15 DAYS ITINERARY: VIETNAM
Updated: Jan 7, 2019
Before getting into the 15 day itinerary, we'd like to make clear that seeing all of Vietnam in 2 weeks is impossible, so this post is mostly about the country's highlights and is definitely not addressed to people who prefer to travel in a slower pace.
But if you are anything like us and try to take advantage of every minute of your travel days, then you've come to the right place! The itinerary suggested below is based on our own experience, so feel free to adjust it to your own needs and desires.
Hope you'll like it!
Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi and explore
Fly into Hanoi and let your Vietnamese adventure begin! Hanoi is a colorful, vibrant city, where everything happens in a slow and fast pace at the same time. Have your first lunch served on the sidewalk, like the locals do and don’t forget to try the world famous egg coffee. An evening stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake is the perfect way to end your first day in Vietnam.
Day 2: Sapa (sleep over)
After a night of good sleep, wake up early the next morning and get a bus to Sapa. A good option is having pre-booked a trip to Sapa, as most travel agencies provide hotel pick-up service. The route is as scenic as it gets and the never ending rice fields look like a real life postcard. Check in at your hotel (don’t forget your passport) and head to Cat Cat Village, to have a glance at what rural life in Vietnam is like.
Day 3: Sapa and back to Hanoi
One more early wake up, so that you can arrive early at Bac Ha market. It is held on Sundays so if you want to see it, you should fix your itinerary accordingly. Bac Ha is a huge, open air market where locals get gathered weekly to sell and buy pretty much anything! It’s the ideal place for amazing travel photos and souvenirs too. Oh, and when it comes to souvenirs, remember to bargain hard! It will then be time to get back on the bus which will take you to Hanoi.
Day 4: Ninh Binh province
Once again, wait for your tour guide to pick you up from your hotel and lead you to the bus. You will reach Hoa Lu, Vietnam’s ancient imperial capital, in less than two hours before continue your trip to Tam Coc River’s shore, where you can go on a boat ride in the most serene scenery ever. Have a quick lunch and keep exploring the area, this time on a bike. After that, get back to Hanoi and get some rest.
Day 5: Halong Bay (sleep over)
The next day, you can visit one of the world’s new 7 wonders of Nature and actually one of the prettiest places Vietnam is blessed with: the Halong Bay. The bay is famous for its towering limestone islands topped with lots of greenery, so taking a cruise through them is really the best way to explore this gem of Vietnam. Check in on board and get out on the deck to enjoy sailing through the islets. You will then visit Titop Island, famous for its breathtaking viewpoint and relaxing beach. Get back on board to enjoy the sunset and get some rest.
Day 6: Halong Bay and back to Hanoi
Waking up in Halong Bay is one of those once in a lifetime experiences that are so hard to forget. Get your camera ready as the sun will start rising over the bay or just sit back and enjoy nature at its best, sipping a cup of hot Vietnamese coffee. You can then visit Surprise Cave or just relax on boat, before the journey back to Hanoi starts.
Day 7: Hanoi
Finally, you have a full day to explore Hanoi. Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, Turtle Lake, One Pillar Pagoda and the Military History Museum are only some of the city’s sights. However, Hanoi’s real beauty is found in the winding alleyways, the chaotic markets, the exotic flavours, the thousands of motorbikes (which will almost kill you every time you’ll cross the street) and its people of course.
Day 8: Fly to Da Nang and relax
On day 8 of this itinerary you can either catch an early morning flight to Da Nang or, explore Hanoi a bit further, before getting to the airport. As for Da Nang, it might not be on any “must visit cities in Vietnam” list but, we found it to be the best getaway to everything that central Vietnam has to offer. You can make this day a relaxing one and spend it either on the city’s exotic beach or in your hotel’s spa, as Da Nang is also home to many dirt cheap luxurious hotels, so why not spoil yourself a bit?
Day 9: Hue
Famous for its imperial city, Hue is almost 2 hours away from Da Nang and it will transfer you back to when the city was the seat of the Nguyen Dynasty in early 1800’s. Let the imperial city, the pagodas and the emperors’ tombs tell you their story and end your day with a cruise in the Perfume River.
(*due to an unexpected twist of fate, we couldn't visit Hue, so no photo is available...sorry*)
Day 10: Hoi An
Wake up in Da Nang and get ready to go to one of Vietnam’s most beautiful towns. Hoi An is famous for its excellently preserved Ancient Town, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, and colourful lanterns. Wander through the town’s alleys and canals and watch the French, Chinese and Japanese influences blend perfectly, creating a unique result that will capture your mind and heart.
Day 11: My Son and fly to HCMC
On day number 11, we suggest you book a tour to My Son, a complex of stone Hindu temples constructed between the 4th and 14th century AD. Most of the temples were partially destroyed, as they were bombarded during the Vietnam War, or like the locals call it, the American War. Several efforts have been made for the re-construction of the temples, but there’s still a lot to be done. On your way back to Da Nang, you can stop over at Marble Mountains for a couple of hours and explore the dozens of temples and caves that are hidden inside the mountains’ network. Make sure to be back in Da Nang quite early, so that you can catch your flight to Ho Chi Minh City, later that day.
Day 12: HCMC
Also known as Saigon, this is Vietnam’s busiest city and it will most probably make you wonder why it is not the capital too. Start your day at Bitexco Financial Tower and get your breakfast on the 52th floor café, enjoying amazing views over the city. You can then rent a motorbike for the day for just a few dollars, but make sure to be super careful as the locals drive a bit differently than what you are used to. French colonial sights are scattered all over the city, making it diverse and interesting. Walking or riding your bike by the river that runs Saigon will also provide you with some stunning shots. Take a break at the Book Street, a street which only has bookstores and trendy cafes, and head to the nearby Central Post Office to send a postcard or two to your loved ones back home.
Day 13: Mekong Delta
On day 13, you can visit Mekong Delta and see how people live and work on the water. You can visit some of the region’s fishing villages and taste their local specialties. Don’t forget to take some handmade coconut candies with you. You’ll thank us later!
Day 14: Cuchi tunnels + Cao Dai
This is actually your last full day in Vietnam and you can start it by visiting the Cao Dai temple and even attend the morning service, if you make it there by noon. Remember to be respectful and let yourslef get blown away by the colours and serenity of the temple and its prayers. You can then visit the Cuchi tunnels, a network of underground passages that were massively used during the war by the Viet Cong army, to protect themselves and also to set traps to the enemies. You can get inside the tunnels and see for yourself what life back then must have been like, or even test your shooting skills at the nearby shooting range.
Day 15: HCMC
Take some time to explore Saigon a bit more before getting to the airport to catch your flight to your next destination or back home.
P.S: If you have an extra day, we’d suggest you spend a night at Mekong Delta and wake up early the next morning to visit one of the local floating markets.