See some spectacular scenery and learn about daily life in northern Vietnam on this immersive, eight-day tour. Explore the lush countryside of Ninh Binh by bike and sampan boat, savor Hanoi's best street food on a guided tour, enjoy an overnight cruise around Ha Long Bay, and discover the villages and countryside of Ba Vi National Park on an unforgettable eco-tour.


  • Sail in a sampan boat through the rice fields of Ninh Binh
  • Sample Hanoi's mouthwatering street food on an evening tour
  • Cruise among the islets and mountains of the UNESCO-listed Ha Long Bay
  • Explore the Vietnamese countryside on a cycling eco-tour
  • Learn how to cook traditional dishes with local hosts

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Hanoi Hanoi
Day 2 Transfer to Ninh Binh Ninh Binh
Day 3 Cycling & Sampan Tour in Ninh Binh Ninh Binh
Day 4 Transfer to Hanoi, Evening Street Food Tour Hanoi
Day 5 Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Cruising & Kayaking Ha Long Bay
Day 6 Cruise Ha Long Bay, Transfer to Hanoi Hanoi
Day 7 Explore the Vietnamese Countryside on a Ba Vi Eco-Tour Hanoi
Day 8 Depart Hanoi  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi

Old Quarter Hanoi
Old Quarter, Hanoi

Welcome to Vietnam! Your private driver will be waiting at Noi Bai International Airport and will take you to your hotel in Hanoi. As you drive through the lively streets of Vietnam's capital, you'll be immersed into a city full of honking motorbikes, where tree-lined avenues with French colonial buildings contrast with modern malls and where you can slip from temples to busy pavement cafés.

Depending on your arrival time, you may want to relax in your hotel and recharge. If you have the energy, spend the rest of the day exploring the labyrinthine streets of the Old Quarter by foot or on a traditional three-wheeled cyclo. For lunch, head to Bun Cha Huong Lien to try the beloved Hanoian bun cha (noodle soup with grilled pork). This restaurant's interpretation of the dish is so famous that it's served guests like Barack Obama and Anthony Bourdain. Sip cocktails on the Pan Pacific Hotel's rooftop bar and enjoy spectacular sunset views over Tay Ho ("West Lake") to wrap up your evening in style.

Day 2: Transfer to Ninh Binh

Leisure time in Ninh Binh (N)
Enjoy some leisure time in Ninh Binh

In the morning, your driver will meet you in your hotel lobby, and you'll head south to your resort in Ninh Binh. This beautiful area is renowned for its scenery, with limestone peaks, lush green rice fields, pagodas, and snaking rivers. Known as "Ha Long on Land" due to its idyllic landscape, its off-the-beaten-path location means you'll find fewer tourists and a truly authentic feel to the region.

Once you've arrived and settled in, you'll have free time to explore. You could take in the scenery on foot or rent a bike at your hotel and whizz around on two wheels. For the best views around, head to Mua Cave and climb its over 400 steps, or visit the nearby Hoa Lu district and its impressive Bai Dinh Pagoda—the largest temple complex in Vietnam. For dinner, the adventurous can try local specialties such as goat meat or snails or just enjoy a selection of the region's tastiest traditional Vietnamese dishes.

Day 3: Cycling & Sampan Tour in Ninh Binh

Cycling and Boating Tour in Ninh Binh
Sail in a sampan boat

Your English-speaking tour guide will pick you up from your hotel in the morning, and you'll head to Ninh Hai village. From here, you'll cycle to explore rural villages and the valley. Visit a local family to learn about daily life in the area, then continue cycling on the narrow trail road and through beautiful green rice fields toward the Emerald Cave. After exploring the cave, pass through Thung Nang Valley taking in the breathtaking scenery. Continue to the Tam Coc Valley, where you will be wowed by the spectacular limestone mountains and can take a short break.

As lunchtime approaches, you'll visit a market to learn more about local life and enjoy a meal at a local restaurant. When you've finished, you'll be taken to the Tam Coc dock to board a sampan (a flat-bottomed wooden boat). During your trip down the river, you'll pass through villages, mountains, emerald-colored rice fields, and magnificent caves in the limestone hills. Once your boat trip is complete, return to your hotel to relax.

Day 4: Transfer to Hanoi, Evening Street Food Tour

Sample the city's best street food
Plan your trip to Vietnam
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Today takes you back to Hanoi, where you can spend some more time exploring the capital's attractions. Head to Hoan Kiem Lake for a stroll and snap photographs of its distinctive red Cau The Huc bridge. Alternatively, visit the popular Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where the embalmed body of the Vietnamese leader is kept. 

As evening approaches, you'll meet with a local guide for a mouth-watering food tour of the city's best street food. 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). 

Next, move on to the Old Quarter to explore its maze of historic laneways. Here, you'll learn about traditional celebrations, stop at ceremonial cake stalls, and taste a French-influenced dessert. Wander along Hang Cot Street, known for its preserved fruits, before ending the tour at a café to sip sweet iced coffee or a slow-dripped hot brew while watching Hanoi's street life unfold.

Day 5: Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Cruising & Kayaking 

Cruising & Kayaking in Halong Bay
Cruise Ha Long Bay

You will be picked up in the morning for your transfer to Ha Long Bay on the northeast coast of Vietnam. Here you will board your overnight cruise to tour the UNESCO World Heritage site, sailing across tranquil waters and taking in views of thousands of limestone karsts steeped in Vietnamese legend. You'll be treated to a delicious seafood lunch onboard and will have plenty of time to lounge on the sundeck as you sail to the most remote corners of Ha Long Bay.

In the afternoon, you'll stop at a secret cove where you can go swimming and kayaking to explore hidden beaches and grottoes. Once you've worked up an appetite, the ship's chef will lead a cooking masterclass, teaching you how to make dishes such as nem (Vietnamese fried spring rolls) for dinner. After you've eaten, you can spend the evening relaxing or join the locals for a spot of night fishing to end the day. 

Day 6: Cruise Ha Long Bay, Transfer to Hanoi

Sunrise In Halong Bay
Admire the sunrise in Ha Long Bay

It's an early start today, which will allow you to admire the sunrise and your natural surroundings over breakfast. There will be the option to take part in a tai chi class on the sun deck, too, if you'd like to awaken your mind and muscles against this beautiful backdrop.

Once you've eaten and exercised, visit a limestone cave full of stalagmites and stalactites. It's then time to return to the boat to check out and enjoy lunch while sailing back to the harbor. A shuttle bus will be waiting for you, ready to take you back to Hanoi.

Day 7: Explore the Vietnamese Countryside on a Ba Vi Eco-Tour

Learn how conical hats are made on a Ba Vi Eco Tour
Learn how conical hats are made on a Ba Vi Eco-Tour 

Enjoy breakfast at your hotel before your experienced English-speaking guide escorts you on a trip to the Ba Vi National Park, which lies to the west of Hanoi. You'll start at Ri village, where you can enjoy a welcome drink and snacks while meeting your first host for the day, Mr. Duoc, a Vietnam War veteran and tea-farm owner. Listen to Mr. Duoc's stories about life during the war with your drink and then visit his tea plantation. You'll be told how to pick the best tea leaves and will learn about tea production at his small workshop, where most of the work is manual.

Next, it's a short drive to Moc village, where you will meet your second host, Mrs. Chin, who will teach you how to cook local Vietnamese dishes. You can enjoy the meal you make for lunch in a beautiful tropical garden. After your food, join your hostess for a walk around the village, where you'll visit some local families to understand more about the lifestyle in the Vietnamese countryside. You'll also learn how tofu, conical hats, and other local products are made. Then you'll cycle through beautiful paddy fields.

Wind down at the end of the tour with a traditional foot soak in warm water infused with herbs following the traditional recipes of the Muong ethnic group. It's the perfect way to relax after a busy day of cycling and exploring.

Day 8: Depart Hanoi

Hanoi street
Explore Hanoi's busy streets before departure
Make the most of your final leisure time before your driver comes to pick you up to transfer you to Noi Bai International Airport for your return flight. Until next time!

More Great Vietnam Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Vietnam? Check out these other Vietnam itineraries, explore different ways to spend eight days in Vietnam, and discover the best time to visit Vietnam.


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Map of Highlights of Northern Vietnam: Hanoi, Ninh Binh & Ha Long Bay - 8 Days
Map of Highlights of Northern Vietnam: Hanoi, Ninh Binh & Ha Long Bay - 8 Days
Written by Long Dao, updated Jan 2, 2023