Though pilgrimages account for a mere 10% of Tet tours, the religious trips, usually running until the end of the 3rd month of the lunar calendar (around late April), are an important part of local tour providers’ post-Tet market.
Pilgrimage tours typically combine visits to pagodas, temples or churches, scenic spots, traditional festivals, and religious events.
Such tours have been offered since before Tet, but they’re usually at their peak after Tet. Those who purchase tours are mostly expat Vietnamese, small business owners, those who couldn’t afford to take time off to travel before and during Tet, or those who wish to combine visits to religious institutions or events with sightseeing.
Most of these tourists are Buddhists or Catholics, usually above 40 years of age.
Several local tour providers have offered discounts on pilgrimage tours, which usually last from one to five days. Almost no price increase compared to last year has been reported.
According to local tourism companies, Ninh Binh has been the top choice among pilgrimage destinations in northern Vietnam, with visits offered to Trang An Ecological complex, Tam Coc – Bich Dong, Hoa Lu, the country’s former capital, Bai Dinh pagoda, and Cuc Phuong National Park.
Huong pagoda fest in Hanoi, one of the country’s largest of its kind, which runs until the end of the third lunar month, has always been a seriously overcrowded “mecca,” with a huge influx of Buddhists from around the country.
Yen Tu fest in Quang Ninh province, which also runs until the end of the third lunar month, is also a hotspot for local and expat pilgrims. Yen Tu has been considered the country’s Buddist cradle since King Tran Nhan Tong (1258-1308) gave up his throne, became a monk, and founded Vietnam’s hallmark Buddist sect, “Thien Truc Lam Yen Tu.”
Central provinces are also a popular option, as the tours offer visits to pagodas in Da Nang, Hue, and Hoi An, which also boast splendid landscapes, stunning beaches, and rich cultural festivals.
Pilgrimage tours to ten pagodas in the Mekong Delta, including Ba Chua Xu (Lady of the Realm) pagoda in An Giang province’ Chau Doc town, usually appeal to small business owners who come to pray for good luck and wealth in the new year.
According to tour providers, for hotels near the Ba Chua Xu pagoda, tourists will have to pay room rates of some VND800-900,000 (up to US$43) per night, which is double the rate of reservations made before Tet.
Meanwhile, Catholic pilgrims usually opt for Phat Diem stone church in Ninh Binh, La Vang holy site in Quang Tri, and the stone church Nha Trang for their spring trips. These tours also offer visits to the provinces’ major tourist attractions such as UNESCO-recognized Hue imperial city Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park.
In recent years, more locals have also gone on pilgrimages to other countries, including Thailand’s Wat Phra Kaew pagoda, Myanmar’s Shwedagon pagoda, Japan’s Jinza temples, and numerous pagodas in India and Nepal.