Vietnam is a long narrow country. Most likely, you will be starting from Hanoi and traveling your way down, or starting from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and going up. This 2 week Vietnam itinerary is at a relaxed pace for travelers who want a mix of top sights, culture, food with enough time for relaxing on the beach and doing adventure activities.
If the food doesn’t win you over in Vietnam, the history – the country has been ruled by the Chinese, French, and other powers – and the natural beauty will. Flights are cheap and connect the main cities well.
Vietnam 2 week Itinerary Overview –
Hanoi (1 night) – Ha long bay (1 night) – Danang (5 nights covering Hue and HoiAn) – Ho Chi Minh City (2 nights) – Con Dao island (4 nights) – Ho Chi Minh City (1 night)
Day 1: Hanoi
We took an overnight flight to Hanoi via Bangkok to start our 2 weeks in Vietnam, as there are no direct flights from India.
Tired as we were, I still wanted to make use of the half-day that we had in Hanoi. I had got in touch with HanoiKids earlier and two students were waiting at the scheduled time in the hotel lobby. This is a group of university kids who take you to see places in their city, all for the chance to practice their English and to get some insight into your culture. I can’t recommend them enough! It is best to email them at email@example.com to set up a date, time and places to visit.
We first visited The Temple of Literature with them. This is really interesting – a place where Confucius is worshiped and also the place of the first university in Vietnam.
But the hot and humid weather of June sapped our energy within an hour and we canceled our next stop to the Ho Chi Minh Palace. Instead, we strolled around in the shaded bylanes in the Old Quarter.
We then meandered through the French quarters, saw the Opera House and other beautiful buildings. After the mini-tour with HanoiKids, we treated ourselves to a tea at the stately Hotel Metropole.
In hindsight, if I have to redo our Vietnam 2-week Itinerary, spending just half a day in Vietnam’s capital is a shame. Hanoi demands a couple of days to be explored at leisure – all the history that reveals French and Chinese occupation, the evolving art scene, the stately buildings in the French Quarter and the wild and wonderful craziness of the Old Quarter and all the fresh food to be tried there. I would have also liked to visit the famous Hanoi Train Street.
Day 2-3: Halong Bay
Halong bay is a spectacular scatter of limestone karsts and isles topped with rainforests, in emerald waters.
This UNESCO Heritage site is a popular tourist destination. We had booked an overnight cruise with a local company. This included pick-up from the hotel and drop-off at the airport the next day. The 4-hour ride from Hanoi to Halong bay goes through some not-so-scenic and dilapidated areas so I wouldn’t recommend a day trip at all.
The only way to experience this UNESCO heritage site is spending a night or two in a junk – you go much further to Bai Tu Long Bay, the area is serene when the day trippers leave.
There was an optional kayaking tour that we enjoyed. We all got a quick theory session on dos and don’ts and a stern warning about the presence of jellyfish in some parts of the water. We kayaked to a small beach – a super-fun destination for swimming close to the shore, making sandcastles and relaxing. There was an option to kayak back or take a catamaran to the junk.
Day 4 – 7: Danang, Hue, Hoi An
Central Vietnam took up the bulk of our time in the Vietnam itinerary for 2 weeks. We had taken an evening flight from Hanoi to Danang the day before and checked into the Four Seasons Nam Hai – boasting of a kilometre-long stretch of one of Forbes “best beaches in the world”. Though we took a flight between cities in Vietnam, you could also book a Vietnam sleeper train.
This made for a good base for several areas – visiting the historic town of Hoi An, exploring the imperial city of Hue as a day trip, taking a leisurely cycling trip to experience the village life and paddy fields and lazying around at the resort pool and the beach.
For activities in and around Hoi An, Hue and Da Nang, do read:
Beach + History + Food + Nature: 4 awesome reasons to visit Central Vietnam
Day 8 – 9: Ho Chi Minh city
We took a morning flight from Danang to Ho Chi Minh city. My first impression was that of a large metropolis, a financial hub, with people hurrying around with their life. And I didn’t realize until I visited that being gay is not against the law in Vietnam and that Ho Chi Minh City has a vibrant gay scene.
We were staying with friends, and used the afternoon to explore the central district, checking out several art galleries, boutiques, and a quirky cafe. We decided to skip the war museum in HCMC as friends suggested that some of the exhibits displayed would be too gory for a 5-year-old. But we did do a day trip to Cu Chi Tunnels.
The next day was a visit to Cu Chi tunnels, about 2 hours drive from the city. It is good to carry some water and snacks with you for the trip, although there is a restaurant on the site. Friends had generously given us their car and driver for the trip to Cu Chi tunnels, but there are several tour companies that provide this as a day trip option from Ho Chi Minh city.
The jungle, though largely sanitized for tourists, is dense. It boggles the mind to imagine a guerrilla war being carried out there. There is a good documentary film shown and a model on display that shows the various tunnels at various levels.
There are well-informed guides available at the ticket-counter who take you through a well-marked path. One highlight for those who are not claustrophobic is to experience the thrill of going through a short or a long tunnel.
Day 10 – 13: Con Dao islands
As with most of our holidays, the kid is happiest with a relaxed stay featuring a beach. We had researched on the Vietnam islands and stumbled upon Con Dao. Nha Trang is for party goers and Phu Quoc for both couples and families, but this sleepy island where nothing much happens suited us perfectly. Con Dao islands made for a perfect break from sightseeing in our 2 weeks in Vietnam.
Con Dao islands have been protected for decades as a national and marine park. There are thick forests on these islands, as well as lovely beaches, bays and coral reefs. Our stay was at Six Senses, located on Con Son, the largest island in this chain. There is a direct 45-minute flight from HCMC to Con Son daily.
Con Son is perfect for mountain biking and scuba diving and we tried both.
Pristine as it is now, it is difficult to imagine Con Son as ‘hell on earth’ – thousands of prisoners were confined in jails during the French rule.
Many local visitors today take the Prison tour. After exposing the 5-year-old to the Cu Chi tunnels, we decided to give the prison tour a miss.
Day 14: Flight back to HCMC
Our last day in the Vietnam 2 week Itinerary at Ho Chi Minh city was spent on buying gifts and then preparing for the evening flight back home.
Vietnam is not a natural choice for a lot of Indian families. Most people from our circle of friends and acquaintances haven’t visited this country. And after the trip, we kept wondering – why not? Good beaches, pristine scenery, fresh food, great resorts, and no crazy crowds, unlike its neighbors – what’s not to like?
Pin it for later!
Have you visited Vietnam? What has been your favorite destination or experience there?
Subscribe to Zest In A Tote Digest, my monthly newsletter, for travel tips and inspiration.
Join me on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook as I share my travel experiences.
Halong Bay is love. Thanks for sharing this. Pics are amazing.
Thanks Mark. People have had mixed experiences at Halong Bay. An overnight trip that takes you deeper into the bay, according to me, is needed for a good trip.
It’s really great itinerary. Thank you so much! It will be useful for me.
This itinerary had two key word for me – relaxed pace – which is how I like to travel. I haven’t been to Vietnam yet, but I’d love to go. Saving this itinerary!
Lara, Vietnam for me was the best destination I have visited in S E Asia so far. That said, I have heard online a lot of complaints and not-so-good experiences in this country as well. Perhaps research and planning and staying in recommended places goes a long way. We had only amazing experiences during our 2-week trip.
Nice itinerary! But two weeks stay doesn’t do a justice to this amazing country! I prefer to use my one-month visa to a maximum 🙂
I traveled from Phu Quoc to Da Nang in a month, and still felt I am rushing it up!
Definitely worth returning! And thanks for pointing Con Dao out! Looking forward to include it in my return trip!
I feel that about (almost) every new country I visit that 2 weeks haven’t done justice. But itineraries at times need to be adjusted to corporate careers and school breaks – Lucky you to get a month break! You wil love Con Dao.
This is a great itinerary! I hope to visit Vietnam one day. As a matter of fact, I have seen great deal to the country lately. I am surprised by the beauty of Con Dao. You do not hear often about the island but they are gorgeous!
Con Dao is indeed visited less by international tourists. The mainland itself has lovely beaches and so much to explore.
Great itinerary. One place that I would add would be either Sapa or Mai Chau. You have to see the rice fields.
I had researched on Sapa, and was quite tempted. It was either that or Halong bay. But 2 weeks itinerary demand something will get left out, especially since we dont like to rush from one place to another.
This part of the world is very unknown to me…it’s very interesting. I’ve heard of Hanoi but that’s about it. That being said those Con Dao islands look stunning, I’m not sure if I’d only be able to stay there for a few days
We traveled through Vietnam a couple of years ago and had a similar itinerary from north to south. However, we didn’t go to any island or beach to “rest”, since we took the last days to visit Mei’s relatives in Saigon, and the places where her family used to live back in the 70s. We’ve heard a lot about Na Trang, but never of Con Dao islands, which sounds much more interesting. So thank you for sharing this!
You know how it is with a child, some downtime at a beach resort makes the vacation so much more fun for her. Con Dao is definitely more interesting than Nha Trang. You must have had a good time catching up with family in Saigon. We stayed with friends there, and apart from catching up with them, didnt like the city as much as Hanoi or Hoi An or Hue.
I’m pretty sure I could bring myself to do everything on this list except going down into one of those tunnels. It didn’t even look like you would fit. I’m having a panic attack just writing about the photo of you going down there, ahhh!! Either way, Vietnam is one of my top destinations to get to next in Asia. I’d love to check out some of the places you mentioned especially the beach Nam Hai.
Ha ha…Mia, yes going down the tunnel is not everyone’s idea of fun. But a visit to Cu Chi tunnels without that experience is also good. The guides are informative, there is a model made of the tunnels at 4 levels and their interlinkages and a display of arms / ammunition used in the war. (It turned out to be a bit much for my 5 year old, I admit)
The two main reasons I want to visit Vietnam are, the food and the beautiful scenery. I love Thai food and any opportunity to try the authentic thing is a good day for me.
Visiting Halong bay is a must for me as well. I have seen so many photos of it and I just have to see it myself. I have never heard about Con Dao islands, but I am sure I want to visit it. Love its turquoise water.
Simon, Vietnam with its long coastline has many beautiful beaches; you are sure to find something that you love. And yes, their food is really good, both street food and high-end restaurants. Thai food is great, but Vietnamese is better!
This is an awesome itinerary, and I’m glad to see Ha Long Bay included, because that’s on my bucketlist. Thanks for the tip on spending overnight – I’ve heard you have to be very careful and properly research the tour operator you choose, otherwise may get stuck with extreme party crowds which can ruin the magic of the experience.
The red doors at the Hue citadel are another highlight I would like to see – so beautiful and instagram worthy! Cu Chi tunnels too are a point of interest for me – you’ve literally put together the perfect itinerary – I love the mix of nature, history and food. Seriously, thankyou!
Thanks Meg. Another place that may be of interest to you is the War Museum in HCMC. We didnt go because friends said it would be too gory for my daughter. I was already a bit guilty about exposing her to some of the facts of the American Vietnam War at Cu Chi. Hope you have a lovely time in Vietnam whenever you visit. And eat non-stop 🙂 the food is heavenly.
I like that you mention the slow pace to discover Vietnam. That’s one of the most important requirements to experience a country and its culture. I wouldn’t travel anymore if I hadn’t time to travel at a slow pace.
In the past few years, we have realised that slow pace, some downtime at a beach resort and not too many change in locations works best for us. Gives us time to experience more, even if it means we dont cover all the top attractions in a new place.
AMAZING! My best friend is from Hanoi, and just so happens to be a chef. Yep, I am one of the lucky ones who gets to experience her incredible food and without having to travel. BUT… I am obsessed with the country and think everyone should visit at least once. Like ya said, the food is next level.
My favourite place in south east asia is Myanmar for the spiritual experience, Vietnam for food, Thailand for massage/spa and Cambodia for the history, but a mix of all these things can be found in each place. I guess I cant really answer that question, I love south east asia – FULL STOP! 🙂
Wow, Anna, you have visited a lot of SE Asia. Myanmar is high on my list, I want to visit before development changes the country completely. We loved Vietnamese food.
This looks like a great itinerary. We haven’t made it to Vietnam yet but it’s definitely on the list. Will keep your itinerary in mind for when we finally go. I had never heard of the Con Dao islands but they look lovely. Nice to hear about new places. The egg coffee looks interesting!
Thanks for dropping by Cindy. Con Dao islands were once used to be ‘hell on earth’, lock thousands of prisoners under French rule. They are really pristine, under visited. Most international tourists go to Phu Quoc or Nha Trang.
Thanks. Your country is beautiful, I really enjoyed my time there.
Nice pics :< I even haven't had the chance to visit those places yet… as a Vietnamese…