Hit the road (and sea) with that special someone through Vietnam and Thailand, two of the most romantic countries in Southeast Asia. In Vietnam, you'll indulge in street food, cruise the soaring limestone towers of Ha Long Bay, make paper lanterns in Hoi An, and take a sunset dinner cruise in Ho Chi Minh City. Then, enjoy spa treatments and fine dining in Bangkok, receive blessing ceremonies at Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai, relax on the white-sand beaches of Ko Samui, and much more.


  • Sample the famous street food of Vietnam and visit historic landmarks in Hanoi
  • Enjoy couples activities like city tours, spa days, and romantic dinners
  • Travel along the jade waters of Ha Long Bay on a multi-day cruise
  • Visit historic temples in Bangkok and elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai
  • Relax on the white-sand beaches of Ko Samui and take speedboat tours

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Hanoi (Vietnam), Half-Day City Tour Hanoi
Day 2 Water Puppet Show & Street Food Tour Hanoi
Day 3 Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise (Day 1) Ha Long Bay
Day 4 Ha Long Bay Overnight Cruise (Day 2) Ha Long Bay
Day 5 Morning Cruise Transfer to Hanoi, Fly to Hoi An Hoi An
Day 6 Hoi An City Tour, Lantern Workshop & Dinner on the River  Hoi An
Day 7 Private Cooking Class, Free Afternoon in Hoi An Hoi An
Day 8 Fly to Ho Chi Minh City, Half-Day City Tour Ho Chi Minh City
Day 9 Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels, Saigon River Dinner Cruise Ho Chi Minh City
Day 10 Day Trip to the Mekong Delta: Boat Ride & Cycling Ho Chi Minh City
Day 11 Fly to Bangkok (Thailand), Rooftop Fine Dining at Banyan Tree Bangkok
Day 12 Palace & Temples Tour, Luxury Spa Treatment Bangkok
Day 13 Visit Bangkok's Railway & Floating Markets Bangkok
Day 14 Bangkok Self-Guided Couples Tour Bangkok
Day 15 Fly to Chiang Mai, Cooking Class with a Lanna Family Chiang Mai
Day 16 Chiang Mai Rickshaw Tour, Blessing Ceremony Chiang Mai
Day 17 Day Trip to an Elephant Sanctuary Chiang Mai
Day 18 Fly to Ko Samui, Candlelit Dinner on the Beach  Ko Samui
Day 19 Ko Samui Marine Park Speedboat Tour Ko Samui
Day 20 Ko Samui Free Day Ko Samui
Day 21 Depart Ko Samui  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi (Vietnam), Half-Day City Tour

The Temple of Literature, Hanoi
Learn how the Temple of Literature is one of the most ancient sites in Hanoi
Welcome to Vietnam! One of the globe's best destinations for a couples' trip, this country is filled with equal parts natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. You'll arrive in the nation's capital of Hanoi, which itself has a settled history dating way back to the 3rd century BCE. Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will pick you up for the one-hour ride to your hotel in the city center. 
After getting settled, you'll meet a local guide and hit the streets to tour some of Vietnam's most awe-inspiring historical landmarks. It starts in the city's historic Old Quarter and the Ho Chi Minh Complex, where Vietnam's revered revolutionary leader, Ho Chi Minh, lies embalmed in a mausoleum. Amble through the peaceful grounds to see the humble wooden stilt house where he once lived.
Another highlight is the ornate One Pillar Pagoda. This small Buddhist temple sits in the middle of a lake and resembles Vietnam's national flower, the lotus. The tour ends at the Temple of Literature, Vietnam's first national university, built in the late 11th century. Lauded for its striking architecture, the temple is featured on the 100,000 Vietnamese dong banknote.

Day 2: Water Puppet Show & Street Food Tour

Enjoy the puppet show
Take part in water puppetry before joining a food tour
This morning, you'll transfer to a local theater to see a traditional water puppet show. Known as mua roi nuoc in Vietnamese, this cultural expression dates back over 1,000 years, originating in the Red River Delta rice fields. When the fields were flooded, puppeteers used the water's surface as a stage to tell stories with intricately crafted wooden marionettes. The tradition endures today, and you'll witness one such colorful and elaborate performance at a local theater. 

After the show, you'll have time to relax. Then, later in the afternoon, you'll dine on Hanoi's fabled street food delights. Wander the streets of the Old Quarter with a guide, sampling typical dishes such as cha ca (grilled fish with turmeric), pho bo (beef noodle soup), and bun cha (grilled pork served with vermicelli noodles). If you're feeling adventurous, sample trung vit lon (fertilized duck eggs). Wash it down with Hanoian beer or a cup of the city's famous egg coffee. This drink was created when egg yolks were used as a substitute during shortages of fresh milk. 

Day 3: Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise (Day 1) 

Enjoy a romantic and almost mystical cruise through Ha Long Bay

After an early breakfast, your private driver will pick you up at the hotel for the three-hour transfer north to the legendary Ha Long Bay. Located on the Gulf of Tonkin, over 1,500 karst islets rise above jade waters, resembling the spine of a mythological creature ("ha long" translates to "descending dragon"). The unique beauty of this region is unlike anywhere else and thus has earned UNESCO World Heritage status.

Upon arrival at the marina, you'll board a luxurious cruise ship operated by the Orchid Trendy company and embark on an overnight tour. After settling into your cabin, head to the dining room, where a delicious lunch awaits. Then, relax on the sun deck as the ship sails across glassy emerald waters to secluded corners of the bay. Later, you'll stop at a secret cove for a swim and a kayak trip to explore hidden beaches and grottoes.

Return to the ship in time for happy hour at the onboard bar, followed by a cooking demonstration during which you'll try some famous Vietnamese dishes. Your appetite primed, head back to the dining room for a decadent buffet dinner. Afterward, you can spend the remainder of the evening relaxing or grab a pole and cast a line off the boat's stern to try and catch some squid.

Day 4: Ha Long Bay Overnight Cruise (Day 2)

Kayaking is the only way to explore the caves in Ha Long Bay
Spend the afternoon kayaking around the lagoons and karst caves of Ha Long Bay
Rise and shine! If you're an early bird, head up to the sun deck for an early morning tai chi session in the open air. Then, return to the dining room to enjoy a hearty breakfast as the bay's otherworldly landscapes pass by outside the wraparound windows. Later, the tours begin.
The cruise ship will drop anchor, and you'll board a transport boat for the ride to a nearby fishing village. There, hop on a bicycle for a ride along backroads through the verdant countryside. The scenery here is spectacular, filled with green rice paddies, lush jungle, traditional houses, and local villagers going about their daily lives. A highlight is a brief stop at an ancient home made from straw, mud, and bamboo—a throwback to a more traditional way of life.

Return to the boat for lunch, followed by a fun afternoon of activities like kayaking around lagoons and sandy beaches. If you like, there will be time for swimming, then another cooking workshop back on the boat. Later, relax on the top deck and enjoy the sunset over the Gulf of Tonkin, followed by a romantic dinner. Cap the evening with a movie screening or play chess or card games with your partner. 

Day 5: Morning Cruise, Transfer to Hanoi, Fly to Hoi An

Enjoy one last sunrise over Ha Long before returning to Hanoi

If you like, rise early to enjoy the sunrise over the jade waters of Ha Long. You can also participate in another tai chi session amid the beautiful bay scenery. After a light breakfast, the ship will cruise to a karst cavern, which you can explore in a traditional boat. 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, arriving in the mid-afternoon.

Once back in the city, you'll transfer to the airport by private vehicle and catch a 1.5-hour flight south to Da Nang, located on Vietnam's central coast. At the airport, another driver will pick you up for the one-hour transfer south to colorful Hoi An, located on the Thu Bon River. This historic city was a major trading port with the West from the 15th through the 19th centuries, and many well-preserved buildings remain in its riverside Ancient Town. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and have the evening free.

Day 6: Hoi An City Tour, Lantern Workshop & Dinner on the River 

Hoi An is famous for its traditional lanterns that illuminate the Thu Bon River
This morning, you'll discover Hoi An's myriad treasures on a guided walking tour of its Ancient Town. Highlights you'll see while walking on and around the waterfront include Hoi An Market, the Japanese Covered Bridge, and the historic Chinese meeting hall Phuc Kien, which dates to the 17th century.

Later, you'll participate in a private workshop to discover the ancient art of lantern-making. Japanese settlers brought the first lanterns to this region in the 16th century, and they've been a cultural icon ever since. At the home of a local craftsman, you'll learn all about this rich history and then make your very own colorful paper lantern. 
When the sun goes down, you and your partner will hop aboard a traditional bamboo raft for a ride down the river. As you ply the tranquil waters with your loved one, enjoy a romantic dinner right on the boat. You can even release your lanterns into the water—a local tradition! At the end of the evening, return to your hotel.

Day 7: Private Cooking Class, Free Afternoon in Hoi An

The cuisine of Hanoi is defined by bright colors and bold flavors
Today, you'll embark on a culinary odyssey to discover the bright flavors of the central Vietnamese coast. This cooking class begins at a local market in or around Hoi An's Ancient Town, where you'll pick up meat, fresh produce, and other ingredients. Then, head to the kitchen, where a professional chef will guide you through preparing famous Vietnamese dishes. This includes popular menu items like green papaya salad, spring rolls, crispy pancakes, and clay pot chicken with lemon grass. Everyone will sit down for lunch when you're done cooking and enjoy your creations. 

After eating, you'll have the rest of the day to continue discovering Hoi An. Stroll the cobbled streets of Ancient Town, visit the historic plazas and pavilions, and stop in at local art galleries. You can also browse the outdoor markets along the river and grab a seat at a waterfront café to do some people-watching while enjoying a refreshing milk coffee. 

Day 8: Fly to Ho Chi Minh City, Half-Day City Tour

Reunification Palace, Ho Chi Minh City
Reunification Palace is the most famous landmark from the Saigon era
Continue south this morning on a 1.5-hour flight to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). Vietnam's largest metropolis sits on the Saigon River and is distinct in that it has an eye to the future while remaining steeped in history. You can see these contradictions in the gleaming skyscrapers sitting alongside historical landmarks dating to the French colonial era. Upon arrival, your guide will pick you up and take you to your downtown hotel.

Plan your trip to Vietnam
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
After settling in, meet a guide for a half-day tour of HCMC's highlights. First up is the never-dull Ben Thanh Market. This century-old market is a hub of activity, with hundreds of vendors peddling fresh produce, meats, seafood, and street eats. Browse the stalls as your guide teaches you the art of haggling. Afterward, proceed to the War Remnants Museum for a vivid look at the American War (as the Vietnam War is known locally). Highlight exhibits include military weaponry, historical photographs, prison-cell recreations, and even the infamous tiger cages.

Next, travel to 19th-century landmarks like the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office. You'll also visit Reunification Palace (known as Independence Palace), which was the headquarters of the Saigon government during the war. Cap the excursion with a stroll along the upscale shopping drag of Dong Khoi Street. One of the busiest roads in the city, Dong Khoi stretches about a half-mile and is lined with beautiful French colonial buildings and other historic landmarks. 

Day 9: Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels, Saigon River Dinner Cruise

Enjoy dinner and live music aboard the Saigon Princess
Leave early on a transfer two hours north of the city to the famous 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, communications hubs, and supply routes with storage areas and hospitals. A visit here reveals Vietnam's wartime history and the hardships faced by the thousands of soldiers who survived the French and American wars. You can even crawl through a section of the tunnels to experience their narrow dimensions.

Later in the afternoon, head to the Saigon River and board the luxurious Saigon Princess for a three-hour cruise. It's a romantic ride that coincides with sunset, so from the deck, you'll get to witness the last rays of light glimmering against the towering high-rises of Ho Chi Minh City's skyline. Following this is a set menu dinner right on the boat, during which you'll enjoy gourmet dishes prepared by top chefs. Afterward, you'll return to the hotel.

Day 10: Day Trip to the Mekong Delta: Boat Ride & Cycling

Travel down the Mekong
Travel down the Mekong canals in a traditional boat

This morning, you'll transfer south to the lush Mekong Delta. Known as Vietnam's rice bowl, this region is full of mangroves, sugar cane plantations, and flourishing rice paddies. Board a boat for a ride down the Ben Tre River, one of the tributaries of the mighty Mekong. Along the way, you'll stop at local businesses like a brick workshop and honey farm. The region is also famous for its coconut candies, and you'll visit a workshop to see how these tasty confections are made. 

Next, stop at a small riverside village for tea with a family that makes hand-woven rush mats. Then, explore the town by bike or xe loi (motor cart) and witness scenes of peaceful riverine life. You'll pass verdant rice fields, vegetable farms, and exotic fruit orchards. Have lunch at a restaurant on the banks of the river, then hop on a traditional raft and paddle down a creek. Afterward, you'll transfer back to Ho Chi Minh City and have the evening free.

Day 11: Fly to Bangkok (Thailand), Rooftop Fine Dining at Banyan Tree

Rooftop Fine Dining Experience at Banyan Tree
Bangkok is known for its chic rooftop bars and restaurants, like Banyan Tree
It's time to say goodbye to Vietnam! Enjoy breakfast at your hotel before transferring to the airport in HCMC. After around 1.5 hours in the air, you'll touch down in Bangkok. Thailand's glitzy capital sits on the Chao Phraya River and features a captivating mix of ancient temples, modern skyscrapers, royal palaces, and some of the best street food in the world. 
Upon arrival, you'll transfer to your hotel on or near the river and have some time to relax and freshen up. Then, in the evening, get dressed up for a night on the town—in style. It's an open secret that the best place to admire the full scope of Bangkok's wonders is at one of the rooftop bars of its many highrise buildings. You're headed to one such gem: Vertigo Rooftop Restaurant. Located on the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree luxury hotel, here you'll sit down for an al fresco gourmet dinner complemented by 360-degree views of the city below. 

Day 12: Palace & Temples Tour, Luxury Spa Treatment

Bangkok Grand Palace
Bangkok's Grand Palace is a highlight of Southeast Asia

After breakfast, take a tour of Bangkok's Grand Palace. This complex of intricate temples and palaces was built in 1782 and served as the royal family's home for 150 years. Today, the palace is used for royal ceremonies such as weddings, funerals, and state banquets. Highlights include the Reception Hall, Coronation Hall, and Wat Phra Kaew, which houses the sacred Emerald Buddha, a 26-inch (66 cm) jade statue of a meditating Buddha.

Relax this afternoon with a trip to Dahra Spa, known for its decadent treatments and experienced therapists. Choose from various rejuvenating treatments based on European and Asian techniques, from aromatherapy massages to green tea body scrubs, seaweed salt Jacuzzis, and facials. The Thai herbal massage is a favorite, using an herbal compress to draw out toxins and promote circulation.

Day 13: Visit Bangkok's Railway & Floating Markets

Learn the art of aquatic bartering at a floating market
Embark on a guided excursion to explore two exotic Thai markets outside the city. Leave in the morning on a transfer from Bangkok's urban jungle to Samut Songkharm, on the rural outskirts of the capital. Here, you'll visit the Mae Klong Railway Market, which sits along the tracks; when a train pulls in or out of the station, the vendors quickly clear their stalls, only to set them up again moments later when the train has passed.
Continue to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Ratchaburi, 62 miles (100 km) southwest of the capital. Paddle through the maze of canals past vendors selling fruit and handicrafts from their boats. Hail down the food vendors for a spot of authentic Thai food and witness traders selling fresh produce and handicrafts on their boats. Afterward, return to Bangkok for a final evening in the capital.

Day 14: Bangkok Self-Guided Couples Tour

Spend quality time with your partner around Bangkok's green spaces
Spend some quality time with your loved one on a full-day outing around Bangkok. You'll never run out of things to do in this fine metropolis, and it offers something for everyone. If you're into the arts, the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre should be right up your alley. Appreciate the beautiful photographs, paintings, modern art, and sculptures by artists from Thailand and around the world.
For something more active, consider a cycling trip to the quaint island of Bang Krachao. This urban oasis is known as Bangkok's "Green Lung" due to its abundance of vegetation, including mangrove forests, orchards, and parks. You can also embark on a boat tour around the city's famous klongs (canals). Passing by the waterfront stilt homes is a great way to experience a more traditional and relaxed side of Bangkok.

Eventually, you'll want to eat. A great option is the Michelin-starred street food stall, Jay Fai, where you can enjoy their famous crab omelet. End the day amid the youthful backpacker energy of the Khao San Road, or head to Chinatown to browse the traditional food stalls and markets. 

Day 15: Fly to Chiang Mai, Cooking Class with a Lanna Family

Northern Thai cuisine is rustic, fresh, and delicious
Leave Bangkok this morning and fly 1.5 hours north to Chiang Mai. Set in the mountainous north of Thailand, the "Rose of the North" was once the capital of the ancient Lanna Kingdom and still retains its moat-encircled Old City. This cultural mecca is home to historical architecture and over 300 temples where orange-robed monks live and worship.

After checking into your hotel, you'll be introduced to northern Thailand through its uniquely delicious cuisine. Head to a village on the city's outskirts, where you'll meet a Lanna family who live in a traditional teak home. Take a stroll through the orchard and garden, where the family grows everything from mangos and coconuts to Thai herbs and vegetables.
Pick some fresh ingredients for your cooking class, then head to the kitchen and learn to prepare a typical Lanna meal influenced by Lao, Burmese, Yunnanese, and Isan traditions. Dishes feature sticky rice as a staple, as well as savory soups and various minced, roasted, or grilled meats. Dine on your creations before returning to Chiang Mai for a restful evening—or venture out and enjoy the nightlife. 

Day 16: Chiang Mai Rickshaw Tour, Blessing Ceremony

Explore the statues in the forests at Wat Umong
Get ready for a tour of traditional Chiang Mai in a very traditional mode of transport: a rickshaw. This full-day excursion begins when you meet your driver, who will take you on an introductory tour of the Old City. Peddling around, you'll pass historic landmarks like the ancient city walls and gates. One highlight is a stop at Warorot, a century-old market. Browse the stalls, stopping to sample seasonal fruit and sai oua (northern Thai sausage), accompanied by iced tea. 
Later, say goodbye to your rickshaw driver and hop in a car for the drive to the foot of Doi Pui Mountain, on Chiang Mai's outskirts, and Wat Umong. Dating to the 13th century, this temple is known for its ancient network of tunnels that Buddhist monks use as meditation chambers. The complex occupies a scenic and tranquil forested area with fountains, lakes, pavilions, pagodas, and an impressive chedi (stupa). Capping the visit is a private blessing ceremony by monks at the temple viharn (assembly hall).
After Wat Umong, follow mountain roads up to 3,500 feet (1,066 m) and the 14th-century Wat Prathat Doi Suthep. Chiang Mai's most famous temple features an enormous staircase decorated with ornate nagas (mythical beings, half human and half cobra). Hike the 306 steps to the top and marvel at the large chedi topped by a five-tiered golden parasol. Later in the afternoon, you'll transfer back to Chiang Mai.

Day 17: Day Trip to an Elephant Sanctuary

Spend the day making friends with rescued elephants

Today you're in for a treat, as this morning, you and your partner will hop in a vehicle and head to the forests outside the city and the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. This is just one of many centers in the region that rescue abandoned and abused elephants. These organizations earn money through tourism, opening their doors to visitors who can admire these magnificent creatures in a humane and eco-friendly way.

This half-day activity begins when you change into a mahout (caretaker clothing), after which you'll meet the elephants and spend the morning feeding them. You'll also take them to the river to bathe and brush them—a highlight for both the elephants and visitors. Back at the center, enjoy a snack of fresh fruit with the group and guides. Then, it's time to say a bittersweet goodbye to your new elephant pals and transfer back to Chiang Mai.

Day 18: Fly to Ko Samui, Candlelit Dinner on the Beach

Ko Samui is the place to come to relax and decompress
It's time to bid farewell to northern Thailand, as this morning, you'll transfer to the airport for the two-hour flight south to Ko Samui. Situated on the balmy Gulf of Thailand, the island is beloved for its palm-fringed beaches fronting turquoise waters. You'll find acres of mountainous rainforest in the island's interior that abound with waterfalls and exotic wildlife. Ko Samui is also known for its wellness culture, which ranges from vegan eateries to yoga retreats and high-end spas.
At the airport, a driver will pick you up for the transfer to your beachfront resort. After settling in, feel free to wander a few steps to the beach for some sunbathing, swimming, or simply relaxing with a good book. Whatever you decide to do, when the sun goes down, you'll transfer to the soft white sands of Choeng Mon, a crescent beach on a bay that's right out of a postcard.
Upon arrival, you'll be escorted to a private tent and table where a gourmet Thai meal awaits. Served by your private waiter, you'll enjoy a set meal of curries, fresh seafood, and a decadent dessert paired with sparkling wine and complemented by the sounds of the surf gently lapping at the shore. Afterward, return to your hotel.

Day 19: Ko Samui Marine Park Speedboat Tour

Angthong Marine Park is an unspoiled paradise protected from mass development

Experience the natural wonders of Angthong Marine Park today on a private speedboat tour. This archipelago of 42 islands lies just a short speedboat ride from Ko Samui and offers everything from blue lagoons to hidden caves and kayaking. Zip across the topaz sea to Ko Wao to snorkel among thriving reefs that thrum with marine life.

Continue cruising the marine park, stopping at one of its most famous attractions: Emerald Lake, also known as Blue Lagoon. Located on Ko Mae Ko, forested karst walls surround this turquoise lake. A highlight activity is hiking a steep staircase for panoramic views around the islet and coast. Have lunch at the fishing village of Ko Phaluay and dock on a remote beach for free time to swim, snorkel, kayak, or sunbathe. Return to Ko Samui for a relaxing evening at your resort.

Day 20: Ko Samui Free Day

Explore the hidden corners of Ko Samui on your last day in Thailand
It's your last full day in Thailand, so spend it however you like. Explore more of Ko Samui, relax and sunbathe, lie in a hammock with a coconut or a cocktail, or head into town to do some souvenir shopping. If you feel like traveling a bit farther afield, the beaches of Laem Yai and Mae Nam are well worth a visit, as is Bophut Beach, which has some great shops and restaurants. You can also drive out to the romantic waterfalls of Namtok Hin Lat and Namtok Na Mueang or visit temples and villages.

Day 21: Depart Ko Samui

Until next time, Ko Samui!
You've eaten some great food, enjoyed spectacular scenery, visited historic sights, and had memorable adventures—all with your partner by your side. But this three-week journey ends here, and in the morning, your driver will transfer you to the airport for the flight home or onward to the next adventure. Safe travels!

More Great Vietnam Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Vietnam? Check out these other Vietnam itineraries, explore different ways to spend three weeks in Vietnam, 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 Romantic Vietnam & Thailand: Hanoi to Ko Samui - 21 Days
Map of Romantic Vietnam & Thailand: Hanoi to Ko Samui - 21 Days
Written by Kelly Lu, updated Jan 8, 2024