Travel through Vietnam and Cambodia as you explore the many facets of these two intriguing countries. Start in Hanoi to see the major sites by day and eat your way through the street stands by night. Escape the city for tranquility as you cruise along Ha Long Bay, then visit Bana Hills to marvel at its famous Golden Hand Bridge. Float along the Mekong Delta and experience the calm of quaint villages. Finally, cross the border into Cambodia where you'll discover Angkor Wat and other nearby temples.


  • Visit Hanoi's key sites before eating your way through its street food by night
  • Cruise along the beautiful Ha Long Bay, where you'll enjoy swimming and kayaking
  • Float along the lush Mekong Delta and stop at local shops and quaint villages
  • Head to Cambodia to discover Siem Reap and its temples, including Angkor Wat

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Hanoi, Hanoi Street Food Tour Hanoi
Day 2 City Tour & Water Puppet Experience Hanoi
Day 3 Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Board Overnight Cruise Ha Long Bay
Day 4 Disembark Cruise, Fly to Hoi An via Hanoi Hoi An
Day 5 Day Trip to Bana Hills Hoi An
Day 6 Visit My Son Sanctuary, Fly to Ho Chi Minh City Ho Chi Minh City
Day 7 Cu Chi Tunnels & Ho Chi Minh City Tour Ho Chi Minh City
Day 8 Day Trip to the Mekong Delta  Ho Chi Minh City
Day 9 Fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia Siem Reap
Day 10 Discover Banteay Srei, Banteay Samre & the Roluos Temples Siem Reap
Day 11 Explore Angkor Wat Complex Siem Reap
Day 12 Depart Siem Reap  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi, Hanoi Street Food Tour

The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, in Hanoi
Head to dinner on Hanoi's famous Train Street
Welcome to Vietnam! Upon arrival at the airport in Hanoi, your driver will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel. Relax after the long journey, or head out to stretch your legs and get your bearings. Dating to 3000 BCE, Hanoi is one of the world's most ancient capitals. Traditional culture meets modern metropolis in its busy streets filled with motorbikes, outdoor markets, and curbside banh mi vendors. Rest up because later, you'll meet your guide and stroll around the Old Quarter for a street food tour tonight.
Walking through the maze of bustling streets, you'll explore the most famous street food stands in Hanoi, which will surely make your mouth water. Try famed Hanoi dishes such as bun cha ta (a grilled pork and noodle dish) or banh cuon at a local eatery and watch as the skilled chefs demonstrate how this tasty dish is put together. Have a seat at outdoor barbecue stalls with the Hanoi locals and sample various flame-grilled meat, vegetable, and bread specialties over hot coals for extra flavor. For dessert, don't miss the famous egg coffee!

Day 2: City Tour & Water Puppet Experience

City Tour & Water Puppet Experience
Hanoi's Temple of Literature

This morning, 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, which sits on an island.

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. In the afternoon, you'll visit the home of Mr. Liem, a passionate seventh-generation puppet maker, and performer. Mr. Liem will teach you 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: Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Board Overnight Cruise

Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Cruise Ha Long Bay
 Discover islets and grottoes along Ha Long Bay

After breakfast, your driver will pick you up for the three-hour drive to the coast and Ha Long Bay. Located on the Gulf of Tonkin, over 1,500 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 it's a UNESCO World Heritage site. Upon arrival at the marina, you'll board a multi-level cruise ship for an overnight tour. After settling into your cabin, head up to the deck for a delicious seafood lunch.

Spend time relaxing on the sun deck 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 just in time to participate in a cooking masterclass offered by the onboard expert chef. During the workshop, you'll learn to make traditional specialties like nem (Vietnamese fried spring rolls) and enjoy them for dinner. Spend the remainder of the evening relaxing, or head out on a small boat for some night fishing with the locals.

Day 4: Disembark Cruise, Fly to Hoi An via Hanoi

Transfer to the historic riverfront city of Hoi An

Be sure to wake up early and head to the deck to catch the sunrise. Then sit down and enjoy breakfast in the open air as you cruise around towering islets. The rest of the morning is yours to enjoy, so relax, take in the views, or join an optional activity like kayaking around Ha Long's floating villages. Sit down for an early lunch before disembarking at the marina and transferring back to Hanoi. A driver will be waiting to take you to Hanoi International Airport, where you will take a flight to Da Nang. Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will pick you up and take you to your hotel nearby Hoi An.

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

Day 5: Day Trip to Bana Hills

Golden Hand bridge
A walk along the famous Golden Hand Bridge

Get ready for stunning scenery as your driver and tour guide will pick you up at the hotel lobby and take you to Bana Hills. You'll arrive at Dream Stream Cable Car Station, where you'll take a car to the Golden Bridge. As you climb, see the panoramic views of Quang Nam high above, admire Linh Ung Pagoda, and stand before the massive 100-foot (30 m) Buddha. Afterward, explore the charming French village, with a French Gothic-style cathedral, French restaurants, and gardens.

Continue to the beautiful Tinh Tam Garden and make your way to Vong Nguyet Hill for more spectacular views of stunning scenery. Finally, visit the Golden Bridge, a 492-foot (150 m) long pedestrian bridge with two giant stone hands supporting the structure. Get a scenic overlook as you stroll along the bridge. When it's time to leave, you'll return by cable car and be taken back to your hotel.

Day 6: Visit My Son Sanctuary, Fly to Ho Chi Minh City

Ancient Hindu temples at My Son
Early this morning, a driver and tour guide will pick you up at your hotel to travel just over an hour to My Son Sanctuary, a UNESCO-listed cluster of partially ruined Hindu temples. Spend two hours walking through the abandoned temple site, learning the history of these structures built between the fourth and 14th centuries by the kings of Champa, and enjoying some traditional Champa performances.
Return to your hotel to check out. Then you'll be taken to the airport to catch a 90-minute domestic flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Upon arrival, a driver will be waiting to take you to your hotel. You'll have the remainder of the evening to discover the city. Despite a turbulent history and devastating war, this city formerly known as Saigon has retained its fascinating mix of Asian and western traditions, with French colonial landmarks rubbing shoulders with 21st-century skyscrapers. Wander through markets, the Old Town, and the modern sector to get your bearings.

Day 7: Cu Chi Tunnels & Ho Chi Minh City Tour

City hall
Ho Chi Minh's stately City Hall

Today you'll take a deep dive into Vietnamese history and explore the famous Cu Chi Tunnels, used as a shelter for Vietnamese soldiers during the war. Learn about why the tunnels were constructed and how they helped people survive in harsh wartime conditions. Wander the remaining tunnel systems, which include the living areas, kitchens, and martial facilities, as well as hidden doors and dangerous traps. Finish the tour with special tea and cassava (a typical meal of guerilla food during the war).

In the afternoon, return to the city to visit Independence Palace, also known as the Reunification Palace, built on the sight of the former Norodom Palace. The Independence Palace is a widely known landmark of Ho Chi Minh City and was designed by the architect Ngo Viet Thu. Continue exploring the beautiful buildings from French colonial times, such as the Notre Dame Cathedral and the historic Central Post Office. Then visit Ben Thanh Market, one of the largest markets in Ho Chi Minh City, to see the local life here. After the tour, return to your hotel.

Day 8: Day Trip to the Mekong Delta 

Venture into the lush countryside of the Mekong Delta on a day trip

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 water-logged paddies. Board a boat to sail the Ben Tre River, one of the tributaries of the mighty Mekong. Along the way, you'll visit local businesses like a brick workshop and honey farm. Tour one of the coconut candy workshops Ben Tre is famous for to sample these tasty treats and learn how they're made.

Next, you'll stop at a small riverside village for tea with a family that makes hand-woven rush mats. Explore the town by bike or xe loi (motor cart) to observe daily life. You'll pass lime-green rice fields, vegetable farms, and exotic fruit orchards. Have lunch at Green Coconut Restaurant on the banks of the river before trying your hand at rowing along a creek. Afterward, head back to Ho Chi Minh City for a laid-back evening.

Day 9: Fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia

The ruins of Angkor
A busy evening street scene in Siem Reap

Enjoy your last few hours in Vietnam before being picked up and transferred to the airport in Ho Chi Minh to take a one-hour flight to Siem Reap. Upon arrival at the airport, you will be greeted by your tour guide and taken to your hotel. In northern Cambodia, Siem Reap is the gateway to the Unesco World Heritage Site of Angkor Wat. While most people have ancient temples in mind when visiting, there's quite a lot to do in Siem Reap, from immersing yourself in Khmer culture at art and textile museums to seeing avant-garde artistry at Cirque de Soleil-style performances.

The rest of the day is free, so you can stroll around this city of temples, which will be your base for the next three days. You could browse for high-quality crafts and souvenirs at the Made in Cambodia Market, which has artwork, jewelry, textiles, lacquerware, recycled products, and food stalls. Watch a performance of the Sacred Dancers of Angkor, with classically trained dancers putting on an impressive folkloric show, followed by dinner and drinks at The Sugar Palm, an elegant spot to try authentic Cambodian dishes. 

Day 10: Discover Banteay Srei, Banteay Samre & the Roluos Temples

Discover Banteay Srei, Banteay Samre & the Roluos Temples
Remarkable details at Banteay Srei Temple

Enjoy a day of touring temples in the Angkor region, starting with Banteay Samré, a 12th-century Hindu temple built in the Angkor Wat style. Then head to Banteay Srei, a 10th-century temple devoted to Shiva, one of the principal deities in Hinduism. Constructed out of red sandstone, Banteay Srei is famous for its intricate carvings covering nearly every surface, earning it the nickname the "jewel of Khmer art."

This afternoon, visit Roluos, an archaeological site once part of the ancient Khmer capital city, Hariharalaya. Here you'll find three temples from the ninth century, the beginning of the Khmer empire. Start at Preah Ko, the first temple in the area by King Indravarman I in honor of his family. Next, visit Bakong, a stepped pyramid or "temple mountain," before wrapping up your visit at Lolei, a temple originally built on an island in a reservoir that has since dried up. Among the ancient temples in the area are two working Buddhist monasteries, symbolic of this site's lasting religious importance.

Day 11: Explore the Complex of Angkor Wat

Explore the Complex of Angkor Wat
Cambodia's iconic temple complex of Angkor Wat

Today you'll wake up early to see a spectacular sunrise over Angkor Wat. Then return to the hotel for breakfast before heading back to the complex for the day. Begin at the ancient ruins of the South Gate of Angkor Thom, famous for the colossal stone faces lining the path to the entrance. Once within Angkor Thom's gates, explore several temples, like the Buddhist Bayon Temple, the Royal Palace, and the Kleang-style Hindu temple Phimeanakas. As you walk through the complex, admire decorative terraces like the Elephant Terrace, decorated with carvings of the animal.

Of course, you'll have plenty of time to explore Angor Wat. Built in the 12th century, the temple complex sprawls over about 518 acres (210 ha) of land, making it the largest religious monument in the world. Afterward, you'll visit the famous jungle-covered temple of Ta Prohm. Here enormous fig trees and gigantic creepers have woven themselves into the stone foundations of the structure, giving the impression that the powerful forces of nature are reclaiming the temple.

Day 12: Depart Siem Reap

Bye bye Cambodia!
Farewell Cambodia!

On your final morning, there'll be time to visit the local markets to buy souvenirs. Afterward, your private driver will transfer you to the airport for your onward journey. 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 12 days in Vietnam, 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 Glimpses of Vietnam & Cambodia - 12 Days
Map of Glimpses of Vietnam & Cambodia - 12 Days
Written by Long Dao, updated Mar 6, 2023