Experience authentic Vietnam on this 11-day tour of its cultural hotspots. Travel from Hanoi down the coast to Ho Chi Minh City, stopping to visit gems like UNESCO-listed Ha Long Bay and Hoi An. You'll join locals for street food tours and countryside biking adventures and learn about Vietnamese war history with a visit to the notorious Cu Chi Tunnels. Highlights include afternoon tea with a Hanoian, a cooking class with Mrs. Chin, and spending the evening with a rural family in the Mekong Delta.


  • Learn to make regional products from residents on a bike tour outside Hanoi
  • Take an overnight cruise on UNESCO-listed Ha Long Bay
  • Enjoy a street food tour in Ho Chi Minh City
  • Learn about Vietnamese war history at the Cu Chi Tunnels
  • Dine with residents in Vinh Long and watch a traditional music performance

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Hanoi Hanoi
Day 2 Explore Hanoi Like a Local Hanoi
Day 3 Ba Vi Countryside Eco-Tour Hanoi
Day 4 Ha Long Bay Overnight Cruise  Ha Long Bay
Day 5 Cruise Ha Long Bay & Fly to Hoi An Hoi An
Day 6 Hoi An Walking Tour, Cycling in Cam Thanh & Thanh Dong Farm Visit Hoi An
Day 7 Fly to Ho Chi Minh City & Evening Street Food Tour Ho Chi Minh City
Day 8 Explore the Cu Chi Tunnels & Ho Chi Minh City Hidden Secrets Tour  Ho Chi Minh City
Day 9 Explore the Mekong Delta Countryside in Vinh Long Vinh Long
Day 10 Mekong Tour & Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City Ho Chi Minh City
Day 11 Depart Ho Chi Minh City  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi

Free Day in Hanoi
Experience the bright lights of Hanoi

Welcome to Hanoi, Vietnam's high-energy capital and cultural heart. A private driver will take you to your hotel in the city center, where you can settle in before stepping out to explore. Spend the rest of the day wandering the labyrinthine streets of the Old Quarter by foot or on a three-wheeled cyclo, passing a mix of temples, French colonial buildings, and Vietnamese tubular houses.

Head to Bun Cha Huong Lien for lunch to try the beloved Hanoian dish bun cha (noodle soup with grilled pork). This restaurant's interpretation of the dish is so famous that it's served guests like Barack Obama and Anthony Bourdain. Sip cocktails on the Pan Pacific Hotel's rooftop bar and admire sunset views over Tay Ho (West Lake) to wrap up your evening in style.

Day 2: Explore Hanoi Like a Local

Soak up local life in Hanoi's Old Quarter

Covering the historic landmarks today, you'll experience the city like a local with your guide, starting with historic Ba Dinh Square, where Vietnam's independence was proclaimed in 1945. People watch alongside a bronze statue of Vladimir Lenin in the nearby Lenin Garden—a popular local hangout, before wandering the crowded alleys lined with family-owned shops. Next, you'll visit the Temple of Literature, an impressive 11th-century landmark students frequent to pray for academic success. Continue to the Museum of Ethnology, followed by lunch at a neigboring restaurant.

Continue to explore the Old Quarter, heading to Nha Chung Street, an area abuzz with food stalls and vendors. Here, you'll visit a historic French colonial home for afternoon tea. Your host is a native who's lived in the neighborhood all their life and has many stories about the city and its past. End the day with a traditional water puppet show, a northern Vietnamese art form thought to have originated in the flooded rice fields of the Red River Delta region.

Day 3: Ba Vi Countryside Eco-Tour

Cycle through the beautiful Ba Vi countryside to visit rural villages

Head out of the city this morning for a guided tour of the beautiful Ba Vi countryside. Your first stop is Ri Village, where you'll have welcome drinks and snacks with Mr. Duoc, a Vietnam War veteran and tea plantation owner. Listen to Mr. Duoc's stories about life during the war and visit his workshop and tea plantation, where you'll learn how to pick the best leaves.

Next, you'll take a short drive to Moc Village, where Mrs. Chin will teach you how to cook Vietnamese dishes, which you'll enjoy for lunch in her tropical garden. Join Mrs. Chin for a walk around the village to visit families and learn how to make tofu, conical hats, and other regional products. Finish with a gentle cycle through Vietnam's signature rice paddies, followed by a Muong herbal foot bath, before returning to Hanoi.

Day 4: Ha Long Bay Overnight Cruise

Explore the famous UNESCO-listed Ha Long Bay on a traditional junk boat

This morning, your driver will take you to the northwest coast, where the land meets the Gulf of Tonkin, to begin your overnight tour of UNESCO-listed Ha Long Bay. Sail across the paper-flat waters, taking in views of over 2,000 limestone karsts steeped in Vietnamese legend. A delicious seafood lunch onboard awaits, followed by plenty of time to sit on the sundeck as you sail to the most remote corners of Ha Long Bay.

In the afternoon, stop at a secret cove where you can swim and kayak to explore hidden beaches and caves. Look for formations like Kissing Rock, which appears on Vietnam's 200,000 dong note. Catch the sunset from the deck and enjoy a lavish dinner. Spend the evening relaxing or participating in optional activities, from night fishing to a cooking masterclass where you can learn to make specialties like nem (Vietnamese fried spring rolls). 

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

Day 5: Cruise Ha Long Bay & Fly to Hoi An

Hop in your kayak and paddle the emerald waters for a closer look at Ha Long Bay

Wake early for breakfast on your junk boat's deck, watching the sun rise over the emerald waters of Ha Long Bay, deemed one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. The morning is yours to simply absorb the view or join in with a tai chi class. You'll visit a limestone cave full of stalagmites and stalactites before lunch on board while you sail back to the harbor.

Back on dry land, you'll take a shuttle bus to Hanoi, followed by a private transfer to the airport for your flight to the former French colonial port of Da Nang. Your driver will be waiting to take you to your hotel in Hoi An, located an hour farther down the coast. This peaceful port town is loved for its lantern-lined streets, skilled tailors, and UNESCO-listed architecture.

Day 6: Hoi An Walking Tour, Cycling in Cam Thanh & Thanh Dong Organic Farm Visit

Take a Hoi An walking tour to discover architectural wonders like the Japanese Bridge

This morning, explore Hoi An on a half-day walking tour. Strategically located on the Thu Bon River, this peaceful port town attracted settlers from all over the world between the 15th-19th centuries. Today, the city is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its fusion of architecture and culture.

You'll see it all as you navigate the pedestrian-only streets with a guide. Visit old merchant houses and the 400-year-old Japanese-covered bridge built to access the Chinese Quarter. Marvel at the intricate woodcarvings in the Assembly Hall of the Chaozhou Chinese Congregation and browse the colorful market, where stalls brim with local specialties. Later, you'll take a 4-mile (6 km) bike ride through the country, starting from Vong Nhi. You'll pass unspoiled rural scenes dotted with coconut forests, rice paddies, and prawn and red snapper farms.

Next, stop at Thanh Dong Organic Farm, a 107,640 square foot (10,000 sq m) garden that supports 10 families. Amble around the vegetable garden and learn how farmers have transformed their lives by cultivating organic produce and herbs. Next, ride a circular basket boat along the Do River to the famous Field Restaurant. As you float by, you'll spot conical hat-wearing farmers picking rice in lime-green paddies and fishermen casting nets on the water. On returning to your hotel in Hoi An, you'll take another short cooking class and feast on a family-style Vietnamese dinner.

Day 7: Fly to Ho Chi Minh City & Evening Street Food Tour

Saigon Street Food Tour After The Dark
Feast on authentic Vietnamese cuisine on a street food tour

This morning, say goodbye to Hoi An and fly south to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam's largest metropolis. Settle in at your hotel and then independently explore the city's noodle-soup-scented alleyways and grand French boulevards. You'll discover a mix of colonial architecture, modern skyscrapers, snaking markets, and sprawling megamalls.

This evening, you'll take a street food tour of the city. Meet your guide at a local coffee shop for a tour briefing before heading to a local banh mi (a French baguette meat sandwich) shop for some of the best bread in Saigon. Then drive or walk to taste banh cuon (steamed rice flour crepe filled with pork), a dish originally from Northern Vietnam but now popular throughout the country. 

Next, sample banh trang nuong, a pizza-like snack from Dalat loaded with toppings. Indulge your sweet tooth at a nearby dessert stall selling chuoi nep nuong (grilled banana with coconut milk). Your final stop will be at a busy eatery famous for its fresh grilled seafood, best washed down with a cold local beer. Return to your hotel in the late evening. 

Day 8: Explore the Cu Chi Tunnels & Ho Chi Minh City Hidden Secrets Tour 

Explore the Cu Chi Tunnels
Learn about Vietnamese war history at the Cu Chi Tunnels

Today you'll learn about Vietnam's war history with a trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels, where the Viet Cong fought American soldiers in the 1960s. Located just northwest of Ho Chi Minh City, this complex of underground tunnels stretched over 155 miles (250 km) and was a bitter battleground during the war. You'll learn how the Viet Cong used these tunnels as communication routes, storage facilities, hospitals, and living areas for fighters. You'll even get to crawl through a section to experience the tunnels' narrow dimensions.

Return to Ho Chi Minh City to visit a secret weapons chamber used by the Viet Cong during the war. Weave through back alleys and meet the locals who live in small narrow houses in the space-starved city, stopping at a coffee shop in a French colonial-era apartment block. Meander across a market to meet a street artist who has spent half his life making souvenir carvings. Finally, visit a hidden restaurant accessed through an antique elevator before returning to your hotel.

Day 9: Explore the Mekong Delta Countryside in Vinh Long

Cycle along quiet Mekong Delta roads

Escape the city today and head to Vinh Long in the lush Mekong Delta. Check into Coco Riverside Lodge and then spend the afternoon cycling along quiet village roads, passing a duck farm, rice paddies, and sedge fields. Stop at a dragon fruit or orange orchard for a tasting, then catch the sunset before returning to your lodge. 

Spend the evening with a local family at their home, listening to stories of fighting in the Vietnam War and watching a music performance. Use torches of dried coconut leaves to light your way back to the lodge, where you'll enjoy a traditional cooking class. Learn to make authentic Vietnamese pancakes before dinner. 

Day 10: Mekong Tour & Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City

Get a glimpse of daily life for Mekong Delta residents

This morning, catch a glimpse of Mekong life, watching boats loaded with coconuts sail to factories and markets. Then you'll take the ferry to a beautiful Cao Dai Temple before touring some of the riverside factories. Here, you'll learn how coconuts are processed, and their husks are used to weave rugs; you'll even get the chance to try weaving yourself. After the tour, your driver will transfer you back to Ho Chi Minh City for a final evening. 

Day 11: Depart Ho Chi Minh City

Your tour ends in vibrant Ho Chi Minh City

After breakfast, spend a few hours soaking up the atmosphere in Ho Chi Minh City, perhaps shopping for souvenirs in the markets before your flight home. Safe travels!

More Great Vietnam Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Vietnam? Check out these other Vietnam itineraries, explore different ways to spend 11 days in Vietnam, and discover the best time to visit Vietnam.


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Map of Authentic Vietnam: Hanoi to Vinh Long - 11 Days
Map of Authentic Vietnam: Hanoi to Vinh Long - 11 Days
Written by Hien Do, updated Aug 1, 2023