With its numerous national parks, white sand beaches, colourful villages, pagodas, ancient monuments, forests and islands, Vietnam is a land of often surprising beauty, offering true cultural depth and a rich history, increasingly combined in the tourist areas with all the facilities the modern traveller could wish for.

Vietnam’s people are its greatest asset, gregarious, friendly and eager to meet visitors. In the bustling cities, the often-chaotic streets contrast ox carts with limousines, ancient rituals with sophisticated technology, and are ruled by the moped.

By contrast, life in rural areas has little changed since medieval times. Water buffalo still plough the fields and peasants wearing traditional conical hats plant and harvest the rice. Everywhere, small picturesque villages work in concert to create and sell handicrafts of all kinds.

Visitors to the north will arrive in the Capital city of Hanoi, birthplace of the Vietnamese nation in ancient times, with its well preserved and picturesque French colonial boulevards nestled in its centre, sitting in curious harmony beside the pagodas, temples and bustling craft markets that attest to the long history of the city's home upon the banks of the Red river delta.

Explore all the delights of the Northern Provinces, trekking the forests, lakes, waterfalls and cool mountains, meeting with the friendly and colourfully diverse ethnic groups that inhabit the hillsides of Sapa and Ba Be.

Cruise in luxurious wonderment through the serenely beautiful scenery of Ha Long Bay, its myriad limestone structures arising almost mythically from the sea, with its caves and coves inviting the visitor to swim, snorkel or kayak amongst its strange and thought-provoking forms.

Travel south to the Perfume River and the Forbidden Purple City of the historic citadel of Hue, visiting its lovely Garden houses and Emperors’ tombs. Further south, Hoi An offers the charmingly sedate prospect of an historic small port town with quaint old wooden houses dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and its famous ornate Japanese bridge.

This area, and central Vietnam in general, is former Cham country, whose Hindu civilisation, contemporaneous with the better-known Khmer empire at Angkor in Cambodia, inhabited these parts and built the nearby complex at My Son. The old Silk port of Hoi An retains its historic charrm, with Cua Dai beach and offshore islands sparklingly tempting you to linger awhile.

From here down to the Mekong delta is almost interrupted beach territory. For the beach experience with all contemporary western trappings head for Nha Trang and its offshore islands, busy, lively and modern. Further south Mui Ne cape’s lovely beach and dunes offers a tranquil break from the Jet-skis, whilst still providing a range of other water sports.

Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, is Vietnam's largest city and the hub of Vietnamese business, a thoroughly modern cityscape, and the usual airport gateway for visitors to the south. In contrast to Hanoi, while still retaining some of its French flavour, the modern towers of Vietnam’s exploding economic growth predominate.

Here you can find designer shopping, explore its museums and temples, or escape entirely, slipping leisurely through the slow waterways and orchards of the Mekong delta to experience its floating markets, or get beyond the mainland to the isles of Phu Quoc and the Con Dao archipelago.