This 10-day adventure showcases the rich cultures of two dazzling Southeast Asian countries. In Vietnam, tour the highlights around Hanoi, followed by a relaxing cruise on Ha Long Bay and time in the historic river city of Hoi An. After experiencing wartime history in the former Saigon, fly to Cambodia to discover ancient and modern Khmer customs as you stroll the ruins of Angkor and visit the floating villages of Tonlé Sap.


  • Tour Hanoi and cycle around Vietnam's countryside
  • Enjoy an overnight cruise on mystical Ha Long Bay
  • Stroll the lantern-lined streets of romantic Hoi An
  • Explore the Khmer temple ruins at Angkor, in Cambodia
  • Visit the famous floating villages of Tonlé Sap 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Hanoi (Vietnam), City Tour & Water Puppet Show Hanoi
Day 2 Day Trip to Ninh Binh, Cycling & Sampan Ride Hanoi
Day 3 Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise Ha Long Bay
Day 4 Morning Cruise, Fly to Da Nang, Transfer to Hoi An Hoi An
Day 5 Explore Hoi An's Ancient Town, Countryside Cycling Hoi An
Day 6 Fly to Ho Chi Minh City, Cu Chi Tunnels Tour Ho Chi Minh City
Day 7 Landmarks of Ho Chi Minh City, Fly to Siem Reap (Cambodia) Siem Reap
Day 8 Day Trip to the Angkor Ruins Siem Reap
Day 9 Visit a Khmer Village, Tonlé Sap Boat Tour Siem Reap
Day 10 Depart Siem Reap  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi (Vietnam), City Tour & Water Puppet Show

Tour the landmarks around Hanoi's historic Old Quarter

Welcome to Vietnam! Home to immense natural beauty and a long history dating back thousands of years, this country is a treasure trove of wonders. You'll discover many of them immediately when you arrive in Hanoi. The nation's capital has a settled history dating back to the third century BCE, and many historic landmarks still stand. Beyond that, it's a dynamic metropolis whose streets are alive with energy and the scent of Vietnam's world-famous street food.

At the airport, a driver will pick you up for the transfer to your hotel, after which you'll meet a guide for a city tour. It starts in the Old Quarter and the Presidential Palace, an elegant French-colonial landmark dating to 1906. Nearby is Ho Chi Minh Stilt House, the wooden residence where President Ho Chi Minh lived between 1958 and 1969. Next up is the 11th-century One Pillar Pagoda, a Buddhist temple with a lotus-flower design perched on a stone pillar rising out of a pond. Lastly, you'll visit Hoan Kiem Lake, where locals come to socialize, practice tai chi, and pray at Ngoc Son, an island temple. 

In the evening, you'll attend 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. 

Day 2: Day Trip to Ninh Binh, Cycling & Sampan Ride

End your day trip to Ninh Binh with a sampan ride down its winding waterways

In the morning, meet your driver for the two-hour transfer south of Hanoi to the Red River Delta and Ninh Binh province. This rural area is one of the most scenic regions in the country, known for tranquil rivers snaking through vast green rice fields dotted with towering karst mountains. It's a scenic drive during which you'll pass rolling green hills and vast expanses of verdant rice paddies.

The first stop when you arrive is Hoa Lu, a district that was the capital of Vietnam during the 10th and 11th centuries. After touring Hoa Lu's historic pagodas, you'll visit the Bai Dinh Temple. This sprawling complex covers 1,331 acres (539 ha) in Ninh Binh and is Vietnam's largest Buddhist pagoda complex. The oldest pagoda here dates to the 12th century, while the newest was built in 2003. It's a massively popular pilgrimage site, and you'll see all its highlights on a walking tour.

Later, you'll hop on a bicycle for a ride around the villages and rice paddies around Trang An. Located adjacent to Ninh Binh, this is the Vietnam you see in postcards, famous for its tranquil canals, rice paddies, and karst towers. In fact, when the bike ride is over, you'll board a sampan (flat-bottom boat) for a leisurely tour down the waterways of this rural paradise, exploring limestone caves as you go. Afterward, you'll transfer back to Hanoi.

Day 3: Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Enjoy a luxurious overnight cruise around Ha Long Bay

After an early breakfast, your personal 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 the luxurious Athena Royal cruise ship for an overnight tour. After settling into your cabin, head to the dining room, where a delicious lunch awaits. Then, you can spend time relaxing on the sun deck as the ship sails across glassy emerald waters to the most secluded corners of the bay. Later that afternoon, 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 a cooking demonstration during which you'll try some famous Vietnamese dishes. Your appetite primed, you'll 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 rear of the boat for some squid fishing.

Day 4: Morning Cruise, Fly to Da Nang, Transfer to Hoi An

Athena Royal  Cruise-Day 2
End the day along the Thu Bon River in Hoi An

Start the day strong with an early morning tai chi session on the deck surrounded by 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 around 3 pm.

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. Then, transfer an hour by car down the coast to Hoi An. Sitting on the Thu Bon River, this historic city was a major trading port with the West from the 15th through the 19th centuries, attracting merchants from around the globe. Its international legacy is represented in the assortment of architectural styles in Hoi An's Ancient Town. Once here, you'll check in to your hotel and have the evening free.

Plan your trip to Vietnam
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 5: Explore Hoi An's Ancient Town, Countryside Cycling

Head out of the city today to explore the surrounding countryside by bike

Meet your local guide in the morning for a city tour along the colorful streets of Hoi An's Ancient Town. Here, you'll see some of the most impressive architectural landmarks in the city, including the arched Japanese Covered Bridge and the 19th-century Assembly Hall of the Chaozhou Chinese Congregation. You might also stop to meet locals and browse the offerings at Central Market, one of the busiest municipal markets in the city.

After exploring the city streets, hop on a bicycle for a countryside adventure. Experience traditional Vietnamese rural life as you pedal along the riverside, stopping at local villages along the way. You can even meet local farmers and join in, watering crops or planting rice. For a bit more adventure, buffalo rides are also an option. At the end of the afternoon, you'll return to Hoi An.

Day 6: Fly to Ho Chi Minh City, Cu Chi Tunnels Tour

Experience wartime history firsthand on a tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels

After breakfast, your driver will pick you up at the hotel for the one-hour ride north to the airport in Da Nang. There, you'll catch a 1.5-hour flight south to Ho Chi Minh City. Upon arrival, another driver will pick you up and transfer you to your hotel. Ho Chi Minh City is fascinating in that it has managed to preserve its cultural roots and traditions in the face of a communist revolution, a devastating war, and ever-encroaching modernity.

After checking into the hotel, meet a guide/driver and head two hours north of the city to 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, supply routes, and hospitals. A visit here will give you a better understanding of Vietnam's wartime history and the hardships faced by 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.

Day 7: Landmarks of Ho Chi Minh City, Fly to Siem Reap (Cambodia)

Reunification Palace, Ho Chi Minh City
One of the highlights you'll visit in Ho Chi Minh City is Reunification Palace

It's time to say goodbye to Vietnam, but before you do, you'll embark on one last guided tour. This morning, meet a local and visit 19th-century landmarks like the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office. You'll also tour Reunification Palace (also known as Independence Palace), which was the headquarters of the Saigon government during the American War (as the Vietnam War is known to locals). Continue to the War Remnants Museum for a vivid look at the war through the eyes of the Vietnamese. Cap the excursion with a stroll along the upscale shopping drag at Dong Khoi Street.

Later, you'll transfer to the Ho Chi Minh City airport and catch a 1.5-hour flight to Siem Reap. This resort town in northwestern Cambodia is the gateway to the 12th-century ruins of Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. Upon arrival at the airport, your driver and private guide will pick you up and transfer you to your hotel. 

Day 8: Day Trip to the Angkor Ruins

Angkor Wat is central to Cambodian culture and is even on the national flag

Today, you'll visit Angkor Thom (literally "Great City"), which comprises the ruins of what was once the most impressive royal city of Cambodia's Angkor period. During its heyday in the 12th and 13th centuries, it was also a formidable defensive area, protected by 26-foot (8 m) walls and a wide moat.

Looming over Angkor Thom is Bayon Temple. Comprised of 54 Gothic towers, Jayavarman VII commissioned it in the 12th century, and his smiling face and glaring eyes are represented in its 216 stone sculptures. Other structures you'll visit here include the Terrace of the Elephants (featuring sculptures and bas-reliefs of elephants), Phimeanakas (a three-tiered pyramid), and the Terrace of the Leper King, known for its carvings of demons and mythological figures.

After Angkor Thom, you'll tour the most famous temple in Southeast Asia: Angkor Wat. This 12th-century complex covers 200 acres (81 ha), and its five towers are so iconic they're actually emblazoned on the Cambodian flag. Immerse yourself in the ruins as you stroll through its galleries, libraries, pavilions, and courtyards. One highlight is a visit to Ta Prohm, a 12th-century Buddhist temple whose crumbling towers have been all but absorbed by the surrounding jungle. Later, enjoy a stunning sunset view from Bakheng Hill (or at the less crowded Pre Rup, a 10th-century Hindu temple).

Day 9: Visit a Khmer Village, Tonlé Sap Boat Tour

Visit traditional Khmer communities, both on land and water

You've seen the remnants of ancient Khmer culture; now see how locals live today. In the morning, you'll hop on a bicycle (or a Vespa-style motorbike) and head into the countryside. It's another opportunity to visit traditional villages, where you can chat with locals with the help of your guide. 

Later, you'll transfer about 11 miles (18 km) south to Tonlé Sap. This is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and one of the world's most biodiverse ecosystems. Here, you'll board a private boat and sip on a refreshing beverage as you ride to Tonlé Sap's famous floating villages. These remarkable communities have their own infrastructure, including schools, markets, and restaurants. At the end of the tour, you'll return to Siem Reap.

Day 10: Depart Siem Reap

Sunset over the iconic pillars of Angkor Wat
You've experienced some of Vietnam and Cambodia's best cultural highlights. Now, it's time to pack up the memories and head home. After breakfast at your hotel, you'll meet your driver for the transfer to the airport in Siem Reap and catch your departing flight. Until next time!

More Great Vietnam Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Vietnam? Check out these other Vietnam itineraries, explore different ways to spend 10 days in Vietnam and Cambodia, 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 Vietnam & Cambodia Culture Escape - 10 Days
Map of Vietnam & Cambodia Culture Escape - 10 Days
Written by Kelly Lu, updated Nov 11, 2023