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 17 years guiding and traveling across the country, I propose some brief itinerary to visit North Vietnam as below:
Table of Contents
1. Hanoi, 2-3 days
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.
Things to do in Hanoi, Vietnam
Here are some of the top things to do in Hanoi:
- Explore the Old Quarter: This is the heart of Hanoi and where you’ll find the best street food. Wander around the narrow streets and alleyways, popping into shops and cafes. Be sure to try some of the local specialties, like pho (noodle soup), banh mi (Vietnamese baguette sandwich), and bun cha (grilled pork patties with noodles).
- Visit Hoan Kiem Lake: This beautiful lake is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. Take a boat ride on the lake, or rent a paddle boat and explore the small island in the middle. Be sure to visit Ngoc Son Temple, which is located on the island.
- Take a street food tour: There’s no better way to experience Hanoi’s food scene than by taking a street food tour. You’ll be led by a local guide who will take you to some of the best spots in the city to try all sorts of delicious dishes.
- Visit the Ho Chi Minh Complex: This complex is dedicated to the late President Ho Chi Minh, who is considered the founding father of modern Vietnam. You can visit his mausoleum, stilt house, and museum.
- See the Temple of Literature: This temple was once the Imperial Academy of Vietnam, and it’s now one of the most important cultural landmarks in the country.
Here is a suggested itinerary for 3 days in Hanoi
3 Days Itinerary in Hanoi for First-Time Visitors
- Day 1: Explore the Old Quarter, visit Hoan Kiem Lake, and take a street food tour.
- Day 2: Visit the Ho Chi Minh Complex, see the Temple of Literature, and explore the French Quarter
- Day 3: Take a cooking class, visit West Lake, and relax at a rooftop bar
3-day itinerary in Hanoi for history and culture enthusiasts:
- Day 1: Visit the Ho Chi Minh Complex, the Temple of Literature, and the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology.
- Day 2: Take a boat trip on the Red River, visit the Thang Long Imperial Citadel, and explore the Hoan Kiem Lake area.
- Day 3: Visit the Hoa Lo Prison Museum, the War Remnants Museum, and the Hanoi Opera House
3-day itinerary in Hanoi for foodies:
- Day 1: Eat your way through the Old Quarter, visiting as many different restaurants and food stalls as you can. Be sure to try some of the local specialties, like pho (noodle soup), banh mi (Vietnamese baguette sandwich), and bun cha (grilled pork patties with noodles).
- Day 2: Take a cooking class and learn how to make some of your favorite Vietnamese dishes.
- Day 3: Visit the night markets and sample all the delicious street food.
Find more information about Hanoi attractions:
2. Sapa, 2-3 days
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.
Here is a suggested itinerary for 3 days in Sapa:
3-Day Itinerary in Sapa for First-Time Visitors
- Day 1: Arrive in Sapa and check into your hotel. In the afternoon, take a short walk around the town and visit the Sapa Market. In the evening, enjoy a traditional Vietnamese dinner at a local restaurant.
- Day 2: Go on a trekking tour to Cat Cat Village and Ta Van Village. These villages are home to the Hmong and Dao ethnic groups, and you’ll get to learn about their culture and way of life. In the afternoon, visit the Sapa Waterfalls.
- Day 3: Take a cable car to Fansipan, the highest mountain in Vietnam. The views from the top are incredible, and you can even see as far as Laos on a clear day. In the afternoon, take a leisurely stroll through Sapa town and do some souvenir shopping before your departure.
3 Days in Sapa for Active Travelers
- Day 1: Arrive in Sapa and check into your hotel. In the afternoon, go on a challenging trekking tour to Sin Chai Valley. This is a more demanding trek, but the scenery is absolutely stunning. In the evening, enjoy a well-deserved rest at your hotel.
- Day 2: Go on a moderate trekking tour to Muong Hoa Valley. This is a great option if you’re looking for a challenge, but not too much of a challenge. In the afternoon, visit the Bac Ha Market, a large and colorful market where you can buy souvenirs, food, and local produce.
- Day 3: Take a day trip to the nearby town of Lai Chau. This town is home to the Black Hmong ethnic group, and you’ll get to learn about their culture and way of life. In the afternoon, take a leisurely boat ride on the Nho Que River.
3. Ninh Binh, 1-2 days
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
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 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
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.
The Ha Giang Loop tour is a popular way to explore the stunning landscapes and ethnic villages of Ha Giang province. You can join a private guided tour and drive along the winding mountain roads, passing by rice terraces, karst formations, waterfalls, and canyons.
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: sal[email protected] or leave a message on our Live Chat System.