Vietnam Itinerary – 4 Week Adventure Guide
Vietnam is a country with an interesting history, rich with culture, magnificent beaches and coastlines, hundreds of spiritual temples, breathtaking landscapes, buzzing cities, delicious food and wonderful people.
Sometimes it is overwhelming when trying to plan a 2-4 week itinerary in a country, so I have put together this blog post of all the best things I recommend seeing and doing on your visit to Vietnam.
GETTING AROUND VIETNAM
Vietnam has a huge network of transportation options from coach buses, sleeper buses, taxis, grab taxi/grab bike, trains and domestic airlines.
All buses and trains can be booked one day in advance, the receptionist at your accommodation in each location can always help you organise this. For plane travel, I use Skyscanner to book all of my flights.
The most common routes when travelling through Vietnam are from south to north (Ho Chi Minh – Hanoi) and north to south (Hanoi – Ho Chi Minh). I chose to take the south to north route and found this to be very efficient without having to do too much backtracking to some locations.
Vietnam has a wide range of accommodation options from luxury resorts to budget hostels and everything in between. I use booking.com to search and book all of my accommodations. Click HERE to find a place that best suits you during your visit to Vietnam.
MAP OF VIETNAM
WEEK 1 – VIETNAM ITINERARY
Ho Chi Minh & Mui Ne
Ho Chi Minh City (more commonly known as Saigon) is in the southern region of Vietnam is famous for its pivotal role in the Vietnam War and it is a must see location on your Vietnam itinerary. Ho Chi Minh is a noisy, hot, dynamic city that rarely sleeps with a complex history and plenty of culture to soak up.
1. War Remnants Museum
The War Remnants Museum is an eye-opener experience, to say the least – a museum not to be missed. The War Remnants Museum contains exhibits relating to the Vietnam War, featuring historic photographs, military vehicles and weaponry.
2. Independence Palace
The Independence Palace, also known as the Reunification Palace, is a very iconic landmark in Ho Chi Minh City. The Independence Palace was the home and workplace of the South Vietnam President during the Vietnam War. It was the site of the end of the Vietnam War during the Fall of Saigon in April 1975, when a North Vietnamese Army Tank barged through the front gates.
3. Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral
The Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the most famous landmarks in the city. Its incredible architecture surrounds the rich spirituality behind the thousands of red bricks. The Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral was built by French colonists in the late 1800’s and it is located in the most crowded district of Ho Chi Minh City – District 1.
4. Saigon Central Post Office
The Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh is a remnant of French colonial times and it is one of the grandest post offices in all of Southeast Asia. Marvelling at the features of this beautiful building will take you back a step in time. As you step inside the Saigon Central Post Office, that was built in the late 1800’s, you can see looping arches, polished marble floors and old telephone boxes serving as a reminder of the importance the post office played before the days of email and mobile phones.
5. Ho Chi Minh City Hall
The Ho Chi Minh City Hall is a beautiful piece of architecture surrounded by extremely well-kept gardens and smooth paved roads. Unfortunately, the Ho Chi Minh City Hall is not open to the public but it is a great spot for photo opportunities during the day and also at night when the building is colourfully lit.
6. Ben Thanh Market
The Ben Tanh Market is the most popular market in Ho Chi Minh City and a great place to put your haggling skills to the test. You can shop for local handicrafts, artworks, souvenirs and various clothing. Inside Ben Tanh Market you can also find hawker-style Vietnamese food and fresh fruit juice stalls dotted throughout. Don’t be afraid to go deep and get lost as there are lots of interesting things to see.
7. Saigon SkyDeck
Last but not least is the Saigon Skydeck at the Bitexco Financial Tower, one of the main attractions in Ho Chi Minh City. The Saigon Skydeck on the 49th floor offers breathtaking 360-degree views of the entire city. The best time to visit is during sunset, this way you can catch a clear view of the distant buildings and landscapes during the golden hour before witnessing the colourful bright lights illuminate the city as the sky darkens.
Have you ever been to a desert by the sea? If your answer is no, then you haven’t been to the Mui Ne Sand Dunes! This little coastal town draws in travellers from around the world to experience an unforgettable sunrise over the Saharaesque landscape. Mui Ne is not to be missed on your Vietnam itinerary.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT MUI NE SAND DUNES
After a 20 minute drive in the safari Jeep from the centre of town, you will arrive at the white sand dunes of Mui Ne just in time for an unforgettable sunrise over the dunes. As Mui Ne is most famous for these oceanic wind-sculpted dunes, it is unfortunately flooded with tourists. But please don’t be put off by this as there are more than enough dunes to wander around on. We veered off the beaten path a little and managed to find an epic spot all to ourselves while everyone else crowded around on one of the higher Mui Ne dune peaks for sunrise.
The Fairy Stream in Mui Ne is coloured by soft clay and limestone rocks that crumble down to shore from one side of the red canyon. Another epic location to add to the Vietnam itinerary.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT FAIRY STREAM MUI NE
The Fairy Stream winds its way through a red canyon which resembles a miniature version of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The soft red sand is quite pleasant to walk on so I encourage you to take off your shoes and get some clay mud between your toes.
The towering limestone rocks on the edges of the red canyon seem to be a likely hiding place for potential fairies to hang out and it very well may be where the name Fairy Stream comes from.
The Fairy Stream Mui Ne is surrounded by shaded bamboo and palm tree forests and it takes approximately 10-15 minutes to walk from one end of the stream to the other.
WEEK 2 – VIETNAM ITINERARY
Cam Ranh & Nha Trang
The Vinh Hy Binh Tien Pass is up there with one of the most scenic coastal roads I have ever journeyed on and a great addition to your Vietnam itinerary. Around every hairpin corner, there are glistening white sand beaches and turquoise waters, not to mention they are all absolutely deserted.
The Vinh Hy Binh Tien Pass is a 17 km snaking road that starts at Bien Tien beach and ends in the small fishing village of Vinh Hy. Prepare to be in striking awe along every single inch of this unbelievably scenic coastal drive. There is little to no traffic along the way and several viewpoints to pull off to the side of the road and snap some photos. It is honestly hard to take a bad photo here, the impeccable beaches and lush mountainous forests of Nui Chua National Park will have you pinching yourself as if you are dreaming!
This entire coastline, in my opinion, has a very similar landscape to the Greek Islands. It’s easy to navigate the Vinh Hy Binh Tien Pass and it would be rude not to stop at every beach for a swim and some exploring.
You can’t miss the ‘Big Smoke’ coastal city of Nha Trang on your next visit to Vietnam. There are many awesome things to do in Nha Trang that are suitable for all kinds of travellers from around the world. Nha Trang is famous for its long stretch of white sand beaches, reputable diving sites, ancient Buddhist temples and offshore islands!
TOP 3 THINGS TO DO IN NHA TRANG
1. LONG SON PAGODA – BIG BUDDHA STATUE
The Long Son Pagoda, also known as Chua Long Son, is a sacred Buddhist Temple on the foothill of Trai Thuy Mountain. Long Son Pagoda is one of the top things to do in Nha Trang City and it is most famous for the large white Buddha statue that can be seen from almost everywhere in town.
2. THÁP BÀ PO NAGAR – CHAM TOWERS NHA TRANG
A visit to the Po Nagar Cham Towers was one of my favourite things to do in Nha Trang. The Cham Towers were built in medieval times, somewhere between the 7th and 12th centuries. Commonly known as Tháp Bà, the Po Nagar Cham Towers are still actively used for worship by the Cham, Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhists.
3. NHA TRANG BEACH
Who doesn’t love a beach day?! One of the best things to do in Nha Trang is to head to the beach for some fun in the sun. Nha Trang beach is rated number 29 of the most beautiful bays in the world – ultimate postcard material.
Head on down to famous esplanade resort strip along Nha Trang Bay and pick a spot under a shady palm tree to perch up for the day. Along Nha Trang beach you can find a number of restaurants, cafes, bars and water sports activities to keep you happy and entertained.
WEEK 3 – VIETNAM ITINERARY
Hoi An & Da Nang & Ninh Binh
1. HOI AN OLD TOWN
Exploring Old Town is one of the top things to do in Hoi An. The architecture in Old Town is influenced by the French, Chinese and Japenese cultures. There are colourful buildings around every corner, the streets are decorated with stringing lanterns and beautiful canals cut through the centre of the Old Town Hoi An. It would be rude not to add this awesome location to your Vietnam itinerary.
The My Son Sanctuary is a cluster of ancient Hindu temples that were constructed in the emerald hills in the Duy Xuyen District between the 4th and the 14th century. The abandoned temples of My Son Sanctuary is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is the most popular attraction in the region that draws in thousands of visitors every year.
3. HOI AN BEACH
The best cure after a long day exploring the Old Town and My Son Sanctuary is to head down to Hoi An beach to cool off and enjoy the shade underneath the cluster of coconut palms that line the beachfront.
As busy as Hoi An can get with locals and tourists combined, you will be sure to find your own little private beach spot along the pristine stretch of white sand coastline, making it one of the top things to do in Hoi An.
4. BAMBOO BASKET BOAT RIVER CRUISE
Never have I ever seen anything like these hand-crafted bamboo baskets that are used as fishing boats by the local fisherman of Hoi An. Take an hour-long cruise down the river and canals in one of these uniquely constructed, bamboo basket boats.
The Golden Bridge Ba Na Hills has recently gone viral across the world since it was first opened to the public in June 2018. Thanks to Instagram, this bridge has made it to the top of everyone’s bucket list and it is easy to see why! Make this location a priority on your Vietnam itinerary for it is not to be missed.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT (CAU VANG) GOLDEN BRIDGE BA NA HILLS
The cable car ride takes 20 minutes from bottom to top of Ba Na Hills offering spectacular views of the surrounding coastline and mountains as you ascend into the mountains. When you reach the top of the gondola ride you’ll be greeted with the site of the giant colossal hands holding up the infamous Golden Bridge.
The bridge was designed to evoke the image of God’s hands pulling a strip of gold out of the land. The shimmering golden walkway sits at 1400 meters above sea level and stretches 150 meters through the treetops on Ba Na Hills.
Due to its popularity, the Golden Bridge Ba Na Hills is flooded with visitors day in and day out, however, you will still get to enjoy uninterrupted panoramic views of the landscapes below.
God’s hands holding up the Golden Bridge on Ba Na Hills were purposely constructed to look weathered as if they had been there for centuries, giving it an antique look.
Ninh Binh is an absolute GEM of a place yet it is one of the most underrated destinations in Vietnam. In this travel guide, I have put together some highlights of the best things to do in Ninh Binh.
Ninh Binh’s landscape is a sight for sore eyes and I have never seen anything like it before. There are hundreds of limestone cliffs that are scattered across vivid green rice fields and it sure does live up to its nickname, ‘Halong Bay on Land’. Apart from the phenomenal picturesque landscapes in Ninh Binh, this thriving destination offers the most rural and authentic side of Vietnam.
TOP 3 THINGS TO DO IN NINH BINH
Bich Dong is a three-tiered ancient pagoda nestled into a mountainside in Tam Coc and it is one of the best things to do in Ninh Binh. The cluster of cave temples is surrounded by a bed of water and impressive water lilies that will have you in awe when you arrive at the entrance of Bich Dong.
Hiking to the highest peak at Hang Mua makes it on the list of awesome things to do in Ninh Binh because it is a fantastic way to start your day. The Hang Mua Cave at the bottom of the hike is not that spectacular to look at but rather the incredible 360-degree views at the top of the mountain are what makes this hike so worth it!
The Bai Dinh Pagoda lies within a complex of spiritual Buddhist temples on Bai Dinh Mountain in Ninh Binh, North Vietnam. The Bai Dinh Pagoda stands an impressive 13-stories tall with panoramic views at the top.
WEEK 4 – VIETNAM ITINERARY
Sapa & Ha Giang & Hanoi
The Silver Waterfall Sapa, or as the locals call it ‘Thac Bac’ is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the region. Head north along the Sapa loop road and discover the raging Thac Bac waterfall in the San Sai Ho mountainside.
It is a short 5-min walk up a set of steep stairs till you reach the steel arched bridge, which is the furthest accessible point at Silver Waterfall Sapa.
From the bridge, you can enjoy impressive views of the 200-meter high Thac Bac waterfall as the silver water gushes down from the Ham Rong mountain peak. Unfortunately, you cannot swim at the falls though it is a wonderful attraction nonetheless.
RICE FIELD TREKKING IN SAPA
Sapa is a region known for the incredible rice terraces cut into the mountainside. Most visitors that head to Sapa are there to go trekking through these aesthetically pleasing rice terraces. Sapa is not to be missed so add this to your Vietnam itinerary.
You can book a trekking tour through many tour offices that can be found throughout Sapa town or you can simply go on a self-guided trek through the local villages and rice terraces at your own pace.
Sapa is also home to the highest peak in Vietnam, known as Fansipan, which is 3,143 meters at the highest point.
There are 2 options to getting to the top of Mt. Fansipan;
- Take the easy route and ride the gondola chair from Sapa to Fansipan, this will cost you 700,000 VND
- Book a two day and one night hike to the peak of Fansipan.
HEAVEN’S GATE VIEWPOINT IN SAPA
About 30 mins north of Sapa is Heaven’s gate viewpoint. Prepare for your mind to be blown at the sight of the deep valley and surrounding towering peaks of Sapa. A beautiful mountain pass road cuts its way around one of the mountainsides.
The best time to visit Heaven’s gate viewpoint is at sunset. There are a few small eateries known as ‘cafe in the clouds’ where you can grab a drink and some bamboo sticky rice while you enjoy the last rays of the sun setting over the valley.
Having heard nothing but great things about the extreme Ha Giang Loop in North Vietnam, I had to journey up into the mountains to experience it for myself. The Ha Giang Loop road is an unforgettable 3 days – 350km – round trip adventure that will lead you through majestic landscapes of pinnacle limestone cliffs, deep craterous valleys and ancient traditional villages. The Ha Giang region lacks infrastructure and it is far from westernised, though this ultimately helps to keep the place untouched and unspoiled.
THE HA GIANG LOOP – THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
The main thing I would like to point out here is the condition of the road on the Ha Giang Loop. No matter what your skill level is as a rider, the roads on the loop are in excellent condition in some areas and also sketchy and dangerous in other areas. I can’t stress enough to pay full attention to the road and other road users take it slow and steady. There is no need to speed and be sure to make your self known on blind corners by sounding your horn.
The weather can be very sporadic in the Ha Giang region, so be prepared to experience all the elements on your 3-day adventure. Take a rain jacket in case it downpours and warm clothing for the cool temperatures at nights. I recommend wearing a long sleeve shirt or sunscreen when riding during the peak sun hours of the day, otherwise, your skin will get burnt to a crisp.
HANOI OLD QUARTER
Hanoi Old Quarter is the most popular place to hang out in Hanoi. There are dozens of local eateries, cheap bars, buzzing nightclubs, beautiful parks and temples, old churches and shopping stores galore.
I only spent 2 days and one night in Hanoi and unfortunately at the time, I was not feeling well so I didn’t get to explore as much as I would have liked to.
There is a young scene of adventure backpackers and dozens of hostels to accommodate them. Hanoi is a lot of fun and worth the visit on your Vietnam itinerary.
VIETNAM – THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Vietnam can be visited year round, however, the recommended time to visit is in Spring (February to April) and in Autumn (August to October), this is when the temperatures are more moderate and the rainfall is light.
Make sure to apply for a visa well in advance before visiting Vietnam. Requirements are different for everyone depending on which passport you are travelling on. Click HERE for all the information you need to know on obtaining a Vietnamese Visa.
The currency in Vietnam is VND (Vietnamese Dong). Some hotels and services accept USD which you can use to pay for things when travelling throughout Vietnam.
The main religion in Vietnam is Buddhism (85%), other religions are Christian and Taoism.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article and if you have any questions about travelling throughout Vietnam please drop me a comment below.
Happy Adventuring 🙂