Vietnam North to South 2-4 week itinerary

Streetside dining in Hanoi

All Asia, Asia, Vietnam | February 1, 2017 | By

The decision to go to Vietnam for our honeymoon was mainly motivated by the prospect of excellent food. I also know from an earlier trip that people are very kind and smile easily, and the country boasts beautiful landscapes and bustling cities.

My husband Titus and I traveled the ‘classic’ north to south route; as we found out, many other travelers do the same. Most people we met take roughly the same itinerary, though everybody does it in their own style. We were lucky to be able to take a month off; many other Europeans took a three-week holiday and Americans in general only get ten vacation days per year (poor souls!). Whatever your travel style, Vietnam is definitely worth a visit. It is a very easy country to travel in because there are tons of tourist agencies in the big cities, obviously there’s the internet that allows you to browse and book trips, and you can ask for help from locals (at the hotel reception, AirBnB host).

Here’s our itinerary:

– Hanoi – 4 nights
– Sapa – 2 nights
– Hanoi – 2 nights
– Halong Bay – 1 night
– Night train Hanoi – Danang – 1 night
– Hoi An – 4 nights
– Ho Chi Minh City – 6 nights
– Phu Quoc – 7 nights

Scroll down to the end of this post for details on which trips, transport and hotels we booked

We arrived in Hanoi on our first night of the honeymoon. We had two excellent AirBnB hosts who helped us along, showed us around the neighborhood, gave recommendations and helped us book trips. We didn’t book any trips or transport before arriving, though I did do my research into options in advance, so while there we could just enjoy without having to spend too much time on making travel arrangements.

In Hanoi, we had a great time. Mostly just walking around, grabbing random plastic stools to have a meal, resting and… repeat.

Breathtaking scenery; Sapa's rice terraces

The rice terraces in the area around Sapa are a sight to behold

One of the highlights of the honeymoon – apart from the food – was our trip to Sapa. On my previous vacation in Vietnam I didn’t get a chance to go so far up north, so I was very keen on going there. I was eager to see the rice terrace plateaus in real life. While it was raining most of the trip (we were there in November), we were still able to enjoy the breathtaking landscape. We spent one night in a hotel in Sapa, the other night in a homestay in the village we hiked to.

After coming back in the evening, we spent another two nights in Hanoi so we didn’t have to rush to get ready for the next trip immediately. It is a holiday after all, and we love to sleep! 

The day after, we went on a trip to Halong Bay, another highlight of the trip. Halong Bay is about 3-4 hours from Hanoi. We chose to spend one night on a boat, which was lovely.

Unesco World Heritage site Halong Bay

Halong Bay consists of thousands of limestone rock formations – breathtaking

From Halong Bay we arrived back in Hanoi in the early evening, so after a sumptuous dinner at our AirBnB host’s home (probably the best meal of the whole trip!) we were able to take a night train around 8 PM to Danang. It was pretty comfortable and a fun experience. In the morning the view from the train along the coast was gorgeous. Upon arrival in Danang, we immediately took a taxi to Hoi An where we spent the subsequent four nights.

The train from Hanoi to Danang offers splendid views

Spectacular views from the train, getting closer to Danang

Several people had recommended the city, of which the city center is UNESCO world heritage-listed. We weren’t too enthusiastic. Yes, the city center is quaint, especially at night with all of the lanterns lit, and yes, you can also cycle to the beach, but Hoi An only caters to tourists and the only Vietnamese you see want to sell you stuff or take you into their restaurant. Since we want to get to know the real Vietnam, albeit difficult to achieve for a tourist, Hoi An does not feel too authentic. We did spend a few nice days there, but were not too sad to leave.

Great lunch at Nocturnal Artist in Hoi An

Lovely lunch and chat with the restaurant owner at Nocturnal Artist in Hoi An

From there, we took a flight to Ho Chi Minh City. We considered going by train again, but the flight is faster and not even that much more expensive. Besides, there was no train service at part of the line because a boat had hit a railway bridge and it was under construction at the time.

In Ho Chi Minh City, we spent our time staring at traffic (insane!), eating (obviously), and walking around District 1. We went to the War Remnants museum, took a trip to the Cu Chi tunnels and to the Mekong Delta (Vinh Long).

Our last week was spent on Phu Quoc, an island that is rapidly developing into one of the main mass tourism destinations of Vietnam. Because we were aware of all of the constructions going on to build-build-build for the tourists, we chose to stay in a secluded area in the north of the island. We went around the island for a day, and helped clean up the island for a morning, and besides that we just repeated our winning sequence of resting and eating. We only had to walk to the restaurant this time. Bliss.

Bamboo Cottages Phu Quoc offers a great atmosphere and incredible food

The ultimate week of relaxation at Bamboo Cottages Phu Quoc

– AirBnB Hanoi: Ly Quoc Su (Hoan Kiem – West Lake, Old Quarter)
– Sapa trip 3 days 2 nights (1 night in homestay, 1 night in a hotel in Sapa):
– Halong Bay trip 1 night: A Class Cruises, Carina cruise
– Night train from Hanoi to Danang: Vietnam Railways We took the one at 20.10 h. which arrives around noon the next day.
– Hoi An Homestay: Flowergarden Homestay
– Trip to My Son from Hoi An: arranged via homestay
– Flight Danang – Ho Chi Minh City: VietJet (on our ticket it said Hahn Air Systems, which was confusing at the airport since nobody seemed to know Hahn Air)
– AirBnB Ho Chi Minh City: Nguyen Thi Nghia (District 1)
– Cu Chi Tunnels from HCMC half day trip: via The Sinh Tourist (morning or afternoon, we chose the afternoon because we are not morning people)
– Mekong Delta Vinh Long trip from HCMC: via The Sinh Tourist (we LOVED Vinh Long market!)
– Flight Ho Chi Minh City to Phu Quoc: Vietnam Airlines
– Phu Quoc accommodation: Bamboo Cottages

Disclaimer: We paid for everything ourselves. I don’t have enough followers for sponsorship deals! Ha!

1 Comment

  1. Recipe: Green papaya and pineapple salad with shrimp - Lettuce Take a Trip

    July 4, 2017 at 8:57 am

    […] Our north-south Vietnam itinerary * My Pinterest board on […]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *