If you have plans to head for Vietnam and Cambodia, a 15-day itinerary isn’t long enough for first time visitors to explore these two little hearts of the South East Asia. However, this essential itinerary will turn your treasured time to an unforgettable experience by discovering the harmony of mesmerizing scenery, rich culture and overwhelming hospitality.
Starting from the amazing S-shaped country, you’ll gain yourself a plenteous experience spanning from the impressive northern Vietnam to the restful Middle region before heading for the hustle and bustle attractions in the South. Following the breath of life along the Mekong Delta into Cambodia, you’ll get lost in the mysterious Angkor Kingdom of truly ancient masterpieces and uniquely rustic tranquility.
This two-week itinerary in Vietnam and Cambodia includes numerous wonderful world-famous landmarks as well as long-established local traditions and customs. So, feel free to base your vacation with the itinerary below regardless of whether you’re an action-packed traveller or a chilled out one.
- Day 1: Hanoi Arrival
- Day 2: Hanoi City Tour
- Day 3: Hanoi – Halong Bay – Overnight on cruise
- Day 4: Halong Bay – Hanoi – Flight to Da Nang
- Day 5: Hoi An Half Day Tour
- Day 6: Hoi An Free Day
- Day 7: Hoi An – Da Nang – Flight to Ho Chi Minh City
- Day 8: Ho Chi Minh City
- Day 9: Ho Chi Minh – Cai Be – Can Tho
- Day 10: Can Tho – Cai Rang – Chau Doc
- Day 11: Chau Doc – Phnom Penh
- Day 12: Phnom Penh Half Day City Tour – Siem Reap
- Day 13: Angkor Wat Complex Full Day Tour
- Day 14: Siem Reap Free Day
- Day 15: Siem Reap Departure
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Day 1: Hanoi Arrival
Landing at the Noi Bai International Airport, you will be warmly welcomed to the elegant Hanoi and transferred to the hotel in the central city.
Unfortunately, most hotel rooms aren’t ready until 2 pm, and an early check-in would be guaranteed with a surcharge. Hence, you should choose an appropriate scheduled route or take your time at leisure.
Must try activities
There is a diverse array of charming sites and hidden alleys to uncover in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. Depending on your priority, you shouldn’t neglect the two out-of-the-world traditional performances which are found nowhere else in Vietnam.
The first recommendation is attached to Water Puppet Show where adorable puppets are performed by talented puppeteers on water stage in theme of folk music. This kind of traditional art presents inspiring ancient tales, folklores and daily life in Vietnamese countryside.
Water puppet show at Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
The other choice could be Tu Phu (Four Palaces) Show, which features a uniquely ritual spirit practiced in the Vietnam indigenous religion with vibrant music, colors and lively dance performances. If you’re fond of these shows, there are multitude travel consultants offering tickets at the best price.
Day 2: Hanoi City Tour
The second day goes for a half-day city tour with a flexibility of departure time (morning or afternoon) and means of transport (motorbike or bus) based on your interests and availability. The routes can change subject to your preference, but we highly recommend these city attractions below.
The first stop should be the Temple of Literature, established in 1076 to be the first university in Vietnam. Quoc Tu Giam was initially constructed within a temple to educate the Vietnam’s royalty, mandarins and members of the elite. Continue with a visit to the one of the most iconic temples in Vietnam, called One Pillar Pagoda. Then take your chance to visit the nearby Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, where the historic father figure of modern Vietnam rests in peace and his modest house on stilts settled.
At the end of the excursion, the 6th century Tran Quoc Buddhist Pagoda await with its impressive history line of over 1500 years and the picturesque West Lake sightseeing. After visiting, treat yourself a meal at an authentic Vietnamese Restaurant and enjoy the rest of the day on your own.
Must try activities
The Quintessence of Tonkin is an outdoor spectacle showcasing traditional Vietnamese culture in a contemporary and innovative way. The skilled local farmers perform a mesmerizing set of six magical elements including Poetry, Buddhism, Nostalgia, Music & Painting, Joy & Festivities and Peace & Harmony. Spending a couple of hours witnessing the artistic celebration, you should lay your eyes upon the open air in the reminiscent of the Northern Vietnam’s glory days.
Location: Baara Land, Da Phuc Village, Quoc Oai District, around 20km west from Hanoi Time: From 8 pm to 9 pm every day, except Mondays Price: The tickets range from Silver, Golden to Platinum Section with the prices between USD34 and USD51 per adult.
Day 3: Hanoi – Halong Bay – Overnight on cruise
Being voted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Halong Bay is gifted thousands of islets scattering from pristine beaches, limestone caves to floating villages. To fulfil your adventure, it is worth experiencing an overnight cruise and beholding the awe-inspiring natural beauty of “Dragon descending to the sea”.
Hit the road from Hanoi, it takes 3.5 hours to get to Halong before embarking the junk heading to the emerald waters of Halong Bay.
The suite life on deck offers a plenty of exciting activities like enjoying on-cruise feasts, joining cooking lesson on making Vietnamese traditional dishes and other beach activities like kayaking, sightseeing and visiting impressive grottos.
After dinner, you might need your own space to enjoy tranquil atmosphere of the ocean.
Day 4: Halong Bay – Hanoi – Flight to Da Nang
Waking up in the sounds of the ocean, you must be an early bird to greet the breath-taking breaking dawn over the ocean. Spend the last half-day exploring more of glorious caves and distinctive rock formations of extraordinary natural ecosystem in Halong Bay.
Lunch is time for cruising back to the mainland and transferring to Hanoi for a short flight to Da Nang. On arrival at the airport, you will take a forty-five-minute ride to Hoi An where you settle at a hotel in the end of the day.
Genuinely, you will find this day a little rushing because of the long-haul excursion from Halong Bay, Hanoi, Da Nang to Hoi An. So, take a rest to save your energy for an amazing discovery on the next day.
Day 5: Hoi An Half Day Tour
A half day tour will give you the comprehensive understanding of the appealing ancient town with 850 heritage-protected colonial designed buildings. Beyond a maze of narrow streets and old-aged houses, there are few historic temples, museums and well-preserved sites indicating the blend of diverse cultures from Vietnam to Japan, China and Europe.
Getting around the old quarter is simply walking or cycling along the narrow streets. You’ll be amazed at exquisitely unique architecture, pleasant tranquility and overwhelming local people.
The guide will show you several historical sites such as Japanese Covered Bridge and Fujian Assembly Hall of Chinese.
After the tour, you could tarry for a while at a street-side coffee shop. It’s time to refresh and savour the authentic taste of Hoi An on your tongue with a fresh cold glass of traditional herbal drink.
If you have spare time, take a stroll passing by couples of handicraft stores as well as clothing and souvenir shops where you can take some of them back to your hometown.
Hoi An Memories Show is a music cultural performance offering multitude breath-taking effects and intricate choreography by skilled dancers. This show will definitely feast your eyes a glimpse of how Hoi An developed from a farming village to a vibrant destination. For those in search of deep spiritual concept, you will have a chance to travel back in time while exploring the traditions 400 years ago.
Location: Hoi An Impression Theme Park, No 200 Nguyen Tri Phuong, Cam Chau, Hoi An, Quang Nam Time: From 7:30 pm to 8:45 pm every day, except Tuesdays Price: The prices vary from USD22 to USD35 per adult, depending on three different zones. Children above 1m have to half of the adult’s tickets.
Day 6: Hoi An Free Day
Spending one day in the world heritage listed in Hoi An, you may like to wander the Central Market and the street stalls selling paintings, woodwork, ceramics, lanterns and much more. The real Hoi An in unexpected moments is a back street, a turning down a sudden valley or nested art galleries in hidden nooks and crannies.
Your itinerary would be incomplete if you don’t take a boat cruising on the Thu Bon River to sink in the laid-back riverside and let the colourful lanterns drift along the stream.
If you’re in search of more adventurous experience, there is a range of alternative options to uncover the new wonderland out of the tranquil old quarter.
Firstly, a half-day trip to My Son Sanctuary is highly suggested, which is home to a collection of Champa ruins nestled amongst the mountains in a geological basin of the Quang Nam province. The elaborate World Heritage-listed temples reflect the rich cultural traditions of the Cham civilization.
For those engaged in rural atmosphere, it’s great to take a tour to Cam Thanh village and experience the farm life. You’ll get to know how the Vietnamese villagers prepare and fertilize the land as well as their daily working routines thanks to their guidelines.
Lastly, a cruise along the Thu Bon River, a trip to the nearby Cua Dai Beach or a Hoi An Vespa tour is wonderful experience depending on your travel purpose.
Day 7: Hoi An – Da Nang – Flight to Ho Chi Minh City
Leaving for Hoi An after breakfast, you’ll head for Da Nang Airport to take a fight to Ho Chi Minh City. Once you set foot in the vibrant Saigon, you will be overwhelmed by the hustle streets full of motorbikes and cars.
Don’t spend the rest of your day in hotel room; go out exploring a variety of the enduring historical architecture and modernized buildings.
Get a taste of the top specialties like Bun mam, a type of noodle soup flavoured by fermented fish sauce, tamarind juice and sugar and Hu tieu, a subtler version of pho noodles which offers various assortments of pork, pork rib, shrimp, squid or fish depending on your taste. This Saigon flavour can be found at both street stalls and restaurants
The city is famous for its lively nightlife, especially in Bui Vien Street. Once the sun goes down, the street comes alive with walking areas, food stalls, street performances and a mass of coffees, beers and bars.
Day 8: Ho Chi Minh City
Engaged in a half day tour package, you have an opportunity to sightsee the top landmarks of French colonial architecture and the Vietnam’s turbulent in past at the museum. Starting from the Reunification Palace, you’ll take a look a beautifully enduring palace which is used to be the residence of the Republic of Vietnam’s President. This palace is a historic site witnessing the American War victorious event on April 30th 1975.
Afterward, visit the Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral which is a remaining stronghold of Catholicism constructed in all-red brick façade Romanesque architecture and the Old Post Office, one of the most iconic buildings in classical French colonial architecture.
The end of the tour stops at a local market where you can find plentiful types of souvenirs and practice your bargaining skills with the friendliest, liveliest and most convivial people here.
A O Show is a vibrant artistic performance where you experience marvelling at visual illusion and awe-inspiring acrobatics. With a view to indicate the evolution of rural Vietnam to the modern-day landscape, the show is a convergence of talented artists performing gravity-defying acts with diversity of props such as bamboos, woven baskets and ropes.
Location: Saigon Opera House at No. 7 Cong Truong Lam Son, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City Time: 6pm and 8pm everyday Price: The prices depend on three different zones, which range from USD30 to USD70 per adult and a half price per child.
Day 9: Ho Chi Minh – Cai Be – Can Tho
Escape from the bustling city, you’ll continue to immerse in the incredibly fertile region of the Mekong Delta, where food production makes up approximately half of total agricultural output in Vietnam. The most fulfilled way to get deeper insights of the real Delta life is taking an organized tour cruising around the winding rivers and canals.
It was perfect to savour the blissful scenery from boat views to the unspoiled sightseeing of the Mekong waterways as you tour the orchards, paddy fields, swamplands as well as floating fishing villages and exotic fruit farms. Cai Be is known for a rice paper, a coconut sweets manufacturer and its Cathedral representing the French Gothic style in the early 20th century.
Not only a sightseeing but also a net fishing activity will give you an unforgettable memory immersing in the local life. You can either sit on the bank with the fishing rod or get muddy and learn to be a fisherman since you do everything with your hands through traditional equipment.
Surely you’ll never forget these Mekong Delta steps into the pages of your travel journal.
Day 10: Can Tho – Cai Rang – Chau Doc
Spending a night in Can Tho after your trip in Cai Be yesterday, you can find nothing more boosted than a morning junk trip along Cai Rang floating market. The market converges hundreds of wooden rowboats with everything from rice, clothing to plentiful exotic fruits and vegetables. Let’s taste seasonal fruits, chat to friendly locals and feel the fresh vibrant market.
End up heading for the Cambodian border, next destination to the northwest of Can Tho is the ebullient town of Chau Doc, the heart of the Mekong Delta. The opening of the border here has brought a steady stream of travellers on the way to Phnom Penh.
Despite a little sleepiness, Chau Doc is a wonderland to learn more about the local hospitality and the real essence in some high spots like the ethnic Cham village and Sam Mountain offering a welcome undulation in the surrounding plains.
Day 11: Chau Doc – Phnom Penh
The morning departure starts from the Chau Doc port where you’ll take a speed boat to Phnom Penh. After few hours of excursion, you’ll set food on the land of majestic Angkor Kingdom around noon time. Transfer to hotel for checking in and eat at some of the best Khmer food in the city, you are free at leisure for the rest of the day.
Getting around to overview the lovely French-built city, you are totally secured because of the naturally friendly attribute here. The Cambodian capital has been well preserved with huge slices of its French colonial allure in riverside streets.
Adding the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek and notorious Tuol Sleng S21 to your itinerary, you’ll have a chance to discover the country’s profoundly sobering history. The next destination should be Wat Phnom after which the city was to be named. This sacred site is worth climbing the stairs to the top hill for fabulous views of the city.
Day 12: Phnom Penh Half Day City Tour – Siem Reap
After breakfast, get ready for a heritage tour experience!
Visit the Independence Monument, the 20-metre high monument in shape of a lotus which can be frequently seen at Angkor and other Khmer historical sites. The monument was built to celebrate Cambodia’s independence in the past, and today it is the site for celebrations of formal national ceremonies.
Continue the tour to Royal Palace Compound, one of the most impressive colourful Khmer-style palaces and Silver Pagoda, the Emerald Buddha Temple displaying numerous Buddha status made of diamond, emerald, gold and silver. The last stop is at National Museum, the distinctive red building in a stunning Khmer architecture since 1917. This site contains more than 5000 art objects made of sandstone, bronze, silver, copper, wood and others.
Upon arrival Siem Reap, you will get to Borei Seang Nam station in the late afternoon and transfer to check in at hotel for refreshment. Siem Reap is the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage Angkor Archaeological Park which is roughly 7 kilometres away.
There is a variety of Khmer massage and spa treatments or even fish massage. So, put your feet up as you prepare for your visit tomorrow.
Day 13: Angkor Wat Complex Full Day Tour
It is worth spending all day at the should-not-miss Angkor Wat Complex, a source of inspiration and national pride of Cambodia. The Angkor sites resemble the epic proportions of the Great Wall of China, the detail and intricacy of the Taj Mahal along with the symbolism and symmetry of the pyramids.
Your morning visit starts with the jungle Ta Prohm Temple, which is embraced by the roots of enormous fig trees and gigantic creepers. Transfer to the antique capital of Angkor Thom, where the exploration kicks off at the South Gate with its huge statues depicting the churning of the ocean of milk.
Behind the Gate, the Bayon Temple awaits you to uncover its 54 Khmer-decorated towers which illustrate over 200 smiling faces of Avolokitesvara. The rest of Angkor Thom includes a Hindu temple in Khleang style called the Phimeanakas; the Royal Enclosure which housed the palace complex of the Angkor kings; the Elephants Terrace and the Terrace of the Leper King.
In the afternoon, it’s time to discover the heart and soul of all temples on the plain, the Angkor Wat. The temple complex covers 81 hectares and is comparable in size to the Imperial Palace in Beijing.
Every eyewitness who once speculated the real Angkor Wat will understand why its 5 distinctive towers are emblazoned on the Cambodian national flag. It’s truly a masterpiece of the prime classical Khmer art and architecture.
Before leave the Angkor Wat, don’t forget to behold a marvellous sunset view from the complex or anywhere possible.
If you’re on a tour package, you’ll have a pleasant time for buffet dinner while being entertained by a Khmer Traditional Dance Show at a restaurant in Siem Reap.
Day 14: Siem Reap Free Day
This is the only day for you to freely pursue your own interests. So, list some worth-visit destinations beyond the Angkor temples to accomplish your Cambodia itinerary.
Perhaps hitting the markets for tons of appetizing dishes is the top recommendation. There is the Old Market at Phsar Chas, where you can feel the authentic Cambodian taste of some spices, multicoloured arrays of fresh produce, crispy fried tarantulas, octopus, chicken feet, etc.
If you’re in search of something tamer, give a try to fried banana kebabs, roasted corn or banana-chocolate pancakes.
In case you’re too busy during the daylight, you can still get the market experience at the Angkor Night Market.
For those in pursuit of relaxation, indulge yourself in a traditional Khmer massage after a long previous day of temple-touring. There are dozens of spas offering reflexology, massages with fresh local ingredients. With only USD3-USD5, you can completely immerse in a “fish massage” to nibble dead skin from your toes thanks to tiny fishes.
Last but not least, take a traditional cooking class to get one final insight into the heart of Cambodia cuisines. Khmer chef instructors will show you how to identify and mix the mysterious ingredients that you’ll need to create your culinary masterpiece.
Day 15: Siem Reap Departure
You’ll have the last morning in Siem Reap with scanty time for further activities. Depending on departure time, you can take advantage of spare time to get around for souvenirs. Siem Reap is paradise of handicrafts, sculptures, weaving silk to Kampot pepper. Make sure you have experiences in choosing the best Cambodian mementos to bring home.
Usually the hotel room is available until 12 pm, so take your time for packing and checking out on time. Leaving for the hotel, transfer to Siem Reap International Airport for boarding home.
Literally, 15 days are insufficient to explore the endless surprises of impressive history, marvellous landmarks and fascinating cuisines in these two Indochina countries.
Definitely, that’s what a travel agency is for. Instead of organizing everything on your own, you can take into consideration a Vietnam & Cambodia Tour, where a perfect itinerary is made up to fulfil your wanderlust.