There's so much to love about Hanoi, the great capital city, located in Northern Vietnam. It is definitely a must-visit place if you are in Vietnam! The city is filled with spectacular scenery, banging street food, rich history and culture.
The great thing about Hanoi is that the city is surrounded by national parks and other provinces that are perfect for day trips if you want to escape the crowded streets of Hanoi.
Take a Day Trip: 10 Great, Easy, & Affordable Options
1. Ninh Binh
Ninh Binh is famous for its jaw-dropping landscape, limestone karst rising up from bodies of water, alongside mysterious caves and lush paddy fields. No wonder 'King-Kong: Skull Island' was filmed here.
Most visitors start the day at Trang An. Here you should join a boat tour that takes you through a maze of rivers and waterways that is the Red River Delta. You will float through caves and glide past towering limestone karsts in a sampan.
After the boat ride in Trang An, you should definitely visit Tam Coc where you can explore the vast network of lime formations and check out amazing underground Tam Coc caves. These two places are just 10 minutes apart so it is very easy to travel from one to the other.
You can either take a bus, train or taxi from Hanoi to Ninh Binh. Travelling by limo bus is the most cost-effective and comfortable way, priced at about 130,000 VND per one-way ticket.
Duration: 2-hour drive from the south of Hanoi
2. Ha Long Bay- UNESCO World Heritage Site
One of the most popular destinations close to Hanoi is Halong Bay. An overnight cruise is a good way to truly enjoy this UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it also makes for a great day cruise, which is more budget-friendly.
Visit Halong Bay and cruise around the majestic seascape; take in the picturesque limestone mountains, wondrous caves, sandy beaches, and amazing biodiversity. Places of interest include the floating villages, Sung Sot Cave, one of the largest caves in Halong Bay, or Monkey Island, which is a great viewpoint and snorkelling spot.
There's so much to enjoy while taking in the natural beauty of Halong Bay, we even created a full guide to the best things to do in Halong Bay to prepare you for it!
The biggest island in Ha Long Bay is Cat Ba Island. Cat Ba Island offers a lot of interesting natural wonders. It has a national park that you can explore, nice beaches, and good food. Make some time to visit the famous Hospital Cave, tucked in the middle of the forests, it was operational during the Vietnam war.
Duration: 3 hours by boat, this will be a full day tour so it is best to book your itinerary in advance for a stress-free excellent trip.
3. Ho Citadel
Another UNESCO World Historical Site in Vietnam, the Ho Citadel can be found in the remote backwaters of Thanh Hoa Province.
The citadel was built in the 14th Century by the Ho Dynasty and formed the rulers' base of power in Vietnam. Lasting a mere 7 years, it nonetheless was a Dynasty of great historic significance. Additionally, UNESCO recognises that the citadel (built-in three months!) as an outstanding example of a new style of Southeast Asian imperial city.
The citadel is empty, no palace, no pagodas, no monuments. It is just the four walls surrounding the bare land. Interestingly, it now contains farmland, and which is actively used by Vietnamese farmers in the area. Stop by a local restaurant to sample fresh Northern Vietnamese food.
Duration: Approximately 3 hours by car
4. Mai Chau Valley
Allow the rural landscape to enchant you at Mai Chau Valley, and visit traditional villages to learn more about the different cultures of Vietnam. Take a sneak peek into the daily life of the Tai Dam and Tai Cao ethnic minorities who live in stilt houses that are elevated above ground in case of annual floods.
The best way to get around is by motorbike or bicycle - which you can rent from the hotels or shops in the area. You might also want to spend some time hiking around the beautiful rice paddies and take in the sights of jagged mountain ridges. Some of the most impressive views of the mountains and rice terraces are from the Thung Khe Pass.
Duration: Approximately 3 hours
5. Cuc Phuong National Park
Home to the Muong ethnic minority, Co Phuong National Park is the first established and largest national park in Vietnam. While extremely popular as a destination for day trips from Hanoi, you can also choose to stay here overnight.
Head over here to be one with nature - get ready to hike around the rural landscapes of lush forests, swim into crystal clear lakes, and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the mountains.
Rich in Biodiversity and wildlife, the park is also running conservation programmes to protect the endangered species in the area, including primates, pangolins, and turtles.
The butterfly season is a great time to visit the national park, you will be able to see almost 400 different types of butterfly species. This runs from the end of April for about a month.
Duration: Approximately 3 hours by car. We recommend booking a private car.
6. Perfume Pagoda
One of the most sacred pilgrimage sites in Vietnam, the Buddhist Perfume Pagoda is a complex of many temples, shrines, and houses built into the limestone cliffs of the Huong (Perfume) mountains.
Many visitors choose a boat ride along the Yen River to take them to the start of the temples, giving them a good view of the Vietnamese Buddhist architecture set amongst the mountains. After that, you have an option either to hike or take the cable car up to the top of Huong Tich mountain to visit Perfume Pagoda and Huong Tich Cave. Hiking to the Perfume Pagoda is a bit of a challenge, the steps are steep but the journey is worth it! You will be able to take in the peaceful surroundings and see different altars on the way up.
The cave is filled with stalagmites and stalactites, which are named after the blessings people seek. Dun Tien offers prosperity and Nui Co offers the chance of having a baby while Dun Gao is for people hoping for a bountiful harvest.
Duration: 2 hours by car
7. Ba Vi National Park
If you are looking to immerse yourself in nature, a day trip from Hanoi to Ba Vi National Park is a great choice!
The national park has three peaks, visitors can hike through the towering mountains, rivers and tropic rainforest that is well preserved and protected. There is also an orchid garden that you can also enjoy.
Starting from the base, after about 45 minutes of hiking, the path forks to the different peaks. Take the left to Dinh But peak to see a shrine dedicated to the founder of modern Vietnam Ho Chi Minh. Take the right to see the shrine of Tan Vien, an immortal hero in Vietnamese legends.
If the sky is clear enough, you will be able to see Hanoi from the top. After a few hours hike, you could also enjoy some spa time in some of the resort's hot springs and experience being in a mud bath for a refreshing finish!
Duration: Approximately 1 hour by car
8. Bat Trang Village
If you are not keen to travel for hundreds of kilometres, Bat Trang Village is the trip for you. This day trip from Hanoi is only 13 kilometres or a short thirty minutes away from Hanoi Old Quarter.
Bat Trang Village is famous for being a ceramic and pottery centre. This is a great getaway for those wanting to understand more about Vietnam's traditional crafts. It is said to have been established as early as the 10th century, and if not then by the 14th or 15th centuries.
A budget-friendly way to take in the sights is by walking around the village, immerse yourself in rural life, and window shop while you visit the porcelain and pottery workshops and stores. Otherwise, opt for a guided tour to better understand the history of the place and to find out the meanings behind different motifs on the pottery.
A fun thing to do would be to join a pottery workshop, a great way to enjoy the culture, and get a personalised souvenir to take home!
9. Tam Dao
If Hanoi summer gets too hot for you, visit the cool mountain town of Tam Dao. It is about 70 km away from Hanoi, the drive is an hour and half long.
It was once a French hill resort that was built by Europeans to flee from the warm summer weather of Hanoi. It is still a hilltop resort but most of the French architecture is gone. One of the remainders is Tam Dao Stone Church, an iconic attraction built in 1906 which is symbolic of the town’s French connection. Not far away from the church, you will find one of Tam Dao's hidden gems - the silver waterfalls known as Thác Bạc. An absolutely stunning waterfall that will make your day.
There are also some hiking opportunities you can do to visit the Ba Chua Thuong Ngan Temple and the viewpoint at the Tam Dao TV Tower that you can also explore.
10. Hoa Lu- Ancient Capital
Hoa Lu is one of Vietnam's ancient capital, it was the capital of Vietnam in the 10th and 11th centuries. Located 90km south of Hanoi in Truong Yen commune, Hoa Lu district, Ninh Binh Province.
Known as the first capital of Vietnam, it was the focal point of the ancient Vietnamese Kingdom called Dai Co Viet. Once the centre of life and politics, it is now an important historic and cultural site.
Visit the ancient citadel, city walls, temples, tombs and pagodas. The two most significant sites here are the temple of Dinh Tien Hoang Emperor and the temple of Le Dai Hanh Emperor.
If you are lucky enough to live in Hanoi, you have one week in Hanoi, spice up your time with these day trips from the capital city. Day trips are also some of the most budget-friendly ways to see North Vietnam, given that you do not need to book accommodation in a new place. From hiking to pottery making, from cruising to visiting historic sites, the list of things to do is never-ending.
After a hard day's work day-tripping, it's time to eat some awesome must-try food from Hanoi.
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