Travel Vietnam's coast from north to south and discover mostly off-the-beaten-path locations on this well-rounded 11-day journey. Start in Hanoi, where you'll sample street food like a local on Train Street. Cruise along Ha Long Bay and enjoy secluded beaches and coves. Take an overnight train to Hue to discover its riches, including the Imperial City. Enjoy stunning views as you drive through Hai Van Pass to Hoi An. Travel down the waterways in a basket boat before savoring a beach day at An Bang.

Highlights

  • Explore Hanoi like a local and uncover off-the-beaten-path highlights
  • Cruise, kayak, and swim along Ha Long Bay to discover secluded beaches and caves
  • Take a cooking class in Hue to learn how to make authentic Vietnamese cuisine
  • Discover Hai Van Pass as you travel to Hoi An before floating in a basket boat

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Hanoi Hanoi
Day 2 Hanoi Like a Local Tour Hanoi
Day 3 Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Board Overnight Cruise Ha Long Bay
Day 4 Disembark Cruise, Transfer to Hanoi Hanoi
Day 5 Visit Trang An Complex, Transfer by Overnight Train to Hue Overnight Train
Day 6 Arrive in Hue, Explore the City Hue
Day 7 Hue Imperial City & Local Garden Cooking Class Hue
Day 8 Transfer to Hoi An via Hai Van Pass Hoi An
Day 9 Cam Thanh Village Tour & Basket Boat Adventure Hoi An
Day 10 An Bang Beach Day Hoi An
Day 11 Transfer to Da Nang & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi

Wander around Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi's Old Quarter

Welcome to Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam! Upon arrival, you'll be picked up and transferred to your hotel. Once settled in, you'll have the remainder of the day free to explore the city. Inhabited since the third century BCE, Hanoi is packed with historical highlights, from the 11th-century Temple of Literature to the neo-Gothic St Joseph's Cathedral dating back to the 1880s. One of the best places to learn about the nation's past is the National Museum of Vietnamese History, with exhibits covering prehistory up through the mid-20th century.

Hanoi also has vibrant markets, tree-lined boulevards, and several scenic lakes, all woven into the country's second-largest metropolis. Explore the avenues, which feature a mix of temples and French colonial buildings contrasted with modern, glassy malls and office buildings. Get lost in the Old Quarter's streets, where you'll find authentic shops and cafés that spill onto the sidewalks scattered with tiny stools where Hanoians sip coffee and play checkers. 

Day 2: Hanoi Like A Local Tour

Sample Hanoi's diverse and delicious street food
Sample Hanoi's diverse and delicious street food on Train Street

Explore Hanoi on foot like a local! In the morning, meet your guide and visit Ngoc Son Temple, the gem of Hoan Kiem Lake. Wander around its shores, hop in a traditional red cyclo, and explore Hanoi streets' organized and sometimes not-so-organized chaos. Later stroll through the Old Quarter and follow the train tracks where the locals live. Savor a fresh Hanoi institution, bia hoi (beer), which will set you back around 5,000 VND or 0.25 USD. Try other Hanoi street food classics such as pho (soup noodles), banh mi (submarine sandwich), or bun cha (noodle soup with grilled pork). 

After lunch, sit down to a traditional water puppet performance. This northern tradition dates back over a thousand years and is performed alongside traditional Vietnamese music that employs drums, wooden bells, and bamboo flutes. In the evening, unwind with the natives to eat flame-grilled meat at a barbecue stall and try the city's unique egg coffee at one of the many cafés in the Old Quarter.

Day 3: Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Board Overnight Cruise

Halong Bay
Get up close to the limestone cliffs of Ha Long Bay

It's an early start as you meet your guide in the hotel lobby to take the five-hour bus ride to Tuan Chau Marina. At the marina, once you board the vessel, you'll be greeted by the captain and crew and have a welcome drink as you'll learn about life onboard. Check into your cabin and take some time to freshen up and relax. Later, you'll enjoy a traditional Vietnamese lunch while cruising along Ha Long Bay. Explore the Surprising Cave, the most beautiful cave in the bay. It is one of the widest grottoes, with thousands of stalactites and stalagmites.

Next, visit Titop Island and go swimming in crystal clear water. Climb up to the top of the island's mountain peak and take in the best views of the bay. Continue cruising along the calm waters while enjoying the beautiful scenery. Afterward, return to the boat for a "Sunset Party" on the sundeck with wine and fresh fruit, followed by dinner. Socialize with other guests, participate in board games, fish for squid, or just sip a cocktail as you relax on a lounge chair watching the sun go down.

Day 4: Disembark Cruise, Transfer to Hanoi

Halong Bay view
Views over Ha Long Bay

See the sunrise while enjoying breakfast in the morning on board as you cruise toward the Natural Preservation Zone. There will be a break if you want to kayak for 45 minutes around the reserve to explore hidden coves and beaches. When you return to the boat, take time to refresh and relax before checking out of your room. Sail along the bay, passing Ba Hang Fishing Village, Dog Islet, and more. Join a cooking class to learn how to make traditional spring rolls before an early lunch is served. In the afternoon, the boat will dock at the marina, and you will be transferred by bus back to Hanoi.

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

Day 5: Visit Trang An Complex, Transfer by Overnight Train to Hue

Tràng An, near Ninh Bình
Trang An, near Ninh Bình

Prepare for an adventure today as your driver takes you from Hanoi to Trang An Scenic Complex. Located in Ninh Binh, a land of several mysteriously deep lakes and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it's 57 miles (92 km) south of Hanoi. Ninh Binh is famous for the relics of the ancient capital city in Hoa Lu and the breathtaking landscape often dubbed "Ha Long Bay on Land."  Once you arrive, take a sampan (a traditional boat) tour through lush rice fields and rocky outcrops and visit Trang. A variety of stunning landscapes await you that will not disappoint.

In the afternoon, explore the Hoa Lu Ancient Temple. Or, if you're up for an adventure, hike to the Mua Cave Mountain, where you'll have panoramic views down to the Tam Coc's shimmering gold rice valley. After the trip, head to a local homestay/guesthouse for a few hours for a shower and dinner in this rural paradise. In the evening, you'll be transferred to the train station for an overnight train to Hue, the ancient capital of Vietnam.

Day 6: Arrive in Hue, Explore the City

Free day to relax before catching night train
Evening view of Meridian Gate Hue

 

Upon arrival in Hue this morning, a driver will meet you at the train station and transfer you to your hotel. After check-in, you'll have the remainder of the day free to relax after your long journey. If you have the energy, definitely go exploring. This off-the-beaten-path city in central Vietnam abounds with rich culture and deep history exemplified by the well-preserved landmarks spanning different eras. It was actually during the Nguyen Dynasty, beginning in 1802, that Hue was the nation's capital. Ideally located on the banks of the Huong River, Hue is a small city of around 500,000 people.

Over a century ago, the Huong earned its nickname, the Perfume River, due to the flowers that fell from upriver orchards during the autumn months, imbuing the waterway with a tropical scent. Modern industrialization now masks the floral fragrances, but the scenery remains beautiful. After working up a bit of an appetite, sample Hue's famous street food. There's an abundance of it at the Dong Ba Market, the city's oldest municipal market. If you're hungry, order a bowl of bun bo, a hearty local soup made with vermicelli rice noodles and beef.

Day 7: Hue Imperial City & Local Garden Cooking Class

Imperial Royal Palace of Nguyen dynasty in Hue, Vietnam
View of Thien Mu Pagoda in Hue, Vietnam

Today, venture to the Imperial City, where you'll gain insight into Vietnam's rich history. Meet your guide and walk over the Truong Tien Bridge to the citadel from the hotel. Visit the Forbidden City, once home to Vietnam's royalty, where the emperor, his family, court women, and others lived within a compound protected by a moat and tall brick walls. You'll enjoy a fascinating guided tour of this well-preserved historic landmark, once the center of government during the Nguyen Dynasty.

 

Afterward, head to the harbor, where a boat will be waiting to take you to a local garden house with views of Thien Mu Pagoda. Learn how to make authentic Vietnamese food during this memorable cooking class in a scenic setting. Help yourself to the delicious Hue cuisine you prepared at the end of this experience.

Day 8: Transfer to Hoi An via Hai Van Pass

This 1950's restored jeep allows you to travel with a sense of history through the most beautiful parts of the country.
Discover Hai Van Pass

After having breakfast at the hotel, you'll travel five hours to Hoi An by open-top Army Jeep. These vehicles have been used since wartime. Hug the coast as you make your way up the Hai Van Pass into the Annamite Mountains. Enjoy this beautiful and scenic drive with opportunities to stop to admire stunning views over Lang Co Beach and Da Nang City. The road then dips down to the coast again, and you'll stop for lunch at a nearby beach before reaching Hoi An.

You'll arrive in Hoi An in the late afternoon. Recently declared a World Heritage site, Hoi An was a major trading port with the West from the 15th to the 19th century. Today it has been restored to look exactly as it did more than a century ago, giving it an old-world feel full of nooks and crannies to explore. Once you've checked in at your hotel, you must get out for an evening stroll because when night falls, Hoi An really comes alive. The waterfront is particularly romantic after dark, as colored lanterns and floating candles illuminate the night sky.

Day 9: Cam Thanh Village Tour & Basket Boat Adventure

Take a ride down the canals in a traditional basket boat
Take a ride down the canals in a traditional basket boat

Head just south of Hoi An today for an eco-tour of Cam Thanh Village, which is famous for its lush mangroves and 207-acre (84 ha) Bay Mau palm forest. You'll visit the bamboo handicraft center, where locals have been creating goods from coconut and bamboo since the beginning of the 19th century. Afterward, take a peaceful trip through the mangroves in a Vietnamese bamboo basket boat as you float down the waterways of a coconut palm paradise. You'll get the chance to paddle and try your hand at crab fishing along the way.

After the tour, return to Hoi An and enjoy a free afternoon. Wander on foot or rent a bike to cycle along the car-and-motorbike-free streets. Along the way, you'll pass shuttered wooden buildings that date back to the 16th century. Order a custom-made outfit from one of the resident tailors and try some street-food snacks. For sunset views, head to one of the city's nearby beaches, which are beloved for their soft, pale sands.

Day 10: An Bang Beach Day

Maybe laze on An Bang Beach
Enjoy a beach day at An Bang

Today is yours to spend as you please. To soak up some sun, head to An Bang Beach, which lies just 2 miles (3 km) north of Hoi An. Stroll along the stretch of pristine beaches, lapped by aquamarine blue water dotted with the distant Cham Islands. Swing in a hammock with a cold drink and a book, or cool off with a swim. An Bang is fringed with restaurants where you can grab a bite to eat. Stay for sunset or head back into Hoi An for a seafood feast, followed by browsing the lively night markets. 

Day 11: Transfer to Da Nang, Depart

Farewell
Goodbye, Hoi An!

Take the morning to see more of Hoi An, either on foot or on a bicycle ride down the streets. Perhaps head into the riverfront boutiques and browse the local fashions and custom-made silks. In the afternoon, you'll say a bittersweet goodbye to Vietnam as you transfer from Hoi An to Da Nang, where you'll catch your flight home. Until next time!

More Great Vietnam Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Vietnam? Check out these other Vietnam itineraries, explore more ways to spend 11 days in Vietnam, and 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

Map of Hidden Charms of Vietnam: Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hue & Hoi An - 11 Days
Map of Hidden Charms of Vietnam: Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hue & Hoi An - 11 Days