3 Days In Hanoi and Halong Bay: Explore The Beauty of Northern Vietnam

Not only is the region home to the capital city, but Northern Vietnam is also an outstanding destination. You can immerse in the stunning beauty of turquoise seas, dazzling rice terraces, and divergent cultures. Hanoi and Halong Bay are the unrivaled treasure to explore during your 3-day itinerary in Northern.

Northern Vietnam - 3 days in hanoi and halong

Coming up with local experiences in 3 days in Hanoi and Halong Bay seems to be difficult. You do not need to worry, our handy travel guide will be useful for your trip. So, are you ready to explore Northern Vietnam known as a true adventure? Check it out now!

A Glimpse of Your 3-day Itinerary in Hanoi and Halong Bay

Hanoi and Halong Bay are the must-visit destinations in Northern Vietnam. The advisable time to visit two places is in the Spring (from March to May) because of pleasant weather, no rain, and no cloudy sky. Here is a brief of your trip in Hanoi and Halong in 3 days:

  • Day 1: Hanoi Arrival and discover the ancient capital city
  • Day 2: Explore Halong Bay – Bai Tu Long on your cruise
  • Day 3: Relax on Halong bay and come back to Hanoi city

A Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Start off your first adventure in Hanoi city

Arrival at Noi Bai airport in Hanoi. After a short break, we will take a cyclo tour around the old town.

1. Wander around Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake

Located near to Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi Old Quarter is one of the most attractive cultural and historical attractions in Hanoi. Getting lost in Hanoi Old Quarter on your one-hour cyclo tour is the best way to enjoy the bustle and hustle atmosphere here. Starting from the Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc Square, you can watch the old-styled houses hidden in a row of colorful shops.

Ho Guom Lake - 3 days in hanoi and halong

During the 15th century, there are a total of 76 streets (instead of the current 36 streets), in which each street name represents the name of the product the guild was specialized in. The long and narrow buildings called tube houses became a familiar image in the Old Quarter because taxes were imposed based on the width of their storefront. The bustling exchanging activities in markets and craft guilds take place in the east of the city. Also, the craft and agricultural village lies on the north and west of Hanoi city.

2. Enjoy the authentic tastes of Hanoi food

What’s more, you will round-eye with surprise by the fact that there is a whole range of products and dishes you can discover without planning in advance. One day is not enough for culinary exploration but our incentive food list can give you the most wonderful taste buds.

* Vietnamese Noodle (Pho)

Firstly, the melt-in-your-mouth flavor with a reasonable price (about $2) of Vietnamese noodles will make you full all day.

Vietnamese Pho - 3 days in hanoi and halong
– Pho Bat Dan – 49 Bat Dan street, Cua Dong Ward, Hoan Kiem District
– Pho Lam – 7 Nam Ngu Street, Cua Nam Ward, Hoan Kiem District

*, Grilled & Fried Fish with Rice Noodles (Cha ca)

Cha Ca involves pan-fried chunks of meaty, fatty skinned fish, turmeric, dill, peanuts, shrimp paste, and rice noodles.

Cha ca - 3 days in hanoi and halong
– Cha Ca La Vong – 84 Tran Quoc Toan Street, Tran Hung Dao Ward, Hoan Kiem District

*, Grilled Pork & Noodles (Bun Cha)

Lastly, bun cha is one of the national dishes in Vietnam. Do not forget to add fried spring rolls to your portion in order to fill your stomach with your unique local taste.

Bun cha - 3 days in hanoi and halong
– Bun Cha Hang Quat – 74 Hang Quat Street, Hang Gai Ward, Hoan Kiem District
– Bun Cha Huong Lien – 24 Le Van Huu street, Phan Chu Trinh Ward, Hai Ba Trung District

>> Fun Fact: Bun Cha is famous in the world when Anthony Bourdain and Barack Obama sat on little chairs to enjoy at Bún Chả Hương Liên.

3. Watch the cultural show “My Village” in Hanoi Opera House

Constructed in 1911, it is historical and cultural evidence of Vietnam under the ruling French. It is also the biggest theatre in Vietnam where is more appreciated than the theater in France. Specially, A wide range of important musical performances takes place in this French architectural landmark.

Specifically, this show offers you a deep insight into the traditional village life displaying through the new-circus approach. The bamboo trunk is the main acting tool throughout Lang Toi (My Village) with the skillful artists which create the acrobatics, breathtaking juggling, and graceful contortion. Additionally, this stage is combined with more than 20 different traditional Vietnamese instruments.

Address: No.01 Trang Tien Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.

4. Go sightseeing in the historical landmarks in the middle of Hanoi

*, Ngoc Son Temple

First of all, you will impress with the red wooden bridge (The Huc Bridge) connected with the mainland. Appeared more than 1000 years, this temple is dedicated to the national hero, Tran Hung Dao, who defeated the Mongols in the 13th century. Ngoc Son Temple is also called “Lake of the Returned Sword”. Specifically, it attached to the famous Vietnamese legend of “magical sword” which helped an emperor defeat the Chinese Ming Dynasty.

Ngoc Son Temple - 3 days in hanoi and halong

Inside this temple, you admire the traditional architecture of Vietnam pagodas. There is a wide range of large bronze Buddha statues, many ceramic artifacts, and a huge turtle found in the lake weighing apparently 250kg. Especially, it is also an ideal destination for you to rest and enjoy the breathtaking view of the lake.

*, Hoa Lo Prison ‘The Hanoi Hilton’

Known as Maison Centrale, Hoa Lo Prison was constructed during the long struggle of the French between 1886 to 1901. This place is a historical symbol of the Vietnamese patriots’ will and sacrifice for national independence. Furthermore, it also reminds the sufferings of Vietnamese revolutionaries in the 20th century.

Hoa Lo Prison - 3 days in hanoi and halong

You will watch the frightful French guillotine that is used to behead Vietnamese revolutionaries during the American War. The artifacts, the cramped confinement cells are clear evidence of hideous treatment for prisoners during the war. All you see in the current Hoa Lo Prison is just the small part of this complex because the majority of the prison was destroyed to build the luxurious complex – Hanoi Towers.

*, Van Mieu (Temple of Literature)

Near the Presidential palace and Vietnam Fine Arts Museum, the temple of Literature is the first university in Vietnam dedicated to Confucius, scholars, and sages. What’s more, this ancient temple offers traditional-style Vietnamese architecture, from the Well of Heavenly Clarity to pavilions, courtyards.

Temple of literature- 3 days in hanoi and halong

Established from the Ly and Tran dynasties, you will explore historic buildings where thousands of doctors graduated and contributed highly to the education and literature. Their name had been engraved on a stone stele which can be found on the top of the stone turtles.

*, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is one of the most visited destinations you cannot ignore when coming to Hanoi. This huge monumental marble edifice is the final resting place of Vietnamese leader, Ho Chi Minh, who declared the independence of Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh mausoleum - 3 days in hanoi and halong

Vietnamese people call him the Great Father of the country. A tour around Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum only lasts for 1.5 hours, which gives you many historical secrets of Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

5. Have a nightlife on the Walking Street

Your Hanoi nightlife will not be complete without drinking beer on the sidewalk on Ta Hien Street or join in street activities with local people.

Ta Hien Street - 3 days in hanoi and halong

It only opens on the weekend (from Friday nights to Sunday nights). Take a short walk along the street, you can immerse in many street art performances and traditional games.

Day 2: Explore the natural wonder Halong Bay on your cruise

Halong Bay – “Descending Dragon Bay” has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Natural Heritage Site in 1994 and 2000. According to the legend, if Halong Bay is the Mother Dragon then Bai Tu Long Bay is the Child Dragon. Bai Tu Long is more primitive and pristine, with the luxury of having fewer tourists cruising around.

*, How to get to Halong Bay:

About 125km from Hanoi, it takes 2-2.5 hours to get from Hanoi to Halong Bay. There is a wide range of transportations you can use to go to Halong Bay such as a local bus, motorbike, private car, train, or waterways.

Halong Bay - 3 days in hanoi and halong

Taking a Halong Cruise is nice to admire the majestic beauty of limestone islands on 434 sq km of green-emerald sea.  With a 3-day itinerary in Hanoi and Halong Bay, we recommend you to choose a one-night cruise.

Route Lan Ha Bay – Cat Ba Island – Ha Long Bay (2D1N or longer) Halong Bay – Bai Tu Long Bay (2D1N or longer) Lan Ha Bay – Ha Long Bay – Bai Tu Long Bay (3D2N or longer)
Port Got Ferry Terminal (Cat Hai, Hai Phong) Hon Gai International Harbor (Halong City) Hon Gai International Harbor
Cruises Departing Paloma cruise, Lan Ha Legend cruise, Emerald cruise Dragon Pearl Junk, White Dolphin cruise, Huong Hai Sealife, Royal Wing, Dragon Legend, Swan Cruise and more Au Co, White Dolphin cruise, Royal Wing, Dragon Legend, Swan Cruise and more
Facility Hotel Style (Sea-view rooms with private bathrooms, spa, gym) Hotel Style (Sea-view rooms with private bathrooms, spa, gym) Hotel Style (Sea-view rooms with private bathrooms, spa, gym)
Type of Trips Private/Shared Cruise Private/Shared Cruise Private/Shared Cruise
Type of Boats Classic Wooden Junk / Modern Luxury Cruise Classic Wooden Junk / Modern Luxury Cruise Classic Wooden Junk / Modern Luxury Cruise
Capacity 1-40 cabins 1-40 cabins 1-40 cabins
Activities Cave visiting
Beach & inland activities
Floating village
Cave visiting
Beach activities
Floating village
Cave visiting
Beach & inland activities
Floating village

1. Marvel at the pristine and unspoiled beauty of Bai Tu Long Bay

Compared to Halong Bay, Bai Tu Long is more pristine and less-touristy, which is your ideal off-the-beaten-track destination that attracts many adventures recently.

Bai Tu Long - 3 days in hanoi and halong

To be specific, what makes Bai Tu Long special is the majestic nature of karsts and limestone mountains rising from the water. The route to Bai Tu Long is quite long with lesser attractions for various activities. However, you can enjoy the fresh air with the tranquil mode throughout your trip.

2. Get the heavenly sight from Thien Canh Son Cave

Situated in the tranquil region of Bai Tu Long Bay, you must climb up 60 steps to enter the cave. Opposite to the unassuming entrance, you will be round-eye with surprise by what is held within. It consists of three main caverns in which each strewn is filled with ethereal stalactites and stalagmites.

Thien Son Canh - 3 days in hanoi and halong

You’ll hear about the formation of Thien Canh Son cave as well as the special structure attached to recognizable objects such as lotus flower, a baby elephant. So, it is a good chance for extending your imagination and sense of humor. After finishing your exploration tour, it is nice to step back out into daylight and take some shots.

3. Kayaking on Cong Do Island

According to the National Geographic Adventures Magazine, Halong Bay is one of the top 25 kayaking destinations in the World. Many archaeologists prove that Cong Do Island had been a transit point of goods in the system of Van Don Commercial Port.

kayaking in cong do - 3 days in hanoi and halong

Located about 25km away from Bai Chay Wharf, Cong Do Island covers an area of nearly 23.4 sq km that is full of pristine coral reef and tropical forests. With its various winding hollows, it is perfect for your kayaking activity or trekking. Scuba diving is expected to develop in this area.

4. Make “spring rolls” and enjoy the evening activities

Nextly, you take part in one of the most refreshing travel experiences – the night squid fishing. The best time to catch the big-sized squids is from October and lasts till January of the next year, specifically on nights without the moon. However, it also depends on natural conditions and your luck. Do not worry and ask the local experienced fishers, they will help you.

making spring roll - 3 days in hanoi and halong

Last but not least, enjoying fresh squids with your family and friends is a reward for your hard work. We make sure that you will love the fancy feeling of the ink line exploding in your mouth. Moreover, you also gaze at the seawater surface sparkling with lights at night.

Day 3: Learn about the traditional fishing village & Come back to Hanoi

1. Watch amazing dawn on Bai Tu Long Bay

Participating in Tai Chi sessions is the best way to start your new day in Halong Bay. It is a martial art with the combination of breathing and slow movements, which helps you to refresh your body and soul, reduce stress as well as improve balance. Additionally, you can breathe the fresh air and witness the amazing dawn of the bay.

sunrise - 3 days in hanoi and halong

After that, you enjoy your breakfast with Vietnamese specialties including Vietnamese noodles, baguette, and coffee.

2. Visit Vung Vieng Fishing Village

You want to wander through the floating villages and understand about the traditional village life of fishermen here, Vung Vieng Fishing Village is your must-try destination. Located 24km from the mainland, more than 160 residents live in Vung Vieng Fishing Village still maintaining traditional features of fishing communities in Halong Bay.

Vung Vieng Fishign Village - 3 days in hanoi and halong

A trip to visit these villages you will gain a deep insight into their simple local lifestyle. They earn from fishing and a bit of traveling. After that, local fishermen will teach you how to catch fishes by using the fishing net as well as control the fishing rod. Experience one day as a real fisherman, why not? Sounds great!

Extend your trip to Ninh Binh or Sapa

If you can spend more time in Northern Vietnam, setting up your trip for the following day is a good idea. Therefore, you can refer more with our best tour as below:

1. Hanoi- Halong – Sapa – 7 Days

About 100km south of Hanoi, “Halong Bay on land” is surrounded by karst limestone cliffs and endless golden rice fields. This legendary land is famous in the world because of historical secrets and a massive system of pagodas.

2. Hanoi – Halong Bay – Ninh Binh Tour – 4 Days

In addition, Sapa town is another attractive spot with the poetic natural beauty with the diverse culture of the highland tribe groups.

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