1 week in North Vietnam – travel itinerary

Vietnam Layout

North Vietnam is a treasure trove of picturesque locations and a must visit for nature lovers. A lovely blend of rural living and tourism friendliness can lead to a nice trip – one that is not heavy on pockets either. And, if you are a non-vegetarian, then you would love the cheap street food as well!

I was traveling with my cousins and it is amazing how much we were able to cover in a short six-day trip. The variety of topography and things you can do is exhilarating. There is a lot to see and experience and it is all close by.

North and South Vietnam have ample tourist destinations of their own. If you are on a short trip, I would say just do one or the other. Covering both Hanoi (North) and HoChiMinh (South) in one single short trip means wasting time in air traveling. Why do that when you can cover enough exciting things in either part! So, I recommend making either of these cities as your base and then travel around. Since this post is covering tourism worthy destinations (not same as solo travel of wanderlust), I am not covering places like Da-Nang which is the most preferred place for Digital Nomads.

So, we chose North Vietnam for our sojourn, made Hanoi as our base and covered three major sites:

  1. Sapa Valley – one night
  2. Halong Bay – one night on cruise
  3. Ninh Binh – day trip

One Week Itinerary

  • Day 1: Fly into Hanoi airport. Catch an overnight train to Sapa Valley. Why? Because train experience was pretty nice and saves traveling time. There are good luxury coaches available in <40 USD one way. Book on https://www.traintosapa.com/ We took the Chapa express and it was pretty good and clean.
  • Day 2: Reach Sapa (Lao Cai station) early morning and check into your hotel by 10 am. Take the Fansipan cable car ride to see the real beauty of Sapa valley. It has a vast expanse of gorgeous rice fields and only can be appreciated from the top of Mt. Fansipan (3000m elevation).
  • Day 3: Day trek of Muong Hoa valley (excruciating but full of postcard views). Can check out from the hotel before leaving for the trek. You will be back in the evening, can take a quick shower and head back to the train station. Catch another overnight train back to Hanoi.
  • Day 4: Reach Hanoi early morning. Go to the pickup location for Halong Bay one night cruise tour. The tour bus will take you to Halong Bay point from where you will take your cruise. Stay overnight on the ship and marvel at the beauty of the towering rocks around you.
  • Day 5: Leave the cruise after the lunch and get back to Hanoi by the night. Check into your hotel. Can watch the water puppet show and visit the famous night market.
  • Day 6: Take a day tour to Ninh Binh valley and return to Hanoi hotel by the night.
  • Day 7: Last morning to shop around bargain deals in Hanoi and fly back in the evening.

Since each place we visited was so worth the time, I have a ton of pictures and information to share. So, I will detail that in the following posts. This is a good starter for someone who is contemplating a visit to Vietnam. I wholeheartedly recommend it and especially this itinerary if you are short on time.

Travel Tips for first timers

Traveling in a group can get you discount on tours. We got discounts on Sapa treks and Ninh Binh tours. Taxi rides also became cheaper. Hard core vegetarians may get fed up of eating fried rice, doing a little research on different kind of local cuisine by name may save your day since all shop owners are not very fluent in English. We traveled in first week of September and Sapa was very rainy. It was gorgeous even in the rains but its better to check the weather predictions beforehand. The humidity and heat level in Vietnam is not to be taken lightly. You will sweat continuously. Pack cotton clothes, ample sunscreen, hats, shades and umbrellas if you don’t want burns and tans!

PS. Most of the research was done by my cousin Ashutosh and I’m just stealing his plans for your benefit! So, let’s thank him for doing such an awesome job 😀