) throughout the emerald waters of this UNESCO World Heritage area. Access is a four-hour drive from Hanoi through fertile countryside to Bai Chay. This fishing and mining town serves as the embarkation point for a spectacularly scenic cruise of the bay. Legend holds that the 3,000 limestone pinnacles scattered throughout the Gulf of Tonkin were created by a dragon's tail as he slipped into the sea.

 We use converted fishing boats to explore caves, beaches and swimming holes hidden amongst these wondrous formations. Enjoy excellent fresh seafood at one of the local restaurants while reflecting on the beauty of your surroundings.


This former imperial capital is a UNESCO World Heritage site housing fantastic artistic and architectural treasures. The Tombs of the Nguyen Emperors are the main attraction.

The Ancient Citadel of Hué has not fared well and stands as a reminder of the infamous 1968 Tet Offensive. From Hué, the Nguyen dynasty merged the lands of Vietnam and ruled it for almost 150 years.

Just outside Hué, along the Perfume River, the ravages of war have fortunately left some treasures. Visit Thien Mu Pagoda, the most famous of all Vietnam's temples, and take a boat to the abundant tombs of the emperors where you can stroll through the gardens and mausoleums built to honor the last royal dynasty.


The dramatic remnants of My Son Sanctuary comprise one of Vietnam's many UNESCO World Heritage sites, housing ancient Cham civilization ruins.

Historians compare the significance of this site to Angkor Wat, Ayuthaya and Borobudur. Unfortunately, during the war the Viet Cong made their headquarters here and it was bombed out by the American-backed South Vietnamese. Still, a few buildings remain and a visit is worthwhile. To get there you will pass through many villages on a very dilapidated road. You might even find a merchant selling gongs made out of U.S. bombshells.


Visited on a day trip from Ho Chi Minh City, the Cu Chi Tunnels are a remarkable testimony to the scope of the war effort. Over 120 miles of underground tunnels housed everything from field hospitals to strategic command centers of the Viet Cong military.

Descend into the tunnels to experience firsthand the terrible conditions endured by the Vietnamese in the fight for their homeland, first against the French colonialists and later the American anti-Communists. This excursion provides insightful lessons in how the tenacious Vietnamese won their last three wars against formidable powers with vastly superior technology.


One of the grand cities of Asia and a must-see on any trip to Vietnam, Saigon has cosmopolitan charm to spare, fine pagodas, museums, markets, and Caodai Temples. Formerly South Vietnam's capital city, Saigon is still the center of business, modern culture and development in this growing nation.

The whole metropolitan area is now called Ho Chi Minh City; however, the central core of the city, District One, is still known as Saigon. Saigon retains some of its historic charms while plunging headlong into the economic development that is the great promise of Vietnam today. Let us provide you with a guided program that will take you to sites of special interest, including the former U.S. Embassy, Reunification Hall, the bustling district of Cholon (Chinatown) and a plethora of museums and pagodas. Saigon also offers a variety of excellent restaurants, cafés, rooftop bars and nightlife venues.


This UNESCO World Heritage site was the most important port in Southeast Asia between the 17th and 19th centuries. Today, this is one of the most peaceful and interesting places to visit in Vietnam, with myriad influences providing the curious traveler with much to see.

The Japanese Covered Bridge ushers you into French-colonial buildings and Chinese pagodas. Influences from foreign cuisines have enhanced the town's cooking style. The Cau Lau soup, which is only made properly with the water from a certain well in town, is phenomenal. Stroll the streets and the waterfront or rent a bicycle to explore the countryside and nearby beach. The town's small riverside market is full of character and very photogenic. A boat trip to nearby communities can also be arranged for an insight into the local wood-carving and boat-making industries.


Join a small group of like-minded fellow travelers on a perfectly crafted Vietnam luxury tour. Or create your own personalized, private departure for just you, your family and friends. See the possibilities at Custom Trips to Vietnam.


Have more time, second trip to Vietnam, or looking for something specific? Here are some additional highlights when creating your custom Vietnam journey.



Explore remote mountain areas, hike through rainforests and overnight in village homes or charming lodges. At the colorful hill tribe markets you'll see the Hmong and Red Dzao tribes and gain insight into ways of life lost to the modern world.


This sleepy town served as the theater for the end of French colonial rule in Vietnam. During the famous 57-day siege on French troops, the Viet Minh troops, led by Ho Chi Minh, forced a defeat through a combination of brilliant guerilla tactics and sound logistical decisions. The fall of Dien Bien Phu shocked France and brought an end to French Indochina.

The town acts as a gateway to the very traditional hill tribes that thrive in this outpost region. The Lao Cai province is virtually untouched by tourism in Vietnam and trekking conditions at times may be harsh, but the satisfaction of discovering remote cultures remains supremely alluring. One of the great advantages of exploring in the Dien Bien Phu area is that it is now accessible by plane from Hanoi.


A short boat ride from Bai Chay, Cat Ba lies in the midst of beautiful Ha Long Bay. It is one of the few national parks set aside by the Vietnamese government, and it protects the island's wildlife and unique ecosystem. A deep forest serves as cover for the many inhabitants of the island including monkeys, birds and wild boar. Exploring by foot will surely reward one with glimpses of wildlife, caves and secret swimming spots. A one-hour trek up Cat Ba's highest peak allows a magnificent view of surrounding Ha Long Bay.

Return to Hanoi via Haiphong and you'll see northern Vietnam's largest port before it emerges into the global-industrial market. The town's center still holds some historic French architecture, which rivals many of the buildings in Hanoi.


This large park contains 85 square miles of pristine rainforest that is home to an astonishing number of rare and endangered species of flora and fauna. Explore Con Moong Cave, one of the park's many grottoes - within the cave, stone tools of prehistoric humans have been discovered. Stroll one of the various nature trails that bisect the park's grounds. The park is also a research center for the Frankfurt Zoological Society, which studies and cares for the rehabilitation of Vietnam's native monkeys. Depending on staff availability, a guided tour of the research facilities may be arranged.


This province, surrounded on three sides by Cambodia, is the site of the Holy See of the Caodai religion. This relatively new faith combines elements of Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Christianity and other religions and lists among its saints Victor Hugo and Joan of Arc.

(They practice séances and claim to have last spoken to William Shakespeare in 1935.) This excursion glimpses a truly unique religion and town.


Accessible from Ho Chi Minh City, this beautiful and fertile agricultural area beckons the visitor. You will be engulfed in a sea of green rice fields, bountiful orchards, rural villages, attractive small cities and an extensive network of tributaries and rivers. This is the richest part of Vietnam with farmers prospering from the fertile land.



As you cross Hai Van Pass from the north, the climate changes instantly. The splendid Lang Co Beach rises up into the hills before you reach the pass, stretching far to the north with an unobstructed panorama of beach, dunes, mountains and sea. Danang is noted as the former home to an American military complex.

The nearby R&R site of China Beach (My Khe) is now a peaceful shoreline for the brave basket-boat fishermen. The Cham Museum provides an excellent introduction to the Champa Empire, which preceded the Vietnamese civilization by a thousand years. Towering above China Beach is a group of limestone pinnacles known as the Marble Mountains. Although crowded with insistent young pedlars, this historic site was once utilized as a Viet Cong stronghold and houses an amazing cave-temple with expansive views of the coastline.


Those who watched the daily broadcasts of war will certainly remember the 17th parallel as a sight of some of the most horrific battles ever waged. The former firebases and battle sites of Khe Sanh, Camp Carroll, The Rockpile, Dong Ha and Hamburger Hill were all located within the area south of the DMZ. During the worst times, the Vietnamese built a series of underground tunnel-cities, of which Vinh Moc is best preserved.

A day trip from Hué will be long as you forge over the potholed roads searching for signs from the war. Very little remains of the former battles (Vietnam's second-largest export during the '80s was scrap metal) but the scenery and ethnic villages are stunning and the locals are quite hospitable. Although the terrain has changed, the DMZ remains as a dark memory for both Vietnamese and Americans.


These interesting Central Highland areas near the Cambodian and Laos borders are home to many of the ethnic tribal minorities of Vietnam. These two towns also have the dubious distinction of being the sites of the first battle (Pleiku) and the last battle (Buon Ma Thuot) of the American-Vietnam war. Just recently opened to visitors, this is one of the least visited parts of Vietnam. Elephant treks can be arranged, starting from Buon Ma Thuot.


In future years this will probably develop into one of Southeast Asia's largest beach resorts. At the moment, however, it remains a seaside town reeking of faded French-colonial elegance and a hint of the economic development boom to come. The town, fringing one of Vietnam's most beautiful beaches, also is the site of Po Nagar Cham Towers. This site, used for Hindu worship between the 7th and the 12th centuries, is still a vital shrine for ethnic-Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhists. You may consider a stay at the hilltop Bao Dai's Villas. Built in the 1920's, this villa once housed Bao Dai, the last Emperor of Vietnam. Some of the best swimming and snorkeling in Vietnam can be done around the islands that dot the South China Sea near town.

Nha Trang also boasts the home of Alexander Yersin. Dr. Yersin became famous in the medical field with his discovery of the origin of bubonic plague. He later established four Pasteur Institutes throughout Vietnam, took part in the foundation of Dalat and settled in Nha Trang. His home, now a museum, is open daily.


Nestled in the central highlands, Dalat was once known as Le Petit Paris. At an elevation of 4,400 feet, the town was settled by the French who chose to escape the summer heat in Saigon. Vietnamese tourists now frequent the area as a popular honeymoon destination. Dalat is considered one of the most appealing towns in Vietnam, with its magnificent colonial villas, premier golf course, fruit orchards and comfortable weather. The town is also a major trading center for Montagnards (or hill tribes) and was the summer residence of Bao Dai, the last emperor.

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