This nine-day escape will take you to some of the most exotic parts of Vietnam, from mystical Ha Long Bay to the beaches of tropical Phu Quoc. It begins in Hanoi with city tours of this ancient capital and continues with a boat tour of Ha Long. Then jet off to the south and the island of Phu Quoc, where you can relax on white-sand beaches, go snorkeling, and sunbathe until your heart's content.


  • Visit historic Hanoi and take a street food tour
  • Enjoy an overnight cruise on Ha Long Bay
  • Fly to Phu Quoc to escape it all in a tropical paradise

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Hanoi, Evening Street Food Tour Hanoi
Day 2 Hanoi City Tour Hanoi
Day 3 Transfer to Ninh Binh, Tam Coc Boat Ride & Cycling Ninh Binh
Day 4 Mua Cave & Bai Dinh Pagoda, Transfer to Hanoi Hanoi
Day 5 Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Cruise Lan Ha Bay Ha Long Bay
Day 6 Visit Dark & Light Cave, Transfer to Phu Quoc Phu Quoc
Days 7-8 Phu Quoc Free Days Phu Quoc
Day 9 Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi, Evening Street Food Tour

See what's cooking in Hanoi
Welcome to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam! As one of the world's oldest capital cities, Hanoi dates all the way back to 200 BCE. It's a dynamic mix of the old and the new, as here you'll find 1,000-year temples sitting next to French colonial homes as well as modern shopping complexes. Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will pick you up in the city. Then you can see this unique architecture for yourself as you explore the labyrinthine streets of Hanoi's Old Quarter by foot or on a traditional three-wheeled cyclo.

In the evening, you'll meet with a local guide for a mouth-watering food tour of Hanoi. Start with a trip to Thanh Ha Market, where you'll browse food stalls, try local delicacies, and learn about Vietnamese culinary culture. Head to Dong Xuan Market, famed for its noodle shops, and sample treats such as pho sot vang (noodle soup with pork and herbs) and bun dau (tofu served in soup with rice noodles and fermented shrimp paste). 

Then return to the Old Quarter. Here, your guide will teach you about the city's traditional celebrations as you stop at ceremonial cake stalls and sample French-influenced desserts. Another highlight is a stroll down Hang Cot Street, which is known for its sugared and salted fruits. You'll end the tour at a local café for a cup of slow-dripped coffee or a sweet iced drink as you sit back and do some people-watching on Hanoi's bustling streets. 

Day 2: Hanoi City Tour

The Temple of Literature, Hanoi
Put on your walking shoes, because at 8 am a guide will pick you up for a full-day tour of Hanoi. First, you'll visit Tran Quoc Pagoda. Dating to the Ly Nam De Dynasty of the sixth century, this is the oldest Buddhist shrine in Hanoi. Then you'll visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, which houses the embalmed body of revolutionary leader "Uncle Ho," who died in 1969. Continue to the 11th-century One Pillar Pagoda, a Buddhist temple that is regarded as the most unique pagoda in Asia due to its lotus-flower design perched on a stone pillar rising out of a pond. 
After lunch, you'll head over to the 11th-century Temple of Literature, which was Vietnam's first-ever national university. Even today students 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. Finish the tour with a visit to Hoa Lo Prison Museum. It was originally used by the French colonists in Indochina as a jail for political prisoners, then later by North Vietnam to detain US POWs during the American War. During this later period, it was known as the "Hanoi Hilton."

Day 3: Transfer to Ninh Binh, Tam Coc Boat Ride & Cycling

Take a scenic sampan ride through Tam Coc
Wake up early for the three-hour drive from Hanoi south deep into the Red River Delta and Ninh Binh province. One of the most drop-dead gorgeous areas of the country, Ninh Binh is filled with verdant rice paddies, rivers, national parks, and towering karst mountains. You'll stop on the way for a short break in Ha Nam province, which is also known for its stunning scenery as well as historic pagodas.
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Upon arrival in Ninh Binh, you'll immediately head out to discover the natural beauty of the region on a bicycle ride through the Thung Nang Valley. The name literally translates to "Sunshine Valley" and riding alongside its shimmering grottoes and sun-kissed rice paddies, you'll understand why. After some time spent cycling along the backroads between local villages and enjoying the fresh air, you'll head over to your bungalow for lunch.
A little while later you'll visit another highlight of the province: Tam Coc. Part of the Trang An Landscape Complex and UNESCO World Heritage Site, this area is emblematic of the Red River Delta's beauty. Hop in a sampan (flat-bottomed boat) for a leisurely ride down a river hemmed in by rice paddies and dotted with limestone mountains. Afterward, you'll visit a family in a village home to see firsthand how locals make handicrafts and their traditional methods for embroidery. Then you'll return to your bungalow in time for dinner.

Day 4: Mua Cave & Bai Dinh Pagoda, Transfer to Hanoi

The Bai Dinh temple complex
Get ready for another full day exploring the stunning province of Ninh Binh. After breakfast at your bungalow, you'll transfer by motorbike, bicycle, or car to Hang Mua ("Mua Cave"). Located a short way from Tam Coc, this area isn't so much a cave as it is a mountain. The ridge and viewpoint here are so incredible that the area has been called "inland Ha Long Bay" and is likened to Vietnam's own Great Wall of China. 500 stone steps lead to the top, and when you finish this arduous hike you'll be treated to panoramic views looking out over Ninh Binh.

Afterward, you'll take a drive past some lovely local villages on your way to Bai Dinh. This massive temple sits on 1,331 acres (539 ha) and is the largest Buddhist pagoda complex in the country. It's a wildly popular pilgrimage site, and the oldest temple here dates to the 12th century. In keeping with the living history theme, after lunch, you'll visit Hoa Lu, a region that was the capital of Vietnam during the 10th and 11th centuries. Here you'll visit the King Dinh and King Le temples, which date to the 10th century. At the end of the day, you'll transfer back to Hanoi.

Day 5: Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Cruise Lan Ha Bay

Floating villages on Ha Long Bay

In the morning, your personal driver will take you on a 2.5-hour ride east to Ha Long Bay. Located on the Gulf of Tonkin, over 1,000 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 ship for an overnight cruise to adjacent Lan Ha Bay.

After settling into your cabin, head up to the deck where a delicious buffet lunch awaits. Then enjoy some optional activities like soaking in a jacuzzi, going for a kayak ride, or playing a round of mini-golf. Spend the remainder of the afternoon relaxing on the sundeck with snacks and drinks until it's time to watch the sunset over the emerald waters. After a gourmet dinner, finish the evening with cigars and a game of poker or head out on the water to do some night squid fishing.

Day 6: Visit Dark & Light Cave, Transfer to Phu Quoc

Phu Quoc's idyllic coastline
Wake up early and get the blood pumping with a tai chi session on the sundeck. After a light breakfast, the ship will cruise to the Dark and Light Cave. You'll then board a traditional bamboo boat and enter this system of two sea caverns. The "dark" cave stretches over 328 feet (100 m) and you'll explore the interior with a flashlight. The "light" cave is shorter and is filled with natural light, illuminating the white limestone karst walls and emerald waters of the grotto. Its cathedral-like interior is a great place to snap photos.

Afterward, return to the ship for brunch and head back to the pier. From there, you'll hop in a vehicle for the ride back to Hanoi, where you'll catch a two-hour flight to the southwestern end of Vietnam and Phu Quoc. Regarded as having some of Vietnam's best beaches (especially on the west side), this tropical isle the place to come for watersports, snorkeling, and generally getting away from it all.

Days 7-8: Phu Quoc Free Days

Enjoy water activities at Phu Quoc
You'll have the next couple of days free to put your feet up, relax, and soak in the sun. For snorkeling and diving, you can head to some great beaches and islets surrounded by coral reefs. Boat tours will take you to ideal dive spots at Gham Gi, Buom, and May Rut Trong islands. Good snorkeling beaches include Dai, Ong Lang, Cua Can, and others. While conditions are good throughout the year, the best time for snorkeling/diving is November-April when the waters are most calm.
For a nature adventure, hike one of the trails in the famous Phu Quoc National Park. Located in the northeast of the island, this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve protects 79,000 acres (32,000 ha) of evergreen forest and coral reefs. It's home to 470 plant species and 48 types of mammals including silvered langurs, macaques, otters, and fruit bats. Other popular ways to spend your time in Phu Quoc are simply relaxing on the beach, enjoying fresh seafood, and marveling at those golden sunsets.

Day 9: Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City & Depart

Farewell, Vietnam
Savor one last morning in paradise. At the appropriate time, you'll transfer to the airport for the one-hour flight to Ho Chi Minh City, where you'll catch your connecting flight home. Safe travels!

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Map of Escape to Vietnam: Cities, Countryside & Islands - 9 Days
Map of Escape to Vietnam: Cities, Countryside & Islands - 9 Days