Last December we made a trip through the beautiful and immense big country of Vietnam. Here we became acquainted with the great Vietnamese cuisine and learned all about the complex history of this country. In 2.5 weeks we traveled from South to North, we saw a lot, but most definitely not everything. In this article you will find two possible itineraries: our route which we did in 2.5 weeks, and an itinerary 4 weeks traveling where you can see most highlights of Vietnam. But even in four weeks it is not possible to see all of Vietnam, so choices have to be made.
Among the two travel itineraries you will find a short description of the different destinations which can make choosing and therefore life, easier.
2,5 week Vietnam (our travel route)
Ho Chi Minh City – Dalat – Hoi An – Phong Nha – Hanoi – Sa Pa – Hanoi
Click on the image to see our Vietnam Travel Itinerary of 2.5 weeks. This will also show information about the hotels we stayed in and the costs per night.
Lets start in Ho Chi Minh City (2.5 days). A wonderful busy chaotic city full of impressions. Two days here is enough time, but an extra day nice aswell. Visit among others the Cu Chi Tunnels and the War Remenants museum. This way you will get to know the violent history of this country. The next destination? Dalat (2 days). Two days in this cool town are actually far too little, if possible, stay longer! Transport to Dalat is possible by bus, but we decided to fly. Dalat is a beautiful mountain town where it is a bit cooler than in Ho Chi Minh City. Enjoy adventurous activities such as Canoying. By plane you will go to Hoi An (3.5 days). To get to Hoi An you will fly to Da Nang, and then grab a taxi / bus that takes you to Hoi An in half an hour (cost +/- 13 euro). Hoi An is beautiful but also very relaxed so tree to four days is perfect. From Hoi An you will take the bus to Phong Nha (2 days) where you will see the largest caves in the world. Do not stay here longer than two days, the village is tiny and outside the caves there is not much to do. An hour by plane from Phong Nha is Hanoi (4.5 days in total). Here you can enjoy the small streets full of merchandise, the beautiful parks and the delicious food. Four days is a bit long for Hanoi, but since you will make a trip from here to Sa Pa, extra time is good. If you don’t visit Sa Pa, then three days are also long enough. From Hanoi you will travel by bus in 5 hours to Sa Pa (3,5 day) where you definitely have to do one of the beautiful hikes. Finally you will travel back to Hanoi where your journey ends. This route is also possible the other way around (from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City), and I can even recommend this to you. This way you will go from cold to warm weather, not bad at all!
4 weeks Vietnam
Hanoi – Sa Pa – Cat Ba/ Ha Long Bay – Ninh Binh – Phong Nha – Hue – Hoi An – Mui Ne – Dalat – Ho Chi Minh City
Click on the image to see the 4 weeks Vietnam Travel Itinerary. This will also show information about the hotels we stayed in and the costs per night.
Do you have 4 weeks in Vietnam? Then we recommend the following itinerary: This time you will travel from North Vietnam to South Vietnam and you will start in Hanoi (3 days). After Hanoi visit Sa Pa (3 days) but after Sa Pa you will travel straight to Cat Ba (3,5 day). This takes a while, you will go to Sa Pa by night bus in 5 hours, after which you will switch to the night bus and then boat to Cat Ba, total travel time: 15 hours. No worries, on the cruise you’re going to do from Cat Ba through Ha Long Bay, you will have plenty of time to rest from this long journey. After a few days of relaxation you will go by bus to Ninh Binh (3.5 days). Here you can enjoy the beautiful nature and the enormous karst mountains. From Ninh Binh travel in 7 hours to the south, to Phong Nha (2 days), after which you will continue to Hue (1 day). A day in Hue is long enough, it’s a tiny city so this is only a short stopover before you will continue to Hoi An (3,5 day). In Hoi An stay a little longer to rest after the many travel days. The next destination is also very relaxed: you will fly to Mui Ne (4 days), a nice coastal town for surfing or sandboarding. Mui Ne is a nice quiet beach resort, but if you rather want white beaches and a clear blue sea, you can always consider changing this with a trip to Phu Quoc, in the south of Vietnam. From Mui Ne it is only 4 hours by bus and then you will be in Dalat (3.5 days). You will end the trip in Ho Chi Minh City (3 days) after which you will leave Vietnam.
This is a full schedule, but certainly doable. Traveling in Vietnam is easy by (night) bus but a few dollars more and you will have a plane ticket. Do you want to travel in a lower speed? Consider to skip Phong Nha and Hue and fly directly from Ninh Binh to Hoi An or choose to skip Ha Long Bay and enjoy the equivalent mountains in Ninh Binh.
All destinations in Vietnam in a glance
Below is an overview of the destinations in Vietnam. Do you miss a place? Let us know!
Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam, a city with a lot of history. The French influence on Vietnam is clearly visible in the beautiful old buildings in the Old Quarter and the French Quarter. Join a food tour and taste the thousand flavors of the Vietnamese cuisine! And enjoy the peace in the park in the middle of the city. While going back into the tiny street, beware that you are not driven over by the thousands of motor bikes that blow through traffic.
Read about our time in Hanoi (only in Dutch).
Sa Pa is a small town in the North of Vietnam, a very quite and peaceful area. Here you will find hills and extensive rice terraces. Make a multi-day trek and stay overnight with locals, a great experience!
Read about our time in Sa Pa (only in Dutch).
Ha Long Bay / Cat Ba
Ha Long Bay is a region in the north-west of Vietnam. It is a huge bay with thousands of limestone islands that rise up above the sea. The largest island is Cat Ba, from where you can do all kinds of multi-day cruises.
Ninh Binh is a small city in the Ninh Binh province. The beautiful surroundings are the reason to visit Ninh Binh. Here you will find huge karst mountains between the green valleys, just like in Ha Long Bay. The places Tam Coc and Trang An are highly recommend!
Curious about the largest caves in the whole world? Be sure to visit the town of Phong Nha. You will find here the Paradise Cave and the Phong Nha Cave, both impressive Limestone caves. The largest cave in the world, So’n Doong Cave, is not (yet) open to the general public. There are only a few visitors per year who may visit this cave through a multi-day trek (very expensive).
Read about our time in Phong Nha (only in Dutch).
Hue is the old imperial capital of Vietnam, clearly visible in all the beautiful old buildings in the old city center. Hue is relatively small and half a day is enough to see everything. Use this as a strategic resting place between Phong Nha and Hoi An.
Hoi An is a beautiful small city in central Vietnam. It is one of the few cities that has remained almost completely in the old state despite the Vietnam War. You will find centuries-old colorful buildings that are still in full use. This makes a visit to Hoi An like traveling through time. Hoi An is close to the sea which also makes it a great place to rest a little longer. Be prepared, Hoi An is a very touristic place, totally understandable considering the beauty of the city.
Read about our time in Hoi An (only in Dutch).
Nha Trang / Mui Ne
Mui Ne is a quiet beach town. It is not (yet) discovered by mass tourism and you will find authentic fishing villages in the area. You will go to Mui Ne to relax, or to surf, kite or sandboard. In doubt between Mui Ne and Nha Trang? Do not hesitate any longer: Nha Trang is flooded by (drunken) Russians and therefore not a pleasant place anymore.
Dalat was a very positive surprise for us. It is a small mountain town, built at the time of French rule as a summer residence for wealthy French. The city itself is beautiful to see with a large lake in the middle. In addition, you can undertake great outdoor activities, such as Canoying. Dalat is also a good place to start or end with one Easy Riders motortour!
Read about our time in Dalat (only in Dutch).
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam. It is a bustling, warm city full of skyscrapers and bars. Looking for a good night out? That is not a problem here, the nightlife is over the top. But Ho Chi Minh City is also a must visit when you are interested in culture and history. Be sure to pay a visit to the war museum and take a tour of the Cu Chi tunnels.
Read about our time in Ho Chi Minh City (only in Dutch).
The Mekong Delta is a large branch of the Mekong River that runs through Cambodia, China and Laos. People in this region live on the river. Not only their homes are here, but also shopping and trading take place on the water. Visiting the Mekong Delta is easiest from the town of My Tho, where various boat tours depart.
White beaches, swaying palm trees and a clear blue sea. Something you will not encounter much in Vietnam, except on this beautiful tropical island. Phu Quoc is slightly more expensive than the rest of Vietnam, but from what I have heard, the money is more than worth it!