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North Vietnam Itinerary – 7 to 10 Days Vietnam Itinerary

Author Carina Klein
· 7 min read · 0 comments

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Our Vietnam 7 day itinerary covers Hanoi, Halong Bay, Tam Coc, and Sapa. If you’re looking for a 10 days in Vietnam itinerary, just add the Ha Giang Motorbike loop to your route.

After letting ChatGPT have a go at creating a Vietnam itinerary, we thought we might as well write about our own backpacking Vietnam route.

Northern Vietnam is the best choice if you only have 7 days in Vietnam as you’ll get to see

  • The capital Hanoi.
  • The rice paddies of Sapa.
  • The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay.
  • Tam Coc, dubbed Halong Bay on land.

If you’re looking for a 10 days Vietnam itinerary, you can add the Ha Giang Loop to your route.

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Vietnam Itinerary 7 days

Day 1 – Hanoi

Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and is definitely worth a visit. Here are our must things to do in Hanoi if you only have one day in Hanoi.

  • Go on a free walking tour. This tour is actually free as the guide will not accept tips.
  • See train street.
  • Visit the French Quarter, St Joseph Cathedral, and the Opera House.
  • Check out Ngoc Son Temple and Hoan Kiem Lake.
  • Visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
  • Have a sunset drink at Sol Sky Bar.
  • Enjoy a rest with an egg coffee.
  • Have a Bia Hoi at Beer Street.
Picture of Hanoi

Day 2 & 3 – Ha Long Bay

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay is a must visit. Whether you opt for a day cruise or an overnight stay, the beautiful bay full of dramatic limestone cliffs should not be missed.

Make sure that you have enough time to explore the bay on your own with a kayak or enjoy one of the many beaches if you’re interested.

How to get from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay

Your first option is a guided Ha Long Bay tour which includes transfers from Hanoi, a night on a boat, and all meals.

Your other option is to take a bus from Hanoi to Cat Ba Island and go on a day cruise around the bay.

Picture of Ha Long Bay cruise
Ha Long Bay cruise

Day 4 & 5 – Tam Coc / Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh is a bigger city with a train station. The backpacker hub in the area is Tam Coc though because of its strategic location within cycling distance to many tourist attractions.

You’ll have roughly 1.5 days to spend in the area so make the most of your time. When you arrive, hop on a boat ride which will actually lead you through limestone caves. You can either go from Tam Coc centre or (if you have the time and energy) walk towards Bich Dong Pagoda where you’ll find Ben Thạch Bich pier which is much less touristy.

On your second day, rent a bicycle and explore the area. The two major sights can be easily reached by bike in one day:

  • Bich Dong Pagoda.
  • The Instagram famous Hang Mua Dragon Viewpoint.

How to get from Ha Long Bay to Tam Coc

Buses from Ha Long Bay / Cat Ba Island to Tam Coc do include the ferry ride. You might have to change buses.

Picture of Tam Coc boat tour
Tam Coc boat tour

Day 6 & 7 – Sapa – 2 days / 1 night

To be time efficient, embark on your hike as soon as you hop off the night bus. We opted for a guided tour because it was cheap and convenient but we met several other travellers who just hiked on their own.

Make sure to stay in a homestay to get a glimpse into the lives of the ethnic minorities that live in the Sapa area like the Hmong.

Here’s our honest review of our Sapa Vietnam Trekking:

How to get from Tam Coc to Sapa

A comfortable night bus ride from Tam Coc to Sapa takes 8 to 10 hours.

Picture of Sapa rice paddies
Sapa rice paddies

Vietnam Itinerary 10 days

Day 8, 9 & 10 – Ha Giang Loop (Express)

If you have 2 or 3 nights more to do an itinerary for Vietnam in 10 days, the highlight of your Vietnam backpacking itinerary will be the Ha Giang Motorbike Loop – either driving yourself or with an easy rider.

Again, you’ll have to hop on the bike right after you hop off the night bus to save time but it’s possible.

The regular loop takes 3 nights / 4 days but you can get an express tour with 2 nights / 3 days where you’ll stop less but drive the same route.

Here’s our honest review of our Ha Giang Loop Tour

How to get from Sapa to Ha Giang

Comfortable night buses will take you directly from Sapa to Ha Giang.

Picture of Ha Giang Motorbike Loop
Ha Giang Motorbike Loop

From Ha Giang, you can either go back to Hanoi or travel further south to Hue or Hoi An which we both loved and can 100% recommend.

North Vietnam Itinerary FAQ

Is North Vietnam Worth Visiting?

Yes, North Vietnam is absolutely worth a visit!

How Many Days Do You Need in North Vietnam?

The minimum we would suggest is spending 7 days in North Vietnam. The sweet spot to see all the highlights is 10 days in North Vietnam.

Worst Time to Travel Northern Vietnam

Normally, we don’t write about this topic but we feel like we need to warn you. We went in backpacking in Northern Vietnam in January and can absolutely not recommend it. It was cold. We mean really cold. There was snow on Fansipan when we visited. We even cut our time short and ended up not visiting the Ban Gioc waterfalls because we needed some warmth.

Where to Sleep in Northern Vietnam

We loved sleeping in homestays in Northern Vietnam for four reasons: 1. It is cheap, 2. You will get the best local tips. 3. You get a glimpse into Vietnamese everyday life. 4. The food is the freshest because it’s literally home-cooked.

North Vietnam Tours or Independent Backpacking?

Northern Vietnam has a great deal of tourist infrastructure. This makes it super easy to travel the region. Theoretically, you can embark on guided tours from Hanoi to Ninh Binh, Ha Long Bay, or Sapa without having to organise anything on your own.

On the other hand, there are plenty of public transport options (you can check them out at 12Go) if you want to be on your own schedule and sort things out yourself.

This is why North Vietnam is the ideal destination for first time travellers as well as seasoned backpackers.

How to Get Around Northern Vietnam

For long distances like Hanoi to Sapa or Sapa to Ha Giang, super comfortable night buses are your best option. For shorter distances, regular buses are a great choice.

Except for the way from Hanoi to Sapa, trains are not the best option to travel around North Vietnam as the train stations are often too far away from the tourist attractions.

Picture of Vietnam night bus
Vietnam night bus

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