With over 1,000 years of history and a vibrant street-food scene, Hanoi is a destination in its own right, but don’t miss out on the rest of northern Vietnam. From UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Halong Bay and Tam Coc to scenic valleys and historic pagodas, there are great day trips to be had. Here are four.
Halong Bay—about 93 miles (150 kilometers) away
North Vietnam’s No. 1 attraction, UNESCO-listed Halong Bay delivers limestone caverns, arches, islands, and pinnacles amid a surreal seascape dotted with floating villages and fish farms. Day cruises typically include activities such as kayaking as well as a seafood lunch and some beach time.
Tam Coc—about 65 miles (104 kilometers) away
Often combined with a visit to the ancient citadel Hoa Lu and/or the charming Bich Dong Pagoda, Tam Coc forms part of Ninh Binh’s UNESCO-listed Trang An Landscape Complex. Ride a boat down a river through startling karst landscapes, lush rice paddies, and caves, or explore the area’s rural charms by bike.
Mai Chau—about 81 miles (131 kilometers) away
In this sleepy valley, White Thai minority families still live in traditional stilt houses, much as they have for centuries, and the pace of life is slow. Mai Chau and the area around it makes a great location for hiking, biking, inhaling fresh air, and rice-field scenery, and perhaps enjoying a home-cooked local lunch.
Perfume Pagoda—about 34 miles (55 kilometers) away
Approached by a stunning boat ride between limestone cliffs, the Perfume Pagoda is one of Vietnam’s most scenic temple complexes, with a history that dates back over 500 years. Shrines and pagodas stud the cliffs of Huong Tich Mountain. There’s a cable car to the summit if you don’t fancy the hike.