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In Southern Vietnam, the River Mekong unravels into nine sprawling rivers, forming the fertile Mekong Delta. It’s here the river rules. Daily life flows with the ever-changing waters, fisheries thrive during the annual flood and rice fields are quickly dug as the waters recede.

The towns bustle with vendors trading their fresh produce, an endless flow of river traffic passing through daily. Veer off into a smaller stream and you’ll find orchards, Buddhist temples and family homes clinging to the banks of the river.

Completely focused around the water, the Mekong Delta shows you a way of life that has continued unchanged for hundreds of years. You’ll see fruit orchards, rice paddies and floating markets – every inch is filled with life.

Vietnam specialist Will

Things to see and do on the Mekong Delta

Paddle through the floating markets of Cai Rang

Nicknamed ‘the rice bowl of Vietnam’, the Mekong Delta yields a large proportion of the country’s fresh produce. You can see the region’s flourishing agricultural trade at one of the many floating markets where stalls take the form of boats that converge at trading posts on the water in large numbers.

Cai Rang is one of the biggest. Boats are filled with teetering piles of fruit and vegetables, from carefully balanced watermelons, to bright flowers. From a nearby bridge it’s possible to see right across the market, the throng of boats making it difficult to glimpse the water. For the best vantage point, you can travel in a traditional boat through the market, watching buyers carefully examine the produce and deals being brokered.

Stay with a local family in Vinh Long

A major transit hub, Vinh Long has good connections to Vietnam’s outer islands and its mainland. Tucked down the surrounding network of streams and canals are many family homes, which take advantage of the flow of traffic to trade. Many families now welcome visitors as guests, giving you the opportunity to experience daily life on the Mekong.

The homes sit on the riverbank, surrounded by gardens that nearly always include a small tropical fruit orchard. You'll have your own (basic, but spotlessly clean) room to stay in. Sitting down to enjoy home-cooked meals with your host family, you’ll find them keen to share more about their culture.

Take a walk through the sleepy port of Sa Dec

Once simply a stopping point for longer cruises and the site of a former US patrol base, Sa Dec is now a thriving river trading port. It still only gets a trickle of visitors and, because of this, has managed to keep its laid-back, local feel.

The city’s tree-lined streets hide French colonial terraced houses with pastel stuccoed frontages. The most impressive is the Huynh Thuy Le Old House, once the residence of a rich Chinese family. Huynh Thuy Le was the son of the family, and it’s his affair with the French writer Marguerite Duras that inspired her semi-autobiographical novel, The Lover.

Squeeze through the closely packed umbrella stalls of Nguyen Hué Street and you’ll find Sa Dec’s riverside market. Clinging to the side of a busy river passage, piles of fruit and vegetables are sold while children play alongside and old women prepare fish ready for lunch.

View the delta from Sam Mountain

Chau Doc, a busy delta town close to the Cambodian border, is defined by Sam Mountain poking up from its paddy fields. Only 182 m (597 ft) high, this pinnacle still manages to dominate the flat landscape. Climbing up to the peak affords you views right across the delta to Cambodia.

A sacred site for Buddhists, prepare to explore many of the mountain’s brightly painted temples and tombs on your climb. You also follow a bizarre trail of ceramic dinosaurs to the summit. The tin hut at the top acts as a lookout tower and is manned by the Vietnamese military to monitor the Cambodian border.

The path is lit, making it possible to climb at dawn and watch the sunrise from the mountain top. As cafes and shops are crammed into every available space, it’s easy to find a spot for breakfast afterwards.

Cruise the Mekong Delta on a converted rice barge

Converted rice barges, such as the Bassac fleet, carry passengers on one- or two-night cruises along the Mekong Delta. From your vantage point on the water, it’s easy to watch local life drift past.

The vessels are beautifully crafted and retain their original hand-carved charm. The cabins are well sized and furnished with local textiles. As you explore the local villages and floating markets, your on-board guide will recount the history of the rice barges that used to frequent the route.

Best time to visit the Mekong Delta

It’s best to visit the Mekong Delta between October and March when the water levels are high enough for boat markets, sailing trips and to watch the busiest river life. January to March offers the best overall weather throughout Vietnam, although prices can rise dramatically around Tet time, when shops and restaurants also tend to close for a few days. For good-value hotels, try visiting in late September when the monsoon rains have left lush foliage and the harvest will be in full swing.

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Festivals, events and seasonal reasons to visit

  • In late November, Vietnam’s Khmer ethnic people celebrate the Ok Om Bok Festival on the day of the full moon. Celebrating the harvest, they show their gratitude to the moon goddess with boat races, dance performances and games. Each village hosts its own small festival, gathering around the local pagoda.
  • The lunar New Year, known as Tet, tends to fall in late January or early February. Towns and cities are covered in bright flags and lights of yellow, which is considered lucky. It’s also the flower season for the Mekong Delta and you might see boats completely filled with yellow flowers as part of the celebrations.

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Audley Travel specialist Mark

Start planning your tailor-made trip to Mekong Delta by contacting one of our Vietnam specialists

Places to visit in Mekong Delta

Featuring heavily on our experiences of visiting Mekong Delta, these selected places are destinations that also prove consistently popular with our travellers. Our specialists can help you choose how to include them in your wider trip, based on your preferences.

Suggested itineraries featuring Mekong Delta

Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Mekong Delta, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.

Map of Mekong Delta

Places & hotels on the map

    Places in and around Mekong Delta

    Photos of Mekong Delta

    Our expert guides to exploring Mekong Delta

    Written by our specialists from their own experiences of visiting Mekong Delta, these guides will help you make the most of your time there. We share both our practical recommendations and the best ways to appreciate Mekong Delta at its best.

    Accommodation choices for Mekong Delta

    We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Mekong Delta. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.

    • Lobby, Sea Crest Beach Hotel

      Nam Bo

      Medium

      In our opinion, the Nam Bo is one of the best mid-range hotels in Can Tho. It has an ideal location, with easy access to river transport and local attractions.

    • Bassac restaurant terrace, Victoria Chau Doc Hotel

      Victoria Chau Doc

      Medium

      Although this unique hotel is not of the same standard as its popular sister property in Can Tho, it is still a wonderful hotel in a fantastic location.

    • Private Sampan, Cai Be

      Sampan

      Simple

      Although basic the Sampans offer a unique and characterful way of seeing this fascinating region of Indochina, which more than makes up for the lack of amenities.

    • Victoria suite, Victoria Hotel, Can Tho

      Victoria Can Tho

      First Class

      In an area that has previously lacked charming accommodation, the Victoria hotel is refreshingly tastefully designed. The low-rise French architecture gives it a breezy colonial feel.

    • Bungalow << Request Garden or River >>, Mekong Lodge, Cai Be

      Mekong Lodge

      Simple

      Mekong Lodge is definitely the most comfortable option available in Cai Be with a lovely waterfront setting and a great base for exploring the local area.

    • Ut Trinh  Homestay,Vinh Long, Outdoor Area

      Ut Trinh Homestay

      Simple

      You will stay in a local house with typical Mekong architecture located directly on a river bank, surrounded by gardens, bonsai trees and a variety of tropical fruit orchards.

    Ideas for experiencing Mekong Delta

    Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Mekong Delta, and which use the best local guides.

    • Floating market near Can Tho

      Cai Rang Floating Market

      Mekong Delta

      Board the Victoria hotel’s 'junk' for a luxurious breakfast cruising down the Mekong to the Cai Rang floating market where a mass of boats converge to trade.

    • Delta scene

      The Delta by Bike

      Mekong Delta

      Riding mostly down narrow lanes along the river and away from the bustle of daily traffic, you experience real Vietnamese rural life, still unspoilt by modern day living - people working in the river, friendly waving children.