Vietnam Travel Guide - 2 Week North to South Vietnam Itinerary
Vietnam is no wonder a rising tropical destination in Southeast Asia as a whole package. The country has a long Western coastline stretching from North to South making it the seafood heaven, with many unspoiled white sand beaches, crystal clear water, picturesque nature. Geography and century-old history offer culture-rich experiences. People in different regions have different characteristics and lifestyles. Hanoian's poetic, sophisticated, and proud of their heritage of an ancient capital with vibrant 36 Old Quarters remains. Mekong farmers are as sweet, nurturing and generous, as the river itself, filling the rice basket that nourish generations of the country. Vietnam is ideal for travel all year round, whether you are looking for a budget excursion or an extravagant getaway. This list is a suggested Vietnam travel guide, that selects the highlights of things to do in Vietnam from North to South, possible in 14 days.
DAY 1 - 3: HANOI & NORTHERN VIETNAM
The tropical exploration starts from the capital city and cultural hub, Hanoi. Located in the flat area surrounded by breathtaking mountains and bays, Hanoi is the ultimate place for first-hand authentic Vietnamese experiences, for instance trying truly Pho (famous Vietnamese beef soup), learning about history through museums and colonial architecture, people watching at The Sword Lake. Cultural entertaining performance at the Hanoi Opera House.
Photo by Tran Gia Tien
Hanoi top things to see & do: With a selected sights and good planning, major of Hanoi can be seen in one and a half day. To grasp a brief history of Vietnam, visit Vietnam Ethnology museum, Temple of Literature, Vietnamese Women’s Museum. Amazing local gastronomy is a must try. Experience amazing local gastronomy from traditional cheap eateries in the Old Quarter to decent Vietnamese restaurants, that modernizes and elevates hearty home-cook to higher levels of delicacy and quality like in Hanoi Garden Restaurant. Chill at Giang Coffee and try the egg coffee, only in this city. For those whose love shopping for artistic Eastern handcrafted souvenir, Hang Gai street is the destination. To understand the culture and lifestyle, take a visit Tran Quoc Pagoda and enjoy local activities at the West Lake. Nightlife in Hanoi is vibrant and noisy, but not because of the bars and clubs, but the community activities such as night markets, outdoor karaokes at Sword Lake, youth hanging out in Old Quarter. Beside all that, a chance to visit Hanoi Opera House and a theater spectacle experience is a special way to spend a night. Purchase ticket to Lang Toi - My Village Show to explore the history through colonial architecture of the 100 year-old Opera House, and the culture in the unique bamboo cirque perform regularly there.
Read our article about Hanoi Top things to do for understanding culture and history here.
Lang Toi at Hanoi Opera House
Day trips from Hanoi
Northern Vietnam's nature is breath-takingly beautiful, the further North, the dreamier scenery gets. These are recommended day trips travel guide from Hanoi for a taste of Northern Vietnam nature.
Option 1 - Halong Bay
Halong Bay was classified as a UNESCO Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. A boat cruise sailing around this breathtaking bay is one-of-a-lifetime experience and a must- do while in Vietnam. The bay's picturesque unspoiled nature is comprised of around 1.600 to 2.000 limestone islands and islets in different shapes and sizes.
Image source travel.com.vn
How to get there: The bay is in Quang Ninh Province, around 165 km, 3.5 hours car ride from Hanoi. It is recommended to take a one day tour (lunch included) or even overnight cruise if you have more time. A day tour costs around $50 US dollars, and overnight cruise is from $100 – $200 US dollars. Tour companies to look at are Paradise Cruises, Dragon Legend, Indochina Junk.
Option 2 - Hoa Lu & Tam Coc
Culture, history, nature, travelers can see them all in a day trip to Hoa Lu Royal City and Tam Coc. Hoa Lu introduces visitors to its day back in the 1000s by two king temples of Ding and Le dynasties. Tam Coc, on the other hand, lures its spectators to its three nature-sculptured caves, charming tranquil countryside with endless rice paddy fields.
Photo source istn.edu.vn
How to get there: Both attractions are in Ninh Binh Province, around 2 - hour car ride from Hanoi. Day trip is possible and packed with things to do such as sailing on Tam Coc river, biking around villages, visiting temples. Tours range from $40 - $50 US dollars. Tour companies to consider Go Asia Travel and Journey Vietnam.
DAY 4 – 7: HOI AN & CENTRAL VIETNAM
This acclaimed UNESCO World Heritage Site sets herself as an outstanding attraction in Vietnam, with compelling Ancient Town, tailor shops, sunset on the canal, colorful lanterns. Hoi An was a busy trading port back in 17th and 18th century, which explains the influences of Chinese, Japanese and European architecture. The Ancient Town now is peaceful and traffic free in certain hours of the day, allows wanderers to daydream while strolling the town, lingering in front of artistic souvenir, accessory and custom tailor shops. However, watch out for other wanderers on bicycles and cyclos. Another thing not to miss out in Hoi An is delicious Central Vietnam cuisine, must-try dishes such as Cao Lau noodles, chicken rice, shrimp dumplings and char grilled pork skewers. About 20 minutes by bicycle across countryside scenery and rice fields is tranquil Cua Dai Beach. With so many to offer, Hoi An is a must - visit city in Vietnam.
Photo by Tran Gia Tien
How to get there: Domestic flights from Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi to Da Nang city. Then take a shuttle or taxi for almost 40 minutes to Hoi An.
Day Tours from Hoi An
While Hoi An is elegant and soothing, other cities nearby are worth a visit as well, for either the beautiful beach or ancient history.
Option 1- Hue
About 7 centuries ago, the Nguyen emperors chose Hue as the country's capital and a home for royal community. Through time and war, most of the historical buildings were destroyed, Hue still manages to preserve and rebuild parts of the Imperial Citadel, Kings tombs, and century-old pagodas. Travelers will find themselves mesmerizing by the Eastern Royal architecture, serene beauty of Huong River, and the interesting juxtaposition of ancient in modern life in this UNESCO World Heritage city.
Image source wikimedia.org
How to get there: There are day tours and buses from Hoi An. The 4-hour bus ride from Hoi An to Hue passes Hai Van mountain road, reveals spectacular view of Vietnam Central's nature. Tour companies to consider: Vespa Adventure Tours, Hoi An Discovery Day Tours.
Option 2 - Da Nang
Located on the South Central Coast, Da Nang is a fast-rising metropolitan port city with history and culture. Ba Na Tourist Resort, the historic Marble Mountains, Linh Ung Pagoda, charming beachfront villas on the other side of the flowing Han River, tranquil My An and Non Nuoc beaches stretching on for dozens of kilometers, famous local seafood and cuisines - these are only a few among a plethora of gifts this destination can offer.
Image source ampersandtravel.com
How to get there: Da Nang is only 40 minutes by car or shuttle from Hoi An a shuttle. And visit sights in Da Nang by taxi. Day tours are available from $50 - $70 US dollar, take a look at Indochina Travel, and Viators.
Day 8 – 11
Beautiful beaches stretch from North to South on the West side of the country. Sun shine all year round above 90°F. A travel guide to Vietnam would not be complete without beach sunbathing, island hopping, snorkeling and trying tasty freshly caught seafood.
Nha Trang and Phu Quoc island are the two most popular beach destinations. Stunning and quite beaches are indeed many to find in Vietnam, but these two particularly offer more. One promises fun beach activities and vibrant nightlife, another is sedate and leaning towards opulent comfort. Whatever travel style you are looking for, one of these two destinations should be in your Vietnam's bucket list.
Option 1 - Nha Trang
Nha Trang is a lively beach city located right under Central Vietnam. The city energizes visitors with ranges of fun ocean activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, sky-diving, jet skiing. Boat tours including lunch take visitors to island hopping, discover little alluring islands and beaches within the bay. Mainland activities include mud-bathing, where visitors soak in mud tub, then rinse off in mineral and warm water, leaving skin soft and smooth afterward. At night, the city is lit up with lights from night markets, seafood restaurants, bars and beach clubs. For those who are looking for a quiet option, Hon Mun Island, Hon Tam Island, Diamond Island are some of tropical islands with luxury resorts and laid-back atmosphere, a couple hours boat away. Nha Trang is fun for group of friends and family, as everybody will find something they love about this city.
Photo by Tran Gia Tien
How to get there: Domestic flights available from Saigon, Hanoi and Da Nang. Avoid rainy season, which is from September to December.
Option 2 - Phu Quoc Island
The largest and so called Vietnamese Paradise Island, Phu Quoc is gifted with white sand beach, turquoise water, millions hectares of national parks. Located on the Southwest Coast of Vietnam, about 45 km by ferry to mainland, the island is a perfect beach getaway from hustling city life, to lose track of time and come close to nature. Although low-key, it is however the opposite of a sleepy island. Phu Quoc can be adventurous and fun with water sports, fishing tours, boat tours. Rent a bike to be free exploring many beaches from North to South the island, hike national parks, and kayak from one beach to another. Fresh seafood, local cuisine, and villages of high-end resorts, borderless golf courses, are definitely other worthy aspects of the islands. It is definitely one of the best places to visit in Vietnam.
Image source vietdreamland.com
How to get there: Domestic flights available from Saigon, Hanoi and Da Nang, the closest city to fly from is Saigon, 60 minutes. Best time to go there is in dry season, from November to June.
DAY 12 – 14: HO CHI MINH CITY & SOUTHERN VIETNAM
Photo by Nguyen The Duong / aaphoto.vn
Bustle, energetic, fast-growing, Ho Chi Minh City, so called 'Saigon' is a tropical metropolis, yet with characters and history. For the first impression, it is an urban jungle of skyscrapers and swirling motorbikes. Once pass that, the city hits us with the joy of having diverse cuisines from East Asian like Japanese, Korean, Indian, to European such as Italian, French, Argentina. Local Vietnamese cuisine is escalated to levels of delicacy, culinary art and fine-dining. Nightlife in Saigon overwhelms first-time visitors with rooftop bars, live DJ clubs, and acoustic cafes. It is Saigon the most developed city in Vietnam, and can be compared to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and other modern cities in the area. Saigonese, however, growing up do know their city and country history. Evidence of past days in War Remnants Museum, Cu Chi Tunnels, and French architecture in central buildings, such as the Opera House, Hotel Continental, Notre Dame Cathedral, and Central Post Office. Religious belief is a huge part of Vietnamese's life, and in Saigon there are more 20 listing pagodas and temples mostly for Buddhism and Taoism. The city is a superb destination to wrap up your travel itinerary in Vietnam, after seeing and experience spectacular mountains, bays, caves and beaches, it is suggested to sit down on tiny plastic stool at a pavement eatery, drink Saigon cheap beer and get to know the locals.
Day tours from Saigon
Southern Vietnam is enriched with alluvial water from millennium flood-borne Mekong River, that runs through 13 cities and provinces of the region. This makes the area ideal for rice and fruit agriculture, thousands hectares of eco-forests. Endless rice paddies, fruitful orchards, monkey bridges, woven baskets are signature images of the region, and also the source of inspiration in arts. This simple but captivating lifestyle is recreated on the modern stage of Saigon Opera in A O Show bamboo cirque, and The Mist contemporary dance show, perform regularly. A day trip further South, and a theater night follow will complete the Southern experience in all aspects of senses and feelings.
A O Show at Saigon Opera House
Option 1 - Mekong Delta
If the idea of floating market, river canoes, and eco forests excites you, then Mekong Delta will make a great day tour to outside Saigon. The Delta is a labyrinth of canals, carrying fertile-rich soil, feeding the agriculture head of the country. Locals live, commune, fish and trade on wooden boats, canoes, and bamboo baskets. Spend a day afloat on canals passing mangroves, entering some complete isolated jungle. Most day tours include lunch of local specialties, fresh river food and seasonal fruits as dessert. The break time is most likely accompanied with a small live performance of traditional folk music, which introduces visitors to the sounds of some unique local instruments.
Image source asiacharmtours.com
How to get there: It is advised to book a tour that draws out the itinerary you prefer, ranging from one day to three days. Les Rives luxury speedboat take you from the Saigon pier.
Option 2 - Cu Chi Tunnel
Don’t judge the book by its cover. Underlying the simple peaceful village paths is an intricate labyrinth of tunnels and chambers. This unique historical attraction is a vast and intricate 250 kilometers long underground labyrinth of tunnels and chambers. Impressively with just very simple tools and bare hands, the tunnels were built during the French occupation, to provide shelter and defensive advantage to thousands of Vietnamese soldiers back then.
Image source viator.com
How to get there: Cu Chi tunnel is about 40 km, an hour car from Ho Chi Minh City. Many tour agencies offer half day excursion, or a day exploration combine with Mekong Delta or Pagodas.
We hope this recommended Vietnam travel guide will give you clearer ideas about things to do and see in Vietnam. It is a country with a lot to experience and deserve a good amount of time for visitors to understand, soak in the culture and different lifestyles, get lost in tropical nature, and most importantly keep an open mind to enjoy every moment of it. A perfect way to wrap up your trip in Vietnam is a visit to one our cultural performances at the Saigon Opera House, A O Show, The Mist, or Teh Dar. To be reminded of some parts of Vietnam in your trips, but recreated in unique performance art and mesmerizing music, and hopefully you will leave the country with a smile and a suitcase full of good memories.
To book tickets to our shows please follow these links:
See Lang toi - My Village, only from 560,000 VND ($23) in Hanoi Opera House or Vietnam Tuong Theater.
Have an extraordinary trip to Vietnam.
This was an excellent show that depicts Vietnamese life in a most original way. If we had 1 more night in HCMC, we would definitely have seen the show again. It came highly recommended by my niece who had watched the show earlier this year (2016). We...Read more
“A O Show - Brilliant Depiction of Vietnamese life”
This was an excellent show that depicts Vietnamese life in a most original way. If we had 1 more night in HCMC, we would definitely have seen the show again. It came highly recommended by my niece who had watched the show earlier this year (2016). We would highly recommend this show. Only an hour long and very energetic. Well done to the cast.
What an amazing show! It is a definite must see in Hoi An. The performers are so athletic and their skill is exceptional. It is fast paced and enthralling. A lovely touch is their willingness to be photographed afterwards whilst singing. The cheaper...Read more
What an amazing show!
What an amazing show! It is a definite must see in Hoi An. The performers are so athletic and their skill is exceptional. It is fast paced and enthralling. A lovely touch is their willingness to be photographed afterwards whilst singing. The cheaper seats are great - we were in the front row!
I don't think we completely understood the story line, however the show was very well done! It was organized, well performed and included everything from funny moments, to acrobatics, to dancing. The opera house where it is held is stunning and in a...Read more
I don't think we completely understood the story line, however the show was very well done! It was organized, well performed and included everything from funny moments, to acrobatics, to dancing. The opera house where it is held is stunning and in a very french area of Ho Chi Minh city. I wouldn't call it a must see, but anyone who enjoys performance art will definitely appreciate it and I'm glad we went
This universal Form of art is an overwhelming display of the essence of Vietnam's culture. From the begining in natural atmosphere to the noisy urban-motorcycling. Beautyful poetic and HiPro Performance.
This exceeded my expectations, which were not low. Both my 19-year-old daughter and I really enjoyed this 1-hour show. Though we were certainly impressed by the performers, it was less "Aaahh" and "Ooohh" for us, and more interesting, fun and...Read more
This exceeded my expectations, which were not low. Both my 19-year-old daughter and I really enjoyed this 1-hour show. Though we were certainly impressed by the performers, it was less "Aaahh" and "Ooohh" for us, and more interesting, fun and entertaining.
Go and see the amazing ao show at the opera house in hochi min city. Great venue and amazing show. Lets you in on some Vietnamese traditions with fantastic music and acrobatics. Not to be missed.
My family and i absolutely loved this show was mesmerized and amazad at the tallents these people possess . "Truly a cut above the rest" Thank you so much for the experience, the only down fall is it had to end. Hope you bring your show to...Read more
Truly a cut above the rest
My family and i absolutely loved this show was mesmerized and amazad at the tallents these people possess . "Truly a cut above the rest" Thank you so much for the experience, the only down fall is it had to end. Hope you bring your show to Australia one day...........from the Bailey family kalgoorlie australia
I went along with no expectations and I was blown away by the talent of the performers and the choreography. A must see for people in the area.
This is a wonderful 1-hour show, that includes modern acrobatics, Vietnam-style. The main theme of the show are traditional Vietnamese baskets and big sticks. The acrobats do an absolutely WONDERFUL job in entertaining the audience, while...Read more
A great show and VERY talented acrobats.
This is a wonderful 1-hour show, that includes modern acrobatics, Vietnam-style. The main theme of the show are traditional Vietnamese baskets and big sticks. The acrobats do an absolutely WONDERFUL job in entertaining the audience, while performing jaw-dropping acrobatic routines. While there is very little connection between the different acts, the enthusiasm of the dancers make up for it. We got seats C1 and C3, which are on the 3rd row of the theater (they are called "Ohh" tickets). The tickets were 840,000 VND (apx. 37US$) and were totally worth it. Notice that photography is not allowed during the show (distractions from the audience might literally endanger the acrobats). Do not miss taking a photo with the performers when the show is over - the entire cast comes down to the entrance of the opera house and is more than happy to take photos and selfies with the audience. Bottom line - an absolute MUST attraction to enjoy while in Ho Chi Minh.
One of the most fascinating shows i have ever seen. Well done!!
Despite some noticeable flaws, this show reflected Vietnam's modern culture with quirky and cheerful atmosphere to it. À Ố has the potential, if not one of the must-watch show if you ever come to Saigon. This show is recommended for families as this...Read more
A "new" type of circus
Despite some noticeable flaws, this show reflected Vietnam's modern culture with quirky and cheerful atmosphere to it. À Ố has the potential, if not one of the must-watch show if you ever come to Saigon. This show is recommended for families as this show have minimal to none verbal context, and at its core, a "new" type of circus
The Saigon show was splendid. It had a meditative quality. Haven't seen such choreography of late in India. The youthful energy was rewarding and inspiring