South Vietnam Itinerary: Where to go?
South Vietnam, where to see the beauty of modernity, excitement, yet tranquility and mystery. It is home to the most vibrant and largest metropolis of Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), a region of lush rice fields and tropical fruits – Mekong Delta and many untouched tropical beaches on paradise island – Phu Quoc. Other than that, historical landmarks, diverse culture, meandering waterways, floating markets and friendly local people… are what you can experience here. Let’s explore highlights of South Vietnam through Vietnam Travel’s suggested following itinerary which help you plan your Vietnam trip perfectly.
Table of Contents
1. Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), 1-2 days
Being the Vietnam’s largest and most exciting metropolis with a prominent history going back hundreds of years, Saigon is very hectic, crowded, noisy, yet historic and interesting. Thanks to the country’s largest international airport – Tan Son Nhat, this city is usually a starting point of Southern Vietnam journey. You should spend a day to visit all key sites in the city such as War Remnants Museum, former Presidential Palace, Saigon Municipal Opera House, Notre Dame Cathedral and Old Post Office… If you are into learning about local daily life and bustling atmosphere, don’t forget to visit China Town (also called Cho Lon) and Ben Thanh Market for modern fashions, jewelry, CDs, luggage, and an array of local products. Fine Art Museum is also a must-see place, located in a beautiful colonial house combining French and Chinese styles; it presents a large collection of fine artworks from paintings to historical objects.
It is recommended to explore a famous historic monument – Cu Chi Tunnels on the second day, just 70km from Saigon city center. Cu Chi Tunnels was used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War (or “American War” as it’s referred to here) as protection against American air raids. Those inclined are invited to crawl through selections of the tunnels to better understand what life was like for the Vietnamese soldiers during wartime. This tour just takes you a half day, so you can combine this day with a cooking class in Saigon to know more about Vietnamese cuisine. At night, you can taste some traditional foods of Saigon and wander around Bui Vien Walking Street with a lot of bars and nightclubs to discover the city’s nightlife.
2. Dalat, 2-3 days
Just one hour flight from Saigon, you reach Dalat where you can feel 4 seasons in a day. This small city is an ideal escape from the heat of Saigon nearby and features on a series of green pine-covered hills, a silent small lake in the center, a set of flower gardens and French-style architecture.
Some famous places you cannot leave off when visiting Da Lat are Thien Vien Truc Lam – the largest Zen Monastery of Vietnam, Tuyen Lam Lake, the art deco former summer residence of Bao Dai – the last Emperor of Vietnam, Lat village – home to a number of distinct ethnic minority groups with varying traditions and beliefs… There is a big market centrally located where you can find a lot of local specialties and see the local’s daily life in a slow pace, in contrast with busy life in big cities.
3. Ben Tre/ My Tho Day Trip
From Saigon, you can take a day trip to My Tho or nearby Ben Tre with 2 hour driving. You have chance to visit Vinh Trang Pagoda, an ancient Southern gem with the combination of Asian and European architecture including Renaissance period and Romanesque. Take a boat trip on Mekong river for a glimpse at the delta scenery, visit fruit orchards, coconut groves, traditional workshops, and home-made products are must-do activities here to experience the unique lifestyle of the Mekong Delta. Besides, you may want to explore Vietnam’s “rice bowl” by cycling through the lush countryside and peaceful villages, meet the local people working on their water rice fields and learn about their local life.
4. Can Tho, 1 night
Lying by the mighty Hau River, the southernmost tributary of the mother river Mekong, Can Tho is a delightful gateway to Mekong Delta. It is well-known for the busy floating market, called Cai Rang. The market begins in early morning, from 5am until midday but it is best to be here before 8am to see the busiest moments of the market on a motorized boat, a popular vehicle of Mekong Delta region. You then have chance to visit famous fruit orchards and sample the fresh, exotic fruit, venture deeper into the country-side, passing traditional houses made of wood and palm leaves as you observe the activities of the local people.
You can spend this afternoon to discover unknown sights of interest and dive into Can Tho’s exciting historic turns such as Can Tho Grand Prison, Quang Duc Pagoda – a new Khmer temple, the Ancient House of Binh Thuy to see how the upper-class of the Mekong Delta lived in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
From Can Tho, you can drive to Chau Doc continuing your journey or back to Saigon.
5. Chau Doc, 1 night
Chau Doc is located in the northwest part of the Mekong Delta, close to the river border of Vietnam and Cambodia, about 250km west of Saigon and 120km from Can Tho. This little town is known for its beautiful scenery, cultural diversity and a transit point to Cambodia via Vinh Xuong river border crossing and Tinh Bien international border gate.
Tourists who continue the trip to Phnom Penh should spend at least one night in Chau Doc. A day in Chau Doc will give you a chance to visit some famous attractions here including Sam Mountain – an important pilgrimage site, Tra Su Cajuput Forest – a sanctuary of flora and fauna, Forbidden Mountain… The diverse cuisine mixing of Khmer and Vietnamese is what you should not miss when coming here. Some specialties are beef sausage, steamed palm sugar rice cake, Indica salad…
6. Phu Quoc Island, 3 – 7 days
Phu Quoc is often chosen to be the ending point for relaxation after a long journey throughout Vietnam. The island is famous for its stunning beaches, untouched natural environment, the easy going and relaxed atmosphere and friendly locals. You can either lie on the beach, chill out at your resort or take part in a lot of interesting activities here such as swimming, sun bathing, boat-sailing, snorkeling, scuba-diving, etc. For those who are looking for something more adventurous, a walk along a park trail or motorbike ride in Phu Quoc National Park will give you memorable experience.
Phu Quoc Island can be reached by speedboat in around 2-3 hours from the towns of Ha Tien and Rach Gia in the Mekong Delta, or by direct flight from Can Tho or Ho Chi Minh City. It is suggested to book flight/ speedboat ticket and accommodation well in advance during peak periods, from November to April.
To get some ideas about South Vietnam Itinerary, let check out our following sample tours:
Biking Mekong Delta – Snorkeling Phu Quoc – 6 days: Saigon – Mekong Delta – Can Tho – Chau Doc – Phu Quoc Island
Mekong Delta Excursion – 3 days: Saigon – Mekong Delta – Can Tho
Saigon to Phu Quoc via Mekong Delta – 7 days: Saigon – Mekong Delta – Can Tho – Rach Gia – Phu Quoc Island
Saigon Discovery and Beach Relaxation – 6 days: Saigon – Cu Chi Tunnels – Mui Ne
Southern Flavors – 6 days: Saigon – Cu Chi Tunnels – Mekong Delta – Can Tho
Please be noted that our tours are private and customized based on travelers’ interests and budget, contact us for further information and assistance.