Your Vietnam Itinerary 3 Weeks from North To South

Vietnam travel itinerary from north to south is truly wonderful journey which covers all the highlights of this stunning S-shaped country. The history, the old-world charm, breathtaking beaches and the vibrant color are just some of the things you will experience on this journey through startlingly beautiful Vietnam.

We simply love Vietnam – with its incredible varied and healthy food, its interesting mix of old history and futuristic cities.

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Your Ultimate 3 weeks Vietnam itinerary 

Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks from North To South
Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks from North To South

Day 1-2: Hanoi city 

In the morning

  • After departing in Noi Bai Airport, get some sleep and get ready to explore Hanoi and Vietnam in general. 
  • In the morning, don’t forget to try “Pho” – The “national dishes” in Vietnam to get energy for a wonderful day of exploration Hanoi. 
  • After that, you can simple hire cars or if you dare, try to ride a motobike to begin visiting 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;
  • Then take in Hanoi’s famous One-Pillar Pagoda nearby. The Pagoda was constructed in 1049 to resemble a lotus blossom.
    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 (rickshaw) 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. 

If you have time, you should visit the Museum of Ethnology, where we’ll learn about the fascinating cultural diversity of this ancient land. 

In the afternoon, try some “Vietnam local Fresh Beer” in the Ta Hien Street in The Old Quarter to have deep understanding of Hanoi nighlife

Where to stay in Hanoi: 

  • 3 star hotel: Vietview Hotel or 
  • 4-star: MK Premium Hotel
  • 5-star: Hotel L Opera
Chua mot cot - lotus pagoda
Chua mot cot – lotus pagoda

Day 3: Hanoi – Hoa Lu & Trang An – night train to Lao Cai

Ninh Binh is just 2 hours’ drive south of Hanoi yet feels a world away from the busy capital. This is an area famous for its dramatic landscapes – rice paddies and waterways between limestone peaks.

This morning, drive to the beautiful area of Ninh Binh often described as Halong Bay on land.  In Ninh Binh you will visit the ancient capital of Hoa Lu where you will visit Dinh and Le temples.  This scenic temple is dedicated to founder of the once-impressive citadel it sits within called Ding Tien Hoang. The small 17th century gardens are beautifully shaded, a delightful respite from the heat of the day, and feel very authentic. All around are the limestone karsts, and a similar temple is just down the road. 

Overview of Ninh Binh, Vietnam
Overview of Ninh Binh, Vietnam

After lunch, you also take a paddle boat ride through the beautiful karts limestone fringed waterways of Trang An Eco Region.  On the boat you will venture through multiple water caves seeing some amazing pagodas set amidst stunning verdant backdrops. This trip allows for some amazing photographic opportunities in a unique region of Vietnam a world away from Vietnam’s frantic cities.

In the afternoon, getting back to Hanoi and get ready to take a night train to Sapa, Lao Cai province. Sleep over a night in the train and you will be in Lao Cai Station in 5- 6:00 am in the next morning.

Day 4: SAPA 

In order to get to Sapa, when you depart at Lao Cai, you neeed to get on the bus to head to Sapa. So if you travelling within a group of above 4 people then it is recommended to get a bus from Hanoi directly to Sapa.

Store your luggage at your hotel and start your day in Sapa with a visit to Tram Ton Pass, a height of 2047 meters above sea level, the highest pass in Vietnam. Enjoy amazing views of the surrounding mountains and lush forests of the Hoang Lien National Park. From there you will trek 30 minutes through a tropical rain forest enjoying the wonderful flora and fauna. Continue to trek along a stream arriving at the Love Waterfall or Silver Waterfall, a wonderful place to relax in Sapa. Returning to Tram Ton Pass and drive back to Sapa. 

Vietnam itinerary - Tam Ton Pass
Vietnam itinerary – Tam Ton Pass

After checking in your hotel, continue your day with a hiking trip to Cat Cat village. The village is about 1 km from Sapa town. It’s located at the bottom of the Muong Hoa Valley, where of H’mong live. Walking in the village, you can see the traditional houses, waterfall and ruined French hydro power plant.

The rest of the day is free at leisure. On the nice weather day, you can choose to visit Ham Rong Mountain (entrance fee is not included).

Accommodation: Stay 2 nights in Sapa

Day 5: Sapa – Y Linh Ho – Lao Chai – Tavan

You will have a trek through beautiful landscape surrounded by rice paddy terraces and mountains covered by rain forest under the protection of Hoang Lien National Park. Also you will hear about the life style and tradition of Back Hmong and Giay minorities.  The first part is on the road but we soon turn to the right and walk on a small path down the valley to Y Linh Ho village settled down by the Muong Hoa River and from here to the Black H’mong village of Lao Chai. Black H’mong is one of the biggest minority groups in the Sapa area. They are proud of their culture and keep their traditions and way of living. They have their own language and wear traditional indigo blue clothing. The H’mong peoples have just recently changed their living way from sifting style into the sedentary one. So there are still a lot traces of the past time can be seen: rudimentary houses, stone wall around homes…

After that,  you continue to Ta Van village (1.200 m) to visit Zay people.  Zay is a fairly small minority group of about 38.000 people who live mainly in the mountains in Northwest Vietnam. The development has meant that some of their old customs have been lost but many women still wear traditional shirts with a purple, blue or green color. The Zay houses are build of wood and bamboo with a clay floor.

If you visit the valley sometime in between May and October, you will be able to observe and experience how the local do planting and harvesting, one of the most important activities in the daily life.  After visiting Ta Van village the car will return you to Sapa.

Day 6: Sapa – Market tours – Shuttle bus back to Hanoi 

After breakfast you will be picked up again by your private local guide and driver and then depart Sapa for a 3 hour drive to one of the most colorful markets of the region. After the market tour and lunch at a local restaurant you will back to Lao Cai station to catch a shuttle bus back to Hanoi. 

Bargain in Bac Ha Market
Bargain in Bac Ha Market

Below are the market options: 
Please note: Your tour program may vary, depending on your day of arrival and whether you are wishing to focus on activities or culture.

Option 1: Bac Ha – Sunday market. 
Leaving Sapa we drive to Bac Ha market (approximately 3 hours). Arriving at Bac Ha, we visit the big market and the colorful ethnic people of the Flower H’mong, Phu La and Dao Tuyen minorities, who gather here to buy and sell their handicraft products. After spending the morning exploring the market our lunch will be served at a local restaurant. After lunch we drive downhill to start a short walk to Trung Do Village which is home to the Tay minority. Here we can visit a traditional Tay house. We will then travel by boat through amazing countryside to Bao Nhai Village. 

Option 2: Can Cau Market – Saturday market. 
We will take a 3 hour drive to Can Cau market.  Our journey will take us through the mountainous border area between Vietnam and China.  Situated 20 kilometres fr om Bac Ha, Can Cau is a small but very colorful market.  Opening only on Saturdays, it always delivers a very photogenic display of Flower Hmong, Nung and Phu La ethnic costumes. After spending the morning exploring the market, we will leave for Bac Ha town where we will have lunch.  From Bac Ha we drive downhill (1/2 hour) to start a short walk to Trung Do Village which belongs to the Tay minority. Have the opportunity to visit a traditional Tay house. We will then travel by boat through the amazing countryside to Bao Nhai Village. 

Option 3: Lung Khau Nhin  – Thursday  market. 
From Sapa, we drive first downhill to Lao Cai City, then uphill through Muong Khuong District onto Lung Khau Nhin Commune. The road condition is good but having many sharp bends which offers stunning scenery of the beautiful mountainous region along the border to China, especially the terraced rice paddies, tea farms and pine plantations… Taking place every Thursday, Lung Khau Nhin Market is not only a small market hiding itself amongst the mountains and forests of the far North Vietnam but also an original tribal one. This remote mountainous area is the place wh ere the Flower H’mong mainly gathers to exchange their homemade products. You will join locals to enjoy the excitement of this weekly market to which local tribal peoples come to attend not only for shopping but also for socializing. Walk from section to sections, corner to corners, seeing and smelling of different local products such as spices, vegetable, farming tools, handicraft and even medicinal herb…, meeting smiling peoples everywhere. There are not many foreign travelers get here and you will find yourself lost in the crowd of ethnic people in their traditional colorful costumes. 

Option 4: Cao Son – Wednesday market.

Enjoy a beautiful scenic drive to visit the Cao Son market. We take a dirt road which leads up into the mountains through the pine tree forests and villages that surround the tiny markets. Flower H’mong, Tu Di, Tay and Giay are ethnic minorities who come to trade local products such as food, agricultural supplies and fabric here. After exploring these markets our car will take us back to Muong Khuong for lunch. After lunch in a local restaurant we will visit the most secluded peaceful villages, and have the opportunity to observe traditional practices such as distilling wine from corn and making bacon. We will be offered a special corn cake when you stop by a local house. 

Option 5: Coc Ly Market – Tuesday market. 
Drive from Sapa (3hrs) to Coc Ly market situated between the stunning mountains by the Chay River. Every Tuesday morning, the people from the surrounding ethnic villages such as Flower H’mong, Phu La and Dao Tuyen gather to sell and buy their products. Having explored the market, we will have a boat trip to Flower H’mong village of Na Nen then trek to Trung Do village of Tay minority people. Enjoy a picnic lunch in a local house with the Tay people. From there we can travel by boat, down the river, and experience the magnificent sights surrounding the beautiful river banks. 

22.00: arrive in Hanoi. The bus will stop you at the nearest point of your in walking distance. 

Overnight in Hanoi 

Day 7: Hanoi – Halong bay 

After breakfast you will leave Hanoi for the 4-5 hour journey to Halong Bay, passing through a number of North Vietnamese towns and villages. l you will be welcomed aboard to a Halong cruise.

Begin a relaxing and unforgettable cruise around the breathtaking and unique limestone karsts and islets. A delicious fresh seafood lunch will be served as you cruise this spectacular bay, a UNESCO listed site.  After lunch you will explore some of Halong Bay’s famous caves by bamboo boat or kayaking based on your preference. And then reach on the top of Soi Sim beach to have a panorama view of Halong Bay.  All activities arranged by the cruise are on a shared basis

Floagting Village in Halong Bay
Floagting Village in Halong Bay

Return to your junk boat to watch a cooking class or fruits & vegetable carving on sundeck – How to make spring rolls. Then enjoy Sunset Party together and Happy Hour (buys two drinks, gets one free from 18.00 to 19.00). It is time for chit chat and relaxing before enjoy your dinner and evening activities around the bar.

Accommodation: Stay 1 night onboard, in a private cabin with en-suite bathroom.

Day 8: Halong bay – Hanoi

Wake to see the sunrise over the spectacular horizon, reflecting in the pristine waters of the bay, with a cup of tea or coffee. Then join a Tai Chi class on the sundeck if you wish before enjoying breakfast in the fresh air. Continue to sail around this natural wonder. Visit to the Sung Sot Cave by walking up about 100 steps to the cave entrance and tour the cave for approximately 45 minutes. Walk down about 100 steps and return to the boat. Proper shoes are highly recommended. Return to the boat then check-out of the cabin. Start cruising towards the harbor while an A la carte lunch is served. The crew will bid you farewell and you disembark with our tender boat to the Tuan Chau Pier. 

Return your Hanoi hotel by cruise’s shuttle bus in the afternoon then spend a night in Hanoi. 

Day 9 -10: Hanoi – fly to Quang Binh. 

You will take a morning flight to Dong Hoi, Quang Binh. Check in and free at leisure to explore Nhat Le river & beach right central Dong Hoi city

In the 10th day of you Vietnam trip, begin with a short drive to Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park to see the world’s longest limestone cave and now a UNESCO World Heritage Listed site. Reach the cave by boat along the Son River and once inside explore the caves fine sand beaches, spectacular stalagmites and stalactites. After touring this amazing limestone cave you will return to the dock for lunch in a local restaurant.  After lunch, continue to explore Tam Co Temple and Paradise Cave ( Vietnamese name Thien Duong cave) , discovered by scientists of the British Caving Research Association in 2005. It has a length of 31km, and is the longest dry cave in Asia.  After spend 3 hours discover the caves, we drive back Dong Hoi city for overnight.

Cave in Quang Binh
Cave in Quang Binh

Day 11: Quang Binh – DMZ – Hue 

On the 11th day, we continue drive to south of  Quang Binh, along Highway 1A  to visit  Vinh Moc Tunnel and  the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in Quang Tri province, where much of the fighting occurred. This area still bears the scars of the massive bombardments that took place – the few remains of the many camps and combat bases, the barren ground pockmarked with craters. Continue visiting QuangTri Old Citadel, a famous place, where fighting took place for 81 days and nights in 1972, walk across Ben Hai River on the Freedom Bridge ( Hien Luong bridge).  Arrive in Hue at around mid afternoon. Check in and free at leisure.

Day 12: Hue city 

Renowned as the most royal city in Vietnam, Hue city has enough charm to keep you staying as long as you can afford the time to visit.

Not until 1945 was Hue the national capital, the political, cultural and religious center of Vietnam under the control of Nguyen Dynasty. Most well-known for its historic values; Hue had been recognized as one of the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

On the 12th day, start with a short visit to Thuy Thanh village where we can see the lively morning market. This is where the locals come to by their daily food. Nearby is the 300 years old Thanh Toan Tile-Roofed bridge and a Cultural Museum (Old museum house) where you can visit and talk to the locals. 

Continue on to the Forbidden Purple City. Modelled 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 Hué. 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.

This afternoon, you will visit the Minh Mang Royal tomb. Continue to Thien Mu Pagoda.  Lastly, enjoy a cruise downstream to watch sunset on the Perfume River, named after the tree resins and blossoms it carries on its way to the Pacific. 

Stop en-route to visit Tiger Arena and Voi Re Temple.

If you still have time, try to visit Dong Ba market, one of the largest and oldest market in the area.

Day 13: Hue – Hoian via Danang city (B/-/-)

Road journey from Hue to Hoian: Morning, you’ll be driven south along highway 1 to Hoian, a journey of approximately 3 hours with a short visit Cham architecture & art museum in Danang.

Be farmer in Tra Que Village
Be farmer in Tra Que Village

Afternoon tour of Hoi An: Today you’ll 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.

Accommodation: Stay 2 nights in Hoian

Day 14: Hoian free day – optional tour (B/-/-)

You can  hire a bicycle to see the countryside of Hoian or soak up the sun at the beautiful Cua Dai Beach. There is also a  good chance to catch up with your tailor or search the numerous galleries for a masterpiece.

Some recommended activities in Hoi An
1. Wet Rice Farmer OR Fishermen & Palm Paradise  (4. 5hours )
2. Adventure Basket Boat & Buffalo Ride (  2.5 hours )
3. Wet market visit and cooking class at Red Bridge ( 5 hours )
4. Cycling & cooking at Tra Que vegetable village  ( 4.5 hour )
5. Sunrise or Sunset photo tour with Pro photographer  ( 2.5 hours )
6. Hoian Sunrise or Sunset photo tour with Pro photographers (2.5 hours )

Still finding more things to do in Hoi An. check 35+ best things to do in Hoi An

Then in the afternoon, getting back to Danang then spend a night in Danang city. In the evening, you can have some seafood in the best restaurant in town.

Day 15: Hoian – Danang – Dalat (B/-/-) 

At 6:30 am, you’ll be picked up at hotel & private transferred to the airport in time for your flight to Dalat. 

Once arriving in Da Lat, private pick up and transfer to your lovely hotel. Settle in and enjoy few hours checking around your hotel.

This afternoon you will be transfer to The Flower Park where you can discover many kinds of flowers because Dalat is also known as Flowers City. Continue to Datanla waterfall, where you can enjoy 1000m Datanla Slide Rail into the Jungle before take a cable car to visit Truc Lam monastery, located on phoenix hill with an area of 25 ha. From there, you can see the panoramic view of Tuyen Lam Lake and Elephant Mountain in the far distance.  

Cherry Blossom and Sakura Cherry Blossom in Dalat, Vietnam
Cherry Blossom and Sakura Cherry Blossom in Dalat, Vietnam

Accommodation: Stay 1 night in Dalat

Day 16: Dalat city – Phan Thiet – Mui Ne 

After breakfast, your private guide will pick you at hotel and transfer to visit some city’s highlights including King Bao Dai Summer Palace, Dalat Cathedral, Hang Nga Villa – known as Crazy House and hand embroidery XQ garden – where you have the opportunity to witness firsthand the talent of the skilled artisans of the Da Lat embroidery craft. Finally stop at Dalat market, you have free time for sightseeing and shopping for souvenirs, vegetables, fruit, wool clothing to bring to your family. 

Afternoon, we transfer to Mui Ne with some stops on the way for sightseeing and photography such as Ngoan Muc pass, Ca Na Po Klong Garai Cham Tower, Ca Na famous beach . Once arriving in Nui Ne, settle in and enjoy the rest of the day at your leisure.

Accommodation: Stay 2 nights in Mui Ne

Day 17: Mui Ne

Mui Ne is a beautiful beach with many high-ranked coastal resorts, which can easily satisfy any visitors. Because of strong see breeze, Mui Ne is also notably famous for kite and wind surfing. The most interesting things in Mui Ne is the Sand Dunes (Doi Cat), where the dunes turn from white to gold (red dunes can be found further south in Mui Ne Village).

Morning or afternoon – it depends on your choice, we will take a short interesting trip to visit a fishing village, the Yellow and White Sand Dunes which is the top attraction at Mui Ne after the beach itself. A small stand of pine trees sitting on the bank of lotus lakes makes it a marvelous landscape. After theses, enjoy the rest of the day at your leisure at beach.

Mui Ne Beach
Mui Ne Beach

Day 18: Mui Ne – HCMC 

After breakfast , we start driving to Ho Chi Minh city. On arrival, settle in and enjoy a lunch at local restaurant.

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. 

Sand Dune in Mui Ne
Sand Dune in Mui Ne

Accommodation: Stay 3 nights in Ho Chi Minh

Day 19: Ho Chi Minh City Day at leisure 

Today is free at leisure. We can skip this day or enjoy yourself at historic & shopping sites or just book one of suggestion activities below.

Optional excursion: Please contact us if you interest.
1. Cu Chi tunnel half day tour ( 5 hours)
2. Cooking class at Saigon center ( 4 hours)
3. The Mist Show (modern dance and ballet) at Saigon Opera house (Price from US$ 28 to US$ 65/ per ticket)
4. A O show (bamboo dance, acrobatic & music) –  at Saigon Opera (Price from US$ 28 to US$ 65/ per ticket)
5. Saigon’s nightlife & foodies tour by Scooters ( 2.5 hours)

Day 20: Mekong delta – Panorama River Cruise – Overnight cruise 

In the morning, cruise’s bus will take you to Can Tho or Cai Be. You board your comfortable wooden river cruise vessel around noon. After a refreshing welcome drink we show you our on-board facilities and your cozy cabin. As lunch is served, the boat starts cruising. Sit back and watch the fantastic scenery and the daily life of the Mekong people. 

Mekong Delta - Floating Market
Mekong Delta – Floating Market

In the afternoon you can disembark for a guided leisurely stroll through a village and the surrounding fruit orchards or rice fields. Meet the friendly locals and taste the local produce and fruits.

Get back on board and enjoy a drink at the bar or relax on deck as the sun sets over the magnificent water landscape of the Mekong river. The cruise boat will anchor for the night. The day ends with a delicious on-board dinner. You stay overnight on board your floating hotel in the Mekong Delta.

Day 21: Cai Rang / Cai Be floating market – HCMC

Wake up well rested to the sound of the river and get ready for another exciting day of sightseeing in the Mekong Delta. At 6.30h the cruise vessel sets off for a sunrise cruise. Watch the locals go about their daily work drying exotic fruits and building ships on the wooden yards while enjoying an early breakfast.

After breakfast, you will board a sampan boat to Cai Be or Cai Rang floating market, the region’s busiest and most lively markets. Marvel at the sheer abundance of exotic fruits, vegetables and skillfully handcrafted regional products. We will pull up to the boats for talking and bargaining with the merchants. We will also visit some of the local candy and cake making factories or boat through the green water landscape to see local houses, verdant orchards and ship-building yards.

On even dates, you will have lunch at the Mekong Rest Stop. On odd dates, lunch is served in Vinh Long City. Drive back & arrive HCMC around 16:00 pm.

Please 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.

Day 22: HCMC departure (B/-)

Today is your final day. You are free to chill out and relax. Depending on your departure flight, your private driver will pick you up from the hotel and transfer you to the airport in time for your flight to the next destination. They will ensure you are the correct gate. We wish you a safe and pleasant journey.

We hope that you find some ideas for your 3-weeks Vietnam itinerary. If you are keen on worry-free, hand-crafted trip to Vietnam, let’s help you create the most suitable and memorable trip to Vietnam. 

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