Vietnam and Cambodia abound with natural beauty, historical landmarks, and rich culture—luckily, you have two weeks to experience the best of it. This grand expedition commences with city and street-food tours in Hanoi, Vietnam's high-energy capital. Then, head south to Hue's Imperial City and the ancient river town of Hoi An before exploring the Mekong River and finishing up in Cambodia, where Khmer temples await.


  • Hit the highlights of Hanoi and sample delicious street food
  • Set sail on Ha Long Bay and paddle a kayak to sea caves
  • Stroll the riverfront in ancient Hoi An and marvel at Hue's Imperial City
  • Experience Ho Chi Minh City's wartime history and tour the Mekong Delta
  • Discover the Khmer temples of Cambodia and visit floating lake villages

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Hanoi (Vietnam), Street Food Tour Hanoi
Day 2 Hanoi Highlights Tour Hanoi
Day 3 Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise Ha Long Bay
Day 4 Morning Cruise, Fly to Da Nang, Transfer to Hoi An Hoi An
Day 5 Hoi An City Tour & Lantern Workshop Hoi An
Day 6 Transfer to Hue via Da Nang's Highlights Hue
Day 7 Imperial City Tour, Royal Tombs & Thien Mu Pagoda Hue
Day 8 Fly to Ho Chi Minh City, Cu Chi Tunnels Tour Ho Chi Minh City
Day 9 Ho Chi Minh City Culture & Heritage Tour Ho Chi Minh City
Day 10 Boat Trip to the Mekong Delta & Cycling Ho Chi Minh City
Day 11 Fly to Siem Reap (Cambodia), Floating Villages Tour Siem Reap
Day 12 Day Trip to Angkor Thom & Angkor Wat Siem Reap
Day 13 Angkor Temples: Banteay Srei, Ta Prohm & Prasat Kravan Siem Reap
Day 14 Depart Siem Reap  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi (Vietnam), Street Food Tour

Hit Hanoi's colorful streets to discover the city's best quick eats

Chao ban! Welcome to Vietnam! Between thousands of years of history, immense natural beauty, and world-class cuisine, you can bet there's a lot to see and do here. To experience the most highlights in one place, you'll begin this adventure in the nation's capital of Hanoi. Upon arrival at the airport, your driver will pick you up for the ride to your hotel in or around Hanoi's captivating Old Quarter (historic center).

After checking in, you'll have a little time to relax and unwind. Then, in the evening, meet up with a local food expert for a mouthwatering tour of the capital. Start with a trip to Thanh Ha Market, where you'll browse food stalls, try local delicacies, and uncover Vietnamese culinary culture. Then, 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 soup with rice noodles).

Day 2: Hanoi Highlights Tour

Visit historical landmarks in Hanoi, like the Temple of Literature

You've sampled the cuisine—now it's time to experience Hanoian history on a walking tour. This full-day excursion begins in the Old Quarter and the Presidential Palace, an elegant French-colonial landmark dating to 1906. Nearby is the Stilt House, the wooden residence where President Ho Chi Minh lived between 1958 and 1969.

Continue to the 11th-century One Pillar Pagoda, a Buddhist temple with a lotus-flower design perched on a stone pillar rising from a pond. Then, visit the Museum of Ethnology, which houses an expansive collection of artifacts from Vietnam's 54 ethnic minority groups. Next up is the Temple of Literature, Vietnam's first national university (founded in 1070). Following this is the 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 (as the Vietnam War is known locally).

Lastly, you'll visit Hoan Kiem Lake, where locals come to socialize, practice tai chi, and pray at Ngoc Son, an island temple. While here, you'll attend a traditional water puppet show. Known as mua roi nuoc in Vietnamese, this cultural expression dates back over 1,000 years, originating in the Red River Delta rice fields. When the fields were flooded, puppeteers used the water's surface as a stage to tell stories with intricately crafted wooden marionettes. The tradition endures today, and seeing a show turns a history lesson into good fun.

Day 3: Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise

Luxurious cruise ships, like the Athena Royal, explore the waters of Ha Long Bay

After an early breakfast, your personal driver will pick you up at the hotel for the three-hour transfer north to the legendary Ha Long Bay. Located on the Gulf of Tonkin, over 1,500 karst islets rise above jade waters, resembling the spine of a mythological creature ("ha long" translates to "descending dragon"). The unique beauty of this region is unlike anywhere else and thus has earned UNESCO World Heritage status.

Upon arrival at the marina, you'll board the luxurious Athena Royal cruise ship for an overnight tour. After settling into your cabin, head to the dining room, where a delicious lunch awaits. Then, you can spend time relaxing on the sundeck 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 for a cooking demonstration and to sample famous Vietnamese dishes. Your appetite primed, head back to the dining room for a decadent buffet dinner. Afterward, you can spend the rest of the evening relaxing or grab a pole, cast a line off the stern, and do some squid fishing.

Day 4: Morning Cruise, Fly to Da Nang, Transfer to Hoi An

Athena Royal  Cruise-Day 2
Paddle around the stalactites and stalagmites of sea caves in a kayak

Wake early for a tai chi session on the sundeck as the sun rises over the karst towers of Ha Long Bay. After a light breakfast, the ship will stop near a sea cave, which you can explore by kayak or wooden raft. Later, you'll return to the ship and cruise to the Ha Long Bay pier, enjoying a brunch buffet as you go. From there, hop in a vehicle for the 3.5-hour ride back to Hanoi, arriving around 3 pm.

Once back in the city, you'll transfer to the airport by private vehicle and catch a 1.5-hour flight south to Da Nang. Then, transfer an hour by private car down the coast to Hoi An. Sitting on the Thu Bon River, this historic city was a major trading port with the West from the 15th through the 19th centuries, attracting merchants from around the globe. Its international legacy is represented in the assortment of architectural styles in Hoi An's Ancient Town. Once here, you'll check in to your hotel and have the evening free.

Day 5: Hoi An City Tour & Lantern Workshop

Explore highlights of the UNESCO-listed city of Hoi An, like the Japanese Covered Bridge

Leave after breakfast on a walking tour around Hoi An's historic streets, which are lined with ancient shrines, modern art galleries, charming restaurants, teahouses, and quaint boutiques. Along the waterfront, you'll see old merchant buildings combining Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese architectural elements. One highlight of Ancient Town is the 400-year-old Japanese Covered Bridge, built by the Japanese community as a link to the Chinese quarter located across a small stream. Nearby is the Assembly Hall of the Chaozhou Chinese Congregation, which dates to 1845.

Later in the afternoon, you'll participate in a private, hands-on workshop to discover the ancient art of lantern-making. Hoi An's streets and waterfront abound with colorful lanterns—a tradition that originated when Japanese settlers brought the first lanterns here in the 16th century. At the home of a local artisan, you'll learn all about this rich history and then make your very own colorful paper lantern to take home. 

Day 6: Transfer to Hue via Da Nang's Highlights

Take a road trip to Hue, and stop to enjoy the beaches in Da Nang

Say goodbye to Hoi An as your driver picks you up this morning to transfer north to Hue, a coastal city on the Perfume River. It's a three-hour drive, but you'll stop an hour into the journey for a highlights tour of Da Nang and the surrounding countryside. First, you'll stop and stretch your legs on the wide and inviting Non Nuoc, one of the city's main urban beaches.

Next, you'll head to the nearby Marble Mountains, a cluster of five limestone peaks home to caves, tunnels, and temples. One of these mountains, Thuy Son, is open to the public. You can hike 156 steps up to the summit, where you'll be rewarded with stunning coastal views. Afterward, continue north by vehicle over the magnificent Hai Van Pass. Also known as the "Cloudy Pass" due to the great tufts of white that often settle on these coastal mountains, the vistas from here are also epic. Not to worry, as there will be stops to snap plenty of photos.

Eventually, you'll arrive in Hue, the ancient capital of Vietnam's feudal Nguyen Dynasty. This imperial history is represented in Hue's Imperial City, a massive complex that's one of the most awe-inspiring human-made landmarks in the country. You'll see it soon enough; for now, you'll transfer to your hotel and rest up for a big day of touring tomorrow. 

Day 7: Imperial City Tour, Royal Tombs & Thien Mu Pagoda

Construction on Hue's Imperial City began in the early 19th century
Plan your trip to Vietnam
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Get ready for an immersion into Hue's rich history on a full-day highlights tour. Meet your local guide in the morning and head to the Royal Tomb of King Minh Mang. This is the final resting place of one of the Nguyen Dynasty's most dedicated Confucians. After admiring the tomb, hop aboard a traditional dragon boat for a ride on the Perfume River to the sacred Thien Mu Pagoda. Dating to the early 17th century, this is one of the city's oldest religious sites, and its iconic 68-foot (21 m) octagonal tower is a symbol of Hue.

Continue to the Imperial City, the citadel where the former kings of Vietnam's last feudal dynasty ruled for nearly 150 years. You'll tour major landmarks inside this 520-acre (210 ha) complex. These include Flag Tower, Noon Gate, Nine Dynasty Urns, Nine Holy Cannons, and Thai Hoa Palace and its Khai Dinh Royal Tomb, where the 12th king of the Nguyen Dynasty is interred. Afterward, you'll head over to Dong Ba Market. At Hue's most popular municipal market, you can shop for fresh produce, street food, clothing, bags, souvenirs, and more. Later, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 8: Fly to Ho Chi Minh City, Cu Chi Tunnels Tour

The Củ Chi Tunnels are 75 miles (121 km) long
The Cu Chi Tunnels are 75 miles (121 km) long

After breakfast, your driver will pick you up at the hotel for the transfer to Hue's airport. There, you'll catch a 1.5-hour flight south to Ho Chi Minh City. Upon arrival, another driver will pick you up and transfer you to your hotel. Ho Chi Minh City is fascinating in that it has managed to preserve its cultural roots and traditions in the face of a communist revolution, a devastating war, and ever-encroaching modernity.

After checking into the hotel, meet a guide/driver and head two hours north of the city to Cu Chi Tunnels. This immense network of underground passages was constructed in 1948 to protect the Viet Cong guerrillas from French attacks. They also served as living quarters, communications hubs, supply routes, and hospitals. A visit here will give you a better understanding of Vietnam's wartime history and the hardships faced by thousands of soldiers who survived the French and American wars. You can even crawl through a section of the tunnels to experience their narrow dimensions.

Day 9: Ho Chi Minh City Culture & Heritage Tour

Reunification Palace, Ho Chi Minh City
Reunification Palace is one of the stops on today's tour of Ho Chi Minh City

Enjoy a heaping helping of culture and history on this morning's tour of the former Saigon. From the hotel, your guide will take you to visit Cho Lon (Chinatown) and stop at Thien Hau Pagoda, an 18th-century temple dedicated to the Chinese sea goddess Mazu. Then, browse the fresh produce, handicrafts, fabrics, and food stalls at Binh Tay, a historic covered market dating to the 19th century. 

Afterward, proceed to the War Remnants Museum for a vivid look at the American War through the eyes of the Vietnamese. Highlights here include various exhibits—like weaponry and military equipment—as well as historical photos, prison-cell recreations, and tiger cages. It's guaranteed to leave an indelible impression.

Next, travel to 19th-century landmarks like the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office. You'll also visit Reunification Palace (also known as Independence Palace), which was the headquarters of the Saigon government during the war. Cap the excursion with a stroll along the upscale shopping drag at Dong Khoi Street.

Day 10: Boat Trip to the Mekong Delta & Cycling

Travel down the Mekong
Travel down the Mekong like a local via boat and bicycle

This morning, you'll transfer south to the lush Mekong Delta. Known as Vietnam's rice bowl, this region is full of mangroves, sugar cane plantations, and flourishing rice paddies. Board a boat for a ride down the Ben Tre River, one of the tributaries of the mighty Mekong. Along the way, you'll stop and visit local businesses like a brick workshop. The region is also famous for its coconut candies, and you'll visit a factory to see how these tasty confections are made. 

Next, stop at a small riverside village for tea with a family that makes hand-woven rush mats. Then, explore the town by bike or xe loi (motor cart) and witness scenes of peaceful riverine life. You'll pass verdant rice fields, coconut groves, vegetable farms, and exotic fruit orchards. Have lunch at a restaurant on the banks of the river, then hop on a traditional raft and paddle down a creek. Afterward, you'll transfer back to Ho Chi Minh City and will have the evening free.

Day 11: Fly to Siem Reap (Cambodia), Floating Villages Tour

Spend half the day exploring the floating villages of Tonlé Sap

Leave the hotel early and transfer to the airport for the one-hour flight to Siem Reap. You're now in Cambodia! This resort town in the country's northwest sits on the shores of Tonlé Sap and is the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Angkor. These ruins were once the capital city of the Khmer Kingdom from the ninth to the 15th centuries.

Upon arrival in Siem Reap, you'll transfer to your hotel. Then, meet a guide for the drive about 11 miles (18 km) south to Tonlé Sap. This is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and one of the world's most biodiverse ecosystems. Here, you'll board a private boat for a half-day tour of Tonlé Sap's famous floating villages. These remarkable communities have their own infrastructure, including schools, markets, and restaurants. At the end of the experience, you'll return to Siem Reap.

Day 12: Day Trip to Angkor Thom & Angkor Wat

King Jayavarman VII's smiling face is carved into sculptures at Bayon Temple

Today, you'll visit Angkor Thom (literally "Great City"), once the most impressive royal city of Cambodia's Angkor period. During its heyday in the 12th and 13th centuries, it was a formidable defensive area, protected by 26-foot (8 m) walls and a wide moat. Looming over Angkor Thom are the 54 towers of Bayon Temple. King Jayavarman VII commissioned it in the 12th century, and his smiling face is represented in its 216 stone sculptures. Other highlights include the Terrace of the Elephants (featuring sculptures of elephants), Phimeanakas (a three-tiered pyramid), and the Terrace of the Leper King.

After Angkor Thom, you'll tour the most famous temple of all: Angkor Wat. Famed for its majesty and splendor, this 12th-century complex is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It features the longest continuous bas-relief in the world, which runs along the outer walls and narrates stories from Hindu mythology. Its five towers are so iconic they're actually emblazoned on the Cambodian flag. While here, you'll stroll Angor Wat's galleries, libraries, pavilions, and courtyards. Afterward, enjoy a sunset view from Bakheng Hill (or at the less crowded Pre Rup, a 10th-century Hindu temple).

In the evening, continue the guided tour with a trip to Siem Reap's famous night market. Located in the bustling Pub Street district, here you'll find an array of different food and beverage options. There are also plenty of bars and nightclubs to enjoy.

Day 13: Angkor Temples: Banteay Srei, Ta Prohm & Prasat Kravan

Explore Angkor Temples: Banteay Srei, Ta Prohm Temple and Prasat Kravan
Explore Angkor Temples: Banteay Srei, Ta Prohm Temple and Prasat Kravan

Wake early today for a bucket-list sunrise trip to Angkor Wat. Watch in awe as the morning light illuminates this world-famous monument in dazzling shades of gold. Afterward, head back to your hotel for breakfast before returning to Angkor yet again, stopping to visit rural villages on your way to Banteay Srei, also known as the Citadel of Women. Marvel at the 10th-century temple's intricate carvings and sandstone architecture. 

In the afternoon, you'll move on to Ta Prohm, built between the late 12th and early 13th centuries. Its ruins are entwined with the forest's trees and vines and were featured in the "Tomb Raider" movies. Other temples you'll visit include the 12th-century Banteay Kdei (surrounded by four concentric walls) and Prasat Kravan, a small private temple built in the 10th century and dedicated to Vishnu. After returning to town, consider an evening walk along the languid Siem Reap River and the adjacent Royal Independence Gardens.

Day 14: Depart Siem Reap

Sun setting over the iconic towers of Angkor Wat
And with the sunrise this morning over Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor, your journey has come full circle. After breakfast, you'll transfer to the airport and catch 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 and Cambodia, or discover the best time to visit Vietnam.


A note on diacritical markings: In order to support the best technical experience and search functions, diacritical markings have been omitted from this article.


Map of Essential Vietnam & Cambodia: Hanoi to Siem Reap - 14 Days
Map of Essential Vietnam & Cambodia: Hanoi to Siem Reap - 14 Days
Written by Kelly Lu, updated Dec 4, 2023