From bustling Ho Chi Minh to the tranquility of Ha Long Bay, see Vietnam from south to north on this tour by boat, bicycle, car, and airplane. Shop for ingredients to make Vietnam's signature dishes in Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh on one day and then learn how to catch fish along the Mekong River on another. Study the ancient art of paper lantern-making in Hoi An and explore a temple dedicated to Confucius in Hanoi. There are discoveries at every turn of this 11-day Vietnam adventure.


  • Taste Vietnam's signature noodle soups on a Hanoi food tour
  • Explore ancient palaces and pagodas in Ninh Binh
  • Cruise on Ha Long Bay and hear the legends about its limestone mountains
  • Cycle around Can Tho and visit workshops and local kitchens

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Ho Chi Minh, Evening Food Tour Ho Chi Minh
Day 2 Transfer to Ben Tre & Boat Ride to Can Tho Can Tho
Day 3 Cai Rang Floating Market, Transfer to Ho Chi Minh Ho Chi Minh
Day 4 Fly to Da Nang, Transfer to Hoi An Hoi An
Day 5 Hoi An Cooking & Culture Hoi An
Day 6 Hoi An Countryside Excursion Hoi An
Day 7 Fly to Hanoi, Explore the City & Evening Food Tour Hanoi
Day 8 Day Trip to Ninh Binh Hanoi
Day 9 Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise Ha Long Bay
Day 10 Morning Cruise, Transfer to Hanoi Hanoi
Day 11 Depart Hanoi  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Ho Chi Minh, Evening Food Tour

Feel the energy of Ho Chi Minh City

Welcome to Ho Chi Minh, also known by its former name, Saigon. With a population of approximately 9 million, it's Vietnam's largest city. A driver will meet you at the airport to transfer you to your hotel, and after settling in, you could head out to explore on your own or opt for an afternoon tour.

For a perfect introduction to the city, spend the afternoon discovering different neighborhoods with a local food expert. At Ben Thanh Market, browse food stalls and try banh xeo (pancakes) and banh mi (sandwiches). In District 5, see ceremonial cake stalls while learning about how these cakes are eaten for special occasions. For a break and to end the tour, take a seat in a small and busy café to try a sweet iced coffee or slow-drip hot brew while people-watching. Return to your hotel to rest at the end of your first day in Vietnam. 

Day 2: Transfer to Ben Tre & Boat Ride to Can Tho

Mekong Delta
Cycling is a pleasant way to explore the Mekong Delta area

Ben Tre and its Ham Luong dock are this morning's destination, traveling about two hours south of Ho Chi Minh. From the dock, board a boat for a relaxing day-long cruise along the Ham Luong River, a tributary of the mighty Mekong. See the area lined with small islands and experience the sights and sounds of life on the river.

Arrive in Can Tho in the afternoon and visit workshops to learn about local ingredients like activated charcoal, dried coconut, and coconut husks. Get aboard a xe loi (rickshaw), see a demonstration of coconut fiber art, and maybe take some home with you. On the river, board a kayak to reach a restaurant for lunch. After lunch, hop on a bike to pedal around the village, go fishing, or take a cooking class. At the end of the day, transfer to your Can Tho hotel. 

Day 3: Cai Rang Floating Market, Transfer to Ho Chi Minh

Transfer from Can Tho to Ho Chi Minh &  Cai Rang floating market
In Cai Rang's floating market, see how produce is advertised and sold by boat

After breakfast in Can Tho, board a boat for a leisurely ride to see the Lower Mekong's tributaries. From there, visit Cai Rang's floating market, the largest floating market in the area, where fruits and vegetables are sold and traded from the early morning hours. There are even small floating restaurants where you can taste noodle soups and learn how they're prepared.

Get off the boat to explore the village of Cai Raing and cross a "Monkey Bridge"—a walkway built over the water with just one bamboo stem. After a stop for lunch, return to Ho Chi Minh, with a transfer of about three hours north by car. Relax at your hotel after a full day, or head out to feel the energy of the city at night. 

Day 4: Fly to Da Nang & Transfer to Hoi An

Hoi An sightseeing
See Hoi An's mix of cultural influences

Today's destination is Hoi An, where you'll spend the next three days discovering the city's mix of cultural influences across the centuries. To get there, you'll transfer to Tan Son Nhat Airport for a flight of about 1.5 hours north to Da Nang. At the airport, meet your driver for a one-hour transfer south to your hotel. Then spend the afternoon and evening walking around the city.

A 16th-century trading center, Hoi An's architectural and cultural influences are Chinese, Japanese, and French, as you'll see walking along its cobblestone streets. Pass over its hundred–year–old Japanese Bridge and see Phuc Kien Hall and learn about its dedication to a sea goddess. For dinner, head to the fish market or a restaurant and try local dishes such as com hen (sauteed clams), nem lui (ground pork), and cao lau (pork and greens). 

Day 5: Hoi An Cooking & Culture

Learn how to make the lanterns strung up throughout Hoi An

With a full day to see Hoi An and the surrounding area, you have many options, whether you want to stay in town, relax on the beach, take a class, or see the countryside.

To fully experience the area's markets and learn about its foods, hop on a bicycle following a guide to go shopping at a local market. A local chef will explain the spices, vegetables, fish, and other ingredients needed to prepare a meal for lunch. Then, board a basket boat to ride through a palm garden to reach the kitchen, where you'll cook dishes such as green papaya salad, spring rolls, pancakes, fish in a clay pot, or lemongrass chicken. Enjoy what you've cooked with your teacher, and then cycle back to your hotel after lunch. 

Japanese settlers brought lanterns to Hoi An in the 16th century as a symbol of good fortune. In the afternoon, learn more about the lanterns that you see decorating Hoi An's streets as you get back on your bicycle to follow your guide to a lantern workshop. There, learn about the history of these symbols of the city and how they are made, and then create one to take home. After the demonstration, bike back to Hoi An to return to your hotel or see more of the city.

Day 6: Hoi An Countryside Excursion

Learn about the fishing culture around Hoi An

On your second free day in Hoi An, you could head for the countryside with a cycling trip along the water with a local guide. To fully experience life on the river, board a boat for a cruise to meet fishers and learn about net fishing. Then, trade the boat for a smaller basket boat to take a trip down a coconut palm-lined waterway. Enjoy a seafood lunch and then make your way back to Hoi An for a free afternoon to explore.

Back in Hoi An, you could stop at some of the many local shops to see the city's master tailors at work and get fitted for a custom-made jacket, suit, or dress to take home with you. Spend the evening watching the sunset on the river and enjoy dinner at a restaurant to savor your last night in Hoi An. 

Day 7: Fly to Hanoi, Explore the City & Evening Food Tour

See Tran Quoc Pagoda, the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi

Your tour of Vietnam will take you farther north today to the capital city of Hanoi. After the 1.5-hour flight, a driver will meet you at the airport to take you to your hotel, where you can relax or take an afternoon or evening tour with a local guide.

Depending on your arrival time, you'll have time to get to know the capital as you follow a guide to some of its major sites. At Hang Be Market—one of the oldest markets in the city—get in line with the crowds for fresh meat and produce. Then, walk through Tran Quoc Pagoda, a Buddhist shrine dating back to the reign of Emperor Ly Nam De in the sixth century. Next, spend some time at the imposing Ho Chi Minh Complex, the resting place of former leader Ho Chi Minh.

In the evening, join a food tour to taste bun cha ta (grilled pork and noodles) and banh cuon (pork minced rice rolls) while watching chefs at work. Take a seat at a communal table to taste grilled meat at a barbecue stall and end the evening with Hanoi's signature egg coffee with egg yolks, sugar, and condensed milk. Head back to your hotel to rest at the end of a long day.

Day 8: Day Trip to Ninh Binh

Day Trip to Ninh Binh
In Ninh Binh, take a journey through ancient palaces and pagodas

Ninh Binh, about 1.5 hours south of Hanoi, is the destination for today's day trip to discover its many ancient palaces and pagodas. In nearby Hoa Lu—Vietnam's capital in the 10th and 11th centuries—you'll see decorative temples built to honor former emperors. At the three-tiered pagoda of Bich Dong, wander through cave temples, gazing at Buddhist statues and smelling the calming scents of incense, then take in the view on a drive through the countryside, passing by villages and limestone mountains.

Stop for lunch at a restaurant, and then travel to nearby Trang An, a scenic area with a karst system of limestone grottoes that you can float through by boat. During the floating tour, see Dia Linh Mountain, which is believed to have spiritual significance. Learn about the Tran Dynasty at the Vu Lam Royal Steps and visit a temple dedicated to Thanh Cao Son, a national hero who taught farmers vital irrigation techniques. After the tour, return to Hanoi for dinner on your own. 

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

Day 9: Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise

Cruising & Kayaking in Ha Long Bay
Relax on a Ha Long Bay cruise
Leave the city behind today for the calm waters of Ha Long Bay, known for its more than 2,000 forest-swathed limestone islands. The journey there begins in the morning, meeting your guide for a four-hour transfer east by car from Hanoi to the shores of Ha Long Bay. There, step aboard your cruise ship and set sail across the bay, passing islands rich in legends and named for their distinctive shapes. Savor a seafood lunch on the deck, relax amid the calmness of the bay, and get settled into your cabin.
In the afternoon, stop at a secret cove for swimming and kayaking, and then explore a nearby beach and grottoes. Back on board, join a cooking class with instructions on making nem (Vietnamese fried spring rolls) to enjoy as part of your dinner on the deck. In the evening, watch the sunset on the boat and then follow the locals for a night fishing adventure.

Day 10: Morning Cruise, Transfer to Hanoi

Enjoy your last night in Hanoi in the Old Quarter
Eat an early breakfast on the deck while watching the sunrise over Ha Long Bay's emerald waters. Follow breakfast with a tai chi class to energize you for the day's activities. After a stop to visit a limestone cave full of stalagmites and stalactites, you'll eat brunch on deck and then sail back to the harbor, where a four-hour transfer takes you back to Hanoi. Spend the final night of your trip in Hanoi eating street food in a market and buying your last souvenirs in the Old Quarter to take home with you. 

Day 11: Depart Hanoi

Enjoy one last steaming bowl of noodle soup before departing Vietnam
Depending on your departure time, you could spend your last morning in Hanoi discovering new places. Go for a peaceful walk along Hoan Kiem Lake, visit the 11th-century Temple of Literature dedicated to Confucius and other scholars, or stop for a steaming bowl of noodles. When the time comes, your driver will transfer you to the airport for your flight home or on to your next destination. 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, or discover the best time to visit Vietnam.


Map of Essential Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi - 11 Days
Map of Essential Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi - 11 Days
Written by Hien Do, updated Oct 31, 2023