Over a brisk seven days, you'll see a side of Vietnam seemingly lost in time as you travel up the Mekong River. After learning about wartime history in Ho Chi Minh City, board a riverboat and cruise amid fishing villages, floating markets, and local farms on your way into Cambodia. There, you'll visit the gleaming palaces of Phnom Penh before traveling to Siem Reap and Angkor, an archaeological site of unrivaled majesty.


  • Immerse yourself in wartime history in Ho Chi Minh City
  • Hop on a riverboat for a multiday cruise on the Mekong River
  • Tour the highlights of Phnom Penh, like the Royal Palace
  • Marvel at the ancient Khmer temple complex of Angkor

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), War History Tour Ho Chi Minh City
Day 2 Day Trip to the Mekong Delta Ho Chi Minh City
Day 3 Transfer to Chau Doc via Cai Be Chau Doc
Day 4 Transfer to Phnom Penh (Cambodia) Phnom Penh
Day 5 Half-Day City Tour, Transfer to Siem Reap Siem Reap
Day 6 Day Trip to Angkor Temples Siem Reap
Day 7 Depart Siem Reap  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), War History Tour

See American and Vietnamese battlefield relics at the War Remnants Museum

Welcome to Vietnam! This weeklong journey through two fascinating countries begins in the south. You'll arrive in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, until its fall at the hands of the North Vietnamese Army in 1975. Today, Vietnam's largest metropolis is known more for its modernity and towering skyscrapers, but much wartime history remains—if you know where to look. That history will be the focus of your first day in-country. 

A driver will pick you up at the airport and transfer you to your hotel in Ho Chi Minh City to drop off your bags. Then, continue about an hour north of the city to the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels. This immense network of underground passages was constructed in 1948 to protect the Viet Cong guerrillas from French attacks. They also served as living quarters and supply routes with storage areas and hospitals. A visit to Cu Chi reveals the hardships faced by the thousands of soldiers who survived the American War (as the Vietnam War is known locally). If you like, you can crawl through a tunnel section.

Afterward, transfer back to the city and visit the War Remnants Museum. Highlights here include various exhibits—like weaponry and military equipment—as well as historical photos, prison-cell recreations, and tiger cages. Later, perhaps browse Ben Thanh Market, a popular spot for street food and shopping.

Day 2: Day Trip to the Mekong Delta

Take a ride down the canals of the Mekong region

You're in for a treat, as this morning, you'll leave on a full-day tour of the famed Mekong Delta. It begins with a transfer south of Ho Chi Minh City to My Tho. This river city is located in Tien Giang province at the doorstep of the Mekong. Your full-day tour of the beautiful riverine landscapes begins with a boat ride down the Mekong River. During the scenic trip, you'll pass tranquil islands as you sip on fresh coconut juice (the Mekong is famous for its coconut groves). The boat tour ends with a visit to one of the area's massive floating markets, where hundreds of boats ply the waters selling fresh produce.

At the end of the tour, you'll visit Thoi Son Island. Stretch your legs on a leisurely stroll down the backroads here as you pass orchards, sample tropical fruits, and listen to traditional music coming from the village homes. You'll also see a shrine dedicated to the Coconut Monk, a local religious cult leader who, back in the day, preached adherence to peace, harmony, and coconuts. You'll then return to Ho Chi Minh City, stopping en route at Vinh Trang Pagoda, the largest Buddhist temple in the province.

Day 3: Transfer to Chau Doc via Cai Be

Transfer from Saigon to Chau Doc via Cai Be
There's never a dull moment at the Mekong Delta's floating markets

Wake up early and meet your driver for a return trip to the Mekong Delta. After about two hours, you'll arrive in Cai Be. This river town is famous for having one of the region's most packed floating markets. Each morning hundreds of boats ply these waters selling fresh produce, and you'll jump right into the action. Your guide will lead you around to various vendors and teach you the art of haggling as you mingle with locals. 

That's not all. After the market, you'll visit a workshop run by a local family that makes "pop rice." As the Mekong Delta is known as the "rice bowl of Vietnam," the region produces much of this crop, and this tasty puffed rice snack has become a staple of the local diet. Then you'll have some time to relax and savor some fresh fruit while listening to the slow rhythms of Vietnamese folk music.

Later, transfer for 3.5 hours by car north up the Upper Mekong region and Chau Doc, near the border with Cambodia. This culturally diverse river city is home to Cham, Chinese, and Khmer ethnic groups, and it's a popular destination for its nearby pilgrimage sites.

Day 4: Transfer to Phnom Penh (Cambodia)

Cambodian monks outside of Phnom Penh's Royal Palace

Time to say goodbye to Vietnam! In the morning, you'll board a speedboat on the Mekong River for the five-hour ride north into Cambodia and its capital Phnom Penh. This grand metropolis of over two million people was founded in the 14th century and became the capital after the fall of the Angkor Empire. There's been a lot of history in the intervening centuries, much of it represented in the city's famous temples, museums, and Art Deco buildings.

Upon arrival, you'll transfer to your hotel and will have the rest of the day free. This busy capital enjoys a scenic location at the junction of the Mekong and Tonlé Sap rivers. You'll want to stroll its walkable riverfront, which is lined with parks, restaurants, and bars. And definitely don't miss the Central Market, a sprawling Art Deco masterpiece built in 1939 during the French colonial period.

Day 5: Half-Day City Tour, Transfer to Siem Reap

Welcome to Phnom Penh!
The 19th-century Royal Palace is home to Cambodian royalty
Plan your trip to Vietnam
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

After an early breakfast, meet your guide for a half-day highlights tour of Phnom Penh. First up is the 19th-century Royal Palace. Built by King Norodom in 1866, it remains the official residence of Cambodian royalty. Also, here is the Silver Pagoda, one of Southeast Asia's most impressive Buddhist temples. These days, it serves as a repository for cultural treasures such as a life-size golden Buddha encrusted with 2,086 diamonds. Then, continue to Psar Toul Tom Pong, known as the Russian Market. This large municipal market is a great place to hunt for souvenirs, curios, and silks.

Later, meet your driver and leave Phnom Penh on a five-hour trip north to Siem Reap. This town in northwest Cambodia sits on the shores of Tonlé Sap Lake and is the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Angkor. These ruins were once the capital city of the Khmer Kingdom from the ninth to the 15th centuries. Upon arrival, you'll transfer to your hotel.

Day 6: Day Trip to Angkor Temples

Explore the most jaw-dropping sites in the Angkor complex, like Bayon Temple

Get ready to discover Angkor, one of the grandest archaeological parks in the world. This full-day experience kicks off early with your transfer to Angkor Thom (literally "Great City"), once the most impressive royal city of Cambodia's Angkor period. Construction began on this massive temple city in the 12th century by King Jayavarman VII, and it covers a whopping 3.5 square miles (9 sq km).

A major highlight here is the 12th-century Bayon Temple. This marvel is comprised of 54 Gothic towers featuring 216 stone sculptures of Jayavarman VII's smiling face and glaring eyes. Other structures you'll visit include the Terrace of the Elephants (with sculptures and bas-reliefs of elephants), Phimeanakas (a three-tiered pyramid), and the Terrace of the Leper King, known for its carvings of demons and mythological figures.

In the afternoon, you'll return to Siem Reap and visit Wat Thmei. Also known as the Killing Fields Pagoda, this Buddhist temple was built in 1966 and is known for its elegant stupa, which houses the remains of victims of the Khmer Rouge. Though only in power for four years, this murderous dictatorship claimed the lives of over two million Cambodians or about 25% of the country. In addition to its spiritual role, Wat Thmei functions as an educational center, raising awareness about the history of the Khmer Rouge and the importance of preserving the memory of the victims.

Day 7: Depart Siem Reap

Sun setting over statue ruins at the ancient Khmer temple complex of Angkor
After a week of memorable experiences, today, the adventure comes to an end (for now). Enjoy breakfast at your hotel before meeting your driver for the ride to the airport in Siem Reap, 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 different ways to spend a week in Vietnam and Cambodia, 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.


Map of Mekong Reflections: Journey Through Vietnam & Cambodia - 7 Days
Map of Mekong Reflections: Journey Through Vietnam & Cambodia - 7 Days
Written by Tina Oo, updated Nov 8, 2023