Experience authentic Vietnamese life with a side of beach relaxation on this two-week tour. You'll meet all kinds of locals, from a Hanoi puppet maker to a tea plantation owner and an expert Hoi An cook. Along the way, cruise the emerald waters of Ha Long Bay, cycle through idyllic rice paddies, and explore the urban sights of Ho Chi Minh City. The trip ends with a paradisical seaside break in Vung Tau.


  • Visit a traditional puppet maker in historic Hanoi
  • Cruise UNESCO-listed Ha Long Bay
  • Meet the locals on a Ba Vi countryside tour
  • Take a cooking class and countryside bike tour in Hoi An
  • Enjoy a beach break in beautiful Vung Tau

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Hanoi Hanoi
Day 2 City Tour & Water Puppet Experience Hanoi
Day 3 Ba Vi Countryside Eco-Tour Hanoi
Day 4 Cruise & Kayak in Ha Long Bay Ha Long Bay
Day 5 Cruise Ha Long Bay, Fly to Hoi An Hoi An
Day 6 Ms. Vy's Cooking Class Hoi An
Day 7 Cycling in Cam Thanh & Farm Visit Hoi An
Day 8 Fly to Ho Chi Minh City  Ho Chi Minh City
Day 9 Transfer to Vung Tau Vung Tau
Day 10 Visit Long Tan, Nui Dat Battle Field & Long Phuoc Tunnels Vung Tau
Day 11 Explore Vung Tau Vung Tau
Day 12 Free Day in Vung Tau Vung Tau
Day 13 Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City, A O Show Ho Chi Minh City
Day 14 Depart Ho Chi Minh City  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi

Free Day in Hanoi
Explore Hanoi's Old Quarter

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

For lunch, head to Bun Cha Huong Lien 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 enjoy spectacular sunset views over Tay Ho (West Lake) to wrap up your evening in style.

Day 2: City Tour & Water Puppet Experience

Tran Quoc Pagoda
See the sixth-century Tran Quoc Pagoda in Hanoi

This morning you'll take a guided tour of Hanoi's top sights, including the Ho Chi Minh Complex, where Vietnam's revered revolutionary leader, Ho Chi Minh, lies embalmed in a mausoleum. Wander the serene grounds to see the humble wooden stilt house where he once lived, as well as the ornate One Pillar Pagoda, which sits in the middle of a lake and resembles Vietnam's national flower, the lotus.

Continue to Hoan Kiem Lake, where locals come to socialize, practice tai chi, and pray at Ngoc Son Temple. You'll also visit architectural wonders like the 11th-century Temple of Literature and Tran Quoc Pagoda, a Buddhist shrine dating back to the reign of Emperor Ly Nam De in the sixth century, making it the oldest of its kind in the city. Next, take in the sights of tranquil Tay Ho and grab a bowl of steaming pho (noodle soup) for lunch.

In the afternoon, you'll visit the home of Mr. Liem, a passionate seventh-generation puppet maker and performer. Mr. Liem will teach you all about the ancient art of water puppetry and give you a private show in his small theater. You'll get the chance to learn basic puppetry techniques, using bamboo rods to move handmade figures through the water.

Day 3: Ba Vi Countryside Eco-Tour

Discover the Vietnamese countryside on a Ba Vi eco-tour

Head out of the city this morning for a guided tour of the beautiful Ba Vi countryside, which is known for its tiny villages and biodiverse landscape. 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 the village of Moc, where Mrs. Chin will teach you how to cook Vietnamese dishes before sitting down to lunch in her tropical garden. Join Mrs. Chin for a walk around the village to visit local 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 traditional Muong herbal foot bath before heading back to Hanoi

Day 4: Cruise & Kayak in Ha Long Bay

Cruising & Kayaking in Halong Bay
Twilight over Ha Long Bay

Today starts with a four-hour transfer to Ha Long Bay, where you'll board a ship for your overnight cruise of this UNESCO-listed landmark. Sail across the paper-flat waters, taking in views of more than 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, you'll stop at a secret cove where you can go swimming and kayaking to explore hidden beaches and grottoes. The ship's expert chef will lead a cooking masterclass, teaching you how to make specialties such as nem (Vietnamese fried spring rolls) for dinner. You can spend the evening relaxing or join the locals for a spot of night fishing.

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

Cruise Halong Bay
Wake up to stunning views of UNESCO-listed Ha Long Bay

Wake early for breakfast on the ship'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.

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

Day 6: Ms. Vy's Cooking Class

Cook up a storm with Ms. Vy

Today you'll take a cooking class at Ms. Vy's Market Restaurant to learn about Hoi An's world-famous cuisine. The city's well-positioned port has drawn settlers from all over the world, resulting in a fusion of international street food, which you'll get to cook and sample. Start with a boat trip to Hoi An's vibrant central market, where you'll spot typical Vietnamese ingredients and meet the vendors.

Next, you'll head to Vy's Market Restaurant, which has a central courtyard surrounded by food stalls where you can watch cooks prepare signature dishes such as fresh cao lau (Hoi An noodles), spring rolls, soups, and rice crackers. Learn to cook some of these classics during a two-hour cooking class, and then feast on your creations for lunch. At the end of the experience, you'll get printed recipes and a Vietnamese cooking gift to take home.

Day 7: Cycling in Cam Thanh & Farm Visit

Cycling in Cam Thanh & Thanh Dong Organic Farm Visit
Cycle through the countryside in Hoi An

Spend today exploring Hoi An's countryside by bike. A guide will drive you to Vong Nhi village to pick up your bicycle and begin the roughly 4-mile (6 km) journey. Along the way, you'll pass unspoiled countryside dotted with water coconut forests, rice paddies, and prawn and red snapper farms.

Stop at Thanh Dong Organic Farm, a 107,640 square foot (10,000 sq m) garden that supports 10 local families. Amble around the vegetable garden and learn how local farmers have transformed their lives by cultivating organic produce and herbs. There's even a chance to join in with gardening activities such as sowing seeds or picking vegetables.

Next, ride a Vietnamese circular basket boat along the Do River to the popular Field Restaurant. As you float by, you'll spot farmers in conical hats picking rice in lime-green paddies and fishermen casting nets on the water. On the way back to your hotel in Hoi An, you'll take another short cooking class and feast on a family-style Vietnamese dinner.

Day 8: Fly to Ho Chi Minh City

Notre Dame Cathedral
Visit Ho Chi Minh City's Notre Dame Cathedral

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 explore the city's noodle-soup-scented alleyways and grand French boulevards independently. You'll discover a mix of colonial architecture and modern skyscrapers, snaking markets, and sprawling mega malls.

You could trawl for treasures at Ben Thanh Market, a popular spot for street food and shopping, or check out one of the city's many spas for a Vietnamese foot massage. For a dose of history, visit the haunting War Remnants Museum and the Notre Dame replica. When you're ready for a break, sit down with a beer at Bitexco Tower for glittering night-time views across the city.

Day 9: Transfer to Vung Tau

Catch local life in action in Vung Tau
Leave the city's bright lights behind today, transferring south down the coast to the seaside town of Vung Tau. This buzzing resort town lies on a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by the sea, and is famed for its long white sands lapped by topaz water. Spend the afternoon relaxing on one of Vietnam's top beaches, Thuy Van (Black Beach), which stretches almost 6 miles (10 km). Take a stroll along Vung Tau Promenade, which connects Black Beach and Front Beach, and then enjoy a seafood dinner while watching the sunset.

Day 10: Visit Long Tan, the Nui Dat Battle Field & Long Phuoc Tunnels

Visit Long Tan, the Nui Dat Battle Field & Long Phuoc Tunnels
Pay your respects at the Long Tan Cross Memorial

Delve into Vietnam's war history today at Long Tan and Nui Dat, two critical bases for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps during the Vietnam War. Your first stop is the site of Australia's Nui Dat Task Force Base (Nui Dat SAS Hill), where you'll see the former runway and a helipad that's now a soccer field. Drive past the location of the Horseshoe Fire Support Base to the Discourtesy Rubber Plantation.

Next, you'll visit the Long Tan Cross Memorial, a focal point for remembrance, before continuing to the Long Phuoc Tunnels. Like other tunnel systems found in Vietnam, Long Phuoc features underground meeting areas, first aid stations, and fighting pits where locals lived to escape American bombing. During the tour, your guide will tell you fascinating stories about life in the tunnels. Afterward, have lunch at Ba Ria and enjoy some free time on the beach.

Day 11: Explore Vung Tau

Climb the 847 steps of the Jesus Christ Statue

Head to the beach this morning to soak up some sunshine, followed by an authentic Vietnamese lunch at a local restaurant. In the afternoon, you'll climb up 847 stairs to the 105-foot (32 m) Jesus Christ Statue. Considered one of the tallest statues of Christ in Asia, it took 20 years to build, and its outstretched arms span 60 feet (18 m). Climb inside to Christ's arms for panoramic views over Vung Tau city.

Your next destination is Thang Tam Temple (Whale Temple), which features the bones of these mammoth sea creatures, considered deities of the coast. The bones are ceremonially hauled to the temple's mausoleum whenever a whale carcass washes ashore. Continue to Bach Dinh, a lavish colonial-era mansion built as a retreat for the French Governor of Indochina, Paul Doumer, at the beginning of the 20th century. End the tour at Cape Nghinh Phong for unobstructed views of Vung Tau and the East Sea.

Day 12: Free Day in Vung Tau

Enjoy a free day at the beach in Vung Tau

Today is yours to explore Vung Tau at your own pace. Enjoy some beach time, wading into the waves and sunbathing on the powdery sand. During low tide, you can even walk out to explore the island temple of Hong Ba. If you're feeling active, there are plenty of hiking trails in the surrounding hills, including a trek to Vietnam's oldest lighthouse. Built by the French in 1862, the lighthouse boasts incredible city and coastline views.

For more sweeping vistas, ride the cable car to Ho May Park, where you'll find an amusement park and a giant Buddha statue. End your day with a sunset cocktail at the Marina Club Vung Tau and some delicious Vietnamese seafood. Try bun rieu cua (crab noodle soup) or banh tom (sweet potato shrimp cake).

Day 13: Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City, A O Show

Head to the Saigon Opera House for a traditional cultural show
Head back to Ho Chi Minh City this morning and check into your hotel. You'll have some free time to continue exploring the city before tonight's traditional Vietnamese cultural performance. The renowned A O Show features a unique mix of bamboo circus, acrobatics, contemporary dance, Vietnamese music, and theatrical visual art. The show takes place in the iconic Saigon Opera House, built by the French in 1898. Performers use a variety of props, such as woven baskets, to depict the transition from rural to modern-day Vietnamese life.

Day 14: Depart Ho Chi Minh City

Say goodbye to Ho Chi Minh City

Today your Vietnam adventure comes to end. Spend a few hours shopping for souvenirs in Ho Chi Minh City's 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 two weeks in Vietnam, or discover the best time to visit Vietnam.


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Map of Discover Vietnam’s Local Culture & Idyllic Beaches – 14 Days
Map of Discover Vietnam’s Local Culture & Idyllic Beaches – 14 Days
Written by Hien Do, updated Apr 14, 2023