Explore the cultures and landscapes of Vietnam and Thailand on this 14-day escape that takes you beyond the typical tourist trail. Begin in northern Vietnam to trek to Sapa's hill tribe villages, sail UNESCO-listed Ha Long Bay, and ride a cable car to the country's highest peak, Mount Fansipan. Continue to Thailand to tour ancient palaces and gold-leafed temples in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, then meet the country's highland communities and bask in Krabi's hot springs and emerald lagoons.


  • Trek through Sapa's rice terraces to authentic hill tribe villages
  • Sail the karst-strewn landscapes of Ha Long Bay and Ninh Binh
  • Meet northern Thailand's highland communities and visit secret waterfalls
  • Discover ancient temples and palaces in Bangkok and Chiang Mai 
  • Explore Krabi's steamy hot springs, beaches, and lagoons

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Hanoi (Vietnam), Explore Hanoi
Day 2 Visit Hoa Lu & Ninh Binh, Tam Coc Boat Trip  Hanoi
Day 3 Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise Ha Long Bay
Day 4 Ha Long Bay Cruise, Overnight Train to Lao Cai Lao Cai
Day 5 Transfer to Sapa, Visit Hill Tribe Villages Sapa
Day 6 Cable Car to Fansipan Mountain & Scenic Hoang Lien Son Pass Sapa
Day 7 Visit Ta Phin Village & Coc Leu Market, Overnight Train to Hanoi Hanoi
Day 8 Fly to Bangkok (Thailand), Visit the Golden Mount Bangkok
Day 9 Bangkok City Tour & Grand Palace Bangkok
Day 10 Fly to Chiang Mai, Visit Doi Suthep Temple & Highland Village Chiang Mai
Day 11 Jungle Temple & Waterfall Trek Chiang Mai
Day 12 Fly to Krabi, Relax  Krabi
Day 13 Visit the Hot Springs & Emerald Lagoon in Krabi Krabi
Day 14 Depart Krabi   

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi (Vietnam), Explore

Touch down in Vietnam's frenetic capital city, Hanoi

Welcome to Hanoi, Vietnam's high-energy capital and cultural heart. A private driver will take you to your hotel in the city's center, where you can settle in before heading out to explore. Spend the rest of the day exploring the labyrinthine streets of the Old Quarter by foot or on a three-wheeled cyclo, passing a mix of temples, French colonial buildings, and Vietnamese tubular houses.

For lunch, head to Bun Cha Huong Lien to try the beloved Hanoian dish bun cha (grilled pork and vermicelli noodles). This restaurant's interpretation of the dish is so famous that it's served guests like Barack Obama and Anthony Bourdain. Sip cocktails on the Pan Pacific Hotel's rooftop bar and enjoy sunset views over Tay Ho (West Lake) to wrap up your evening in style.

Day 2: Visit Hoa Lu & Ninh Binh, Tam Coc Boat Trip 

Discover Ninh Binh's rice paddies and limestone karsts 

Today, you'll journey two hours east to Ninh Binh, a region loved for its ruined palaces and patchwork paddy fields bisected by snaking rivers. Your first stop is Hoa Lu, Vietnam's capital in the 10th and 11th centuries, which features decorative temples built in honor of former emperors like Dinh Tien Hoang of the Dinh Dynasty and Emperor Le Dai Hanh of the Le Dynasty.

Stop at a restaurant for lunch before heading to Tam Coc's dock. Here, you'll board a sampan boat, which your driver will row with their feet, local style. Float through limestone grottoes and spot spiritual sites like Dia Linh Mountain among the dramatic karst scenery, which has earned itself the nickname "Ha Long Bay on Land." End the day with a trip to Mua Cave, where you can climb nearly 500 steps for a panoramic view over Tam Coc, before returning to Hanoi.

Day 3: Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise

Take an overnight cruise of UNESCO-listed Ha Long Bay 

This morning starts with a four-hour shuttle bus journey to the northeast coast, where you'll take an overnight cruise of Ha Long Bay. Sail across the paper-flat waters of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, taking in views of over 2,000 limestone karsts steeped in Vietnamese legend. Look out for the iconic Kissing Rock, which appears on Vietnam's 200,000 dong note, and pass floating villages where fishermen and pearl farmers have lived on bobbing platforms for generations. 

A delicious Vietnamese lunch onboard awaits, followed by plenty of time to sit on the sun deck as you sail to the most far-flung corners of Ha Long Bay. In the afternoon, visit limestone caves and swim or kayak to hidden beaches and grottoes. Watch the sunset from the ship's deck, then spend the evening relaxing or join the locals for a spot of night fishing.

Day 4: Ha Long Bay Cruise, Overnight Train to Lao Cai

Wake up to panoramic views of Ha Long Bay

Wake early for breakfast on the ship's deck, watching the sun rise over the shimmering waters of Ha Long Bay, deemed one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. The morning is yours to simply absorb the view or join a tai chi class or kayak to limestone caves full of stalagmites and stalactites. Enjoy your last views of the bay while you sail back to the harbor.

Back on dry land, take a shuttle bus to Hanoi. You'll board an overnight sleeper train this evening, traveling north in a private cabin to Lao Cai. This small town is the gateway to Sapa, a former French colonial hill station loved for its cool, alpine-scented air and surrounding rice terraces, which spiral toward the clouds.

Day 5: Transfer to Sapa, Visit Hill Tribe Villages

Soak up views of Sapa's towering rice terraces
Plan your trip to Vietnam
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

This morning, a guide will welcome you at the train station for the 1.5-hour drive along twisty mountain roads to Sapa. Freshen up at your hotel and then spend the day visiting remote villages on the outskirts of Sapa, home to Vietnam's diverse ethnic communities. 

Watch the sun burn through the morning mist as you set off, revealing jagged mountain peaks in the distance. Descend into the Muong Hoa Valley, surrounded by epic rice terraces, to the Black Hmong village of Lao Chai. Meet the residents and peruse their traditional handicrafts before continuing to Ta Van Giay village, where homes lay scattered among the fields. Take in panoramic mountain views before returning to Sapa for a restful evening. 

Day 6: Cable Car to Fansipan Mountain, Scenic Hoang Lien Son Pass

Ride the cable car and funicular railway to the top of Mount Fansipan

Start the day with a cable car ride to the top of Fansipan, Vietnam's tallest mountain, often referred to as the Roof of Indochina. The cable car ends at a garden complex dotted with pagodas and Buddha statues, from which you can either hike or take a funicular train journey to the top of the mountain. Admire 360-degree views of cloud-topped mountains from the 10,212-foot (3,134 m) peak, peering across the border into China. 

Next, drive through clouds of mist along the scenic Hoang Lien Son Pass, which connects Lai Chau and Lao Cai provinces, for more staggering views of northern Vietnam. Along the way, you'll spot locals plowing the fields, harvesting crops, and selling handicrafts in village markets. Return to Sapa, where you can spend one last evening wandering the town's steep streets, with dinner overlooking Sapa's coveted scenery.

Day 7: Visit Ta Phin Village & Coc Leu Market, Overnight Train to Hanoi

Visit traditional hill tribe villages near Sapa

This morning, you'll drive to the Ta Giang Phinh Valley at the foot of Ngu Chin Son Mountain, where the Black Hmong people live in riverside hamlets. Savor final views of Sapa's UNESCO-worthy landscape as you head back to Lao Cai. There's time for a bowl of herby pho, Vietnam's signature noodle soup, and to shop for souvenirs in the sprawling Coc Leu Market before boarding your night train back to Hanoi this evening.

Day 8: Fly to Bangkok (Thailand), Visit the Golden Mount

Fly to Bangkok and explore Thailand's vibrant capital

Say goodbye to Vietnam this morning and catch a 1.5-hour flight to Thailand. Touch down in Bangkok, where your driver will be waiting to take you to your hotel in the center of the city. Thailand's capital is beloved for its chaotic energy, street food, buzzing nightlife, and Buddhist sights. Settle in before this afternoon's guided tour.

Head to the Central Pier, where you'll board a boat to sail along Bangkok's canal system, which offers a glimpse into local life. Disembark at Wat Saket, also known as the Golden Mount, which dates back to the Ayutthaya era, making it one of Bangkok's oldest temples. Climb 320 steps to watch the glorious sunset over the city from the 262-foot-high (80 m) temple top before returning to your hotel. 

Afterward, satisfy your taste buds at the Michelin-starred street food stall, Jay Fai, where you can enjoy their famous crab omelet. End your day in the lively Khao San Road, or head to Chinatown to browse the food stalls and markets. 

Day 9: Bangkok City Tour & Grand Palace

Tour Bangkok's cultural treasures, including the Grand Palace

Today, you'll embark upon a cultural journey through Bangkok with a guide. Start by visiting Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn (named after the Indian dawn god, Aruna), followed by a ferry across the Chao Phraya River to Wat Pho. This temple was founded during the 16th century and houses a 150-foot-long (46 m) reclining Buddha statue whose feet are inlaid with mother-of-pearl.

Take a break for lunch before touring the Grand Palace, a complex of temples and palaces built in 1782, which 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 Emerald Buddha statue.

End with a trip to Chatuchak Market—with more than 15,000 stalls, it's one of the world's biggest outdoor markets and sells everything from clothes and flowers to food and antiques. Pick up some souvenirs and sample street food snacks before returning to your hotel. 

Day 10: Fly to Chiang Mai, Visit Doi Suthep Temple & Highland Village

Travel to the moat-encircled Chiang Mai in Thailand's north

Bid farewell to Bangkok this morning and fly just over an hour north to Chiang Mai. Set in the cooler, mountainous north of Thailand, this was once the capital of the Lanna Kingdom and still retains its moat-encircled Old City. Chiang Mai is a cultural mecca, home to historic architecture and over 300 temples where orange-robed monks live and worship.

Settle in and then meet your driver, who'll take you up a windy road to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a sacred temple atop the mountain. Climb the 309 steps of the naga staircase to the temple's pagodas and copper-plated chedi, which contain relics of Lord Buddha. To show respect, circle the pagoda three times in an anticlockwise direction. The views of Chiang Mai from the temple, set at 3,500 feet (1,066 m) above sea level, are spectacular. 

Next, drive along a mountain road to discover villages home to Thailand's highland communities, often referred to as hill tribes. These belong to groups such as the Hmong, Karen, and Shan, whose ancestors originate from Myanmar and China. Each community has its own unique dress, language, and history. You'll visit a White Hmong village to meet the residents and learn about their lifestyle and traditions before returning to Chiang Mai. 

Day 11: Jungle Temple & Waterfall Trek

Admire one of Thailand's lesser-visited temples, Luang Khun Win

Head out of the city today to experience northern Thailand's lesser-known temples and crashing waterfalls. Travel in a 4WD along bumpy roads into lush forest, passing isolated villages. Eventually, you'll reach Wat Luang Khun Win, an 800-year-old, Lanna-style wooden temple nestled in the dense jungle. 

Marvel at the intricate Buddha statues, one carved from a wild champee tree, and visit the pagoda, which contains strands of Lord Buddha's hair. Take a downhill trek through the jungle from the temple, enjoying Thai snacks along the way. Eventually, you'll reach a set of towering waterfalls where you can rest and cool off. Fresh from your jungle adventure, head back to Chiang Mai in the late afternoon.

Day 12: Fly to Krabi, Relax 

Bask on Krabi's soft-sand beaches

Leave the forested north today and fly 1.5 hours south to tropical Krabi. Located on the island-spotted Andaman Coast, Krabi is home to sheer limestone karsts, which rock climbers come to scale in Railay, as well as white-sand coves and vibrant coral reefs that draw snorkelers and divers. Highlights include the golden sands of Ao Nang and kayaking through mangroves to bird-inhabited rock formations. Meet your driver, who'll transfer you to your hotel, where you can relish a free afternoon by the pool or head down to the soft-sand beach. 

Day 13: Visit the Hot Springs & Emerald Lagoon in Krabi

Bathe in Krabi's sparkling emerald lagoon

Enjoy a pamper session today with a trip to Krabi's hot springs, where you can relax among steaming geothermal waters thought to have healing properties. Finish with a refreshing dip in the popular emerald lagoon, a crystal-clear cool natural spring. Next, continue to Wat Tham Suea, the "Tiger Cave Temple," known for the steep 1,237 steps to its clifftop location, where you'll soak up sweeping views.

Spend the rest of the day exploring Krabi by ATV, navigating its many trails and jungle paths. Stop for forest hikes and wander along quiet beaches. Make a photo stop at the town's giant black crab statues before heading back to your hotel for one last evening. Feast on seafood at a seafront eatery with the stars twinkling above. 

Day 14: Depart Krabi 

Say goodbye to tropical Krabi

Today your Vietnam and Thailand getaway comes to an end. Spend a final few hours on the beach or shopping for souvenirs before your airport transfer. 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 two weeks in Vietnam and Thailand, and 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 Secrets of Vietnam & Thailand - 14 Days
Map of Secrets of Vietnam & Thailand - 14 Days
Written by Tina Oo, updated Oct 19, 2023