Southeast Asia is home to many dream destinations but Vietnam may just be the most exciting and diverse of them all. Vietnam boasts gorgeous natural scenery, a complicated and sometimes dark history, as well as one of the best cuisines on the planet.
As a country with so much to do, working out how to experience the best of Vietnam and get the most out of your trip can be challenging on your own. But don’t worry! In this comprehensive Vietnam itinerary we’ll tell you everything you need to know, including the best time to visit, how to get around, where to stay, and what to do in Vietnam for two weeks.
Best Time to Visit Vietnam
To plan your visit to Vietnam, you’re going to want to think about the timing of the trip. Choose the wrong time for your visit and you could face large crowds of tourists, or even worse, typhoons and flooding.
One of the biggest challenges of planning a visit to Vietnam is that the weather can differ greatly from one part of the country to the next. Vietnam enjoys three distinct climates in the north, center, and south. As such it can prove challenging to find a time that works for the entirety of the country. For example, while the south is warm and dry from December through February, the north can be quite cold at this time. Generally speaking, the best time to visit Vietnam and have good weather right across the country is during Spring, especially in March and April.
A country known for its flooding, there are certain times when you will want to avoid specific regions of Vietnam. In the center of Vietnam, typhoon season runs from August to November and flooding can be especially bad. In the north and south, the hot and humid weather is felt earlier in the year from May through October.
How to Get Around Vietnam
Vietnam is quite a large country. Traveling from north to south across the country takes a good bit of time so you’ll need to give some thought into how you get around.
1. By Motorbike
In Vietnam, as with much of Southeast Asia, it’s rare for foreigners to drive cars around the country. The biggest hurdle to driving a car around Vietnam is that most rental agencies simply won’t rent one to foreigners without a driver.
Instead, many independent travelers choose to spend their 2 weeks in Vietnam on the back of a motorcycle. As the most common mode of transport in the country, motorbikes and motorbike rental companies are everywhere in Vietnam, so finding one won’t be a problem. But before you sign on the dotted line, you’ll need to make sure of a few things. To ride a motorcycle legally in Vietnam, there are various factors at play, including your nationality, what kind of license you have, and the power of the vehicle. Also check whether riding a motorcycle is covered by your travel insurance as the last thing you want is to have an accident and not be covered. More details on that can be found here.
2. By Public Transport
If your plan for visiting Vietnam involves getting around on public transport, you can pick between the train and bus. While it may not touch every stop on your itinerary, the Reunification Line is a train route which runs from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Some journeys, like Hanoi to Hue, are overnight journeys and you’ll have a choice between seats, hard sleepers, and soft sleeper cabins. Reservations are necessary and it’s best to book in advance to secure a seat/bed. To book in advance, check the advice from seat61 for your options.
The alternative to trains is the networks of coach buses which connect the country. Depending on distance, deluxe buses feature either reclining chairs or sleeper beds and typically cost a bit less than trains. The big difference with booking a bus is that you can often buy tickets on the day or a day before. Two trusted bus companies to consider are The Sinh Tourist and Mai Linh Express.
3. By Plane
One last option for getting around in Vietnam is actually flying. Southeast Asia has a number of budget carriers which can offer prices that are competitive with bus and train fares. You’ll miss out on the experience of seeing the countryside as you would from the train or bus but will definitely cut down on your travel time. We personally use and recommend Skyscanner to search for cheap flights in Vietnam.
Accommodation in Vietnam
The other major part of planning your Vietnam trip is deciding on where to stay in Vietnam. Staying in the right place can absolutely make your trip if it helps you get a good night’s rest and puts you among a destination’s attractions. While the right place might depend on your style of travel, here is some advice to help you discover the best places to stay in Vietnam.
If you’re planning on visiting during high season, you should book your accommodation in advance. You will then have a greater selection of hotels and hostels to choose from, maybe even at better prices, because you took the initiative.
Vietnam caters to backpackers and luxury travelers alike, along with everyone in between, this means there’s a place which will suit anyone. To find the right place for you, there are several websites which we recommend. Backpackers and budget travelers will want to look at Hostelworld and be dazzled by how cheap dorms and rooms in hostels are. When it comes to generally searching for places to stay though, be they hotels, guesthouses, or apartments, Booking.com is hands down the best place to go.
On the other hand, if you value local or unique experiences, Airbnb is an essential site. Whether you’re looking for a place to yourself or to stay in someone’s spare room, Airbnb can be a great time, especially when you can save money with our $40 off coupon!
If you’d like to quickly find accommodation for your trip, we’ve provided our recommendations for each stop on this Vietnam itinerary below.
The Perfect 2-Week Vietnam Itinerary
This Vietnam travel itinerary begins in the country’s north with Hanoi and slowly works its way south to Ho Chi Minh City. The reverse works just as well. Journeying through Vietnam, you’ll get to see not only major cities, but also awe inspiring landscapes, beaches, waterfalls, and temples. By the end you’ll be ready to plan your second trip.
However, before we get to our Vietnam itinerary and the best places to visit in Vietnam we just wanted to remind you to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and trust us, you do not want to get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” So don’t leave home without it. We recommend World Nomads.
Even if you don’t get travel insurance with World Nomads, please make sure to get travel insurance from somewhere.
Alright, let’s get back to your guide for a fun two weeks in Vietnam. In it, we’ll show you all the best things to do in Vietnam, one destination at a time.
Day 1: Hanoi
Your Vietnam trip starts with Hanoi in the country’s north. The capital city of Vietnam, Hanoi is a city full of history, character, and remnants of its French colonial past.
You’ll want to begin by exploring the Hanoi Old Quarter, simply wandering from one street to the next and taking it all in. This part of the city can feel a bit overwhelming at first, from the traffic, to the signs and buildings, but you’ll quickly learn to love the chaos. The same can be said for the French Quarter to the southeast, although the two quarters couldn’t look more different.
In between you’ll find Lake Ho Hoan Kiem which in many ways feels like the center of Hanoi. Not only do locals meet, exercise, and do tai chi here, there are also some sights to see here. Crossing the bright red Húc bridge which is popular for photo shoots, you reach the Temple of the Jade Mountain. Inside the temple you can see a preserved giant turtle among the ancient artifacts.
A short walk away you’ll find the Hoa Lo Prison Memorial, once nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton. First a colonial prison for political prisoners, this building became famous for housing U.S. prisoners of war, and now has displays detailing its history. On the far side of the train tracks lies the Temple Of Literature, a historic Confucian temple dedicated to students and scholars.
In the evening, take a guided street food tour or find a restaurant in the Old Quarter and pull up a plastic chair. There, for just a few dollars, you can enjoy local dishes like bun cha or pho and wash them down with bia hơi, a local draught beer.
Day 2: Hanoi
On day two of your time in Hanoi, you still have plenty of major sights to see around the city. Set out first thing for the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the resting place for the country’s revered Communist revolutionary leader. Inside lies the glass enclosed body of the former leader, surrounded by an honor guard. Afterwards, duck around the corner to the Ho Chi Minh Museum which details the life and work of Ho Chi Minh, and the history of the Vietnam revolution.
Venturing out into the backstreets, wander until you find the Huu Tiep Lake where the remains of a US bomber still lie today. Back towards the Mausoleum, take a moment to admire the serene One Pillar Pagoda before continuing on to stand outside the immense Presidential Palace. Continuing north will bring you to Tran Quoc Pagoda, an ancient Buddhist temple which rests on several islands.
Back in the middle of Hanoi you’ll see a giant Vietnamese flag marking the site of the fascinating Vietnam Military History Museum. Right next door sits the Thăng Long Imperial Citadel, a large palace complex reached through imposing gates. Next continue back towards the city center to see the famous Hanoi Street Train, where trains barrel through a narrow channel between houses.
Finish your day by finding a good vantage point above Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc Square and watch the blur of traffic around this iconic roundabout and nightlife area.
Day 3: Ninh Binh
There’s no better way to spend your last day in Hanoi than with a day trip down to the province of Ninh Binh. Sitting south of Hanoi, Ninh Binh is a rural area full of natural beauty thanks to the rivers and karst mountains which spring out of its rice terraces.
The highlight of Ninh Binh for many is the chance to lazily drift in a small boat as you’re taken through the scenic landscape. Whether it’s at Trang An or Tam Coc, you’ll pass between high mountains, alongside rice terraces, and even through a few caves. Afterwards you can appreciate this incredible scenery by heading up to the mountaintop Hang Mua temple for its panoramic views.
Beyond the nature, there’s plenty of religious and historical sites which dot the landscape of Ninh Binh. Not far from the Tam Coc river cruise sits the ancient Bich Dong pagoda, while the temple complex around the Bai Dinh pagoda sits off on its own to the north.
A major historical site worth your time is the Hoa Lu Ancient Capital. In among steep karst mountains, this site was the capital of Vietnam during the 10th and 11th centuries. Now the city sits in ruins, though there are some fortifications and temples which can be visited.
Recommendation: If you don’t want to adventure out on your own, consider booking a guided tour to Ninh Binh. This small group tour for example takes you to all the best spots including Tam Coc, Hoa Lu, and Mua Cave.
Day 4 – 5: Ha Long Bay
Resting on Vietnam’s northern coast, Ha Long Bay is one of the highlights of many people’s trips to Vietnam. This vast bay is home to thousands of limestone islands jutting into the sky, few of which are settled or inhabited. Thanks to this fascinating and beautiful natural phenomenon, Ha Long Bay is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
To visit Ha Long Bay will involve taking a tour of some sort, the most common of which is an overnight cruise. One of the best tours in Vietnam, you’ll spend two days cruising around the bay amidst its endless beauty. There are boats of all different budgets, sizes, and styles, and since you’ll be spending the night on the boat, it’s best to do your research.
These two Ha Long Bay tours come highly recommended:
- Halong Day Tour: Islands, Caves, Kayak with Dragonfly Cruise
- Spectacular Halong Bay 2-Day Tour with Deluxe Cruises
Setting out from the city of Ha Long on your first day, you’ll gently drift out into the islands of Ha Long Bay. Besides simply admiring the majestic scenery, there are a number of activities typically included. Some that your cruise may offer include kayaking, seeing the floating villages and markets, cooking classes, and squid fishing. There are also various stops which include a climb through Sung Sot Cave and a sunset hike to a lookout point on Monkey Island.
On the second day you’ll set out for a leisurely cruise back to port. Lounging out on the deck of your boat, you get to simply float past the islands of Ha Long Bay. This is a good chance to relax before you get back out on the road.
Day 6: Hue
Next on our itinerary, we have a short stop in the historic city of Hue. A single day here will allow you to see the essential sights of the city, but you could easily spend several days sightseeing.
There’s no better place to start your visit in Hue than with the Imperial City. This vast citadel was once the seat of power when Hue was the capital of the Vietnamese Empire. Once you’ve passed through the layers of immense city gates and moats, several palaces and temples including the Thế Miếu temple stand before you. After seeing the main landmarks it’s well worth wandering the outer streets to find beautiful gates, quiet courtyards, and open sections of the city walls. While there, don’t miss the free Hue Royal Museum of Antiquities which covers the city’s imperial heritage.
With a walk along the northern bank of the Perfume River you’ll come to the Thien Mu Pagoda. This tranquil Buddhist temple is best known for its seven story pagoda, with stairs leading to it right from the river. Other temples just outside Hue to visit include the Tu Hieu Pagoda and Huyen Tran Princess Temple.
Because of its imperial past, there are several imperial tombs just upriver from Hue which you can visit. Located close together and just a few kilometers from the city, Khai Dinh Tomb, Minh Mang Tomb, and Tu Duc Tomb all have their own design and intriguing elements to explore.
Day 7: Hoi An
Heading further south along Vietnam’s coast you arrive in the wildly popular city of Hoi An. Smaller than the other stops on this itinerary, Hoi An makes up in sights and atmosphere what it lacks in size.
Much of what you’ll see during your first day here is found within the UNESCO world heritage site of Hoi An Ancient Town. A trading port dating back centuries, the Old Town of Hoi An is exceptionally well-preserved and best recognized for its faded yellow merchant houses. You could easily spend your time here just wandering from one picturesque street to the next and never grow bored.
In terms of landmarks in the Ancient Town, chief among them is the photogenic Japanese Covered Bridge. Dating from the 17th century, the bridge was built by the now-gone Japanese community and is an icon of Hoi An. Elsewhere in the Ancient Town there are a number of houses, such as the Phung Hung House and community halls like Phuc Kien Assembly Hall which show you more of Hoi An’s incredible heritage. To learn more about the city though, head to the Hoi An Museum of History & Culture to see how little it has actually changed over the years.
Once the sun goes down it’s time to make your way over to the Hoi An Night Market. Whether you have souvenirs you want to buy or are craving some street food, this is where to go. The river area is especially pretty at night time which is a great time to get a drink at one of the riverfront venues.
Day 8: Hoi An
Having seen the biggest sites in the center of the city, it’s time to experience all the other great things to do in Hoi An. Leaving the Ancient Town, we venture across to the island village of Cam Nam. Calmer than the city center you’ll find yourself surrounded by plenty of fruit trees and be treated to some nice views back to the Ancient Town.
Next it’s time for some activities which make the most of the local’s skills. This could mean visiting a tailor to have some affordable custom clothes made or taking a cooking class and trying a few new dishes. If you’re curious where your food has been coming from, take a trip up to the Tra Que Vegetable Village and experience the small farming community.
With the rest of your day, take it easy and unwind on one of Hanoi’s beautiful beaches. There are many public beaches along Hoi An’s coast, but An Bang Beach and Hidden Beach are considered the city’s best.
Day 9: Hoi An
Being conveniently located on Vietnam’s central coast, Hoi An is an ideal place to strike out from to explore some of the surrounding areas. You won’t be stuck for ideas with day trips from Hoi An, but some great ones we recommend include:
- Da Nang: Sitting just north of Hoi An, the city of Da Nang couldn’t be more different. The city is more modern and tends to lure visitors looking for shopping opportunities and time at the beach. Among Da Nang’s many beaches My Khe Beach and Non Nuoc Beach are often considered the best and are the most popular. Still, there are some sights to see in Da Nang, including the Dragon Bridge, the swinging Han River Bridge, and Da Nang Cathedral. The most recent sight near Da Nang is the Golden Bridge in the Ba Na Hills.
- Marble Mountains: Halfway between Hoi An and Da Nang lies the Marble Mountains and the many sights which lie within. Five limestone and marble mountains spring from the flat landscape here by the coast, several of which, such as Mount Thuy, you’re able to climb. As you make your way up the stairs, there are plenty of shrines and pagodas to visit, not to mention several caves. Once you reach the panoramic viewpoint, you’ll not only be able to see the other Marble Mountains but also right up the nearby coast.
- My Son: In this part of Vietnam, there are several UNESCO world heritage sites you’re going to want to see such as the ancient ruins of My Son. A relic of the Champa kingdom, these Hindu temples date from the 4th to the 14th century AD and are one of the most important historical sites of their kind. Found inside an overgrown valley, there are over 70 temples and tombs of the Cham royalty. While some stupas are in a rough state with nature slowly growing from them, others still have clear carvings and iconography. You can book a guided tour to My Son here.
Day 10: Da Lat
Much further south, in the Central Highlands, lies your next stop, Da Lat. Not as popular as the other destinations on this list, Da Lat reveals yet another side to Vietnam with its hillsides covered in forests and waterfalls.
Start your visit here with a completely unexpected sight, the Crazy House. Like something out of Alice in Wonderland, this house has an eccentric design with rooftop walkways and strange, warped tree trunks. A little further up the hill lies the far more conventional Bao Dai Summer Palace which was a summer residence for Vietnam’s last emperor in the 20th century.
Down in the center of the city take a stroll along the picturesque Xuan Huong Lake. As you walk around you might forget that you’re actually in Vietnam and not an alpine region of France. Be sure to stop a moment at Lam Vien Square and check out all the modern structures in this flower-themed space.
Take a quick trip to the northern end of the city to visit the giant, golden Buddha at the Thien Vien Van Hanh pagoda which can be seen from across the city. Returning to the city center, head into the Da Lat Market for some shopping and wait for the night market to start.
Reward yourself for a hard day’s sightseeing with a trip up to the 100 Roofs Cafe, also known as the Đường Lên Trăng Bar, hidden in back-alleys not far from the market. Actually a bar, this venue has a similar trippy, maze-like nature to the Crazy House with random staircases, dead ends and an overall strange decor. Once you find your way to the roof you can enjoy a drink as you look out over Da Lat.
Day 11: Da Lat
While we’ve seen many of the attractions which lie in the center of Da Lat, there’s much to be seen in the outskirts of the city and countryside beyond. First up is the Valley of Love, an attraction which treads the line between kitsch and romantic. Still, the view of the terrace gardens over the lake here is quite a good one and worth the stop.
We then trade one lake for another, with a visit to the Thien Vien Truc Lam Monastery on the opposite side of the city. Accessible by a cable car ride over hills and forest, this active Buddhist monastery is appropriately zen. From the temples, wander down to Tuyen Lam Lake for a pleasant stroll through nature.
Now, it’s finally time for the amazing waterfalls which surround Da Lat. Close to the monastery you’ll find both the Datanla Waterfalls and Prenn Waterfall. At Datanla Waterfalls, a small roller coaster runs from the top to the bottom and back, making it easy to get back up from the lowest waterfalls. Further again from Da Lat lies the largest falls of the three, Elephant Falls. Much like the Prenn Waterfall, you can actually walk in behind the Elephant Falls but must first take a slippery bath down to the bottom.
Day 12: Ho Chi Minh City
Your last stop on this epic trip through Vietnam is the massive city of Ho Chi Minh. Still often referred to by its old name, Saigon, it is known for its various colonial landmarks sprinkled throughout the modern metropolis.
Begin your sightseeing here with the Ho Chi Minh City Hall, a majestic building with a French colonial design. Just a short walk away lie two other major landmarks left over from the French, the elegant Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon, and the beautiful Saigon Central Post Office. As strange as it sounds, this is one post office you’ll want to spend some time in.
Next, spend time inside the War Remnants Museum learning about both the war against the French colonialists and the Vietnam War. While many exhibits are incredibly moving in the way they show the realities of war, the exhibit on Agent Orange can be a difficult reality to swallow.
To see Ho Chi Minh City from a different perspective, make your way up the the Bitexco Tower. From the Saigon Skydeck on the tower’s 49th floor you can see just how sprawling the city truly is. Before its doors close at 6pm, take a wander through the Ben Thanh Market to find all sorts of produce and souvenirs. Stick around though, as after 6pm you can grab dinner here at the night market.
Day 13: Ho Chi Minh City
You still have plenty of things to do around the city of Saigon on your second day, starting with the Reunification Palace. Built in the 60s, during the Vietnam War, this was the palace for the President of South Vietnam. It was also the spot where the Vietnam War officially ended when a tank rolled through its gates in 1975. Touring through this building you can see the offices, presidential rooms, and war rooms all of which have been trapped in time.
On a walk through the city center, you can see more of Saigon’s diverse religious communities. First make your way to the surprisingly pink Tân Định Church and then onto the Jade Emperor Pagoda. This Taoist temple may only be 100 years old, but the evocative statues and figures make it quite a sight to see. Much further from the city center lies the Giac Lam Pagoda, the oldest temple in town.
The remainder of your time here can be spent a number of ways. If you’re interested in history, both the Hồ Chí Minh City Museum and the Museum of Vietnamese History will fill you in on the region’s history beyond the last 60 years. To sample more of Saigon’s food scene, consider a street food walking tour, like this one for example, or a cooking class to learn how to make some yourself.
Day 14: Ho Chi Minh City
As the gateway to Vietnam’s south, you’ll want to use your last day in Ho Chi Minh City to leave the city behind and explore more of what Vietnam has to offer. There are actually many day trips possible from the city, showcasing the country’s nature, history, and cultural treasures. Some that you’ll want to consider include:
- Cu Chi Tunnels: There’s no shortage of places to visit in Vietnam related to the Vietnam War, but one of the most popular is the famed Cu Chi Tunnels. Built by the Viet Cong in their fight against US forces, these narrow tunnels allowed the soldiers to ambush troops, but also acted as living spaces and supply routes. Exploring the site of the tunnels, you see how well hidden their entrances were and some of the traps which they used on foreign forces. Most importantly, you can actually climb into a stretch of the cramped tunnel and walk through it. You can book your tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels here.
- Black Virgin Mountain: To spend some time outdoors among nature, head for Black Virgin Mountain, a place ideal for hiking which also has a little war history to it. An extinct volcano, the mountain rises out of the surrounding farmland and was the scene of many battles during the Vietnam War. You can either hike right from the park entrance or take a cable car part of the way up. Besides natural scenery and the views from the top, you can also visit several pagodas.
- Cao Dai Temple: While you may have encountered many religious sites through Vietnam, it’s unlikely you’ve even heard of the religion of Caodaism. Originating in southern Vietnam in the 20th century, you can learn more about this religion by visiting the Cao Dai Temple outside the city of Tây Ninh. Arriving at the temple, you can explore the temple complex and sit in on a religious service to watch as worshipers pray inside the vibrant and colorful interior of the main temple. With elements of various other religions incorporated, the experience can seem both familiar and completely new.
Day 15+ and Beyond
This 14-day itinerary is aimed at showing you where to start on your first visit to Vietnam. Even though we’ve covered many of the main destinations in the country, there’s no reason why you can’t see more of Vietnam if you have time. To give you an idea of where else you can add to your itinerary, or destinations that you can look forward to next time, here are some other great places to visit in Vietnam.
- Mekong Delta: The Mekong River is a major feature of many southeast Asian landscapes, but it is in Vietnam that the river finally flows out into the sea. While that may sound ordinary, the Mekong Delta is nothing but incredible. Made up of a sprawling network of rivers through coastal swamps, locals spend most of their lives here surrounded by water. You can take a river cruise through the swampy maze, visit floating markets, and spend the night among rural rice paddies. You can book a guided tour from Ho Chi Minh City here.
- Sa Pa: Up in the mountainous north, by the Chinese border, lies the remote town of Sa Pa. Visitors come here to the Hoàng Liên Son Mountains to trek along valleys, through rice terraces, and to interact with the local ethnic minorities which call this region home. While there are villages and waterfalls which can be directly visited from Sa Pa, tourists typically spend several days hiking across the region and maybe even climbing Mt Fansipan, Vietnam’s highest mountain. You can book a guided trekking tour from Hanoi here.
- Mui Ne: A destination known for its beach resorts, Mui Ne is another of Vietnam’s beach getaways. With several sandy beaches either side of Mui Ne and resorts all along them, you can spend time swimming and sitting in the sun. Outdoor activities like kitesurfing and windsurfing are also popular thanks to onshore winds. But there are some sights to see here too, from the large Red Sand Dunes and further White Sand Dunes to the Fairy Stream, a picturesque stream which trickles through an eroded canyon.
As you can see, there’s so many great places to experience traveling through Vietnam for 2 weeks. Once you’ve left, there’s a good chance you might even have a new favorite country as you look back at all the fun you had.