3 Weeks Vietnam Itinerary: 5 Alternative routes for backpackers

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I was really fortunate to experience a cross-country journey in Vietnam: North to South. During my 3 weeks Vietnam Itinerary, I came across plenty of travelers from different locations, that, as for me, were trying to make the most out of their road trip depending on the time available they had to visit Vietnam. Here, I am going to recap my 3 weeks in Vietnam plus all the different itinerary combinations I learned from other trippers. One of my main goals while traveling, among others, is to never stop learning from the people I crossed paths with and sharing with other travelers my experiences trying to make everyone’s trip easier and better.

During my last adventure in Vietnam, I carried al my stuff with one of the comfiest backpacks if tried.

Vietnam is a place full of nature and with a very differentiated landscape in the north and in the south. The strong and rooted culture makes the journey very authentic and special.


Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks | Local people

While on a road trip, the landscape and the beauty of the country are a big part of the journey but the rest depends on the locals of that country you are traveling to. Specifically, in Vietnam, people are helpful and welcoming, especially in the most rural areas where they will always have time to help you and spend some time with.

How long do you need in Vietnam?

It is very rich in nature and culture which makes it hard to leave, in my case, I make the whole country in 3 weeks and that was perfect timing! Below is the article you will be able to discover in detail my 3 weeks Itinerary in Vietnam. I’ve added up 4 more itineraries to cover all the possible scenarios for your next trip to Vietnam.

What types of itinerary am I going to discover here?

a) 3 Weeks Vietnam Itinerary

b) 2 weeks in Vietnam

c) 1 week North of Vietnam Itinerary

d) 1 week Central of Vietnam Itinerary

e) 1 week South of Vietnam Itinerary

When to go to Vietnam?

Overall, the best month to visit Vietnam is from the beginning of December till February while temperatures are mild and there is almost no rain.

Depending on the area, weather conditions change such as in the north of Vietnam the best months are March, April, and September to November.

Before planning a trip to Vietnam check out the weather and climate on an official site to make sure you are going to proceed with your plans without setback.

How to travel to Vietnam?

Maybe you do not expect it,  but traveling through Vietnam is really easy. Vietnamese are smart and they’ve come up with a very good transport system for backpackers, they manage to make our journeys easy and cheap. How to travel to Vietnam? In almost every place in Vietnam, there are several companies of Night Buses. Yes, you’ve read right! You are going to be able to save a night of accommodation ($$) while traveling to your next destination on a bus with “beds”. In my opinion, the best way to travel through the country, these buses work perfectly, they are usually very punctual and they could be provided to you by the hostel you are staying in. Obviously they make all their journeys at night tongue-out

Check here to book all your buses safely.

For bike riders, a lot of travelers buy a motorbike on their first destination and manage to seel it at the end of their journey, it is also a good way of traveling in Vietnam but be careful with the roads, they are not as easy. Does it sound like a challenge? 


Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks | Roads in Vietnam

I guess it is time to start with the important stuff…come on, join me on this 3 weeks Vietnam Itinerary!

Is Vietnam safe for a female traveler?

Yes, It is! Vietnam is very safe and rarely you will hear bad stories from it. Locals are extremely respectful. As I always mention try to take precautions such as: not walking alone at night on empty streets. The biggest danger in this country is motorbike rental if you know how to ride, lucky you! If you don’t, do not rent one or go with someone you don’t know, the roads are very busy and difficult. And also make sure you rent the bike in a good place and that the bike is not faulty before you rent it.

3 Weeks Vietnam Itinerary

To fell the full essence of this country, get involved in local activities, chat with natives and open your mind to new cultures, environments, and cultural events.

Total : 21 days / 20 nights


*3 nights

This is usually the first stop of many travelers and also was mine. I am not much of a big city lover but this place had my heart, it is a pure traditional Vietnamese city with a lot of history to learn. You do not have to leave the city center to find interesting war museums and exhibitions, ancient pagodas and colonial buildings. Also, I can not forget about Vietnamese cuisine and Vietnamese coffee! Without a doubt the best coffee I’ve ever tried. It is also a city with good nightlife and probably the best place to party in Vietnam.

Ley’s go through the main points of this awesome cultural city.

Best things to do in Hanoi

a) Imperial Citadel of Thang Long: Declared  UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010, it is the main relic of the history of Vietnam. It shows how important is their culture and history for the locals. In my opinion, this is a must-to-see on your trip to Hanoi.

b) Hanoi Old Quarter:  This is where the main activity of the city is going on: From coffee shops, bars, local restaurants, street food, and local markets are located here.


Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks | Old Quarter Hanoi

c) Vietnam Military history museum: One of the 7th national museums in the whole country. Here, you will see real pictures and documents from wars against China, France, and the United States, plus the real pieces of the means of transports they were using. Really interesting to understand another side of Vietnamese history, it makes it easier to understand their culture, traditions, and gastronomy.

d) Temple of Literature: Considered the most delightful touristic attraction of the city, it was built for scholars, but at the moment is preserved for tourists and locals to admire a great example of Vietnamese traditional architecture.

e) The note coffee: As I already mentioned before, the best coffee in my life was here, in Hanoi. The note coffee is a special place, besides the amazing Vietnamese egg coffee, every wall, and table, have colorful possits on it, each of those with different messages from different travelers that came to visit this place. Really original and good atmosphere cool Read some interesting travel confessions and stories while having your coffee.

What is the Vietnamese egg coffee made off?  A mixture of condensed milk, coffee beans, and egg yolk. It may not sound the tastiest thing ever but it is! Give it a try.


Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks | The note Coffee in Hanoi

Where to sleep in Hanoi

Besides its backpacker’s ambiance, one of the best things that most of the hostels in Vietnam have in common is that they offer one hour in the evening of free beer! The best area to be located in Hanoi to visit the city is the old quarter of Hanoi. 

a) Hanoi City Backpackers Hostel: Located in the old quarter of Hanoi,  walking distance to every tourist attraction in the city.  The location could not be better and I found it a great place to meet travel mates! The room and toilet are very clean. The staff is very helpful and gives good advice about activities in and outside Hanoi. Free city tours available as well!

Price per night (p/p): 5 USD -> Breakfast included! 

b) Hanoi Centre Hostel: Could not say anything bad about this place, they make you feel like home. If you are a foodie…you will love this place, breakfast has so many options and all of them are delicious! They also have great deals for group activities cool

Price per night (p/p): 5 USD -> Breakfast included! 

c) Halley Hostel: This comfy hostel has everything you need to spend some incredible days in the city center. Good location, excellent atmosphere, and beautiful design! As a highlight of Halley hostel, the bed was so comfortable!!

Price per night (p/p): 4 USD

Best bars in Hanoi

a) Bia Hoi Corner: It is not only about this particular bar but about the ambiance in Bia Hoi Junction. It is the perfect spot to enjoy and give a try to Hanoi nightlife. Cheap local beer and drinks as well as local food to accompany the drinks!

b) King pirates pub: Located in the old quarter of Hanoi, it is a great place to experience the drinks traditions of pirates: Rum and beers. The prices are low and the staff is super friendly!

c) Rockstore Hanoi: My favorite place for live music in Hanoi. Perfect place to come with friends and enjoy good music while having Vietnamese local beer.


Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks | Hanoi Nightlife

Cát Bà Island (Halong Bay)

*2 nights

Cát Bà Island is the largest island in Halong Bay and it is absolutely beautiful. Plenty of activities to do there and an incredible island to discover.

To get to the island there are two options:

a) Take a Bus from Hanoi to Hai Phong + Speedboat from Hai Phong to South Cát Bà Island.

b) Direct Bus from Hanoi to Cát Bà through the longest sea-crossing bridge in South East Asia.

Choose your best option! In the hostels in Hanoi, they normally have options for good-prices.


Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks | Cát bà Island

Best things to do in Cát bà

a) Cat Ba National Park Hike: Jungle, crazy monkeys and incredible views is what you are up to if you choose to spend part of your day in the national park of the island. There are several options talking about the time you want to spend on the trek, from 45 minutes to 4+ hours.

b) Cát Bà Hospital Cave: On your way to Cát bà I advise you to make a stop and visit the Hospital Cave. It was the hidden hospital they made during the war, I found it very interesting. On your visit, you will be able to figure out how did the manage to make the hospital cave work and visualize the rooms and activities that were going on inside.

c) Kayaking and Snorkeling: If you are that kind of traveler that loves spending time in the water, Cát bà has multiple options to amaze you with its sea life and water caves. Put your snorkeling mask on and start discovering! Or what is better…rent a kayak, take your snorkeling equipment with you and whenever you feel like it goes for a swim and swims with all the underwater creatures that live in this beautiful part of the world.


Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks | Cát bà Island

d) Viet Hai fishing village: Are you that kind of traveler that, like me, loves getting into the local culture and learning their traditions? In that case, Viet Hai fishing village is a must-to-see. To arrive there, you need to either trek through Cát Bà national park 8 km ( 4 hours more or less) o get a boat to Viet Hai Pier from the principal pier of Cát bà. Both options are really interesting, it now depends on the energies you have left to explore the jungle of Cát bà.

e) Day trip through Halong Bay: If you hadn’t had enough yet, you still have the option of going on a boat day-trip through Halong Bay. Beautiful to see!

If you can ride motorbikes, Cát bà island is a good place to rent a bike and go around the island. Be Careful, please! Only rent bikes if you have a license, there are a lot of backpackers that take advantage of the lack of supervision of licenses here and rent bikes without knowing how to ride it cry

 Ha Giang

*4 nights

We have arrived at my favorite place in this 3 weeks Vietnam Itinerary. Far northern Vietnam, the border with China, Ha Giang is located. Here, you will be able to be transported to the most ancient part of Vietnam with the wildest and well-preserved landscape, nature, and jungle. The best way to discover this marvelous place is on two wheels! I will detail explain what to see and how to organize it below.

Have you ever heard about Sapa? Ha Giang is the best alternative to it: Infinite rice fields and terraces, rivers and impressive mountains.

Why should I choose Ha Giang instead of Sapa? I would rather go to Ha Giang that Sapa for several reasons:

1. It is less tourist, that means cheaper and fewer people. Actually, on my 4 days in Ha Giang, I did not come across many tourists, it was more like an immersion in their culture and lifestyle.

2. As touristic activity is very low here, the landscape remains intact and traveling here means getting to know the most unique place of Vietnam.


Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks | Ha Giang

Best things to do in Ha Giang

Ha Giang Loop: This 3 to 4 days loop is made to do it by motorbike. Even if you do not know how to ride a bike ( my personal case ) you can still do it.

How can I do Ha Giang loop if I do not know how to ride a bike?

1. The loop will start in Ha Giang town, where the travelers that are ready to start the loop are staying, just jump on the back of a mates bike and start the trip! Be careful with the roads, they are not the best and sometimes it is foggy and the visibility is not that good. If it starts raining very hard, stop and enjoy the place.

2. If you are not comfy with that option, there are guides that will take you through the loop showing you everything and taking you everywhere during those 4 days (what the call, easy rider). I highly recommend this option as they are the ones that know the area and the most amazing places to go.

* I did the 4 days Ha Giang Loop but there is also an option of doing it in 3 days.


Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks | Ha Giang loop

In my case, I do not know how to ride bikes, so I jumped on someone else bike ( I knew him before, do not go with total unknowns! ). We were on our first day os the  4 days loop and we meet this traveler that was doing it with a guide. The guide was so nice and invite us to go with them for the day, we ended up all finishing the trip together and it was incredible!

You can also rent a private car or do the loop by bus, I do not recommend it. Easy riders are great and you’ll be also fomenting local business.

Do not worry about pre-planning your route before arriving there, it will all come together once you are already there. Locals are very helpful and will help you with everything.

Highlights of Ha Giang loop

Top 3 things you can not miss from the loop.

a) Family dinners: The best thing to integrate with locals. During the loop you’ll be sleeping in Homestays and in almost every homestay they have family dinners. It is absolutely amazing and very typical of the north of the country. They put all the food in the middle ( a little bit of everything ) and you just share dinner time with the family that is hosting you. They have the tradition of always toasting with the local spirit many times during dinner!


Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks | Family dinner

b) Karaoke with locals: Number 1 thing you have to do. In the north of Vietnam, Karaokes are so popular and even in the tiniest town, you will find at least one Karaoke. Locals love having some drinks during dinner and go to the Karaoke after. Join them! I had so much fun singing Vietnamese songs with them!

b) Cross the Chinese border: A great experience and story to tell once you go back: I’ve been in China for a while…! If you go to the exact point, you will be able to cross the border. Ask for a map at the beginning of the loop in Ha Giang town and mark it on your itinerary!


Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks | Chinese border

Where to sleep in Ha Giang

Before starting the loop, you’ll have the option to sleep on a backpacker hostel or a homestay, they will help you rent the bikes, with the itinerary, easy riders and lockers if you want to leave your bag in order to do the loop light of bags. In this case, every place in town is nice and provides almost the same services: bike rentals, easy rides, and good and simple accommodation.

In my case, I arrived from Hanoi on the sleeping bus at 4 am and start that same morning the loop, before starting I booked the sleeping bus to my next destination right after I finished the loop so that I do not waste a night or a day here. So finally I ended up not sleeping on a hostel but The one below helped me with the itinerary and bike rental, and lookers!

a) Central Backpackers Hostel Ha Giang: Very nice staff and very helpful. I arrived at 4 in the morning with the sleeping bus and they let me stay in the lounge sleeping on the sofas! They kept my bags during the loop and propose a great itinerary. I hope I can be back soon!

During the loop, you’ll be staying in homestays you find on your way, do not plan it and let the journey surprise you!

Ninh Binh

*1 night

Ninh Binh town is not a tourist place for the town itself but because it serves as a basement to visit all the wonders on its surroundings. It will be very useful to rent bicycles or motorbikes to move around the area.

Best things to do in Ninh Binh

a) Tam Coc: This place is impressive, it remained me to Halong bay, cliffs there are higher but in Tam Coc, the cliffs fall into the green rice fields. You could take also a boat tour to explore the area.


Vietnam Iitinerary 3 weeks | Tam Coc in Ninh Binh

b) Van long: This is a wetland reserve that houses monkeys, reptiles and incredible nature. Also, birdwatchers will enjoy a lot here as it is full fo them!

c) Hoa Lu: Not the most typical stop when people come to Ninh Binh but if you have spare time it is worth it. This was the ancient capital of Vietnam and it has a beautiful citadel full of temples!


*1 night

This imperial city has been for a long time the religious, political and economic center of Vietnam and you will feel it once you go to its citadel. The city represents power, those imperial buildings and impressive statues will leave you with no words. The history behind Hue is really interesting and I personally would never skip it on my 3 weeks in Vietnam.


Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks | Hue Imperial City

Best things to do in Hue

a) Hue Citadel: This citadel will take almost a day to visit it. It is located in the north of the Perfume River and it for 4 different parts depending on the use they were giving to that specific place in the Citadel. It is really interesting to go and learn about their way of living and traditions.

b) Thien Mu Pagoda: It is a Buddhist temple in the city of Hue, it has 7 floors and is consider the non-official symbol of the city.

c) Abandon amusement park in Hue: Quite a special attraction for tourists. This is a very mysterious place still to be discovered. I would advise to go there for a walk and enjoy the views and attractions.


Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks | Abandoned amusement park

d) Hai Van Pass: Rent a bike in Hue till Hoi An through the Hoi Van pass. It is the most scenic road in Vietnam and it is a must-to-do in Vietnam.

Hoi An

*2 nights

With 800 historic buildings in its Old town, it is considered UNESCO World Heritage Site. In my opinion, and what most of the travelers said, this is the most beautiful city in Vietnam. And has one special thing that I am sure female travelers will love: it is really famouse for its textile industry and the streets are full of amazing tailors! The typical souvenir from Hoi An is a tailor-made dress, top, t-shirt or even do bikinis, everything designed by you!


Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks | Hoi An

Best things to do in Hoi An

a) A walk around the Old town: Full of precious buildings and with the Japanese lamps decorating the streets, I could be for hours walking around! Take your time, every building here has something special and the atmosphere is charming.

b) Japanese Covered Bridge: This 12 meters bridge is the most romantic spot in the city. The ornaments in the shape of animals, like dogs or monkeys, are beautiful

c) Lantern Market: One of my favorite places, when I visit a new city, is usually the night markets and this one is marvelous. Full of colors and unique antiques as well as some really good street food stands!


Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks | Night Market in Hoi An

d) An Bang beach: Time to relax and get a little bit tan on the beach! Grab a bike in the city center and take it to the beach, beautiful white sand beach with some local restaurants around to grab something to eat and a drink.


*2 nights

It may sound crazy but the architecture of this place reminds me of Barcelona. If you visit Da Lat town you’ll see what I mean. Da lat is very famous for its waterfalls and sports activities on rivers.

Best things to do in Da Lat

a) Trekking to the waterfalls: As I mentioned before, Da Lat is famous for its waterfalls. The most beautiful and famous are Pongour falls and Elephant falls. Great walk through the jungle till you get there.

c) Lake of sighs: A very romantic lake were Vietnamese couples usually go to take pictures. You can also rent a kayak and go through the river.

d) The Maze Bar: One of the coolest bars I’ve been too. Get ready to get lost while having a drink. It is a total labyrinth and is so much fun, you will meet people that are lost too and trying to get to their friends!

Mui Ne

*2 nights

After some tiring trekking days in Da Lat, you deserve a rest: Sand dunes, beach and party are the kinds of things Mui Ne has to offer. I had such a good time there, meeting new backpackers that some of them I accidentally found again in Cambodia (this world is very tiny!).


Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks | Mui Ne

Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks | Mui Ne[/caption]

Best things to do in Mui Ne

a) Quad biking in the sand dunes: Top-rated activities by most of the travelers coming here, you will have such a good time in the white dunes in Mui Ne!


Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks | Sand Dunes in Mui Ne

Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks | Sand Dunes in Mui Ne[/caption]

b) Fish Market: Early in the morning, locals go straight to the market to get the food for the day, that’s what I also love doing. Fresh fish in the barbecue, how does it sound?

c) Sunrise and Sunset: Mui Ne is one of the best places to see the sunrise and sunset. Mui Ne has everything if you are more an early day person the sunrise will amaze you and , also if you prefer to sleep a little bit more at night!

Mekong Delta

*2 Nights

In my opinion, the top 3  beautiful places in Vietnam. The river is the commerce network between Ho Chi Ming and Cambodia. Most of the fresh fish of the whole country come from this area, so you can figure out how important is for the country. Besides its importance for Vietnam, it is such a unique and gorgeous place to visit.


Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks | Mekong delta

Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks | Mekong delta[/caption]

Best things to do in the Mekong Delta

a) Tra Su Cajuput Forest in An Giang: The most famous attraction in the area, the special ecosystem that surrounds the river is really hard to find elsewhere. Enjoy the peace this forest transmits while going on their local’s boats through the river.

b) Floating Markets: Crazy how these floating markets work, most beautiful and unique ones are: Cai Rang Floating Market and Phung Hiep Floating Market. Do not miss them!


Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks | Floating market in Mekong Delta

Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks | Floating market in Mekong Delta[/caption]

c) Vinh Trang Temple: This Buddhist temple lives without breath to more than one traveler, an impressive building with the precious history behind.

Ho Chi Ming / Saigon

*1 night

This city, the economic capital of the country is usually called Saigon by the Vietnamese, which is our last stop in our 3 weeks in Vietnam. Big city and a little bit chaotic but with a lot of history and interesting museums to fully understand what this country has gone through.


Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks | Ho Chi Ming city

Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks | Ho Chi Ming city[/caption]

Best things to do in Ho Chi Ming

a) Museum of Vietnamese History: You have to go to this museum to understand how Vietnamese society evolves from the past. It is all very clear and translated into several languages for everyone to understand. It is not big as they have been able to make a good & clear summary of history.

b) Cu Chi Tunnels: One of the most visited tourist attractions of the country. These tunnels were used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnamese war, they are underground tunnels of 200 kilometers long, quite impressive.

c) Pham Ngu Lao Street: The nightlife street and street food places, the best place to be if you want to have fun in this city. There are so many people in the streets and it gets very packed so, be careful with your valuables.

Where to sleep in Ho Chi Ming

There are 24 districts in Ho Chi Ming so, at the moment of deciding where to stay, it may seem a bit confusing. The ideal place for backpackers is District 1. Here, you will be close:

-Main touristic attractions

-Tourism agencies to book your transport to your next destination (sleeping bus to Cambodia as well)

-Restaurants and bars

Total : 21 days / 20 nights

Now, let’s go with the other itinerary alternatives depending on the duration of your journey…


Itinerary alternatives Vietnam

Itinerary alternatives Vietnam[/caption]

2 weeks in Vietnam

– 2 nights in Hanoi

– 2 nights in Cát Bà

– 3 nights in Ha Giang

– 1 night in Hue

– 2 nights in Hoi An

– 2 nights in Da Lat

– 2 nights in Ho Chi Ming

Total : 14 days / 13 nights

1 week North Vietnam Itinerary 

– Arrive at Hanoi Airport: 1 night in Hanoi

– 1 night in Cát Bà

– 3 nights in Ha Giang

– 1 night in Ninh Binh

-Back to Hanoi

Total : 7 days / 6 nights

1 week central Vietnam itinerary

– Arrive at Danang Airpot: 1 night in Da nang

-1 night in Phong Nha National Park

– 2 night in Hue: Hoi Van pass (*explained above)

-2 nights in Hoi An + Day trip to Cham Island

-Back to Da Nang


Total : 7 days / 6 nights

1 week South Vietnam itinerary

– Arrive at Ho Chi Ming Itinerary: 1 night in Ho Chi Ming

– 2 night in Mekong Delta

-2 nights in Mui Ne

-1 night in Da Lat

– Back to Ho Chi Ming

Total : 7 days / 6 nights

With these itineraries, you have all the tools necessary to organize your next journey to Vietnam. In case you have any doubt do not hesitate to contact me on gabriela@nomadicmindtravel.com and I will be happy to help!

See you soon Nomadics and let’s keep on traveling!


gabriela-nomadic-traveler (1)

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