Essential Vietnam & Cambodia

A 13 Days/ 12 Nights representative tour visiting all the major cities and famous sites. This itinerary can be used as a starting point and altered or extended to suite your requirements.

Itinerary in Brief:

Day 1 : Hanoi
Day 2 : Hanoi
Day 3 : Hanoi – Ninh Binh – Hanoi
Day 4 : Hanoi – Halong (O/N On Boat)
Day 5 : Halong – Hanoi Airport – Hue
Day 6 : Hue
Day 7 : Hue – Hoian
Day 8 : Hoian – Danang Airport – Saigon
Day 9 : Saigon – Ben Tre – Saigon
Day 10 : Saigon – Siem Reap
Day 11 : Siem Reap
Day 12 : Siem Reap
Day 13 : Departure

This post is also available in: French, Italian, Spanish

Tell me more about this tour

Detailed Itinerary

DAY 1: ARRIVAL IN HA NOI     

Arrive in Hanoi, the capital of unified Vietnam, one of the most charming cities in South East Asia with its authenticity, large shady avenues, numerous lakes, manicured gardens and well-preserved architecture.  Meet your  guide & driver, then transfer to your hotel. Free time for a stroll around the city. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Hanoi.

DAY 2 : HA NOI ( B/L/- )

Breakfast at hotel.  08.30: the day is dedicated to a more in depth discovery of Hanoi beginning with a visit to Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum (Shorts and top tanks are not allowed (closed Mondays and Fridays) . Continue your tour with a visit to Tran Quoc pagoda located on the shores of West lake. Next, visit the temple of Literature, a structure dedicated to Confucius. It was constructed in 1070, the compound soon became the first Vietnamese university. You will then enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, where you will have the opportunity to sample some regional delicacies.

In the early afternoon, visit the renowned museum of Ethnology (closed Mondays), which houses an interesting collection of artifacts relating to the mosaic of ethnic groups that inhabit Vietnam. This afternoon’s touring will also provide the opportunity to see Hanoi’s famed Old Quarter from the seats of cyclos. You will conclude your day city tour by visiting to the temple of Jade at the centre of atmospheric Hoan Kiem lake, otherwise known as the lake of ‘the restored sword’. Then free for a stroll along the boulevards of the old colonial quarter where you can view some of the best French architecture in South East Asia. Your last activity will be held at Hanoi’s water puppet theatre with a performance of the traditional show. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Hanoi.

DAY 3: HANOI – NINH BINH – HANOI (B/L/-)

Breakfast at hotel.  08.00: depart Hanoi for Ninh Binh province and enjoy the drive through the luxurious vegetation of the Red River Delta. Continue on to Tam Coc and take a cruise up the river through hills and rice fields on a traditional boat, a photographer’s paradise. It is also referred to as ‘Halong Bay on land’, for  its beauty surpasses that of it’s coastal rival.  Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.

Continue your tour with a journey through bustling villages, rice paddies and beautiful limestone rock formations. We arrive at Hoa Lu, the capital of Vietnam for 41 years under the Dinh and Le dynasties (between 968 and 980), to discover beautiful shrines dedicated to the Emperor Le Dinh, the first ruler to unify the country. Aside from this important historical site, this region is also worth a visit for its rolling hills and picturesque rocky landscapes. After that, return to Hanoi. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Hanoi.

Note: In place of Tam Coc, you can opt to visit either Trang An or Thung Nham.

DAY 4 : HANOI – HALONG (B/L/D)

Breakfast at hotel.  08:00 : depart Hanoi for the world famous Halong Bay, ‘the descending dragon’, a journey of approximately 3.5 hours. Listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, Ha Long Bay is a stunning limestone archipelago stretching over some 1500 square kilometers and comprising nearly 2000 islets. You will board our junk for a memorable cruise through the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ gliding gently past fishing communities and hidden cave systems. Lunch.

During our time on board , you will visit the ‘Cave of Surprises’, where you can marvel at strangely formed stalactites and stalagmites. After anchoring at a nearby beach you can go for a swim or climb to the top of  Titop Island to get a panoramic view of the bay and surrounding islands. Dinner will be served with delicious local seafood onboard, with other options available. Overnight on the junk.

Note: Cruise itinerary and schedule are subject to change due to weather and operating conditions.

DAY 5: HALONG – HANOI AIRPORT – HUE (B/BRUNCH/-)

Breakfast on board.  After breakfast, continue your journey cruise through the breathtaking scenery of Bai Tu Long Bay. Bunch. After disembarking, transfer to Noi Bai airport for the flight to Hue. On arrival in Hue, transfer to hotel and check in. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Hue.

DAY 6 : HUE  (B/L/-)

Breakfast at hotel.  08.00: you will spend a full day  to visit Hue, former capital of Vietnam from 1802 to 1945 during the reign of the Nguyen dynasty emperors, declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1993.  Cruise in a sampan on the Perfume river to Thien Mu pagoda, or pagoda of the Heavenly Lady, a Buddhist shrine dated from the mid-seventeenth century. Located on the banks of the Perfume River, it is easily recognizable by its octagonal tower.

Continue your tour with a visit to the Citadel, the seat of the Nguyen Dynasty emperors. The construction began in 1804 under the orders of the first Emperor Gia Long after the carefully selected using principles of geomancy (Feng Shui). The citadel was inspired by Vauban fortifications and is composed of three sections; the Capital city, the Imperial city and the Forbidden City. Lunch at a local restaurant.

In the afternoon, visit the Tu Duc’ tomb, which is one of the most impressive of the royal mausoleums. Emperor Tu Duc designed it himself, for use both before and after his death. Finish your day with a  visit to Minh Mang’s tomb, located on the left bank of the Perfume River, which represents the perfect harmony between nature and architecture. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Hue

Note:  You can replace the Tu Duc’s tomb by the Khai Dinh’s tomb

– Option 1 (extra cost): Royal performance of ancient dancing and music, a world intangible heritage recognized by UNESCO in 2003, is presented in the citadel.
– Option 2 (extra cost, minimum group size: 10 persons): A typical royal dinner with a presentation of ancient music is arranged

DAY 7: HUE – HOIAN (B/L/-)

Breakfast at hotel.  08:00 Transfer to Hoi An  along Highway 1 which links Hanoi to Sai Gon. This drive is reputedly the most beautiful in all Vietnam, taking you past coastal fishing settlements, most notably Lang Co with its stunning lagoon backdrop. The drive also takes you over Hai Van Pass (or ‘pass of the ocean clouds’). Lunch at a local restaurant in Hoian.

The afternoon is spent strolling through the narrow streets of this atmospheric old town. This former port, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is full of architectural gems that show a range of influences. Around the seventeenth century Hoi An was one of the busiest ports in South East Asia. Enriched by the proceeds of this trade many merchants constructed beautiful homes. You should start by visiting Japanese bridge, Quan Cong temple, Fujian temple, one of the old houses and the local market. Then , take a boat trip on Thu Bon river. Dinner on your own.  Overnight at hotel in Hoi An.

DAY 8: HOI AN – DA NANG AIRPORT – SAIGON (B/L/-)

Breakfast at hotel.  Transfer to the Danang airport for your flight to Sai Gon. Arrive in Saigon, transfer to your hotel.

Saigon is not only the most important economic centre in Vietnam, it also has some very imposing colonial architecture which was the center of attention in our fascinating past. Almost a hundred years of French rulers bestowed upon the city with some pearls of colonial architecture. Begin your exploration of this frantic city with lunch at a local restaurant.

In the afternoon, visit the central post office, designed by Gustave Eiffel, and the Notre Dame Cathedral, inspired by its counterpart in Paris. Next, visit the moved War Remnants museum which presents a partial, but riveting, view of the American war, as it is known in Vietnam. Continue your city tour with a visit to District 5, formerly known as Cho Lon or Chinatown. Cho Lon, or ‘big market’, with its congested streets is where most of the city’s ethnic Chinese population lives. The district lives up to its name in the form of Binh Tay wholesale markets. Founded in 1778 the market sells a stunning array of goods and produce, ranging from fish to incense. We will finish our city tour with a stop at the Thien Hau temple, otherwise known as ‘The Temple of the Heavenly Lady’, to marvel at its intricate friezes and coils of incense. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Saigon.

DAY 9: SAIGON – BEN TRE – SAIGON  (B/L/-)

Breakfast at hotel.  08:00 You will be picked up at your hotel . Transfer to Ben Tre.

10:00 Arrive at Ben Tre town, take a boat trip on Mekong river. Sight-seeing  local activities on river.  Stop  to see how people make bricks, salts, coconut worshop.  Boat on  Cai Son  and Nhon Thanh creeks to see some family making mats.  Take  pull cart (xe lôi) passing by rice fields and vegetable plains to know how to culture in country.

12:00 Stop to Mr. Hai Ho house for learning  how to cook local food, then enjoy your lunch.

In the afternoon, take rowing-boat along water palm creek. Boating a long Cai Coi creek back to Ben Tre city. Then move back to Saigon. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Saigon.

DAY 10. SAI GON – SIEM REAP (B/L/-)

Breakfast at hotel.  Transfer to the airport for your flight to Siem Riep. On arrival in Siem Reap, warmly welcomed and picked up by local tour guide and then transfer directly to visit Banteay Srei temple (Citadel of the women), dedicated to Siva of which the architecture and its sculptures of pink sandstone bears a series of beautiful sculptures, lintels, pediments and friezes present a main work of the art Khmer. On the way back, drive through village and paddies to Banteay Samre. This temple was constructed late 9th century by King Surayavarman II. Many of its carvings are still in excellent condition. Then, stop at Pre Rup for sunset on Angkor temples. Lunch during the visit. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Siem Reap.

DAY 11. SIEM REAP (B/L/-)     

Breakfast at hotel.  8:00: Depart from your hotel to discover the Angkor temples in the small circuit. First, visit Banteay Kdei. The temple was constructed by Jayavarman VII during the 12th and 13th centuries ( Citadel of the Cells) and used to be a religious monastery. Next, visit Ta Prohm, a monastery built by Jayavarman VII as a residence for his mother.  It has been largely overgrown by the jungle and as you climb through the dilapidated stone structures you see many giant banyan trees growing out of the top of the temple itself. Complete the small circuit in the morning with a visit to Takeo, one of the first to be build out of sandstone. Lunch at a local restaurant.

Afternoon, you continue to  visit the South Gate, Angkor Thom. This Royal city was first built under the reign of Udayadityavarman II in the 11th century. Next, you will move on to the famous Bayon Temple in the centre of the city of Angkor Thom. The temple built Jayavarman VII  is a three-tiered pyramid with its entrance facing east. The central shrine is surrounded by 54 towers all crowned by gigantic faces, representing okiteshvara but with the features of Jayavarman VII. You will then visit Baphuon. This temple, built by Udayadityarvarman II, was the most poorly constructed of all the temples in Angkor.  Conclude the day tour with Phimean Akas – the temple constructed late 10th – early 11thcentury by Jayavarman V and Elephants and Leper King Terraces. The first Terrace owes its name to the outstanding depiction of elephants, while the second gets its name from the magnificent sculpture of King Yasovarman, popularly known as the Leper King. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Siem Reap.

DAY 12. SIEM REAP (B/L/-)

Breakfast at hotel.  8:00: Visit one of 7 wonders of the world “Angkor Wat”. The temple is one of the largest monuments to religion ever built and is truly one the wonders of the world. Believed to have been constructed as a temple and mausoleum for King Suryavarman II at the peak of the Khmer empire in the first half of the 12th century, Angkor Wat is probably the best-preserved of the Angkorean temples. Lunch at a local restaurant.

Afternoon, excursions on Tonle Sap lake. Visit the floating village, mangrove forest, fresh fish exhibition and the activities of people’s daily lives.

In the evening, enjoy a Cambodia circus of Phare, an amazing blend of traditional and modern theater, music, dance, acrobatics, juggling and contortion, all beautifully choreographed and performed. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Siem Reap.

DAY 13. SIEM REAP – DEPARTURE (B)           

Breakfast at hotel.  Free time for last minute shopping or a last stroll through the tranquil streets. Transfer to the airport for your departure.


© Tonkin Travel. All rights reserved.

International Tour Operator License: 0165/2002/TCDL- GLHQ