Known for its lush landscapes, delicious pho and rich history, fascinating Vietnam is a country bursting with experiences to thrill kids. Make it easy on yourself with our family guide from north to south in 11 wonder-packed days, any time of year.
Day 1-4: Hanoi in North Vietnam
Arrive in Vietnam and settle into your hotel: the beautiful French-colonial style Sofitel Legend Metropole located in the heart of Hanoi, minutes from the vibrant Old Quarter. The hotel makes a perfect base from which to explore Hanoi’s energy, culture and attractions. So you might want to spend your first couple of days relaxing by the pool and discovering the city gently at your own pace.
While you’re here there are various experiences to give you a greater understanding of the country and culture.
Take a private tour of Hanoi with kids to hear tales of the city’s colourful history and learn about the complex Vietnam War from a former US soldier who was deployed here in the 1970s. Then make a visit to the mausoleum of President Ho Chi Minh where his embalmed body is interred. You can also see his stilted house, built in 1958 to resemble a traditional village home.
Another must-do with older kids is Hoa Lo Prison. This was where political prisoners of the French were detained in the late 19th century, although it’s better known in more recent times as the ‘Hanoi Hilton’, a nickname given to it by American POW imprisoned here during the Vietnam war.
Day 4: Ha Long Bay
Next stop is Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for the dramatic limestone karst which rise up from its emerald waters.
Here, you’ll board a luxury vessel for your overnight cruise through the bay.
A classic wooden junk designed for a personalised experience, the Paradise Sails is the perfect blend of chic, modern styling and traditional Vietnamese detail.
Its warm, wooden interior exudes charm without skimping on comfort. So you’ll find a sophisticated dining room featuring tailored menus and a wide choice of drinks. The spacious sundeck comes complete with sunbeds, and comfortable lounge areas guarantee spectacular views of Ha Long Bay and its stunning karst.
Ha Long Bay is a 2 hour, 40 minute drive east of Hanoi.
Day 5-6: Imperial City of Hue
Spend the morning kayaking round Ha Long Bay’s uninhabited islands and mysterious caves, before heading back to Hanoi. From Hanoi, take a short flight south to the Imperial City of Hue on the banks of the Perfume River.
Under the Nguyen Dynasty, which ruled between 1802 and 1945, Hue was Vietnam’s ancient capital and discovering its past glories makes for an enthralling few days.
Firstly head to the Imperial Citadel to admire the elaborate mausoleums of Emperors Tu Duc and Khai Dinh. You might also like to visit to the seven-storey Thien Mu Pagoda: the tallest religious building in Vietnam.
Relax and revive at Pilgrimage Village
Pilgrimage Village sits hidden in peaceful, tropical gardens only 20 minutes from Hue Airport. Although it’s a barefoot luxury resort which offers the perfect balance of peace and seclusion, it’s also close to many of the city’s family attractions. So you’ll be surrounded by the beauty of nature here, which brings with it a tranquillity that invites you to relax and recharge.
The luxurious Vedanā Wellness and Spa offers relaxing treatments using organic products, influenced by Buddhist philosophy. Authentic local design using handcrafted wood and marble combines with contemporary comfort in family suites. And skilfully created Vietnamese fusion is the signature at the resort’s lovely Junei Restaurant.
Exploring Hue at your own pace is a pleasure, alternatively Pilgrimage Village can arrange private visits to handicraft houses where you can watch artisans at work, and even create your very own traditional crafts to take home. This is a perfect activity for older kids.
Direct flights from Hanoi to Hue take from 1 hour, 10 minutes; there are 6 flights daily.
Day 7-9: Hoi An on Thu Bon River
Travel south to see more of rural Vietnam today. Stop at the scenic fishing village of Lang Co to watch the little boats bring in their catch. You’ll travel across the impressive Pass of Ocean Clouds, a 21 kilometre-long spur in the Annamite Range that juts into the South China Sea.
Hoi An is one of the best-preserved towns in Vietnam and its jumble of teashops, Japanese merchant houses and Chinese temples feels like a step back in time. Equally intoxicating are its colourful markets, alive with traders touting their wares.
Visit with a local guide to pick up ingredients for a private class to learn the secrets of Vietnamese cooking. Although simply spending a day getting lost in Hoi An’s cobbled streets and soaking up the atmosphere is great fun too.
Explore the fascinating countryside around Hoi An
On one of your days here, think about taking an eco-farming and fishing tour around the local countryside and rivers. You’ll learn how this area of Vietnam is cultivated as you cycle along country roads glimpsing traditional rural life and people at work. Along the way, watch out for a water buffalo ploughing paddy fields while ducks continue to swim across them: guaranteed to enchant kids.
Hoi An Eco-tour boat offers river cruises to meet and engage with local fishermen. Enjoy a hands-on experience of traditional net-fishing and then take a paddleboat trip in a Vietnamese bamboo basket boat down the waterways of a coconut palm plantation, before returning to Hoi An.
Hotel Royal Hoi An MGallery sits on the bank of Thu Bon River. As well as a perfect blend of historical charm and modernity, it’s also close to the beach, and not far from Japanese Bridge or the city centre. It really is the perfect retreat, with 120 luxurious rooms, an Art-Nouveau outdoor pool, a spa, and the first ever high-end Japanese restaurant in town.
Hoi An is a 2 hour, 40 minute drive south of Hue
Day 10-11: Ho Chi Minh City
Fly to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s largest and most energetic metropolis, formerly known as Saigon. You can visit the History Museum, Reunification Hall and the War Remnants Museum. Don’t miss a stop at Notre Dame Cathedral in the heart of the city before heading to the grand Central Post Office: designed and constructed by Gustav Eiffel.
The Park Hyatt Saigon sits on the city’s most famous square, a short walk from several popular cultural attractions, as well as the city’s shopping and entertainment district. The atmosphere here is sophisticated and elegant, and its restaurants serve both local and international food. There’s also a stunning outdoor pool which is a great treat for kids in between exploring.
Visit Cholon for the authentic side of the city
You should make time to see Cholon, aka ‘Chinatown’. This prosperous, bustling district has been a trade hub since the 17th century and it’s known for Chinese delis, historic streets, temples and pagodas. Not only is it a great place to see original architecture and witness age-old rituals, it’s where you’ll find the first traditional medicine museum in Vietnam. Most kids will enjoy learning about traditional herbs and medicine which been developed in Vietnam throughout history.
Take a cyclo and Vespa tour of Ho Chi Minh City
If you don’t mind getting up early, book a family cyclo and Vespa tour with a local guide. It usually starts with a ride through the quiet, morning streets while traffic is more sedate. It’s a great time to visit Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office, before the streets get too lively.
Your next stop is Tao Dan Park: a cherished green spaces where locals flock each day to relax and enjoy nature. Hop off your cyclo here, and have a cup of coffee while being serenaded by beautiful bird calls in a special section of the park given over to ornithologists and their prized birds. From here you will be whisked by cyclo to the memorial park dedicated to the Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Duc.
Ride round the street markets with local guides
As well as spinning you round the sights, your guide will also take you to one of the city’s best places for pho – usually a well-kept secret! Then it’s time to pick up the pace and swap your cyclo for a Vespa to ride along Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street to visit a traditional wet market: a fascinating window into local culture. You’ll then have the chance to visit a secret weapons bunker: a unique destination not usually open to travellers, before finishing your morning tour with a fragrant stroll around Ho Thi Ky Flower Market.
Finally, visit the Cu Chi Tunnels. This vast subterranean network was originally constructed by the Viet Minh in the 1940s. Used to great effect by the Viet Cong, it housed whole communities in its unbelievably narrow passages. Meet a veteran who lived in the tunnels to hear a fascinating personal account of the war.
Direct flights from Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh City take from 1 hour, 20 minutes; there are over 30 flights daily.
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