Vietnam Travel Itinerary in 12 Different Ways
While I was planning my trip to Vietnam I read every article and blog on place to see in Vietnam for weeks. And it was sometimes overwhelming. Vietnam isn’t a small country. You will need a good amount of time if you want to cover all of it. But the most important part is to decide which places you would like to visit in Vietnam. I am sharing many possible Vietnam travel itinerary which I feel will answer most of your questions.
A Summary of Places to see Vietnam
Vietnam is unbelievably diverse. Although there are certain expectations associated with south-east Asian countries, some places can really surprise you. It ranges from the rich delta of Mekong River to highlands with European-styled buildings, old Chinese towns, and cities, French resorts, largest caves in the world, vast rice fields on mountains to gorgeous bays with hundreds of sprinkled islands.
To simply a bit I will divide it into three parts.
North Vietnam is where Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital lies. The area around Hanoi is also one of the two fertile belts in Vietnam where most of the rice is grown.
Hanoi is a lovely city famous for its architecture influenced by the French and the Chinese. The heart and the cultural center in Hanoi are the Old quarters, a popular spot for tourists. Great museums also attract a lot of attention to the city.
Ha Long Bay
If you are in Hanoi, a one day tour to Ha Long Bay is a must. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ha Long Bay is known for its emerald waters with thousands of limestone small-sized island covered in rainforests. One can also experience an overnight cruise in the area.
Sa Pa is known for its gorgeous countered rice fields and is the highest point area in Vietnam by altitude. It takes an overnight journey to reach Sa Pa and a trek around the area will get you to experience it in the best way. Snowfall is rare by not unheard of in the winter months.
Apart from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang is one of the biggest city in Vietnam. Best known for its French resort at Ba Na Hills, Da Nang showcases the ‘Golden Bridge’, one of the most eccentrically designed bridges in the world. Da Nang is also the gateway to Hoi An and Hue.
Related Article: How To Visit Golden Bridge, Ba Na Hills In Da Nang
The ancient Chinese town of Hoi An is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Developed to attract tourists, the ancient town of Hoi An is home to many primitive buildings now converted into museums. The whole town is lit with multi-colored Chinese lanterns at night with canals filled with lit boats; making is a truly mesmerizing sight.
Related Article: The Ancient Town of Hoi An
Hue is also called the Forbidden Purple city. The oldest ruins in Hue date back to 4th century BC. It encompasses the Imperial city, the palace, and shrines, a replica of the royal theatre, Hue was once the residence of the emperor.
Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park
The conserved National park is home to Haang Son Doong caves that are the biggest caves in the world. Termed as the oldest karst mountains in Asia approximately 400 million years ago, the caves have lovely underground rivers. However, the guided tours are long and tend to be pricey.
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon is the largest city in South Vietnam and is the most populous in Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh City has numerous war memorials and Cu Chi Tunnels that takes you through the extensive indo-china or Vietnam War. Notre Dame, a near replica of the original one in Paris is a must-see attraction in the city.
Related Article: A 3-Day Itinerary To Ho Chi Minh City
Da Lat is a city perched in the central highlands in South Vietnam. The city is famous for its European style houses, many lakes and pleasant weather throughout the year. Its weather has earned it the name of ‘City of the Eternal Spring’. Da Lat is best enjoyed at its flower shows with vibrant flowers showcased around the parks in the city.
Related Article: Da Lat, The Gorgeous French Town Of Vietnam
Nha Trang is the famous beach city of Southern Vietnam with gorgeous beaches, limestone islands much like Ha Long Bay, and best diving sites. The city has also hosted many pageants and famous events. Nha Trang Bay has some stunning bays and hosts the Sea festival bi-annually.
Related Article: Is Nha Trang Worth Visiting In Vietnam?
Mekong delta is the other half of the rice bowl of Vietnam. Rich in fertile soil and irrigation system fed the Mekong river, the whole area is an ingenious ecosystem. A day tour to Mekong delta will give you a glimpse into the life of people living on farms around its various distributaries and islands.
Related Article: How To Visit Mekong Delta, Vietnam
Phú Quoc is the largest island in Vietnam that has lovely beaches and clear emerald waters. Also equipped for divers and enthusiasts for water sports, the island has seen a sudden surge of tourists. Phú Quoc is a great place if you are looking for luxury vacations with many resorts and five-star hotels.
Mui Ne was once traditional fishing village that has accumulated fame with travelers recently. Mui Ne is the only place, probably in the whole southeast Asia where you will get a glimpse of red and white sand dunes. The beaches, although still comparatively sparse are serene, quiet and great for long walks and relaxing days.
Best time to visit Vietnam
The climate in Vietnam is only of two types – hot wet and hot dry. Regardless of what time you go, you will find Vietnam hot except the highlands. Apart from that, the weather can differ in different areas of the country. While it can be pleasant at one end of the country, it can also be a nightmare on the other. All you can do is check beforehand and be prepared for any surprises.
Peak Season – December to January – The best time to visit Vietnam is undoubtedly from December to January. The weather is relatively cool in most parts of the country and humidity is at its lowest. Weather can get cold and chilly in areas around Sa Pa and Da Lat with a rare case of snowfall. Tourism is also at its peak during this time.
Shoulder Seasons – The second best time to go is from October – November, and February – March. The weather, though not the best is still relatively good with a lesser crowd. These months also see far less rainfall which makes outdoor activities easier. Later half of March can see a surge in temperature and humidity.
Summer – April to May – These are the hottest months of the year with the temperature rising up to 38⁰C in some parts of the country. The humidity is also at its highest before the rainfall brings in some relief. Avoid visiting during this time for the risk of catching the heatwave and getting sick.
Monsoon – June to September – Most of the country sees its wet or monsoon period starting May end to September. However, the central part receives the most rainfall in October and November. Rainfall can get really heavy and offset your outdoor plans. Many beaches and coasts like Ha Long Bay are also closed during this time. Typhoons and storms are also common during the monsoons.
How to travel inside Vietnam
You can travel inside Vietnam via any of the following options or combinations of many.
Flights – Flights are by far the most convenient option to travel inside Vietnam. Additionally, they are quite inexpensive. Most of the major cities like Da Nang, Phu Quoc, Nha Trang, and Da Lat have airports apart from Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi. A rule of thumb for me is, take a flight for any destination that has a travel time of more than 12 hours by land. Viet Air is the best budget airline that operates inside Vietnam.
Bus – Vietnam has a good network of buses to most major cities. The buses range from basic to absolute luxury with sleeper options. It is also cheaper than flight in most cases. These are a great option if you are looking for an overnight journey. You can book your tickets on roadways on Bookaway.com, 12goasia.com or vietnambustravel.com
Minibus or Vans – Minibus or Vans are special types of modes of transportation prominent in South-East Asia. They are way faster than any other type of transportation like buses or railways. They also can cater to special services like picking up and dropping you off directly at your hotels. Limousines run quite frequently on short routes with a travel time of 4-8 hours and are extremely comfortable along with being affordable.
Railways – These are the least preferred way of travelling in Vietnam. Railway lines are limited to the coastlines. Nor are they hi-speed which means that it can take a long time to reach your destination. On top of that, they are not very affordable either. They are a good option if you are looking for travelling on long routes to get a glimpse of the countryside and rural life. You can book your rail tickets on the official website or here.
Car rental – In recent years, Vietnam’s road connectivity has improved drastically. It gives you the flexibility to travel around Vietnam in more comfort and also explore the remote corners of the country in all weather conditions. You will be able to rent a car in most major cities in Vietnam. But make sure you have an international driving license and are comfortable driving on Asian roads.
Vietnam Travel Itinerary Summary
DISCLAIMER: While these itineraries are tentative and according to my suggestion, I will encourage you to tweak it according to your preference and choices of destination and pace of travel.
1-3 days: Hanoi -> Ha Long Bay OR Ho Chi Minh City -> Mekong Delta
5 days: Hanoi -> Ha Long Bay -> Da Nang -> Hoi An OR Ho Chi Minh City -> Mekong Delta -> Da Nang -> Hoi An
1 Week: Hanoi -> Ha Long Bay -> Da Nang -> Hoi An -> Hue OR Ho Chi Minh City -> Mekong Delta -> Da Nang -> Hoi An -> Hue
10 days: Hanoi -> Ha Long Bay -> Da Nang -> Hoi An -> Hue -> Ho Chi Minh City -> Mekong Delta
2 Weeks: Hanoi -> Ha Long Bay -> Da Nang -> Hoi An -> Hue -> Da Lat -> Ho Chi Minh City -> Mekong Delta
3 Weeks: Hanoi -> Ha Long Bay -> Sa Pa -> Da Nang -> Hoi An -> Hue -> Nha Trang -> Da Lat -> Ho Chi Minh City -> Mekong Delta
Full itinerary: Hanoi -> Ha Long Bay -> Sa Pa -> Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park -> Da Nang -> Hoi An -> Hue -> Nha Trang -> Da Lat -> Mui Ne -> Ho Chi Minh City -> Mekong Delta -> Phu Quoc
Vientam and Cambodia -> Hanoi -> Ha Long Bay -> Sa Pa -> Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park -> Da Nang -> Hoi An -> Hue -> Nha Trang -> Da Lat -> Mui Ne -> Ho Chi Minh City -> Mekong Delta -> Phu Quoc -> Phnom Penh -> Siem Reap
Vietnam Travel Itinerary
Vietnam Travel Itinerary for 1-3 days
Hanoi -> Ha Long Bay OR Ho Chi Minh City -> Mekong Delta
For a short stay in Vietnam, it is best to choose the best spots around the area. Most chances are that you will land in one of the two major cities – Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. You can do a day trip to either Ha Long Bay from Hanoi or to Mekong Delta from Ho Chi Minh City.
The best way to do this is to book a group tour online for great prices.
Book Tour Online:
Vietnam Travel Itinerary for 5 days
Hanoi -> Ha Long Bay -> Da Nang -> Hoi An OR Ho Chi Minh City -> Mekong Delta -> Da Nang -> Hoi An
If you have more time in your hands, consider going to Hoi An, even if it is for a day. A night in Hoi An is unforgettable. The best way to travel to Hoi An is to take a flight to Da Nang from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh city. Travel time from Da Nang to Hoi An is 30-45 minutes by bus. Transfer via private vehicle is quite affordable as well. Book here.
Vietnam Travel Itinerary for 1 Week
Hanoi -> Ha Long Bay -> Da Nang -> Hoi An -> Hue OR Ho Chi Minh City -> Mekong Delta -> Da Nang -> Hoi An -> Hue
In case you are in Vietnam for a week’s time, you can pair either North or South Vietnam with the Central one. The most popular spots in Central Vietnam are Hoi An, Hue and Ba Na Hills at Da Nang for its popular bridge held up by stone human hands called ‘the Golden Bridge’. Hue is around 2 hours from Da Nang. You can either take a day tour to Hue or travel on your own by bus or train.
Book a day tour to Hue: Imperial City, Hue: Tour from Hoi An and Da Nang
Vietnam Travel Itinerary for 10 days
Hanoi -> Ha Long Bay -> Da Nang -> Hoi An -> Hue -> Ho Chi Minh City -> Mekong Delta
You can cover the major location in all of Vietnam in close to 10 days if you are up with fast-traveling. The best way is to take a flight on the major routes like Ho Chi Minh City to Da Nang and Dan Nang to Hanoi or vice versa. Cover the nearby areas via roadways.
Vietnam Travel Itinerary for 2 weeks
Hanoi -> Ha Long Bay -> Da Nang -> Hoi An -> Hue -> Da Lat -> Ho Chi Minh City -> Mekong Delta
You can add a couple of more destinations in the already existing itinerary. Nha Trang or Da Lat are great choices since they both have an airport that you can fly to. Choose Da Lat if you love mountains with fresh flowers and freshwater lakes. Nha Trang is popular for its lovely beaches and diving spots.
Vietnam Travel Itinerary for 3 weeks
Hanoi -> Ha Long Bay -> Sa Pa -> Da Nang -> Hoi An -> Hue -> Nha Trang -> Da Lat -> Ho Chi Minh City -> Mekong Delta
Sa Pa has the most scenic views in Vietnam with gorgeous countered rice farms. The only cache you need a bit more time to visit it. There are no flights to Sa Pa. You can only take a bus from Hanoi which takes approximately 12 hours to reach. Keep aside at least 3-4 days to visit this place.
Book Tour Online: Sapa 2-Day/3-Night Trek & Homestay with Overnight Train
Vietnam Full Travel Itinerary
Hanoi -> Ha Long Bay -> Sa Pa -> Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park -> Da Nang -> Hoi An -> Hue -> Nha Trang -> Da Lat -> Mui Ne -> Ho Chi Minh City -> Mekong Delta -> Phu Quoc
If you have a lot of time in your hands, get ready to touch some offbeat places in Vietnam. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park has the largest caves in the world with underground rivers flowing through. On the other hand, you can spot a mini desert with sand dunes in Mui Ne. Phu Quoc is great for a honeymoon or for some great water activities.
Book Tour Online: Paradise and Phong Nha Cave Tour
Vietnam and Cambodia
Hanoi -> Ha Long Bay -> Sa Pa -> Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park -> Da Nang -> Hoi An -> Hue -> Nha Trang -> Da Lat -> Mui Ne -> Ho Chi Minh City -> Mekong Delta -> Phu Quoc -> Phnom Penh -> Siem Reap
You can customize Vietnam from many of the above options with the places and activities of your choice. In case you are also looking to visit Cambodia, you can look at visiting Phnom Penh and Siem Reap to see the majestic Angkor Wat. Floating villages of Tonle Sap are also worth seeing around Siem Reap.
One can either take a flight or a bus to Phnom Penh. Although, expect the road journey to be a rather long and arduous one.