Best Northern Vietnam Itinerary

This article can assist you in making a reasonable itinerary if you’re planning a vacation to Northern Vietnam and want to visit the hectic yet enchanting Hanoi, the misty Sapa, the romantic Halong Bay, and the lovely Ninh Binh.

You’ll undoubtedly have a fantastic time with this excursion. In addition to being reasonably priced, the North of Vietnam offers a wide variety of scenery and cultural experiences.

With just 1-2 weeks in Vietnam, it is advised that you explore Northern Vietnam first and save the rest of the nation for your future trip.

More for you:

If you want to see Central and South Vietnam, use a complete Vietnam itinerary for 2 weeks or 1 month.

How long should to spend

The length of your stay in Northern Vietnam will firstly depend on your travel preferences. Which would you choose: a quick trip or a leisurely one which allows you to take in every moment? Which would you prefer: a slow tour of 2 to 3 destinations or a quick tour of 4 to 5?

Join us to take a quick look at the top locations in Northern Vietnam so that you can make an informed selection.


  • One of the best things to do in Vietnam is to explore Hanoi’s Old Quarter. You must fly to Noi Bai International Airport if you plan to travel to the North of Vietnam by plane. Even if you are moving from Central Vietnam by land, you must first stop in the capital before continuing your trip to other northern provinces.
  • Hanoi is not only a stopover but it is also one of the most well-liked tourist destinations with a rich history, a wide variety of delectable cuisine and unique coffees.

>>> Check out more: Best Hanoi Itinerary from 1 Day to 8 Days

Halong Bay

  • A trip to Halong Bay will offer a great opportunity to see the limestone islands arising on the bay and explore the mystical caves endowed by mother nature. Tourists will be able to take in the stunning surroundings and spend the night on a romantic cruise. There are also many engaging activities available for you to partake in, such as kayaking, swimming, or sunbathing on the deck.

>>> Read more: Best Halong Bay Itinerary Cruisr and Tours


  • Unlike the rest of Vietnam, the mountainous region of Sapa is appealing for a variety of factors, including the chilly climate, mist, and the poetic landscape. Visitors that come here will have the opportunity to encounter ethnic minority groups and learn about their culture. A hike is another activity that comes highly suggested here, and staying the night at a homestay will save your money compared to booking a hotel.

>>> Check out more: Best Sapa Itinerary

Ninh Binh

  • This picturesque region, with its enchanted riverside landscape and towering limestone mountains emerging from the paddies, has been referred to as “Halong Bay on land.” When visiting Ninh Binh, tourists can take a boat ride along the river and ascend to the top of a mountain for a panoramic view of Ninh Binh to get the fullest sense of this UNESCO-recognized site.

>>> See more: Best Ninh Binh Itineraries

Mai Chau

  • In close proximity to the city of Hanoi, Mai Chau is the perfect destination for those who enjoy nature. It is home to small communities of ethnic minorities encircled by vast rice fields and lush mountains. Let’s stay one or two nights here, enjoy delicious meals made by the locals, observe daily life in a rural Vietnamese village and learn about their traditions and customs.

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Check out our recommended itinerary for Northern Vietnam trip with three length options: 1 week, 10 days and 2 weeks


Halong Bay – Vietnam

Day 1 2: In Hanoi Capital

Although a little more time in the capital is advised, if you just have a week to spend in Northern Vietnam, you can think about visiting some of Hanoi’s top sites in a couple of days. Let’s refer to the highlights of this two-day Hanoi itinerary listed below:

  • Explore the Old Quarter.
  • Visit Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple.
  • Wander through the French Old Quarter, which includes the Hanoi Opera House;
  • Visit the Vietnamese Women’s Museum
  • Visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum;
  • Sip inexpensive but delectable draft beer on Ta Hien Beer Street.

What to eat in Hanoi

  • Hanoi cuisine is well-known for its street food. On a trip to the capital, you should not miss savoring Pho (beef noodle soup), Banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich), spring rolls with fresh vegetables.
  • Banh Mi 25, N Roll Noodle Restaurant, Pho Cuon Huong Mai, and Bun Cha 34 are some well-known eateries where you may sample delicious food.

Where to stay in Hanoi

  • The old quarter, which offers a wide range of hotels from budget to luxury, is without a doubt the best option for those looking for a place to stay in Hanoi. Additionally, some famous tourist attractions are conveniently reachable on foot from the Old Quarter. Depending on your needs and budget, you can easily choose a room that you want here.
  • Hostels or dormitory rooms are available for only 8–15 USD a night, including breakfast, for tourists who are less concerned with service and quality and prefer excitement.
  • For those who seek quiet, courtesy, and luxury, there are hotels with rates starting at around $20 per night, including breakfast.

Hoan Kiem Lake

Hanoi Old Quarter Center

Day 3 – Hanoi to Ninh Binh Full Day Trip

A day trip to Ninh Binh from Hanoi is a fantastic addition to your trip to Northern Vietnam. Simply reserve the excursion to be picked up early and driven to Ninh Binh, where you may take a beautiful boat ride across the rocky mountains of Tam Coc.

After lunch, ride a bike across the distinctive rice fields and red-tiled houses of the northern Vietnamese countryside. After finishing the bike trip, you’ll return to Hanoi on the same day.

Tourists can travel independently to Ninh Binh using a variety of means of transportation. However, for those with limited time of only one week, we suggest taking a package tour to make the most of your time and money.

Trang An Boat Ride

Tam Coc Boat Trip

Day 4 – 5: Ha Long Bay

Some people take a day trip to visit Halong Bay but I wouldn’t recommend this, even for those with limited time. It takes 2.5 hours to drive from Hanoi to Halong Bay, so you’ll have to spend the majority of the day in the car and lack time to engage in the most interesting activities and visit the most famous places here. A 1-day trip to Ha Long is still the best option for individuals who are really short of time, though.



Spending a night in Halong Bay will allow you more time to visit more attractions and take part in more activities. With an overnight stay on cruise, you may enjoy the night view on the bay, and try night squid fishing like a real fisherman. In the morning, join a Tai Chi practice after waking up, then have coffee and breakfast on deck.

For a seven-day northern trip, let’s consider taking the overnight train to Sapa after returning from Halong Bay. The train will leave Tran Quy Cap Station at 9:40 pm and arrive at Lao Cai Station at roughly 4:30 am the following day.

>>> Check our More Halong Bay Luxury Overnight Cruise <<<


Day 6 – 7: In Sapa

After returning from Halong Bay, if you take the overnight train from Hanoi to Sapa on the evening of Day 5, you will reach Sapa in the early morning of Day 6. Another option that you can choose is the Sapa tour including transportation from Hanoi.


These excursions typically depart early in the morning, allowing you to depart on Day 6. In Sapa, spend the night at a hotel or homestay. You can learn a lot about the culture and way of life of ethnic minority groups when staying in homestay.

On Day 7, you’ll have time to take a hike before taking a bus back to Hanoi in the afternoon (5 hours’ travel time total).

>>> Book a 2 Day Sapa Tour Peparting and Returning to Hanoi


Sapa Viet Nam

A few extra days in Northern Vietnam will make a huge difference to your itinerary. You can spend an additional day in Sa Pa, an additional day in Hanoi, and an additional night on Cat Ba Island while visiting Halong Bay.

Similar to the above additional plan for Hanoi, Ha Long, or Sapa, let’s spend one more day and night in Ninh Binh instead of just taking a day trip.

Days 1 – 3: Hanoi

With a full 3 days in Hanoi, you’ll have plenty of time for exploring the city at your leisure. Check out 3 day Hanoi itinerary for everything to do, see and eat.

Day 4 – Ninh Binh

With a 10-day Northern Vietnam itinerary, you can visit Ninh Binh as a day trip or stay the night there. A day trip will take you to Ninh Binh’s top attractions and let you back to your hotel in Hanoi in the evening.

For an overnight trip, you’ll spend the night at Ninh Binh City or at a serene rural place like Tam Coc or Trang An.

On Day 2 in Ninh Binh, you can visit Trang An and Bai Dinh pagoda before returning to Hanoi.

>>> Check out Best Ninh Binh 2 Days Tour from hanoi

Day 5 – 7: Ha Long Bay

This is the Halong Bay tour that we would like to recommend. You depart from Hanoi at 08.00 am and arrive at Tuan Chau port at noon, then board the cruise.

Following a day of kayaking and cave exploration, tourists will spend the night on cruise and continue your trip to Cat Ba Island the next morning.

At Cat Ba, you will have free time to relax at your hotel and explore the island. On the next day, take the cruise back to the port and return to Hanoi.

Kayaking in Halong Bay

Day 8 – 10: Sapa

After returning from Halong Bay on Day 7, you can take the Sapa night train, or you can wait and take the early-morning bus on Day 8. For those who have the time and prefer trekking, staying two nights in Sapa rather than one is a great choice.

A 3-day, 2-night Sapa tour is strongly advised since you will have enough time to explore several well-known locations and go on a guided trekking.

You can book online or book through any travel agency in Hanoi for an overnight stay. Numerous options are available for overnight stays, including 2 nights in a hotel or 2 nights in a homestay.

>>> Check out Top Best Hanoi Travel Agency for Sapa Tour


Spending two weeks in the North of Vietnam is highly advised if you have the time. You will have additional time in Hanoi and Sapa in addition to being able to spend the night in Ninh Binh and visit Cat Ba Island in Halong Bay.

A fifth location that is both adventurous and close to nature can be added into your itinerary, giving you a chance to enjoy more of Northern Vietnam’s pristine scenery.

From Day 1 to Day 11, let’s follow the itinerary mentioned above.

Mai Chau Valley

Days 12 – 13: Mai Chau

Mai Chau Valley draws tourists by its picturesque mountain scenery, cool and fresh air, diversified culture, and distinctive cuisine.

On the way to Mai Chau, Hoa Binh, you will admire the splendor of overlapping mountains and trees after navigating the windings and passes in Thung Khe, Thung Nhuoi. Only 140 kilometers from the heart of Hanoi, Mai Chau enchants tourists with its tranquil landscape of green fields that gradually appear in the morning light.

In addition to taking a bus from Yen Nghia and My Dinh bus station, you can either ride a motorcycle or drive a car by yourself to feel free for your exploration. The route is not overly winding or dangerous, making it quite easy to travel. If you’re just starting off with backpacking, the Hanoi – Mai Chau route is a suitable choice for you.

You may also book tours in advance to explore Mai Chau with a guide.

Where to stay in Mai Chau

  • Homestays like A Pao Homestay, Y Mua, Y Sao, and A Do are great options if you seek peace. Moving around is quite easy because all of these homestays are close to the well-known Hang Kia – Pa Co cloud-hunting spot.
  • Y Mua Homestay is the closest of these homestays, located just 3 km from the cloud hunting location. Homestays are typically found in quiet villages with tea hills and lush plum orchards.
  • Avana Retreat, Mai Chau Sunset Boutique, Bakhan Village Resort, and Mai Chau Ecolodge (Na Chieng, Na Phon) are a few of the more upscale lodging options available in the area. However, it is advised to reserve a room at least a week before departure because these resorts frequently have a shortage of rooms, particularly on weekends.

With the information provided above, we wish you a wonderful trip to the North of Vietnam.


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