As Vietnam’s tourism industry skyrockets, many tour operators offer travel experiences that vary drastically in quality. There’s a huge number of tours and activities offered in Vietnam. This makes it almost impossible for travelers to find the hidden tour gems that really stand out.
To that end, we have handpicked 12 tours from 12 different cities that we believe represent the best city tours in Vietnam; tours that reveal the uniqueness of each city in the country.
With the exception of our own “Sights of Saigon Tour”, we have no vested interest in any of the Vietnam tour companies listed below and did not consult them when writing this blog post.
(Please click on one of the links below to jump to the city you would like to explore)
- Sapa Tour
- Ninh Binh City Tour
- Hanoi City Tour
- Hue City Tour
- Danang Area Tour
- Hoi An Tour
- Nha Trang Beach Tour
- Mui Ne Tour
- Saigon City Tour
- Dalat City Tour
- Can Tho City Tour
- Phu Quoc Island Tour
The hilly city of Sapa is built among the mountains, so the city itself is characterized by trellises, terraced gardens, and a rolling fog that is a result of its high altitude. Its rich Hmong culture, its stunning alpine beauty, and the many options for trekking tours in Sapa have been enchanting tourists for years. Sapa’s secluded location makes it feel like a sanctuary.
Fun fact: Sapa is the only city in Vietnam where you can see snow during the coldest parts of the year.
Tour: 1 Day Trek by Sapa Sisters
Price (1 day): $41/person, assuming one person. The per person price lowers the more people are in the tour group
Private tour? Yes
Who better to bring out the natural beauty of Sapa and reveal its ethnic minority culture than a tour guide who is of the Hmong ethnic minority herself? Sapa Sisters is among the best North Vietnam tours out there because it is highly professional while maintaining a local down-home feel, and because it offers treks with flexible scheduling. In other words, the company does not adhere to fixed itineraries and will not take each of their tour groups to the same places. The guides are extremely accommodating to customer requests and are comfortable with changing direction depending on what’s going on around them. This makes for an unscripted, deeply authentic experience.
- All tour guides are Hmong women. This adds a layer of local authenticity.
- Exceedingly flexible trekking itineraries.
- Reviews consistently praise kind, passionate, knowledgeable guides who usually take customers to the guide’s house for a home-cooked lunch.
- Tours that go overnight include a homestay at a local house.
- Although the terrain is not too treacherous, the guides will really take you out into the rough, past gushing streams and rustic knolls. You’ll experience the full natural beauty of Sapa.
Protip: The area around Sapa has a number of incredible natural swimming holes to which the guides will take you if you ask, so it’s a good idea to bring a bathing suit if you’re visiting in the Summer.
Ninh Binh is another city that is made incredible by the surrounding natural beauty. In fact, the lush and majestic Trang An River Complex that runs through Ninh Binh was recently adopted as a UNESCO World Heritage site and has been referred to as “Halong Bay on Land.” The city itself is also pleasingly quaint, and the locals have done an inspiring job of merging the area’s striking greenery with their urban planning. Even though it feels completely isolated, though, Ninh Binh’s geographical location means it is not too out-of-the-way; it is one of the locations featured on our list of Best Day Trips from Hanoi.
Tour: Pu Luong Private Tours by Toan Duong
Price (1 day): $48/person
Private tour? Yes
This tour makes the most of the sheer variety of things to see in Ninh Binh. The Trang An River Complex may be the main attraction, but there are also fascinating cave systems, national parks, rolling hills, iconic geological formations known as karst towers, pagodas, waterfalls, rice paddies, and much more. It is impossible to pack everything in one day, but Toan Duong does a good job of fitting in as much awesome sight-seeing as possible while still providing thorough and insightful commentary.
- Ninh Binh is not as well known as the other cities on this list (although it probably will be in 10 years), so you are more likely to have a truly authentic-feeling adventure where you don’t run into other tourists.
- Flexible itinerary planning makes any time framework out.
- This tour is suitable for almost every traveler, regardless of the age or fitness level, since the terrain is very flat. Keep in mind that much of the tour takes place aboard a boat or a motorbike however.
- Reviews usually mention the delicious meals provided on the tour, especially the home-cooked dinners on the overnight homestays.
Protip: As their site states, the best weather for trekking with Pu Luong comes in the Winter.
We would recommend booking a 3-day tour if you want to see everything Ninh Binh has to offer.
Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam, and it is brimming with enough history to satiate even the most hardcore culture buffs out there. From communist propaganda to street vendors carrying their wares on their shoulders and wearing conical bamboo hats, all the things the movies tend to associate with Vietnamese culture originated in Hanoi. It’s both the cultural and political capital of Vietnam, and one could say spending time there provides the quintessential Vietnamese experience.
Tour: Old Quarter Street Food Tour by Vietnam Awesome Travel (aka Vietnam Travel Company)
Price: From $30/person
Private Tour? Yes
Vietnam Awesome Travel is a great company that has been providing authentic tours around Hanoi since 2008. The owner of the company, Mr. Anh, works hard to please every guest and can customize each tour to specific requests. The tour guides are all locals who know the area intimately and have good relationships with all the restaurants and street vendors that make up the stops on this fantastic tour.
Vietnam Awesome Travel offers many tours however we would recommend this Old Quarter Street Food Tour as not only a great way to learn about the history of the area, but also to discover the best local restaurants in Hanoi. If you’re not a tour person and would rather set your own itinerary, we would recommend following the suggestions in our How to Spend Two Days in Hanoi blog post as a jumping-off point.
- Energetic and passionate guides with native speaker-level English skills.
- The $30 USD price of this walking food tour includes all food, drinks + a private tour guide. If you prefer to join other guests on a group tour, the price is only $20 USD per person. To include seafood dishes there is a $15 USD/person surcharge.
- This company is extremely well organized and responsive, and it makes booking easy.
- Vietnam Awesome travel have pre-planned itineraries, which is convenient for some. If you have some of your own ideas in mind, however, the guides are extremely flexible and accept requests.
Protip: For those who have already explored most of the Old Quarter themselves this tour may tread a lot of familiar ground. To explore a much wider area, you may want to try Vietnam Awesome Travel’s scooter street food tour instead.
Hue was the capital of Vietnam during the Nguyen Dynasty, which lasted from 1805 to 1945. During that time, it developed a rich culture tinged heavily with war generals and royal ancestry. Perhaps the best embodiment of Hue’s historically fascinating “golden age” is the Imperial City built inside the Royal Citadel at the city center, and the entire city is a tribute to Imperial Vietnamese culture. History connoisseurs will be as happy as children in a candy shop when in Hue.
Tour: Mr. Hoa’s Hue City Tour
Private Tour? No
Hue is a bit of a sleepy city compared to the others on this list, so it can be hard to find many interesting things to do if you are on your own. Mr. Hoa changes all that, though, as his full day tour will no doubt tire you out as a result of doing so much. He will take you to see the Citadel, the Perfume River, the tallest pagoda in Vietnam, and several famous tombs of royalty. When he drops you off at your hotel at the end of the day, you will be tired but will have good memories of the city that you would be hard-pressed to gain wandering the streets unguided.
- A great value for money. The tour is 8 hours long and only costs around $40.
- Reviewers agree almost unanimously that the lunch, which is at a local restaurant called Spice Viet, is extremely good.
- Hoa’s tour company is an old and well-known establishment in Hue, and many of the reviews mention that the guides are able to slip to the front of certain crowded lines for attractions.
Danang is not an old city rich with history, unlike most on the list. Rather, it is a new metropolis that is just emerging as an A-list Vietnamese city and that will more than likely be among the country’s top tourist destinations within the next decade or two. One can tell from traveling around the area that it is more modern than most cities in Vietnam; it is built on the ocean and its city planners did a great job of merging city with sand with seaside. While surrounding Danang there’s a youthful but booming nightlife, it also has a laid-back, beach town-esque vibe that makes spending time there a blast.
Tour: Xuan Tu Private Tour
Price: Around $80/person
Private Tour? Yes
Xuan Tu Tours take place in many Vietnamese cities, but Danang is Xuan’s hometown so she gives the city’s tours extra care. This is another tour with flexible itinerary planning that takes into account the interests of its guests, but many of the most popular destinations offered by the tour are so fascinating that you may just want to go with their suggested schedule. Assuming you do, you will be taken to some absolutely amazing caves, mountains, bridges, markets, and pagodas, as well as a beach that is rated among the top 10 in the world by Forbes.
- Most of the reviews mention how incredibly accommodating this tour is. One review, for instance, mentions how the tour guide brought one of his guests to a local supermarket because the guest had mentioned how he wanted to find some snacks to bring home as gifts.
- Guests will get a good feel of Danang, from the surrounding countryside to the beaches that make Danang so unique as a big city, all from the comfort of an air-conditioned car.
Hoi An is more of a town than a city, really, as you definitely won’t be finding any skyscrapers or Mcdonalds here. However, the area’s truly remarkable natural beauty, its distinct culture, its great weather, and the reputation. The town itself is like nowhere else in Vietnam, what with its cobbled streets, picturesque ponds, quaint shops, and weekend night lantern festivals. The surrounding area is packed with landmarks, too.
Tour: Tommy Dao Tours
Price: $65/person, assuming one person. The per person price lowers the more people are in the tour group
Private tour? Yes
Tommy’s crew are really professional — they would not be one of the most critically acclaimed tour companies in such a hot tourist destination unless they were really good at what they do. They are well-organized, professional, personable, and familiar with the area.
Note that this isn’t the best day tour to get a good look at the actual city of Hoi An, but rather the area surrounding it. You’ll get a chance to meet some people of the local Cham ethnic minority, and reviewers are consistently floored by the amazing excursions (including My Son Holy Land, Ba Na Hills, and Marble Mountains) that they are taken on.
- These guys are extremely professional and easy to communicate with. Setting up a tour time and organizing exactly the kind of tour you want on Facebook messenger (or a similar platform) is easy.
- Reviewers note that one of Tommy’s main Hoi An tour guides, Ken, used to be a professional photographer and will take some beautiful picture for his guests. Request him if you want some free souvenirs.
- Tommy’s does airport pickups from the Danang International Airport.
- Tommy’s tour guides give a lot of very detailed information — prepare yourself for a factoid overload!
Protip 1: Because of the two cities’ proximity to each other, the Hoi An and Danang tours on this list will likely have some overlap in terms of destinations. You may not want to book both tours.
Protip 2: In order to remain impartial, we have made a point not to include XO’s Hoi An tours on this list, however popular they may be (the one exception is the Saigon city tour profiled below). We would like to add here, though, that we do offer two very well-received Hoi an tours.
There are several amazing beach towns in Vietnam that you may be tempted to visit, but Nha Trang offers the best luxury Vietnam tours of the lot. The small city is delightfully laid-back, like any self-respecting beach town should be. At the same time, though, it has so much to see: amusement parks, a world-class aquarium, a system of cable cars, huge pagodas… the list goes on. And that is not to mention the main attraction: the beaches. the sand is white, the water is warm, and there are so many water-related activities that you won’t have a dull moment on the ocean.
Private Tour? No
Ask any Vietnamese where the clearest water in Vietnam and the best underwater sightseeing are, and they will almost invariably tell you Nha Trang. The snorkeling tour from the tour company Vietnam Active will take you to colorful coral reefs around Hon Mun island (an island off the coast of Nha Trang with even clearer water) where you will be able to observe exotic fish. You’ll be perfectly comfortable doing this without any wet-suit or outer equipment because the water in Nha Trang is famously warm.
Reviews comment appreciatively that it was nice being able to run free during the tour. Vietnam Active are not too restrictive of what tour groups get up to during their snorkeling sessions, and you can do things, like diving straight off the boat, that might be frowned upon in a more uptight setting. That is not to say that the tour slacks on safety precautions, however. Reviews also note that safety was taken very seriously on the tour, and people of all ages or skill levels are encouraged to join.
- Tour groups are small, so there is enough time for individualized instruction.
- Many reviews mention the cold lunch of sandwich and salad as being very tasty.
- The tour takes you to two different snorkeling sites.
Protip 1: Be sure to check out a few options of where to purchase the tour, as several reviews mentioned the price fluctuating greatly depending on where they paid for it. It should be around $25.
Protip 2: Make sure to apply a lot of waterproof sunscreens. Many people get badly burned on this tour because they skimped on the SPF.
Mui Ne, is another coastal town with some beautiful beaches. Its main attractions, though, are the fields of brightly colored sand dunes and the other natural wonders surrounding the town. It’s almost surreal to see several large deserts so close to the coast; it is a natural phenomenon that occurs at few places in the world, and it takes the phrase “sand meets sea” to a whole new level. There are very few man-made things to do in the area, and you will likely spend most of your time during your visit either at one of the town’s many large resorts or out and about visiting the natural landmarks.
Tour: Mui Ne Happy Tour
Private Tour? Yes
This tour is not exactly innovative, as it will take you to the same locations most people see on a trip to Mui Ne. They were the first company giving the now-standard Mui Ne tours, though, and they have by this point become a well-oiled machine. Even after all this time, though, they have managed to keep their prices down.
The tour will take you to the red sand dunes, the white sand dunes, the fishing village (which is essentially just a part of Mui Ne where a lot of fisherman live), and the fairy stream. They will transport you between these locations in a well-maintained Jeep. No tour guide accompanies you in the jeep to provide commentary, so be sure to read up on the area beforehand.
- Though there is no tour guide accompanying you at the destinations (except for the Fishing Village), none is needed. The natural beauty of the dunes and the fairy stream really does speak for itself, and the landmarks are very easy to navigate anyway.
- All-terrain vehicles are available for rent at the white sand dunes for an additional fee. You can either drive yourself or have an employee drive for you.
- This may be among the best value Vietnam tours out there — the amount of transportation provided and the variety of experiences more than justify the $19 price.
Saigon is the largest city in Vietnam. It is the de facto economic and commercial hub of the country. It is also the 15th most visited city in the world by tourists (right behind Hanoi, which is 14th), and for good reasons: it is one of the best street food cities in the world, the nightlife scene in Saigon is off the hook, and it has a sprawling metropolitan cityscape that puts any other location in Southeast Asia to shame.
Unlike Hanoi, in which the main historical attractions are concentrated into a dense area (the Old Quarter) and can be covered on a walking tour, many of the well-known historical landmarks in Saigon are spread far apart. This is where a company like XO Tours excels as they provide scooter tours led by Vietnamese women, that can quickly zip their guests from location to location, while a professional, license tour leader regales guests with fascinating stories of each attraction.
Tour: Sights of Saigon Tour by XO tours
Private Tour? No, but available for an additional fee
We’ve attempted to keep this post unbiased by not including any of our own tours on the list, but we simply had to make an exception here because we are so proud of this one.
Like many of the sightseeing motorbike tours in Saigon, The Sights will take you around the city to see many of the places which make Saigon special. However, it is unlike other similar tours in one important aspect: it will not take you to the same played-out locations tourists are accustomed to seeing in Saigon. Although the usuals, like the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office, will be included, the tour will also take guests to lesser-known locations like the secret CIA building and Ho Thi Ky Flower Market. The top-tier tour guides provide excellent commentary on each of the locations visited, and the pace is both quick enough to see a good amount of sites in just a few hours time and leisurely enough to get in some great photo opportunities.
- Reviewers comment that the traditionally dressed women who take the tour group around the city on motorbikes during the tour are both excellent conversationalists and very safe drivers. People reportedly feel very safe on the bikes, even in the center of the seemingly hectic Saigon traffic.
- Unlike most other scooter tour operators, the staff at XO Tours are professional/licensed tour guides not students, so their knowledge of the city and history is much more in depth.
- You’ll feel like you’ve earned an A+ in urban tourism by visiting so many off-the-beaten-path sites.
Protip 1: The tour is three and a half hours long, and much of it consists of riding through the heavily industrialized city on the back of a motorbike. Unless you have sinuses of steel, you may want to bring along a facemask. We’d recommend a filtered face mask, as they offer more protection.
Protip 2: If you’d rather explore the city solo, we highly recommend our “How to Spend One Day in Ho Chi Minh City” guide.
Dalat is a haven of elegant Western-style architecture, European-influenced shops, and perfect weather, dropped into the middle of Vietnam. It’s in the midst of the mountainous Vietnamese region known as the Central Highlands, so there are plenty of nature activities like biking, canyoning, and whitewater rafting to engage in. The city itself is amazing, too; it strikes just the right balance between developed urban area and sleepy town. It is a mecca for Central Highlands culture, and it is surrounded by such beautiful nature that basically everywhere you go is “the scenic part of town.” Because the geological makeup of the surrounding area is quite different from most of Vietnam, Dalat is also the only major city in the country where you can get certain goods straight from the source, from berries to coffee beans that have passed through the digestive tract of a weasel.
Tour: Amazing Dalat
Price: $37/person, assuming one person. The per person price lowers the more people are in the tour group
Private tour? Yes
This is another one of those city tours that is guaranteed to tire you out by the end of the day, because they just pack in so much stuff. You’ll head out for a breathtakingly panoramic cable car ride over a lake at 8:30 am, and over the next eight and a half hours you will be taken to a Zen Monastery, a clay sculpture garden, a rustic waterfall and swimming hole, the town’s French Quarter and Central Market, a weasel coffee farm, a colonial rail station, and a Buddhist pagoda made from recycled glass. They’re not exactly off-the-beaten-track destinations, but they’re definitely worth seeing. Plus, the itinerary is broken up by lunch at a local restaurant chosen according to tour group requests, although the lunch costs extra.
Vietaction, the company that runs this tour, specializes in extreme nature tours in the area. So even though this tour is one of the city, the tour guides know how to incorporate fascinating tidbits about the nature surrounding Dalat.
- Guests have a choice between car transport and motorbike transport, so they can choose whatever type of transport that makes them feel more comfortable.
- This tour will take you all around the city of Dalat rather than staying near the city center, which is more than can be said for most city tours.
Protip: Bring a sun hat and shoes you do not mind getting a bit dirty. The tour includes some of the natural beauty that makes Dalat a magical place, and that means rough terrain.
The Mekong Delta region in the south of Vietnam is one of the lushest, greenest, most fertile areas you will ever come across. Can Tho is tucked in the midst of that region, and, although it is one of the largest cities in Vietnam, it gives off a fun and fresh vibe consistent with the natural beauty surrounding it. It has a very young population, as it is home to several of the most famous universities in the country, and the city is spread out so that the population density is not too high. Whereas you might feel unsafe crossing the street in a metropolis like Saigon or Hanoi, the traffic in Can Tho is totally bearable. Simply walking the streets is more enjoyable than in most city in Vietnam, even the ones on this list.
Tour: Spirit of Can Tho by Can Tho River Tour
Private Tour? No, although inexpensive upgrades are available
Can Tho’s most famous activity takes place before most people are even awake. The Cai Rang Floating Market gets started very early, and that is why it is a good idea to book the 5:00 trip for this tour. A tour guide will meet you bright and early and take you out on the Mekong in a traditional Vietnamese model of the motorboat. The boat will weave in between the locals peddling fruits, kitchenwares, breakfast foods, and household items; you will not find any of the touristy trinkets of Saigon’s Ben Thanh Market.
After getting your fill of the floating market, the car will take you by boat to visit a local rice noodle factory. You will get to meet the family who runs the business and sample the rice noodles you see made in front of you. You will then go to a cocoa Farm where they make chocolate from the beans on the trees. The tour also visits a fruit farm and a botanical garden, both of them are representative of the area’s brilliant flora.
- The tour will surround you with locals and give you an intimate view of the agricultural Mekong lifestyle.
- While going to a rice noodle factory is a staple of tourism in the area, the one this tour takes you to is not the usual tourist shtick. Reviews comment that it’s more interesting and more authentic.
- The Mekong Delta is home to some truly awesome wildlife, such as herons and Kingfishers. You will get to see some on this tour.
Phu Quoc Is a beach town on an island off the southern tip of Vietnam, so it’s very isolated. There is still an actual town with hotels, breakfast joints, and plenty of shops on one side of the island, but the less developed side of the island with its deep green jungles and its shockingly blue waters is the main attraction.
Price: $95/person, assuming two people. The per person price lowers the more people are in the tour group
Private tour? Yes
What better way to see an island famous for its beaches then to view the island from the water itself? This tour will take you around the north side of the island, allowing you to explore the lush green coastlines from your own kayak. You will visit an eco-friendly bee farm and a farm that grows the famous Phu Quoc Peppers. The lunch menu is just as much a part of the tour as an eating location, too — seafood will be served at a floating village restaurant.
- The tour is private, so the tour guides know how to tailor the experience precisely to the group.
- This tour is rather physically demanding and takes place only during the day, and for these two reasons, it pairs very well with the same company’s excellent “Street Food By Night” tour.
Protip: Land transportation during the tour is available in a car or, on request, in an open-air Jeep. We would recommend the latter, as it makes you feel closer to the surrounding nature.
This list will undoubtedly connect you with some of Vietnam’s best tours. If you are the type who would rather try your luck without a professional guide, or if you’d simply like to read a bit more about most of these locations, head over to XO’s article on “How Long to Travel in Vietnam: The Perfect Itineraries.” Or, to browse more of our well-researched picks of the best Vietnam tours, look at our list of the 11 best tours in Vietnam, complete with pros and cons.