North Vietnam Itinerary: Where to go?

North Vietnam is home to Hanoi, capital of Vietnam, which is often the starting point for a Vietnam Itinerary. From Hanoi, it is easy to reach other famous attractions in North including Sapa, Halong Bay, Ninh Binh, Mai Chau, Sapa, Ha Giang, Dien Bien, Hai Phong, Ba Be, Ban Gioc… With a wide range of diversity in the landscape as well as in culture authenticity, this region has everything to offer travelers Worldwide. With 7 years guiding and traveling across the country, I propose some brief itinerary to visit North Vietnam as below:

1. Hanoi, 2-3 days

Trying Cyclo in Hanoi

Sightseeing Hanoi Old Quarter by a cyclo tour

Hanoi, a capital of Vietnam, should be a starting point for your trip in North Vietnam. Spending 2-3 days here is recommended. A full-day city tour will take you to all key sites in the charming capital including Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex, Temple of Literature – the first university of Vietnam, Hanoi Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem Lake, West Lake, Hanoi Opera House… You will have a chance to get a taste for one-thousand-year culture and history with its wide tree-lined boulevards, French colonial architecture and ancient oriental pagodas. In the afternoon, don’t forget to enjoy Water Puppet Show, which features colorful puppets depicting traditional Vietnamese lifestyle and folk music. Especially, you should not leave Hanoi without trying street foods such as “pho”, “bun cha”, “cha ca”… which you can easily find at any street vendors. For those who want to immerse in the vibrant nightlife and drink a cup of beer, Bia Hoi corner at Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen streets is a perfect place. There are also a lot of pubs and bars opening late night.

Find more information about Hanoi attractions:

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex
Hoan Kiem Lake
Hanoi Opera House
Hanoi Old Quarter

2. Sapa, 2-3 days

topas ecolodge

Topas Ecolodge – a luxury eco-resort located deep in Hoang Lien Son Mountain Range

Let’s leave the hustling and bustling life behind and take an opportunity to immerse yourself in incredible atmosphere with friendly local people in Sapa. About 350km from Hanoi, you can travel by a shuttle bus, a night train or a private car, and it takes about 6-8 hours to reach there. It is recommended to take a guided hike through yawning valleys decorated with terraced rice fields and pass through remote hill tribe villages like Cat Cat, Y Linh Ho, Lao Chai, Ta Van. Then you have chance to explore the daily life and familiarize yourself with the cultures of the H’mong, Dzao and Dzay people who populate the region. You can also spend a half day to visit one of the most famous local markets around Sapa such as Bac Ha on Sunday, Coc Ly on Tuesday, Can Cau on Saturday… Or take a cable car to Fansipan mount – “the roof of Indochina” and admire the panoramic spectacular view from there.

3. Ninh Binh, 1-2 days

ngo dong river

Magestic scenery on Ngo Dong river in Tam Coc

Located about 100km southward with 2 hours driving from Hanoi, Ninh Binh is a perfect choice for a day trip or stay overnight here to continue your North Vietnam trip to Mai Chau or head to Halong Bay.

Ninh Binh is famous for its quiet and peaceful landscape of rice fields, system of limestone grottoes and historical relics. A must thing to do for a day trip in Ninh Binh is to take a rowing boat trip either along Ngo Dong river to Tam Coc – Bich Dong tourist spot or in Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex. Or you can cycle on countryside roads onto Hoa Lu, the ancient 10th century citadel, passing rice paddies and rural villages.

For those who want to discover the nature and see the rich and well protected biodiversity of the region, Van Long Nature Reserve, Cuc Phuong National Park or Thung Nham Bird Garden is the best choice. It is suitable for a half day tour.

Check out: top things to do in Ninh Binh

4. Halong Bay/ Lan Ha Bay, day cruise or overnight cruise

halong bay

Amazing Halong Bay from above

Located on the east part of the north and about 2 hours driving on the new expressway from Hanoi, the UNESCO World Heritage Site – Halong Bay has been in the top travel bucket list of many travelers to Vietnam. It is a must-see destination in North Vietnam with nearly 2,000 limestone islands dotting from the emerald water.

If you don’t have enough time, a Halong day cruise would be the most suitable choice. However, an overnight cruise on the bay will be the best way to enjoy Halong. There are 3 different visiting routes for overnight cruises on the bay, namely, Halong Bay (the traditional and most well-known visited), Lan Ha Bay (near Cat Ba Island) and Bai Tu Long Bay (relatively unexplored route). You can choose either 2 days 1 night or 3 days 2 nights excursion to spend a night in the middle of the bay. During the day, you can join some interesting activities around the bay such as go kayaking, go swimming, visit limestone caves and floating villages. Other than that, tourists can take a Halong Bay seaplane tour to get the memorable experience and the panoramic spectacular beauty of the bay from above.

5. Mai Chau, 1-2 days

mai chau - a suitable place for the north itinerary

Mai Chau – an ideal place to escape from hustle and bustle city life

Mai Chau is a small town nestled in the midst of a lush valley and surrounded by rice paddies. Located only 150km away from Hanoi, Mai Chau is a perfect getaway for those who want to immerse in the tranquil and authentic atmosphere along with picturesque views of the scenic landscape, sown with pagodas and rural villages.

Trekking through terraced rice fields and H’mong villages such as Xa Linh, Pa Co is a typical activities on a day tour in Mai Chau. You have chance to discover the natural beauty of the valley and encounter the culture of ethnic people here. Besides, cycling along the tarmac trails
is another option.

To get closer touch with the locals, spending a night at homestay is the best choice. You will enjoy a family dinner and watch the unique and joyful traditional music dance of Hmong tribe. The peaceful beauty of the countryside culture and the hospitality of people here are something you will never forget after the trip.

6. Ha Giang, 2-3 days

North Vietnam itinerary -rice field in Ha Giang

Green terraced rice fields in Ha Giang

Lying in the remote far northern region of Vietnam, Ha Giang is famous for its majestic landscapes, endless winding roads and huge flower fields. It is also well-known for Dong Van Stone Plateau, which is recognized by UNESCO as one of 77 geological parks in the world. The park is scattered with ethereal karst formations that are around 400 million years old. Lung Cu Hamlet lying inside Dong Van Stone Plateau is another indispensable destination as it marks the very northern tip of Vietnam by Lung Cu Flag Tower on Dragon Mountain.

Quan Ba, Yen Minh and Meo Vac all have their own charm and features to discover. Hoang Su Phi has some of the most beautiful terraced rice fields in Vietnam, no less. And there is a unique Khau Vai love market which is held once a year, on the 26-27th day of the 3rd lunar month. It is a meeting place of ex-lovers.

Ha Giang is about 300km from Hanoi, you can reach this paradise after an 8-hours long car drive. It is recommended to spend 2-3 days in Ha Giang to explore all key sites here.

Here below are some sample tours of North Vietnam Itinerary so you can have an overview look:

North Vietnam Grand Adventure – 11 days: Hanoi – Ha Giang – Sapa – Halong Bay
Best of North Vietnam – 7 days: Hanoi – Sapa – Halong Bay
Hanoi – Halong Luxury Experience – 4 days: Hanoi – Halong Bay
North Vietnam Discovery – 12 days: Hanoi – Dien Bien Phu – Mai Chau – Ninh Binh – Halong Bay
Highlights of North Vietnam – 4 days: Hanoi – Ninh Binh – Halong Bay
North Vietnam Visit & Shopping Tour – 8 days: Hanoi – Halong Bay – Sapa

You could also pick some for your favorite attractions or more for your North Vietnam visit.

These North Vietnam tours are flexible and could be customized to meet your needs and interests and daily departure. If you need further information, please contact us via email: sales@travelvietnam.com or leave a message on our Live Chat System.

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