Explore Vietnam on this 13-day cultural tour with a side of beach relaxation. Start in the north, where you'll sample Hanoi's tasty street food and sail the paper-flat waters of Ha Long Bay. Continue south to Hoi An's lantern-lined streets, learn about war history at the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels, and sail through the lush Mekong Delta. The adventure ends with a slice of beach time in Mui Ne, where golden beaches and towering sand dunes await.


  • Sail amid the limestone islands of beautiful Ha Long Bay
  • Explore Hoi An's fusion of architecture, dating to the 16th century
  • Learn about Vietnam's war history at the Cu Chi Tunnels
  • Sail through the lush Mekong Delta
  • Visit Mui Ne's golden beaches and sand dunes

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Hanoi Hanoi
Day 2 Bus to Ha Long Bay, Cruise & Kayak Ha Long Bay Ha Long Bay
Day 3 Ha Long Bay Cruise & Return to Hanoi Hanoi
Day 4 Fly to Hoi An, Explore Hoi An
Days 5-6 Explore Hoi An Hoi An
Day 7 Fly to Ho Chi Minh City  Ho Chi Minh City
Day 8 Cu Chi Tunnels & Ho Chi Minh City Tour Ho Chi Minh City
Day 9 Day Trip to the Mekong Delta Ho Chi Minh City
Day 10 Transfer to Mui Ne Mui Ne
Days 11-12 Explore Mui Ne Mui Ne
Day 13 Return to Ho Chi Minh City & Depart Vietnam  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi

Take some time to get to know Hanoi

Welcome to Vietnam! Your private driver will be waiting to take you to your hotel in the heart of Hanoi, the country's high-energy capital. Settle in and get your first glimpse of the city's tree-lined avenues, which feature ancient temples and French colonial buildings set against modern, glassy malls and offices. This evening, you can take an optional guided street-food tour of the city.

Start with a trip to Thanh Ha Market, where you'll 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: Bust to Ha Long Bay, Cruise & Kayak Ha Long Bay

Cruising & Kayaking in Ha Long Bay
Enjoy cruising and kayaking on Ha Long Bay

This morning, take a shuttle bus to the northwest coast, where the land meets the Gulf of Tonkin, to begin your overnight tour of UNESCO-listed Ha Long Bay. Sail across the paper-flat waters, taking in views of over 2,000 limestone karsts steeped in Vietnamese legend. A delicious seafood lunch onboard awaits, followed by plenty of time to sit on the sundeck 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. Look for formations such as Kissing Rock, which appears on Vietnam's 200,000 dong note. The ship's expert chef will lead a cooking masterclass, teaching you to make specialties like nem (Vietnamese fried spring rolls) for dinner. Spend the evening relaxing or join the locals for a spot of night fishing to end the day.

Day 3: Ha Long Bay Cruise & Return to Hanoi

Cruising Ha Long Bay
Wake up to Ha Long Bay's stunning scenery
Wake early for breakfast on the ship's deck, watching the sun rise over the emerald 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 in optional activities like swimming and 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 4: Fly to Hoi An, Sightseeing Tour

Hoi An Sightseeing Tour
See the colorful sights of UNESCO-listed Hoi An
This morning you'll fly south to Da Nang, where your driver will be waiting to take you an hour farther down the coast to Hoi An. Check into your hotel and then head out to tour this UNESCO-listed port city, which lies on the Tho Bon River. Explore its fusion of architecture, which dates back to the 16th century and features red-gold temples, wooden merchant houses, and an ornate Japanese bridge built over a century ago. Finish the day with a stroll along the lantern-lined streets and try some of Hoi An's world-famous street food.

Days 5-6: Explore Hoi An

Hoi An town
Wander the picturesque old town of Hoi An
Plan your trip to Vietnam
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Enjoy two free days in Hoi An. Wander on foot or rent a bike to cycle along the car-and-motorbike-free streets—motorized vehicles are banned in the city. Order a custom-made outfit from one of the resident tailors and head to one of the city's nearby beaches, loved for their soft, pale sands. For dinner, try local dishes such as com hen (sauteed clams), nem lui (ground pork), and cao lau (pork and greens).

You can book an optional bicycle tour to Cam Thanh Fishing Village to meet the locals and paddle a bamboo basket boat through the mangroves or take a cooking class to learn about Hoi An's local cuisine. The chef will teach you to prepare Vietnamese dishes such as green papaya salad, spring rolls, pancakes, clay pot fish, or lemongrass chicken. If you're feeling crafty, discover the Hoi An art of lantern-making during a masterclass with a local. You'll learn about the history of lanterns and how they're made, then create one of your own to take home.

Day 7: Fly to Ho Chi Minh City 

Experience life in Vietnam's largest metropolis, Ho Chi Minh City
Today starts with a transfer to Da Nang Airport for your flight south to Ho Chi Minh City. Settle into your hotel and head 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 foot massage. Visit the haunting War Remnants Museum to learn about the country's turbulent war history. When you're ready for a break, sit down with a beer at Bitexco Tower for views across the city.

Day 8: Cu Chi Tunnels & Ho Chi Minh City Tour

Visit Ho Chi Minh City's striking Independence Palace

Today you'll learn about Vietnam's war history with a trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels, where the Viet Cong fought American soldiers in the 1960s. Located just northwest of Ho Chi Minh City, this complex of underground tunnels stretches over 155 miles (250 km) and was a bitter battleground during the war. You'll learn how the Viet Cong used these tunnels as communication routes, storage facilities, hospitals, and living areas for fighters. You'll even get the chance to crawl through a section to experience the tunnels' narrow dimensions.

Return to Ho Chi Minh City this afternoon, where you'll visit the Independence Palace, also known as the Reunification Palace, a symbol of the end of the American War when Ho Chi Minh's tanks stormed the complex in 1975. Continue with a tour of the city's French colonial landmarks, such as Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office. You'll also visit Ben Thanh, one of the biggest markets in the city.

Day 9: Day Trip to Mekong Delta

Day Trip to the Mekong Delta
Explore Mekong Delta villages by bike

This morning you'll drive south to the lush Mekong Delta. Known as Vietnam's rice bowl, this region is full of mangroves, sugar cane plantations, and waterlogged paddies. Board a boat to sail the Ben Tre River, one of the tributaries of the mighty Mekong. Along the way, you'll visit local businesses like a brick workshop and honey farm. Tour one of the coconut candy workshops Ben Tre is famous for to sample these tasty treats and learn how they're made.

Next, you'll stop at a small riverside village for tea with a family that makes hand-woven rush mats. Explore the village by bike or xe loi (motor cart) to observe daily life. You'll pass lime-green rice fields, vegetable farms, and exotic fruit orchards. Have lunch at Green Coconut Restaurant on the banks of the river before trying your hand at rowing along a creek. Afterward, head back to Ho Chi Minh City for a laid-back evening.

Day 10: Transfer to Mui Ne

Spend some time soaking up the sun in Mui Ne
Say goodbye to Ho Chi Minh City today and drive to Mui Ne Beach in Phan Thiet, four hours north. Settle into your hotel and then head out to experience this vibrant fishing port renowned for making potent fish sauce. Phan Thiet is also the gateway to lavish beach resorts and Mui Ne's towering dunes, which are particularly beautiful at sunset. Soak up the sun on the beach and end the day with a bowl of heavily-seasoned fish pho (herby noodle soup laced with fish).

Days 11-12: Explore Mui Ne

Hop in a Jeep to tour the red dunes of Mui Ne

Spend the next two days in Mui Ne as you please. Relax on golden-sand beaches or try watersports; Mui Ne is a popular kitesurfing destination. Rise early to soak up local life at the morning market, when fishermen haul in buckets of prawns, fish, and crabs while restaurant owners barter for the best catch. Take a Jeep tour to Mui Ne's red-orange sand dunes, where you can hike up wind-sculpted peaks and whiz back down on a sandboard.

Optional activities include a late afternoon food tour where you'll sample typical dishes like pha lau (a pork dish in coconut sauce), spring rolls, and banh xeo (rice pancakes with pork and seafood) and take a sunset coracle boat ride. You can also explore Mui Ne's dunes on a Jeep tour to watch the sunrise over the white and red dunes. This includes visiting the Fairy Stream, a river that runs through the bottom of a dramatic canyon.

Day 13: Return to Ho Chi Minh City, Depart

Return to Ho Chi Minh City for your flight home

Today your Vietnam adventure comes to an end. Your driver will take you back to Ho Chi Minh City in time for your flight home. Safe travels!

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Map of Vietnam Cultural Discovery & Beach Break – 13 Days
Map of Vietnam Cultural Discovery & Beach Break – 13 Days
Written by Hien Do, updated Jan 1, 2023