- Discover the sights, sounds, and flavors of Hanoi
- Visit the Gulf of Tonkin and cruise gorgeous Ha Long Bay
- Explore the UNESCO river city of Hoi An
- Tour the historic landmarks of Ho Chi Minh City
|Day 1||Arrive in Hanoi||Hanoi|
|Day 2||Hanoi Countryside Bicycle Tour||Hanoi|
|Day 3||Transfer to Pu Luong, Hiking||Pu Luong Nature Reserve|
|Day 4||Transfer to Hanoi||Hanoi|
|Day 5||Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise||Halong Bay|
|Day 6||Fly to Hoi An via Da Nang||Hoi An|
|Day 7||Visit Fishing Villages & City Tour||Hoi An|
|Day 8||Hoi An Free Day||Hoi An|
|Day 9||Fly to Ho Chi Minh City, Guided Tour||Ho Chi Minh City|
|Day 10||Depart Ho Chi Minh City|
Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi
Welcome to Vietnam! You'll arrive in Hanoi, a city that dates to 3000 BCE, making it one of the oldest capitals in the world. Yet 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 bun cha/banh mi vendors, and many bars and restaurants.
Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will pick you up and transfer you to your hotel. No doubt you'll be tired after the long journey, but after taking some time to relax and unwind you can head out and explore on foot. Start with a walk through the markets in the Old Quarter, then take in some local history and mythology with a stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake. At the north end 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.
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 Le Loi in order to return it to the Dragon King. After enjoying Hanoi's famous sights, you can dine out in the Old Quarter. 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
This morning you'll visit several villages just outside Hanoi. This is a great opportunity to experience rural customs and traditions firsthand as you travel from village to village on foot and by bicycle. 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, set out from the historic district of Dong Ngac and head north, cycling on mostly country lanes to Lien Mac, a beautiful rural area abounding with well-tended vegetable and flower gardens. Beyond touring the colorful fields, you'll chat with local farmers about the organic practices they use to tend their crops. After taking another route from Lien Mac back to Dong Ngac, you'll have a short break for a refreshment in the home of a local family. At around 5 pm, you'll say goodbye and catch the van back to your hotel in Hanoi.
Day 3: Transfer to Pu Luong, Hiking
This morning, you'll transfer west toward the border with Laos and the highland districts of Ba Thuoc, Mai Chau, and Quan Hoa. Located within these three adjacent areas is Pu Luong Nature Reserve, a stunning protected area and gem of northwest Vietnam that covers an impressive 20,000 acres (8,093 ha). The four-hour drive up to the reserve is incredible, as you'll leave the metropolis of Hanoi and journey up 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 stroll, you'll sit down for a traditional home-cooked lunch.
At around 1 pm, you'll hop back in the car for the one-hour drive to Pu Luong. Now you'll really get to stretch your legs on a moderate three-hour hike around the reserve. The trail passes over some easy hills that offer great views of the terraced fields and Thai villages. In the late afternoon, you'll arrive at your homestay in one such Thai village. Take the rest of the day to relax, unwind, and have a shower. Dinner will be served by the host family.
Day 4: Transfer to Hanoi
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 transfer back from Pu Luong to Hanoi, arriving at your hotel in the late afternoon.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 5: Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise
After breakfast, you'll hop on a shuttle bus that will depart Hanoi for the coastal retreat and fishing community of Ha Long Bay. 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 Ha Long Bay centuries ago (Ha Long literally translates to "descending dragon").
Upon arrival at the bay around noon, you'll board a cruiser that will leave on an unforgettable overnight tour. The ship will pass several interesting sights, including island towns and floating fishing villages like Cap La and Cong Dam. Eventually, you'll enter 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 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 spend your time kayaking and swimming at Cong Dam or simply relax on the boat. If the weather allows, the ship might just stop at some caves and grottoes on the way to the anchor point. Later, dinner will be served and you will have the rest of the evening free.
Day 6: Fly to Hoi An via Da Nang
Savor the sunrise over Bai Tu Long Bay and enjoy an early breakfast, after which the ship will cruise back to the port at Ha Long, arriving around 11 am. After one last lunch on board the ship, you'll disembark and make the drive to Hanoi, arriving around 5 pm.
Upon arrival in Hanoi, you'll transfer to the airport and catch a 1.5-hour flight to the coastal city of Da Nang. Then you'll transfer by vehicle about an hour south to Hoi An. This small city lies on the banks of the Thu Bon River and is a real treasure of Vietnam. Its Ancient Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most impressive historic 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 & City Tour
At around 8 am, you'll meet your guide and transfer to the docks in town. Here, you'll hop in a boat and travel a short distance down the river from Hoi An to a traditional fishing village to get a glimpse of local life. Each day the residents 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, 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. Later, 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 Hoi An. After touring some of the more famous sights around the city, like Chua Cau (a Japanese-style covered bridge) and the historic Chinese meeting hall Phuc Kien, the tour will end around 5 pm.
Day 8: Hoi An Free Day
Today you'll have the freedom to enjoy Hoi An however you see fit. To learn more about the history of the city, you can visit the Hoi An Museum, which houses a number of fascinating artifacts dating from early dynasties to the colonial period. Or eschew the culture for some unabashed fun in the sun on 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 Hoi An really comes alive. Consider an evening stroll, as the waterfront is particularly romantic after dark. This is when the river lights up as colored lanterns and floating candles illuminate the night sky. You can also visit Hoi An's Lantern Market to pick up a traditional lantern to take home.
Day 9: Fly to Ho Chi Minh City, Guided Tour
Wake up early for the transfer to the airport in Da Nang, where you'll catch a 1.5-hour flight to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly 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.
After checking in to your hotel, you'll get an in-depth look at the city on a guided tour. First, you'll head to the northern outskirts and visit the tunnels at Cu 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 attacks, the tunnels then served as supply routes, storage facilities, hospitals, and living quarters for Vietnamese fighters throughout the American War.
Later, you'll visit the major highlights of this former capital of French Indochina. See 19th-century landmarks like the Gothic/Renaissance Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral (built with materials imported from France), and Opera House. You'll also visit the Reunification Palace, also known as Independence Palace. This former home of the president of South Vietnam was taken over when Saigon fell in 1975. Around 5 pm, you'll return to your hotel and will have the evening free.
Day 10: Depart 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!
More Great Vietnam Itineraries
Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Vietnam? Check out these other Vietnam itineraries, explore more ways to spend 10 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.