From north to south, discover the heart and soul of Vietnam on this 13-day adventure. Immerse yourself in the frenetic cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Soak up breathtaking natural landscapes atop Fansipan Mountain, in Ha Long Bay, and on the waters of the Mekong Delta. Then, step back in time to unravel the cultural and architectural melting pot of Hoi An. Along the way, meet local villagers, eat traditional meals and street snacks, and leave with rich, colorful memories.


  • Trek through remote villages to meet and stay with Hmong and Giay people
  • Ride one of the longest cable cars in the world up to Fansipan Mountain in Hanoi
  • Discover UNESCO-listed sites like the towering limestone islands of Ha Long Bay
  • Take a basketboat ride, lantern workshop, or cooking class in historic Hoi An
  • Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels used in the Vietnam War near Ho Chi Minh City

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Hanoi, Explore Hanoi
Day 2 Transfer to Sapa, Explore Sapa
Day 3 Trek Through Cat Cat, Y Linh Ho & Tavan Villages Sapa
Day 4 Take a Cable Car Up Fansipan Mountain, Transfer to Hanoi Hanoi
Day 5 Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise Ha Long Bay
Day 6 Morning Cruise, Return to Hanoi Hanoi
Day 7 Transfer to Hoi An, Sightseeing Hoi An
Day 8 Free Day in Hoi An Hoi An
Day 9 Take a Basketboat Boat Ride, Lantern Workshop, or Cooking Class Hoi An
Day 10 Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City, Free Time Ho Chi Minh City
Day 11 Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels, Ho Chi Minh City Tour Ho Chi Minh City
Day 12 Day Trip to the Mekong Delta Ho Chi Minh City
Day 13 Depart Ho Chi Minh City  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi, Explore

Hoan Kiem Lake

Chao ban! Welcome to Hanoi. Today, you can explore the city, relax and unwind, and slowly adjust to a new time zone. Hanoi, Vietnam's capital, is the second-largest city and the cultural and political center of the country, located in the Red River Delta. Amazingly, you can trace its history back all the way to the third century BCE. It's a city known for its centuries-old architecture with a multicultural collection of Southeast Asian, Chinese, and French influences.

Learn more about Vietnam's past, from prehistory to the mid-20th century, at the National Museum of History; visit the 11th-century Temple of Literature or the neo-Gothic St. Joseph's Cathedral. Along Hang Bai Street, you'll find busy street markets, food stalls, and silk shops, while Hoan Kiem Lake is a great place to stroll to experience Hanoian life and culture. Finish the day with a nice glass of bia hoi, a common light beer best enjoyed outdoors crouched together with the locals on a tiny plastic stool.

Day 2: Transfer to Sapa, Explore

H'Mong children
A local Hmong girl
Today, you'll take a six-hour drive to Sapa, a mountain retreat and former French colonial garrison surrounded by lush green mountains and stacked rice terraces. Take some time to unwind after your long journey, then head out to explore the town. Breathe in the cool alpine air while wandering the town's steep streets, stopping to buy handicrafts made by local Hmong women wearing bright, colorful traditional clothing, or pausing at a café for a cup of Vietnamese coffee.

Day 3: Trek Through Cat Cat, Y Linh Ho & Tavan Villages

Red Dzao people
Red Dzao people

You'll spend today exploring several remote villages, meeting the locals, and learning about their way of life. In Cat Cat village, stop by a waterfall and hydroelectric station before taking a trek on a dirt trail through rice paddy terraces and along a narrow river, enjoying spectacular scenery as you go. Arrive at Y Linh Ho Village, home to a Black Hmong minority, and enjoy lunch served near the river.

After lunch, head to Muong Hoa. A popular trekking route will take you through the Black Hmong village of Lao Chai and then on to Tavan, home to the Giay minority. You'll spend the night in the local house of one of the Giay people. Take a walk to enjoy the valley view and swim in the river nearby, then check in to your homestay for the evening, where dinner will be served.

Day 4: Take a Cable Car Up Fansipan Mountain, Transfer to Hanoi

Fansipan Mountain

This morning, you'll head to Hoang Lien station in the Fansipan Legend area, 1.8 miles (3 km) away from the stone church in the center of Sapa. Here, you'll board a cable car, one of the longest in the world, to take a scenic 20-minute journey to the top of Fansipan Mountain, nicknamed the "Roof of Indochina" for being the highest mountain in the Indochinese Peninsula.

You'll reach an altitude of 9,186 feet (2,800 m). At that point, you'll have time to enjoy the beautiful views across the UNESCO-listed landscape, take plenty of photos, and visit the complex of Buddhist temples, statues, and the Kim Son Bao Thang Pagoda, impressive spiritual sites on the mountaintop above the clouds. Once you've had a chance to soak up the beauty of this incredible place, you'll take the cable car back down to Sapa for lunch at a local restaurant. Afterward, transfer to your hotel in Hanoi.

Day 5: Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise

Cruising & Kayaking in Ha Long Bay
Cruising Ha Long Bay

Today, you'll transfer to UNESCO-listed Ha Long Bay and board a boat for an overnight tour and exploration. Sail across the paper-flat waters, taking in views of over 2,000 limestone karsts steeped in Vietnamese legend. Enjoy a delicious seafood lunch on board, followed by plenty of time to sit on the sun deck as you sail to the most remote corners of this otherworldly bay, named one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature.

In the afternoon, stop at a secret cove where you can go swimming and kayaking to explore hidden beaches and grottoes. Back on board, the boat's expert chef will lead a cooking masterclass, teaching you how to make mouthwatering specialties like nem (Vietnamese fried spring rolls) for dinner. Spend the evening relaxing on the boat or join the locals for a spot of night fishing to end the day.

Day 6: Morning Cruise, Return to Hanoi

Explore Ha Long Bay
Explore Ha Long Bay
Wake early for breakfast on the deck, watching the sun rise over the emerald waters of Ha Long Bay. The morning is yours to relax and absorb the view, join optional activities like a rejuvenating tai chi session, or take a kayak out past small floating villages of fishers and pearl farmers while you ogle the towering forested islands. Visit one of the limestone caves with immense chambers full of dripping stalagmites and stalactites before sailing back to the harbor, enjoying brunch along the way. Transfer back to Hanoi after disembarking.
Plan your trip to Vietnam
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 7: Transfer to Hoi An, Explore

Hoi An Sightseeing
Hoi An's Thu Bon River
Today, you'll catch a domestic flight to Da Nang and, from there, travel on to Hoi An. As the national trading center in the 16th century, UNESCO-listed Hoi An is home to a diverse mix of cultures and architecture. Stroll around the unusual cobblestone streets to admire centuries-old Chinese, Japanese, French, and European buildings, some of the best preserved anywhere in Vietnam. Walk across the hundred–year–old Japanese Covered Bridge and see Phuc Kien Hall, dedicated to a sea goddess. 

Day 8: Free Day in Hoi An

Hoi An town
Japanese Covered Bridge
Spend the day in Hoi An, exploring this colorful town at your own pace. Hoi An is known for its master tailors, where you can get fitted for a custom-made suit, jacket, or dress. Watch the tailors at work while you pick your fabric, and walk away with one of the best souvenirs you could get from your time in Vietnam. For lunch, try local dishes such as com hen (sauteed clams), nem lui (ground pork), and cao lau (pork and greens). In the evening, find a restaurant for dinner and continue your discovery of Hoi An's culinary side. 

Day 9: Take a Basketboat Boat Ride, Lantern Workshop, or Cooking Class

Colorful lanterns

Choose your own adventure today in Hoi An. Cycle the countryside and visit Camh Thanh fishing village to meet local fishers and watch how they net fish, taking a bamboo basket ride along a channel filled with coconut palms. Or learn about the history of lanterns brought to Hoi An by Japanese settlers in the 16th century. See how they're made in a lantern-making workshop and create your own to take home.

Foodies will love the opportunity to cycle and shop for local ingredients at the market, learning from a local chef about many interesting spices, vegetables, and fish or meat that go into the traditional Vietnamese recipes you'll be cooking for lunch. Take a basketboat ride through a palm garden to reach your cooking class, where you'll rustle up green papaya salad, spring rolls, pancakes, fish in a clay pot, or lemongrass chicken. 

Day 10: Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City, Free Time

Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre-Dame Cathedral
This morning, you'll transfer to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam's largest metropolis, and have time to explore at your own pace today. Feel the city's energy, home to traditional markets, towering skyscrapers, and some of the country's best dining and nightlife. Explore the French-colonial architecture of District One or the street food scene of the Phu Nhuan District. When your feet tire, why not check out one of the many spas for a foot massage? Then, sit down with a beer atop Bitexco Financial Tower for impressive views across the city.

Day 11: Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels, Ho Chi Minh City Tour

Visit Cu Chi Tunnels, Ho Chi Minh City Tour
Explore more of Ho Chi Minh this afternoon

Take a short drive north of the city to the tunnels of Cu Chi this morning, an immense 155-mile (250 km) underground network built in 1948 to defend against the French, then used during the Vietnam War as a base of operations for the Viet Cong guerrillas, complete with supply routes, hospitals, and living spaces. Inside the tunnels, you'll get an idea of the harsh conditions faced by over 16,000 Viet Cong who lived here and see innovative booby traps that they left for unlucky enemy soldiers.

In the afternoon, you'll set off on a guided tour of Ho Chi Minh City, stopping at the War Remnants Museum to see exhibits on the First Indochina War and the Vietnam War and visiting 19th-century landmarks like the Central Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Opera House. You'll also see the Reunification Palace (also known as the Independence Palace), taken over when Ho Chi Minh City fell in 1975. This was also when the city's name was changed from Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City.

Then, visit Ben Thanh Market, a popular spot for street food and shopping, to trawl for treasures and taste some local street food staples such as banh mi (a typical Vietnamese baguette sandwich) and com tam (a popular dish originating with poor rice farmers made from the broken rice grains they couldn't sell). Spend the evening exploring and soaking up the vibrant nightlife of this busy city before heading back to your hotel.

Day 12: Day Trip to the Mekong Delta

Day Trip to the Mekong Delta
Explore the Mekong Delta on today's day trip

Today, you'll embark on a cruise along the Ham Luong River, a tributary of the Mekong. Witness the sights and sounds of local life and agricultural work on the fertile river delta, often referred to as Vietnam's rice bowl. You'll discover a vast maze of rivers, swamps, and islands full of rice paddies, tiny villages, mangroves, floating markets, Khmer pagodas, sugar cane plantations, and even, surprisingly, brick kilns.

Visit locals to learn how brick is hand-fired and painted, then see how coconut is processed in a variety of ways for cooking and eating and to use around the home. After a refreshing stop for tea, catch a ride on xe loi (rickshaw) or pick up a bicycle to follow a shady countryside path, traveling through rice fields and vegetable gardens to join a local family for lunch. In the afternoon, ride a traditional wooden sampan boat along the canal before heading back to Ho Chi Minh City.

Day 13: Depart Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City
Enjoy your last morning in Vietnam, visiting a local market after breakfast, or having a final cup of Vietnamese coffee. Get a transfer to the airport for your flight home or on to your next destination.

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Map of Discover Vietnam From North to South - 13 Days
Map of Discover Vietnam From North to South - 13 Days
Written by Hien Do, updated Oct 30, 2023