Vietnam itinerary 10 days: where to go in 10 days in Vietnam, what to see in 10 days in Vietnam and what to do in 10 days in Vietnam
After thoroughly exploring Vietnam from the far south to the far north, I have been asked numerous times how to see the best of Vietnam in short vacation time. Especially, if you have only about 10 days of your vacation.
So, I have rolled my sleeves up, took my pen and paper, and tailored this 10 day Vietnam itinerary for people who have a limited vacation time of only 10 days and would love to spend those 10 days in Vietnam.
Thus, let me guide you on how to experience the best of Vietnam in 10 days only.
Following Vietnam itinerary 10 days covers a trip to Vietnam from the south to the north with arrival to Ho Chi Minh City and departure from Hanoi.
For people who are short with time and have only 10 days for Vietnam, here’s my suggested 10 day Vietnam itinerary to see famous Vietnam tourist attractions and make most of their trip to Vietnam while optimizing the time, money and energy.
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10 DAYS IN VIETNAM: Vietnam 10 day travel itinerary
STEPS AND TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR YOUR PERFECT TRIP
1. Find and book your flight: Skyscanner
2. Find and book your stay: Booking.com, HotelsCombined.com
3. Get travel insurance (insure yourself against any accident, sickness, theft, and canceled flight): WorldNomads.com
4. Find and book great guided day tours: GetYourGuide
10 days in Vietnam itinerary:
DAY 1-2: HO CHI MINH CITY
Ho Chi Minh City, or popularly known Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam and the most visited city in Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh city airport (Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport) is the major transport hub in Vietnam receiving about 40 million passengers a year. Thus it’s easiest to find a flight to Ho Chi Minh City and start your trip to Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City.
Ho Chi Minh City is a bustling city of complex history and fascinating culture spreading along the Saigon river from the Mekong Delta to the South China Sea. This former capital of French protectorate of Cochinchina is today a fast-paced city and a home to about 13 million people and 7 million motorbikes. But Saigon is special for the unique mix of past colonial times, communist times and fast-changing modern times.
Please plan to spend 2 days in Ho Chi Minh and keep in mind that it’s a huge city that has much to offer to the visitors: from sightseeing major Saigon landmarks such as Saigon’s Notre Dame Cathedral and Taoist Jade Emperor Pagoda, or touring Cu Chi Tunnels to having a day trip to the nearby Mekong Delta.
What to do in Ho Chi Minh City:
Best things you can do in Saigon is to visit in Saigon’s downtown grand Saigon Notre-Dame cathedral built by French colonialist honoring Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris,
go to nearby impressive Saigon Post Office designed in Gothic, Renessainace and French style, learn about Indochina war and the Vietnam war visiting moving War Remnants Museum, experience bustling Binh Tay Market in Saigon’s Chinatown and Ben Thanh Market, the largest market in Vietnam and one of the landmarks of Ho Chi Minh City where you can sample some of the best Vietnamese food in Vietnam,
learn about Vietnam’s history at the Independence Palace in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City, go to the rooftop bar at the 50th floor of the Bitexco Financial Tower (aka Saigon SkyDec) for stunning 360 degree views of Saigon, visit Chinese Taoist Jade Emperor Pagoda (Tortoise Pagoda), go for a traditional musical puppet show to the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre in Tao Dan Park, visit underground Cu Chi Tunnels used during the Vietnamese War with the USA in the Củ Chi District, do some bar hopping at Pham Ngu Lau Street, visit interesting and unique Cao Dai Temple near Ho Chi Minh (Cao Dai or Caoidism is a uniquely Vietnamese religion, and a mix of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity, and Islam) and take a day tour to Mekong Delta.
After 2 days of exploring Ho Chi Minh City, head to Hoi An.
The distance between Ho Chi Minh City and Hoi An is about 585 mi (940 km). The fastest way to travel is to take a direct flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Da Nang. A direct flight takes only about 1-1,5 hours. There is a shuttle bus from Da Nang to Hoi An. And, a shuttle bus ride from Da Nang to Hoi An takes about 45 min.
Day 3-4: HOI AN
Hoi An, literally meaning ‘Peaceful Meeting Place’ is an ancient Vietnamese town built on the channels at the estuary of the Thu Bồn River.
The Old City of Hoi An is one of the most beautiful cities in Vietnam and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
From the 15th century to the 19th century the ancient city of Hoi An was an important trading port of Vietnamese, Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, Duch, and Indians, who left their mark on the diverse architectural styles of Hoi An.
The Old Hoi An adorns beautifully decorated Vietnamese tube houses, wooden Chinese stores, intricate Chinese temples, and Buddhist pagodas, carved family cult houses, bright and vibrant French colonial buildings, and famed Japanese Covered Bridge.
Luckily, motorbikes and cars are not allowed in the city, which makes strolling Hoi An on foot or cycling the city even more beautiful.
What to do in Hoi An: stroll picturesque ancient city and captivating Hoi An’s riverside, see famous Japanese Covered Bridge, visit eye-catching Assembly Hall of the Fujian Chinese Congregation, learn about Hoi An history at the Hoi An Museum, buy tailored made suit (Hoi An is famous for the tailoring industry), paddle a basket boat among the water coconut palms, shop a traditional Vietnamese lantern at the Lantern Market,
visit the Museum of Trading Ceramics, see intricate Tan Ky Family House of famous Hoi An’s merchants , enjoy the sun on An Bang Beach, taste authentic Hoi An’s Cao Lao dish made of brown rice noodles with lye water, take a day tour to Cham island and explore Vietnamese sea life, or visit nearby Marble Mountains.
After enjoying in this Vietnamese gem for 2 days, head to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.
Distance between Hoi An and Hanoi is 497 mi (800 km) and it takes 2 hrs by plane, 17 hrs by train and 17 hrs by bus. The fastest and almost the cheapest way is by plane. You can find a plane ticket from Hoi An to Hanoi for about 40 USD, a train ticket for about 35 USD and a bus ticket for about 15 USD.
I strongly recommend taking a flight from Hoi An to Hanoi. A flight ticket might be a few bucks more, but the time and energy you save by flying instead of having a long and exhausting 17-hour bus or train ride from Hoi An to Hanoi are incomparable. If you take a flight, you will fly again from Da Nang Airport to Hanoi Airport. There about 20 flights a day between Hoi An and Hanoi.
Day 5-6: HANOI
Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and the second-largest city in Vietnam. As might be expected, this gripping and hectic city reflects rich Southeast Asian, Chinese and French heritage.
But although a frenetic city, Old Hanoi is actually easy for sightseeing as you can go from one tourist attraction to another on foot. There are two top areas to stay in Hanoi for exploring Hanoi comfortably: charming Old Quarter and elegant French Quarter. The French Quarter offers more luxurious accommodation while the Old Quarter is more budget-friendly. But whatever quarter you choose, the main tourist attractions in Hanoi will be in front of your nose.
What to do in Hanoi: visit serene Ho Loan Kiem lake (or ‘Lake of the Returned Sword’) with red Húc bridge and the Temple of the Jade Mountain (or the Ngoc Son temple) in the center of historic Hanoi. The lake’s shores are a favorite spot for locals exercising and practicing tai chi. As a contrast to nearby bustling Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc public square.
Just several steps away from the lake you will find grey Gothic Saint Joseph Cathedral and Hoa Lo Prison Memorial (at first a French colonialists prison for political prisoners in French Indochina and later a North Vietnam’s prison for US prisons known as Hanoi Hilton). From there on only a few mins away is the Old Quarter.
Charming Old Quarter with a net of intersecting streets was once a home of Hanoi’s trade guilds and ever since then, it has been the most vibrant quarter of Hanoi.
The Old Quarter is home to popular well-preserved traditional Vietnamese Ancient House and famous Temple Of Literature. The temple was dedicated to Confucius and was a royal university for Confucius students dating back to 1070. The Old Quarter houses today’s Instagram famous Hanoi Train Street, a narrow street where the train shockingly goes in front of people’s homes, The Hanoi train street is officially known as Ngo 224 Le Duan and nowadays is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Hanoi.
Hanoi’s ‘ French Quarter is completely different story to the Old Quarter. It’s more luxurious with colonial architecture and many upscale hotels, restaurants, and shops and government buildings.
Some of the best things to do in Hanoi is to visit Tran Quoc Pagoda (the oldest Buddhist temple in Vietnam) on an inset near the Hanoi’s West Lake, visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum (the resting place of Vietnamese beloved leader Ho Chi Minh), relax in green Hanoi Botanical Garden from French Colonial times, head to Thăng Long Imperial Citadel ( the only UNESCO site in Hanoi), watch the show at Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi, take a street food walking tour and enjoy traditional Vietnamese coffee in a casual Vietnamese cafe with small plastic chairs sprawling onto the sidewalks in Hai Ba Trung district.
After 2 days in Hanoi, head to Halong Bay.
Day 7-8: HALONG BAY
The Ha Long Bay is a world-famous bay of thousands of arrestingly beautiful islands and dramatic limestone cliffs and as such, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
If you want to enjoy Halong bay in a proper way, you should consider taking an overnight cruise in Halong Bay. In my opinion, only glimpses of the Halong Bay can be experienced in a day tour from Hanoi. To experience Halong Bay at its best you should take an overnight cruise.
You could always arrange a tour to Halong Bay with your hotel in Hanoi, but 3 days – 2 nights La Pinta Cruise in Halong Bay is the option I would recommend.
If you take La Pinta Cruise – Halong Bay – Lan Ha Bay Tour, you will get picked up at Hanoi Old Quarter and stress-less head to Halong Bay cruise early in the morning avoiding hectic Hanoi morning traffic jam. For the next 2 nights, you will be cruising emerald Halong Bay with stunning views of I Chong, Con Vit, and Gia Luan islets and visiting Trung Trang cave with kayaking or swimming in Van Boi beach on Cat Ba island in Cat Ba National Park. You will visit isolated and untouched Lan Ha Bay and Viet Hai Village in the middle of the jungles of Cat Ba National Reserve. Honestly, I can’t imagine a better cruise tour program than this one.
On the 3rd day after breakfast and a short visit to another incredible cave in the Halong Bay, you will check out of the cruise and around noon you will be back to Hanoi Old Quarter.
From there, you can decide to head immediately by train or by bus to Sapa. The distance between Hanoi and Sapa is 202 mi (325 km). It takes 6 hours by bus or 8 hours by train from Hanoi to Sapa. In fact, if you decide to go by train you will go from Hanoi to Lai Ca by train and then from Lai Ca to Sapa by a van. A sleeper train ticket from Hanoi to Lai Cai is 42 USD, while a sleeper bus ticket from Hanoi to Sapa is 12 USD.
But to save your time and energy and to be able to enjoy your Vietnam vacation, especially if you are having your honeymoon in Vietnam, I would suggest to join 2-Day Sapa Trekking Tour from Hanoi and spend the afternoon and the night after the cruise in Hanoi and tomorrow morning to go from Hanoi to Sapa and get back to Hanoi in two days.
Day 9-10: SAPA – back to Hanoi & fly back home
Taking 2-Day Spectacular Sapa Trekking and Bus Tour you will get picked up at your hotel in Hanoi and go comfortable from Hanoi to Sapa and back by a van.
Around noon you will arrive in Sapa and meet Vietnamese hill tribes of Sapa and after a traditional Vietnamese lunch, you will have a 1.2 mi (2 km) afternoon trek.
Tomorrow morning you will have a longer 7.5 mi (12 km) trek through spectacular Sapa rice terraces to Lao Chai village, the home of the black Hmong tribe and afterward to Ta Van village, the home of the Dzay hill tribe. The trek takes around 3.5 hours and covers about 7.5 mi (12 km).
After lunch and some rest on the second day, you are going back to Hanoi and in the evening you are flying back home.
And let me finish this post adding, don’t be surprised if Sapa turns out to be the highlight of your trip. Cruising Halong Bay is wonderful, but trekking Sapa rice fields is something truly spectacular! And, you are finishing your 10 day Vietnam tour in a most spectacular way!
THE BEST TIME TO TAKE THIS 10 DAY VIETNAM TRIP
The best time to travel Vietnam following my suggested Vietnam itinerary is the months of March and April.
In general March and April among the best months to travel Vietnam if you want to travel all Vietnam (from south to north, or from the north to the south) and to have good weather all the time on your trip.
In March you can expect to have excellent weather in southern Vietnam, good weather in central Vietnam and northern Vietnam. In March northern Vietnam gets more sun and lush green rice fields in Sapa are starting to bloom while the trekking season in Sapa is at its best. Also, traveling to Hanoi and Halong Bay in March and April is a good option for dry and pleasant weather. In April the south of Vietnam goes throw the transition period from the dry season to the rainy season. But although it starts raining, the temperatures are still high and around 31 C.
Remember, this Vietnam itinerary is for March and April!! Vietnam is a geographically very long country with 4 distinctive climates and it’s hard to have good weather all the time during your trip. March and April are the only months when you can have good weather in all of Vietnam!!
If you are planning to visit Vietnam in some other months, you should read my post Best Time to Travel Vietnam. Trekking Sapa rice terraces is not much fun when the rice is harvested! Or visiting Hoi An during the typhoon season! Even famous emerald Halong Bay is gloomy grey in bad weather in the offseason. Be smart, and check out the weather when planning your trip to Vietnam!! And enjoy your 10 day trip to Vietnam!
MAP OF 10 DAYS IN VIETNAM ITINERARY
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