Meet a driver at your hotel in Old Hanoi for an 8 to 8:30am departure, then begin the 2-hour journey to Duc Port in an air-conditioned vehicle. You’ll have great views of the Red River Delta throughout the drive, flat valley bottoms with the backdrop of limestone cliffs.
Upon arrival at Duc Port, board a sampan rowing boat for a leisurely drive down the Yen River—you’ll stop along the way to see the Pagoda of Representation, or Den Trinh. When you reach the base of Huong Tich Mountain, begin the 1- to 1.5-hour hike to the summit, following a step path up the slope.
The Perfume Pagoda is not one shrine, but a series of temples and shrines built into the limestone cliffs, so you’ll have a lot to see along the way to the summit. At the top of the mountain you’ll find Huong Tich Cave and the Pagoda of the Perfumed Vestige, among the most important destinations for Vietnam’s Mahayana Buddhists.
Pause for lunch in a local restaurant, then continue to a final pagoda, Thien Tru, which dates to the 17th century, then begin the return trip to Hanoi in the late afternoon.
Note: It's also possible to take a cable car up Huon Tich Mountain (own expense).