Mix luxurious accommodations with active excursions on this grand tour of Vietnam's north. Your weeklong trip starts in the capital of Hanoi, where you'll explore the city like a local and enjoy a gourmet meal at one of the best restaurants in the country. The next leg of the journey is pure adventure as you hike between ethnic villages in the soaring green mountains of Sapa and finish with a luxury cruise around the otherworldly Ha Long Bay.


  • Discover the hidden corners of Hanoi and dine at fine restaurants
  • Explore the terraced rice fields, green mountains, and villages of Sapa
  • Enjoy an overnight cruise on the jade waters of Ha Long Bay

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Hanoi, Dinner at Ly Club Hanoi
Day 2 Explore Hanoi Like a Local Hanoi
Day 3 Transfer to Sapa, Hike to Red Dao Village Sapa
Day 4 Day Hike in Sapa Sapa
Day 5 Transfer to Hanoi, Free Evening Hanoi
Day 6 Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise Ha Long Bay
Day 7 Morning Cruise, Return to Hanoi & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi, Dinner at Ly Club

Welcome to Hanoi, a dynamic city that's both modern and traditional

Welcome to Vietnam! Boasting a long history, rich culture, world-class cuisine, and diverse natural beauty, this country is one of the most popular global travel destinations—and for good reason. You'll see why over a week that focuses on highlights of the country's north. It's a region filled with soaring mountains, beautiful river valleys, verdant rice fields, and of course, Hanoi, the capital of the nation, which dates back to the third century BCE.

Your week of adventure begins in this city with your arrival at the airport. Waiting at the terminal will be a personal driver who will take you on the hour-drive into Hanoi and your hotel, the Sofitel Legend Metropole. Located in the heart of Vietnam's Old Quarter near historic Hoan Kiem Lake, the Metropole is set in a luxurious French colonial estate dating to 1901. It's the perfect place to relax and unwind after a flight. Soothe your muscles with a relaxing massage at Le Spa, or perhaps enjoy a cocktail on the patio next to the heated pool.

When the sun goes down, head over to Ly Club Restaurant for an unforgettable culinary experience. Located in an ornate French villa built in the early 20th century, Ly Club offers opulent dining rooms to enjoy a fusion menu of Vietnam-meets-Western cuisine against a backdrop of Indochine decor. Here, you can savor everything from traditional pho to Hanoi spring rolls and tiger prawn salad. Afterward, transfer back to your hotel.

Day 2: Explore Hanoi Like a Local

The 11th-century Temple of Literature, Vietnam's first university

Leave the hotel early on a full-day private tour to see Hanoi's historic landmarks and experience the city like a local. It starts with a ride to historic Ba Dinh Square, where President Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the independence of Vietnam in 1945. Then head over to Lenin Garden, a park presided over by a bronze statue of Vladimir Lenin. This is an excellent place to people watch, as the area is a popular local hangout.

From there, your guide will lead you down Hanoi's alleyways, lined with family-owned shops that have been around for generations. Continue to the 11th-century Temple of Literature, an impressive architectural landmark that was Vietnam's first-ever national university. To this day, students still pray at its altars for academic success. Next is the Museum of Ethnology, which preserves the cultural heritage of the 54 different ethnic groups in Vietnam. Afterward, stop for lunch at a local restaurant.

Now that you've refueled, continue to Hanoi's charming Old Quarter to explore its warren of backstreets. This will lead to Nha Chung Street, an area with food stalls and vendors. Here, you'll visit a historic French colonial home for afternoon tea. Your host has lived in the neighborhood all his life and has many stories about this remarkable city and its past. Finally, end the day with one of Vietnam's more unique theatrical performances: a water puppet show. This cultural expression dates back over 1,000 years, originating in the Red River Delta rice fields. Afterward, return to your hotel.

Day 3: Transfer to Sapa, Hike to Red Dao Village

Meet the Red Dao people, who live in traditional villages in northern Vietnam

Wake up early to ensure you have sufficient time to enjoy the Metropole's abundant breakfast buffet. Then at 7 am, meet your driver in the lobby and leave Hanoi on a six-hour ride north to Sapa. This highland area is known for its soaring mountains and endless terraces of green rice paddies. It's also home to traditional villages whose residents are members of various ethnic tribes in Vietnam.

Once in Sapa, you'll head over to Topas Ecolodge, the boutique resort where you'll spend the next two nights. Perched on a hillside overlooking the breathtaking Hoang Lien Son range, each of its well-appointed suites and bungalows offers prime mountain views. When you arrive, feel free to relax on the terrace bar with a coffee or cocktail amid views of the rice paddies and valleys below. For some relaxation, head to the spa for a massage or herbal bath or take a dip in the infinity pool, which is surrounded by views of mountain peaks.

Now that you're reinvigorated meet your guide in the afternoon for a hike. This three-hour private excursion follows a quiet road above the rice terraces until you reach Lech village. Here you'll visit traditional wooden homes inhabited by the Red Dao people, a nomadic tribe that migrated from China to northern Vietnam centuries ago. You'll get to meet the locals and learn about their customs. The women, for example, wear bright, traditional garments, as the villagers are highly skilled at embroidery. Afterward, you'll pass more rice terraces and cross a suspension bridge on your way back to Topas Ecolodge.

Day 4: Day Hike in Sapa

Spend the day hiking between villages in the Sapa countryside

After breakfast at the lodge, you'll leave on another hike to discover the wonders of Sapa. This five-hour private excursion begins at 8:30 am with a transfer deep into Hoang Lien National Park, which covers 169,437 acres (68,569 ha) of unspoiled highland landscapes. You'll arrive at the trailhead near Sin Chai village, and from there, head out on backcountry tracks amid beautiful views of mountains, waterfalls, and the deep valleys below.

The trail leads to Nam Nhiu, another Red Dao village. Upon arrival, you'll meet the villagers, visit a local home, and learn about their agrarian way of life. Eventually, you'll leave the village and follow a dirt trail along terraced rice paddies dotted with bamboo huts. Your next destination is Nam Cang village, where you'll enjoy a traditional lunch served at a riverside lodge. This is one of the most remote areas of Sapa, and after lunch, your guide will take you around to see how locals have been living much the same way for hundreds of years.

In the mid-afternoon, you'll meet a transfer vehicle for the ride back to Topas Ecolodge. You'll then have the rest of the day free to relax on the patio and/or book a spa treatment. It might interest you to know that the herbal treatments available at the spa utilize the same herbs and techniques that the ethnic inhabitants of the region have relied on for centuries. 

Day 5: Transfer to Hanoi, Free Evening

Venture out onto the streets of Hanoi's Old Quarter, which are never dull
Plan your trip to Vietnam
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

In the morning, you'll check out of Topas Ecolodge and meet your driver for the six-hour scenic ride back to Hanoi and the Metropole. Once there, you'll have the rest of the day free. If you like, wander the labyrinthine streets of the Old Quarter by foot or on a traditional cyclo (three-wheeled bike) as you pass temples, French colonial buildings, and Vietnamese "tube houses." These space-saving buildings can be as narrow as 6 feet (2 m) wide and 12 stories high.

Later, you can enjoy another unforgettable meal at the opulent Le Beaulieu restaurant. Located in the Metropole, it serves haute French cuisine beneath crystal chandeliers. There's also an impressive wine cellar featuring over 600 bottles from leading châteaux.

Day 6: Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise

Discovery Halong Bay – Lan Ha Bay (Stellar Of The Seas)
All aboard the Stella of the Seas for a first-class cruise around Ha Long Bay

Today you'll transfer by private car about 3.5 hours north to the coast and Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a natural wonder of the world. In this sweet spot on the Gulf of Tonkin, over 1,000 karst islets rise above emerald waters, resembling the spine of a giant reptile—hence the name Ha Long (Descending Dragon). Here, you'll board the Stellar of the Seas ship for a two-day luxury cruise.

Once aboard, you'll sit down for a gourmet lunch and then get underway. The ship will pass several islets before arriving at a secluded lagoon in Lan Ha Bay, part of the Cat Ba World Biosphere Reserve archipelago. Here, the boat will drop anchor, and you'll take a kayak tour. During the excursion, you'll pass through narrow waterways around the karst mountains and visit the famous floating villages. Continue through a natural tunnel to a lagoon where you can swim and relax on a secluded beach.

In the late afternoon, you'll return to the boat, and everyone will gather on the top deck to witness the golden sunset over the water. Then, join a cooking class on board the ship, during which the expert chef will teach your group how to prepare traditional Vietnamese dishes. Later, you can opt for activities like games and movies or go squid fishing.

Day 7: Morning Cruise, Return to Hanoi & Depart

Beautiful Morning in Halong Bay  (Stellar of the Seas)
Enjoy a morning cruise before transferring back to Hanoi and heading home

Wake up early and start the day strong with a tai chi session on the sundeck. After a light breakfast, the ship will cruise to the Dark and Light Cave. You'll then board a traditional bamboo boat and enter this system of two sea caverns. The "dark" cave stretches over 328 feet (100 m), and you'll explore the interior with a flashlight. The "light" cave is shorter and is filled with natural light, illuminating the white limestone karst walls and emerald waters of the grotto. Its cathedral-like interior is a great place to snap photos.

Afterward, you'll return to the ship and cruise to the Ha Long Bay pier, enjoying a late brunch as you go. Then hop in a vehicle for the 3.5-hour ride back to Hanoi and the airport, where you'll catch your flight home. Safe travels!

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


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Map of Luxury Northern Vietnam for Nature Lovers - 7 Days
Map of Luxury Northern Vietnam for Nature Lovers - 7 Days