Experience Vietnam like a local with insider tours of its vibrant cities and natural wonders. Explore the backstreets of Hanoi and cycle along the fertile rice paddies of Ninh Binh before cruising the emerald waters of Ha Long Bay. Then discover Ho Chi Minh City on a Vespa and finish with a speedboat ride along the famous Mekong River.


  • Explore the ancient streets of Hanoi
  • Cycle around villages and take cooking classes
  • Enjoy an overnight cruise on Ha Long Bay
  • Tour Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong River

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Hanoi, Optional Activities Hanoi
Day 2 Hanoi Insider Tour Hanoi
Day 3 Transfer to Ninh Binh, Tour Tho Ha Village & Cycling Ninh Binh
Day 4 Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise Ha Long Bay
Day 5 Morning Cruise, Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City Ho Chi Minh City
Day 6 Vespa Tour of Ho Chi Minh City Ho Chi Minh City
Day 7 Mekong Delta Boat Tour Ho Chi Minh City
Day 8 Depart Ho Chi Minh City  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi, Optional Activities 

Colorful street vendors and shopfronts in Hanoi
Welcome to Vietnam! Home to one of the globe's oldest societies, this country has had states and functioning governments in some form or another dating back to around 3,000 BCE. There are few better examples of this rich history than the capital of Hanoi. It was founded way back in 257 BCE and has been a political center ever since. On its streets, you'll see a record of the city's long history in the form of temples, pagodas, monuments, and more.
Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel in the city. After settling in, indulge in a 60-minute full-body massage to take the edge off the long flight. Newly invigorated, you can then venture out on a self-guided tour to stretch your legs. Hit the streets of the Old Quarter, browse the silk shops on Hang Gai Street, and maybe sample some street food like pho (noodle soup) and bun cha (grilled pork with rice noodles).

Day 2: Hanoi Insider Tour

Tour the historic Temple of Literature in Hanoi
Leave the hotel at 8 am on a full-day guided tour of Hanoi's historic landmarks and experience the city like a local. It starts with a ride to historic Ba Dinh Square, where President Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the independence of Vietnam in 1945. Then head over to Lenin Garden, a park presided over by a bronze statue of Vladimir Lenin. This is a great place to people-watch, as the area is a popular local hangout. 
From there, your guide will lead you down Hanoi's alleyways, which are lined with family-owned shops that have been around for generations. Continue to the 11th-century Temple of Literature, an impressive architectural landmark that was Vietnam's first-ever national university. To this day, students still pray at its altars for academic success. Next up is the Museum of Ethnology, which preserves the cultural heritage of the 54 different ethnic groups in Vietnam. Afterward, stop for lunch at a local restaurant.
Now that you've refueled, continue to Hanoi's charming Old Quarter to explore its warren of backstreets. This will lead 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 local who has lived in the neighborhood all his life and has many stories about this remarkable city and its past. End the day with one of Vietnam's more unique theatrical performances: a water puppet show. This cultural expression dates back over 1,000 years, having originated in the rice fields of the Red River Delta. Afterward, return to your hotel.

Day 3: Transfer to Ninh Binh, Tour Tho Ha Village & Cycling

The dramatic karst landscapes of Ninh Binh

Your driver will pick you up at your hotel in the morning for the two-hour drive south of Hanoi to Tho Ha village. It's located in the Ninh Binh province of Vietnam's Red River Valley, which is famous for its riverine landscapes and karst mountains rising dramatically out of vast rice paddies. 

Upon arrival, you'll hop on a bike for a leisurely cycling trip around the village. Depending on the schedule, you'll ride 3-10 miles (5-16 km), passing sleepy villages and picturesque rural landscapes. Eventually, you'll arrive in the hamlet of Dong Tam and join the locals for regional activities like fishing, crabbing, and gardening. After an hour of fun masquerading as work, you'll return to town. There, a local family will welcome you into their home and teach you to cook the traditional cuisine of the region.

After lunch with your host family, you'll board a traditional rowboat at the Nha Le Pier and enjoy a trip into the Galaxy Grotto, a 2,953-foot (900-m) deep water cavern. This is a uniquely beautiful cave due to its massive stalactites that gleam in different colors, so much so that Galaxy Grotto is known as the "Milky Way of the mountain." When you leave the cave, you'll hop in a car and transfer over to the hotel where you'll overnight.

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Day 4: Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise

Switch gears with a tranquil cruise through UNESCO-listed Ha Long Bay

In the morning, you'll leave Ninh Binh with your driver for the 3.5-hour ride north to Ha Long Bay. Located on the Gulf of Tonkin, over 1,500 karst islets rise above jade waters and resemble the spine of some mythological creature ("ha long" actually translates to "descending dragon"). The unique beauty of this region is unlike anywhere else and thus has been bestowed with UNESCO World Heritage status.

Upon arrival at the marina, you'll board a multi-level cruise ship for an overnight tour of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. After settling into your cabin, head up to the deck where a delicious seafood lunch awaits. Then you can spend hours relaxing on the sun deck as the ship sails across glassy emerald waters to the most secluded corners of the bay. Later that afternoon, you'll stop at a secret cove for a swim and a kayak trip to explore hidden beaches and grottoes.

Return to the ship just in time to participate in a cooking masterclass offered by the onboard expert chef. During the workshop, you'll learn to make traditional specialties like nem (Vietnamese fried spring rolls) and enjoy them for dinner. Spend the remainder of the evening relaxing, or head out on a small boat for a bit of night fishing with the locals.

Day 5: Morning Cruise, Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City

Enjoy one last morning on the waters of Ha Long Bay

Wake up early and head to the deck for a sunrise tai chi session. Then sit down and enjoy breakfast in the open air as you cruise around towering karst islets. After another leisurely morning spent on the water, you'll return to the port in Ha Long Bay. From there, you'll transfer back to Hanoi where you'll catch a two-hour flight south to Ho Chi Minh City. A driver will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel in the city. You'll then have the remainder of the evening free.

Day 6: Vespa Tour of Ho Chi Minh City

See Ho Chi Minh City highlights like the People's Committee Building
With a population of over nine million people, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is Vietnam's largest metropolis. Today, you'll get an insider's perspective of this city that is at once traditional and on the cutting edge of modernity. And what better way to cover as much ground as possible than by speeding along the streets on a vintage-style Vespa?
During the tour, your guide will lead you to many historic buildings that represent the broad mix of Vietnamese, Chinese, and French influences that define the city. These include the Reunification Palace (once the headquarters of the Saigon government), the People's Committee Building, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Central Post Office, and the Saigon Opera House. In Chinatown, stop at the 18th-century Ong Bon Pagoda, a tailor's market, and traditional medicine shops.
You'll also get a glimpse of Vietnam's culture and religious history by visiting flower markets and a funeral home to witness Vietnamese mourning customs. One somber yet inspirational highlight is a stop at the Thich Quang Duc Monument, which is dedicated to the Buddhist monk and martyr who famously self-immolated in 1963 in protest of religious persecution. At the end of the tour, you'll return to your hotel and will have the rest of the day free.

Day 7: Mekong Delta Boat Tour

Tour the highlights of the Mekong Delta by traditional sampan boat 
Wake up early and leave Ho Chi Minh City for a full-day guided tour of the Mekong Delta. One of the most famous regions in the country, it's known as Vietnam's rice bowl due to its abundance of rice paddies, mangroves, sugar plantations, and coconut groves. It begins with a van transfer from your hotel to a pier in the city. There, you'll board a speedboat for the scenic two-hour ride south to the delta province of Tien Gang and the riverfront city of My Tho. On the way, you'll stop in the town of Cho Gao to browse their riverfront market for fresh produce, seafood, and souvenirs.
Continue from My Tho down a tributary to Ben Tre. This will be your base for various excursions around the delta countryside. Highlights include riding a sampan (flat-bottomed boat) down canals lined with nipa palms; stopping at a workshop to see the process of making coconut candy; sampling local fruits (mangoes, jackfruit, papaya, dragon fruit, etc.); and visiting a beekeeper to sample local honey tea. Afterward, you'll enjoy lunch at a riverside restaurant before returning to Ho Chi Minh City.

Day 8: Depart Ho Chi Minh City

Sunset over Ho Chi Minh City

Enjoy one last leisurely morning in Ho Chi Minh City. After breakfast, spend a few hours soaking up the atmosphere, perhaps visiting local markets and shopping for souvenirs. At the appropriate time, your driver will take you to the airport for your flight home. Until next time!

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Written by Long Dao, updated Mar 27, 2023