In just a week you'll travel through half of one of the most beautiful countries in the world: Vietnam. Starting with city tours of Hanoi's historic Old Quarter, you'll head to the coast for an overnight cruise on the emerald green waters of Hạ Long Bay. After returning to Hanoi, you'll jet to the central coast where you'll cap the adventure with a tour of Hội An, the most ancient and well-preserved port city in Vietnam.

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

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Hanoi Hanoi
Day 2 Hanoi City & Street Food Tour Hanoi
Day 3 Hanoi to Hạ Long Bay Halong Bay
Day 4 Hạ Long Bay to Hanoi - Flight to Da Nang – Transfer to Hội An Hoi An
Day 5 Bicycle Eco-Tour along the Thu Bồn River Hoi An
Day 6 Hội An Free Day Hoi An
Day 7 Hội An to Da Nang - 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 the Old Quarter. There's no shortage of incredible eateries in this neighborhood, and they run the gamut from delicious street food to fine dining to trendy fusion restaurants.

Day 2: Hanoi City & Street Food Tour

The Temple of Literature, Hanoi
The Temple of Literature, Hanoi

In the morning, you'll embark on a guided walking tour of Hanoi, first stopping at Hang Be Market. Nestled in the heart of the Old Quarter, this municipal market has been open over 100 years. It offers a wide variety of items, from fresh produce, meat, and fish to dry goods, flowers, and clothing. More than a center of commerce, Hang Be is a meeting point for locals from all walks of life, and spending time here is a great way to get to know the people of the city and understand their energy.

Afterward, your guide will lead you north to West Lake (Hồ Tây) and the Trấn Quốc Pagoda, the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi. Dating to the 6th century, it was built during the reign of Emperor Lý Nam Đế during his dynasty of 544-548 ACE. This 11-story, 49-foot (15-meter) Buddhist shrine has undergone several changes and renovations over the years, but it is still home to Buddhist monks who pray every day at various shrines on the temple grounds.

After a short rest, you'll head to the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. This massive museum complex preserves cultural heritage by offering information on the 54 different ethnic groups in Vietnam. Some highlight exhibits include full-scale replicas of village homes plus ancient artifacts like traditional jewelry and wedding/funeral clothing. 

Next, you'll head to Ba Dinh Square and visit the outside of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the dominating structure that serves as the final resting place for the revolutionary leader. This is followed by a stop at the nearby One Pillar Pagoda, one of the most iconic Buddhist temples in the city.
 
In the afternoon, you'll visit Temple of Literature, which was built in the 11th century and is dedicated to Confucius. This temple was the first university of Vietnam, and it's still a place where students burn incense and pray at the altars for academic success. 

Afterward, the guide will take you around the Old Quarter for a delicious street food tour. It's an eat-as-you-go excursion, with your guide leading you around the maze of historic streets as you try seasonal fruit from produce stalls and tasty French-inspired snacks off street carts. Famous northern Vietnamese dishes you'll sample include bún chả (a grilled pork and noodle dish) and bánh cuốn (rice noodles filled with ground pork). The next stops are at outdoor BBQ stalls where you'll sit down with locals and sample various flame-grilled meat dishes.

After so much savory goodness, it will be time for something sweet. Your guide will take you to a restaurant hidden away on a side street where you can enjoy a famous Vietnamese egg coffee, which is made with egg yolks, sugar, and condensed milk. You can also sample some local rice wine. Afterward, having tasted some of the most delicious food in the country, you can return to your hotel and relax.

Day 3: Hanoi to Hạ Long Bay

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. Not only will you enjoy fresh seafood for lunch and dinner, but you'll overnight aboard the ship as well. This will give you an opportunity to see the sunset over the water.

Day 4: Hạ Long Bay to Hanoi - Flight to Da Nang – Transfer to Hội An

The riverfront city of Hội An
The riverfront city of Hội An

In the early morning, you'll wake up to a spectacular sunrise over the bay. After a leisurely breakfast on board the ship, you'll cruise the bay a bit longer before returning to the pier. From here you'll transfer back to Hanoi by bus then to the airport where you'll catch a 1.5-hour flight to Da Nang, located on the coast of Central Vietnam.

Upon arrival in Da Nang, you'll transfer by car about 30 minutes to adjacent Hội An and check into your hotel. This colorful city sits on Vietnam's central coast at the entrance to the Thu Bồn River and has a long and storied history. You'll get a sense of it as you stroll its old streets along the waterfront. Feel free to spend the evening relaxing and enjoy dinner out in town.

Day 5: Bicycle Eco-Tour along the Thu Bồn River

Enjoy a bicycle ride to traditional villages
Enjoy a bicycle ride to traditional villages

After breakfast, you'll meet a local guide at your hotel and hop on a bicycle for a 15-minute ride along the banks of the Thu Bồn River. Your first stop is the Kim Bong carpentry village. This small town quietly tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Hội An is exactly that: a community of artisans who spend their days toiling in their workshops. You'll visit the shops of various artisans, including woodcarvers, mosaic designers, and even shipbuilders. Throughout the experience, your guide will handle translating duties. 

You'll continue down the river to the Tra Nhieu, an ecological village that has retained its traditional roots. This 148-acre community is situated in the Duy Xuyen District of Quang Nam Province. The locals earn their living a number of ways, including fishing, mat-weaving, palm-leaf braiding, and making handicrafts. After a brief presentation on the history of the village, you'll take a tour, strolling amid coconut palms and over bamboo bridges to little river islands as the calls of exotic birds carry in the wind.

Your next stop is nearby Tra Que. This small village, home to just a few hundred residents, is famous for its organic vegetables. The farmers here grow 20 types of herbs and vegetables without the use of pesticides or chemicals. To fertilize their crops they actually use a type of river seaweed which they harvest by boat every day. During your visit, local farmers will teach you about these cultivation methods, and you'll even join in gardening activities like watering, transplanting, and tending to the greens.

After the gardening, you can relax and soak your feet in a solution of water infused with local herbal remedies and traditional medicine that's guaranteed to soothe. Then, you'll sit down to lunch with a local family and try that delicious, all-natural produce firsthand. Just like in the garden, you'll take a hands-on approach to the meal by learning to prepare some traditional dishes like tam hữu (herb-wrapped spring rolls) and bánh xèo (crispy Vietnamese pancakes). 

After lunch, you'll enjoy a bit of rest in the village before transferring back to Hội An and your hotel. You'll then have the remainder of the day free and can enjoy dinner in town.

Day 6: 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 7: Hội An to Da Nang - Departure

Goodbye, Vietnam
Goodbye, Vietnam

In the morning you'll leave Hội An's Ancient Town for the short drive north to Da Nang. At the appropriate time, you'll catch your flight home, thus concluding your grand Vietnam adventure. See you soon!

Map

Map of North & Central Vietnam: Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hoi An  - 7 Days
Map of North & Central Vietnam: Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hoi An - 7 Days