We’re constantly evaluating what makes a truly satisfying trip - the kind where you’ve seen and done plenty you’ve always wanted to and return relaxed and refreshed. Where you feel you’ve gotten under the skin of a country, rather than merely scratched the surface. Although we understand the temptation to cram as much as possible into one visit, we also know that it really pays to keep things slow. In fact, that’s one of our core values, and Vietnam is an ideal place to apply it.
Arresting cities and towns, like Hanoi and Hoi An, are obvious candidates for strolling, people-watching, or just whiling away an afternoon in a cool bar or street-side restaurant, without constantly feeling compelled to move on to the next thing on the list. We defy you not to fully unwind while drifting between the limestone karsts of Bai Tu Long or Lan Ha Bay on a traditional-style junk boat, or reclining on the soft sands of one of Vietnam’s secluded central beaches.
A leisurely pace means ample time to enjoy some of Vietnam’s more unusual, stylish and luxurious hotels, which offer so much more than just somewhere to lay your head. Almost everywhere in Vietnam is well worth spending a few extra nights getting to know. A train journey on the famous Reunification Express line is another great way to slow your pace, and shorter journeys can feel even more relaxing - this is a holiday, after all, not an exercise in endurance! If keeping your travels slow sounds good, let us know and we’ll get creative...
At first glance, Hanoi doesn’t look like a city which naturally lends itself to taking things slowly! Well known for its bustling Old Quarter, vibrant street life and chaotic motorbike traffic, there’s always something different to explore. Visit historic sites such as Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, the Temple of Literature, the One Pillar Pagoda, and the elegant architecture of the French Quarter, alongside contemporary bars, restaurants and galleries. In all the buzz, there’s tranquility to be found if you choose to slow down.
Spend leisurely hours joining the locals for morning or evening strolls around Hoan Kiem Lake (very much the heart of the city) or soaking up West Lake’s general air of affluence. Dedicate a day to sampling the local street food and craft beers, safe in the knowledge that there’s no rush and you can savour each mouthful. Our favourite properties offer stylish sanctuaries and rooftop bars, where you can relax above the crowds without forgoing any of the city’s vibrant atmosphere.
Nothing sounds more relaxing than boarding a traditional-style junk boat and cruising through the seas of the Halong Bay region: one of Asia’s most famous natural wonders. Although Halong Bay itself is no longer the peaceful idyll it once was, the dream of getting out onto the region’s waters - and gazing up at the magnificent karst rock formations that tower over them - is very much alive.
Head just a little further around the coast to Lan Ha Bay, south of its more famous sister, and the crowds of tourist boats begin to thin out, leaving you to enjoy the evocative scenery in relative peace. Sail to Lan Ha aboard the spacious and stylish Peony Cruises vessel and get up close to the natural wonders of the karst rock formations, which look even more impressive from water level, before exploring some of the caves by kayak. For those who are fond of life on the water, a two night cruise offers plenty of time to sit back, breathe deep and take it all in.
Take time to linger in the increasingly popular, and relentlessly charming, port town of Hoi An. It’s almost impossible to rush when every few steps through the UNESCO-listed Ancient Town heralds architectural treasures, such as the ancient Japanese Covered Bridge, elaborate temples, and perfectly preserved merchant's houses. There are shops selling curios and antiques, and tailors showcasing elaborately crafted (yet extremely reasonably priced) suits, alongside cafes and restaurants serving everything from local specialities to elaborate fusion menus.
Hoi An can easily be explored at your own pace, with guides reserved for trips further afield, such as to the archaeological site of My Son and the semi-tropical rainforest of Bach Ma National Park. One quintessential Hoi An experience to take your time over is a local cookery lesson, where you can learn how to properly recreate some of your favourite Vietnamese dishes. When your feet are tired of wandering, return to the serenity of the nearby Hoi An Chic boutique hotel to relax amidst the rice fields: a real ‘best of both worlds’ option.
Take a 6-hour train journey south from Danang, aboard the iconic Reunification Express, and you’ll disembark within splashing distance of some of Vietnam’s finest beaches. Mile after mile of pristine sands stretch out from Quy Nhon, a town still relatively unknown to most travellers. Set on a secluded peninsula, and designed to reflect the area's rich history and culture, the Zannier Bai San Ho’s private villas look out over the surrounding paddy fields, dramatic hilltops, and powdery white sands. At this point you might, understandably, have slowed down to a complete stop! However, if you still have the inclination to explore, you can go snorkelling on the virtually untouched coral reef, within swimming distance of the shore; tour the bay by catamaran; take a trip with a local fisherman; or trek along a choice of winding trails.
After your blissful beach stay, head on towards the bright lights of Vietnam’s southern powerhouse: Ho Chi Minh City. Hang on to those laid-back coastal vibes by basing yourself just outside of the city at somewhere like Villa Song, perched on the banks of the Saigon River. This tranquil home-from-home has a relaxed, French-Colonial style with a very different feel to the city's sparkling new high rises. Just 15-minutes by boat takes you to the delights of the city centre, where our guides will show you a network of bustling alleyways surrounded by wide, tree lined streets and neoclassical architecture - a legacy of its time under French rule - that’s now towered over by modern skyscrapers. Stay downtown to explore the city's temping restaurant scene, or return to Villa Song for a low-key evening at the in-house riverside bistro.
More train travel and less flights?
It’s absolutely possible. In fact the Reunification Express runs the entire length of this trip, meaning that you can easily remove the need for one or both of the domestic flights currently listed.
The guide price of £2,890US$3,290 is a per person price (not including international flights) staying 2 people staying 2 nights in Hanoi, 2 nights on Lan Ha Bay, 3 nights in Hoi An and 3 on the beaches of Quy Nhon to the south, and finally 2 nights in Ho Chi Minh City; all in our favourite mid-range hotels other than a deluxe resort in Quy Nhon.
How yours looks is up to you, our tailor-made specialists work with you to create your perfect journey.
Embark on a journey through Vietnam’s less-visited north - lush rolling hills, remote villages and friendly locals, with a side of morning noodles in Hanoi.