Vietnam has definitely been one of my favourite destinations in South-East Asia. In fact, this two week Vietnam itinerary has got to have been one of the best ones yet! The great thing is, it’s affordable, interesting, cultural and incredibly scenic. They have a history that goes back thousands of years and natural beauty that will literally take your breath away. There is so much to see and do, so I guess the question then comes down to:
How do I fit it all in?!
Like many places, Vietnam is somewhere you could literally spend months in and still have plenty left untouched. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a good feel for it over a short period of time. I’m going to run you through our two week Vietnam travel itinerary so that you can replicate it or tweak it to make it your own. It has a great mix of countryside scenery, city exploring and some really unique experiences. You ready? Let’s go, go, go!
Welcome to Vietnam! You want to arrive into Noi Bai International Airport and then take either a train/bus/taxi 35km over to Hanoi: the capital of Vietnam. Here it’s known for its centuries-old architecture and a rich culture. First impression: insanely manic! Watch out left, right & centre (then left and right again!) for the motorbikes whizzing through the narrow streets. There’s plenty of hustle and bustle. But take it all in! Hanoi also has many temples, parks, walkways and markets. I recommend checking into your hotel, grabbing some refreshments and taking them to the Hoan Kiem Lake (that’s what we did!): it’s the perfect place to sit and relax, and a really nice way to get settled in.
Today it’s all about some hearty city exploring! I mean, you are in the capital city after all! The highlight for us here was 100% taking a Rickshaw Tour: flying past the Presidential Palace, the beautiful West Lake, the Ho Chi Minh complex and the One Pillar Pagoda. It’s a great way to get around and an exciting experience. If that’s not for you- why not venture out by foot and see what you discover? It’s also a great way to get a feel for the city. Make sure you get stuck into local food and drink (super delicious!) A must-try is Vietnam’s traditional egg coffee or hot chocolate! I vouched for the sweeter option and it was like a thick-marshmellowy-chocolately-dreamy-concotion! YUM!
On the evening, take to the town! When the sun goes down in Hanoi, you certainly won’t be short of things to do. From early evening strolls and performances to late-night bites, bars and clubs: the city certainly stays alive at night. It may be one of the most historic old towns, but it sure has a big reputation for nightlife that it 100% lives up to! Get out… Celebrate being YOUNG, WILD & FREE (or so they say!) – trust me, it will not disappoint.
DAY 3 & 4:
From cities to scenery; next up is a drive east to the stunning harbour, ready to set out on a Ha Long Bay cruise. Good music, good food, good company. All on a traditional Vietnamese junk boat- your new home for the night! And wait, I know what you’re wondering- junk, as its trash?! Yet this boat is far from trashy! It’s actually a type of ancient Chinese sailing ship that is still in use today, giving you a real cultural experience in itself. As you cruise through the islands, you’ll have the chance to go caving and sea kayaking, plus of course- you have GOT to go dive-bombing in the sea! With smooth waters, it’s just a big break from civilisation, in a location you really won’t forget in a hurry!
If you get the opportunity: your adventure is going to get next-level awesome! Whilst in Ha Long Bay, see if you can extend your cruise to spend the day and night on a PRIVATE ISLAND! Uh huh. It is a real thing! I can’t show you the exact one we stayed on, but you can find similar ones with Castaway Island. The exclusivity gives you tranquility.
We spent the day sunbathing, playing beach volleyball, going for a swim, playing frisbee, and just generally chilling out; before gathering together for a group meal and some simple yet super entertaining, card games. WARNING: you will probably find you have no wifi or reach to the outside world, but this only actually adds to the experience! As a blogger and social media specialist, I’m rarely away from my phone for more than a couple of hours so this was certainly a bit of a shock to me. But I found once I found it gave me so much time for reflection, it was like next-level relaxation and actually: the detox did me the world of good!
Waking up to the sound of waves, it’s then time to sail back, grab a nice bite to eat around lunch, then take a journey a little further South to the remote villages of Ninh Bihn, in the Red River Delta. Although not always featured on itineraries, this place is an ABSOLUTE MUST! Surrounded with stunning landscapes and inspiring scenery, it shows you the rural and authentic side of Vietnam; with a very laid-back and serene atmosphere. For another new experience, I highly recommend spending the night at a riverside homestay; watching the sky turn orange and pink as the sun sets in this magnificent location. You’ll feel right at home in no time!
You’ve reached the half-way point and already have experienced so so much! Day 7 was actually my favourite day of the entire trip and if you love nature, my bet is it will be the same for you too! It’s time to get out and explore… Head out on a bicycle tour through the countryside in the morning: through the rice-paddies, mountains and fields. Then hop on a boat and glide along gentle rivers, delving into atmospheric caves. You’ll get the best views through here, and be able to really take it all in! After lunch, ascend the legendary 450 steps of Dragon Mountain Viewpoint and prepare for a magical sunset.
With a fully tummy, you’re in for another new experience you won’t forget in a while!… It’s time to hop on an overnight train down to Danang. If you’ve never been on one before: don’t be nervous. You get individual rooms with bunk beds (that’s what we had) and they’re really quite comfortable. Get your rest as there’s a big day in store tomorrow!
YOU’VE MADE IT! Wake up this morning on the train in Danang and hop on the short bus ride to well-preserved ancient town of Hoi An. Cut through with canals, packed with history and really take it all in! Hoi An has is full of incredible architecture: a mix of eras and styles from wooden Chinese shophouses and temples to colorful French colonial buildings, ornate Vietnamese tube houses and the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge with its pagoda. Spend the day exploring the lantern lit streets and wandering in and out of the market stalls and shops. This is a great opportunity to pop into a dress-maker, designing your own outfit to then be brought to life (for a fraction of the price) in just days! On the evening, the town comes alive! Watch the sunset over the waterways; head out on a small boat for a floating lantern experience and then venture out to the restaurants and bars. Hoi An was definitely my favourite city of the trip; so traditional, friendly and really nice vibes. Be sure to experience all it has to f
Let’s keep it moving! Today, it’s time to jump aboard a fisherman’s boat to head into the depths on the tranquil Vietnamese waters. Once in the heart of nature, you’ll then venture into an acorn-like floating basket for a crab-fishing experience you will honestly never forget. All super humane and the crabs that are caught get put back into the waters afterwards. You’ll have your own fisherman ‘guide’ who will paddle you between the vegetation (hold steady, these baskets are something else!) You also each have your own mini stick fishing rod with a touch of bate on the end. The crabs are hidden below the surface of the water, clinging onto the plants- but when you spot one and tempt them in, you can manage to catch them and pop them in a bucket! It was honestly a little bit surreal- out with the locals, learning local traditions. Very special indeed.
After that it’s time for lunch… Only this lunch will be one you’re making yourselves! In our cooking class, we learnt all about the history of the dishes, the food sources and how to whip up some tasty Vietnamese delicacies that we then took home the recipes for. It was great to not only learn to cook in new ways, but also to be able to try everything we’d made. The ingredients were fresh, the flavours were unreal and it was the perfect way to end the day.
Psst… if you’re not a natural cook, don’t worry- nor am I! In fact, anything I make takes me excruciatingly longer than everyone else, but this class is great for beginners (although it can also be made more challenging for those who are more ‘advanced’)- you’re going to love it trust me, and there’s plenty of help available throughout!
It’s time for the final leg of the journey now, with a short flight down to Ho Chi Minh City. In contrast to everywhere else you will have been to date: Ho Chi Minh is super built up. Yet it holds such a depth of history. Settle in and spend your first evening exploring the city at night. The buildings look unreal, the vibe is super cool and there are some really nice rooftop restaurants and bars that you have got to check out!
Day 11 & 12:
Missing that nature? Well it’s not gone yet! It’s time to venture into the heart of the Mekong Delta. Heading in through boat, you’ll then jump on some old bikes to have lunch with the locals in the middle of the island. Here, you’re about to tick off another new experience (no doubt!) as you get dressed up and fully into the spirit of the traditional catfish hand fishing.
This has got to have been the most hilarious activity of the whole trip. There was some SERIOUS screaming going down here… and if I’m being honest, a lot of that was from me! Over there, this is how they catch the majority of their food. They use the streams and the controlled water-flow to catch in muddy pond sections- either with your hand or in bamboo ‘traps’. It is NOT for the fainthearted, you get completely and utterly COVERED in mud and if you feel the slightest thing on your foot or leg, it is bound to make you squirm (who knows what’s lurking beneath the surface?!) but- despite all of that, it’s a brilliant experience that really makes you live, breath and ‘work’ like the locals, so 100% recommend!
Leaving the huts feeling like a TRIBE, it’s then time to spend a night in the Delta before continuing your adventures on the waterways the following day. The best way to get around? On a traditional canoe, gliding through natural tree arches and exploring places unreachable by boat or foot. Truly unforgettable!
It’s the last full day. Sob, sob. Where has time gone? So it’s time to end it with a meaningful step back in time at the Chi Chi Tunnels. The tunnels -although tragic in their creation are really quite remarkable- are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels located in the Củ Chi District of Ho Chi Minh City, that link to a much larger network of tunnels that underlie much of the country. Vietnam is full of history, with a huge part shaped by the war, so to be able to get amongst that: it was a really humbling and emotional experience. With an explainer video at the start, sharing the brief history of Vietnam, we then went on a brief tour learning more as we went along and even getting the chance to head underground walking through the tunnels themselves. It was fascinating, ever-so-slightly frightening but really gave us a glimpse of the underground life of Vietnamese soldiers.
After a brilliant cultural experience (like nothing else on the trip before!), we then headed back to our home in Ho Chi Minh for a final farewell dinner and drinks.
It’s all about recovery (you’ll need it after last night’s celebrations!), then shopping, a final chance to do some last-minute sight-seeing before rounding up your trip ready to fly home!
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Sound like an epic itinerary? I think so! And it genuinely really was. I loved every moment of my Vietnam adventure. I left England alone, desperate for a meaningful getaway; and I returned home with a heart full of touching experiences, beautiful memories and special bonds formed. Thinking of heading to Vietnam? I honestly couldn’t recommend it any more!