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Day trips around Hanoi

Be it cultural, historical or just pure natural beauty the surrounds of Hanoi have many different options to fill your day. Have a read for ideas on how to enjoy this amazing part of the world.

Halong Bay

Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site, situated in the Golf of Tonkin, is without a doubt one of the main attractions in Vietnam. The sheer beauty of the thousands of limestone islands and islets makes this a scenic wonderland.

Tour operators offer day trips from Hanoi which includes all transfers to Halong Bay, access to the boat and a tasty seafood lunch. Depending on your tour you will get the option of spending your time kayaking or seeing the caves or possibly stopping at a small beach.

The Kangaroo café offers some great small group options which don’t break the bank. You also have the choice to book a private tour for those romantics out there. For two people the all inclusive cost is around the US $120 mark. Each person after that drops around US $15 so if you have extras or are happy to join a group the price is very reasonable.

Things to consider
Halong Bay is a beautiful part of the country and you could find the return trip a bit on the lengthy side if done on the same day, so if you have the time you may consider a two day one night option. If however you only have the day, then you should definitely fit this trip into your plans.

UNESCO Halong Bay
Halong Bay
Photo by Andrew Hux

Competition for your money is rife amongst the tour operators and the end result is cheaper prices. The problem is that many operators can’t provide the service they advertise and do not offer any follow up service, often because they act purely as ticket sellers for other companies. I suggest paying a bit more and staying away from the budget options.

For those who don’t care about the service and just the end result will be plagued with choice in Hanoi’s Old Quarter as every couple of shops offer day trip tours to Halong Bay. Hunt around and you won’t pay much at all.

Buffalo tours is another good choice which offer good trips to Halong Bay.

Jewel of the Delta

Travelling along the Red River on a private boat is definitely a good way to see the countryside of Northern Vietnam. After cruising down the river in the morning you make a stop and transfer onto bicycles giving you the chance to ride through the surrounding villages. The twisting roads will take you to some of the better known handicraft villages. Once back on board you are treated to a five course meal before stopping at Bat Trang Ceramic village, on your way back upriver.

Things to consider
The tour definitely allows a hassle free adventure along the Red River where everything is organised. Buffalo Tours sells this tour for around US $80 per person as a private option. If discovering the countryside is your main aim and you want a bit of adventure then I would recommend hiring a pushbike and making the trip yourself. Hiring a bike is no more than a few dollars and is a great way to escape the tourist path and feel a part of Vietnamese society. A trip from Hanoi to the ceramics village of Bat Trang is approximately 10km southeast from the centre, over Long Bien Bridge.

Ninh Binh

Travel a few hours south east of Hanoi and you will reach Ninh Binh. From there a 9 kilometre drive will take you to some of the most striking scenery in Northern Vietnam: Tam Coc. A stunning 2 hours boat ride takes you through the magical limestone landscapes often referred to as the Halong Bay on land. Also not far from Ninh Binh is Hoa Lu, the ancient capital of Vietnam. Day trips to this region can also include stops at the Phat Diem cathedral and the Bich Dong pagoda.

Vietnam Ninh Binh Tam Coc
Tam Coc Caves
Photo by TTVo

Things to consider
As with Halong Bay, decide what you want out of the experience and book a tour accordingly. There are private and group tours available for US $65 for which the service levels are high. You can pay half that and hope for the best.

Perfume Pagoda

Around 70km from Hanoi among the limestone rocks you will find a truly striking and spiritual setting. Here you will have the chance to view many of the pagodas and shrines of the area. The Perfume Pagoda is found within a cave built into the cliffs and you can only access by boat (90 minutes) followed by a steep mountain walk. There is now a cable car taking you to the top but if you can handle the walk it is worth it. The experience of getting to the pagoda is one in itself with the amazing landscape a wonder to enjoy.

Vietnam Perfume Pagoda
Perfume Pagoda
Photo by alejandroglobal

Things to consider
The pagoda is not only a big tourist attraction but is extremely popular for the locals as well. For this the area can get very busy so check before booking a trip if the Buddhist pilgrims are there in numbers. This can make for an interesting experience but if you prefer some peace and quite out of Hanoi Ninh Binh might be a better option.

Surrounding Villages

Once you leave the busy streets of Hanoi you may be surprised to find the contrasting lifestyles of the people. Travel only 10-20km out of town and the city is replaced by the village. Here you will be surrounded by agriculture and usually for each village they have a specialty.

For Bat Trang, the area of expertise is ceramics and here you will find nothing else but ceramic shops. Once you reach the market you will find a mass of choice from giant vases to life size ceramic animals, tea sets, artworks and any kind of kitchenware. Bat Trang is approximately 10km southeast of Hanoi, over the Long Bien Bridge.

Van Phuc is everything silk so if you want to fill up the suitcase this is definitely an option. Many of the silk items sold in Hanoi were made in Van Phuc so if you are interested in finding the source of the many beautiful garments you see in town this short trip is worth it. Van Phuc is approximately 8km southwest of Hanoi.

Le Mat is a snake village and if you are game is a good place to try out snake cuisine. The snakes are prepared in a number of different ways and for the adventurous the village can be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Here you can watch the snake being killed by the handlers, drink its blood and for one person, usually the oldest male, swallow the heart. As you can imagine this is not for the faint hearted. Le Mat is approximately 8km northeast of Hanoi.

Things to consider
Many tour operators offer day trips including all villages. For Bat Trang and Le Mat there is the option of hiring a pushbike. The scenery over the Long Bien Bridge takes you away from everything Hanoi and cruising on two wheels can be fun. For Van Phuc the ride there is not so beautiful so if you are not on a tour grab a taxi or if you are up for the challenge hire a motorbike.

The above list is by no means exhaustive and some other alternatives are the Ho Chi Minh Trail Museum, Thay & Tay Phuong Pagoda and Ba Vi National Park.

Filed Under: Featured, Hanoi

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Daniel Harding moved from Sydney to London in 2005 and has since caught the travel bug. He loves discovering new cultures and always appreciates colourful places and people. He hopes he can share a little bit of this passion through his writing.

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