In just a week, you'll travel through highlights of one of the most beautiful countries in the world. This itinerary through Vietnam starts with city tours of Hanoi's historic Old Quarter, then heads to the coast for an overnight cruise on the emerald green waters of Hạ Long Bay. Later, 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 the nation.

Highlights

  • Discover the sights, sounds, and flavors of Hanoi
  • Go on a boat cruise around the gorgeous Hạ Long Bay
  • Explore the UNESCO-honored riverside city of Hội An
  • Sample local delicacies on a street food tour 
  • Ride a bicycle along the shore of the Thu Bồn River

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Hanoi Hanoi
Day 2 Explore Hanoi City and Take a Street Food Tour Hanoi
Day 3 Discover the Scenery of Hạ Long Bay Halong Bay
Day 4 Breakfast on a Boat on Hạ Long Bay & Transfer to Hội An Hoi An
Day 5 Ride Bicycles Along the Thu Bồn River Hoi An
Day 6 Enjoy a Free Day in Hội An  Hoi An
Day 7 End of Trip - Departure from Vietnam  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi

A street vendor in Hanoi
A street vendor in Hanoi

Welcome to Vietnam! After arrival at Hanoi's airport, you'll take some time to relax and unwind at your hotel. If you're feeling energetic, head out to explore the city on foot.

Dating to 3,000 BCE, Hanoi is one of the most ancient capitals in the world. Today, it's a mix of the old and the new, a city defined by the contradictions of a rapidly developing yet deeply traditional society. Walk around the French colonial Old Quarter, absorb the energy of Hanoi's motorbike-packed streets, browse through outdoor markets and silk shops, and try bánh mì from a street food vendor. Then go for 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. Nearby, in the center of the lake, is Turtle Tower, a small stone tower built to commemorate the Golden Turtle God, Kim Qui. According to Vietnamese myth, he reclaimed a magical sword from Emperor Lê Lợi in order to return it to the Dragon King. 

Day 2: Explore Hanoi City and Take a Street Food Tour

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

In the morning, you'll embark on a guided tour of Hanoi, first stopping at Hang Be Market. Located in the heart of the Old Quarter, just a five-minute walk from Hoàn Kiếm Lake, this municipal market has been open for over 100 years. It offers a wide variety of products, 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.

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 CE. 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. Next, 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 and ancient artifacts like traditional jewelry and wedding 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. Move on to the Temple of Literature, which was built in the 11th century and is dedicated to Confucius. This temple was the first university in Vietnam, and it's still a place where students burn incense and pray at the altars for academic success. 

Afterward, eat your way through the Old Quarter on a delicious street food tour. Your guide will lead you around a maze of historic streets as you try seasonal fruits from produce stalls and tasty French-inspired snacks from 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 barbecue stalls, where you'll sit down with locals and sample various flame-grilled meats. Finish the tour with something sweet: a famous Vietnamese egg coffee, which is made with egg yolks, sugar, and condensed milk. You can also sample some local rice wine before returning to your hotel to relax.

Day 3: Discover the Scenery of Hạ Long Bay

Hạ Long Bay
The turquoise water of Hạ Long Bay

Your destination today is the coastal retreat and fishing community of Hạ 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 Hạ Long Bay centuries ago. Mythology aside, you can't deny the otherworldly beauty of the seascape here. 

On arrival, you'll board a boat 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: Breakfast on a Boat on Hạ Long Bay & 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 onboard 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 short flight to Da Nang, located on the coast of Central Vietnam.

Upon arrival in Da Nang, you'll transfer 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 enjoying dinner out in town.

Day 5: Ride Bicycles 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 home to a community of artisans who spend their days in their workshops. You'll visit the shops of various artisans, including woodcarvers, mosaic designers, and even shipbuilders. Throughout the experience, of course, your guide will translate. 

Then 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 in 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 and listening to the sounds of exotic birds.

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 many types of herbs and vegetables without the use of pesticides or chemicals. To fertilize their crops, they use a type of river seaweed that they harvest by boat. During your visit, local farmers will teach you about these cultivation methods, and you'll join in gardening activities like watering, transplanting, and tending to the greens.

Later, relax and soak your feet in a solution of water infused with local herbs: it's guaranteed to soothe. You'll take a hands-on approach to lunch as you prepare a meal with a local family, learning to prepare traditional dishes like tam hữu (herb-wrapped spring rolls) and bánh xèo (crispy Vietnamese pancakes). Enjoy the meal with the family before transferring back to Hội An.

Day 6: Enjoy a Free Day in Hội An 

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. 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 enjoy some unabashed fun in the sun with a trip to An Bang Beach with its white sands and sky-blue waters. When the sun sets, Hội An really comes alive. Go for 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. You might even be inspired to visit Hội An's Lantern Market to pick up a traditional lantern to take home.

Day 7: End of Trip - Departure from Vietnam

Goodbye, Vietnam
Traditional boats on the water in Vietnam

In the morning, you'll leave Hội An for the short drive north to Da Nang. Your Vietnam adventure ends here. Come back soon!

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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