On this 10-day adventure, you'll visit the highlight cities of Vietnam plus gorgeous national parks and UNESCO landmarks like Hạ Long Bay. It begins in Hanoi, where you'll not only tour the historic Old Quarter but also embark on a bike trip to country villages. Then, after cruising the jade waters of the aforementioned Hạ Long Bay, you'll fly to the central and southern coasts, visiting the ancient port city of Hội An and historic landmarks in and around Ho Chi Minh City.

Highlights

  • Discover the sights, sounds, and flavors of Hanoi
  • Visit the Gulf of Tonkin and cruise gorgeous Hạ Long Bay
  • Explore the UNESCO river city of Hội An
  • Tour the historic landmarks of Ho Chi Minh City

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Hanoi Hanoi
Day 2 Hanoi Countryside Bicycle Tour Hanoi
Day 3 Hike in Pù Luông Nature Reserve Pu Luong Nature Reserve
Day 4 Pù Luông to Hanoi Hanoi
Day 5 Hạ Long Bay Cruise to Bai Tu Long Halong Bay
Day 6 Fly to Da Nang & Hội An Hoi An
Day 7 Visit Fishing Villages & Hội An Tour Hoi An
Day 8 Hội An Free Day Hoi An
Day 9 Ho Chi Minh City Transfer & City Tour Ho Chi Minh City
Day 10 Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Hanoi

A street vendor in Hanoi
A street vendor in Hanoi

Welcome to Vietnam!

Upon arrival at Hanoi's airport, you'll transfer by private vehicle to your four/five-star hotel for check-in. No doubt you'll be tired after the long journey, but after taking some time to relax and unwind you should head out and explore on foot. This modern yet traditional metropolis is well worth it.

Dating to 3,000 BCE, Hanoi is one of the most ancient capitals in the world. That said, it's a mix of the old and the new—a city defined by the contradictions of a rapidly developing yet deeply traditional society. Here glimmering office buildings sit alongside the French colonial Old Quarter. Rarely at rest, the kinetic energy of Hanoi's motorbike-packed streets spills over into the outdoor markets, Hang Gai silk shops, curbside bún chả /bánh mì vendors, and eclectic nightlife scene. 

You can start your walk on the streets of Old Town, visiting markets and street vendors, and then take in some local history and mythology with a stroll around Hoàn Kiếm Lake. At the north end of the lake is an arched red bridge leading to Jade Island and the Temple of the Jade Mountain. This temple was built in the 18th century to honor Tran Hung Dao, a military commander who famously repelled two Mongol invasions.

Nearby, in the center of the lake, is Turtle Tower, a small stone tower built to commemorate the Golden Turtle God, Kim Qui, who, according to Vietnamese myth, reclaimed a magical sword from Emperor Lê Lợi in order to return it to the Dragon King. You should know that it's legends like these around which Vietnam's rich culture is based.

After a brief walk and taking in Hanoi's famous sights, feel free to dine out in Old Town. There's no shortage of incredible eateries in this neighborhood that run the gamut from delicious street food to fine dining to trendy fusion restaurants.

Day 2: Hanoi Countryside Bicycle Tour

Enjoy the countryside around Hanoi
Enjoy the countryside around Hanoi

This morning you'll visit several villages just outside Hanoi. This is a great opportunity to experience rural customs and traditions firsthand as you cycle from village to village and also tour these little communities on foot. Beyond interacting with residents, you'll visit local markets and temples to catch a glimpse of daily life. Then you'll attend a cooking demonstration of traditional Vietnamese cuisine before joining a local family for lunch. 

Later in the afternoon, you'll set out from the historic district of Dong Ngac and head north, cycling on mostly country lanes through surrounding villages to Lien Mac, a beautiful rural area abounding with well-tended vegetable and flower gardens. Beyond touring the colorful fields, you'll get to chat with some of the local farmers about the organic practices they use to tend to their crops.

After taking another route from Lien Mac back to Dong Ngac, you’ll have a short break for a drink back at the family home. Then you'll say your goodbyes and catch the van back to your hotel in Hanoi at around 5 pm.

Day 3: Hanoi to Pù Luông Nature Reserve - Hike

The greenery of Pù Luông Nature Reserve
The greenery of Pù Luông Nature Reserve

Welcome to Vietnam!

You'll arrive in the capital of Hanoi and hop in a vehicle for a transfer west towards the border with Laos and the highland districts of Bá Thước, Mai Châu, and Quan Hóa. Located within these three adjacent areas is Pù Luông Nature Reserve, a stunning protected area and gem of northwest Vietnam that covers an impressive 20,000 acres. The four-hour drive up to the reserve is incredible as well, as you'll leave the concrete metropolis of Hanoi and journey steadily higher into mountains blanketed in tropical rainforest.

Upon arrival at the main village in Mai Chau, you'll take a short walk around the area and meet the locals. This part of Vietnam is home to the Thai people, the principal ethnic minority in the region. After the brief stroll, a traditional home-cooked lunch will be served.

At around 1 pm you'll hop back in the car for a shorter transfer of one-hour to arrive at the Pù Luông Nature Reserve. Now you'll really get a chance to stretch your legs as you embark on an intermediate three-hour hike around the reserve. The trail passes over some easy hills that offer great vantage points featuring spectacular views of the terraced fields and Thai villages. 

In the late afternoon, you'll arrive at your homestay in one such Thai village. You'll then have the rest of the day to relax, unwind, and have a shower.  Dinner will be served by the host family.

Day 4: Pù Luông to Hanoi

Local working in Pù Luông
Local working in Pù Luông

After a leisurely breakfast, you'll spend a relaxing morning strolling around the village, visiting the neighbors, and learning more about rural life here. If time permits you'll embark on an easy hike along green rice paddies before hopping in a van and traveling to a local village for lunch. Then you'll transfer back from Pù Luông to Hanoi, arriving at your hotel around 5 pm.

Day 5: Hanoi to Hạ Long Bay - Cruise to Bai Tu Long

Hạ Long Bay
Hạ Long Bay

After breakfast, you'll hop in a shuttle bus that will depart Hanoi for the coastal retreat and fishing community of Hạ Long Bay, arriving around noon. 

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the true natural wonders of the world. In this sweet spot where the land meets the Gulf of Tonkin, over 1,000 karst islets rise above emerald waters. Legend has it that these islands originated as precious jewels that were sprayed into the water by a great dragon who was doing battle with invaders in Hạ Long Bay centuries ago. Mythology aside, you can't deny the otherworldly beauty of the seascape here. 

Upon arrival, you'll board a cruiser that will depart from the port for an unforgettable tour of the bay. The ship will pass several interesting sights, including island towns and floating fishing villages like Cặp La and Cong Dam. Eventually, you'll enter the limits of Bai Tu Long National Park, a protected marine ecosystem home to rare plants and animals as well as about 40 islands. Here, you'll visit the Vung Vieng Village and interact with locals who not only make their living fishing these waters but live on them as well.

Around midday, you'll head back to the boat and enjoy lunch on deck. For the remainder of the afternoon, you can choose to spend your time kayaking and swimming at Cong Dam or simply relax on the boat. If the weather allows, the boat might just stop at some caves and grottoes on the way back to the anchor point. Later, dinner will be served and you will have the remainder of the evening free.

Day 6: Bai Tu Long to Hanoi - Fly to Da Nang & Hội An

Enjoy a bit more of Hạ Long Bay
Enjoy a bit more of Hạ Long Bay

Savor the sunrise over Bai Tu Long Bay and then enjoy an early breakfast, because the boat will return to the port of Hạ Long Bay around 11 am. After one last lunch on board the ship, you'll disembark and make the drive to Hanoi, arriving around 5 pm. You'll then check into your hotel and will have the evening free.

Upon arrival in Hanoi, You'll hop in a private car for the transfer to Hanoi's airport where you'll catch a 1.5-hour flight to Danang. Then you'll transfer to nearby Hội An. This small city of just over 100,000 people sits on the banks of the Thu Bồn River and is a real treasure of Vietnam. Its Ancient Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most impressive and historic city centers in the country. For this reason, you'll definitely want to head out and explore after checking in to your hotel.

Day 7: Visit Fishing Villages & Hội An Tour

Traditional basket boats
Traditional basket boats

At around 8 am, you'll meet your guide at the hotel and transfer to the docks in town. From here you'll hop in a boat and travel a short distance down the river from Hội An to a traditional fishing village to get a glimpse into the lives of the locals as they ply their trade. Each day they head out on traditional basket boats called thung chai to cast nets for shrimp, crabs, and fish. You'll join right in, learning how to prepare the nets and tools before heading out on the water to do some fishing yourself.

After the fishing excursion, you'll take a leisurely ride in the basket boat down the river, passing along the coconut fringed banks on your way to a small village. Here you'll disembark and sit down to a delicious local lunch. Then it's time to hop on a bicycle for a scenic ride down a country road alongside green rice paddies and cornfields as you make your way back to Hội An.

After touring some of the more famous sights around Hội An, like the Japanese covered bridge and the historic Chinese meeting hall Phuc Kien, the tour will end around 5 pm.

Day 8: Hội An Free Day

Take an evening stroll along the river in Hội An
Take an evening stroll along the river in Hội An

Today you'll have the freedom to enjoy Hội An however you see fit. To learn more about the history of the city, you can visit the Hội An Museum, which houses a number of fascinating artifacts dating from early dynasties to the colonial period. Or eschew the culture for some pure, unabashed fun in the sun with a trip to An Bang Beach. The white sands and sky-blue waters here are the stuff of dreams.

It's when the sun sets, however, that Hội An really comes alive. You should definitely consider an evening stroll, as the waterfront is particularly romantic after dark when the river lights up as colored lanterns and floating candles illuminate the night sky. Along these lines, you can visit Hội An's Lantern Market to pick up a traditional lantern to take home.

Day 9: Hội An to Da Nang - Fly to Ho Chi Minh City - Tour

Reunification Palace
Reunification Palace

In the early morning, you'll transfer to the airport in Da Nang for a 1.5-hour flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Once upon a time, this metropolis in southern Vietnam was known as Saigon. Despite a communist revolution and devastating war, the city has retained much of its unique cultural mix of Asian and western traditions. In fact, many of its French Colonial landmarks still stand today. 

You'll get an in-depth look at the city immediately upon arrival, as you'll set off on a day tour. First, you'll head to northern Ho Chi Minh City and visit the tunnels at Củ Chi. This 155-mile (250-km) tunnel network was remarkable in that it once sheltered over 16,000 Vietcong guerrillas. Initially constructed in 1948 to guard against French air and ground sweeps, the tunnels then served as supply routes, storage facilities, hospitals, and living quarters for Vietnamese fighters throughout the American war. 

Later in the afternoon, you'll see more highlights of this former capital of French Indochina. You'll visit the 19th-century Gothic/Renaissance Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral (built in the late 19th century with materials imported from France), and the Opera House, which was built in 1897. You'll also visit the Reunification Palace, also known as Independence Palace. This is the former home of the president of South Vietnam, which was taken over when Saigon fell in 1975. 

After the tour, around 5 pm, you'll head to your hotel and will have the evening free.

Day 10: Departure from Ho Chi Minh City

Goodbye, Ho Chi Minh City
Goodbye, Ho Chi Minh City

Take the morning to enjoy one last stroll around Ho Chi Minh City. At the appropriate time, you'll transfer to the airport to catch your flight home. This concludes your grand Vietnam adventure. Until next time!

Map

Map of Impressions of Vietnam: Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hoi An, & More - 10 Days
Map of Impressions of Vietnam: Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hoi An, & More - 10 Days
Nga
Written by Nga Le, updated Mar 6, 2020