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Vietnam Perfect 14-Day Itinerary and Recommendations

Explore the best of Vietnam with our 14-day itinerary and recommendations. From Halong Bay to the Mekong Delta, uncover hidden gems and enriching experiences.

With some of the most incredible natural wonders and a rich cultural heritage, Vietnam is renowned as one of the most fascinating countries to visit. Despite welcoming 12.6 million international tourists last year, many travelers rush through Vietnam, focusing only on the main destinations. Unfortunately, this means they miss out on many amazing sights and experiences the country has to offer.


That's why we decided to spend more time here, deeply exploring Vietnam and its culture. Our extended stay allowed us to create insightful guides and itineraries to help you plan a more enriching visit to Vietnam, ensuring you don't miss any hidden gems.


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When to Visit Vietnam

Vietnam is a year-round destination with distinct regional climates. The country can be divided into three areas: North, Central, and South Vietnam. Each region has its own optimal visiting times.



Best Time to Visit North Vietnam

The best time to visit North Vietnam, including Hanoi, is during the spring (March to April) and autumn (September to November). The weather during these seasons is pleasant, with milder temperatures ideal for exploring the vibrant capital and its surroundings.



In North Vietnam, notable attractions include the mountainous region of Sapa and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Ha Long Bay. For travelers interested in traditional Vietnamese culture, Hanoi's craft villages are a must-visit. These villages, each representing a unique craft, are integral to Hanoi's cultural fabric. One particularly captivating village is the century-old incense-making village. Incense sticks play a crucial role in Vietnamese worship, serving as a spiritual conduit to ancestors.



Best Time to Visit South Vietnam

Southern Vietnam is best visited during the dry season, from December to April, when the weather is warm and sunny. This region offers a mix of vibrant urban life and serene countryside. A highlight of Southern Vietnam is the Mekong Delta, where visitors can explore traditional villages, visit floating markets, and savor local dishes.



Learning about life on the Mekong River is fascinating. However, the floating markets are dwindling as people migrate to larger cities for better job opportunities. While tourism helps sustain these markets, their future is uncertain. Therefore, now is an opportune time to explore the Mekong Delta and experience its unique lifestyle.



Best Time to Visit Central Vietnam

Central Vietnam is renowned for its historic sites, natural beauty, and stunning beaches. The charming towns of Hoi An and Hue attract visitors with their rich cultural heritage, while Da Nang is celebrated as one of Vietnam's top beach destinations. The central coast also features picturesque fishing villages that offer a glimpse into traditional Vietnamese life.



The ideal time to visit Central Vietnam is during the dry season, from April to August. During this period, long hours of sunshine are perfect for sunbathing and outdoor activities. The scenic landscapes and preserved traditions make this region a photographer's paradise.



Best Time to Travel Around Vietnam

Vietnam's diverse climate makes it challenging to find the perfect weather across the entire country simultaneously. However, the best time to visit for generally favourable conditions is early spring (March to April) or late fall (September to November). During these periods, the weather is pleasant across Vietnam, with mild temperatures and minimal rainfall.



How to Get to Vietnam

Vietnam's major airports are well-connected to other parts of Asia, especially Thailand and Malaysia. There are also many convenient flights from Europe, including France and the UK. For an optimal layover, consider flying through Turkey, which offers excellent connections with short waiting times and competitive ticket prices. This route provides a convenient and efficient way to reach Vietnam from various international locations.



Our Top 10 experiences in Vietnam

1. Take a boat cruise among the towering limestone mountains in Halong Bay, one of Vietnam's most recognisable sites.

2. Try egg coffee in one of Hanoi's old quarter cafes. Long ago, due to a shortage of dairy products, locals found a way to enhance their coffee's taste. You'll be surprised by how good it tastes!

3. Make an authentic cultural journey to Mekong Delta on a sunrise boat tour to the floating market.

4. Eat your way through Saigon, famous for a wide variety of delicious cuisine that can satisfy even the pickiest tourist.

5. Discover the ancient city of Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with unchanged original architecture and charm.

6. Meet the welcoming locals in Hanoi's craft villages.

7. Spend a night in a homestay with a Vietnamese family in the rice fields of Sapa or the tea plantations of Long Coc.

8. Rent a bike and get lost in the Vietnamese countryside or drive on one of the famous roads - Hai Van Pass or Ha Giang Loop.

9. Enjoy a day on the beach in Da Nang or Nha Trang.

10. Party on a rooftop bar in energetic Saigon.


Vietnam Itinerary



Day 1 - Hanoi

If you still have some energy after your long flight, head out to explore Hanoi's Old Quarter. This historic district is the oldest in the city, full of fascinating sites, excellent restaurants, and cozy cafes. Start your journey at St. Joseph's Cathedral, then wander around the surrounding area before heading to Hoan Kiem Lake, a popular meeting spot and a relatively quiet place (by Hanoi standards) to rest. If you're still up for more, take a stroll down P. Dinh Liet Street towards Long Bien Bridge. P. Dinh Liet is one of the main streets in the Old Quarter, offering plenty of interesting sights, and Long Bien Bridge provides a scenic viewpoint over the city.





Where to Eat in Hanoi

The Hanoi Cafe & Restaurant: A fantastic option for breakfast and lunch, offering a mix of Vietnamese and international cuisine at reasonable prices. They also serve excellent coffee.

Banh Mi 25: Renowned for serving the best Vietnamese sandwich on the planet, this spot is a must-visit for a delicious and authentic Banh Mi experience.



Where to Stay in Hanoi

For a short stay, the Old Quarter is the best area to immerse yourself in the vibrant energy and unique vibe of Hanoi. This area offers a front-row seat to the bustling streets and local culture.


For a longer stay, consider basing yourself in the West Lake area. This neighbourhood is less touristy and popular among expats, offering a "home away from home" feel with numerous foreign restaurants and shops.



Day 2 - Hanoi Craft Villages

Traditional craft villages are an integral part of the larger Hanoi lifestyle, each representing its own unique community while being woven into the rich tapestry of Vietnamese culture. One of the most frequently visited craft villages in the Hanoi area is Quang Phu Cau Incense Village.



This century-old incense-making village plays a significant role in Vietnamese religious and spiritual practices. Burning incense is considered a vital means of communication with ancestors in the spiritual realm, making it a deeply-rooted custom in Vietnamese culture.



To visit Quang Phu Cau Incense Village, you'll need to hire private transportation, such as a Grab taxi, a driver, or rent a scooter. The village is about an hour's drive from Hanoi's center. The best time to visit is in the morning on a sunny day when the workers lay out the incense sticks to dry outside.



After visiting the village, spend the rest of your day exploring Hanoi. Continue your exploration around the Old Quarter, or venture to Tay Ho Lake in the northern part of the city. You can begin your sightseeing at Tran Quoc Pagoda, which is situated in a picturesque location on a bridge offering beautiful views across the lake. From there, head towards the east side where you'll find more cafes and street markets to enjoy.



Day 3-4 - Halong Bay Cruise

Ha Long Bay is a stunning natural wonder in northern Vietnam, famed for its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone islands covered in lush greenery. Visitors can partake in various activities such as cave exploration, kayaking, and even rock climbing. It's a truly unique destination offering something for everyone.



You can sign up for a tour online or at any travel agency you'll meet on your way. It seems like every agency have the same connections with the tour operators, so just browse the catalog and find the standard you're looking for and then look up its reviews on google. or booking.com before you confirm your booking.


All the tours start from Hanoi, from where you'll have an organized pick up. You can take all your luggage to the bus and the crew will later transport it all to your cabin - completely stress free.


How many days for Halong Bay?

We spent 2 days and 1 night in Halong Bay, and the trip felt quite rushed. If we were to plan our visit again, we'd definitely stay for 2 nights. However, it ultimately depends on the time you have and the money you're willing to spend. Cruising on the yacht is enjoyable, so either option you choose will be a memorable experience. You should book your tour at least few days before your arrival.



Halong Bay or Laha Bay?

You might be asked whether you'd prefer Halong Bay or its alternative, Laha Bay. Travel agencies often promote Laha Bay as a similar but less crowded option. Many tourists find themselves randomly assigned to either location depending on availability, as happened to us. We had to request a refund when we realised midway through our trip that the activities didn't match the itinerary.



Laha Bay is undoubtedly beautiful, but it doesn't compare to Halong Bay, where the limestone karsts are much taller and closer together. Halong Bay offers better activities, such as visiting the caves. The kayaking in Halong Bay is also more interesting compared to Laha Bay where you basically being offered to kayak in a circle. Therefore, make sure you're clear about your destination to avoid being taken somewhere different from what you planned.



Day 5-6 Vietnam Plantations

The rice and tea plantations in Vietnam offer some of the most mesmerising views you'll ever see. Visiting at least one plantation is a must during your trip to Vietnam. There are several options to choose from when traveling from Hanoi.



The most popular destination is Sapa, where you can climb the highest peak in Vietnam and explore the stunning rice terraces. Sapa's beauty has quickly made it one of the top places to visit in Vietnam. If you're looking for something different, consider the tea plantations in Moc Chau and Long Coc. These areas offer fantastic hiking opportunities through hills and terraces with breathtaking viewpoints.



Having visited rice fields several times, we decided to explore a tea plantation, choosing Long Coc. Longa Coc is only 100 kilometres from Hanoi, and a car trip can take up to three hours. Accommodations in Long Coc are basic but affordable. Your lodging can often arrange transportation to the tea plantation. Traveling privately in Vietnam is convenient and relatively inexpensive for foreign tourists. It's often worth the cost to save time and visit more of the places you plan to see.



Day 7 - Flight to Danang

Take a morning flight to Danang, one of Vietnam's premier beach destinations. The central coast is dotted with small fishing villages that have preserved their traditional way of life, while the city itself is modern and full of interesting attractions. Spend your first day at the beach, go surfing, visit some bars or coastal cafes, and have some fun—Danang is all about enjoying life!



Where to Stay in Danang

The best place to stay in Danang is My Khe Beach. This long beach is lined with hotels, offering accommodations to suit every budget. The big roundabout is the central point of My Khe. South of it, you'll find surfboard rentals, numerous restaurants, and shops, making this area more lively compared to the north, where accommodations are more affordable. No matter where you stay, as long as you're within walking distance of the beach, you'll have a great time.



Day 8: Exploring Danang

Rent a scooter to explore the city and its surroundings. Every accommodation in Danang either rents scooters or is connected with someone who does, so booking one should be easy.



First Stop: Son Tra Peninsula (Monkey Mountain)

Head first to Son Tra, also known as Monkey Mountain, where you can find the critically endangered and stunningly beautiful Red-Shanked Douc Langurs. It's incredible that these rare primates inhabit a forested mountain at the tip of a modern Vietnamese city and you can see them by just walking along the road. Son Tra offers paradise-like beaches and the Chua Linh Ung Monastery, which features a colossal statue of Quan The Am, the goddess who "Listens to the Cries of the World". This towering white statue stands on a lotus-shaped platform, gazing south towards Danang.



Second Stop: Marble Mountains

Next, drive south to the Marble Mountains, a group of five limestone peaks located seven kilometers from downtown Danang. The Marble Mountains are home to a network of caves, tunnels, towers, and pagodas that blend harmoniously with nature. Explore these fascinating structures and shrines.


On Your Way Back: Dragon Bridge

On your way back to the city, stop by the Dragon Bridge. This unique bridge is shaped like a dragon and breathes fire and water each Saturday and Sunday night at 9 pm, offering a spectacular show.



Additional Attraction: Golden Bridge at Ba Na Hills

Another popular spot on many tourists' itineraries is the Golden Bridge at Ba Na Hills, a striking construction held by gigantic hands. The bridge looks especially impressive from a bird's-eye perspective. Note that the bridge is part of an amusement park accessible by cable car. If you enjoy amusement parks, you’ll likely find this one entertaining. However, as we weren't interested in visiting it, we can't provide much detail about the park itself.



Day 9: Hoi An

Take your scooter and drive to Hoi An. The road is straightforward, and you can reach Hoi An in just one hour. Upon arriving, I strongly suggest staying for one night in Hoi An. This city on Vietnam’s central coast is known for its well-preserved Ancient Town, which features a blend of architectural styles from wooden Chinese merchant shops and temples to colorful French colonial buildings and traditional Vietnamese houses. One of its iconic landmarks is the Japanese Covered Bridge.



One activity that many tourists enjoy is a scenic ride through the Hoi An mangroves in a traditional Vietnamese round boat, called a coracle. Navigating these narrow waterways in a coracle is a unique experience, and it's fascinating to watch the boatmen skillfully manoeuvre through the paths.



As the last light fades, Hoi An is illuminated by the glow of thousands of lanterns. They adorn the streets and vendors throughout the Ancient Town. The lantern shops, in particular, attract attention as their colorful lights add to the enchantment. The Hoi An river also becomes lit up with hundreds of boats decorated with beautiful lanterns, creating a fairytale-like atmosphere.



Where to Stay in Hoi An?

Hoi An is a small city, and most of the tourism infrastructure is centered around the Ancient Town. This area is the liveliest part of the city, often bustling with noise and activity. A wonderful alternative to this clatter is An Hoi Island, situated on the Thu Bon River. The island is right in the city center, just across from the Ancient Town. It boasts numerous bars and restaurants, yet a mere few minutes' stroll leads you to hotels in tranquil, less crowded areas.


Where to Eat in Hoi An?

Pho Xua: Offers the best local food in Vietnam at very affordable prices.

Banh Mi Phuong: Known for the best Vietnamese sandwich in Hoi An.

Ellie's Cafe: Great for breakfast.



Day 10 - Ho Chi Minh City

Return to Danang in the morning and catch an afternoon flight to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. HCMC is the largest and most modern city in Vietnam. In the evening, explore downtown and discover why Ho Chi Minh City is considered the food capital of Vietnam.


Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City?

For long-term stays, Binh Thanh District, located next to District 1 (the central district), is fantastic. It's more affordable than District 1 but still close to the center. Other popular areas among expats include Thao Dien and District 7. If visiting for a short period, consider staying in District 1 or explore the mentioned locations for more affordable accommodation options.



Day 11 - Explore Saigon

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is full of vibrant and exciting things to do. Start your day with a backpacker-style breakfast on Bui Vien Street. From there, walk to Ben Thanh Market to browse for souvenirs and try some traditional food. Continue to Nguyen Hue Street, the main street in HCMC, where you can see landmarks like the People's Committee Building and the Ho Chi Minh Statue.



A must-visit spot is the Apartment Cafe Building on Nguyen Hue Street. This former apartment building has been transformed into a hub of modern cafes, shops, and restaurants. It's one of the top locations in Ho Chi Minh City. Try the popular Vietnamese Egg Coffee here—it's very sweet and makes for a perfect dessert.



Next, visit the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Tan Dinh Church (Pink Church), two of the city's most beautiful churches. For a unique experience, venture further to Buu Long Pagoda, a complex of Buddhist temples with architectural features reminiscent of those in Thailand and Myanmar.



Day 12-13: Mekong Delta

For decades, the waters of the Mekong Delta have formed an intricate network like veins and arteries, serving as a vital transportation route in southern Vietnam. The floating markets on the Mekong River once acted as central hubs for locals to meet and trade goods. However, these markets are not as bustling as they once were, as many people are relocating to larger cities for better job opportunities, leading to a decline in the number of boats at the markets.


Even though tourism helps sustain the floating markets, there's uncertainty about how long they will continue to thrive. Now is the best time to explore the Mekong Delta before these markets undergo further changes.




How to get to Mekong Delta

While tours to the Mekong Delta are available from Ho Chi Minh City, they are not the ideal way to explore the floating markets. These tours often involve a long bus ride (about three hours) and a rushed itinerary, missing the authentic experience of the early morning market activities.



Instead, I strongly recommend basing yourself in Can Tho to get the best experience. The best way to get to Can Tho is by taking a local bus from Ho Chi Minh City. The bus ride takes around three hours, and tickets can be purchased from 12go.com.



Exploring the Floating Markets

Once in Can Tho, it’s definitely worth going on a tour to the floating market. These half-day tours begin before sunrise, allowing you to witness the market at its most active. If possible, opt for a private tour to enjoy the Mekong Delta at your own pace. Private tours use small boats similar to those locals use daily, providing a more authentic experience. You can book your tour through your hotel.



Day 14 - Return to HCMC

On the last day of our trip, you can return to Saigon around noon and catch an afternoon flight back home. Keep in mind that Tan Son Nhat International Airport is located about an hour's drive from the city center, so plan your time accordingly.


We hope you enjoyed our itinerary. If you have any questions, feel free to drop them in the comments below. Safe travels!



Read our other articles about Vietnam

In the beginning of 2024, we spent over 4 months traveling around Vietnam. By staying longer in Vietnam, we were able to visit places off the beaten path, where regular tourists don't usually go, and create comprehensive guides for you to plan your travels.







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