1.10 kilometers measures Vietnam from north to south. With Vietnam you can expect not only an extremely long, but also an incomparably multifaceted country. A rugged karst rocky landscape in the north, a fascinating river delta in the south. And in between: Hundreds of kilometers of culture, adventure and other highlights.
We have to admit: Vietnam is not one of those countries in Southeast Asia that we gave away our hearts from the first moment. A second trip to Vietnam didn’t change that. It somehow didn’t want to spark as much as in other countries. But that doesn’t change the fact that Vietnam is a country that is extremely worth seeing and culturally very interesting.
Are you planning a trip to Vietnam and looking for the ideal itinerary? In this blog article we present our route with all stops. It takes you to the highlights of Vietnam – from the iconic Halong Bay in the north to the impressive Mekong Delta at the southernmost tip of Vietnam.
1. Vietnam Itinerary for Three Weeks: All Stops and Highlights Hanoi Let’s start in the city of cities in Vietnam: Hanoi. For us, Hanoi’s old town is the epitome of Vietnam. The streets are bustling with swarms of honking scooters. Exotic smells of all kinds waft out from the roadside food stalls. And in between you have to be careful not to overlook the people sitting on the tiny, low plastic stools.
Vietnam like in a picture book – that’s how Hanoi feels in some corners. Hanoi is energetic, chaotic, noisy and quite overwhelming. Hanoi’s old town is a labyrinth of thousands of alleyways, adorned with some pretty, some pretty dilapidated colonial houses.
One of Vietnam’s most popular photo motifs can also be found in Hanoi. In the so-called Train Street the train tracks run so close to the houses that you think the train is about to ram into one of the houses. Meanwhile (as of May 2020) access to Train Street has been completed Police guards, but if you have a drink in one of the cafés, you can still go onto the train tracks.
Our hotel tip for Hanoi: Hanoi La Siesta Hotel Trendy
Recommended stay: 3 nights
Sa Pa The mountain region around the small town of Sa Pa is used by comparatively many left to the left of travelers. Here’s why: Sa Pa isn’t really on the rest of the itinerary, and getting there from Hanoi by night train (or night bus) might be a little daunting for some. But we can give the all-clear: It’s pretty easy to travel in subsequent trains.
Sa Pa itself is definitely not the highlight of the region. The town is now quite touristy. However, the lush green vegetation here in northwestern Vietnam on the border with China is truly amazing. For example, the highest mountain in Vietnam is enthroned here, the Fansipan. Curiously enough, you can now even reach its summit by cable car.
Otherwise we will put you a Trekking-Tour dear to my heart. The tours by Sa Pa Sisters should be recommended. Speaking of tours: In Hanoi you are often offered pre-booked excursions to Sa Pa. It really isn’t necessary. It’s better to organize your journey on your own and take a little more time for Sa Pa.
Our hotel tip for Sa Pa: Sapa Eco Bungalows & Spa
Recommended stay: 2 to 3 nights
Halong Bay The next stop on the itinerary is one of those highlights in Vietnam, from you’ve probably heard of before: Halong Bay. About 10 kilometers east of Hanoi in Ha Long Bay hundreds of limestone islands rising from the sea. Halong Bay is really the postcard motif par excellence. However: Unfortunately, the idyll is sometimes very clouded by the brisk boat traffic. No, Halong Bay is not an insider tip, and yes, Halong Bay is really extremely touristy in many corners.
We ourselves decided against a short day trip from Hanoi, but instead we spent our time on the largest island in Halong Bay, on Cat Ba. We would do it again at any time.
Unfortunately the weather was not kind to us during our visit. Our planned excursion by boat fell through. The best way to experience Halong Bay is on a tour with an overnight stay. Attention: Not all providers are recommended.
Our hotel tip for Halong Bay: Cocoon Inn Cat Ba
Recommended stay: 3 nights (e.g. 2 on Cat Ba and 1 on the boat)
Hue The former Hue Imperial City is the right destination for you if you want to immerse yourself in historical Vietnam. The highlight of Hue is the Imperial Citadel, which was modeled on the Forbidden City in Beijing. Although many parts of the citadel were sadly destroyed in the Vietnam War, it is still very impressive.
Hue also has many other temples and pagodas towering over the sky. The most famous pagoda and one of the most important buildings in the city is the Thien Mu Pagoda. If you are interested in palaces and temples, then Hue should definitely be on your route.
Our hotel tip for Hue: Hue Riverside Villa
Recommended Stay: 2nd up to 3 nights
Hoi An Hoi An is considered as one of the most beautiful cities in Vietnam – if not the most beautiful! In the picturesque old town of Hoi An, one pretty colonial house is lined up next to the next and colorful lantern chains characterize the streetscape. However: Hoi An is without a doubt also one of the most touristic places. Above all, the many bus tour groups that flood the streets of Hoi An during the day spoil the experience quite a bit.
Nevertheless, we really liked Hoi An. and we would strongly recommend you to include a stop in Hoi An in your itinerary. The region around Hoi An is also very pretty. For example, you can take a bike trip to the beach.
Our hotel tip for Hoi An: The Quin Riverside Villa Our detailed blog article: Tips for Hoi An
Recommended stay: 3 nights
Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) A little note in advance: There would theoretically be two bathing resorts between Hoi An and Saigon: Nha Trang and Mui Ne. We were in Mui Ne ourselves – but we can’t really recommend it. You can read our impressions in this article: Mui Ne experiences.
Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City, as the city is now called) is the second largest city in Vietnam after Hanoi. Unlike Hanoi, however, Saigon is more western and urban. Here you will find many more skyscrapers, but you can also immerse yourself in the bustling, authentic hustle and bustle. In Saigon you will also witness Vietnam’s eventful history. The Reunification Palace, for example, is worth seeing.
Our hotel tip for Ho -Chi Minh City: Fusion Suites Saigon
Our detailed blog article: Saigon Tips
Recommended stay: 3 Nights
Mekong Delta: Can Tho & Ben Tre Last but not least: Your itinerary should definitely take you to the Mekong Delta. The river delta at the southernmost tip of Vietnam was our favorite stop in Vietnam. Here you get an authentic insight into the daily life of the people here in the Mekong Delta on and near of the water.
One of the highlights in the Mekong Delta is a visit to the floating markets. Two of the most famous floating markets can be found near Can Tho, the largest city in the Mekong Delta. We also really liked the so-called coconut province of Ben Tre.
By the way: Unfortunately, many travelers only visit the Mekong Delta as part of a day trip. Although this is possible in principle, we would not recommend it. We have not regretted for a second that we spent four whole nights in the Mekong Delta.
Our hotel tip for Can Tho: Binh Minh Eco Lodge
Our hotel tip for Ben Tre: Mekong Home
Recommended stay: 2 to 4 nights (e.g. 2 in Can Tho and 2 in Ben Tre)
2. Map: Vietnam route at a glance We have marked all of our stops on this map for you so that you can get an idea of the itinerary can imagine. What you should definitely keep in mind: Vietnam is very long and the distances are correspondingly large. For the route between Hanoi and Sa Pa you will need approximately 06 Schedule hours. We will give you more information and tips on transport in the next chapter.
3. More tips for your trip to Vietnam From north to south or vice versa? You’ve probably wondered which makes more sense: traveling north to south or south to north? Our possibly unsatisfactory answer: It depends. It doesn’t matter which variant you choose – both in the north and in the south you have Hanoi or Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) the perfect starting or ending point of your journey.
Personally, we would make the decision dependent on two things:
1. Flights: Very pragmatic, but not insignificant – for which variant do you find the cheaper/more optimal flights? We strongly recommend (if you really want to travel the whole country) an open jaw flight, e.g. arriving in Hanoi and departing from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).
2 . Season/Climate: Note that northern Vietnam can be really cold during the European winter months. For example, if you travel to Vietnam in January and absolutely want to take the north with you, then we would start there personally. The further south you go during the journey, the warmer it gets. (This is definitely more comfortable than the other way around.)
What is the best time to travel to Vietnam? The bad news first: There is no ideal travel time that applies to all of Vietnam! Since Vietnam is so long, you will find roughly three climate zones here: North, Central and South Vietnam. Depending on the month, the climate in the individual regions differs massively from each other. For example, while it is pleasantly hot and sunny in the south in January, it can often get really cold in the north. A boat tour in Halong Bay isn’t much fun.
The good news: You can travel to Vietnam all year round, you have to however, depending on the region, sometimes make compromises. Some therefore decide to limit the trip to just one region.
Our personal experiences We have been to Vietnam twice: Our first trip was us in August to Northern Vietnam. We can confirm that the climate in this month was very humid and rainy. More ideal would be September to been November. In Halong Bay, for example, we had continuous rain for three days.
Our second trip took us to Central and South Vietnam in December/January. In the south, the weather was really pleasant and very sunny – just what you want it to be. In central Vietnam, however, it was very changeable and rather fresh.
An important note: The weather in Southeast Asia does not always adhere to climate forecasts. This means that you should always be prepared for everything – even in the supposedly dry months, downpours cannot be ruled out. The rain jacket should therefore be in the suitcase at all times of the trip. We also strongly recommend that you take enough warm clothing with you if you are traveling to North Vietnam during the European winter. You really underestimate how chilly it can get.
Transportation in Vietnam: How do I get from A to B? An important tip in advance: Vietnam is very long. So keep in mind that the distances are sometimes long. Not infrequently one sits up to 10 Hours on the train or bus before reaching the next destination. In any case, Vietnam is a country where you have to be prepared for longer journeys.
Bus travel in Vietnam The most common way to travel around Vietnam is by bus. There are countless providers. We ourselves have often relied on the highly recommended bus company Phuong Trang (Futa Bus Lines). Bus travel in Vietnam is very cheap, but not always comfortable. In general, we would recommend it, especially for shorter distances.
Tickets you can either buy directly on site (e.g. in one of the countless small travel agencies or via your accommodation) or you can book your ticket in advance. This is e.g. via the website 12go.asia easily possible.
Train travel in Vietnam Many destinations in Vietnam are accessible by train. It usually takes you about the same amount of time to travel by train as by bus. Personally, we find train travel more comfortable, especially over longer distances, because you can get up and aren’t pinned down in your narrow seat.
We are ourselves For example, took the night train from Hanoi to Sa Pa and can definitely recommend it. Tickets for the train journey can also be purchased via 10book go.asia.
Flying in Vietnam If you look at the distances If you take a closer look in Vietnam, you will notice: You rarely get from A to B that quickly. So we understand very well why flying is sometimes an attractive alternative to the land route. The route network in Vietnam is large: many places are connected by plane.
We personally flew with the national airline Vietnam Airlines and can not report anything negative. Depending on when you book, domestic flight tickets are pretty cheap. However, the prices can also be quite expensive if there is a corresponding demand.
Travel guide for Vietnam: Our tip In Southeast Asia, we prefer to trust the travel guides by Stefan Loose – this is also the case in Vietnam. We can highly recommend the Stefan Loose Travel Guide Vietnam. As expected, it is quite detailed, but not too excessive and just super researched. Perfect for all individual travellers!
Transparency: Affiliate Links This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we will receive a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. A thousand thanks from both of us!
2020Have you already made a trip through Vietnam? What was your itinerary like and what were your highlights? Or do you still have questions about the route? We look forward to your comment!