Photo: Light snacking at Cam Ranh Bay.

A whole week in Hanoi? Really? What are you going to do with yourself? Ignore the doubters: a week in Hanoi will fly by if you're keen to take advantage of all that's on offer.

Treat yourself to a chauffeur.
Treat yourself to a chauffeur.

An ex-colleague of mine, now living in Singapore, visited Hanoi at Christmas with his wife and stayed for six days, declaring at the end, "You live in a great city!"What had they done? Very little. "We walked around the lake, again and again," they said after day one, and the theme continued: they walked a lot, drank a lot of coffee, ate in a variety of restaurants, watched the goings-on and fitted in a couple of museums. Hanoi may be a city, but -- as was written some years ago on Travelfish -- you can do nothing and see the best of Hanoi.

What if you want to do more? Start by following our tips on what to do in four days in Hanoi and build from there.

Our favourite Hanoi museum.
Our favourite Hanoi museum.

Feeling active? How about walking, ice skating, cycling, paint-balling or yoga? When the weather's good, check out the swimming pools available for day use around the city, or upgrade for a night or two and stay in a five-star hotel like the Intercontinental to take advantage of their gym and pool facilities.

Keen on museums? Travelfish lists eight museums in central Hanoi, all of which have their virtues, and on top of that you've got the Temple of Literature, the Mausoleum complex and enough temples and pagodas to please any fan.

Want to explore further afield? Many of the traditional craft villages are easily accessible on a day trip, either organised via an agent or accessed by bike or bus. The Perfume Pagoda is another day trip worth considering or head out towards Ba Vi National Park -- still within Hanoi -- stopping at Thay and Tay Pagodas.

Horn village.
Horn village.

So our ideal active week in Hanoi? We'd start with the four days as suggested in our previous post: day one in Old Quarter, with visits to the Women's Museum and Hoa Lu Prison; day two at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex, with a walk across Duong Thanh Nien -- incorporating Quanh Thanh Temple and Tran Quoc Pagoda -- and around Truc Bach Lake; day three on a bicycle ride to the surrounding countryside; and day four on a street food or cooking tour, incorporating a market visit.

Day five, we'd recover by relaxing by a pool and indulging in a spa package; day six would be back to the action with a day trip out to the Perfume Pagoda and we'd wrap up the week with a visit to the Thang Long Citadel and some final shopping in Old Quarter.

A week in Hanoi? Easy.

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More itineraries

Where to go, how long to stay there, where to go next, east or west, north or south? How long have you got? How long do you need? Itinerary planning can be almost as maddening as it is fun and here are some outlines to help you get started. Remember, don't over plan!


Burma

Burma lends itself to a short fast trip with frequent flights thrown in or a longer, slower trip where you don't leave the ground. There isn't much of a middle ground. Ground transport remains relatively slow, so be wary about trying to fit too much in.


Cambodia

Roughly apple-shaped, you'd think Cambodia would be ideal for circular routes, but the road network isn't really laid out that way. This means you'll most likely find yourself through some towns more than once, so work them into your plans.


Indonesia

How long have you got? That's not long enough. Really. You'd need a few lifetimes to do this sprawling archipelago justice. Be wary of trying to cover too much ground - the going in Indonesia can be slow.


Laos

North or south or both? Laos is relatively small and transport is getting better and better. Those visiting multiple countries can pass through here a few times making for some interesting trips.


Malaysia

The peninsula is easy, with affordable buses, trains and planes and relatively short distances. Sabah and Sarawak are also relatively easy to get around.The vast majority of visitors stick to the peninsula but Borneo is well worth the time and money to reach.


Thailand

So much to see, so much to do. Thailand boasts some of the better public transport in the region so getting around can be fast and affordable. If time is limited, stick to one part of the country.


Vietnam

Long and thin, Vietnam looks straightforward, but the going is slow and the distances getting from A to B can really bite into a tight trip plan. If you're not on an open-ended trip, plan carefully.


The region

This is where itinerary planning really becomes fun. Be sure to check up on our visa, border crossing and visa sections to make sure you're not trying to do the impossible. Also, remember you're planning a holiday -- not a military expedition.