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If you’re looking for a short but sweet Vietnam Itinerary, 2 weeks is a good place to start. You’ll have enough time for a bit of flexibility and travel time between destinations. 14 days in Vietnam gives you time to jump around the country a little bit and experience both the North and the South.
Tips For Your 2 Week Vietnam Trip
- Start with out my massive Vietnam Travel Guide for a much more complete guide on what you need to know before visiting Vietnam. The points below are just a little sneak peak and very basic!
- The best months to visit Vietnam are October and March.
- The Vietnam climate varies can be significantly different between the South and the North. Check the weather ahead of time and pack appropriately…SaPa does occasionally get some snow in the winter and typhoon season varies throughout the country depending on the time of year.
- If you’re from Canada, the USA, Australia and New Zealand, make sure you apply for an e-Visa before you go. My suggestion is Vietnam Evisa. I’ve used it a number or times myself, and have frequently recommended it others. It’s always successful and easy to use!
- With this 2 week itinerary, Vietnam will have to be visited by airplane. The country is easily traversed via bus and train, and while you may fit in a train trip or two, you’ll still want to fly in and out of Hoi An. To maximize your time, and minimize travel days, consider sticking to one region (see the Alternative Vietnam 2 Week Itinerary options at the end).
- Do some downloading before you leave home! Download the Grab app to use this Asian version of Uber to get around the cities. Also download Google translate and an offline map like Google Maps (find out how to download an offline google map here) or Maps.me.
- Before you leave the airport, pick up an inexpensive tourist SIM card with VietTel. You be able to stay connected to the world for a mere $9US (this is what we paid, however prices are constantly changing).
- Most outlets accept both North American and European style plugs, however voltage in Vietnam is 220V. My favourite travel adaptor is this US to Euro travel adapter which we use with an Anker travel charger plugged into the wall. This combo converts the electricity and offers surge protection for all our (way too many) devices.
* kid tip – Make sure you check out my post about traveling to Vietnam with Kids if you’re heading on a family trip to Vietnam.
Two Weeks In Vietnam
For a 2 week trip to Vietnam, I’d suggest spending some time in the main cities of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Take a few day trips and spend some time in the Ancient City of Hoi An. You’ll get a taste of just how incredible Vietnam is, and I’m sure it will leave you wanting to come back for more!
The Best Itinerary for 2 Weeks in Vietnam
Day 1-3: Ho Chi Minh City
Day 4: Mekong Delta (Day trip from HCMC)
Day 5-7: Hoi An
Day 8-10: Ha Long Bay
Day 11: Tam Coc (Day trip from Hanoi)
Day 12-14: Hanoi
Ho Chi Minh City (Day 1-3)
If you’re read my Vietnam travel guide, or any of the other Vietnam itineraries, you’ll know that I don’t love Ho Chi Minh City. That being said, I think it’s still worth spending a few days in HCMC (3 days to be precise!).
Day 1 – HCMC
You’ll arrive into the Saigon airport, which is an experience in itself! Pack some patience as the Visa line-up can often be long and frustrating. It’s just a taste of the chaos though, as the most chaotic experience in all of Vietnam is likely stepping out of the airport into the arrivals area!
*expert tip – pick up an unlimited tourist SIM card from VietTel while you’re waiting for your Visa.
My suggestion is to call a Grab car (with your brand new tourist SIM), or pre-arrange pick up with your accommodation. You’ll be happy to not have to start your trip negotiating with a taxi amongst the fray at the airport!
If you have the energy after your flight, I’d encourage you to head out of your hotel/hostel and wander around HCMC. This will help to combat jet lag and get you on Vietnamese time as quickly as possible.
Spend the day perusing the stalls at Ben Thanh Market. If you’re looking for a conical straw hat to wear for your trip, or knock off purses, this is the place to go. If you’re hungry (which you probably are!), you can also grab your first delicious Vietnamese lunch here from one of the many food vendors at the back of the market.
Ben Thanh Market
- Location: Lê Lợi, Bến Thành, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
- Hours: 7am – 7pm every day
If you still have energy, or if your lunch has given you some new found energy, take the elevator up the Saigon Sky Deck for an overhead view of the city. This will help you get your bearings within this giant metropolis.
Saigon Sky Deck
- Location: Hồ Tùng Mậu, Bến Nghé, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
- Hours: 9:30am – 8:45pm every day
- Cost: 200,000 VND ($11.40 CAD)/adult, 130,000 VND ($7.50 CAD)/child 4-12yo, children 3 & under are free.
The best way to introduce yourself to Vietnamese food is by doing a street food tour. This will give you the confidence to dig into the delicious street food scene during the rest of your 2 weeks in Vietnam.
Street Food Tour
To kick off your time in Vietnam I’d recommend Street Food 101 through Saigon Street Eats. They offer many different tours, but this one is the place to start. With your skilled xe om (motorbike taxi) driver, you’ll whiz through HCMC in true local style! The tour starts around 5:30pm and at the time of writing was $49US per person. For the latest info (and to book) check out their website.
Day 2 – HCMC
It is, in my opinion, necessary to spend some time exploring the history of the Vietnam War (or, as they refer to it in Vietnam, the American War). Start day 2 by experiencing what it would’ve been like to be a Viet Cong soldier in the war. Head South of town to the Cu Chi Tunnels and see the incredible conditions these determined soldiers lived in.
*expert tip/kid tip – If you’re visiting with young kids, or suffer from claustrophobia, you may want to skip this one. The tunnels can get quite hot and stuff, and they’re very small.
Cu Chi Tunnels:
- Location: Tỉnh lộ 15, Phú Hiệp, Phú Mỹ Hưng, Củ Chi, Ho Chi Minh City
- Hours: 7am – 5pm every day
- Cost: Varies depending on which tour you choose.
Once you arrive back in HCMC, make your way to the Independence Palace. By now it’ll be lunch time, and the best place to eat on your “war day tour” is at the restaurant Propaganda!
The food is a bit more “tourist” compared to the adjacent street food stalls, but it’s still quite delicious. It’s a short block away from the entrance to the Independence Palace, so you’ll be close to your next stop.
The next stop is the Independence Palace, war time home of the Southern Vietnamese General Nguyen Van Thieu. Stand at the front gates at where a Northern Vietnamese Army tank crashed into, essentially ending the war in 1975. Explore the artifacts, maps and bunker found throughout the museum and dig deeper in the history of the war by exploring.
- Location: Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Bến Thành, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
- Hours: 7:30am-11am, 1pm-4pm every day
- Cost: 40,000 VND ($2.25CAD) for adults, 10,000 VND ($0.56 CAD) for kids. Free guided tours (in English) are available.
End your war day at the War Remnants Museum up the street. This provides the best insight into the Vietnam War and it’s impact on the country and will leave the biggest impression. The horrific photos displayed throughout the museum tell a haunting tale of just how awful this war was.
*kid tip – The photos inside are very disturbing and not necessarily appropriate for young kids. I would recommend skipping the inside of the museum and just exploring the military equipment outside.
Day 3 – HCMC
Day three of your Vietnam 2 week tour will get you out of the central districts in HCMC to explore some of the Pagodas and colonial buildings in the city. You can easily walk to some of them, but others you’ll want to get a taxi, xe om (motorbike taxi) or Grab car.
You’ll start the day on the northern side of HCMC, then make your way west before ending back in the heart of the city.
Jade Emperor Pagoda (Ngoc Hoang Pagoda)
Also known as the Tortoise Pagoda, this important Taoist temple is located in the Da Kao neighbourhood on the northern side of HCMC. Many locals come her to worship, so ensure you’re respectful during your visit. Outside the main halls there’s a tortoise pond and a koi pond. Both are not in the best shape and are a bit sad to visit (you’ve been warned!).
- Location: 73 Đường Mai Thị Lựu, Đa Kao, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh
- Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
- Cost: No charge
Nhà thờ Tân Định (Church)
Although it’s not as impressive as Notre Dame, this church is fun to visit because of the colour. It’s bright pink inside and out!! Unfortunately the interior isn’t open to tourists, but there are a few coffee shops out front where you can pick up a cà phê sữa đá (iced coffee) and admire the cotton candy pink facade.
- Location: 289 Hai Bà Trưng, Phường 8, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh
- Hours: No interior access, Exterior open all the time.
- Cost: No charge
Vĩnh Nghiêm Pagoda
Built in 1977, this is one of the newer temples in Saigon and has the tallest Pagoda (less impressive given the fact that it’s made of concrete). It’s made up of many buildings that border the river, and has a delicious vegetarian restaurant onsite if you’re ready for lunch! As long as you don’t visit during a festival, your visit will be serene and peaceful (and smell of incense!).
- Location: 339 Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Phường 07, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh
- Hours: 6:00am–8pm every day
- Cost: No charge
Giac Lam Pagoda
Located quite far towards the Western edge of HCMC, this pagoda is out of the way but worth the effort! This Buddhist temple was built in 1744 and is one of the oldest temples in Saigon. The 7-tiered pagoda is the centrepiece, but there are also other tombs and shrines in the gardens surrounding it.
I’d also suggest taking a bit of time to wander the neighbourhood as this is well outside of the common tourist track!
- Location: 565 Lạc Long Quân, Phường 10, Tân Bình, Hồ Chí Minh
- Hours: 5am-noon, 2pm-8pm every day
- Cost: No charge
Now you’ll head back towards the centre of Saigon for the rest of the day.
Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon
This beautiful French colonial church, built in the 1880’s, is one of the nicest churches in Vietnam. It’s located in the centre of the city right by the post office. The cathedral is undergoing restoration until 2025 so the interior isn’t accessible to the public, only church-goers. It’s still worth visiting to see the gorgeous architecture.
- Location: 01 Công xã Paris, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh
- Hours: 6:00am – 8:00pm every day (closed to the public until the end of restoration 2025)
- Cost: No charge
Saigon Post Office
Next door to the cathedral is the city’s main post office. It may seem like a strange place to visit on vacation, but trust me, it’s worth it! The architecture is spectacular both inside and out. There are a few little trinket shops inside (if you’re interested), and you can wander outside to “book street” (Nguyen Du) for a Vietnamese coffee at one of the many coffee shops.
- Location: 2 Công xã Paris, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh
- Hours: 7:00am – 7:00pm Monday to Friday, 8:00am-6:00pm Saturday & Sunday.
- Cost: No charge
Saigon City Hall (People’s Committee of HCMC)
This is a good place to end your day because the building is beautiful when lit up at night. It’s also back in District one so likely will have you ended off close to your hotel. City Hall, known as Hotel de Ville when it was built in 1908, is a gorgeous example of French Colonial architecture that can be found in various states of repair around the city.
- Location: Số 86 Lê Thánh Tôn, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh 710212
- Hours: 7:30am – 5pm Monday to Friday (although you can’t visit the interior, so really it’s open all the time for the average visitor!)
- Cost: No charge
Where To Stay In HCMC
District One (the backpacker district) and District Three are the best areas to stay in the city because they’re central to most things. Both areas are packed full of decent guesthouse and hotel options. We’ve stayed at a few places in District One, but none have been so amazing I’d go out of my way to recommend them (although they haven’t been bad either).
If you’re looking for luxury, you can’t beat the Grand Hotel Saigon. Right in the middle of everything, but feeling a world away from it all, it offers luxury at an affordable price (by Western standards). There’s a quiet courtyard pool, delicious breakfast included, and stunning views over the city from the rooftop bar.
*kid tip – If you’re traveling with a family, CBD Luxury apartment in Icon 56 tower is a great option. They offer fully equipped apartments with high speed wifi included, and a lovely rooftop pool to cool off during a busy day exploring the town.
Mekong Delta (Day 4)
One of my favourite things about HCMC is how enjoyable it is to get out of it!! After a few days in the chaos, you’ll be ready for a break from the pollution, noise and sensory overload of the city. Day 3 of your two week Vietnam Itinerary takes you to the Mekong Delta to visit it’s famous Floating Markets.
Making your way out of HCMC you’ll feel like you’re being transported to a completely different world. Life along the river is slow paced and jam packed with fresh food grown in the nutrient-rich soil of the Mekong Delta. The floating markets are the best place to experience the abundance of this area. The markets can get busy, and although they’re away from HCMC they’re still quite tourists. However, there’s still enough of a local vibe to give them a relatively authentic feel.
You’ll maximize your time in the Delta if you visit as part of an organized tour. Due to the distance, they usually leave early in the morning and take a majority of the day!
Upon returning from the Mekong Delta, find a nearby food stall for dinner before heading to bed early. Tomorrow you’re off on an early flight to Hoi An!
Hoi An (Day 5-7)
Hoi An is a beautiful but very touristy town in central Vietnam. We skipped it on our first visit to Vietnam, which is one of my biggest regrets as it’s become significantly more commercialized over the past few years. This is one of those cities that’s touristy for a reason, and not worth skipping just because of the crowds!
Day 5 – Hoi An
Catch an early morning flight to Danang and pre-arrange pick up from the airport through your accommodation. The drive from Danang to Hoi An takes about an hour. You can easily take public transit from Danang to Hoi An if you’re on a budget, but if you only have 2 weeks in Vietnam you won’t want to waste any extra time.
Once you get to your accommodation, drop your bags then immediately head to Cafe 43 for lunch. This delicious restaurant is reasonably priced and located just outside of Old Town. It’s also right down the street from the Lantern-making class you’re headed to in the afternoon.
Enjoy a Vietnamese iced coffee (my FAVOURITE!!) and white rose dumplings, a Hoi An specialty.
Lantern Making Class
After you’ve had your fill of fresh Vietnamese food, wander down the block for a lantern making class. I highly recommend Hoi An Handicraft Tours, a family run shop near Old Town.
We made lanterns here with our kids, but it’s not just for kids! They were so patient and helpful, and it really felt like a whole family affair. They also had a decent selection of fabrics for the lanterns, and they make a great souvenir!
- Location: 08 Trần Cao Vân, Phường Cẩm Phổ, Hội An, Quảng Nam
- Hours: 8:00am – 11:00pm
- Cost: 380,000 dong ($23 CAD) per lantern as of writing
Spend the rest of the afternoon wandering around Old Town, the ancient (and touristy) centre of Hoi An. Make sure to drop off your lanterns at your accommodation first so you don’t have to carry them around!
Get An Outfit Made
Hoi An is famous for it’s tailors, and the city is full of shops wanting to sell tourists custom-made clothes. Price (and quality) differ greatly, so it’s important to do your research in advance if you’re considering having clothes tailor-made in Vietnam.
It typically takes a minimum on 24hours to get an outfit made, and requires a fitting part way through. You’ll want to get the process started this afternoon if it’s something you’re considering to ensure there’s time to finish before you head out of town. Randy’s had a few suits made in Vietnam over the years, and they’re definitely the favourites in his closet (although his favourite tailor is in Hanoi, not Hoi An!).
Once you’re got your tailoring set up, or if you’ve opted out of custom-made clothes, go meander your way around Old Town!
Wander Old Town
Start at the central market. Walk outside the market on the East side and watch the ladies hand-making noodles. Pick up a juicy red dragonfruit or two (my fav) and practice your haggling over souvenirs from the vendors inside. Once you’ve stocked up, and finished eating your fruit, wander out to the riverbanks and the (very smelly) fish section!
Make your way up the riverbank to the centre of Old Town. Turn right one block past the “Bridge of Lights” and up ahead you’ll see the Japanese covered bridge. Stop for a photo op before walking across this unique, historical bridge.
Spend the rest of the evening getting lost in Old Town (make sure you cross the Bridge of Lights to the island as well), and stay well beyond sunset to enjoy the lanterns lit-up at night.
Day 6 – Hoi An
One of the best things about Vietnam is the food, and Hoi An is no exception! No trip to Vietnam would be complete without participating in a cooking class, and Hoi An is one of the best places for this. There’s a variety of different classes that combine a market tour, round-boat ride, or bike tour through the surrounding rice fields and countryside.
We did our class with Hoi An Eco Coconut Tour and highly recommend them. When you’re choosing a class, opt for the one that appeals the most to you based on the extra activities, and be sure you book ahead!
The Calm Spa
With full bellies you may want to have an afternoon nap. Since you won’t want to waste your time napping, the next best thing is to spend the afternoon pampering yourself amongst the rice fields at the Calm Spa. This is honestly one of the best spas in Vietnam, and something we recommend to ALL our friends who visit Hoi An.
My recommendation is to choose one of the packages, which include lunch or dinner (the summer fresh rolls are delish) and a glass of wine. Take advantage of the free pick-up and drop-off from your accommodation in Hoi An.
- Location: 35 Lê Thánh Tông, Cẩm Sơn, Hội An, Quảng Nam
- Hours: 8:30am – 7:30pm
- Cost: Example – 1,460,000 dong ($80 CAD) for body scrub & wrap, facial and massage (3.5hrs) including lunch.
* Dinner Suggestion (if you don’t eat at the Calm Spa) – Red Dragon
Day 7 – Hoi An
By now you’re been running around Vietnam like a crazy tourist (alright, except for your luxurious evening relaxing at the Calm Spa) and it’s time for a bit of down time. Rather then heading into the hustle and bustle of Old Town, go the other direction towards the beach.
To be honest, we really haven’t spent much time on Vietnam’s beaches (other than Phu Quoc). We managed to fill a whole week just wandering around the Old Town in Hoi An and relaxing at the pool at our hotel. However, if you really want to take advantage of all Hoi An has to offer, it’s worth a trip to the beach.
Bãi biển Cửa Đại (Hoi An Beach)
This isn’t the nicest beach in Vietnam, but it’s the nicest beach near Hoi An. It’s definitely worth a visit for a break from touristing or if you just want to hang out and relax.
The 5km beach is lined with food vendors, so you’ll still get to enjoy some Hoi An specialties without being in town. You’ll be able to relax but without losing the feeling of being in Vietnam.
The other benefit of Hoi An Beach is it’s quite a bit quieter compared to the beaches in Danang. It’s also relatively clean…as far as Vietnam beaches go!
- Location: Find it here on Google Maps.
Once you’ve had enough of the beach, head back into town to shower off, pack up and catch an evening flight from Danang north to Hanoi.
Where To Stay In Hoi An
Unlike HCMC, I can absolutely recommend our fantastic accommodation in Hoi An. The Fig Tree Boutique Villa is family run with impeccable rooms, a lovely pool and includes a delicious breakfast each morning.
It’s located part way between Old Town and the beach, and was an easy 10-15min walk into Old Town. I loved the location because I enjoyed being able to escape the crazy, touristy-ness of Old Town and find a bit of peace & quiet (and some local life!).
If you’re looking for something closer to Old Town, or just different in general, check here for other accommodation options in Hoi An, including availability and up to date pricing.
* kid tip – If you’re traveling as a family, check out my guide to Hoi An with kids. It’s got everything we did, plus the reasons I loved (and didn’t love) Hoi An!
Ha Long Bay (Day 8-10)
There’s an almost unlimited number of tour operations for visiting Ha Long Bay. If you have room in your budget, I highly recommend booking with Indochina Junk. We’ve used them ourselves, and have recommended them to a number of friends who also had fantastic Ha Long Bay trips with them.
The reason I so highly recommend Indochina Junk is because they’re one of 2 operators who have a permit to visit Bai Tu Long Bay. This is the North side of HaLong Bay and is significantly less-crowded but has the same landscape.
Day 8 – Ha Long Bay/Bai Tu Long Bay Cruise
The drive to the ship port at Ha long Bay takes about 3 hours. Because of this, pick up from your Hanoi hotel isquite early in the morning. I recommend staying at The Aquarius Hotel, right across the street from their Old Town office.
The bus/van will spend some time picking up others in and around Hanoi before hitting the road. Once you’re finally out of the city, settle in and enjoy the countryside out the window. It’s incredible to watch the city turn into rice fields and countryside.
Boarding typically occurs around noon. Once onboard you’ll enjoy a late lunch as you cruise past the crowded Ha Long Bay to the magnificent, uncrowded, Bai Tu Long Bay. My heart did a little happy dance once we left the crowded bay behind!
In the afternoon you’ll be kept busy kayaking around the spectacular limestone karats, relaxing on the beach, and enjoying a relaxing swim in the South China Sea. Back abroad your ship, watch the sun fall into the ocean as the sky offers a magnificent orange glow until all you see is the outline of the karats against a midnight blue sky. Finally you’ll enjoy a late dinner before settling in for the night, letting yourself be rocked to sleep by the quiet lull of the boat.
Day 9 – Ha Long Bay/Bai Tu Long Ban
Start your day right with guided Tai Chi on the boat’s deck before sitting down to eat breakfast as you cruise to Vung Vieng fishing village. This traditional fishing village floats in the middle of Bai Tu Long Bay, about 24km from the mainland.
In 2012, the government moved the families (those with children) to the mainland to provide them a better standard of living and education for the children. Although the village is no longer an “active” village, many of the locals still work here both fishing and involved with tourism.
You’ll be picked up from the Junk boat by a local in a small row boat. They’ll deliver you to the cultural center which acts as the tourist hub of the village. Here you can buy souvenirs made by the locals, and learn about their way of life on the ocean.
After the village tour, the boat will head to a secluded bay with a beautiful beach. Here you can spend the afternoon swimming in the ocean or relaxing on the beach. Dinner (if you’re lucky) will be a barbecue on the beach.
Day 10 – Ha Long Bay/Bai Tu Long Bay
Savour your last morning cup of coffee (or tea) and breakfast amongst the spectacular island karsts. After breakfast you’ll sail through the secluded bays to one of the most popular stops on any Indochina junk itinerary, Thien Canh Son Cave. As you head up the stairs to the cave’s entrance, ensure you take the time to look out over the water for an impressive view of the bay.
Enjoy lunch on board, then disembark around noon so you’ll have time to visit Yen Duc Village before heading back to Hanoi. You may be able to enjoy a rice harvest demonstration or water puppet show in this small village.
(Side note – this is the cruise itinerary we followed, however it may vary slightly depending on which boat you take. Each itinerary seems to hit the same or similar highlights, but in a slightly different order).
Arrive back in Hanoi late in the afternoon. After checking into your hotel head out to Ta Hien (Beer street) for dinner. Ta Hien street, from Hang Buom to Hang Bac is quiet during the day, but comes to life after about 5pm each night. Plastic tables and chairs cover the sidewalks from a variety of food vendors. It doesn’t take long after dark for the street to fill up with both locals and tourists alike.
*expert tip – hang on to your belongings, the street is busy and pick-pocketing is a common occurrence.
Tam Coc (Day 11)
Tam Coc is a cute little town to spend a few days, but if you’re on limited time it’s do-able as a day trip from Hanoi. The highlight here is a boat ride through the inland limestone karst. It’s fun to do this back to back with Ha Long Bay to compare the two. There are many similarities, but also a lot of differences.
It’s relatively easy to get from Hanoi to Ninh Binh by either bus or train. However, since you only have a day, it’s easiest to join an organized tour. There are lots of options, just pick the one that appeals best to you (but I’d suggest you incorporate Trang An Grottoes at a minimum).
Trang An Grottoes
The two most popular areas for a boat tour in the countryside are Tam Coc and Trang An. I wish I was able to compare them myself, but we chose to visit Trang An grottoes on our first visit to Vietnam, and loved it so much we chose to skip Tam Coc and visit Trang An again on a subsequent visit.
You’ll have the option between a short or long route. I highly recommend the long route, you’ve come all this way you might as well make the most of it! The long route takes about 2.5 hours and meanders through 9 caves. A few of the caves are so low you may need to dodge and duck at times, making the experience even more fun.
*expert tip – you have to pay for the toilets here, but they’re inexpensive and worth using prior to getting on the boat for 2.5 hours!
- Location: Trường Yên, Hoa Lu, Ninh Xuân, Ninh Bình.
- Hours: 7am – 4pm every day
- Cost: 200,000 VND ($11.20 CAD)/adult and 100,000 VND ($5.60)/child.
Whether you go on your own, or on an organized tour, you’ll likely arrive back in Hanoi after 7pm. Grab a quick bite to eat on the street by your accommodation before falling into bed after a great day!
Hanoi (Day 12-14)
Hanoi is both mine and Randy’s second favourite city in the world (Paris is #1…we’re so cliche!!). It’s such a great city full of incredible culture and loads of charm. I could easily spend weeks here just wandering through Old Quarter, but with only two weeks in Vietnam you’ll have to be okay with 3 days. (If you really wanted you could skip Tam Coc and spend the day in Hanoi instead).
Day 12 – Hanoi
If you don’t feel like touring yourself, you can always join a half or full day tour of the Old Quarter so you don’t have to see the sights on your own!
- Hanoi Kids walking tour
- Half day Hanoi food tour by motorbike
- Hanoi walking street food tour and cyclo ride
- Hanoi highlights full day tour (lunch included)
- Hanoi half day private walking tour
- Hanoi full day city tour with water puppet show
If you DO want to tour yourself around…keep reading!!
The best place to start your time in Hanoi is at Hoan Kiem Lake. Wander across the vermillion painted Huc Bridge to the Temple of the Jade Mountain (open daily from 8am-6pm, 30000VND/$1.70CAD entry). This temple was built in the 18th century to honour the 13th century military leader who defeated the Mongol invasion of Vietnam. Make sure to take a moment on your way back across the bridge to enjoy the lovely view across the lake at Turtle Tower (the big stone temple in the middle of the lake).
By now, it’s time for coffee!! Stop in at one of the many cafes along the lake to enjoy a Vietnamese coffee (or two). When you get around to the North side of the lake, buy your tickets at Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre for tonight’s 8pm performance.
If you don’t want to take the time to buy your ticket at the theatre, you can always purchase online ahead of time! I honestly don’t think it’s a big deal to stop by and grab a ticket, but sometimes it’s nice to save the time.
Lunch time: Once your stomach starts to grumble, or you’ve smelled enough delicious street food cooking it’s making you need to eat, go for some Pho soup! West of the lake you’ll find Pho 10, Randy’s favourite “off-street” Pho soup in Hanoi. Just beware of the chilli peppers, they’re CRAZY spicy! If you want to be more adventurous (which I highly recommend), find a busy Pho stall and pull up a plastic stool for a delicious lunch instead.
Once your stomach’s full of soup, call a Grab car to the Temple of Literature. Built in 1070, this Temple of Confucius was the first National University in Vietnam. It’s beautiful gardens and ancient buildings feel a world away from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi.
*expert tip – Get the most out of the experience by picking up the audioguide at the Temple of Literature.
Temple of Literature:
- Location: 58 Quốc Tử Giám, Văn Miếu, Đống Đa
- Hours: April – October 7:30am-5:30pm; November-March 8:00am-5:00pm
- Cost: 25,000 VND ($1.40 CAD)/person
If you’re up for some exercise, walk east on Tran Phu to the train tracks. This narrow street has been the centre of a lot of recent controversy. Tourists unsafely, and frequently, line up along the side of the tracks to watch the train rumble through the tiny gaps in the houses.
Although the train is a sight to see, try to avoid train times (and be respectful that this is still a working train!). Instead, (safely) wander up the empty tracks imagining the incredible life of these people that revolves around the train tracks.
If you’re tired of walking, and don’t want to go for a little wander, call a Grab to head back to Old Town. (You’ll miss the train tracks, but it’s not the end of the world given the recent controversy).
Dinner time: If you’re looking for something other than Vietnamese food for dinner, try Pizza 4P’s. You’ll find 2 locations around Hoan Kiem Lake, at Bao Khanh and Trang Tien. We haven’t eaten at the Bao Khanh location, but I’m sure it’s just as good as Trang Tien (and it’s close to Thang Long Water Puppet theatre, where you’ll be heading for 8pm!).
Finish the day at Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre watching a traditional water puppet performance. These performances are about an hour long, and are great for all ages (from kids to adults). Water Puppetry has been an integral part of Vietnamese culture for centuries, and has recently evolved from the rice field to the stage. Although it would be fascinating to see it in a rice field (which you may have at Yen Duc Village), the theatre is far more comfortable!
Thang Long Water Puppet Show:
- Location: 57B Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm
- Hours: Shows typically run 7 days a week at 15:00 16:10 17:20 18:30 20:00
- Cost: 100,000 – 200,000 VND ($5.60-11.20 CAD) per seat
Day 13 – Hanoi
Hanoi is surrounded by a variety of great day trips, beyond Tam Coc and Trang An Grottoes. Today, I’d suggest you get out of the city again. It’s best to organize this in advance, either through your accommodation or online. My suggestion would be to visit the Perfume Pagoda.
The Perfume Pagoda is similar to Tam Coc, but vastly different at the same time. Your day will include a boat ride down a beautiful river, cable car trip up the mountain, and a beautiful pagoda perched up high in the mountains. It’s significantly less touristy compared to Tam Coc as well, which is also a bonus and makes it more enjoyable!
Dinner time: When you return from your day trip, head to MY favourite Pho restaurant in Hanoi – Pho Suong. You don’t eat on plastic stools on the street, but it’s the closest you’ll get to street food without begin on the street, and it’s not quite a full blown restaurant. (and let me know which you like better, Randy or my favourite Pho!)
Day 14 – Hanoi
Unfortunately today is your last day in Vietnam, cue sad face. So, make the most of the time you have. Hopefully your flight is a bit later in the day, giving you a bit of time to enjoy the city (or buy some last minutes souvenirs!).
If you’re looking for a shopping fix, Dong Xuan market on the north edge of the Old Quarter is the place to go. It’s geared more towards locals than tourists (especially compared to Ben Thanh in HCMC), a welcome bit of authenticity! It looks a bit rough around the edges, but it offers an authentic market experience
*expert tip – Practice your haggle skills here! In my opinion, I feel like it’s okay to overpay a bit as a tourist. However, I have a limit to my “tourist tax” because I don’t want to pay TOO much more. Haggle as much as you feel comfortable with and ensure you think you’ve paid a fair price for your purchases.
If you don’t want to shop, you can visit Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum. The lineups to go inside are often quite long, so I wouldn’t recommend going in, but the complex is a beautiful place to wander. You’ll find Ho Chi Minh’s stilt house, where he lived on & off from 1958-1969, as well as the rebuilt One Pillar Pagoda, originally built in 1049 (but destroyed by the French in 1954).
Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum
- Location: 2 Hùng Vương, Điện Bàn, Ba Đình
- Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 7:30am-10:30am; Saturday/Sunday 7:30am-11:00am (closed Monday & Friday)
- Cost: Free to visit the mausoleum and complex
One last option is to visit the Imperial City of Thang Long (also known as the Citadel of Hanoi). It was built in the 11th century, and is a UNESCO world heritage site. This is an oasis of calm amidst the chaos of Hanoi, and is a lovely place to spend your last couple hours in Vietnam.
*expert tip – download the self0guided tour app ahead of time (keyword “Hoang thanh Thang Long” on Google Play or the Apple App Store).
Imperial City of Thang Long
- Location: 19C Hoàng Diệu, Điện Bàn, Ba Đình
- Hours: 8am – 5pm every day, closed on Mondays
- Cost: 30,000 VND ($2 CAD)/adult, 15,000 VND over 60 yrs old, free under 15 yrs old.
One last important thing you should do while in Hanoi is drink an Egg Coffee. My favourite place for this is at Old Town Garden Cafe. Egg Coffee is a very distinct Hanoi specialty (although nowadays it can be found throughout the country) and is best enjoyed here, with a view over Hoan Kiem Lake.
There’s a hidden staircase you can find through one of the silk shops. Order your coffee downstairs, then climb up 3 floors to the roof to enjoy your egg coffee with a view.
Old Town Garden Cafe
- Location: 11 Hàng Gai, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm
- Hours: 8am – 11pm every day
When it’s time to leave, give yourself lots of time to get to the airport as traffic in Hanoi can be a bit crazy! It’s likely easiest to pre-arrange transportation through your accommodation, although this can be a bit expensive. The cheapest route is to call a Grab car.
Once you get to the airport, you’ll likely want to start planning your next Vietnam trip. I wouldn’t blame you!! There’s so much to see and do in this country, and the food….the food in itself is worth coming back for.
Where To Stay In Hanoi
The best (and only) place to base yourself is in the Hanoi Old Quarter. It’s central to almost everything you’ll want to do, and has the best vibe and the most tourist-friendly eating spots in the city.
Aside from spending your first night in Hanoi at The Aquarius Hotel (prior to heading to HaLong Bay), there are lots of great options for accommodation in Hanoi.
Alternative Options For Your Vietnam Two Week Itinerary
If bigger cities aren’t your thing, you can always skip the main cities and spend your two weeks in Vietnam in smaller cities. Or you can base yourself in one area and explore it more in-depth. Either way you’ll feel a bit more relaxed and your trip will be far less chaotic!
The first alternative Vietnam two week itinerary will give you a good mix of history, nature and culture while sticking to smaller towns (with only one day in HCMC on your way into the country, and a day in Hanoi on your way out of the country. Obviously it can be done in reverse too!
Smaller Cities: Ho Chi Minh City (1 Day) – Da Lat (2 days) – Hoi An (3 days) – Phong Nha (2 days) – Tam Coc (2 days) – SaPa (3 days) – Hanoi (1 day)
The next suggestions for your Vietnam 14 day itinerary are based in one geographical location in the country. This will reduce your travel time considerably and allow you to dig in a bit deeper in one area or another. If I had to pick only one, I’d pick the North! I find it more interesting with an incredibly diverse and beautiful landscape. However, the food is better in the South!
Northern Vietnam: Hanoi (3 days) – Ha Long Bay (3 days) – Tam Coc (2 days) – Ha Giang (3 days) – Sa Pa (3 days)
Central Vietnam: Hoi An (3 days) – Danang (3 days) – Hue (3 days) – Phong Nha (3 days) – Hanoi or HCMC (2 days, or one in each if you come into one and out the other)
Southern Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City (3 days) – Mekong Delta (2 days) – Mui Ne (2 days) – Da Lat (2 days) – Nha Trang (2 days) – Phu Quoc (3 days)
Don’t forget to PIN ME for later if you’re headed to Vietnam for 2 weeks!!