Vietnam itinerary: the perfect itinerary for 2 and 3 weeks backpacking!

You can find the perfect Vietnam itinerary with the ultimate highlights of the country in this blog: a 2-week itinerary and an itinerary of over 3 weeks of travelling through Vietnam! We also share a lot of tips for Vietnam.

Itinerary Vietnam: the highlights of this beautiful country

Finally, it was time to get to know Vietnam ourselves, a country that has been on our bucket list for a long time! We travelled by public transport from the south of Vietnam to the north in a bit more than two weeks. It was a cool journey in which we got to see a lot of Vietnam, but definitely not everything. That is why we also have included a three-week itinerary for Vietnam in this blog.

Under both itineraries, you will find a short description of the different highlights of Vietnam which makes planning easier.


Itinerary Vietnam: 2 weeks backpacking through Vietnam

In less than two weeks you can already see a beautiful part of Vietnam. The map below shows a representation of the itinerary you will travel these two weeks in Vietnam.

Map Vietnam with itinerary 2 weeks:

Ho Chi Minh City – Dalat – Hoi An – Phong Nha – Hanoi – Sapa – Hanoi

vietnam travel route map-01

What does this itinerary through Vietnam look like in two weeks?

In two weeks you will travel from the south of Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh) to the north (Hanoi). It’s also possible to reverse the route, just keep in mind, in North Vietnam it is a lot colder than South Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh (2 days) is your first destination. It is a busy city, with a small concise centre for tourists. Two days in Ho Chi Minh is enough, but more time is nice too. Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels and the War Remenants museum. This gives you an idea of the history and war this country was in. The next destination? Dalat (2 days), a beautiful mountain town where it is a lot cooler than in Ho Chi Minh City. Transport to Dalat can be done by bus, but we decided to fly. In Dalat, enjoy adventure activities like Canoeing.

The itinerary from Hoi An to Hanoi:

You fly from Dalat to Hoi An (3 days). The airport at Hoi An is called Da Nang, a big city that is much less fun than Hoi An. From Da Nang it is still half an hour by taxi to Hoi An. Hoi An is a beautiful and ancient city. Especially the architecture is beautiful! But Hoi An is also a place to relax and Hoi An is on the beach!

Vietnam budget tip: taxis from Da Nang to Hoi An can inflate their prices. Therefore, book a taxi online in advance for only 5.50 euros per person. Click here for more information.

After three relaxing days, you continue by bus to Phong Nha (2 days) where you will see the largest caves in the world. Definitely don’t stay for more than two days, the village is tiny and there is not much to do outside the caves. From Phong Nha, it’s an easy one-hour flight to Hanoi (3 days), where we advise you to stay at least three days. Here you can enjoy the small streets full of merchandise, the beautiful parks and the delicious food.

Still, some time and energy left? Then the northern region of Sapa (2.5 days) should be added to your Vietnam itinerary! From Hanoi, you travel by bus in 5 hours to Sapa where you should definitely do one of the beautiful hikes. Sapa is a mountainous area, bordering China and hiking is very cool here! Finally, travel back to Hanoi where your journey ends.

vietnam: sapa 3

Vietnam itinerary: 3 weeks backpacking through Vietnam!

Do you have more time? Lucky you, then you can see a lot more of this beautiful country! The Vietnam itinerary below is for three weeks but can be done at a slower pace in 4 weeks or a month.

Map Vietnam: itinerary 3 or 4 weeks

Hanoi – Sapa – Cat Ba/ Ha Long Bay – Ninh Binh – Phong Nha – Hue – Hoi An – Mui Ne – Dalat – Ho Chi Minh City

vietnam 4 weken route 01


Backpacking Vietnam: what does the 3-week itinerary in Vietnam look like?

This time you start in Hanoi (3 days), and you are now travelling from north to south. The other way around is also possible. Here too you will visit Sapa (2 days) but after Sapa, you will immediately travel to Cat Ba / Ha Long Bay (3 days). Plan some time for this: first, you go by night bus from Sapa to Hanoi in 5 hours, then you change to the night bus and take the boat to Cat Ba, total travel time: 15 hours. Don’t worry, on the cruise you will be doing from Ha Long Bay from Cat Ba, you’ll have plenty of time to rest from this long journey.

Travelling from North Vietnam to South Vietnam!

After a few days of relaxation, continue by bus to Ninh Binh (2 days). Here you can enjoy the beautiful nature and the huge karst mountains that you can sail by boat. Your next destination is Phong Nha (2 days), a 7-hour drive from Ninh Binh by bus. Here you visit the caves but don’t stay too long, it is a small place. If you still have time, consider continuing to Hoi An earlier, but make a short stop in Hue. In Hoi An (3 days) you stay a little longer to rest after the many travel days.

The next destination is also very relaxed: you fly to Mui Ne (3 days), a nice coastal town for surfing or sandboarding of the dunes. Mui Ne is a quiet beach town, but if you want white beaches and a clear blue sea, you can always consider swapping this with a trip to Phu Quoc, in the south of Vietnam. From Mui Ne it is about 4 hours by bus and then you are in Dalat (2 days). The trip ends in Ho Chi Minh City (2 days) after which you leave Vietnam.

This is a full schedule, but achievable. Travelling in Vietnam is easy by (night) bus, but for a few euros more you also have a plane ticket. Want to take it easier? Then skip Phong Nha and Hue and fly directly from Ninh Binh to Hoi An or choose to skip Ha Long Bay and enjoy the equivalent mountains in Ninh Binh.

Vietnam: hoi an charlotte

The most important highlights of Vietnam at a glance!

Below is an overview of the highlights of Vietnam. Do you miss a place? Let us know!

Highlights Vietnam 1: Hanoi city, Nort Vietnam

Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam, a city with a lot of history. The French influence on Vietnam is clearly visible in the beautiful old buildings in the Old Quarter and the French Quarter. Join a food tour and taste a thousand flavours of the Vietnamese cuisine! And enjoy the peace in the park in the middle of the city. While going back into the tiny street, beware that you are not driven over by the thousands of motorbikes that blow through traffic.


Highlights Vietnam 2: Sapa, the mountain region of Vietnam

Sapa is a small town in the North of Vietnam, a very quiet and peaceful area. Here you will find hills and extensive rice terraces. Make a multi-day trek and stay overnight with locals, a great experience!

Vietnam: Sapa1

Highlights Vietnam 3: Ha Long Bay/Cat Ba a beautiful bay full of limestones!

Ha Long Bay is a region in the north-west of Vietnam. It is a huge bay with thousands of limestone islands that rise up above the sea. The largest island is Cat Ba, from where you can do all kinds of multi-day cruises.

Click here for a multi-day cruise through the bay of Ha Long

Highlights Vietnam 4: Ninh Binh green valleys and high peaks!

Ninh Binh is a small city in the Ninh Binh province. The beautiful surroundings are the reason to visit Ninh Binh. Here you will find huge karst mountains between the green valleys, just like in Ha Long Bay. The places Tam Coc and Trang An are highly recommended!

Highlights Vietnam 5: Phong Nha, exploring the best caves of Vietnam!

Curious about the largest caves in the whole world? Be sure to visit the town of Phong Nha. You will find here the Paradise Cave and the Phong Nha Cave, both impressive Limestone Caves. The largest cave in the world, So’n Doong Cave, is not (yet) open to the general public. There are only a few visitors per year who may visit this cave through a multi-day trek (very expensive).

Do you also want to enter the caves and marvel at this beautiful natural phenomenon? Click here for more information for a full-day tour of Phong Nha.

Vietnam: Phong Nha

Highlights Vietnam 6: Hué, the old imperial capital of Vietnam!

Hue is the old imperial capital of Vietnam, clearly visible in all the beautiful old buildings in the old city centre. Hue is relatively small and half a day is enough to see everything. Use this as a strategic resting place between Phong Nha and Hoi An.

Highlights Vietnam 7: Hoi An, a lovely colonial village in the middle of Vietnam!

Hoi An is a beautiful small city in central Vietnam. It is one of the few cities that has remained almost completely in the old state despite the Vietnam War. You will find centuries-old colourful buildings that are still in full use. This makes a visit to Hoi An like travelling through time. Hoi An is close to the sea which also makes it a great place to rest a little longer. Be prepared, Hoi An is a very touristic place, totally understandable considering the beauty of the city.
Read about our time in Hoi An (only in Dutch).

hoi an charlotte Vietnam

Two beautiful sights from Hoi An: My Son and Ba Na Hills

There is also plenty to see outside Hoi An. A must-see on your Hoi An route is a day trip to the My Son Sanctuary. This beautiful area is full of temples and other excavations and is truly magical! Click here for more information about a possible tour to My Son.

And the Ba Na Hills are also very cool to see! We still regret skipping this during our trip through Vietnam. Around the Ba Na Hills a whole amusement park has been built of tourist attractions, the huge cable car and beautiful bridge with hands are really things that we would have liked to visit. Click here for a convenient full-day trip from Hoi An to the Ba Na Hills.Vietnam: hanoi my son

Highlights Vietnam 8: Nha Trang / Mui Ne, beach life in Vietnam!

Mui Ne is a quiet beach town. It is not (yet) discovered by mass tourism and you will find authentic fishing villages in the area. You will go to Mui Ne to relax, or to surf, kite or sandboard. In doubt between Mui Ne and Nha Trang? Do not hesitate any longer: Nha Trang is flooded by (drunken) Russians and therefore not a pleasant place anymore.

Highlights Vietnam 9: Dalat, a small mountain village great for outdoor activities!

Dalat was a very positive surprise for us. It is a small mountain town, built at the time of French rule as a summer residence for wealthy French. The city itself is beautiful to see with a large lake in the middle. In addition, you can undertake great outdoor activities, such as Canoeing. Dalat is also a good place to start or end with one Easy Riders motortour!

Vietnam: Dalat canoying

Highlights Vietnam 10: Ho Chi Minh City, the old Saigon!

Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam. It is a bustling, warm city full of skyscrapers and bars. Looking for a good night out? That is not a problem here, the nightlife is over the top. But Ho Chi Minh City is also a must-visit when you are interested in culture and history. Be sure to pay a visit to the war museum and take a tour of the Cu Chi tunnels.

Here you will find a nice tour to the Cu Chi tunnels that you can book online.

Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh

Highlights Vietnam 11: Mekong Delta, exploring markets

The Mekong Delta is a large branch of the Mekong River that runs through Cambodia, China and Laos. People in this region live on the river. Not only their homes are here but also shopping and trading takes place on the water. Visiting the Mekong Delta is easiest from the town of My Tho, where various boat tours depart.

Vietnam tip: You can also visit the Mekong Delta as a day trip from Ho Chi Minh. Click here for more information about such a trip that you can book online.

Highlights Vietnam 12: Phu Quoc, tropical life in Vietnam!

White beaches, swaying palm trees and a clear blue sea. Something you will not encounter much in Vietnam, except on this beautiful tropical island. Phu Quoc is slightly more expensive than the rest of Vietnam, but from what I have heard, the money is more than worth it!


Click here for all my Vietnam blogs!

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