Discover the natural beauty of northern Vietnam and Thailand on this 10-day nature escape. In Vietnam, you'll take an overnight cruise of Ha Long Bay's karst-studded emerald waters, experience rural life in Ba Vi, and explore Ninh Binh's fertile countryside by bike and boat. Fly to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand next, your base for visiting an elephant jungle sanctuary and Doi Inthanon National Park, home to the country's highest peak.


  • Explore the unspoiled Ninh Binh countryside by bike and boat
  • Sail amid the limestone karsts of UNESCO-listed Ha Long Bay
  • Meet local villagers on a Ba Vi countryside tour
  • Interact with elephants at a jungle sanctuary near Chiang Mai 
  • Visit Thailand's highest peak in Doi Inthanon National Park

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Hanoi (Vietnam), Vespa City Food Tour Hanoi
Day 2 Ba Vi Eco Countryside Tour Hanoi
Day 3 Transfer to Ninh Binh, Explore Van Long Nature Reserve Ninh Binh
Day 4 Ninh Binh Bike & Boat Tour Ninh Binh
Day 5 Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise with Kayaking Ha Long Bay
Day 6 Return to Hanoi Hanoi
Day 7 Fly to Chiang Mai (Thailand), Evening Temples Tour Chiang Mai
Day 8 Doi Inthanon National Park & Mae Klang Luang Nature Trail Chiang Mai
Day 9 Elephant Sanctuary & Handicraft Village Tour & Fly to Bangkok Bangkok
Day 10 Depart Bangkok  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi (Vietnam), Vespa City Food Tour

Whizz around Hanoi on a Vespa tour

Welcome to Hanoi, Vietnam's high-energy capital and cultural heart. A private driver will take you to your hotel, navigating the motorbike-choked streets of the city, which feature a mix of temples and French colonial buildings contrasted with modern, glassy malls and office buildings. In the labyrinthine streets of the Old Quarter, shop fronts and cafés spill onto pavements scattered with tiny stools where Hanoians sip coffee and play checkers. 

Settle in and then explore Hanoi in style on a vintage Vespa scooter. Your guide will take you for a ride through the atmospheric streets of the Old Quarter to a popular coffee shop where you'll sip lemon tea and eat sunflower seeds with the locals. Next, head to Bun Cha Huong Lien to try Hanoi's bun cha (noodle soup with grilled pork). This restaurant's interpretation of the dish is so famous that it's served guests like Barack Obama and Anthony Bourdain.

Afterward, hop back on the Vespa to ride through the French Quarter with its ornate Opera House before sampling your next street snack, banh xeo (rice pancakes with pork and seafood). Continue down winding alleyways where you'll try different versions of Vietnam's beloved noodle soup, pho. Other stops include West Lake and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where the country's revered revolutionary leader is laid to rest. End with some of Hanoi's signature egg coffee. 

Day 2: Ba Vi Eco Countryside Tour

Learn how to pick the best tea leaves on a countryside tour

Head out of the city this morning for a guided tour of the Ba Vi countryside. Your first stop is Ri Village, where you'll have welcome drinks and snacks with Mr. Duoc, a Vietnam War veteran and tea plantation owner. Listen to Mr. Duoc's stories about life during the war and visit his workshop and tea plantation, where you'll learn how to pick the best leaves.

Next, you'll take a short drive to Moc Village, where Mrs. Chin will teach you how to cook Vietnamese dishes, which you'll enjoy for lunch in her tropical garden. Join Mrs. Chin for a walk around the village to visit families and learn how to make tofu, conical hats, and other regional products. Finish by cycling through Vietnam's rice paddies, followed by a Muong herbal foot bath, before returning to Hanoi.

Day 3: Transfer to Ninh Binh, Explore Van Long Nature Reserve

Escape the city today and discover Ninh Binh's karst-strewn landscape

Leave Hanoi today and drive south to Ninh Binh, a region loved for its ruinous palaces and patchwork paddy fields bisected by snaking rivers. Get a taste of this mystical scenery with a trip to Van Long Nature Reserve, a vast wetland dotted with limestone karsts. This protected reserve is a haven for dozens of bird species ranging from the black-faced spoonbill to the white-browed crake and is home to a group of endangered Delacour's langurs. 

Take a boat trip in a sampan boat, floating through this watery wonderland surrounded by sheer limestone peaks. Sail through otherworldly grottoes and past fishermen, bird-watching along the way. Finally, you'll dock at Van Long Wharf and board a buffalo cart—a traditional form of local transport—to a restaurant for a late lunch. Afterward, check into your hotel and spend the rest of the day as you please.

Day 4: Ninh Binh Bike & Boat Tour

Explore grottoes dripping with stalactites by boat
Plan your trip to Vietnam
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Start the day with a short drive to Tho Ha Village, where you'll gear up for a cycling trip through the northern Vietnamese countryside. Accompanied by a guide, peddle 3-10 miles (5-15 km), passing waterlogged rice paddies and through sleepy villages. Stop at the hamlet of Dong Tam, where you can try catching crabs and tending to vegetables with the residents.

Join a local family for a cooking class next, learning to make sweet potato cakes and grilled fish, which you'll feast on with the family while chatting about life in rural Vietnam. After lunch, wave goodbye to the family and board a rowboat to Nha Le Pier for a scenic sail to the 2,953-foot-deep (900 m) Galaxy Grotto, so named for the sea of stalactites that decorate the ceiling, where bats flutter. Afterward, return to your hotel for a well-earned restful evening.

Day 5: Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise with Kayaking

Cruise the paper-flat waters of Ha Long Bay

This morning, take a 3.5-hour private transfer to the northeast coast, where the land meets the Gulf of Tonkin, to begin your overnight tour of Ha Long Bay. Sail across the paper-flat waters, taking in views of over 2,000 limestone karsts steeped in Vietnamese legend. A delicious seafood lunch onboard awaits, followed by plenty of time to sit on the sun deck as you sail to the most remote corners of Ha Long Bay.

In the afternoon, stop at a secret cove where you can swim and kayak to explore hidden beaches and caves. Look for formations like Kissing Rock, which appears on Vietnam's 200,000 dong note. The ship's expert chef will lead a cooking masterclass, teaching you to make specialties like nem (Vietnamese fried spring rolls) for dinner. Spend the evening relaxing or join the locals for a spot of night fishing to end the day.

Day 6: Return to Hanoi

Wander around the Old Quarter's Hoan Kiem Lake

Wake early for breakfast on the ship's deck, watching the sun rise over the emerald waters of Ha Long Bay, deemed one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. The morning is yours to absorb the view or join optional activities like Tai Chi and kayaking past floating villages and forested islands. 

Visit a limestone cave dripping in stalagmites and stalactites before sailing back to the harbor, enjoying brunch along the way. Your driver will be waiting to take you 2.5 hours back to Hanoi, where you'll have a final evening in the city. Shop for souvenirs in the maze-like Old Quarter and indulge in a last bowl of steaming pho.

Day 7: Fly to Chiang Mai (Thailand), Evening Temples Tour

Explore Chiang Mai's forested and mountaintop temples 

Say goodbye to Vietnam this morning and catch a 1.5-hour flight to Chiang Mai, where your driver will be waiting to take you to your hotel. Set in the cooler, mountainous north of Thailand, Chiang Mai was once the capital of the Lanna Kingdom and still retains its moat-encircled Old City. The city is a key cultural hub, home to historical architecture and over 300 temples where orange-robed monks live and worship.

Spend the afternoon relaxing before this evening's temple tour. Your guide will begin at Wat Umong, a heavily forested complex with moss-covered stupas and mysterious tunnels. As twilight settles in, spiral up the mountain and climb the 309 steps of the golden naga staircase to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, one of Thailand's most sacred temples. From here, you can take in sweeping views of Chiang Mai at night and wander around the temple's pagodas and statues.

Day 8: Mountains & Waterfalls Tour

Enjoy panoramic views of the countryside from Doi Inthanon

Escape the city today as you venture on an excursion to Doi Inthanon National Park, named for Thailand's highest mountain, Inthanon, which towers over 8,400 feet (2,565 m) above sea level. Your driver will take you to the top of the mountain, where you'll make the final steep climb on foot to the summit for panoramic views over the countryside. Stop at a stupa where the remains of Chao Inthawichayanon, the last independent ruler of Chiang Mai, are enshrined.

Then, head to a Karen village to observe the local way of life and browse their colorful craft market. On the return trip, you'll stop at the 262-foot (80 m) high Wachirathan Waterfall to marvel as its vapor lingers above the jungle canopy. You'll then follow the Ban Mae Klang Luang nature trail, taking you away from the main tourist track on a forested route that runs downhill to meet a river. You'll eventually reach Pa Dok Siew Waterfall, where you can cool off with a swim.

Finally, you'll reach the Karen village of Mae Klang Luang. Here, coffee is the most important crop—you'll have a chance to visit the coffee house where they roast, hand-grind, and prepare coffee. Try a cup on-site, and if you like it, buy a bag of ground coffee to take home before heading back to Chiang Mai. 

Day 9: Elephant Sanctuary & Handicraft Village Tour & Fly to Bangkok

Learn about Thailand's national animal at an elephant sanctuary

Today, you'll meet Thailand's iconic national animal, the elephant. Travel an hour north of Chiang Mai through rolling hills, forest, and farmland. Arrive at Kanta Elephant Sanctuary, which provides a safe place for elephants rescued from the tourism and logging industry. Get an introduction to the history of elephants in Thailand and learn about these gentle giants' behavior, anatomy, and care. You'll then meet the elephants and bond over feeding and interacting with them; as you'll learn, each elephant has their own personality and moving backstory. 

Wave farewell to your new friends and continue to a nearby orchid farm to witness the beauty of these floral species before lunch at a restaurant. Spend the afternoon visiting the craft workshops on San Kamphaeng Road, east of Chiang Mai. Learn about making paper umbrellas, loom-weaving Thai silk, and producing silverware. 

End the day with a 1.5-hour flight back to Bangkok, where you'll enjoy a final evening in the frenetic capital. Browse night markets for souvenirs, have a soothing Thai massage, and snack on tasty street food on the famous Khao San Road.

Day 10: Depart Bangkok

Say goodbye to Bangkok as you catch your onward flight

Today your Vietnam and Thailand adventure ends, and you'll be transferred to the airport in Bangkok for your onward flight. Safe travels!

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Map of Northern Vietnam & Thailand Nature Escape - 10 Days
Map of Northern Vietnam & Thailand Nature Escape - 10 Days