Martin's Countryside Explorer
Our Destination Specialists are experts at tailoring bespoke itineraries just for you, but what would their own perfect holiday look like? We asked Vietnam Specialist Martin what he’d include in his own ideal trip, and the result is Countryside Explorer. Designed to take you walking and cycling off the beaten track, but without travelling long distances, this is a gentle way to immerse yourself in rural Vietnam’s patient pace of life.
At a glance
- Weave through Hanoi’s streets on the back of a Vespa
- Wander between houses to a railway track market
- Slurp fragrant pho in an atmospheric Old Quarter cafe
- Immerse yourself in rural village culture
- Cycle along picturesque paths around Lake Lak
- Cruise by sampan to atmospheric caves
- Swim in refreshing waterfall pools
- Treat yourself to a tailor-made suit in Hoi An
- Relax on the warm sands of Cua Dai beach
Hanoi - 2 nights
Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, ranks amongst the most visually stunning cities in the world. Streets full of greenery wind between grand buildings, spacious parks, museums, temples, markets and shops, unifying the town’s many elements. Elegant pagodas rise above the infamously chaotic traffic below, exemplifying the two extremes of Hanoi’s character. Head into the centre for a night-time food tour, meeting vendors and tasting an array of northern Vietnamese specialities, cycle around the city’s peaceful lakeside, stop in the shade of historic monuments, and join the locals for a late night beer.
Day 1 - Arrive Hanoi, evening Vespa tour
On arrival in Vietnam, you'll be met by your private guide, who will accompany you to your hotel.
Welcome to Selective Asia! This level of personal service (such as private transfers, private tours etc) is what you can expect throughout your trip. A few services (eg boat cruises) will be shared, but we'll always make sure you're aware of these.
Your day will be at leisure until your evening tour with a difference - riding pillion on the back of a Vespa, seeing where the locals hang out, and trying some of the city’s famously top-notch food. After a rooftop drink overlooking Hanoi Cathedral, hop on the back of the scooter and weave through the streets, soaking up the atmosphere of Hanoi after dark. Try pho cuon rice noodle rolls near West Lake, and see Hanoi’s picturesque, tree lined avenues. Drive past the magical Tran Quoc pagoda, illuminated against the twilight, and stop at a restaurant specialising in delicious cha ca fish. Stretch your legs in Ba Dinh square as you watch the changing of the guards. Finish the evening with a drink at one of the city’s chic bars, and kick back to some live music.
Day 2 - Railway tracks walk & city tour
Soak up the early morning bustle in Hanoi's narrow maze of streets as you weave your way to the railway track that runs between the houses, and watch an extraordinary event: twice each day, the residents efficiently move their market stalls, playing children and shop displays away from the track, to let a speeding train pass by, so close it brushes the shopfronts and houses! Follow the track past Hanoi’s impressive main station and stop for coffee overlooking the river, before taking a short local train journey to Long Bien station. In the afternoon your touring continues with some of Hanoi’s classic sites, such as Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, the Temple of Literature or One Pillar Pagoda, or perhaps taking a stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake.
Click to discover more...
Ky Son Village - 2 nights
Parts of the tiny sleepy Ky Son Village (70km to the west of Hanoi, and not to be confused with Ky Son District further south) are over 200 years old. Arriving here feels like stepping straight into Vietnam’s rural history. With its traditionally carved wooden houses dotted along dusty farm roads, between ponds of lotus blossom and peaceful rice fields, the village has been recognised as a National Cultural Historical Relic. Take the opportunity to chat with locals, who are always willing to share knowledge about their culture and traditional livelihoods, and enjoy a homestay in Moon Garden - one of the detached, traditional style houses in the grounds of a family home - to gain a hands-on insight into this timeless, rural way of life.
Day 3 - Arrive Ky Son Village homestay, cycle trail
Head off early for Ky Son Village, and arrive in time to enjoy a stroll around the village, soaking up the traditional North Vietnamese culture and lifestyle, before joining your host to help prepare lunch. Take your pick of bike routes, ranging from 6-12 km along local trails, stopping to enjoy the impressive panoramas, pick herbs and vegetables, visit temples, chat with locals, and visit the village market. Return to the house in time for a relaxing herbal bath and a home cooked meal.
Day 4 - Yi Jin Jing exercise, village stroll, local bike ride
As soon as you’ve downed your first cuppa of the day, join in with some traditional Yi Jin Jing exercises to wake up body and mind. Stroll around Ky Son Village to the bee house, the kindergarten and the local market. You can choose to help the farmers with a spot of ploughing, marking rice beds, or harvesting, or take part in a cookery class. Unwind with a traditional herbal hand massage after lunch, then take time to chat with your host family and pick up a few handy Vietnamese phrases. Embark upon an afternoon bike ride along local paths, stopping to chat with villagers you meet along the way.
Click to discover more...
Mai Chau - 2 nights
A couple of hours drive south and tucked between two steep cliffs sits the beautiful Mai Chau valley. This corner of rural Vietnam is still untroubled by mass tourism, and is a place where - give or take the occasional smartphone - life continues much as it has for hundreds of years. Depending on the season, you’ll find the landscape awash with waves of vivid green rice paddies that turn to soft gold just before harvest. Work your legs with a cycle through the rolling hills, stay in a traditional lodge, and learn more about the region’s enduring traditions.
Day 5 - Drive to Mai Chau, traditional dance
Keep your camera at the ready as you drive into the rural landscape around Mai Chau to enjoy some light trekking, find local villages, explore caves, or simply relax in one of the most picturesque regions in Vietnam. If there’s time, work up an appetite with a cycle between the rolling hills and traditional stilt-house settlements, before returning to the lodge for dinner and a traditional dance performance by members of the local Thái tribe.
Day 6 - Pu Luong Nature Reserve trek
Pu Luong Nature Reserve is a well kept secret, well off the traditional tourist trail. Explore its forested hillsides and rice paddies on foot, soaking up the atmosphere of enduring tradition, and witnessing the routines of daily life in local Thái and Muong tribal communities. Trek along the Cham Stream, passing the region’s remarkable wooden water wheels, which are still used for irrigation, before driving back to Mai Chau with time to freshen up before dinner.
Click to discover more...
Ninh Binh - 2 nights
Ninh Binh city is a somewhat unremarkable place in itself - just a sleepy, provincial town along the banks of a quiet river - but it makes a convenient base from which to explore the dramatic landscape of lakes, rivers, caves and limestone karsts in the wider region (also called Ninh Binh) which is often referred to as ‘Halong on land’.
Day 7 - Sampan cruise and cave exploration
After a morning’s journey east, you’ll get to Ninh Binh in perfect time to head to the Ben Dang River and board a sampan for an afternoon cruise. Disembark to explore the atmospheric grottos of Thien Ha Cave, both on foot and by boat along underground waterways, then cruise a little further by sampan to the But Cave for more subterranean exploration.
Day 8 - Ninh Binh cycle, hands-on farming, wetlands sampan cruise
Cycle around the outskirts of Ninh Binh, between paddy fields, pagodas and small hamlets, and pause at a morning market. Once in Vuon Thi village, you’ll meet your hosts for the day. This local family will, along with your guide, help you participate in a ‘hands on’ morning, learning their daily routines. Prepare lunch together, and enjoy typical rural dishes as you chat (with your guide’s help and translation!). Head into the fields to learn traditional rice cultivation and fishing techniques, before making a short journey to the Van Long River to hop aboard another sampan for a reservoir cruise through the Van Long Nature Reserve - an expanse of wetlands is home to over 70 species of birdlife including egrets, storks and kingfishers. This hidden gem is just as beautiful as the better-known Tam Coc, but with a fraction of the crowds.
Click to discover more...
Lak Lake - 3 nights
The region around Lake Lak, in Vietnam’s misty-mountained Central Highlands, is as diverse as it is beautiful, home to over 40 different ethnic groups, each with their own distinctive culture and ancient traditions. Among them are the M’Nong communities, many of whom still live in traditional longhouses on stilts and practice a matriarchal, communal lifestyle, as they have done for generations.
Day 9 - Buon Ma Thuot, Lak Tented Camp
Start out early for your flight south to Buon Ma Thuot, where you’ll connect with our contact from Lak Tented Camp and travel together to the shores of Lak Lake. Hop on a boat across the water to the camp itself, and settle in to your cosy pod, perched on stilts overlooking the landscape. The afternoon will be all yours to explore the scenic surroundings. If you’re feeling active, get boating and kayaking on the lake, or arrange a hike or bike ride. Alternatively, just relax at the camp, enjoying the feeling of remoteness, before watching a traditional gong performance over dinner.
Day 10 - Village visits, rural wanderings
Take a day to explore the villages surrounding Lak Lake at your own pace. Spend time in M’Nong minority communities, chatting with the local people, and discover their unique traditions.
Day 11 - Bim Bip waterfall trek, organic farm visit, cooking demonstration
You’ll journey to Yang Tao village at the foot of the imposing Chu Yang Sin Mountain to begin today’s trek. As you follow the river upstream, the fields of crops gradually give way to jungle foliage, and your guide will point out the diverse flora and fauna along the path, until you arrive at the hidden Bim Bip waterfall. Swim in the refreshing pools, enjoy a picnic lunch, and take time to soak up the tranquil surroundings. Make an afternoon visit the camp’s organic farm, then watch that homegrown produce used in a cooking demonstration, and enjoy the delicious dishes for yourself at dinner in the Y Lak restaurant.
Click to discover more...
Hoi An - 3 nights
Hoi An, once one of Asia’s most significant ports, has retained its eclectic ambience despite centuries of weather, war and modern development. Sample the city’s street food, find your favourite spot for Vietnamese cà phê, and dine in style at the many restaurants showcasing the town’s famous cuisine. Wander across the ancient Japanese Covered Bridge, explore former merchants’ homes, and buy silks, handicrafts, antiques, and immaculate tailored suits (with an astonishing 24 hr turnaround!) at the colourful shops and markets. Just a short distance from the town centre is Cua Dai Beach, which has started to recover following serious erosion over the years, and remains popular with both locals and visitors for its soft sands, warm sea and tempting seafood stalls.
Day 12 - Boat ride on Lake Lak, journey to Hoi An
Start the day with a boat ride on Lak Lake as the sun rises, to watch the fishermen going about their daily work and the surrounding villages coming to life - a memorable way to say farewell to this beautiful area. Spend the morning enjoying the scenic surroundings, before heading back to Buon Ma Thuot airport for your flight to Danang and onward journey to Hoi An. In recent years Hoi An, like nearby Danang, has lost much of its previous tranquillity - this tiny town now experiences an unprecedented number of visitors, especially in the evenings, with tourists keen to sample the famous dining opportunities - but it is a totally unique place, with its own character, and still a must for any first-time visitor to Vietnam.
Days 13 & 14 - Relax in Hoi An
Take time to enjoy a couple of days experiencing Hoi An at your own pace, eating plenty of tasty food, chilling out on the nearby beaches, and even perhaps treating yourself to one of those super-fast bespoke suits...
Day 15 - Depart Hoi An
Transfer to Danang airport for your onward flight.
Click to discover more...
We only provide privately guided holidays - meaning that you will not be expected to share guides or transport for the duration of your visit. You can also start on any day you choose.
Please click on the hotel category buttons below to view hotel details. These are recommended properties only - we have many alternative options for you to choose from if you would prefer. You can mix hotel categories throughout your holiday.
|Hotel class||Price per person (based on total # travelling)|
|2 persons||3 - 4||5 - 6|
Essence HotelA firm favourite with the Selective Asia team (and past clients), The Essence Hotel enjoys a superb location in the centre of Hanoi's old quarter, just 10 minutes from serene Hoan Kiem Lake... See more
Moon Garden HomestaySet in the ancient village of Ky Son, the Moon Garden Guesthouse sits somewhere between a traditional homestay and upmarket guesthouse in truth... See more
Mai Chau Eco LodgeMai Chau is a beautifully rural, tranquil valley just under a hundred miles from Hanoi, and its backdrop of paddy fields and emerald mountains offers total respite from urban bustle... See more
Surrounded by calm lotus ponds and rice fields between Hoa Lu’s misty mountains, the Aravinda Resort is a chic and peaceful retreat...See more
Lak Tented CampLooking out over the smooth surface of the lake to the forested mountainside beyond, Lak Tented camp radiates an air of welcoming serenity… See more
Boutique Hoi An ResortThe Boutique Hoi An Resort enjoys a superb location, directly on Cua Dai Beach and just a five minute drive from Hoi An's delightful Old Town. Couple this with stylish accommodation and superb service levels and it’s easy to see why... See more
Solo travellers are always welcome - please contact us for a tailored quote.
These prices are shown in GBPUSD.
Selective Asia is a UK-registered company, but our client-base spans the globe, so we bank in both GBP and USD and can therefore provide a fixed price in either currency.
We also have payment facilities in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the EU, and can typically offer better-than-bank exchange rates on the date of payment in these currencies (against a booking priced in GBP).
The important stuffPlease note: During high season periods (such as Christmas and New Year) hotels often levy a surcharge and these are not included in the above prices. Your consultant will be happy to advise you of these.
- English speaking, local guide
- All accommodation listed
- Land transportation by private air-conditioned vehicles
- Any domestic flights listed (unless marked otherwise)
- All admission fees at attractions, temples and activities as mentioned in the itinerary
- All meals listed
- International flight reconfirmation.
- Flights to/from Asia. We are an ATOL bonded operator and can arrange flights for all our clients, regardless of whether you are departing from the UK or from almost any other worldwide destination.
- Entry visas
- International airport departure taxes
- Any meals not listed in the itinerary
- Drinks, other than water on activity days
- Personal expenses (laundry, telephone, drinks, tip...)
- Travel insurance
- All other services not listed in 'inclusive'
Please noteAll prices are correct at the time of publishing. They are liable to change and can only be confirmed upon submitting an enquiry.
FlightsWe will arrange all internal flights used within our holiday itineraries. We can also arrange discounted flights from all UK airports to Asia and we are a fully bonded ATOL operator. If you would like a quote for your international flights then please complete the required section on the enquiry form.
VisaYou may require a visa to enter Vietnam. Your consultant will be happy to advise you on visa requirements.
PassportPlease ensure that you have a valid passport with at least 6 months validity remaining after your return date. You will also need at least one blank page for each of the countries you are visiting.
InsuranceYou will require a comprehensive travel insurance that covers you for medical costs associated with hospitalisation, emergency travel and repatriation back to your home country. We offer our customers a specially discounted insurance policy, ideally suited to the needs that a trip such as this creates. Tick the insurance box in the enquiry form and we will send you a quote to suit your needs.
Vaccinations and Malaria PreventionYou will undoubtedly require vaccinations for your visit to Asia. Please consult your doctor or a vaccination clinic for the most up-to-date advice. They will also be able to advise you of the most suitable anti-malarial medication if required. It is important that you do this well in advance of your departure date.
Booking ProcedureOnly once you are completely happy with any holiday itinerary we create for you will we ask for a payment. In order that we can secure availability for your booking we would typically require a deposit of 20%.
Travelling ResponsiblyWe care about the places and the communities that you will travel through. It is important to us that we travel as responsibly as possible throughout Asia and that we are giving something back to the regions and the people that make these journeys so special. Full details on our approach to responsible travel can be found on a dedicated section of this website.
Our tailor-made service costs you no extra
This itinerary is designed to work straight off the peg, but we'll happily tailor it until it's a perfect fit for you, to ensure we’re making the absolute best of your time and funds. All you need to do is ask...
Your own private guides & drivers
You'll typically have your own private guides & drivers throughout your trip. When you will be sharing a service (eg a boat cruise) with others, we'll always let you know.