Discover the highlights of Vietnam on this 13-day journey, from busy cities to small towns and beautiful natural landscapes. Try local specialties like steaming noodle soup on a street food tour in Hanoi, visit ancient royal cities, Hoa Lu and Hue, get a custom-tailored outfit in colorful Hoi An, visit the Cu Chi Tunnels used by the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War, and discover local life by rowboat and bicycle in Tam Coc and the Mekong Delta.


  • Take a street food tour in Hanoi to try local specialties like steaming noodle soups
  • Visit ancient royal cities Hoa Lu and Hue to learn the history of Vietnam's emperors
  • Get a custom-tailored suit or dress at a local tailor shop in colorful Hoi An
  • Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels, once used by the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War
  • Discover local life by rowboat and bicycle in Tam Coc and the Mekong Delta 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Hanoi Hanoi
Day 2 Day Trip to Hoa Lu & Tam Coc Hanoi
Day 3 Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Cruise & Kayak Ha Long Bay
Day 4 Explore Ha Long Bay, Transfer to Hanoi Hanoi
Day 5 Transfer to Hue, Explore the City Hue
Day 6 Discover History & Culture in Hue Hue
Day 7 Transfer to Hoi An, Afternoon Sightseeing Hoi An
Day 8 My Son Sanctuary Luxury Tour Hoi An
Day 9 Free Day in Hoi An: Countryside Tour, Lantern Workshop & Cooking Class Hoi An
Day 10 Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City Ho Chi Minh City
Day 11 Cu Chi Tunnels Half-Day Tour Ho Chi Minh City
Day 12 Mekong Delta Tour Ho Chi Minh City
Day 13 Depart Ho Chi Minh City  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi

Hoan Kiem Lake

Chao ban! Welcome to Vietnam. Upon arrival in Hanoi, a driver will meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel for check-in. In the evening, meet your guide and head out into the cultural heart of Vietnam for a mouthwatering food tour. Start at Thanh Ha Market to browse food stalls, try local delicacies, and learn about Vietnamese culinary culture. Head to Dong Xuan Market, famed for its noodle shops, and sample treats such as pho sot vang (noodle soup with pork and herbs) and bun dau (tofu served in soup with rice noodles and fermented shrimp paste).

Next, move on to the Old Quarter to explore its maze of historic laneways. Here, you'll learn about traditional celebrations, stop at ceremonial cake stalls, and taste a French-influenced dessert. Wander along Hang Cot Street, known for its preserved fruits, before ending the tour at a café to sip sweet iced coffee or a slow-dripped hot brew while watching Hanoi's street life unfold.

Day 2: Day Trip to Hoa Lu & Tam Coc

Follow winding rivers through the valleys of Ninh Binh

This morning, your tour guide will pick you up early from your hotel and take you to Ninh Binh Province, about 62 miles (100 km) from Hanoi. First, you'll visit Hoa Lu, the ancient capital of Vietnam from 968 to 1009 CE, just after the country gained independence from China. Here you'll discover impressive architecture, including temples dedicated to King Dinh and King Le, the first and second emperors of ancient Vietnam, built in the 17 century. Travel to Tam Coc and stop near the wharf for a traditional Vietnamese lunch in a local restaurant.

From Tam Coc wharf, embark on a one-and-a-half-hour river tour in a rowboat to discover the rich natural beauty of this area. Visit three caves: Hang Ca ("the First Grotto"), Hang Hai ("the Second Grotto"), and Hang Ba ("the Third Grotto"), part of a vast network of flooded karst limestone caves. Later this afternoon, cycle around a local village to discover daily life, and head to Thai Vi near Tam Coc wharf, a temple dating back to the 13th century surrounded by mountains, before heading back to Hanoi.

Day 3: Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Cruise & Kayak

Cruising & Kayaking in Ha Long Bay
Cruising and kayaking in Ha Long Bay

Today you'll take a four-hour drive to Ha Long Bay to board your ship for an overnight tour of this magnificent UNESCO-listed destination. Sail across the paper-flat waters, taking in views of over 2,000 limestone karsts steeped in Vietnamese legend. Enjoy a delicious seafood lunch onboard, 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 go swimming and kayaking to explore hidden beaches and grottoes. Then, the ship's expert chef will lead a cooking masterclass, teaching you how to make specialties like nem (Vietnamese fried spring rolls) and other traditional dishes for dinner. Spend the evening relaxing or join the locals for a spot of night fishing to end the day.

Day 4: Explore Ha Long Bay, Transfer to Hanoi

Cruising Ha Long Bay
Discover floating villages in Ha Long Bay
Wake early for breakfast on the ship's deck, taking time to watch a spectacular sunrise over the brilliant emerald waters of Ha Long Bay, deemed one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. The morning is yours to simply relax and absorb the view or join some optional activities like going for a refreshing swim or kayaking past floating villages and forested islands. You'll sit down to an early lunch before disembarking at the dock to make your way back to Hanoi.

Day 5: Transfer to Hue, Explore the City 

Hien Nhon Gate
This morning, you'll catch a domestic flight to Hue, the seat of the Nguyen Dynasty emperors and Vietnam's national capital from 1802 to 1945. Enjoy this royal city today at your own pace. Discover the 19th-century Dai Noi Citadel, surrounded by a moat and thick stone walls inside which you'll find the Imperial City with its palaces and shrines, the Forbidden Purple City, once home to the emperor, and a replica of the opulent Royal Theater.

Day 6: Discover History & Culture in Hue 

Imperial Royal Palace

After breakfast, head out for a full day of exploring. Visit the busy Dong Ba Market, where you'll find everything from clothes to local food specialties. Then take a boat trip to the peaceful Thien Mu Pagoda, the oldest pagoda in Hue, to enjoy a moment of serenity. Continue on to the Imperial Citadel, home of Vietnam's last royal dynasty, the Nguyen Dynasty, from 1802 to 1945. Afterward, visit Hue Royal Antiques Museum, which holds a rich collection of artifacts from the dynasty, before enjoying lunch at a local restaurant.

In the afternoon, visit a local village to see how Hue locals make incense sticks, an important cultural staple. Then, transfer to Nguyen emperor Khai Dinh's Royal Tomb, built quite differently from most other tombs in Hue in a monumental, bombastic style. Then, visit Minh Mang Tomb, with its Chinese architecture, statues, and gardens accessed via a bridge over a lake of lotus flowers. End your day with a visit to a local conical hat village to watch how these iconic Vietnamese sunshades are still made in the traditional way.

Day 7: Transfer to Hoi An, Explore

Thu Bon river - Hoi An
Thu Bon River in Hoi An
Plan your trip to Vietnam
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Today you'll go by car from Hue to Da Nang via the scenic Hai Van Pass, with a spectacular panorama of the coastline from the summit. Stop at Lang Co to stretch your legs on the white sands of this peaceful beach. Then it's on to Hoi An which was once the country's national trading center in the 16th century, home to a diverse and colorful collection of ancient streets and homes.

Discover a juxtaposition of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and French architecture here, including the hundred-year-old Japanese Covered Bridge, the Phuc Kien Hall, and the local fish market. You'll also have a chance to stop at a tailor shop to have a piece of clothing like a suit or a dress custom-made. Hoi An is well known for its custom tailoring. After a long day of sightseeing, return to your hotel to relax, and continue to discover the town on your own this evening.

Day 8: My Son Sanctuary Luxury Tour

Ruins of ancient Hindu temples at My Son

Early this morning, a driver and tour guide will pick you up at your hotel to travel just over an hour to My Son Sanctuary, a UNESCO-listed cluster of partially ruined Hindu temples. Spend two hours walking through the abandoned temple site, learning the history of these structures built between the 4th and 14th centuries by the kings of Champa, and enjoying some traditional Champa performances.

Next, it's on to a local house where you'll learn how to make the rice paper so typical of many of Vietnam's traditional dishes. Try making some of your own, and then enjoy the fruits of your labor later. You'll have lunch at another local house and take time to relax with some cold herbal tea, satisfying local food, and fresh air. After lunch, take a boat trip to Hoi An, enjoying the gentle cool breeze on board and the beautiful river scenery on the Thu Bon, the largest river in central Vietnam. At the end of the day, you'll transfer back to your hotel in Hoi An.

Day 9: Hoi An Free Day: Countryside Tour, Lantern Workshop & Cooking Class

Hoi An town
Hoi An's Japanese Covered Bridge

Choose your own adventure today in Hoi An. Wander on foot or rent a bicycle to cycle along the quiet streets (motorized vehicles are banned in the city). Pick up your custom-made outfit from one of the local tailors, or head to one of the city's nearby beaches, which are loved for their soft, pale sands. For dinner, head out to discover the local restaurants and try traditional local dishes such as com hen (sautéed clams), nem lui (ground pork), and cao lau (pork and greens).

Farther afield, you could join an excursion and cycle into the countryside to visit Camh Thanh fishing village. Meet local fishers and watch how they net fish, taking a bamboo basket ride along a channel filled with coconut palms. Or learn about the history of the colorful lanterns brought to Hoi An by Japanese settlers in the 16th century. See how they're made in a lantern-making workshop and create your own to take home as a perfect souvenir.

Foodies can opt for an afternoon culinary experience, shopping for regional ingredients at the market and learning from a local chef about many of the spices, vegetables, and fish or meat that create the Vietnamese recipes you'll be cooking for lunch. Take a basket boat ride through a palm garden to reach your cooking class, where you'll rustle up green papaya salad, spring rolls, pancakes, fish in a clay pot, or lemongrass chicken. 

Day 10: Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City

Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre-Dame Cathedral
Take a 90-minute flight to Ho Chi Minh City today, where a driver will be waiting to take you to your hotel. Settle in and then set out to discover Vietnam's largest metropolis. You could trawl for treasures at Ben Thanh Market, a popular spot for street food and shopping, or check out one of the many spas for a rejuvenating foot massage. Visit the haunting War Remnants Museum to learn about the country's turbulent war history, then when you're ready for a break, sit down with a beer at Bitexco Tower for views across the city.

Day 11: Cu Chi Tunnels Half-Day Tour

Cu Chi Tunnels
Head out of the city to learn about life as a soldier during the American War
Today you'll set off through a landscape of ponds and rice fields to tour the Cu Chi Tunnels, located about 37 miles (60 km) north of Ho Chi Minh City. Explore this network of 136 miles (220 km) of underground channels used for hiding, communications, sending supplies, and living quarters for Vietnamese soldiers during the war. Get a fully immersive experience by using a smokeless stove, holding an AK-47, and learning about the foods that sustained the troops.

Day 12: Mekong Delta Tour

Take a day trip into the Mekong Delta

Kickstart your day with a hearty breakfast before heading to the town of My Tho on the left side of the Mekong River. On arrival, board a sampan rowboat and cruise down the river past Dragon, Unicorn, Phoenix, and Tortoise islands. Stop at Unicorn Island to walk the country lanes and see the orchards. Visit fruit plantations and enjoy tropical fruits and local folk music. Float through Thoi Son Canal and immerse yourself in the lush countryside, visit family workshops and a honey bee farm, and try some honey tea and coconut candies.

Refuel with a traditional Vietnamese lunch before pedaling around the Tan Thach village, and meet the local villagers to experience what daily life is like for those who live and work in the fertile Mekong Delta. Alternatively, if you're looking for a chance to unwind, enjoy the cool breeze and relax in a hammock as you take it all in. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel in Ho Chi Minh City.

Day 13: Depart Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City at dusk
It's time to bid Vietnam farewell. Depending on your departure time, you could spend a few hours soaking up the atmosphere in Ho Chi Minh City, perhaps shopping for souvenirs in the markets, or having one last sweet Vietnamese coffee before your flight home. Safe travels!

More Great Vietnam Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Vietnam? Check out these other Vietnam itineraries, explore other ways to spend 13 days in Vietnam, 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 Treasures of Vietnam: Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hue, Hoi An & Ho Chi Minh City - 13 Days
Map of Treasures of Vietnam: Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hue, Hoi An & Ho Chi Minh City - 13 Days
Written by Hien Do, updated Jan 1, 2023