3 Week Vietnam Itinerary (plus elective extensions)



I spent practically three months exploring Vietnam over two journeys, doing many of the traditional Saigon to Hanoi itinerary twice in that point in addition to exploring the Mekong Delta and the islands in depth. I´ve been serving to family and friends construct their Vietnam itineraries for the previous few years and figured it was time to lastly share my suggestions right here on the weblog as properly.

This can be a very lengthy submit with a number of locations, so I´ve reduce the itinerary into three components: The “traditional” 3 Week Vietnam Itinerary from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh Metropolis) to Hanoi; The Southern Loop across the Mekong Delta and the islands of Phu Quoc and Con Dao; and the Northern Bucket Record Locations with the Phong Nha caves, trekking in Sa Pa and boat excursions round Halong Bay.

You should use these three itineraries, together with the steered routes and occasions for every place, to construct your customized itinerary, whether or not you might be spending 2 or 3 weeks in Vietnam or a number of months. I´ve additionally included some sensible data on visas, lodging and getting round on the finish.

Right here´s what we´ll cowl:

3 week Vietnam Itinerary: Saigon to Hanoi

The Basic tour that I’ve put collectively takes you from Saigon to Hanoi, hitting all of the well-known spots on the way in which. This may be completed in as little as 2 weeks due to the prepare connection operating all the way in which from Saigon to Hanoi, however if you happen to can, ideally, it is a 3 week Vietnam itinerary.

The Reunification Specific prepare line stops in Saigon, Phan Tiet (for Mui Ne), Nha Trang, Da Nang, Hué and Hanoi, making this a great journey for particular person vacationers preferring to not be on organized excursions. Touring by prepare can be a good way to see the nation and avoids numerous the effort that flying brings with it nowadays.

Here’s a pattern itinerary:

3 Week Vietnam Itinerary: Saigon to Hanoi

Day 1 -3: Saigon for unimaginable meals and to find out about Vietnam’s historical past
Day 4-6: Mui Ne for sand dunes, simple mountaineering and a seashore break
Day 7-8: Nha Trang for metropolis evening life and dust baths
Day Sept. 11: Da Lat for mountain air and guided Simple Rider motorcycle excursions
Day 12-14: Hoi An to discover the UNESCO World Heritage outdated city and get tailor-made garments
Day 15: Da Nang for beautiful views from Hai Van Mountain Go
Day 16-17: Hué, Vietnam’s former capital for a go to to the historic imperial metropolis and excursions of the DMZ
Day 18-21: Hanoi to walk across the outdated city exploring historical past and structure, and sipping on egg espresso

Saigon (Ho Chi Minh Metropolis)

Vietnam Itinerary Destination - Saigon

Hanoi would be the capital, however Saigon, aka Ho Chi Minh Metropolis, is the foodie and cultural hub of Vietnam. Fly into HCMC airport, and get your self a lodge or guesthouse proper within the middle of town in District 1 to take in the ambiance of this bustling, barely loopy metropolis.

The realm round Ben Thanh Market and Bui Vien avenue is kind of touristy, however will make your first couple of days in Vietnam simple. Plus you’ll be surrounded by nice avenue meals – which is what Saigon is all about. Within the evenings, go to one of many many locations that serve Bia Hoi, recent brewed beer, and sit exterior on the road on tiny plastic chairs watching the world go by. In case you’ve had an excessive amount of to eat already, take a look at the Battle Remnants Museum or go for a day journey to the Chu Chi Tunnels to study in regards to the Vietnam Battle (though the tunnels close to Hué, if you happen to’re planning a DMC tour, are extra spectacular).

Try my submit on Saigon meals for tips about what to eat on this superb metropolis.

Mui Ne

Vietnam Itinerary Destination - Mui Ne

Get away from the hustle and bustle of town and catch an early morning prepare to Phan Thiet, then seize a taxi from there to Mui Ne, a protracted stretched coastal village that has was a well-liked however laid again seashore vacation spot only a few hours from Saigon.

Mui Ne is known for its crimson hued sand dunes and its “fairy stream” creek which makes for an ideal, simple morning or late afternoon hike – you may stroll straight within the river mattress, because the water tends to be very shallow in most locations.

In case you’re a kite surfer, Mui Ne is a superb place to observe your sport. For the remainder of us, it’s an ideal place to take sundown images that can make everybody at house jealous. And with Mui Ne village itself being a conventional fishing village, there’s nice seafood and customarily nice meals available.

Nha Trang

Vietnam Beach Destinations

Proceed alongside the Reunification Specific prepare line to Nha Trang. This metropolis is one among Vietnam’s most well-known seashore locations, in addition to the nation’s get together capital. It attracts vacationers from everywhere in the world. If late evening events are your factor, you’ll most likely like it.

In case you’re not a lot of a celebration individual, you might desire to remain in one of many motels on the outskirts of town, and take a day journey right down to Cam Ranh Bay, which boasts a few of the most stunning seashores within the nation, or spend the day at one of many mud tub spas Nha Trang can be well-known for.

Da Lat

Da Lat Vietnam

Shifting away from the coast and into Vietnam’s Central Highlands, drive or take a bus as much as Da Lat, referred to as the Switzerland of Vietnam. This place feels extra European than Vietnamese in lots of respects, though with an eclectic combine: the lake in the midst of city feels such as you’re within the Alps, the colonial French structure and the duplicate of the Eiffel tower make you assume you’re in France, while the “Loopy Home” jogged my memory of the Gaudi structure I see throughout Barcelona.

My advice for Da Lat is to mix a go to to this city with one of many well-known Simple Rider motorcycle excursions, both from Nha Trang to Da Lat or from Da Lat to Hoi An. We did a seven day tour from Da Lat all the way in which to Hué and it was probably the greatest issues we’ve ever completed on our travels, and an ideal perception into Vietnamese life and tradition.

Hoi An

Hoi An Old Town

From Da Lat, drive again to the coastal space to Hoi An. The town’s historic middle is a UNESCO World Heritage website, with stunning protected buildings from its period as a significant buying and selling port. Take a stroll alongside the river and thru the outdated city at evening when it’s lit up with 1000’s of lanterns.

Hoi An can be well-known for its many tailors, so if you happen to’re on the lookout for new garments, contemplate a number of further days in Hoi An to get a brand new wardrobe tailormade. You’ll discover most tailors across the market within the outdated city, which can be an ideal lunch spot to attempt town’s well-known noodle dish Cao Lau.

Whereas Hoi An is principally value visiting for its metropolis middle, there are additionally stunning seashores close by if you happen to want a time without work from sightseeing (An Bang is my private favorite), and the Cham ruins of My Son make for an ideal day journey.

Da Nang

Hai Van Pass Vietnam

Only a 20 minute drive away from Hoi An is Da Nang, a significant port metropolis on the South China Sea. In case you’ve been staying in Hoi An, you may simply spend a day in Da Nang visiting the Marble Mountains and the Dragon Bridge (finest seen within the night when the lights are on).

If in case you have extra time, take a day to drive up the Hai Van Go for beautiful ocean views. You can even do that as a part of a motorcycle tour, or lease your individual scooter.


Hue Vietnam

Take the prepare from Da Nang to Hué, Vietnam’s former capital and a metropolis stuffed with historical past. Go to the outdated Imperial Metropolis, take a experience on a dragon boat alongside the Fragrance river, and indulge on the well-known Bun Bo Hué soup.

Hué can be an ideal base for a day tour of the DMZ, the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Vietnam after the First Indochina Battle and an necessary battleground space in the course of the Vietnam Battle. Khe San Fight Base and the Vinh Moc tunnels are properly preserved and must be in your checklist if you happen to’re on the lookout for a tour.


Hanoi Lake

Hué to Hanoi is an extended stretch, however could be completed by prepare if you happen to’re up for a 14 hour journey (evening trains with lie flat beds and newly refurbished – in some instances model new – automobiles can be found). Hué additionally has an airport although, and it’s a fast flight as much as Hanoi if time is brief.

Hanoi is Vietnam’s capital and really totally different to Saigon. It’s much less hectic, far more conventional, and stuffed with historical past. Stroll across the outdated city, stroll round Hoan Kiem Lake and go for an egg espresso at Giang Café.

Hanoi’s culinary scene is a spotlight itself. The well-known Pho noodle soup is a Hanoi staple, one other widespread dish value attempting is Bun Cha, grilled pork with rice noodles and plenty of herbs.

Southern Vietnam: Mekong Delta Itinerary

The Mekong Delta is usually a multi week journey in itself, or you may select a few locations to tag on to a bigger Vietnam journey. While most individuals go to the Mekong Delta from Saigon on an organized tour, with a little bit of a way for journey you may simply do the Mekong Delta with out a tour.

It´s an ideal vacation spot to discover the slower aspect of Vietnam, particularly for foodies – the Mekong Delta is usually known as the “rice bowl of Vietnam”, and vacationers will discover an abundance of recent tropical fruit and seafood, introduced into cities and villages by boat on the Mekong and its many canals.

Create your itinerary utilizing the vacation spot solutions beneath based mostly on how a lot time it’s important to discover and whether or not you’re looking extra for energetic journey or lazing on a seashore for a number of days. Most vacationers simply dip into the Mekong Delta for a few days, however when you’ve got time to discover the world in depth, here’s a steered 2-3 week Southern Vietnam itinerary (add or subtract days on the islands as wanted to suit your schedule):

Pattern itinerary Southern Vietnam: Mekong Delta and Islands

Day 1-4: Con Dao for a relaxed seashore trip or diving
Day 5-6 (half day): Can Tho with a morning go to to Cai Rang floating market
Day 6:-7: Rach Gia for a neighborhood, cheap foodie expertise
Day 8-12: Phu Quoc for extra seashore time and plenty of sea meals
Day 13-15: Vinh Lengthy / An Binh for bicycle excursions and boat journeys on the Mekong
Day 16-17: Ben Tre for exploring the Mekong islands on scooter and consuming coconut sweet
Day 18: Again to Saigon for onward journey.

Can Tho

Can Tho Floating Market

Can Tho is the principle metropolis within the Mekong Delta and a significant journey hub. It has its personal airport, which could be nice to achieve the Southern islands from, typically at a significantly cheaper value than from Saigon.

Can Tho considerably of a business capital for the Mekong Delta, and an ideal base for vacationers who get pleasure from a buzzing metropolis life with loads of cafés and eating places. The close by floating markets on the river and canals surrounding town, the place commerce is finished on the water from boats, entice vacationers from everywhere in the world.

Cai Rang Floating Market might be the Mekong Delta´s most well-known market and may get busy, however is value testing. The bigger boats promote fruit, greens and different items for wholesale, however there are additionally many small boats that promote cooked breakfasts on the spot. In case you are on the lookout for a extra slow-paced native market, contemplate exploring Phong Dien Floating Market.

Within the night, snack on the road meals on the native evening market or on the principle foodie avenue, De Tham Road. Dishes to attempt are “Hu Tieu”, a noodle soup sometimes made with pork broth, and Bun Rieu, tomato and crab soup. Afterwards, head to town´s “seashore” on the Mekong river for drinks and folks watching.

Ben Tre

Ben Tre Mekong Delta

Ben Tre was my private favorite within the Mekong Delta. It´s too removed from Saigon to draw the numerous day tour teams, slower paced than Can Tho, and attracts little or no tourism in comparison with most bigger cities within the space.

The river entrance is quiet more often than not, the evening market is geared in direction of locals, and discovering nice meals is usually a problem, however as soon as you discover it, is completely value it. Ben Tre is surrounded by palm timber and coconuts are all over the place. The city is known for its coconut sweet, keo dua, so a go to to a sweet manufacturing unit is a should. That is additionally the place we discovered the very best coconut smoothies in all of Vietnam.

Ben Tre is an superior base for motorcycle or bicycle excursions. We selected to lease a scooter from our lodge and spent our days getting misplaced on tiny roads (if you happen to may even name them that) on the numerous islands within the Mekong simply exterior of city, purposely getting misplaced and discovering ourselves on the literal finish of the street, making it from one island to the subsequent on questionably trying tiny picket ferries.

I wrote extensively about learn how to discover Ben Tre with out a tour, the submit is value a learn earlier than you go to information you on the native meals experiences, as they are often laborious to search out by yourself.

An Binh / Vinh Lengthy

Cycling Mekong Delta

If Ben Tre sounds too adventurous to you however you wish to discover a provincial city on the Mekong by yourself, the city of Vinh Lengthy and the close by island of An Binh could be simply what you might be on the lookout for.

An Binh is a sleepy island within the Mekong that’s just about automobile free, as most roads are so slender they’ll solely be navigated by scooter or bicycle. You’ll be able to keep straight on the island at one of many many homestays which have opened up over time, catering to impartial vacationers and providing every part from organized day excursions in small teams and bicycles for lease to household type dinners. They’re sometimes arrange extra like visitor homes or hostels, so don´t anticipate to be the one traveler there.

We spent our days in An Binh exploring the island on bicycle, lazing in one of many hammocks in our homestay´s lush tropical backyard, and taking the ferry into city for lunch on the native market, a refreshingly genuine place with few vacationers and loads of native fare. We additionally had our homestay manage a day journey for us, the place a ship took a gaggle of 8 vacationers to close by Cai Be floating market, to a sweet manufacturing unit (with loads of sweet sampling!) and into mangrove forests.

Try my submit on An Binh and Vinh Lengthy for more information.

Rach Gia

Rach Gia is a harbor metropolis on the Gulf of Thailand and equally to Can Tho, a transit metropolis with the principle locations being the Southern islands of Vietnam (Phu Quoc and the Nam Du archipelago) and close by Cambodia´s Kep.

It doesn´t have a ton of points of interest, however is value spending a day to discover the native meals scene when you’ve got time earlier than touring onwards. It’s not geared to vacationers the way in which a few of Vietnam´s “highlights” like Hoi An are, however we discovered the locals and our lodge extremely useful and pleasant.

Staying at one of many motels proper by the harbor makes it simple to catch the ferry early within the morning, and you will see loads of meals stalls providing breakfast as early as 5am. Our lodge, at an unimaginable charge of 11 euros for an evening, offered us with a cellular phone at some point of our keep and a free chauffeur service to a restaurant at evening.

The Southern Islands in Vietnam

Vietnam is just not as well-known for island escapes as close by Thailand, however the nation has various lush tropical islands with beautiful seashores (take a look at my submit on the very best seashores in Vietnam) the place you may nonetheless end up alone on a abandoned seashore with no crowds and no seashore distributors, making for an ideal enjoyable break.

Phu Quoc

Sunset at Ong Lang Beach Phu Quoc

Phu Quoc is definitely reached by aircraft from any of the nation´s main airports and by ferry from Rach Gia or Ha Tien (on the Cambodian border). It’s Vietnam´s most well-known island and in some areas a bit overrun with vacationers in excessive season, however even on Phu Quoc you will see abandoned seashores if you happen to dare to enterprise out on a scooter to discover the island. The time to go is now, earlier than extra vacationer resorts open up and switch the island into a large vacationer magnet.

On the Western coast of Phu Quoc, Ong Lang seashore provides beautiful sunsets with much less crowds than close by Lengthy Seaside on the island´s most important city, Duong Dong. We discovered the city middle to be extremely touristy, however the space across the day market on the sting of the river was a bit sleepier, with meals stalls providing nice take-away dishes to make your self a seashore picnic with recent spring rolls and baked items.

The Jap coast continues to be comparatively quiet, and we spent every week at Kiki Coconut seashore in a 3 bungalow homestay resort surrounded by nothing however palm timber and water, having household type dinners with the house owners and the opposite friends each evening.

Sao Seaside is a surprising postcard good white sand seashore with shallow water and a line of palm timber providing shade within the topical warmth, though trash on the seashore could be a difficulty, particularly after storms.

Nam Du Archipelago

Nam Du is on my bucket checklist, however sadly throughout our journeys to Vietnam was extraordinarily laborious to achieve and safe lodging on. It has solely not too long ago opened as much as international vacationers, and tourism infrastructure on the islands continues to be in its infancy, making it all of the extra enticing to vacationers seeking to escape from the busier areas of Vietnam.

Nam Du is a small archipelago of rocky fisherman islands, with small white sand bays and turquoise water surrounding the islands. Vietnam Coracle has an ideal information to Nam Du.

Con Dao

Dam Trau Beach Airport Beach Con Dao

Con Dao archipelago is one among my favorite locations in Vietnam. It has a darkish previous, with French colonialists utilizing the principle island of Con Son as jail island. Con Dao is a pilgrimage vacation spot for Vietnamese vacationers coming right here to pay respects to the individuals who died within the prisons.

A lot of the archipelago is a Nationwide Park as we speak and due to this fact shielded from the fast improvement occurring in different areas of the nation. Most seashores are nonetheless untouched or simply have a few picket shacks on the treeline on the sting of the tropical jungle providing drinks and all-day meals, served to you in your hammock or picket solar lounger. We hardly ever shared the seashore with greater than 10 folks.

Con Son is a quiet city with a sluggish paced market, a number of eating places and small visitor homes. There are a number of seashore resorts, from fundamental hostel-style bungalow resorts to the luxurious Six Senses Resort with personal pool villas. Until you wish to splurge on the Six Senses, we discovered the visitor homes on the town to be a greater base to discover the island as the higher seashores are fairly remoted and also you´ll wish to go to all of them.

Whereas there are a few taxis on the island, one of the simplest ways to get round is a scooter. The roads are largely abandoned, there may be barely any site visitors and we sometimes discovered ourselves taking place tiny slender sand paths to get to our locations.

My private spotlight was Dam Trau Seaside, aka airport seashore, a sandy seashore surrounded by rocky jungle set simply behind the island´s airport touchdown strip, with small propeller planes flying proper over your head a number of occasions per day. It boasts a number of picket shack bars that feed you with native dishes and recent coconuts all day lengthy so that you by no means have to go away.

Con Dao is finest reached by aircraft, as ferries are extremely depending on climate, take a very long time and there are simply approach too many tales on the market about folks getting sea sick on this route. Most individuals fly in from Saigon, however we discovered flights to and from Can Tho to be significantly cheaper. We flew in from Saigon and out to Can Tho, combining our go to to Con Dao with our Mekong Delta journey.

The Northern Vietnam bucket checklist Locations

Halong Bay

Vietnam Itinerary Halong Bay

Halong Bay is a gaggle of 1000’s of small limestone islands, surrounded by Emerald Inexperienced water. It´s a UNESCO World Heritage website and widespread for boat excursions and multi-day cruises on conventional junk boats.

It will probably get extremely busy, so select your time to go and the boat tour properly. The climate may also be a little bit of a downer within the winter months, so that is extra of a vacation spot for hotter months, if you wish to discover it in T-Shirt and flip flops.

Sa Pa


Sa Pa is a mountain metropolis simple to get to by prepare, well-known as a trekking base for visits to the numerous hill tribe villages close by. The realm is lush and inexperienced, with terrace rice fields all over the place. The Vietnamese railway provides in a single day journeys to Sa Pa by way of close by Lao Cai from Hanoi, a straightforward and comfy journey in air-conditioned sleeper automobiles with beautiful surroundings on the way in which.

This is likely one of the areas with probably the most tourism improvement within the final decade; so if you’re on the lookout for a quiet native expertise, contemplate visiting the Central Highlands close to Da Lat as a substitute.

Phong Nha

Phong Nha Nationwide Park is an journey traveler´s paradise, with huge limestone cave programs that even characteristic underground rivers. The realm’s spotlight is Son Doong Cave, the most important cave on the planet with some areas inside it being 200m excessive and 150m vast.

Above floor, the dense forests are widespread for trekking, kayaking and mountain bike excursions with wildlife recognizing.

Sensible suggestions on your Vietnam journey


As of 2019, EU nationals can go to Vietnam with out a visa for a most of 15 days. For longer journeys as much as 30 days, you may request an digital visa prematurely of your journey on the federal government web site.

An alternative choice for longer journeys and in case your nationality is just not eligible for the visa on arrival or digital visa, is the Vietnam visa on arrival. You’ll be able to request your visa to be organized by a journey company or by your lodge, who will give you a letter that you just carry to the airport and alternate for a visa on website. Remember that this feature is simply obtainable if you happen to arrive by aircraft at one of many nation´s worldwide airports, so examine prematurely to be sure you are eligible.

The final possibility is a pre-arranged visa that you would be able to get from a Vietnamese embassy earlier than your journey. This selection is a assured strategy to get into the nation by way of any airport or land border crossing and the best choice if you’re on a sluggish journey round South East Asia and crossing into Vietnam from Cambodia, for instance.

See my posts on getting a Vietnam visa on arrival and on learn how to get a visa on the Vietnamese embassy in Sihanoukville, Cambodia for more information.

Lodging in Vietnam

Most cities and cities in Vietnam have very inexpensive, clear motels and visitor homes with personal double rooms with loos. Rooms vary from 10-15 {dollars} a day for fundamental motels in additional rural areas just like the Mekong Delta and Da Lat to about 30-50 {dollars} an evening for good however fundamental boutique motels within the main cities like Saigon, Hoi An and Hanoi. On the upper finish of the market, yow will discover stunning resorts alongside the coast and on the islands with costs reaching as much as 1,000 {dollars} an evening – you may completely splurge if you wish to, but it surely isn´t crucial and we stayed at many motels and homestays with swimming pools, scrumptious native breakfasts and nice service within the 20-40 greenback vary.

Getting Round in Vietnam

For the traditional itinerary of Vietnam, the Reunification Specific prepare line is a good way to get from metropolis to metropolis. Trains are largely snug, and sleeper trains have not too long ago been upgraded and renovated. Try my submit on the Reunification Specific trains for more information and images.

The Mekong Delta and Da Lat are most simply reached by bus or minibus. Now we have discovered that spending a bit extra on a “luxurious bus” or “VIP bus” could be definitely worth the cash, as roads could be stuffed with pot holes and also you´ll respect being on a bus with correct suspension for longer journeys.

Most motels will likely be blissful to guide bus tickets for you and know the native routes. If you end up with out lodge help, journey businesses are often on each nook within the extra touristy areas of the nation and can organize tickets. That being stated, we’ve additionally in quite a few events simply walked as much as the bus station and requested for identical day or subsequent day tickets on website. The benefit right here is that you would be able to often see what bus you´ll be on, making certain you get what you might be on the lookout for.

Remember that for extra distant locations, busses will generally drop you off at a freeway intersection reasonably than on the town. Bike taxis will take you to the place you might want to go, and within the one occasion the place we would have liked a automobile taxi and there was none to be discovered, a motorcycle taxi driver ended up calling a taxi for us – we´ve by no means ended up fully stranded.

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