Ultimate Vietnam itinerary for 2 to 3 weeks

Vietnam is an amazing country with stunning landscapes, delicious food, and thrilling adventures. It’s the perfect place for backpackers since you can get around easily using public transport. On top of that, Vietnam is also super budget-friendly! Even though we spent “only” 26 days there, it felt like we could have stayed much longer! From the lively streets of Hanoi to the stunning landscapes of Halong Bay and the charming vibes of Hoi An, this ultimate Vietnam itinerary for 2 to 3 weeks covers all the must-visit destinations.

Vietnam in 3 weeks

The following itinerary is perfect for a 3-week adventure in Vietnam, giving you a taste of both the city’s hustle and the country’s natural beauty. Before we dive into each destination, here’s an overview of all the places you’ll explore:

Hanoi – Cat Ba Island – Ninh Binh – Phong Nha – Hue – Hoi An – Ho Chi Minh City

The ultimate Vietnam itinerary for 2 to 3 weeks: 3 weeks in Vietnam

Day 1 to 3: Hanoi

Ultimate Vietnam itinerary for 2 to 3 weeks: Hanoi

The first 3 days you’ll explore Hanoi, Vietnam’s vibrant capital. From the famous Train Street and delicious street food to the historic Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, there’s so much to explore. We recommend joining a street food tour in the Old Quarter to get to know Vietnamese cuisine. Plus, you’ll experience Vietnam’s crazy traffic, with scooters buzzing around you everywhere! We suggest you do most of your sightseeing on foot, because it’s the best way to explore and experience Vietnam’s capital.

Where we stayed: Graffiti Hotel

▶️ Discover 12 unique things to do in Hanoi.

Day 4 to 8: Cat Ba Island

Cat Ba Island

On day 4, you’ll head from Hanoi to Cat Ba Island, which takes about 4 hours by bus and ferry. Take your time exploring this beautiful island with its exciting hikes, breathtaking views, and caves. It is also a more relaxed place than Hanoi, so make sure to take in all the peace and quietness it offers! For the last two days, you’ll enjoy an unforgettable Halong Bay overnight cruise. Enjoy breathtaking landscapes, delicious food, and a luxurious setting. It was the highlight of our Vietnam trip, make sure you don’t miss out! It will be one of the best parts of this ultimate Vietnam itinerary, too. 😉

Where we stayed: Cat Ba Hongkong Hotel

▶️ Read all about the best things to do on Cat Ba Island.

Day 9 to 10: Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh

On day 9, you’ll take a 4-hour bus ride from Cat Ba Island to Ninh Binh. With its lush green rice fields, tranquil rivers, serene lakes, majestic limestone formations, and mysterious caves, this place is a paradise for nature lovers. It was one of our favorite places in Vietnam, life here is refreshingly uncomplicated. The whole vibe that surrounds Ninh Binh is just… magical. On day 10, you’ll take a night bus from Ninh Binh to Phong Nha, a 6-7 hour ride. Hope you get some sleep!

Where we stayed: Ninh Binh The View Point Home & Spa

▶️ Our one-day Ninh Binh itinerary covers the best activities to enjoy in just 24 hours.

Day 11 to 12: Phong Nha

Phong Nha

Since you arrived early in the morning, you probably won’t do much on the first day. Inform your accommodation that you’ll be arriving early (or very late, depending on how you look at it). They might even give you an “early check in room” where you can rest your eyes for a bit! We recommend having lunch at Xin Chao Restaurant, a cozy restaurant along Phong Nha’s main road. The food here is delicious, the staff is super friendly, and the views from the balcony are to die for! Make sure to arrange your Paradise Cave and Dark Cave tour for the next day, this was one of the highlights of our trip! Your accommodation can do this for you, but if you want to book in advance we suggest checking out this awesome Paradise and Dark Cave tour in Phong Nha. It even features a zipline!

Where we stayed: Phong Nha Coco Riverside

Day 13 to 14: Hue


On day 13 you’ll head from Phong Nha to Hue, which takes about 4 hours by bus. Must-visit places in Hue include the Hue Imperial City, Thien Mu Pagoda, and the abandoned water park (our favorite). And don’t forget to try the smoothie bowls at Nook Eatery, they’re the best we’ve ever had!

Where we stayed: Robin House

Day 15 to 18: Hoi An

Ultimate Vietnam itinerary for 2 to 3 weeks: Hoi An

Your next stop is Hoi An. We highly recommend doing the Hai Van Pass on day 15, it’s the best way to reach Hoi An while enjoying stunning views along the way. You’ll even get to visit the Marble Mountains, a group of five impressive limestone mountains along the way. We planned to do the Hai Van Pass but had to cancel due to food poisoning. But, no regrets because now we have (yet) another reason to return to Vietnam!

If the Hai Van Pass does not appeal to you, you can check this link to see what other transportation might be available from Hue to Phong Nha. For the other three days, you’ll explore the charming town of Hoi An. This cute little town is definitely in our top 3 must visit places in Vietnam. Don’t forget to get some tailored clothes made, as Hoi An is famous for its tailor shops! Also, Hoi An is famous for its banh mi, too. If you need recommendations, we suggest checking out our guide for the best banh mi spots in Vietnam.

Where we stayed: The Nam An Villa Hoi An

▶️ Discover 9 great things to do in Hoi An.

Day 19 to 21: Ho Chi Minh City

Ultimate Vietnam itinerary for 2 to 3 weeks: HCMC

You’ll end your Vietnam trip in Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city in Vietnam. The easiest way to get there is by taking a flight from Da Nang, which takes about an hour and a half. If flying is too expensive, you’re looking at a 20 hour bus ride from Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh City. Browse availability for all kinds of transportation from Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh City here. While Ho Chi Minh City wasn’t our favorite spot in Vietnam, we still had a great time soaking in the city’s energy. From the iconic Cafe Apartments and the beautiful Tan Dinh Church to the impressive rooftops, there’s plenty to enjoy!

Where we stayed: Haven Hut Hotel

▶️ This ultimate one-day Ho Chi Minh City itinerary covers the best things to do in Saigon.

Vietnam in 2 weeks

If you’ve got 2 weeks in Vietnam, we recommend skipping Phong Nha and Hue. Phong Nha is fantastic for adventure, but besides cave exploration, there’s not much else to do there. Hue is lovely, but we found Ninh Binh and Hoi An much cozier and enjoyable! These two destinations were our favorite places in Vietnam, so if we had to choose we’d easily skip Hue. Do know that the route from Ninh Binh to Hoi An will be a long one, but this link will give you a nice list of all the possibilities to get from Ninh Binh to Hoi An.

Also, consider spending only 3 nights on Cat Ba Island instead of 4, and 1 night in Ho Chi Minh City instead of 2. Even with the cruise, you can experience the highlights of Cat Ba Island in just a day. Similarly, you can cover the best of Ho Chi Minh City in just one day as well. Here’s how your 2-week itinerary in Vietnam would look like:

Hanoi – Cat Ba Island – Ninh Binh – Hoi An – Ho Chi Minh City

2 weeks in Vietnam

Some general information

You can also follow this ultimate Vietnam itinerary for 2 to 3 weeks in reverse, starting with Ho Chi Minh City. It’s your choice!

We skipped the Ha Giang Loop due to budget constraints, but it’s on our list for the next Vietnam trip! If you plan on doing the loop, add 4 extra days for a more relaxed experience. While it can be done in 3 days, 4 days allow for a better pace.

We visited Sapa but didn’t enjoy it much, this is why we didn’t include it in our itinerary. It felt too touristy: we were bombarded by locals offering hikes, souvenirs, and scooters from the moment we arrived. Despite the stunning landscapes, the vibe wasn’t our cup of tea. The best part was our romantic getaway at Viettrekking Sapa, we had a fantastic room with incredible views. Browse this link to see if Viettrekking Sapa has a room for your dates!

We also spent 3 nights in Da Nang, but we preferred Hoi An. That’s why we recommend doing a day trip from Hoi An, since it’s just a 30-minute drive away.

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