Turn a brief five-day vacation to northern Vietnam into an unforgettable discovery of Hanoi's secret gems and a visit to the beautiful river lands of Ninh Bình Province. You could also see the central coast and the ancient citadel of Hue or travel farther south beyond the bright lights of Ho Chi Minh City, where an exciting excursion to the Mekong Delta awaits. And if you're eager for a hike amid the rice terraces and humble villages of rural Vietnam, consider five days to discover the Pu Luong Nature Reserve.

Itinerary #1: Highlights of Northern Vietnam

This tour packs each of your five days in northern Vietnam with can't-miss highlights like sampling the street food of Hanoi and cruising the emerald waters of Ha Long Bay.

Take an overnight cruise on Hạ Long Bay
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Hanoi Hanoi
Day 2 Hanoi City & Street Food Tour Hanoi
Day 3 Hanoi to Hạ Long Bay Halong Bay
Day 4 Bus from Hạ Long Bay to Hanoi Hanoi
Day 5 Depart Hanoi  

Your brisk but eventful adventure kicks off in Vietnam's capital Hanoi. It's a city with a rich history dating back thousands of years to long before the common era. You'll see some of Hanoi's oldest architecture on a tour of the historic Old Quarter. this commercial enclave dates back to the Lý and Trần dynasties beginning around the year 1009 CE and was rebuilt during French-colonial rule in the late 19th century.

On Day 2, you'll visit more historic city sights like One Pillar Pagoda, a Buddhist temple dating to the 11th century. Later in the afternoon, you'll head back to the Old Quarter for a walking street food tour. You'll try delicious local drinks like Vietnamese egg coffee and sample local barbecue dishes like bún chả (a dish of grilled pork and rice noodles).

Then, on Day 3, you'll leave the city for the coast and Hạ Long Bay. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is comprised of over a thousand limestone isles rising dramatically out of the jade waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. This isn't a mere day trip—you'll take an overnight cruise around the bay and enjoy a gorgeous sunset and sunrise, dine on fresh seafood, and pass floating villages. On Day 4, you'll return to Hanoi and cap the trip with a night out in the Old Quarter. Learn more 

Itinerary #2: Northern Vietnam Culture & Adventure Tour

This northern tour covers many of the incredible locales seen in the itinerary above but tweaks things with a visit to an ancient Hanoi home for afternoon tea plus a sampan ride down the Red River amid the limestone mountains of Ninh Bình Province. 

Stunning scenery on the Red River in Ninh Bình Province
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Hanoi, meet your guide Hanoi
Day 2 Exploring Hanoi Hanoi
Day 3 Travel to Ninh Bình,  Sampan Boat Ride at Tràng An Ninh Binh
Day 4 Hạ Long Bay Boat Cruise Halong Bay
Day 5 Tour Hạ Long Bay, Depart Hanoi  

Arrive in Hanoi and immediately discover the city by walking amid the street food vendors and silk shops of the Old Quarter. The next day is all about the food as you indulge in a traditional Vietnamese breakfast with a hearty bowl of phở, Vietnam's popular noodle dish. After touring some famous city sights, you'll stop at a historic house in the Old Quarter, where you'll join a local family for tea. 

On Day 3, you'll travel just outside the city to the unspoiled countryside region of Ninh Bình Province. Here you'll tour the relics of 10th-century palaces and pagodas. In the afternoon, take a flat-bottom wooden boat known as a sampan and cruise tranquil waters along riverbanks lined with green rice paddies and towering limestone mountains. The next day you'll leave directly from Ninh Bình Province to Hạ Long Bay. On an overnight cruise, you'll partake in fun group activities like a fruit-carving contest followed the next day with a visit to some of the area's islands and grottoes. On Day 5, you'll travel to the floating fishing village of Cua Van and embark on a kayak trip or rowboat tour, after which you'll return to Hanoi and catch your flight home. Learn more

Plan your trip to Vietnam
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Itinerary #3: Southern Vietnam Tour

This diverse trip to southern Vietnam covers many of the region's highlights, like Ho Chi Minh City, plus includes far-flung locales like the floating markets at Can Tho, on the Mekong Delta.

A tranquil waterway on the Mekong Delta
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City Ho Chi Minh City
Day 2 Củ Chi Tunnel & Ho Chi Minh City Tour Ho Chi Minh City
Day 3 Day Trip on the Mekong River Can Tho
Day 4 Cần Thơ Floating market Ho Chi Minh City
Day 5 Depart Ho Chi Minh City  

Get ready for an unforgettable vacation through the southern Vietnam region. It kicks off in Ho Chi Minh City, which is similar in size to Hanoi but is culturally a world apart. Once known as Saigon, this metropolis is home to some enduring French-colonial landmarks, like Notre Dame Cathedral (actually built from materials imported from France) and Reunification Palace, the former home of the president of South Vietnam and the site of the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.

Over two days, you'll visit these sights on a city tour, plus visit the Viet Cong tunnels at Cu Chi. This massive network of tunnels is over 100 miles long and, at one point, sheltered 16,000 guerrilla soldiers. On Day 3, you'll leave Ho Chi Minh City for a trip up the famous Mekong Delta by boat. You'll visit traditional riverside villages and see local artisans at work making rice cakes, sleeping mats, honey tea, and other items.

The next day you'll head to the Mekong city of Cần Thơ. Here there are daily floating markets in which vendors hop aboard wooden boats every morning and sell their goods right on the water. These markets have been a vital part of commerce in the region dating back to the Nguyễn Dynasty of the 19th century. On Day 5, you'll return to Ho Chi Minh City and depart Vietnam. Learn more

Itinerary #4: Central Vietnam Adventure

Over five days on Vietnam's central coast, you'll visit the ancient citadels, fishing villages, and street-food markets of historic river-delta cities like Hue and Hoi An. 

The Citadel of Huế, once the seat of government in Vietnam
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Hue Hue
Day 2 Explore Hue: Imperial Citadel, Thien Mu Pagoda & Thủy Bieu Hue
Day 3 Hue Handicrafts, Minh Mang's Tomb & Chuon Lagoon Hue
Day 4 Hue to Hoi An, Explore the City Hoi An
Day 5 Hoi An to Da Nang & Depart  

You'll arrive in Hue, a city on the Perfume River near the central coast of Vietnam. It might surprise some to learn that Hue was actually the capital of this country during the Nguyen Dynasty at the turn of the 19th century. After spending even just a couple of hours here, though, the history reveals itself in the many well-preserved landmarks. The most famous of these, which you'll see on a tour on the second day, is the Imperial City, a massive fortress surrounded by a moat that protected the royal family. 

On Day 3, the trip takes a humanistic turn with a visit to the Healing the Wounded Hearts Foundation. This unique souvenir shop was founded in 2009 to offer disabled artisans employment. The money the shop earns selling handicrafts pays the workers' salaries plus funds for surgeries for poor children in the city. After a lesson in crafting, you'll visit the tomb of 19th-century Confucian emperor Minh Mang then take a trip outside Huế to a riverside village where you'll cast nets with local fishermen.

Day 4 involves a road trip south from Huế to the city of Hội An, another open-air museum of a city on Vietnam's central coast. Located at the mouth of the Thu Bồn River, Hội An's position on the delta helped it to become a major hub in the spice trade with Indonesia from the 8th-10th century. The city's UNESCO World Heritage Ancient Town (historic center) reflects this legacy in its well-preserved Japanese merchant homes and wooden bridges that are a throwback to an earlier age.

Hội An is also famous for its beautiful waterfront that comes alive at night with the colored lights of traditional lanterns. Besides touring Ancient Town, you'll also visit a local workshop and learn to make these lanterns. On Day 5, you'll transfer to Da Nang for your flight home. Learn more

Itinerary #5: Hiking the Pu Luong Nature Reserve

Five days is all you need to have an unforgettable hiking adventure in one of the most beautiful regions of Vietnam: the Pu Luong Nature Reserve.

The terraced rice paddies of the Pù Luông Nature Reserve
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Hanoi to Pu Luong Nature Reserve Don Village
Day 2 Trek from Don Village to Hieu Village Hieu Village
Day 3 The Hidden Trails of Pu Luong Nua Village
Day 4 Hike from Nua Village to Son Village Son Village
Day 5 Return to Hanoi  

You'll arrive in Hanoi and immediately transfer by vehicle a few hours west to the Vietnam highlands and Pù Luông Nature Reserve. Situated on 20,000 acres, this rural mountain region is all but untouched by modern life. The residents who live in rural villages here are comprised mostly of ethnic minorities, like the Thai people. They live off the land much the same way they have for generations, farming rice and corn, raising livestock, and making their own clothes.

This is also ideal countryside in which to embark on a multi-day hike. Upon arrival in the region, you'll stop at a Thai village and meet the locals. Then it's time for a three-hour warm-up hike around the reserve. After overnighting in a local homestay, on Day 2, you'll embark on a full-day hike between rural villages, passing green and gold-terraced rice paddies. 

The next two days are filled with more day hikes, picnic lunches, and nights spent with village families in homestays. As thrilling as the hiking is, a real highlight of the trip is getting to know local residents whose culture is a world apart yet who welcome foreigners with the warmth of family. On Day 5, you'll transfer back to Hanoi by vehicle and catch your flight home. Learn more

More Great Vietnam Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Vietnam? Check out these other Vietnam itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 

Recent traveler photos