Cyclos & Coracles
Utterly compelling, few places in the world offer the sublime splendour of Vietnam. Travelling from north to south on this epic family tour, weave your way from city to countryside to coast. Experience street vendors slinging noodle soups in Hanoi, trek through rice paddies and hill tribe villages in Mai Chau, explore grottoes and caves in Ninh Binh, snorkel in turquoise waters in Halong Bay, discover lanterns and lacquerware in Hue, get clothes tailored in Hoi An, visit meticulously landscaped parks in Ho Chi Minh City and cruise down lush waterways in the Mekong Delta.
Vietnam is perfectly suited for a family adventure. It is a land of enchanting and haunting beauty.
- International Flights: International flights from UK to Hanoi, returning from Ho Chi Minh City
- Domestic Flights: Domestic one-way flight from Danang to Ho Chi Minh City
- Transport: Private guided transfers & Reunification Express overnight train
- Activities: Hanoi city tour, Sung Sot Cave visit, bamboo boat ride, cookery demonstration, squid fishing, tai chi, Titov Island visit, Lang Co & My Khe beach visits, Cham Sculpture museum, Marble Mountains, Mekong delta tour
- Accommodation: 12 nights in lodges & city hotels, overnight boat (1 night), sleeper train (1 night)
- Meals: All breakfasts, 1 lunch and 1 dinner
- Trip Pack: Key family-friendly information about the country you are visiting with recommended activity links, places to eat and fun facts.
- Discover the Old Quarter in Hanoi lined with artisan stores
- Relax surrounded by rice paddies and minority villages in Mai Chau
- Explore waterways, grottoes and caves in NInh Binh
- Enjoy an overnight cruise on Halong Bay with opportunities for kayaking, fishing and tai chi
- Sleep overnight on Vietnam’s famous Reunification Express
- Discover citadels and Royal palaces in Hue
- Explore night markets in Hoi An under a canopy of lanterns
- Learn about the resourcefulness of the Viet Cong in Ho Chi Minh City and explore the lush countryside around the Mekong Delta
- When can we go? All year-around
- What type of tour is it? Private family tour with guided transfers
- Who is it suitable for? For culture vultures, foodies, history buffs and appreciators of sublime natural landscapes
- What is the minimum age? We would recommend a minimum age of 7 years for this trip but this is just a guide. Our itineraries can be adapted, no problem, for families with younger children
We publish ‘guideline prices’ for both the high and low season to give a reasonable estimate of what you might expect to pay per person based on a family of four (two adults, two children). To get an accurate price based on your estimated departure date and party size please contact us directly
Guide Price: Jan to Dec - £1,995pp
Hanoi is a city that refuses to grow old gracefully, a millennium-old capital of lemon-hued architecture and labyrinthine alleyways. Grand opera houses and ornamental palaces rub shoulders with crumbling shrines and bustling markets. Swarms of buzzing mopeds provide an incessant hum.
This afternoon, we would recommend heading out on a guided walking tour of the Old Quarter, a place where artisans ply their wares while city folk dine on noodles and practise t’ai chi. Weave through Medicine, Headstone, Tin and Silk Streets; browse for ethereal silk prints, delicate ceramics or bamboo dragonflies then follow your nose to the pavement-hugging stools of a street stall selling bun cha or 'bia hoi' (fresh draught beer).
In the evening, we would recommend grabbing tickets for Hanoi’s own equivalent of ‘Cirque De Soleil’ with its spectacular combination of visual and performance arts and dazzling light displays.
*Tips for crossing the street – There is no denying that crossing the street in Hanoi is a personal challenge. These are streets where Evel Knievel might have written the highway code. Our advice is to cross at a slow, steady pace with no sudden moves. Walk smoothly into the sea of wheels and it shall part!
Fun Facts: The Long Bien bridge in Hanoi, was designed by a French architect Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel (of Statue of Liberty and Eiffel Tower fame).
Optional Activities: Old quarter walking tour, arts performance
This morning you will be picked up for a private tour of the city. Visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, located within a traffic-free complex (sigh of relief!) which houses botanical gardens as well as the House on Stilts and One Pillar Pagoda. It is a place of pilgrimage for countless Vietnamese who come to pay their respects to ‘Uncle Ho’. Afterwards, visit the fascinating Museum of Ethnology and the beaux-arts Opera House before an optional coffee break at the 1901 Sofitel Legend Metropole, the epitome of Indochine elegance.
In the afternoon you might like to join a cookery class or go on a cycling circuit of Hanoi’s enormous Ho Tay Lake. Available for rent are fire-engine red uprights or more contemporary mountain bikes. In the evening don’t miss the opportunity to witness a remarkable performance of traditional water puppetry. Set on a flooded stage, the performance tells tales of legendary heroes and everyday life, with dragons and unicorns often sharing the stage with fireworks and naval battles. A fabulous family memory!
Fun Facts: The houses in Hanoi are super narrow because property tax is based on the width of the building.
Included Activities: City tour
Optional Activities: Cycle hire, cookery class, rickshaw tour, water puppet performance
Hemmed in by lush green hills and set in a tranquil valley, Mai Chau is a world away from the hectic pace of life in Hanoi. The four-hour journey provides a glimpse of rural life in northern Vietnam with peaks thick to their summits with vegetation, origami-like rice terraces tumbling down the hillsides and water buffalo plodding around the paddy fields.
Stay in a traditional rural village for the next two nights. Enjoy trekking or cycling opportunities into the surrounding hills with plenty of chances to interact with the locals; the Tai Dam and Tai Kao (‘White Thai’ and ‘Black Thai’) ethnic minorities inhabit Mai Chau. For the rest of today, we would suggest relaxing at your hotel or enjoying a local massage treatment. In the evening we would recommend visiting a local homestay to experience traditional food accompanied by a Tai Kao dance performance.
Fun Facts: Vietnam is the second largest producer of rice in the entire world.
Optional Activities: Massage treatment, homestay visit
This morning, wake up to the sound of roosters crowing and farmers heading out to work in the fields. Today is a free day to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the surrounding area. We would recommend heading out on a cycling tour along the rice terraces of the Mai Chau Valley. Expect panoramic views of paddy fields, karst cliffs and bamboo villages in a picture-postcard setting.
Later today, you might like to visit a minority White Thai family to enjoy local fruit and tea before having the opportunity to pound rice or try weaving and embroidering. Mai Chau locals make their silk brocades from scratch, harvesting silkworm cocoons before reeling, dyeing the threads and selling the intricately embroidered products in the local markets. We would recommend visiting the local cooperative to meet some of these women and hear their stories.
Fun Facts: White Thai houses are usually built on stilts, rising about four to five feet off the ground. Stilt houses are better ventilated and provide better protected from pests and intruders.
Optional Activities: Cycling tour
Today is another four-hour transfer from Mai Chau to Ninh Binh. The area around Ninh Binh showcases some of the most majestic natural scenery in Southeast Asia and is known locally as the 'Inland Halong Bay’. It boasts the same velvety greenery except the sea has been replaced by rivers and lakes.
After settling into your accommodation, we would recommend joining a cruise along the crystal-clear waters of the Trang An Grottoes. Hop on a bamboo sampan and weave your way along the network of ochre waters, past rippling layers of emerald mountains, to a series of interconnected caves. Watch amber dragonflies darting through reeds and monkey swinging through the forest. Afterwards we would recommend a visit to the impressive Bai Dinh Pagoda. Ninh Binh will be your base for the next two nights.
Fun Facts: Ninh Binh was the set location for the blockbuster, Kong: Skull Island, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Tom Hiddleston.
Optional Activities: Trang An boat cruise, Bai Dinh pagoda
There are a variety of options for today that we would recommend. The area of Tam Coc, is referred to as the ‘Green Sea’ and you can absolutely see why. To best experience this area, we would recommend hiring bikes from your lodge and touring yourselves. Don’t be afraid to head off up the tiny paths keeping as eye out for cows, chickens and ducks along the way. Boat cruises are also popular in this area but we would personally recommend the cruises in Trang An above Tam Coc.
If there’s one climb you should do in Vietnam, it’s the 20-minute hike to the Hang Mua Caves. Don’t be put off by the steep 500 stairs climb as there’s an ice cream awaiting you for your efforts. Once you reach the top, the panoramic views of the Tam Coc valley are absolutely magnificent. The dragon that dominates the temple at the top of the mountain is one of Vietnam’s sacred creatures.
Around dusk, we would recommend a visit to the Vân Long Nature Reserve where weathered ridges are cloaked with dark-green foliage that looks like the habitat of some mythical creature. Set amid fabulous limestone pinnacles, this tranquil reserve comprises a wetland crammed to the brim with birdlife but thankfully largely free of tourists. Possible sightings include the black-faced spoonbill and the cotton pygmy goose. Vân Long is also one of the last wild refuges of the endangered Delacour’s langur.
Fun Facts: Ninh Binh was actually the capital of Vietnam for three significant dynasties throughout the 10th and 11th centuries.
Optional Activities: Cycle hire, Hang Mua caves, Vân Long boat cruise
Leaving Ninh Binh after breakfast, transfer to the Gulf of Tonkin and the breath-taking scenery of Halong Bay. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the most visually impressive landscapes in South East Asia, Halong Bay is the setting for your overnight cruise amongst amazing karst scenery, deep blue grottoes and floating villages.
Check-in for your cruise around midday, enjoy a welcome drink and get settled into your cabin. All of your meals will be provided during your time on the boat. After setting sail, visit Sung Sot Cave to explore stalactite and stalagmite formations then cruise to Luon Bay to enjoy a bamboo boat ride or kayaking (optional). In the evening watch the sun go down and enjoy a cookery demonstration on deck before a memorable dinner and a late-night squid fishing trip. An amazing day on the water!
Fun Facts: The name Ha Long means "descending dragon". According to local legend, the gods sent a family of dragons as protectors of the land. This family of dragons began spitting out jewels and jade which turned into the islands and islets dotting the bay.
Included Activities: Sung Sot Cave visit, bamboo boat ride, cookery demonstration, squid fishing
Optional Activities: Kayaking
Wake up to a beautiful sunrise over the bay before some calming tai chi on deck, with the sun peeking through the mountains. After a light breakfast, sail to Titov island where you can enjoy swimming or snorkelling amongst the rich marine life or if you are feeling a bit more energetic, hike up to the viewpoint for sublime views of peacock-green peaks in an ocean of pale jade. Enjoy a full meal as you sail back to shore.
From Halong Bay it is a 3-hour journey back to Hanoi where you will board the Reunification Express overnight sleeper train to Hue. Travel in soft sleeper class with all bedding provided. Additional berths can be purchased if necessary, so a family of five, for example, can be arranged over two private cabins. Watch the world go by as you slowly make your way south passing banana trees and emerald paddy fields worked by solitary farmers in conical bamboo hats.
Fun Facts: Formerly called Cat Nang Island, Titov Island is now named after the Russian Cosmonaut Gherman Titov. Titov visited Halong Bay in 1962, months after becoming the second man to orbit the Earth.
Included Activities: Tai chi, Titov Island visit – swimming or snorkelling
Pronounced ‘hway’, this deeply evocative capital of the Nguyen emperors still resonates with the glories of imperial Vietnam. At its heart, are the complex of palaces once occupied by the last-royal dynasty and the Perfume River adding an air of mystique and romanticism.
After disembarking from your overnight train, we would suggest dropping your bags at the hotel before heading to the Old Citadel. Explore impressive gates adorned with vibrant mosaics, expansive squares and ancient temples, courts & pavilions. The complex has around 140 buildings so we would suggest choosing wisely. Afterwards, we would recommend taking a dragon boat cruise along the Perfume River, stopping at the Thien Mu Pagoda built in 1601 in honour of the sacred Celestial Lady. You may also like to explore one of many grandiose burial sights dedicated to Minh Mang, Khai Dinh or Tu Duc with their elaborate architectural styles and giant stone guardians.
Later today, you could join a Vietnamese kite making class or explore the local market, the perfect spot to experience local life over Bun Bo Hue (spicy noodle soup). At sunset we would recommend heading out to Tam Giang Lagoon where you could enjoy a slow boat tour with a local and go net fishing with them.
Fun Facts: Hue means "Harmony" in Vietnamese.
Optional Activities: Kite lesson, dragon boat cruise
You have the full morning to continue exploring Hue. Possible options include participating in a ‘Kinh Van An’ martial arts lesson, based upon defence techniques from a tiger, cobra and bird or you could cycle out of town to the picturesque Tombs of the Emperors.
Late morning, you will be picked up for your memorable transfer from Hue to Hoi An. Along the way spend time at Lang Co beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Vietnam. We would advise having lunch here at one of the authentic seafood restaurants. Next, traverse the spectacular Hai Van Pass, popularised by Top Gear who called it "a deserted ribbon of perfection". You will then have the opportunity to visit the Cham Sculpture Museum in Da Nang before stopping to cool off at My Khe Beach. Your final stop will be the beautiful Marble Mountains which consist of five craggy outcrops topped with pagodas. Each mountain is named after the natural element it is said to represent.
Hoi An will be your base for the next two nights.
Fun Facts: Kinh Van An martial arts was founded and practised by the Royal Guards dating back to the Nguyen Dynasty.
Included Activities: Visit to Lang Co & My Khe beaches, Cham Sculpture museum, Marble Mountains
Optional Activities: Martial arts lesson, cycle hire
During its halcyon days, between the 16th and 19th centuries, Hoi An was one of the busiest trading outposts in South East Asia. Traders from Japan, Europe and China came seeking silk, precious metals, gems and tea. Hoi An has long since slipped into a state of graceful dishevelment; purple bougainvillea bloom in abandoned merchant warehouses and wired birdcages hang from the branches of almond trees. There are eclectic reminders of cosmopolitanism; Japanese arched bridges, French mahogany shutters and Chinese pagodas, juxtaposed against riotous confections of circular-tiled roofs and mustard-yellow adobe walls. It is the Orient imagined in Graham Greene novels and is by far Vietnam’s most atmospheric town.
Today, we would suggest an early morning visit to Hoi An's fish market which is a chaotic but memorable experience. Afterwards we would recommend joining one of the free cycle tours run by Vietnamese students who need to practice their English. Cycle through paddy fields, visit a carpentry village and make rice paper at a local family home. Later today you might like to join a cookery class or visit one of Hoi An’s famous tailor shops who, in no time at all, can whip up exquisitely crafted made-to-measure clothes. End your day wandering the street of the Old Town under a magical canopy of Chinese lanterns.
Fun Facts: Lanterns are lit every night after the sun has sunk in Hoi An.
Optional Activities: Cycle tour, cookery class
This morning you might like to take a leisurely sampan ride on the Thu Bon River, before crossing the Japanese Covered Bridge on foot. There are also opportunities to join a lantern making workshop led by Vietnamese artisans. Your lanterns will be foldable making them the perfect souvenir from your trip.
In the afternoon, transfer to Danang Airport for your short flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is the perfect representation of old meets new, with colonial French architecture juxtaposed with whizzing motorbikes and bustling markets, shiny skyscrapers and age-old temples. It is a place where chaos prevails 24 hours a day. After settling into your hotel, we would recommend heading to Ben Thanh Market, a labyrinth of stalls selling fabulous ‘fakes’ and excellent street food. Grab a Bánh Mì, (Vietnamese sandwich) and wash it down with a weasel poo coffee if you dare!
Fun Facts: Weasels always chose the best coffee berries to eat and pretty much swallow them whole. This is the way weasel poo coffee is made…
Optional Activities: Lantern workshop, sampan boat ride
Today we would recommend a visit to the infamous Cu Chi tunnels, an extensive labyrinth of underground tunnels stretching all the way to the Cambodian border. Initial construction began in 1948 by the Viet Minh during the war against the French but the tunnels were later expanded during the Vietnam War, when they served as an underground command base for 10,000 Viet Cong troops. The complicated tunnel structure consisted of numerous trenches, bunkers, booby traps and bomb shelters where the soldiers cooked, ate, slept and worked. There were also hospitals, theatres, schools and kitchens, all built into this extraordinary system. We would recommend visiting the Ben Duoc section of the tunnels but please bear in mind that the tunnels are narrow and can be quite claustrophobic.
If you have time when you return to the city, we would recommend a visit to the powerful War Remnants Museum. The displays on show can be very graphic so please consider whether this is suitable for your children. We would suggest spending your evening enjoying another water puppet show or enjoying some fabulous local delicacies.
Fun Facts: During the Vietnam War, American soap and uniforms were stolen for the purpose of diverting sniffer dogs away from the entrance to the tunnels.
Optional Activities: Cu Chi tunnels, water puppet show
Your final day will be spent taking a tour of the Mekong Delta; a tangled mass of tributaries, orchards and swamplands crisscrossing the lowlands of southern Vietnam. The Mekong Delta is the rice bowl of Vietnam, a place of Eden-like abundance where coconut palms, fruit trees and sugar-cane groves bend double under the weight of their bounty. This area contains so many quintessential images of Vietnam; children riding on the backs of water buffalo; conical-hatted rice workers in the paddy fields; markets overflowing with super-sized fruit; Khmer monks praying under crumbling pagodas.
Explore the area by boat, tuk-tuk and bicycle, visit a coconut farm, browse the local markets, enjoy lunch at a local homestay before hopping on a sampan to explore the narrow waterways in the heart of the delta. A memorable way to spend your final day in this fabulous country.
In the evening, you might like to check out a performance at the beautiful Saigon Opera House.
Fun Facts: To the Vietnamese, the Mekong region is known as Cuu Long or “Nine Dragons”, a reference to the nine tributaries of the river.
Included Activities: Mekong delta tour
Optional Activities: War remnants museum, Saigon opera house
Transfer to the airport for your flight home to the UK. On your journey home, reflect on all the amazing things that you have experienced as a family over the last 14 days. Tạm biệt Vietnam!
If you would like to extend your stay in Vietnam with some relaxing time on the beach, we would recommend either Phu Quoc Island or Lang Co beach. Please contact us for details.
Wandering Tribe has travelled to all of the destinations that we feature and we like nothing better than talking about them. If you would like further information about these tours or a tailor-made quote then please contact us on 07392 742333. Alternatively you can fill in the contact form and we will endeavour to get back to you as soon as possible.