Immerse yourself in the land, sea, and history of two of Southeast Asia's most captivating nations over 14 memorable days. It begins in Vietnam's capital amid landmarks from past dynasties and continues to the soaring limestone towers of Ha Long Bay. Explore Vietnam's countryside, ancient river cities, and the famed Mekong River, then hop over to Cambodia for the grand conclusion at Angkor Wat.


  • Visit ancient temples in Hanoi and enjoy tasty street food
  • Cycle Vietnam's countryside and cruise the jade waters of Ha Long Bay
  • Tour the ancient river city of Hoi An and organic vegetable gardens
  • Experience wartime history in Ho Chi Minh City and tour the Mekong Delta
  • Discover the Khmer temples of Cambodia and visit floating lake villages

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Hanoi (Vietnam), City & Food 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 Hoi An Highlights Tour, Visit Thanh Ha Pottery Village Hoi An
Day 6 Hoi An Countryside Tour & Cooking Workshop Hoi An
Day 7 Fly to Ho Chi Minh City, Cu Chi Tunnels Tour Ho Chi Minh City
Day 8 Ben Thanh Market & Ho Chi Minh City Highlights Tour Ho Chi Minh City
Day 9 Day Trip to the Mekong Delta Ho Chi Minh City
Day 10 Fly to Siem Reap (Cambodia), Sunset Food Tour Siem Reap
Day 11 Day Trip to Angkor Thom & Angkor Wat Siem Reap
Day 12 Angkor Temple Tour: Banteay Srei, Ta Prohm & Ta Keo Siem Reap
Day 13 Angkor Zipline Adventure, Visit Floating Villages Siem Reap
Day 14 Depart Siem Reap  

Detailed Itinerary

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

See miniature interpretations of Vietnam's rich history at a water puppet show

Welcome to Vietnam! You'll find thousands of years of rich history wrapped up in this small Southeast Asian nation, and there's no better place for an overview than the ancient capital of Hanoi. At the airport, a driver will pick you up for the ride into the city, where you'll meet a guide for a walking tour. It begins in the Old Quarter (historic center) at the Ho Chi Minh Complex, the final resting place of Vietnam's revolutionary leader. Highlights include the wooden stilt house where he once lived and the ornate One Pillar Pagoda, which rises from a lake and resembles Vietnam's national flower, the lotus. 

Having worked up an appetite, you'll then head out on a tasty tour celebrating Vietnam's world-famous street food. Follow your nose around the vendors in the Old Quarter, 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). Perhaps try a Hanoian egg coffee, a famous local drink created when egg yolks were used as a substitute during shortages of fresh milk.

The last stop of the day is at Hoan Kiem Lake, where you'll be treated to 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 seeing a show turns a history lesson into good fun.

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

Escape the city to discover Ninh Binh's karst-studded landscape

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
Over a thousand karst towers rise out of the jade waters of Ha Long Bay

Prepare for a great adventure today as you depart Hanoi around 8 am on a three-hour transfer north by shuttle bus to Ha Long Bay, where you'll board the luxurious Athena Royal for your overnight cruise of this UNESCO-listed region. Sail across the bay, taking in views of more than 1,000 limestone towers 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, visit limestone caves and secret coves, where you can swim and kayak to hidden beaches. Return to your ship to watch the sunset from the deck, accompanied by snacks and drinks. The ship's chef will lead a cooking masterclass, teaching you how to make specialties such as nem (Vietnamese fried spring rolls) for dinner. You can spend the evening relaxing, join the locals for a spot of night fishing, or indulge in a massage. 

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

Athena Royal  Cruise-Day 2
Paddle around the stalactites and stalagmites of sea caves in a kayak

Wake early for a tai chi session on the sundeck as the sun rises over the karst towers of Ha Long Bay. After a light breakfast, the ship will stop near a sea cave, which you can explore on a kayak excursion. Later, you'll return to the ship and cruise to the Ha Long Bay pier, enjoying a brunch buffet as you go. From there, 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 private 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.

Day 5: Hoi An Highlights Tour, Visit Thanh Ha Pottery Village

Farewell, Hội An
Hoi An is an ancient port city located on the Thu Bon River

Hoi An offers many charms, and the best way to experience most of them is on a walking tour. Meet your guide in the morning and head over to a historic merchant house that's symbolic of Hoi An's legacy as a historic trading port. Then continue to some of the most iconic landmarks in the city. These include 17th-century marvels like the Japanese Covered Bridge and the Phuc Kien Chinese Assembly Hall. The latter was once a meeting hall for Chinese immigrants that was converted into a temple dedicated to Thien Hau, goddess of the sea.

After lunch, hop on a boat for a ride up the Hoai River, a tributary of the Thu Bon, to the Thanh Ha Pottery Village. With a history dating back to the 16th century, Thanh Ha is among the oldest pottery hubs in Vietnam. To this day, the resident artisans still shape pottery the traditional way, with hand and foot pedals. While here, you'll learn ancient techniques to craft pottery on your own, followed by a tour around the village to meet locals. Later, you'll return to Hoi An. 

Day 6: Hoi An Countryside Tour & Cooking Workshop

Explore the countryside around Hoi An by bicycle and visit an organic vegetable farm

Meet your guide this morning and hop on a bicycle for the 2-mile (3 km) ride outside Hoi An to Tra Que Vegetable Village. For centuries, the farmers on this 98-acre (40 ha) plot of land have been growing the highest quality herbs and vegetables through totally organic methods and without electric machinery. Upon arrival, you'll be greeted at the home of some local farmers with an herbal beverage.

Then, change into work clothes and take a stroll along the fields, observing how the farmers work the lands in the exact same way they've been doing for over 300 years. You'll even join in, helping to add fertilizer and water the crops. Later, return to the house and relax by soaking your feet in herbal waters. When lunchtime rolls around, a member of the household will teach you how to cook some regional dishes, like pha lau (a pork dish in coconut sauce) and banh xeo (rice pancakes with pork and seafood). When it's ready, everyone will sit down for a meal.

Afterward, return to Hoi An and enjoy some leisure time. Stroll the riverfront promenade and admire the faded yellow colonial architecture and Japanese/Chinese merchant buildings; browse the galleries of Ancient Town to discover Hoi An's burgeoning art scene; and/or relax at a café by the river and while away the hours sipping strong Vietnamese coffee. You can also visit Hoi An Central Market to mingle with locals and sample an array of specialty foods.

Day 7: Fly to Ho Chi Minh City, Cu Chi Tunnels Tour

The Củ Chi Tunnels are 75 miles (121 km) long
Experience wartime history firsthand on a tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels
Plan your trip to Vietnam
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

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 8: Ben Thanh Market & Ho Chi Minh City Highlights Tour

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

Meet a local guide in the morning for a half-day highlights tour around Ho Chi Minh City. It begins with a transfer to the city center and 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, and you weave between throngs of residents making their daily purchases—all part of authentic local life.

Afterward, proceed to the War Remnants Museum for a vivid look at the American War (as the Vietnam War is known locally) through the eyes of the Vietnamese. Highlights here include various exhibits—like weaponry and military equipment—as well as historical photos, prison-cell recreations, and tiger cages. It's guaranteed to leave an indelible impression.

Next, travel to 19th-century landmarks like the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office. You'll also visit Reunification Palace (also 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 at Dong Khoi Street.

Day 9: Day Trip to the Mekong Delta

Travel down the Mekong
Travel down the Mekong and immerse yourself in local life

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 and visit local businesses like a brick workshop. The region is also famous for its coconut candies, and you'll visit a factory to see how these tasty confections are made. 

Next, you'll 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, coconut groves, 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 will have the evening free.

Day 10: Fly to Siem Reap (Cambodia), Sunset Food Tour

Bok lahong (Khmer spicy papaya salad) is a popular dish in Cambodia

In the morning, you'll transfer to the airport and catch a one-hour flight to Siem Reap. You're now in Cambodia! This resort town in the country's northwest sits on the shores of Tonlé Sap and is the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Angkor. These ruins were once the capital city of the Khmer Empire from the ninth to the 15th centuries. Upon arrival in Siem Reap, you'll transfer to your hotel and have much of the day free to relax.

Later in the afternoon, hop in a tuk-tuk (auto rickshaw) and zip around the city, stopping to indulge in tasty Khmer dishes. Leading this four-hour culinary expedition is an English-speaking guide who will reveal Cambodian life and culture through its food. Begin with a visit to a restaurant specializing in the regional cuisine of a small ethnic minority group in northwest Cambodia.

Next, travel to the rural outskirts of the city, where water buffalo roam rice fields, and locals snack on lotus seeds. Stop for a cold beer as you watch the sunset over the rice paddies. Continue on to a traditional village, where you'll visit the home of a local family for a meal. Following this is a trip to a Cambodian barbecue restaurant to see for yourself why this country is known for its beef skewers. End your night at a local haunt where you'll enjoy a cocktail or beer amid friendly company.

Day 11: Day Trip to Angkor Thom & Angkor Wat

Tour the 12th-century temple, Angkor Wat

Explore some of Angkor's most revered temples today, starting with Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Khmer Empire, surrounded by a 26-foot (8 m) wall. Enter the ancient city through the south gate, carved with elephants and four giant faces. Then, follow a path with 54 gods and demons holding the sacred naga (snake). End at Bayon Temple in the city's center, a 12th-century masterpiece with 54 towers carved with faces representing the Khmer Empire's 54 provinces. 

Next, visit the mighty Angkor Wat, a 12th-century temple with elaborate sculptures, carvings, and impressive architecture that covers 154 square miles (400 sq km). Highlights include the five iconic towers and the world's longest continuous bas-relief, which runs along the temple's outer gallery walls and tells stories from Hindu mythology. Wander the temple with an expert guide, ending with a sunset from Bakheng Hill

Day 12: Angkor Temple Tour: Banteay Srei, Ta Prohm & Ta Keo

Visit Ta Prohm's vine-covered ruins

Wake early today for a bucket-list sunrise trip to Angkor Wat. Watch the light transform this world-famous monument in shades of gold. Afterward, head back to your hotel for breakfast before heading out again, stopping to visit rural villages on your way to Banteay Srei, also known as the Citadel of Women. Marvel at the 10th-century temple's intricate carvings and sandstone architecture. 

In the afternoon, you'll move on to Ta Prohm, built between the late 12th and early 13th centuries. Its ruins are entwined with the forest's trees and vines and were featured in the "Tomb Raider" movies. Next is Ta Keo, an unfinished mountain temple that predates Angkor Wat; admire its five sanctuary towers set on a 72-foot-high (22 m) pyramid, offering sweeping views of the temple-studded landscape. 

Day 13: Angkor Zipline Adventure, Visit Floating Villages

Visit the otherworldly floating villages of Tonlé Sap

There are zipline tours and then there are zipline tours amid 1,000-year-old temples. That's what's in store this morning when you transfer to the zipline site in the forests around the archaeological park. There, the on-site team will give you a safety briefing, after which you'll strap into a harness and soar over the jungle canopy, enjoying a bird's-eye view of Angkor's splendor. Afterward, your local guide will lead you on a nature tour through the rainforest to witness the exotic flora and fauna of the region.

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 14: Depart Siem Reap

Local commuters traveling past the ruins of Angkor
It's been an action-packed two-weeks, but alas, it's not time to bid a fond farewell to Cambodia. Enjoy one more breakfast at the hotel before transferring to the airport in Siem Reap, where you'll catch your connecting flight home. Leahaey!

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 Cambodia, or discover the best time to visit Vietnam.


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Map of Vietnam & Cambodia Culture Escape - 14 Days
Map of Vietnam & Cambodia Culture Escape - 14 Days
Written by Kelly Lu, updated Dec 4, 2023