A trip to Northern Vietnam will be an experience you’ll never forget! The north of Vietnam is filled with dramatic landscapes, hearty food, and unique customs. Our in depth travel guide will get you prepared for all the must see destinations of the northern region. We hope you use our Northern Vietnam itinerary to help plan your own visit to the country! The 7 and 11 day routes are based on our favorite places and experiences along the way.
How to Get to Northern Vietnam
The easiest place to start your Northern Vietnam travels is at Hanoi International Airport! Not only is Hanoi the capital of Vietnam and its largest city, but it’s also the jumping off point for all the most desirable spots to visit.
If you’re coming from the United States or Europe your flight might arrive into Ho Chi Minh City instead. This is understandable, as the southern city is a major international hub.
However, if possible you’ll want to arrive into Hanoi for this Northern Vietnam itinerary. This way you can avoid an extra domestic flight! Skyscanner is a great tool to compare flight deals and dates when you start your planning.
Already in Vietnam and traveling up to Hanoi from the South? Make sure to check out 12Go which is amazing resource for buses, trains, and transfers throughout the country.
Northern Vietnam Itinerary Breakdown
Northern Vietnam is one of the most beautiful areas of the country! However, it can be a little tricky to travel around. While there are endless transportation options you’ll often find yourself transferring back through Hanoi before continuing on.
The first thing you may notice about our Northern Vietnam itinerary is we left out the famous town of Sapa. Yet, there is actually a good reason for this!
There is honestly so much to see and do in the North of Vietnam that it’s impossible to fit everything into a quick trip. Instead of Sapa we recommend doing the Ha Giang Loop! Still, these two places can be swapped for each other in our one week and 11 day Northern Vietnam itineraries.
7 Day Northern Vietnam Itinerary
- 3 Nights Hanoi Vietnam
- 2 Nights Tam Coc Vietnam
- 2 Nights Ha Long Bay
11 Day North Vietnam Itinerary
- 3 Nights in Hanoi Vietnam
- 2 Nights in Tam Coc Vietnam
- 2 Nights in Ha Long Bay Vietnam
- 4 Nights Driving the Ha Giang Loop
Tips For Your Northern Vietnam Itinerary
Transportation: 12Go is what we use to book ferries, trains, buses, and transfers while traveling through North Vietnam! Even if you end up booking through your accommodations, it’s a great resource to get an idea of what the travel options are.
Accommodation: We mostly use Booking.com for hotels which is what we recommend in this post. However, it’s always good to compare multiple sites like Agoda and Hostelworld if you’re traveling in Northern Vietnam on a budget.
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without insurance. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years and they are always there when we need them.
Northern Vietnam Itinerary
Hanoi – 3 Nights
As both the capital and our favorite city in Vietnam, Hanoi will be an amazing place to start your Northern Vietnam itinerary.
Explore the back streets of the old quarter, take a spin around the lake, and soak in the views from the epic cafes and rooftop bars. Hanoi is the type of city that you’ll be happy to get lost in as you dive deeper into the real Vietnam!
Highlights of Hanoi
- Walk around Hoan Kiem Lake and visit the Temple of Jade Mountain.
- Get lost in the Old Quarter where each street takes on its own theme.
- Eat your way through the best Hanoi specialties or jump on a food tour!
- Drink fresh beer and take in the night life on Ta Hien Street.
- Join a Vietnamese Cooking Class and market tour.
- Shop for warm clothing in the stores and night markets.
- Try an egg coffee on Hanoi’s railroad tracks.
- Go to the famous Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre.
Where To Stay in Hanoi
Peridot Grand Luxury Boutique Hotel– Amazing luxury property with a rooftop swimming pool overlooking Hanoi.
Nova Luxury Hotel – Right next to the Hanoi Old Quarter with a beautiful chic design.
Scent Premium Hotel – Located in the center of the Old Quarter and just a quick 2 minute walk to the lake.
Little Charm Hanoi Hostel – Clean rooms, soft beds, and in the heart of Hanoi. Great budget option in one of our favorite places to visit in Vietnam.
Next Stop: Tam Coc
How To Get There: Book a 1.5 Hour shuttle transfer from Hanoi
Tam Coc – 2 Nights
Tam Coc and the surrounding Ninh Binh is a part of the country that is just starting to become popular. Yet, it still doesn’t draw as large of crowds as the well known tourist destinations in the North of Vietnam.
It is an extremely rural and stunning area where massive limestone cliffs tower over the land. Tam Coc truly feels like you’re in another world!
Highlights of Tam Coc
- Take a boat ride through the UNESCO caves where the women row with their feet.
- Explore the Bich Dong Pagoda.
- Take a bicycle or motorbike ride through the rice paddies.
- Visit Mua Caves and hike up Lying Dragon Mountain.
- Get a taste of mountain goat which is a popular dish in North Vietnam.
*Short on time? Know that it is also possible to do a day trip to Tam Coc from Hanoi! We loved this town and would highly recommend at least two nights if you can.
Where To Stay In Tam Coc Northern Vietnam
Tam Coc Garden Resort – Located out in the rice paddy fields which makes it the perfect place to relax in Ninh Binh. The secluded property includes large bungalows and a beautiful pool.
Ninh Binh Hidden Charm Hotel & Resort – This is a hotel instead of a lodge or bungalow. Hidden Charm is also complete with restaurant, gym, and pool.
Tam Coc Nature Lodge – The rooms are surrounded by rocks and mountains which gives you a one of a kind intimate feel in nature.
The Banana Tree Hostel – Banana tree is an awesome place to make friends, hang out by the pool, and plan your next adventures through Vietnam.
Next Stop: Ha Long Bay
How To Get There: Book a 2 Night Ha Long Bay Cruise with transfer to and from Hanoi included. Some companies will pick you up directly from Tam Coc. Otherwise, you will first have to transfer through Hanoi!
Halong Bay – 2 Nights
Here it is! The nature of Halong Bay is what many people come to Vietnam for to begin with. This may be a highlight of your Northern Vietnam itinerary, so we recommend spending a little more money on a boat to enhance the experience.
If you’re coming from Hanoi it’s easy to book a tour that includes a transfer to and from the city. There are many different companies that cater to different travel styles and prices.
Highlights of Halong Bay
- Spend two nights at sea sleeping on the water and sailing through Ha Long Bay.
- Buy snacks from the local boat vendors.
- Sit on the top deck and take in the massive rock mountains that shoot up from the water.
- Go kayaking through Ha Long Bay.
- Hike or ride a bicycle on Cat Ba Island.
Next Stop: Ha Giang Loop via Hanoi
How To Get There: Limousine bus to Ha Giang that can be booked at any hotel or tourist center in Hanoi. You may want to spend one night in Hanoi in between to rest before this next part of this North Vietnam guide!
Ha Giang Loop – 4 Nights
If you have more than one week then driving the Ha Giang Loop will be the perfect end to your trip! We have been to Vietnam 5 times now and it’s still the best thing we’ve done in the country. Each day the scenery became more and more impressive to the point where we still question if what we saw was real.
You might have thought that places like this only exists in movies, but it’s right here in the North of Vietnam! You just have to jump on a motorbike or take a tour to the far reaches of of the country to find it.
To start your journey, we recommend booking a room at LiLa Inn in Ha Giang town. They will be able to arrange your transportation from Hanoi and get you all set up. Most accommodations rent motorbikes and provide all the information you need for your trip.
The most popular way to experience Ha Giang is by motorbike, but you can hire a driver and do it with a car. There are also Easy Rider’s that will take you on the back of their motorbike!
→ Read all about our 4 Day 3 Night Motorbike Route in Ha Giang
Ha Giang Warning
The Ha Giang Loop is for the adventurous traveler who might be looking for something more than a relaxing vacation. If this part of our Northern Vietnam Itinerary isn’t for you consider switching Ha Giang for Sapa. This popular destination can easily be reached by train from Hanoi.
Highlights of Ha Giang
- Grab a coffee at Heaven’s Gate for a spectacular view.
- Climb the Lung Cu Flag Tower on the border of China.
- Plan extra time for lots of photo stops and viewpoints.
- Participate in a family dinner at your homestay.
- Ride through the rice paddies in Du Gia.
- Sample the local “happy water” (rice wine) if you dare!
Where To Stay in Northern Vietnam Ha Giang
It’s important to mention that this loop is through very rural Vietnam. The accommodations are limited and extremely basic. If you are making the trip during high season you will want to consider booking in advance.
Night 1 (Ha Giang) – LiLa Inn – Private rooms and dorm beds. Lila Inn also rents bikes, helps with route planning and book transfers back to Hanoi.
Night 2 (Yen Minh)- Hoang Vu homestay – Very basic accommodations. Just before town and surround by nature.
Night 3 (Dong Van) – Ancient Town 29 Phố Cổ – Private rooms and dorm beds close to the center of town.
Night 4 (Du Gia) –Du Già Village Homestay– Private rooms and dorm beds. Located in the center of town.
Next Stop: Hanoi
How To Get There: Book your transfer back to the Hanoi with your guesthouse in Ha Giang.
Where to Go after North Vietnam
Have some more days to explore after the North of Vietnam? From Hanoi you can catch an overnight bus to Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park! This area of the country filled with massive caves and one of the most beautiful and underrated destinations to explore.
From Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park jump on another overnight bus or take a train to central Vietnam. You can easily spend a week or two bouncing between Hue, Da Nang, and Hoi An before continuing more south! We cover these destinations and so much more in our itineraries below.
Have any questions about North Vietnam or want to share your own tips? Leave us a comment below!
Brigitte and Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!