The Ultimate Vietnam Itinerary 2 Weeks for the First Timer

Why spend 2 weeks in Vietnam?

For first-timers, 2 weeks in Vietnam is the perfect introduction to this beautiful country’s unique history, culture and stunning landscapes. Here’s some highlights of what you can expect to experience during your visit to Vietnam. If time limits, then you can also refer to our  Vietnam itinerares in 10 days

But what’s the next step? If you’re planning a trip to Vietnam you may be overwhelmed on where to start and wondering how you’ll get around (isn’t there a language barrier?!) so I’ll reveal the tips and tricks I used for my own Vietnam itinerary. Below you’ll find ideas for day trips, my hotel recommendations and what you could expect to see in a day at each destination. Hopefully it will inspire you for your own trip and get your itinerary planning off to a good start!

How should I best spend 2 weeks in Vietnam on a mid-range budget?

For any trip, staying in a centrally located hotel is of utmost importance if you want to maximise your travel experience. In Vietnam it means you’ll spend less time getting around and more time exploring UNESCO World Heritage Sites, wandering the vibrant streets and enjoying the Vietnam Street Food that make Vietnam world-famous. The hotels I’ve recommended below are mid-range, in the heart of the city centres.

Regular hotel rate in Vietnam:

• Boutique & character hotels : from $50-$80 USD per room/ per night
• Comfort = 3 star hotels from US$ 40 – US$ 60 per room/ per night 
• Superior = 4 star hotels from US$ 80 – US$ 110 per room/ per night
• Deluxe = 5 star hotels from US$120 – US$ 190++ per room/ per night
• High-end = Best of the best hotels from US$ 250++ per room/ per night.

You may want to read our travel tips to Vietnam:

Vietnam Two-Week Itinerary Overview

With the length of your holidays, this Vietnam itinerary in 2 weeks will offer you both an overview of Vietnam from South to the North and deeply discover the culture in Mekong Delta and further in Halong Bay. You will travel to the must-see places but coming to the non-touristy part of them and alternative travel route.

Day 1: Ho Chi Minh City

Start your Vietnam travel  in the urban, modern and energetic big-city Ho Chi Minh city. Spend two full days here, as there is plenty to do and see in Ho Chi Minh City. Ho Chi Minh city is the place to experience the modern side and culture of this amazing country.

Where to stay in HCMC:

Novotel – Sai Gon: Novotel Saigon Centre is a 5-minute drive from attractions like Notre-Dame Basilica, Saigon Opera House and the War Remnants Museum. It is a 20-minute drive from Tan Son Nhat Airport.

Day 2: Ho Chi Minh City – Mekong Delta

7.00am: Leaving the busy city, you will start your trip to Mekong Delta. Stop to visit Cai Be Cao Dai Temple. Get on a cruise to visit Cai Be colorful floating market among local barges full of fruits and vegetables. Then, an optional stop can be made at local workshops where you can see how to make rice paper, coconut candy and pop-rice, pop – corn.

Arrive at a home-stay. Have a rest, relax and have lunch.

After lunch,  explore deeper into the countryside on smaller canals and to enjoy the peaceful time by a rowling boat. It is so interesting to see traditional houses made of wood and palm tree leaves and see some activities of the local farmers.

Go back your home – stay and get ready for next activities. Try catching fish in the river and collecting vegetable. Then  to prepare dinner by our Chefs in the late afternoon.

Have some fruits and tea when enjoying the traditional music.

Note: The floating markets in the Mekong Delta are no tourist markets but wholesale markets where produce of the Mekong Delta like fruits and vegetables are traded. For this reason the number of boats on the market fluctuates depending on harvesting seasons and market demand. Furthermore, modern wholesale markets are becoming more popular in Vietnam. This can result in decreasing numbers of boats being present on the markets.

Overnight at a home-stay in Tan Phong Islet

Day 3: Mekong Delta – Ho Chi Minh City

Have a breakfast and hop on your bike for a discovery of Tan Phong Islet: Visit kindergarten. Stopping at a local farmer’s house to learn how to make Jackfruit leafs cake and then cycling to Bonsai garden and talking to him to understand how local farmers take care for their gardens, then try plucking the fruits and tasting them.

After cycling back to your home-stay, you will take short rest and check-out at about 11:00. After lunch, your boat will transfer you back the tourist boat Cai Be for driving back to Ho Chi Minh City.

Final our Mekong Delta trip and come back to Ho Chi Minh City at 17:00.

Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City

Day 4: HCMC – Cu Chi – City Tour

I recommend to take a tour to Cu Chi Tunnels to know more about Vietnam Wars and Vietnam history.

At 7.00, they pick up at hotel & enjoy scenic drive through the countryside as people work on their rice paddies and thatched hut villages scattered along the way. Visit a local village making rice paper, a well-known product used to make the delicious spring rolls.

You will have change to explore part of the 151-mile underground network that zigzagged from the southern tip of the Ho Chi Minh Trail near Cambodia to the Saigon River. Cu Chi is a must for anyone interested in understanding a vital aspect of guerrilla warfare fought by the Vietnamese against both the French and the Americans. These criss-crossing tunnels were begun in the late 1940s by local resistance fighters looking for a place to hide their weapons from the French. Discover secret trapdoors, field hospitals, command posts, underground kitchens, living areas and meeting rooms.

Afternoon tour of HCMC: we’ll discover Saigon’s historic landmarks including the War Remnants Museum, established in September 1975 in Ho Chi Minh City, it contains countless artifacts, photographs and pictures documenting some of the less heroic activities carried out by the US army in Vietnam. Planes, tanks, bombs and helicopters are also on display. Next visit the FITO Museum, it is the first museum of Vietnamese medicine. On display are nearly 3,000 items dating back to the Stone Age. Exhibits include tools used to prepare medicine, knives, mortars and pestles, documents and objects from a traditional pharmacy. The museum regularly screens a documentary about the history of medicine.

Continue visiting to the 1880’s General Post Office and the late 19th century Notre Dame cathedral, located in a peaceful part of the city.

Ending at Ben Thanh Market or House of Saigon for shopping and café.

Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City

Day 5: Ho Chi Minh City – Fly to Hue

Take a morning flight to Hue.

After transfer to your hotel, store your luggage at the hotel and start the trip in Hue City.

Start with visiting the Imperial Citadel and the Forbidden Purple City nearby. Modeled on the Forbidden City in Beijing by the Nguyen emperors in the early 19th century, the city was badly damaged during the war but the imposing city walls surrounded by a large moat afford good views of Hue. The palace retains a feeling of its past scale and importance, with detailed stonework and pavilions and it is at the moment in the process of being restored to its former magnificence.

After Lunch, you will visit Tu Duc King Tomb. Stop to visit Tiger Arena and Voi Ré Temple on the way.

Thien Mu Pagoda
Thien Mu Pagoda

Continue to Thien Mu Pagoda, sitting on the riverbank outside the city, this octagonal seven tier stupa has long been regarded as the symbol of Hué and was founded in 1601. It is still a site of Buddhist worship and its huge bell is said to be audible from the city. Take a down-stream cruise for sunset on the river.

In the late afternoon, visit Dong Ba market. Dong Ba is the biggest commercial center of Thua Thien Hue Province and the adjacent regions. It stands along the north bank of Huong River, on Tran Hung Dao Street of Hue City and stretches from Trang Tien Bridge to Gia Hoi Bridge.

It’s said that Dong Ba Market is where people can get most of Hue’s delicious dishes within a place – its food courts, and at a high quality standard. Don’t miss these street vendors on the ground of the market (under the stair). They’re really worth a try.

 

Day 6: Hue – Hoian Walking in the Old Quarter

Leave Hue to visit the ancient town – Hoian.

Stop en-routes at several for beautiful scene and witness local life.

Firstly, stop at Thuy Thanh village; visit the local market and a farmer tool at a family. Chance for taking photo when you pass Lang Co Beach and Hai Van Pass. In Danang, you will stop to visit Cham museum.

In the afternoon, discover how the traditions of the past are treasured in the present in Hoi An on the Thu Bon River, a key international trading port between the 15th and 19th centuries – now a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its well-preserved, centuries-old streets, dwellings, temples and pagodas, touring Hoi An’s historic highlights, explore its shop-lined streets, view the red-painted Japanese Covered Bridge – the three Chinese characters over the door mean “bridge for passers-by from afar” and tour the 200-year-old “Phung Hung” house, noted for its unique architecture. What you’ll see there will reveal much about the lives of Hoi An merchants long ago. Visit the workshop of a traditional lantern maker for a demonstration of this time-honored craft; meet the artisans and try your skills as you create your own lantern to take home.

Overnight in Hoian

Where to stay in Hoi An: You will have two options. 

  • Near the beach: LITTLE BOUTIQUE HOTEL & SPA
  • Near the town center: Hoian Silk Marina 

But I recommend to stay in the town center because you can easily hang out Hoi An Ancient at night. It’s really amazing, especially if you stay here during the full-moon day (on the fifteenth day of the lunar month).

Day 7: Hoian Tour

This day starts after brief introduction and some biking guidance. You will take a cycling trip to Hoian countryside. A local boat will bring you to Kim Bong – a village of wood carving. Visit around the village and partake in a wood carving activities for which the village is famous for, then you’ll continue cycling to Duy Nghia sedge mat making village. Upon the arrival at Duy Nghia village, you’ll visit some local families making mats and enjoy the short break. The route takes you through paddy fields and along lovely rivers to Duy Hai village where local people make fish sauce.

Hoi An

Taking a rest before continuing the journey, you will experience another local boat ride to the water coconut and bamboo carving village. You’ll have a chance to visit a family that makes a lot of bamboo things such as bamboo chairs, bamboo tables, bamboo lamps, bamboo telephones and even bamboo bicycles! After lunch at a local family with unforgettable memories you’ll continue the journey to Tra Que organic village through the rice paddy fields and hamlets. Here you’ll learn how the local people plant so many different herbs and vegetables. Enjoying a special juice made from the local herbs and you’ll cycle back to Hoian and end the great trip here.

Over night in Da Nang city

 
Tra Que herbal Village
Tra Que Herbal Village in Hoi An

Where to stay in Danang: NOVOTEL DA NANG HOTEL – on the beautifully-designed West Bank of the Han River, the Novotel has taken its place as a leading hotel venue for both business and leisure travelers.

Day 8: Danang – Hanoi

Morning tour to My Son holly land, a cluster of abandoned and partially ruined Hindu Temples constructed between the 4th and the 14th century AD by the kings of Champa .The temples are dedicated to the worship of the god Shiva, known under various local names, the most important of which is “Bhadresvara”. From the 4th to the 14th century AD, the valley at My Son was a site of religious ceremony for kings of the ruling dynasties of Champa, as well as a burial place for Cham royalty and national heroes.

in the afternoon, take a flight from Danang to Hanoi.

Overnight in Hanoi

Where to stay in Hanoi:

Day 9: Hanoi – Ninh Binh

In the morning, we will take a 2 – hours driving from Hanoi heading to the South to Ninh Binh province. This place was the first capital of Vietnam in the tenth century. We will visit King Ding Tien Hoang’s Temple and King Le Dai Hanh Temple. Two temples are small but they have special historic and spirit value. You also see beautiful work of sculpture on wood and stone.

You get back on your coach again to Tam Coc. After Lunch, you will take a rowing sampan to visit Tam Coc which is considered as “In – land – Halong Bay”. While sitting on the boat, you will pass “3 caves” and also can see the lively local life on the banks of the river; some people catching fish/shrimp/snail, some picking the vegetable, goat eating grass on the mountains…

Ninh Binh in may

Checking in your hotel, relax and flexible activities as:

  • Riding bicycle/walk from your hotel to visit village around
  • Ride bicycle/by coach to Bich Dong Pagoda
  • Ride bicycle/by coach to Thung Nham bird garden.

Overnight in Ninh Binh

Day 10: Ninh Binh – Halong

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner 7.30 – 8.00: after breakfast, you will take a driving trip to Halong City.

12.30: Arrive at Tuan Chau Port, take a tender to the cruise – enjoy welcome drink, receive cruise briefing and safety instructions.

Please note that: It depends on the cruise you choose that the itinerary is differently arranged.  However, all activities arranged by the cruise are on a shared basis and all are suitable for tourists of all ages. Usually, there are cruises within a day, in 2 days 1 night or 3 days 2 nights. It’s highly recommended that you learn carefully the itinerary before your trip in order to choose the places you want to visit the most as well as the activities most suitable for you.

Here is the sample schedule of Indochina Sails 2 days: 

13.15 – 14.00: Passengers enjoy the deluxe Vietnamese Set Menu Lunch. Massage service is available after lunch and throughout the cruise. Please book in advance with your Cruise Manager.

14.00 – 16.30: Cruise through Halong Bay, passing the most beautiful and quiet areas including Incense Burner, Dog Stone Islet, Fighting Cock, Finger Islet.

16.30: Arrive at Cua Van Floating Fishing Village. This is one of the largest fishing villages on the Bay. Guests can choose between kayaking through the village or visiting on small bamboo boats (sampans) rowed by villagers. Kayakers will depart from the boat in two-seater, self-rowed kayaks, kayaking through the village and back to the boat. A kayaking tour guide will lead the way.

18.00: Attend the Fruit and Vegetable carving lesson led by our Head Chef. During the lesson, the chef will conduct Fruit and Vegetable carving, showing the guests how we decorate and make some traditional Vietnamese food.

18.00 -19.00: First Happy Hour! Buy one drink – get one free (wine by the bottle excluded).

19.30: Dinner is served to the guests.

20.45: Evening activities. Board games like cards or Parcheesi are available, as well as massage service (massage service is available throughout the cruise). Also, everyone can try their luck at squid fishing on the boat with help from the crew.

21.00 – 22.00: Second Happy Hour! Buy one drink-get one free (wine by the bottle excluded).

Overnight in Halong bay cruise

Day 11: Halong discovery

 

06.45: Coffee, tea and breakfast pastries served in the dining room.

07.00: Enjoy Tai Chi instruction on the sundeck (duration about 30 minutes).

07.45: Enjoy Breakfast served in the dining room.

08.30 – 16.00: Daytime activities include cruising to less trafficked areas of the Bay, visiting Surprise Cave and kayaking around Bat Cave area (the itinerary could be revised flexibly based on weather conditions). Lunch is served on board mid-day.

After lunch, guests will pay a visit to Pearl Farm in the afternoon.

16.00: Return by tender to the Indochina Sails boat. Rejoin the cruise and relax onboard as we sail to the overnight anchorage.

18.00 – 19.00: First of two Happy Hours! Buy one drink-get one free (wine by the bottle excluded).

19.30: Dinner is served to the guests.

20.45: Evening activities. Board games like cards or Parcheesi are available, as well as massage service (massage service is available throughout the cruise). Also, everyone can try their luck at squid fishing on the boat with help from the crew.

21.00 – 22.00: Second Happy Hour! Buy one drink-get one free (wine by the bottle excluded).

23.00: End of Program for Day Two

Overnight in Halong bay

Day 12: Halong – Hanoi

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

06.45 Coffee, tea and breakfast pastries served in the dining room.

07.00 Enjoy Tai Chi instruction on the sundeck (lasting for about 30 minutes).

07.45 – 9.00 Guests are transferred by tender to the Titop Island. About one hour is spent on the island, allowing time to climb to the peak for a breathtaking 360 degree view of the Bay (there is also an expansive viewing deck half way up).

After the climb, there is time left to relax on the beach and have a swim.

09.00 Upon returning to the boat, guests will have 30 minutes to freshen up and finish packing. Please collect all of your belongings from the cabins and leave heavy luggage outside the cabins (staff will transfer directly to the pier).

09.30 Enjoy a full breakfast in the dining room. Bills are settled after breakfast.

Relax on the sundeck or in the dining room enjoying the bay scenery as we approach the pier.

11.00 Arrive at Tuan Chau port, relax inside the pier building while waiting for return transportation

Stop to visit a ceramic and pottery village en-route.

Arrive back in Hanoi at about 5.00pm.

Overnight in Hanoi

Day 13: Hanoi city
Take a day tour to Hanoi

It is really important to take a day tour to Hanoi to get to know about its charm and history. 

Morning, you’ll head out with your guide and begins with a visit Ba Dinh Square to see Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum – the museum to his life and the simple cottage where he lived and worked, along with his “house on stilts” and his final resting place; and take in Hanoi’s famous One-Pillar Pagoda, constructed in 1049 to resemble a lotus blossom. Continue to the Museum of Ethnology, where we’ll learn about the fascinating cultural diversity of this ancient land.

One Pillar Pagoda

This afternoon, drive through Colonial Hanoi, seeing the Opera House and other local sights. Go inside infamous Hoa Lo Prison (“Hanoi Hilton”), where Senator John McCain and Douglas “Pete” Wilson were once imprisoned, and continue to the Temple of Literature, which dates back to 1070 and is dedicated to the cult of Confucius. Take a cyclo ride through the Hanoi’s Old Quarter, a network of narrow alleys and shop houses also known as “The 36 Streets.” This is a wonderful place to watch the local life, and peruse items from fabrics to crafts to exotic medicines. Enjoy a traditional Vietnamese water puppet performance, a uniquely North Vietnamese art form celebrating rural life and folklore for over 1,000 years, this evening.

Overnight in Hanoi

Day 14: Hanoi 

You are free to chill out and relax.

 

 

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