Looking for the best day trips from Hanoi? I’ve got some great suggestions for you – read on for details!
Hanoi, the cultural capital of Vietnam (and actual capital for that matter) is a must-visit for anyone visiting the country. Indeed, Hanoi, with its romantic old-world streets, unique history, and amazing food was a high point in our trip to Vietnam.
But once you’ve wrapped up your time in the city itself, there is a myriad of interesting day trip opportunities to experience even more of Vietnam’s gorgeous landscapes and cultural destinations.
These day trips from Hanoi, whether you’re visiting ancient temples, rice terraces, beautiful waterways, or small villages, provide a glimpse into Vietnam’s history and charm, and leave a lasting memory of this southeast Asian country.
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9 Incredible Day Trips from Hanoi, Vietnam
1. Quang Phu Cau – The Incense Village
Recommended Tour: Colors of the Incense Village Tour
⭐ Ratings: 5 of 5 stars | ⏳ Tour Time: 5-6 hours
There are many exquisite craft villages near Hanoi, but the most picturesque among these villages must be Quang Phu Cau, known as the Incense Village. This beautiful village has upheld the ancient practice of incense craftsmanship for more than a century.
No matter where you visit in Vietnam, you will observe yellow and red incense sticks being used for worship at temples and pagodas. These incense sticks are an integral aspect of an important part of Vietnamese culture, and a trip to the incense village is both culturally significant and also extremely beautiful.
And it is absolutely a sight to behold – as bundles of incense sticks are fanned open to dry and cure, and the streets and large and small courtyards are covered in brightly covered incense bundles. Often, the locals will arrange these rows of colorful bundles into pretty designs.
It is polite and expected to tip around 50,000 VND (about $2) to take photos around the incense bundles, which is a small price to pay for one of the most incredible, photogenic places in Vietnam.
How To Visit:
By Bus: Take the #91 Bus south from Hanoi. Ask the driver to stop at Quang Phu Cau for you.
By Taxi: You can hire a taxi to take you down, but make sure you ask him to stay, as taxis can be hard to find in the village.
By Private Guided Tour: This is one of the best options for visiting the Incense Village, as your private guide will pick you up, drive you directly to the village, and then take you around the village and show you all the stages of incense production.
This particular tour has a focus on getting great pictures, so your guide will show you the best places and help you get the best shots.
2. Van Phuc Silk Village
Recommended Tour: Cu Da and Van Phuc Villages Tour
⭐ Ratings: 5 of 5 stars | ⏳ Tour Time: 8 hours
One nearby but still fascinating day trip from Hanoi is the Van Phuc Silk Village. Located just 10 kilometers southwest of Hanoi, this craft village is a respite from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Van Phuc has a 2000-year-old history in the ancient art of silk weaving. You can watch talented silk weavers ply their craft on simple looms to create colorful silk fabrics. Stroll the streets to browse the many boutique shops selling high-quality silk apparel and cloth.
As you enter the ornate gate of the silk village, your senses come alive with views of the umbrellas of many colors shading the streets. There is a beautiful garden with a tranquil pond and an impressive shrine. You will also find a temple honoring Ho Chi Minh, who resided here at one time.
Van Phuc is the oldest silk village in Vietnam making it a must-see attraction. The vibrant colors of silks will draw you to explore the beautiful streets. Silk articles from Van Phuc make a wonderful gift or souvenir of Vietnam.
How To Visit:
By Bus: There are multiple buses that run throughout the day to the Silk Village – I’d recommend just checking Google Maps to see the best option from where you’re located. The bus will take about an hour.
By Taxi: You can hire a taxi to take you down, or you can use Grab, Vietnam’s version of Uber, to order a car. It’s a good idea to ask your driver to wait for you to return.
By Private Guided Tour: This is one of the best options for visiting the Silk Village, as your private guide will pick you up, drive you directly to the village, and then take you around the village and teach you about the production of silk, and show you the best shops
You’ll also visit another nearby fascinating craft village that makes vermicelli noodles and soybean paste.
3. Perfume Pagoda (Chua Huong)
Recommended Tour: Perfume Pagoda Tour from Hanoi
⭐ Ratings: 5 of 5 stars | ⏳ Tour Time: 8 hours
The Perfume Pagoda is a bit of a hidden gem day trip from Hanoi (at least for foreigners), but it is still one of the most interesting places to visit in Vietnam. When you go, you’ll enjoy a very local experience, and one of the few Westerners around (when we visited, we counted maybe 10 among thousands of locals).
But what is the Perfume Pagoda? This is a complex of Buddhist temples built along the Houng Tich mountain chain. Chua Trong, located inside a cave, is the most important of the temples.
Getting to the Perfume Pagoda is an experience and part of the fun of this day trip. You are better off arranging a guided tour such as this one. Indeed, while the area is actually quite close to the city, there’s a lot of traffic that makes moving around on public transport even slower.
To visit the Perfume Pagoda, you’ll first ride in a wooden boat ride along the Yen stream to Thien Tru harbor. Boats are traditionally maneuvered by women and move quite slowly through the valley, so it is a very pleasant ride – the surrounding views are stunning.
Once you get to Thien Tru, you will find what really looks like a market, with food and souvenir stalls. You can hike up to the various pagodas and caves and then take the cable car down for even more impressive views.
One thing to keep in mind is that this part of Vietnam can be very humid, so depending on the time of year you are visiting, you may find quite a bit of mist and muddy terrain. Wearing good hiking boots with a good grip is essential for this day trip, even if you think you will just be sightseeing!
How To Visit:
By Bus: The village where the boat tours to the Perfume Pagoda start is Ben Duc Village. There are multiple buses that run throughout the day to Ben Duc and you can look them up on the transit tab of Google Maps. However, the bus can take over 3 hours to reach Ben Duc, whereas a car is almost half that, I’d recommend doing a tour or hiring a driver.
By Taxi: You can hire a taxi or order a Grab to take you down. It’s a good idea to ask your driver to wait for you to return.
By Private Guided Tour: Your local guide will drive you directly to the village docks, where you’ll get in a boat and enjoy the gentle ride down the river. You’ll take a cable car ride up the mountain and then stop at all the caves and pagodas that dot the mountain as you walk back down.
The views, activities, and experiences all make for an unforgettable Hanoi day tour.
4. Ninh Binh/Tam Coc
Recommended Tour: Highlights of Ninh Binh Tour
⭐ Ratings: 4.97 of 5 stars | ⏳ Tour Time: 11 hours
Located two hours south of Hanoi, Ninh Binh (and the neighboring town of Tam Coc) are beautiful destinations. Known as “Halong Bay on land”, Ninh Binh and Tam Coc are filled with tall limestone cliffs reminiscent of what you’d see in Halong Bay, with a vast network of waterways that wind through the mountains.
The top thing to do in Ninh Binh is to go on a boat tour through the waterways, on a traditional wooden boat rowed by a local woman or man. These tours will take you on the rivers and streams, through the river caves, and up to different pagodas and temples right on the river shore. These waterways are also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
You can also visit the Hang Mua Caves, which is a beautiful viewpoint on top of some mountains, or the Bich Dong Pagoda, located nearby. The Hoa Lu Citadel is also a fascinating stop in Ninh Binh, as this was the capital of Vietnam in the 11th and 12th centuries.
This was probably our favorite spot we visited in all of North Vietnam – we loved biking around the countryside, the laidback vibes, and the beautiful views.
How To Visit:
By Train: Ninh Binh has its own train station, and there are direct trains a couple of times a day from Hanoi down to Ninh Binh. You can check the schedules and make reservations on 12 Go Asia
By Guided Tour: A small-group guided tour is a great way to experience Ninh Binh, as the sites are spread out in the countryside enough that you’ll either need to take taxis or rent a scooter or bicycle to get around.
This tour takes you to all the main points in Ninh Binh – that we mention here, and also gives you some time to bicycle around the countryside.
5. Halong Bay
Recommended Tour: Full Day on Halong Bay from Hanoi
⭐ Ratings: 5 of 5 stars | ⏳ Tour Time: 12 hours
Halong Bay is one of the most popular and well-known destinations in all of Vietnam, and is very deservedly a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The entire bay is filled with these tall, sheer, limestone mountains that emerge from the water everywhere you look. While many people choose to spend a couple of days on an overnight cruise in the bay, if you’re limited on time, you can definitely have a great time on a day trip.
On a Halong Bay day cruise, you’ll get in a traditional “junk boat” and glide between the breathtaking mountain-meets-bay landscapes. You’ll also get the chance to visit floating villages, go kayaking in the bay, visit some caves, go swimming, eat a seafood lunch, and of course, relax on the boat’s sundeck.
How To Visit:
By Guided Tour: For this day trip, I actually think the only option to consider is going by guided tour because the logistics are just much simpler.
You’ll get round trip transportation from Hanoi down to the harbor in Halong Bay and then all the activities mentioned above.
6. Lan Ha Bay
Recommended Tour: 5 Star Lan Ha + Halong Bay Day Cruise
⭐ Ratings: 4.88 of 5 stars | ⏳ Tour Time: 12 hours
If you want to see the turquoise waters and lush limestone islands of Ha Long Bay—but without all the crowds, take a daytrip from Hanoi to Lan Ha Bay, which is located adjacent to its more famous cousin.
From Hanoi, you’ll need to either take an organized tour or, alternatively, a bus and ferry to Cat Ba Island, which takes approximately three and a half to four hours (one-way).
From Cat Ba, you’ll have a few options to explore the stunning scenery of the Gulf of Tonkin. For example, there are several outfitters on the island, which will provide you a kayak rental and transfer to Lan Ha Bay.
Once on the water, you can take a self-guided tour around the beautiful lagoons and hidden caves, carved into the massive karsts, the bay has to offer.
Alternatively, if you want to cover more ground (or, in this case, more water!), consider going on an organized tour, which usually will include a cruise on a larger boat. You’ll be able to see way more of the gorgeous limestone islands and dive a bit deeper into this unique area this way.
For example, many tours, like this one, pass by or even stop at floating villages, where families of fishermen depend on the ocean for food, income, and even shelter. Additionally, most of these tours include cruising around the bay at sunset, so you can take in the towering karts, illuminated by golden light.
How To Visit:
By Bus: There are multiple buses running from Hanoi to Halong Bay every day. I would recommend checking timetables and making a reservation on 12Go Asia.
By Guided Tour: A guided day tour from Hanoi to Lan Ha and Halong Bay is certainly going to be the easiest option, by far. This tour provides round trip transportation from Hanoi to the docks, plus your 5-6 hour boat cruise. Your boat is updated and modern and has nice places for lounging,
The tour includes lunch, cruising through the bay, kayaking, plus time for swimming and playing on the waterslide and water trampoline.
7. Cat Ba Island
Recommended Tour: Cat Ba: Rock Climbing on Moody Beach Tour
⭐ Ratings: 5 of 5 stars | ⏳ Tour Time: 11 hours
Often noted as one of the most beautiful islands in Asia, Cat Ba Island is the perfect place for an adventurous day trip from Hanoi. It is the largest island in Halong Bay, but is a much more affordable place to experience the beautiful beaches and clear waters of this region.
From Hanoi, Cat Ba Island can be reached by car in two hours or by bus in just over three hours.
There are plenty of activities to do on the island including hiking through the National Park and spotting Langurs (small monkeys with golden hair), swimming in the sea at one of the four secluded beaches (aptly named Cat Ba Beach 1 to 4), taking a cruise along Lan Ha Bay, or trying one of the most popular things to do in the area, rock climbing.
Cat Ba Island has plenty of places to rock climb including Moody’s Beach and Hai Pai Beach, which are both adorned with steep limestone rocks. They are perfect for beginners or experienced climbers, but it is best to join a tour as some of the beaches can only be reached by boat.
How To Visit:
By Guided Tour: Definitely the best way to visit Moody Beach and go rock climbing is with a tour group. which includes all the necessary gear and equipment, help from experienced professionals, lunch, time for swimming on the beach, and a ride on a traditional junk boat.
It doesn’t include transportation from Hanoi, but the tour will give you information on what buses to take from Hanoi to reach their location.
8. Duong Lam Ancient Village
Recommended Tour: Duong Lam Local Life Village tour
⭐ Ratings: 5 of 5 stars | ⏳ Tour Time: 9 hours
Reachable in under 2 hours by road from Hanoi, Duong Lam Ancient Village is an easy side trip from Vietnam’s capital city. Perfectly suited to history/architecture buffs and families alike, Duong Lam offers visitors the opportunity to step back in time and get a taste for what Hanoi might have been like in centuries past.
Located in the Red River Delta, Duong Lam is an agricultural settlement and living museum where much of the traditional village architecture has been preserved. This includes the old village gates, communal courtyard and water well, and more than 900 traditional wooden houses.
Things to see in Duong Lam include the many pagodas, the elegant Mong Phu village hall, and the ancient banyan trees. In recent years several contemporary art galleries and trendy cafes have popped up, too.
Duong Lam is easy to get to by taxi or public bus. The village is compact and relatively straightforward to navigate – set out on foot, following your nose down the winding alleyways, or hire a bicycle from one of the vendors near the main gate and cycle around.
For a more in-depth look at village culture and the Northern Vietnamese traditions that are still alive in Duong Lam, join an excursion from Hanoi with a local guide.
Remember that Duong Lam is a real village where families live and work – please be courteous and respectful of people’s privacy when exploring, and especially when taking photos.
How To Visit:
By Bus: There are multiple buses that run throughout the day to Duong Lam – I’d recommend just checking the transit tab on Google Maps to see the best option from where you’re located. The bus will take about 2-3 hours.
By Taxi: You can hire a taxi to take you down, or you can use Grab, Vietnam’s version of Uber, to order a car. It’s recommended to ask your taxi or driver to wait for you at the village.
By Private Guided Tour: This day tour to Duong Lam from Hanoi gives you an insightful and interesting experience in the village. In a small group, your local guide will show you the historical sites in town, take you to the temples, and introduce you to an ethnic family, who you’ll have lunch with.
9. Mai Chau
Recommended Tour: Mai Chau Full Day Guided Trip
⭐ Ratings: 5 of 5 stars | ⏳ Tour Time: 10 hours
Mai Chau is located in northern Vietnam, only a three-hour drive from the lively capital Hanoi. It’s the perfect destination if you want to get out of the city and visit a tranquil place where life still goes at a relaxed pace.
Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, in Mai Chau, you can find lush rice paddies, towering limestone karts, and stunning valleys.
The area is inhabited by the White Thai ethnic minority known for their warm hospitality and traditional stilt houses that dot the landscape. A great way to immerse yourself in the character of Mai Chau is to participate in activities organized by the White Thai, like taking part in a weaving class or participating in traditional dances.
Furthermore, Mai Chau is a trekking and cycling paradise with cute roads that are car-free and beautiful terraces of rice fields to explore higher up in the mountains.
You can also find many more attractions in Mai Chau like caves, Hoa Binh Lake, and the Goc Lao Waterfall. If you don’t have your own wheels, Mai Chau is best explored from Hanoi by an organized tour. This full-day tour from Hanoi with lunch lets you take in the most important sights.
Mai Chau is a particularly good day trip from Hanoi if you don’t have time to make it out to Sapa, but want to experience the beautiful rice-growing countryside of Vietnam.
How To Visit:
By Bus: I wouldn’t recommend going by bus to Mai Chau – first off, there isn’t a direct bus, and second, any route that involves a bus is going to take much longer, making it almost not worth the trip out. I’d go with a private driver, but ideally a guided tour for this experience.
By Taxi: You can hire a taxi or get a Grab to drive you to Mai Chau, but you will definitely want to arrange for the driver to wait and take you back to Hanoi.
By Guided Tour: This small group tour to Mai Chau includes a driver to the countryside – you’ll stop at mountain passes to admire the view, and then visit several of the villages in the valley. You’ll enjoy lunch with a local family, and then hop on a bike to explore the beautiful hamlets and admire the rice fields in the valley and on the terraces.
The Wrap Up – Best Day Trips from Hanoi
We had an incredible time exploring Hanoi, but to truly experience Vietnam you will want to explore the other amazing sights and treasures in the regions around it. Using Hanoi as a base for these trips, you can sample from the various delights Vietnam offers.
Hopefully these examples can inspire you to visit and dive deeply into Vietnamese culture. Happy travels!