Northern Vietnam Itinerary: Best Places to go & Helpful Travel Information

Are you planning a trip to Northern Vietnam and wondering what to expect? Look no further! In this comprehensive travel guide, Indochina Voyages will explore the beautiful region of Northern Vietnam, highlighting common and off-the-beaten-path areas worth visiting bonus more perfect itineraries for you. Let’s begin!

What can you expect in Northern Vietnam?

From the bustling streets of Hanoi to the awe-inspiring beauty of Halong Bay and the marvelous rice terraces with unique ethnic minorities and cultures of the mountainous area, North Vietnam is a colorful picture for curious travelers. So Northern Vietnam includes which destinations? Let’s see:

Common Areas

Pictures of Northern Vietnam
A Glimpse of Northern Vietnam

Hanoi – The bustling capital city of Vietnam is a vibrant blend of ancient traditions and modern developments. Explore the charming Old Quarter, visit historical sites like the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, and indulge in delicious street food.

Halong – Known for its iconic limestone karsts rising from emerald waters, Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take a cruise through the bay, explore hidden caves, and witness stunning sunsets over the karst landscape.

Sapa – Nestled in the Hoang Lien Son Mountains, Sapa is famous for its lush terraced rice fields and vibrant ethnic hill tribes. Embark on scenic hikes, visit local villages, and immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of the region.

Ninh Binh – Often referred to as “Halong Bay on land,” Ninh Binh captivates visitors with its stunning karst formations, rice paddies, and riverine landscapes. Take a boat ride through the Trang An Grottoes, cycle through picturesque countryside, and explore ancient temples.

Ha Giang – For adventurous souls, Ha Giang offers rugged landscapes, winding mountain roads, and vibrant ethnic communities. Experience the famous Ma Pi Leng Pass, journey through the Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark, and witness breathtaking panoramic views.

Mai Chau – Situated in a peaceful valley surrounded by mountains, Mai Chau offers a tranquil retreat from the bustling cities. Trek through scenic trails, learn about the local White Thai culture and stay in traditional stilt houses.

Off-the-beaten-path Areas

Cao Bang and Pu Luong Vietnam

Apart from the common areas, there are also off-the-beaten-path destinations worth exploring in Northern Vietnam:

Cao Bang – Located near the border with China, Cao Bang is a hidden gem known for its stunning landscapes, including the impressive Ban Gioc Waterfall. Discover the beauty of the UNESCO Global Geopark, visit ethnic minority villages, and hike in the captivating natural surroundings.

Pu Luong – Not really in the Northern but also in North Central, it offers a serene escape into nature, Pu Luong Nature Reserve is a hidden paradise of terraced rice fields, lush forests, and ethnic Thai villages. Immerse yourself in the tranquility, go trekking, and stay in eco-friendly accommodations.

Highly Recommended Itinerary

If you only have 7 or 10 days, then a high recommendation is visiting Vietnam in one region to avoid the rush. Hence, the best for explore and admire all the senses of Northern Vietnam is at least 7 days and 10 to 14 days to fully experience the region’s beauty. Here’s a suggested itinerary for you to cover all the highlights of Northern Vietnam:

Day 1: Hanoi Arrival and explore Signature Hanoi Old Quarter

After arriving in Hanoi, Xin Chao and welcome to the 1000-year-old city of Vietnam! This land adheres to local laws that prioritize modest, simple tube-style structures, blending seamlessly with the city’s colonial ambiance and celebrating education and the arts.

This day, after arrival and having time, let’s take a stroll around Hanoi Old Quarter by night to immerse yourself in its vibrant atmosphere. Don’t forget to try some Vietnam cuisine such as Bun Cha, Pho, or Egg Coffee.

Day 2: Hanoi City Tour and Prepare for head to Sapa – Lao Cai

Today is a Hanoi City Tour with various enchanted attractions:

  • Ho Chi Minh Complex: Explore the stilt house museum, mausoleum, and presidential palace of Ho Chi Minh.
  • One Pillar Pagoda: Discover the Vietnamese Buddhist practices and admire the unique architecture of this iconic pagoda.
  • Temple of Literature (Van Mieu): Visit the historic university showcasing the 11th-century temple and immerse yourself in its cultural significance.
  • Ethnology Museum: Explore the fascinating indoor and outdoor exhibits that highlight Vietnam’s diverse ethnic groups.

Then, let’s spend dinner in Hanoi Old Quarter again with delight in the incredible flavors of Vietnamese cuisine, with options like Pho, Bun Cha, and Street BBQ, which are specific dishes that you could not try yesterday.

After dinner, you should have a short rest before going to Hanoi Station and preparing for an overnight train to Sapa – Lao Cai

Ho Chi Minh Complex in Hanoi
Ho Chi Minh Complex in Hanoi

Day 3: Arrival and Trekking in Sapa with ethnic minorities’s villages

Arrive at Lao Cai train station in the morning then transfer to your accommodation in Sapa and prepare for the beginning of the trekking tour in Sapa. The first trekking route that we suggest you explore is Lao Chai – Ta Van Village, inhabited by the Hmong and Dzay ethnic communities. Let’s enjoy the breathtaking views and engage with the friendly local tribes, making your experience truly authentic. Indulge in a delicious lunch along the way.

Return to the main road, where your vehicle awaits to transport you back to Sapa town. The remainder of the day is yours to enjoy at your leisure.

Day 4: Sapa – Ma Tra – Ta Phin Village

This day will continue your Sapa Trekking journey in the Northeast of Sapa with the Ma Tra – Ta Phin Villages route:

  • Ma Tra Village is inhabited by the Hmong people
  • Ta Phin village: a traditional craft village is home to two different ethnic minorities, the Red Dzao, and the Black H’mong.
  • Optional, you can visit Cat Cat Village – one of the most common villages in Sapa. However, this village has become too commercial and touristy, but this is still a good option for buying some souvenirs

Enjoy the last dinner in Sapa before going on an overnight train and prepare to come back to Hanoi for the next destinations.

Enjoy Sapa Trekking Tour in Northern
Enjoy Sapa Trekking Tour in Northern

Day 5: Hanoi and embark on cruising UNESCO Heritage of the World Halong Bay

After back to Hanoi, let’s have breakfast and prepare for a journey to Halong Bay.

Upon arrival, board a cruise and embark on a captivating journey into the heart of this natural wonder around 12:00 p.m. Marvel at the thousands of limestone islands that emerge from the emerald waters, resembling dragon fangs.

Immerse yourself in the local way of life by visiting a fascinating fishing village later in the day. Interact with the fishermen, who have been working in the bay for generations.

As the day progresses, witness the breathtaking sunset while enjoying drinks or participating in a culinary class on board the boat. This magical experience combines the vibrant hues of the sky with the tranquil waters, leaving an indelible impression of beauty and serenity.

Indulge in a sumptuous supper on board, savoring the flavors of the region then relax for overnight on Halong Bay Cruise and enjoy the enchanting atmosphere of Halong Bay for the night, creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Enjoy cruise in Halong Bay
Enjoy cruise in Halong Bay

Day 6: Explore the limestone cave in Halong Bay and back to Hanoi

Begin your day with a serene Tai Chi workout and witness the captivating sunrise over Halong Bay, fostering a deep connection with nature and inner peace. After breakfast, visit a stunning limestone cave adorned with intricate rock formations, stalactites, and stalagmites, showcasing the magnificent artistry of nature.

After that, cruise back to the dock, savoring one last look at the breathtaking beauty of Halong Bay. Check out at noon and return to Hanoi by car. Enjoy free time to shop, relax, and experience the vibrant nightlife of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, overnight in a hotel in Old Quarter, and prepare for Ninh Binh’s journey tomorrow.

Day 7: Ninh Binh excursion

Let’s spend this morning admiring the hustle and bustle of Hanoi Old Quarter in the morning, then hop on a journey to Ninh Binh – which is known as Halong Bay on land.  Prepare to be amazed by its breathtaking landscapes, featuring towering limestone mountains, verdant rice fields, and serene riverways that will captivate your senses.

As an optional day trip, you can visit Tam Coc-Kenh Ga on the way to Ninh Binh. Here, you have the opportunity to ride a sampan along a picturesque stream, passing through enchanting caverns and lush rice fields that feel like a glimpse of heaven. The rural scenery offers a rewarding experience, leaving you with lasting memories.

Ninh Binh - Halong Bay on land of Vietnam
Ninh Binh – Halong Bay on land of Vietnam

Day 8: Hanoi Departure

Back to Hanoi after 1 week explore Northern Vietnam and prepare for your next journey.

Please note that the information provided above is just a suggestion and can serve as a reference for exploring the highlights of Northern Vietnam. If you are interested in a comprehensive tour that covers the region, Indochina Voyages also has the same tour package called Tonkin Elegance for 8 days. Moreover, with Indochina Voyages, you can customize your tour until it suits you best based on your specific requirements with our travel consultants.

Furthermore Northern Vietnam Itineraries

Apart from the suggested itinerary, there are many other ways to explore Northern Vietnam. You can focus on specific areas or customize your itinerary based on your interests. Consider these Northern Vietnam Itineraries:

Adventure Northwest 7 Days

Adventure The Winding Northwest 7 Days

Hanoi – Mai Chau – Son La – Dien Bien Phu – Sapa

Best for: Interested in North Vietnam’s mountains

  • Stay in the beautiful green valley of Mai Chau which is home to the White Thai ethnic
  • Wander the historic battlefield of Dien Bien Phu that put an end to the French colonial time in Vietnam
  • Close interaction with diversified and colorful ethnic minorities in Northwest Vietnam travel

>> View more

Explore Northeast Vietnam Adventure in 7 Days

Adventure The Northeast Vietnam 6 Days

Ba Be Lake – Cao Bang – Ban Gioc waterfall – Halong bay

Best for: Interested in North Vietnam’s mountains

  • Cruise along Ba Be Lake with an alluring landscape
  • Trek to a tribal village and visit homes of ethnic minority people
  • Spend a home-stay night with the hospitable host family
  • Cruise in magnificent Halong Bay

>> View more

Beautiful golden rice terrace in Ha Giang Vietnam

Explore Unfold Ha Giang 5 Days

 Hanoi – Ha Giang – Quan Ba – Dong Van – Meo Vac

Best for: Interested in Ha Giang Loop

  • Cruise along Ba Be Lake with an alluring landscape
  • Trek to a tribal village and visit homes of ethnic minority people
  • Spend a home-stay night with the hospitable host family
  • Cruise in magnificent Halong Bay

>> View more

Helpful Travel Information

Here are some essential travel tips and information to make your trip to Northern Vietnam even more enjoyable:

Best Month to visit Northern Vietnam

The best time to visit Northern Vietnam is during the spring (March to April) and autumn (September to November) seasons. The weather is pleasant, with mild temperatures and less rainfall. Meanwhile, these months also offer a beautiful sense of rice fields in many regions.

Best Month for Rice Fields in Northern Vietnam

If you’re looking to witness the stunning rice fields in their full glory, depend on mountainous destinations to plan your visit during the months:

  • Ninh Binh: May
  • Mai Chau:  End of May to June.
  • Mu Cang Chai: September to October
  • Sapa: Late August to early September
  • Hoang Su Phi: September and October
  • Bac Son: The end of July and the end of November

FYI:  9 Most spectacular Vietnam rice fields & Recommended Things to Do

With this comprehensive travel guide, you’re now equipped with all the information you need to plan an unforgettable journey through Northern Vietnam. From the bustling streets of Hanoi to the serene rice fields of Sapa, Northern Vietnam offers a diverse and captivating experience that will leave you with lasting memories. So pack your bags, immerse yourself in the beauty of this region, and get ready for an adventure like no other!

Thuy Dang – From Indochina Voyages Team

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