A longboat paddling through karst landscape in Vietnam

Our favourite Vietnam tours and excursions

If destinations and accommodation are the bread and butter of a great holiday, a hands-on cultural experience is the secret sauce that brings it all to life.

One bad guided tour can be enough to put you off the idea entirely – but a really good guide (and you can rest assured, we only work with the absolute best) can turn what an uninspiring box-ticking exercise into an experience you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

What it comes down to is this: there’s a difference between seeing and understanding, and the only way to bridge that gap is to get stuck in. No amount of looking will ever tell you as much about a Hanoian wet market than a morning spent shopping with a local chef and if you don’t jump on the back of a vintage Vespa, how will you ever know how exhilarating it feels to zip through the streets of Saigon?

It doesn’t matter where you are or what the experience: these are the most exciting and immersive things you can do in Vietnam, run by some of the most charismatic and interesting people we know.

Tours and excursions

Here are just a few of our favourites

Ninh Binh Sampan

On the water
Scenery
Ninh Binh

With its sheer-sided mountains rising dramatically from flat-bottomed valleys, Ninh Binh’s scenery is almost otherworldly.

It’s the perfect setting for a gentle sampan ride through the flooded fields of rice plants, lotus and waterlily, with opportunities to float through caves by torchlight, spot temples hidden in the forests, and see water buffalo wading on the banks of the rivers.

Though we love hiking and cycling through the region’s farms and villages, the classic way to appreciate this quintessential Vietnamese scenery is from a sampan boat on one of its slow-moving rivers. These days the main waterways can get quite busy, but there are still plenty of smaller and quieter routes to ply — with opportunities to float through caves by torchlight, spot temples hidden in the forests, and water water buffalo wading on the banks of the rivers.

Trekking in Pu Luong

Active
Scenery
Pu Luong

With its picture-perfect rice terraces rippling down mountainsides and thatch-roofed stilt houses clustered in valleys, Pu Luong’s scenery is the stuff of pure romance — and there’s no better way to experience it than on a guided trek.

Our favourite route is a two-day hike which begins at a suspension bridge over the Cham River and winds through the mountains, passing minority villages and bamboo waterwheels built by the locals to irrigate their rice terraces. We can plan treks to suit any fitness level, from laid-back and gentle to positively punishing, so don’t let your walking appetite hold you back from experiencing the magnificent Pu Luong countryside.

Phong Nha caving

Active
Adventure
Scenery
Phong Nha

If you think caving has to mean crawling on your hands and knees through damp, dark passageways – think again.

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is a Natural World Heritage Site and home to some of the world's most dramatic caverns, including the largest in the world. What's more, most of these bewitching and cathedralesque caverns can be visited without even ducking your head. In fact, in one easy day trip, you could take a boat ride to an underground river, stand beneath 360-million-year-old cascades of rock, and wander on a subterranean beach – all without wriggling through a single tunnel. Trust us: no matter how you feel about going underground, these are some caves you don’t want to miss.

Local life in the Mekong Delta

Active
Culture
On the water
Responsible entreprise
Mekong Delta

This action-packed day tour is your chance to peep behind the curtain of daily life in the rural Mekong Delta.

You'll travel from village to village with cycle rides on sun-dappled tracks and sampan cruises through rice paddies and fruit farms, stopping to refuel at the wonderful Mango Riverside Restaurant for lunch. This isn’t your ordinary sightseeing tour, it’s a true insider’s insight into riverside life -- whether it’s visiting the home of a family to learn about the myriad products you can make out of a coconut, or sitting down with the locals to sip honey tea and try tropical fruits from their garden.

Hue's Imperial Tombs

History
Hue

Hue is best-known for its Citadel, but for us the imperial tombs offer an even more compelling insight into the lives and histories of Vietnam’s royal emperors.

Scattered in the woods and hills around the city, each tomb reflects not just the architectural style of its time, but the personality of the emperor who built it. Tu Duc’s magnificent mausoleum, for instance, cost so much in taxes that it provoked an attempted coup in 1866, while Khai Dinh’s lavish mix of Eastern and Western architectural styles reflects his admiration for the colonial French. These are the kinds of stories that we think really bring the days of imperial Vietnam to life.

Organic Farm Cooking Class

Food & Drink
Hands on
Insider
Hoi An

We've road tested our fair share of cooking classes in Vietnam, and this is one of our favourites.

Hosted on an organic farm, this is a hands-on introduction to how green agriculture, ecotourism and traditional practices can be combined to create truly delicious food. Grind your own rice flour using a traditional stone grinder, hand-pick your own fresh ingredients from the garden, and learn some of the secrets of Vietnamese cooking as you whip up five fresh, healthy and traditional dishes. Finally, sit down to enjoy the fruits of your labour in the lush and laid-back surroundings of the Hoi An countryside.