Hanoi is the hub of Northern Vietnam. It is convenient to take day trips from Hanoi to explore the north of Vietnam.
In the east, Halong Bay is a world-renowned natural beauty spot, while to the south are the idyllic countryside of Ninh Binh and the dense green forests of Cuc Phuong National Park.
In this article, you can not only find out what day trip options are available, but also read our expert advice to help you choose trips that match your interests and situation.
1. Ninh Binh — for idyllic countryside scenery
- Distance: about 100 km (60 miles) from Hanoi, a 2-hour drive
Ninh Binh is well-known for its stunning landscape, limestone karst, mysterious caves, and lush paddy fields.
It is an incredible experience to take a boat trip at Tam Coc or Trang An, which is promoted as "Halong Bay on Land" (if you’d like some help choosing between the two, contact us for an insider's suggestion). A 2–3-hour journey along a winding river and canals will allow you to enjoy views of mountain cliffs, paddy fields, and hidden caves.
It is also popular to take a bike trip around the countryside in Trang An and Tam Coc. En route, climb up to the Hang Múa viewpoint to enjoy a bird's-eye view of Ninh Binh.
2. Halong Bay — for UNESCO heritage seascape cruises
- Distance: about 160 km (100 miles) from Hanoi, a 3½-hour drive
Halong Bay is a must-see attraction in Vietnam. It is a UNESCO Heritage site celebrated for its rugged limestone islets, karst caves, and turquoise water.
A one-day trip from Hanoi to Halong Bay is possible, but not a nice choice. It is not worth a journey of about 4 hours (each way) just to stay a few hours on the bay. A 4–6-hour cruise trip would give you a quick tour around the famous landmarks of the Bay.
A 2-day cruise with one night on the boat is recommended for a more relaxing trip. You will have a chance to experience activities like cycling on an islet, swimming, and kayaking.
See our private Hanoi and Halong Bay tour for inspiration or contact us to solve any puzzles you may have, such as how to choose a suitable cruise, and how to choose between Halong Bay and nearby Bai Tu Bay and Lan Ha Bay.
3. Mai Chau Valley — for hiking or cycling through remote villages
- Distance: about 140 km (87 miles) southwest of Hanoi, a 3½-hour drive
Mai Chau, located in an idyllic river valley, is an escape from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi.
Surrounded by a lush landscape and dotted with green rice paddies and small villages, this breathtaking valley is exactly what you might imagine if you picture the Vietnamese countryside.
If you're looking for an exciting adventure, Mai Chau might not a great option, but it's perfect for relaxing cycling or hiking.
It is possible to take a day trip, but many travelers spend a night there to experience the traditional stilted houses, which are home to the White Thai ethnic group.
Check out our sample itinerary including Mai Chau for inspiration.
4. Hoa Lu Ancient Capital — for a glimpse into Vietnam’s history
- Distance: about 90 km (55 miles) south of Hanoi, a 2-hour drive
If you are interested in the history of Vietnam, you could spend a day in Hoa Lu, which was once the capital of Vietnam during the 10th and 11th centuries.
Besides exploring historical relics, you can also hike up one of the small mountains surrounding the citadel to enjoy breathtaking views of the ancient capital.
5. Cuc Phuong National Park — for a green paradise
- Distance: about 130 km (80 miles) from Hanoi, a 3-hour drive
If you are a nature lover, you can consider a day trip to Cuc Phuong National Park, which is one of Vietnam’s largest parks and home to incredible biodiversity.
You can visit the Endangered Primate Rescue Central where rare primates of Vietnam are reared and rescued, discover the “Cave of Prehistoric Man”, a place preserving archaeological sites of prehistoric people thousands of years ago, and enjoy a wilderness trek through the dense, verdant jungle valley to a giant ancient tree, where you can enjoy the beauty of fauna and flora.
One of the best times to visit is from April to May, which is butterfly season.
It is easily accessible from Ninh Pinh. Many travelers combine it with a Ninh Pinh trip.
6. Perfume Pagoda — for a mix of culture and scenery
- Distance: about 50 km (30 miles) from Hanoi, 1-hour drive
If you want to have a cultural experience, you could take a day trip to Perfume Pagoda, which is one of the most sacred places in Northern Vietnam.
Beyond its complex of around 30 Buddhist shrines, it offers spectacular scenery of limestone cliffs and captivating caves with stunning stalactites and stalagmites.
You can travel by boat to the base of a mountain and then climb the steps or opt to ride the cable car up to Huong Tich Cave.
Try to avoid weekends as it is busy with local people then.
7. Bat Trang Village — for local pottery
- Distance: about 15 km (10 miles) from Hanoi, a ½-hour drive
Bat Trang Village is just a 30-minute drive away from Hanoi Old Quarter. It is a good day trip option if you don’t want to spend too much time on the way.
Bat Trang Village is famous for being a ceramic and pottery center. It is a place often enjoyed by parents and children. You can walk around the village to immerse yourself in rural life, admire a wide selection of ceramics, and learn about Vietnam's traditional crafts. You could join in a pottery class to experience Vietnamese pottery making.
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