Spend 13 days exploring some of the far corners and favorite cities of Vietnam. You'll not only explore Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, but also trek through the mountainous northwest, visiting ethnic minority villages. Cruise through limestone formations to Cat Ba island and along the Mekong river to see what life is like across the country.

Highlights

  • Trek in the Northwestern mountains
  • Sail to limestone Cat Ba island
  • Bike through historic Hoi An
  • Explore life in the Mekong delta

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Hanoi Hanoi
Day 2 Hanoi City Tour Hanoi
Day 3 Hanoi to Muong Lo Nghia Lo
Day 4 Muong Lo to Mu Cang Chai Mu Cang Chai
Day 5 Mu Cang Chai to Sapa Sapa
Day 6 Sapa to Bac Ha Bac Ha, Lao Cai
Day 7 Bac Ha to Hanoi Hanoi
Day 8 Hanoi to Cat Ba Island & Lan Ha Bay Cát Bà
Day 9 Cat Ba Island to Hoi An Hoi An
Day 10 Hoi An Cycling & Organic Farm Tour Hoi An
Day 11 Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh City Ho Chi Minh City
Day 12 Bến Tre Day Trip Ho Chi Minh City
Day 13 Depart Ho Chi Minh City  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi

Hanoi
Park in Hanoi

Welcome to Vietnam! You'll arrive at the Hanoi airport and be transferred to your hotel to settle in and explore the city at your leisure.

Day 2: Hanoi City Tour

Hanoi walking street
Hanoi walking street

Spend today walking the streets of Hanoi and exploring the city's history. You'll start with a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Complex, including the Mausoleum, Presidential Palace, and House on Stilts, along with the Temple of Literature. Keep going to the Ethnology Museum, followed by a walk through the Old Quarter with both historical and culinary details, including a sample of Hanoi's egg coffee.

Take a break after your tour, then reconvene in the evening for one of the famous water puppet shows.

Day 3: Hanoi to Muong Lo

Muong Lo
Muong Lo

Get on the road after breakfast to head toward Muong Lo, a six-hour drive in total. Your ride will take you through the Ha Tay, Phu Tho, and Yen Bai provinces, along with a stop at the Thu Cuc tea plantation. Meet the family that runs the plantation and learn about how the tea gets made, along with planting, picking, and drying techniques. And, of course, some samples.

You'll end your drive in the town of Nghia Lo, home to the second-largest rice field in Northwest Vietnam and part of Vietnam's ethnic Thai population. Walk around the village on an hour-long tour to scope out the traditional iron and bamboo houses first built 700 years ago and learn about daily life before you retire for the evening.

Day 4: Muong Lo to Mu Cang Chai

Mu Cang Chai
Mu Cang Chai

Board a bus for a drive into the mountains of Hoang Lien Son, winding through rice terraces along the way. Once you arrive at your destination, you'll embark on a 4–5-hour hike to the village of Na Hang and Trong Sua, home to the H'mong ethnic minority. The landscapes of terraced rice fields, mountains, and wooden stilt houses among the clouds

Break for a picnic lunch, then transfer to Mu Cang Chai, roughly 2–3 hours away, where the rice fields and towns of this area draw both local and international travelers.

Day 5: Mu Cang Chai to Sapa

Sapa
Sapa

Get on the road to Sapa this morning, about a 3.5-hour drive in total. You'll make a stop on the way at the Tram Ton Pass, the highest pass in Vietnam with views out to Fanxipan Mountain, known as the roof of Indochina.

Once you arrive in Sapa, you'll drop off your things and then venture out on a 5-mile (8 km) trek through the Muong Ha valley and Ta Van village, home to more H'mong villages. Follow hillsides along the Muong Hoa River, cross a suspension bridge to the Lao Chai village, and hike into Y Linh Ho village where you'll meet your transfer back to your hotel.

Day 6: Sapa to Bac Ha

Bac Ha
Bac Ha

Transfer first today to the town of Bac Ha, a quiet farming town roughly a 3-hour drive away. After your arrival, explore the slopes filled with maize, rice, cassava, and more. In the afternoon, take a 2-hour hike from Thai Giang Pho village through a lush valley and green vegetable gardens, cornfields, and rice terraces to Na La, with a transfer back to Bac Ha at the end. If you're there on a market day, you may stop at one of the local markets as well.

Day 7: Bac Ha to Hanoi

Colorful ethnic market
Market colors

Visit the Bac Ha market in the morning, a gathering for residents of the remote villages in the surrounding area to booth socialize and buy and sell goods. After enjoying the lively atmosphere, you'll travel back to Hanoi for the night, approximately a 6.5-hour drive.

Day 8: Hanoi to Cat Ba Island & Lan Ha Bay

Kayaking
Kayaking

Get ready to leave Hanoi again, this time on an overnight cruise into the limestone formations of Lan Ha Bay. Board your boat in the late morning, then set sail. Your first stop is a visit to a floating fishing village, where you can learn about the lives of the fishermen and try out a bamboo boat or kayak. Watch the sunset over the bay after you get back on board.

Day 9: Cat Ba Island to Hoi An

Lan Ha Bay
Lan Ha Bay

Today is a long travel day, so be sure to relax in the morning with a Tai Chi class or sunrise viewing from the top deck of the boat. You'll disembark back in Hanoi, then transfer to the airport about 3 hours away for a flight to Da Nang and a 45-minute drive to Hoi An once you land.

Day 10: Hoi An Cycling & Organic Farm Tours

Farming in Hoian
Farming in Hoi An

Start your day with a cycling tour from the Vong Nhi village. You'll spin through the countryside, past green water coconut forests, prawn and red snapper farms, and rice fields. Take a break at the Thanh Dong organic farm, covering 6 square miles (10,000 sq m). Join the 11 families that work on the farm in gardening activities, including preparing and applying manure fertilizer, raking the ground, sowing seeds, and watering and picking vegetables. Leave the farm via a basket boat ride down the Do River to their restaurant where you'll enjoy lunch and a cooking demonstration, then return to Hoi An.

In the afternoon, you'll take a walking tour through Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1999. The town once served as an active port for trade with Japan, The Netherlands, Portugal, and China during the 17th and 18th centuries, and many of the buildings still look the same as they did then.

Day 11: Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh street
Ho Chi Minh street

Transfer to the airport for your short flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Once you've arrived, you'll take a short walking tour to the Central Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral, and Thien Hau Pagoda in the heart of Chinatown.

Day 12: Bến Tre Day Trip

Ben Tre
Ben Tre

Cruise up the Bến Tre river, a tributary of the Mekong, up to Bến Tre town today. You'll pass plenty of activities along the way, including an opportunity for fishing and a brickwork facility to see how bricks are made in the traditional style. Visit a honey bee farm to enjoy fruit and tea and a coconut candy workshop before you turn down small side creeks to the village. Walk up to a family mat-making workshop for tea and fruit, then ride a motor cart or bicycle under the trees as you learn about the tropical culture and stop for lunch at a local restaurant.

Row along a water palm creek before you reboard your larger boat and return to Ho Chi Minh City for the night.

Day 13: Depart Ho Chi Minh City

Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh
Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh

Transfer to the airport after one last Vietnamese coffee to head home or continue to your next adventure.

Map

Map of Vietnam Off the Beaten Track - 13 Days
Map of Vietnam Off the Beaten Track - 13 Days