Vietnam is a country with an interesting history, rich with culture, magnificent beaches, and coastlines, hundreds of spiritual temples, breathtaking landscapes, buzzing cities, delicious food, and wonderful people.
For most, it’s overwhelming when trying to plan a 4-week Vietnam itinerary, so I have put together this guide of all the best things to do in Vietnam to help you plan your trip.
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GETTING AROUND VIETNAM
Vietnam has a huge network of transportation options including coach buses, sleeper buses, taxis, grab taxi/grab bike, trains, and domestic airlines.
Search All → Land transport in Vietnam on 12Go Asia
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VIETNAM ROUTE GUIDE
The most common Vietnam Route is from the south to the north (Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi) and from the north to the south (Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh).
On this occasion, I traveled from the south to the north and found this to be the most efficient Vietnam route without having to do any backtracking.
Vietnam has a wide range of accommodation options from luxury resorts to budget hostels and everything in between. I personally use booking.com to search and book all of my accommodations.
Click Here to search rates and availability for all accommodations in Vietnam.
WEEK 1 – VIETNAM ITINERARY
Ho Chi Minh & Mui Ne
HO CHI MINH CITY
Ho Chi Minh City (more commonly known as Saigon) is in the southern region of Vietnam is famous for its pivotal role in the Vietnam War and it is a must-see location on your Vietnam itinerary. Ho Chi Minh is a noisy, hot, dynamic city that rarely sleeps with a complex history and plenty of cultures to soak up.
See All → Hotels & Backpackers in Ho Chi Minh
TOP 7 THINGS TO DO IN HO CHI MINH CITY
1. War Remnants Museum
The War Remnants Museum is an eye-opener experience, to say the least – a museum not to be missed. The War Remnants Museum contains exhibits relating to the Vietnam War, featuring historic photographs, military vehicles, and weaponry.
2. Independence Palace
The Independence Palace, also known as the Reunification Palace, is a very iconic landmark in Ho Chi Minh City. The Independence Palace was the home and workplace of the South Vietnam President during the Vietnam War. It was the site of the end of the Vietnam War during the Fall of Saigon in April 1975, when a North Vietnamese Army Tank barged through the front gates.
3. Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral
The Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the most famous landmarks in the city. Its incredible architecture surrounds the rich spirituality behind the thousands of red bricks. The Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral was built by French colonists in the late 1800s and it is located in the most crowded district of Ho Chi Minh City – District 1.
4. Saigon Central Post Office
The Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh is a remnant of French colonial times and it is one of the grandest post offices in all of Southeast Asia. Marveling at the features of this beautiful building will take you back a step in time. As you step inside the Saigon Central Post Office, which was built in the late 1800s, you can see looping arches, polished marble floors, and old telephone boxes serving as a reminder of the importance the post office played before the days of email and mobile phones.
5. Ho Chi Minh City Hall
The Ho Chi Minh City Hall is a beautiful piece of architecture surrounded by extremely well-kept gardens and smooth paved roads. Unfortunately, the Ho Chi Minh City Hall is not open to the public but it is a great spot for photo opportunities during the day and also at night when the building is colorfully lit.
6. Ben Thanh Market
The Ben Tanh Market is the most popular market in Ho Chi Minh City and a great place to put your haggling skills to the test. You can shop for local handicrafts, artworks, souvenirs, and various clothing. Inside Ben Tanh Market you can also find hawker-style Vietnamese food and fresh fruit juice stalls dotted throughout. Don’t be afraid to go deep and get lost as there are lots of interesting things to see.
7. Saigon SkyDeck
The Saigon Skydeck at the Bitexco Financial Tower, one of the main attractions in Ho Chi Minh City. The Saigon Skydeck on the 49th floor offers breathtaking 360-degree views of the entire city. The best time to visit is during sunset, this way you can catch a clear view of the distant buildings and landscapes during the golden hour before witnessing the colorful bright lights illuminate the city as the sky darkens.
Full Blog Post → Top 7 Things To Do In Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh City
Next up on this itinerary is Mui Ne, located on the east coast of Vietnam and it’s known for its beautiful palm-fringed beaches, various watersports activities, and the famous Mui Ne Sand Dunes.
This is one location you definitely don’t want to miss when backpacking Vietnam.
Search All → Hostels, Hotels & Resorts in Mui Ne
BEST THINGS TO DO IN MUI NE
MUI NE SAND DUNES – 4×4 ADVENTURE
Have you ever been to a desert by the sea? If your answer is no, then you haven’t been to the Mui Ne Sand Dunes!
This little coastal town draws in travelers from around the world to experience an unforgettable sunrise over the Saharaesque landscape.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT MUI NE SAND DUNES
After a 20 minute drive in the safari Jeep from the center of town, you will arrive at the white sand dunes of Mui Ne just in time for an unforgettable sunrise over the dunes.
As Mui Ne is most famous for these oceanic wind-sculpted dunes, it is unfortunately flooded with tourists. But please don’t be put off by this as there are more than enough dunes to wander around on.
We veered off the beaten path a little and managed to find an epic spot all to ourselves while everyone else crowded around on one of the higher Mui Ne dune peaks for sunrise.
Full Blog Post → Mui Ne Sand Dunes
Jeep Adventure in Mui Ne
Mui Ne sand dune
FAIRY STREAM IN MUI NE
The Fairy Stream in Mui Ne is colored by soft clay and limestone rocks that crumble down to shore from one side of the red canyon.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT FAIRY STREAM MUI NE
The Fairy Stream winds its way through a red canyon which resembles a miniature version of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The soft red sand is quite pleasant to walk on so I encourage you to take off your shoes and get some clay mud between your toes.
The towering limestone rocks on the edges of the red canyon seem to be a likely hiding place for potential fairies to hang out and it very well may be where the name Fairy Stream comes from.
The Fairy Stream Mui Ne is surrounded by shaded bamboo and palm tree forests and it takes approximately 10-15 minutes to walk from one end of the stream to the other.
Full Blog Post → Fairy Stream Mui Ne
Fairy Stream in Mui Ne
Drone shot at Mui Ne
WEEK 2 – VIETNAM ITINERARY
Cam Ranh & Nha Trang
Cam Ranh on the east coast of Vietnam is still yet to hit the radar for most travelers and, in my opinion, it’s the most underrated location.
If you’re looking for deserted beaches and scenic drives, Cam Ranh is where you will discover exactly that!
Search All → Accommodations in Cam Ranh
BEST THINGS TO DO IN CAM RANH
VINH HY BINH TIEN SCENIC COAST ROAD
The Vinh Hy Binh Tien Pass is up there with one of the most scenic coastal roads I have ever journeyed on. Around every hairpin corner, there are glistening white sand beaches and turquoise waters, not to mention they are all absolutely deserted.
The Vinh Hy Binh Tien Pass is a 17 km snaking road that starts at Bien Tien beach and ends in the small fishing village of Vinh Hy. Prepare to be in striking awe along every single inch of this unbelievably scenic coastal drive.
There is little to no traffic along the way and several viewpoints to pull off to the side of the road and snap some photos. It is honestly hard to take a bad photo here, the impeccable beaches and lush mountainous forests of Nui Chua National Park will have you pinching yourself as if you are dreaming!
This entire coastline, in my opinion, has a very similar landscape to the Greek Islands. It’s easy to navigate the Vinh Hy Binh Tien Pass and it would be rude not to stop at every beach for a swim and some exploring.
Full Blog Post → Cam Ranh – Scenic Coast Road
Cam Ranh scenic coast road
Cam Ranh – 4 weeks in Vietnam
You can’t miss the ‘Big Smoke’ coastal city of Nha Trang on your next visit to Vietnam. There are many awesome things to do in Nha Trang that are suitable for all kinds of travelers from around the world.
Nha Trang is famous for its long stretch of white sand beaches, reputable diving sites, ancient Buddhist temples, and offshore islands!
Search All → Hotels & Resorts in Nha Trang
TOP 3 THINGS TO DO IN NHA TRANG
1. LONG SON PAGODA – BIG BUDDHA STATUE
The Long Son Pagoda, also known as Chua Long Son, is a sacred Buddhist Temple on the foothill of Trai Thuy Mountain. Long Son Pagoda is one of the top things to do in Nha Trang City and it is most famous for the large white Buddha statue that can be seen from almost everywhere in town.
2. THÁP BÀ PO NAGAR – CHAM TOWERS NHA TRANG
A visit to the Po Nagar Cham Towers was one of my favorite things to do in Nha Trang. The Cham Towers were built in medieval times, somewhere between the 7th and 12th centuries. Commonly known as Tháp Bà, the Po Nagar Cham Towers are still actively used for worship by the Cham, Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhists.
3. NHA TRANG BEACH
Who doesn’t love a beach day?! One of the best things to do in Nha Trang is to head to the beach for some fun in the sun. Nha Trang beach is rated number 29 of the most beautiful bays in the world – ultimate postcard material.
Head on down to the famous esplanade resort strip along Nha Trang Bay and pick a spot under a shady palm tree to perch up for the day. Along Nha Trang beach you can find a number of restaurants, cafes, bars, and water sports activities to keep you happy and entertained.
Full Blog Post → Things To Do In Nha Trang
Nha Trang Beach
Po Nagar Cham Towers – Vietnam Travel Route
WEEK 3 – VIETNAM ITINERARY
Hoi An, Da Nang & Ninh Binh
Hoi An is one of the most popular destinations in the country and not to be missed.
There are many things to do in Hoi An such as exploring the pristine beaches, taking a self-guided walking tour in the historic old town, and visiting the UNESCO site in the majestic mountain ranges.
Search All → Homestays / Hotels / Resorts in Hoi An
TOP 4 THINGS TO DO IN HOI AN
1. HOI AN OLD TOWN
Exploring Old Town is one of the top things to do and not to be missed. The architecture in Old Town is influenced by the French, Chinese and Japanese cultures. There are colorful buildings around every corner, the streets are decorated with stringing lanterns and beautiful canals cut through the center of the Old Town Hoi An.
The My Son Sanctuary is a cluster of ancient Hindu temples that were constructed in the emerald hills in the Duy Xuyen District between the 4th and the 14th century. The abandoned temples of My Son Sanctuary is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is the most popular attraction in the region that draws in thousands of visitors every year.
3. HOI AN BEACH
The best cure after a long day exploring the Old Town and My Son Sanctuary is to head down to Hoi An beach to cool off and enjoy the shade underneath the cluster of coconut palms that line the beachfront.
As busy as Hoi An can get with locals and tourists combined, you will be sure to find your own little private beach spot along the pristine stretch of white sand coastline, making it one of the top things to do in Hoi An.
4. BAMBOO BASKET BOAT RIVER CRUISE
Never have I ever seen anything like these hand-crafted bamboo baskets that are used as fishing boats by the local fisherman of Hoi An. Take an hour-long cruise down the river and canals in one of these uniquely constructed, bamboo basket boats.
Book Now ∼ Bamboo Basket Boat Tour
Full Blog Post → Things To Do In Hoi An
Colorful streets in Hoi An – Backpacking Vietnam
My Son Sanctuary in Hoi An
Bamboo baskets in Hoi An
The next stop after Hoi An is Da Nang, a buzzing coastal city and one of the most up and coming Vietnam tourist spots.
There are many awesome things to do in Da Nang including white sand beaches, the Marble Mountains, and of course the world-famous Golden Bridge in Ba Na Hills.
Search All → Tours in Da Nang
BEST THINGS TO DO IN DA NANG
GOLDEN BRIDGE IN DA NANG
The Golden Bridge Ba Na Hills has recently gone viral across the world since it was first opened to the public in June 2018. Thanks to Instagram, this bridge has made it to the top of everyone’s bucket list and it is easy to see why!
Book Now → Golden Bridge Day Trip From Da Nang
WHAT TO EXPECT AT GOLDEN BRIDGE BA NA HILLS
The cable car ride takes 20 minutes from bottom to top of Ba Na Hills offering spectacular views of the surrounding coastline and mountains as you ascend into the mountains. When you reach the top of the gondola ride you’ll be greeted with the sight of the giant colossal hands holding up the infamous Golden Bridge.
The bridge was designed to evoke the image of God’s hands pulling a strip of gold out of the land. The shimmering golden walkway sits at 1400 meters above sea level and stretches 150 meters through the treetops on Ba Na Hills.
Due to its popularity, the Golden Bridge Ba Na Hills is flooded with visitors, day in and day out, however, you will still get to enjoy uninterrupted panoramic views of the landscapes below.
God’s hands holding up the Golden Bridge on Ba Na Hills were purposely constructed to look weathered as if they had been there for centuries, giving it an antique look.
Full Blog Post → Golden Bridge In Ba Na Hills
Golden Bridge in Da Nang – Vietnam Travel Route
God’s Bridge Da Nang – Backpacking Vietnam
Ninh Binh is an absolute GEM of a place yet it is one of the most underrated destinations. I have put together some highlights of the best things to do in Ninh Binh.
Ninh Binh’s landscape is a sight for sore eyes and I have never seen anything like it before. There are hundreds of limestone cliffs that are scattered across vivid green rice fields and it sure does live up to its nickname, ‘Halong Bay on Land’. Apart from the phenomenal picturesque landscapes in Ninh Binh, this thriving destination offers the most rural and authentic side of Vietnam.
Search All → Homestays & Resorts in Ninh Binh
TOP 3 THINGS TO DO IN NINH BINH
Bich Dong is a three-tiered ancient pagoda nestled into a mountainside in Tam Coc and it is one of the best things to do in Vietnam. The cluster of cave temples is surrounded by a bed of water and impressive water lilies that will have you in awe when you arrive at the entrance of Bich Dong.
Hiking to the highest peak at Hang Mua makes it on the list of awesome things to do in Ninh Binh because it is a fantastic way to start your day. The Hang Mua Cave at the bottom of the hike is not that spectacular to look at but rather the incredible 360-degree views at the top of the mountain are what makes this hike so worth it!
The Bai Dinh Pagoda lies within a complex of spiritual Buddhist temples on Bai Dinh Mountain in Ninh Binh, North Vietnam. The Bai Dinh Pagoda stands an impressive 13-stories tall with panoramic views at the top.
Full Blog Post → Things To Do In Ninh Binh
Bich Dong Pagoda
Hang Mua Cave Hike – Vietnam Backpacking Route
Bai Dinh Pagoda – Vietnam Travel Itinerary
WEEK 4 – VIETNAM ITINERARY
Sapa, Ha Giang & Hanoi
Begin week 4 of your Vietnam trip in Sapa, North Vietnam, which is widely known for its vast rice fields that occupy the region and is also home to Fansipan Mountain, the highest peak in Vietnam.
The slow pace of life in Sa Pa attracts many visitors year-round to experience the awe-inspiring natural beauty of the north.
Search All → Tours in Sapa with Klook
BEST THINGS TO DO IN SAPA
THE SILVER WATERFALL IN SAPA
The Silver Waterfall Sapa, or as the locals call it Thac Bac is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the region. Head north along the Sapa loop road and discover the raging Thac Bac waterfall in the San Sai Ho mountainside.
It’s a short 5-minute walk up a set of steep stairs till you reach the steel arched bridge, which is the furthest accessible point at Silver Waterfall Sapa.
From the bridge, you can enjoy impressive views of the 200-meter high Thac Bac waterfall as the silver water gushes down from the Ham Rong mountain peak. Unfortunately, you cannot swim at the falls though it is a wonderful attraction nonetheless.
Full Blog Post → Silver Waterfall In Sapa
Silver Waterfall Sapa
Silver Waterfall – Vietnam Travel Itinerary
RICE FIELD TREKKING IN SAPA
Sapa is a region known for the incredible rice terraces cut into the mountainside. Most visitors that head to Sapa are there to go trekking through these aesthetically pleasing rice terraces.
To book a rice field trekking tour in advance, Click Here.
Alternatively, you can simply go on a self-guided trek through the local villages and rice terraces at your own pace.
Sapa is also home to the highest peak in Vietnam, known as Fansipan, which is 3,143 meters at the highest point.
There are two options for getting to the top of Mt. Fansipan:
- Take the easy route and ride the gondola chair from Sapa to Fansipan, this will cost you 700,000 VND.
- Book a two-day and one-night hike to the peak of Fansipan.
Sapa – Vietnam Backpacking Route
Trekking in Sapa
HEAVEN’S GATE VIEWPOINT IN SAPA
About 30 minutes north of Sapa town is the Heaven’s Gate viewpoint. Prepare for your mind to be blown at the sight of the deep valley and surrounding towering peaks of Sapa. A beautiful mountain pass road cuts its way around one of the mountainsides.
The best time to visit Heaven’s gate viewpoint is at sunset. There are a few small eateries known as ‘cafe in the clouds’ where you can grab a drink and some bamboo sticky rice while you enjoy the last rays of the sun setting over the valley.
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Sunset at Heavens Gate
Heavens Gate – Vietnam Travel Itinerary
Ha Giang is also located in North Vietnam and is renowned for its forested limestone and granite mountains.
Majority of people visiting Ha Giang head here to experience the famous Ha Giang Loop motorcycle adventure.
BEST THINGS TO DO IN HA GIANG
HA GIANG LOOP
Having heard nothing but great things about the extreme Ha Giang Loop in North Vietnam, I had to journey up into the mountains to experience it for myself.
The Ha Giang Loop road is an unforgettable 3-day – 350km – round trip adventure that will lead you through majestic landscapes of pinnacle limestone cliffs, deep craterous valleys, and ancient traditional villages.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
The main thing I would like to point out here is the condition of the road on the Ha Giang Loop. No matter what your skill level is as a rider, the roads on the loop are in excellent condition in some areas and also sketchy and dangerous in other areas.
I can’t stress enough to pay full attention to the road and other road users take it slow and steady. There is no need to speed and be sure to make yourself known on blind corners by sounding your horn.
The weather can be very sporadic in the Ha Giang region, so be prepared to experience all the elements on your 3-day adventure. Take a rain jacket in case it downpours and warm clothing for the cool temperatures at night.
I recommend wearing a long sleeve shirt or sunscreen when riding during the peak sun hours of the day, otherwise, your skin will get burnt to a crisp.
Full Blog Post → Ha Giang Loop Adventure
Ha Giang Loop
Ha Giang – Vietnam Route
Sunset in Dong Van – Backpacking Vietnam
Last but not least on this itinerary is Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, boasting centuries-old architecture and rich culture of Chinese and French influences.
There are many things to do in Hanoi to keep you occupied and it’s the perfect place to finish your adventures in Vietnam.
Find All → Accommodations in Hanoi
BEST THINGS TO DO IN HANOI
HANOI OLD QUARTER
Hanoi Old Quarter is the most popular place to hang out in Hanoi. There are dozens of local eateries, cheap bars, buzzing nightclubs, beautiful parks and temples, old churches, and shopping stores galore.
There is a young scene of backpackers, ex-pats, and travelers alike making Hanoi worth visiting on your Vietnam route.
I spent two days and one night in Hanoi but unfortunately at the time, I was not feeling well so I didn’t get to explore as much as I would have liked to.
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Streets of Hanoi – Backpacking Vietnam
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Vietnam can be visited year-round, however, the recommended time to visit is in Spring (February to April) and in Autumn (August to October), this is when the temperatures are more moderate and the rainfall is light.
Make sure to apply for a visa well in advance before visiting Vietnam. Requirements are different for everyone depending on which passport you are traveling on. Click Here for all the information you need to know about obtaining a Vietnamese Visa.
The currency in Vietnam is VND (Vietnamese Dong). Some hotels and services accept USD which you can use to pay for things when traveling in Vietnam.
The main religion in Vietnam is Buddhism (85%), other religions are Christian and Taoism.
BEST VIETNAM TOURS
LONELY PLANET VIETNAM
One of the best books to take on your trip is the Lonely Planet Vietnam Guide!
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MORE VIETNAM TRAVEL GUIDES
Ho Chi Minh City Guide: 7 Things To Do In Ho Chi Minh
Nha Trang Travel Guide: 3 Things To Do In Nha Trang
Hoi An Travel Guide: 4 Things To Do In Hoi An
Ninh Binh Travel Guide: 3 Things To Do In Ninh Binh
Da Nang Travel Guide: Golden Bridge Ba Na Hills
Cam Ranh Travel Guide: Things To Do In Cam Ranh
Ha Giang Travel Guide: 3 Day Ha Giang Loop Adventure
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I hope you enjoyed reading this article and if you have any questions, please drop me a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.