Vietnam is a country of wild contrasts from beautiful golden sandy beaches to rugged mountainous terrain. It’s long and slender shape might seem easy to cover in a short amount of time, but with questionable transport, an ever changing landscape and so many possible stopping off points you can easily find yourself here a lot longer than anticipated. With a total of 10 weeks in Vietnam and counting under our belts over 2 trips we’ve put together “The Ultimate Vietnam Itinerary: 3 weeks”. For most travellers a 3 week Vietnam itinerary is an ideal amount of time to get lost in the bustling cities, relax on the serine beaches, weave through the highlands, immerse yourself in culture and history, trek through the mesmerising rice terraces and finally sail among the towering karst towers of Ha Long Bay!
3 weeks in Vietnam. Is It Enough Time?
Well, in a word… No! A 3 week Vietnam itinerary leaves much to see!
But don’t let that dishearten you, how long is enough time in Vietnam? Honestly, how long is a piece of string. After 10 weeks and counting we have still much more to see and for those who are willing to go totally off the beaten track and out into the wild lands along the border regions it can be one of the most fulfilling, enlightening and adventurous places to explore in the world.
But of course, that’s not for everyone and there is certainly elements of the wilder side of Vietnam that can be seen in a shorter trip alongside some of the big hitters such as Hoi An, Ha Long Bay, Ha Noi, Da Lat and the coastal regions. 3 weeks in Vietnam allows you to really get a sense of the different sides to the country and explore the North, Central and Southern regions.
Having seen quite a bit of the country having travelled from Saigon to Ha Noi back in 2017 and now completing the trip again whilst adding in new destinations we feel this itinerary is perfect for those wanting to see the “main sight” but also includes some additional adventures along the way so you don’t miss out on what we consider to be the “real Vietnam!”
Vietnam Backpacking Itinerary:
When Should You Visit Vietnam?
Unlike much of the rest of Southeast Asia Vietnam has different climate zones with the south generally staying with the rest of the region experiencing a wet and dry season whilst being hot year round and the north of the country having a more traditional 4 seasons.
This means it can be high 30’s and humid down in Saigon and snowing up in Sapa! So planning a 3 week Vietnam itinerary can be tricky.
So when is the best time to come? Well that depends on what your priority is and where you want to spend the most amount of time. WIth Vietnam it’s best to expect any and all weathers at any time!
The north can be bitter and cold in the Northern Hemisphere winter months but it is usually dryer, though we’ve experienced our fair share of rain in that time too. Summer is generally hotter and wetter. Also bear in mind that Hanoi also has a different climate to places like Sapa which is generally cooler due to its altitude and is wetter in the summer too.
The south of the country experiences a wet season over the Northern Hemisphere summer months and a dry season over the winter. It’s hot all year round but the summer is much more sticky and humid. Places like Da Lat are much more temperate all year round though they will be rainier in the summer!
So, there’s no real perfect time to come if you’re seeing the whole country but we suggest the Spring or Autumn months to get the best of both worlds. Between March and May or from September to November you should hopefully miss the downpours and humidity of the south and the bitter cold of the north.
3 weeks in Vietnam Itinerary:
Transportation Options in Vietnam
Getting around Vietnam at times can be a real hassle. Each journey might only be a few hundred km but the truth is the roads are wild and dangerous and the buses are some of the worst culprits for outrageous driving. The sleeper buses are some of the most common options but can be some of the most hair raising. Depending on where you are headed there may be other options such as the train, air travel, a short bike hire or a mini bus… or you might just have to brave the sleepers too unfortunately!
We recommend booking online with 12GoAsia as a reliable and secure way to reserve your seats especially if you are on a tight and well planned schedule like a 3 week Vietnam itinerary.
Buses are the main form of transport all across Vietnam and are the cheapest and most widely available. Routes fan out across pretty much the entire network of roads, cities and towns across the nation. You can get almost anywhere on the buses and they are affordable too. For your 3 weeks Vietnam itinerary you will likely need to use them!
The main issue is safety, especially with the sleeper buses and particularly at night time. If you can get on a regular seated coach then do and also avoid travelling at night on the any of the roads if you can but especially highway 1 which is insane!
That being said, bus travel all across Asia is questionable at best and part of travelling in this region is accepting some of that danger in the pursuit of adventure. We would just say to take the bus during the day, get a seated bus if you can or go for the smallest bus. These buses do run every single day and although there are accidents it’s not like they happen all the time. Just prepare for a wild ride with plenty of beeping and swerving!
We recommend booking through 12GoAsia as the most reliable and trustworthy online agency with transparent pricing and a review system too so you can see what others made of each available option.
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3 week Vietnam Itinerary: Train Travel:
Train travel is by far the best way to get around on your 3 week Vietnam itinerary! However, the route is limited to following the coastal path up the country though you can get all the way from Saigon to Lao Cai which is close to Sa Pa.
This means that if you plan on going to places in land such as Da Lat, Phong Nha and the further central highlands or Ho Chi Minh Road area then you will need to take a bus. There is talk of fixing the line up to Da Lat as it does have a train station but who knows when that might be.
Train travel in Vietnam is much more relaxing and laid back than the bus and much safer too. You will pay more but if you opt for the lower classes the price still isn’t expensive and is perfect for any 3 week Vietnam itinerary.
Train travel is the best choice for your Vietnam 3 week itinerary but book as far in advance as you can, you can do that online with 12GoAsia.
You can also take your motorbike on board the trains but it will cost quite a lot and there are limited spaces available for this service.
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Domestic travel across Vietnam via air is another good option especially for those on tighter time constraints. Vietnam Airlines connects all of the main cities and even some of the more regional places too. There are also flights available with Jetstar and Viet Jet. If you’re on a planned out trip like a 3 week Vietnam itinerary then flying is a great way to optimise your time.
Flights will be one of the most expensive methods of transport and airlines in Vietnam are notorious for being quite strict with baggage allowance and charging quite a lot extra. It does however cut down on a LOT of travel time and is much safer than the buses! Flying is ideal for a 3 week Vietnam itinerary as it cuts down a lot of travel time!
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Vietnam itinerary: 3 weeks:
Bike Hire/ Motorbike Travel:
We opted for motorbike travel throughout the whole of our time in Vietnam and whilst this is by far the most fun and adventurous way to see and travel the country and a favourite for those backpacking Vietnam.
However on a three week Vietnam itinerary it’s just not really practical without intense planning. (We will write a post with some suggested short and longer routes for motorbiking in the future)
We don’t recommend doing a 3 week Vietnam itinerary if you want to tour on a bike as you should give yourself more time as it’s a much more gruelling and slow method than you might initially think!
That doesn’t mean though that you can’t experience motorbike travel here on your 3 week Vietnam itinerary.
We highly recommend you rent them out on your day to day adventures in most destinations as you can see so much more. But do be very careful in the chaotic Vietnamese traffic, avoid Highway 1 and Saigon and drive within your ability!
But there are also areas of the country where you can make the journey on a bike. One just route is the famous Hai Van Pass between Hoi An and Hue. There are many companies who offer rentals between these two cities as well as easy rider tours (you’re on the back of the bike whilst a professional rides!). It really is a must do on any Vietnam 3 weeks itinerary.
This is a great way to get a taste of motorbike touring in Vietnam on one of the best roads in the country and also a road in which most large vehicles are banned. We recommend using Style Motorbikes where you can rent anything from a simple scooter to semi manuals to several different sizes of full manual. They also do a luggage transfer service so you can ride without bags or you can just strap them to the back too.
3 weeks in Vietnam:
Minibus/ Vans and Private Transfers:
Another option to consider if your budget stretches this far and you are worried about travel in Vietnam is to opt for the smaller minibuses/ Vans or even a private driver. It is a good method of transport on your 3 week Vietnam itinerary for journeys where trains and planes don’t go.
For the minibus option be sure to select “van” on 12GoAsia but be aware that on some routes it might not be possible.
For private transfers and drivers you can check this company out (Vietnam Private Transfers) and also speak directly to your accommodation too for recommended services.
3 Week Itinerary Vietnam: Suggested Route:
Saigon/ HCMC – 2 Day
Da Lat – 2 days
Quy Nhon – 2 days
Hoi An – 3 days
Hai Van Pass – 1 day
Hue – 1 day
Ninh Binh – 1 day
Hanoi – 2 days
Halong Bay – 1 day
Sapa – 2 days
Hanoi – 1 day
This itinerary leaves some room for transport/ transit and an extra day here or there especially if you fly. It covers 18 days of travel in 21 days that is 3 weeks.
Vietnam in 3 weeks:
Week 1: South and South Central Vietnam
Saigon/ HCMC – 2 days
Start off your journey by arriving in Saigon, otherwise known as Ho Chi Minh City.
Saigon is a city of contrasting options, some people love the hustle and bustle of the busy streets where as other people find it overwhelming. It certainly isn’t a slow introduction to Vietnam and you’ll be thrown right in at the deep end! The 7 million motorbikes that clog the roads with their fumes and beeps take some getting used to but it does have its charms!
With a short amount of time to cover the whole country we suggest having two days to explore Saigon before moving on to some of the more beautiful parts of the country.
Spend a day taking in the culture and history of the city through a combination of touring the old colonial buildings as well as immersing yourself in the markets of the city. Be sure to sample plenty of street food and end your day in the busy backpacker streets of district 1 (Phạm Ngũ Lão street) for a taste of the chaotic and crazy night life of Saigon even if it’s just as an observer!
On your second day make a trip out to the Cu Chi Tunnels in the morning via a tour. Head back in the city and explore war era related sights. Visit the Reunification/ Independence Palace as well as the moving War Remnants Museum before heading to the statue of Ho Chi Minh himself across from the beautiful People’s Committee of HCM Building. Then explore the surrounding area with its juxtaposition of hammer & sickle banners, propaganda posters and upmarket western designer boutiques and malls! Stop by the cool Cafe Apartments too in this area.
Places to see in Saigon:
Notre Dame Cathedral
Saigon Post Office
District 1 backpacker street/ Phạm Ngũ Lão street
Ben Thanh Markets
Statue of Ho Chi Minh/ People’s Committee of HCM Building
The Independence/ Reunification Palace
War Remnants Museum
Cu Chi Tunnels – Just outside the city so take a tour
Where To Stay In Saigon/ HCMC
Backpacker Budget: Dola Hostel
Right in the heart of the city and ideal for backpackers this hostel is dirt cheap but offers great extras like multiple plug sockets for each bed, curtains for privacy, great lockers and comfortable beds alongside clean bathrooms. It also offers a good free brekkie and a great chilled and social vibe with the roof terrace, lounge and balcony areas… it’s also close to a circle K which is ideal!!
Mid Range Hotel/ Accommodation: SStay RiverGate Saigon
An elegant private apartment perfect for couples, groups of friends or families it is located in a quieter and more upmarket areas of the city. It offers a fitness centre, garden area, kitchen and even a pool for a great price. It even has room service!
Reasonably Priced Higher End Accommodation: Icon Saigon
With an infinity pool, small gym and ideal location in the heart of the financial district of the city we spent our Christmas Day at Icon Saigon whilst in the city. For budget travellers looking for a reasonably priced bit of luxury for a few days this is an ideal place. It offers a great buffet breakfast with afternoon tea, coffee and snacks as well as a free minibar (non alcoholic) and doesn’t break the bank either!
Transport To Saigon
Getting to Saigon is easy from the rest of the region and further afield. Being Vietnam’s main airport it is well connected to destinations around the world including Australia, France, China, Turkey, Japan, Korea, India, Russia and The Middle East, you can also get flights more locally to almost anywhere in Vietnam as well as many destinations in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei, Singapore and The Philippines.
Bus travel overland is also easy from neighbouring countries. We arrived in Saigon from Cambodia both times and the border crossing and journey was pretty straight forward. We recommend travelling from Phnom Penh if you do the journey as it’s better connected with a more direct service.
Book Your Tours for Saigon
Da Lat – 2 days
Head out to the highlands and the cooler temperatures of Da Lat. The city might surprise you with how big it is for this region but it’s still a welcome break from the chaos and heat of Saigon. Up here you can escape into nature by exploring the villages, waterfalls, mountain passes and coffee plantations of the central highlands of Vietnam.
Hire out a motorbike and explore. Head to Elephant Waterfall but take your time and stop at the multiple viewpoints and villages along the way.
Carry on further down this road to the abandoned Tiger Waterfalls passing some amazing views of the coffee terraces and some lovely local villages. The road is rough at times down towards the falls but you will be greeted with a real hidden gem unlike the more touristy offerings closer to the city that we found underwhelming. You will likely have the waterfall to yourself!
Take a canyoning tour to really see what Da Lat is all about! Leap off waterfalls, abseil down cliff faces and take on the adventure capital of Vietnam in a beautiful location. Any Vietnam 3 weeks trip has to include this incredible adventure!
After all that excitement it’s time to head inside and warm up with some Da Lat weirdness! Explore the 1000 roofs/ Maze cafe with a hot cup of coffee and/ or head to the Crazy House for even more wacky architecture!
Places to see in Da Lat:
Local villages and coffee plantations
Linh Phouc Pagoda
Crazy House and Maze Cafe (1000 roofs)
Where To Stay In Da Lat
Backpacker Budget: Treehouse Hostel
A fun and friendly hostel ran by a Brit and his Vietnamese wife they really create a family atmosphere here. The hostel is quiet and laid back and ideal for those who want that social element without a party atmosphere. The beds here are creatively fashioned into treehouse style bunks which is really fun. They are also very knowledgeable about the area and great for booking tours and transport. We loved our time here.
Mid Range Hotel: Tasme Hotel
Ideal for travelling couples the Tasme Hotel offers great spacious and clean en-suite rooms for a similar price to what you might pay for two beds in a dorm. With a kettle in the room too, a desk, TV and set in a quiet area of town it offers great value for budget travellers not wanting a hostel.
Reasonably Priced Higher End Accommodation: New Life Hotel
New Life Hotel is a great option especially for couples wanting to treat themselves without breaking the bank. This 3 star hotel has a fantastic buffet breakfast, restaurant, bar and lounge as well as a terrace and garden. It offers panoramic views over the city whilst being just far enough out to escape and relax.
Transport To Da Lat
The train won’t go up to Da Lat so your options are limited. You can take the bus which can be sometimes a little scary on the winding roads, you can find a smaller van or you can take a short flight up here from Saigon.
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Book Your Tours for Da Lat
Quy Nhon – 2 days
Forget Mui Ne or Nha Trang, they are over run, over developed and overly expensive. Instead head further on to the more authentic, quieter and less touristy coastal town of Quy Nhon. We absolutely fell in love with this city and the surroundings and stayed longer than anticipated. You will enjoy the beaches, wild coast, fishing villages and laid back local vibe much more than Mui Ne or Nha Trang (unless you’re a vacationing Russian of course!)
Rent a bike and head south of the city to Ganh Da Dia. It’s a long day but you will be rewarded with some of the best and most unique coastline Vietnam has to offer in the shape of Giant’s Causeway style basalt columns. Getting there means taking the highway traversing the coast, crossing a bamboo bridge, riding through rice paddies and small villages before exploring the incredible features of this section of volcanic coastline!
Stay more around Quy Nhon itself and explore the unspoilt beaches and fishing villages of the region. Hit the main beach before heading to Bai Xep village and the secluded beaches here for a hit of local culture and relaxation at the same time! Your Vietnam three week itinerary has to include some time by the coast and this is the perfect off the beaten track place!
Places to see in Quy Nhon:
Gahn Da Dia/ Bamboo Bridge/ Fishing Village
Quy Nhon beach
Ky Co Beach
Where To Stay In Quy Nhon
Backpacker Budget: Halo Hostel
One of our favourite hostels in Vietnam where the staff are not only absolutely lovely but go out of their way to help you or just to make your stay even more special. We had a free family dinner too one evening and they have even rescued a stray puppy with a broken leg! The dorms are spacious and comfortable with curtains, lights and plug sockets. If they are quiet they often spread people out so you have a dorm to yourselves which is a nice thoughtful touch.
Mid Range Hotel: La Cactus Hotel
A fun, modern and basic hotel that offers great rooms for those still on a budget but wanting something more than a hostel. Centrally located for the city but also within a short stroll to the beach it’s the perfect place for backpacking couples.
Reasonably Priced Higher End Accommodation: Seaside Boutique Resort Quy Nhon
With a huge pool, beachside location and fitness centre the Seaside Boutique Resort offers a slice of luxury for a great price given the facilities. It offers the ultimate getaway with its own private beach and being up the coastal road from the city centre. It’s easy to use a grab or rent a bike to visit the city but in Quy Nhon it’s all about the coast!
Transport To Quy Nhon
Getting to Quy Nhon is relatively straight forward but can require some connections.
Once you are back down on the coast you can take a train to Dieu Tri and then connect on the local service down to Quy Nhon. The closest airport is Phu Cat which is around 30 km from the city, it only flies domestically and flights aren’t available from Da Lat but they are from Saigon.
Buses will also require you to connect probably also along the coast in Nha Trang as it is a bit more of a niche place but trust us it’s well worth the effort.
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Book Your Tours for Quy Nhon
Vietnam 3 week Itinerary:
Week 2: Northern Central Vietnam
Hoi An – 3 days
Hoi An ancient town is somewhere that splits opinions just as much as Saigon but for different reasons. It’s undoubtedly beautiful and has that crumbling colonial alure that alongside the glowing lanterns is hard to resist. But the other side of things is the overtourism, sanitisation and scams of the town. But any Vietnam in three weeks guide just has to include this iconic location!
It almost feels like a disneyland for tourists where you can’t turn a corner without being hounded for money. But make your own mind up, there are some genuinely amazing experiences to have here especially in the surrounding countryside and the town is still well worth visiting. Just go there with a realistic idea of what to expect and a keen sense for scams!
Explore the city on foot: wander the yellow wash alleyways, take in the old houses and the ornate pagodas and get lost beneath the mesmerising lanterns. Be sure to stay for the evening when the city lights up and the rainbow of colour sway gently in the wind. You can either check out a map off all the sights, wander and get lost or you could always take a guided walking tour if you want more of a local insight into the history of the town.
Be wary of scams especially involving the fruit sellers forcing you to take photos and buy fruit for extortionate amounts! Unfortunately this isn’t the place for authentic and intimate street photography!
Be sure to also stop at Banh Mi Phuong for what Anthony Bourdain described as the “Best Banh Mi in the world!” It’s a fun place to add to any Vietnam Itinerary: 3 weeks.
Take an Eco Tour out to the local villages nearby. You can explore the fishing culture, learn how rice is farmed, ride around the coconut forests in a coracle and have a local cooking lesson. The options are endless and can often be combined into an unforgettable day learning about all aspects of the culture of this region from war time heartache to centuries old traditional ways of tending the land.
Hit the beaches, Hoi An is not only famous for it’s old town and Eco Tours but being close to the coast here are some great beaches here too. An Bang, Cua Dai and Binh Minh are great options close to the city. If your budget allows then a tour or boat trip out to the idyllic Cham islands is a perfect way to end your time in Hoi An.
Places to see in Hoi An:
Japanese covered bridge
Fujian Assembly hall
Chuc Thanh pagoda
Quan Kong Hoi An Temple
Explore the Old Town
Take in The Lanterns At Night
Local villages, fishing communities, rice farmers
An Bang Beach
Cua Dai Beach
Binh Minh beach
Where To Stay In Hoi An
Backpacker Budget: Serendipity Hoi An Hostel
A really clean and modern top rated hostel in Hoi An which includes a breakfast too. Here you can even get a reasonably priced private room too as well as dorm rooms. The hostel is located close to the old town and easily accessible on a bike and there is a really great social environment which is ideal for those travelling alone. There is also a swimming pool which for a hostel is incredible!!
Mid Range Hotel: Tropical Sands Villa
Located near the beach area of Hoi An the Tropical Sands Villa is an ideally priced hotel with a luxury feel. With a swimming pool, free bike rental, impressive breakfast and a garden and lounge area it ticks all the boxes at a great price.
Reasonably Priced Higher End Accommodation: La An Central Boutique Villa
For the price this place is absolutely incredible and for those wanting a bit of a treat whilst backpacking or those on a holiday then this is a perfect option without breaking the bank. With a swimming pool, fantastic modern decor and an extensive buffet breakfast it has that real luxurious feel without being overly fussy. It is also located only 100m from the old town so you couldn’t get any more convenient!
Transport To Hoi An:
A great option to get to Hoi An from Quy Nhon is to take the train from Dieu Tri to Da Nang. Each one is easy to get to from both destinations and the train is a much more scenic and enjoyable journey than racing down highway 1.
For those coming here direct from Da Lat the main option is the bus though there is a short flight available from Da Lat to Da Nang.
Da Nang is a major city on the coast between 30-40 km away depending on your mode of transport. You can easily arrange a cheap private transfer or use the Grab App which is similar to Uber but operates in Southeast Asia.
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Hai Van Pass – 1 day (Pass Through From Hoi An to Hue)
The Hai Van pass was made legendary during an episode of Top Gear, the winding road clings to the side of a mountain whilst overlooking the ocean below. It really is an experience worth putting yourself out for and is often touted as one of the best roads in the world with Jeremy Clarkson describing it as a “a deserted ribbon of perfection”. It lives up to its reputation too and is a complete joy to ride for both motorbike enthusiasts and beginners.
The distance from Hoi An to Hue is only 121 km but this is a route to take your time over and spend the whole day to enjoy. The pass itself takes up only 21 km of the journey, but with almost 11 degrees of incline and a road that snakes through the mountainous landscape it’s not one to rush.
The Hai Van Pass is not only a beautiful and exhilarating experience but it’s a significant place for Vietnam. The pass is roughly half way up the country and for centuries split the Cham people of the south and the Dai Viet Kingdoms to the North. It also divides the different climates of the country too with the south being warm all year round and the North being colder and wet in the winter.
How to do the Hai Van Pass:
You have three main options: Rent a motorbike or scooter, take an easy rider bike tour or take a minibus/ car tour. Each option allows you to experience the road and the pass in different ways.
Rent a scooter/ Motorbike
Renting a motorbike or a scooter is the ultimate way to tackle the Hai Van pass, you feel and traverse every bend and can stop whenever and wherever you like. Rental companies offer different motorbikes and allow you to ride one way and drop off. You can also arrange luggage transit or strap them to your motorbike. If you’re a beginner we recommend hiring a motorbike a few days before and getting some practice.
We recommend “Style Motorbikes” for your rental.
Take an Easy Rider Tour/ Sidecar Tour
An easy ride tour is a great compromise if you want to feel the wind in your hair but you’re not quite confident about riding yourself. Share a motorbike with a professional rider and stop at all the incredible vantage points along the way with a personal guide and fun photo ops on the motorbike. Luggage can be set in a separate vehicle so you can just enjoy the trip.
Take a Minibus/ Car Transfer Tour
A minibus/ Car transfer tour is the most sensible option. Essentially a transfer over to Hue you will have pre arranged stops along the way and the fortifications at the top where you will likely have lunch. Luggage comes with you on board and it’s a great option for families and groups.
Book Your Tours for The Hai Van Pass
Hue – 1 day
Being the home to the one time imperial capital of Vietnam the ancient seat of the one time Vietnamese Royal Family is a great place to visit for a day. It was in fact still the capital of the country for 143 years until 1945 when the Nguyen Dynasty collapsed.
For a city with such a rich history today it is a pretty unassuming place which is laid back and easy to explore.
The main attraction here is the remains of the old Citadel and the imperial tombs. Construction dates back to 1804 but many of the artifacts and buildings were badly damaged in the Vietnam/ American war which reflects the cities turbulent past. You will see many in various stages of restoration as you explore. There are also several tombs to see around the city too with Khai Dinh’s and Emperor Minh Mang’s Tomb being the most worthwhile.
Being a centre of Buddhism in Vietnam there are also lots of amazing places of worship all over the city with Thien Mu Pagoda being the most important and occupying a great vantage point over the Perfume River.
Another cool place to see outside of Hue is the abandoned theme/water park. It’s technically off limits but a flexible security guard will let you in for a small “fee”, it’s got that creepy vibe going on and has recently become quite an instagram it!
Places to see in Hue:
The Imperial City
Emperor Minh Mang’s Tomb
Khai Dinh’s tomb
Thien Mu Pagoda
The Abandoned Theme Park
Where To Stay In Hue:
Backpacker Budget: Loving Home Hue
A great guest house where we stayed during our time in Hue so it comes highly recommended. A well maintained and lovely place to stay with some of the most comfortable beds in Asia as well! The staff here are also really lovely and so helpful and for breakfast they offer a wide variety of choices and alway offer you extra servings too!
Mid Range Hotel: Beaulieu Boutique Hotel
A really lovely place to base yourself in Hue especially for couples wanting somewhere a little bit more upmarket but still on a budget. With a great buffet breakfast, elegant design and a central location it’s the perfect place to base yourself whilst exploring Hue.
Reasonably Priced Higher End Accommodation: Cherish Hue Hotel
Located right in the centre of Hue and situated by the banks of the famous perfume river Cherish Hotel is ideal for those wanting luxury at an affordable price. Boasting a pool and a spa and wellness centre as well as a gym and onsite restaurant it’s ideal after a long day riding!
Transport To Hue:
Getting to Hue is easy as it has quite a few transport options. Most will arrive from Hoi An or Da Nang on a Hai Van Pass tour but there are other options too.
Hue is connected to the reunification railway that runs from Saigon to Hanoi which is also a quite scenic journey if you miss out on the Hai Van Pass.
Hue Airport (Phú Bài Airport) operates flights to and from Saigon, Hanoi, Da Nang and Da Lat
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Book Your Tours for Hue:
3 week Vietnam Itinerary:
Week 3: Northern Vietnam
Ninh Binh – 1 day
Time for the long trip north from Hue, between the imperial city and Ninh Binh sights dry out a little unless you’ve got time to cut inland through the Ho Chi Minh road and into Phong Nha National Park. No worries though as you’re about to head straight towards another limestone wonderland in Ninh Binh!
Think of it as a Halong Bay without the water, where sharp towering peaks of Karst rock punctuate the rice paddies below and women gently drift down the river miraculously rowing with their feet!
Spend a day exploring the stunning landscape here, either rent out a motorbike, push bike or do an organised tour to make the most of your time here.
Take a boat trip down Tam Coc to get a sense of the scale and beauty of the place from ground level and watch in awe as the local women somehow manage to row with only their feet, talk about hands free! Then head off to the peaks and scale the top of Mua Cave for panoramic views down to the snaking river below, emerald green paddies and ice grey limestone cliffs.
Places to see in Ninh Binh:
Boat Ride Through Tam Coc
Mua Cave Climb
Bich Dong pagoda
Explore The Villages, Peaks and Temples on a Bike
Where To Stay In Ninh Binh:
Backpacker Budget: The Banana Tree Hostel
A really fun, unique and chilled out hostel in Ninh Binh! Located in Tam Coc close to the main attractions and mountainous rural landscape of Ninh Binh it is the ideal place to explore the area from. There is also a pool, bar, restaurant, table tennis, pool table and bike hire.
Mid Range Hotel: Tam Coc Holiday Hotel & Villa
This hotel is an absolutely stunning option even for those on a budget who just want something a little bit special. Offering free bikes, a swimming pool, garden, room service and sun terrace it’s a great place to relax. With an extensive breakfast buffet too and it’s perfect location in Tam Coc it’s a perfect base for Ninh Binh at a good price.
Reasonably Priced Higher End Accommodation: Bai Dinh Garden Resort & Spa
An absolutely incredible and unique place to base yourself in Ninh Binh this resort offers bungalow style accommodation in a garden setting for a really reasonable rate. With a pool, fitness centre, bar and lovely garden area as well as a spa and a really incredible breakfast you might not want to leave!
Transport To Ninh Binh:
Nihn Bihn is less than 100km from Hanoi so transport is pretty each. However it’s quite a long journey from Hue but it’s a popular stop off point so it should be easy to organise transport on any Vietnam Itinerary: 3 weeks.
Trains and buses are available on this route but it will take between 10-13 hours. Trains are the most comfortable and safety of the two but they are quite a bit more expensive.
Ninh Binh doesn’t have an airport but with Hanoi only being 94 km away and with good transport links on seated buses and the train you could always fly to Hanoi and head down for a day.
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Book Your Tours for Ninh Binh
Ha Noi – 2 days
Time to head back to the big city and one of our favourite places to hang out in Vietnam. Most people find Hanoi much more charming and alluring than Saigon and that is in part down to it’s charming french quarter and more laid back vibe.
Enjoy a day on foot getting lost in the old quarter of the city. Eat street food, dash down alleyways, gaze in awe at the wonderful crumbling colonial architecture. Then head to Hoan Kiem Lake as the sunsets for a peaceful evening.
Hit up some of the varied architecture and history of Hanoi by heading to the Temple of Literature that dates back to 1070, whilst in this area of the city also visit the UNESCO site of The Imperial Citadel of Thăng Long which harks back to the same period. Moving on in time head to the Hanoi Opera House, a fine example of colonial architecture dating back to 1901. Then to finish off the eras queue up to enter the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh. A strange but quintessentially communist experience the building was constructed between 1973-1975 in a style combing influence from Lenin’s mausoleum in Moscow with a modern take on Vietnamese architecture.
Places To See In Hanoi:
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Explore The French Quarter
Hoan Kiem Lake
Dong Xuan Market
Hanoi Opera House
The Temple of Literature
Imperial Citadel of Thăng Long
Where To Stay In Hanoi:
Backpacker Budget: Hay Hostel
A great centrally located hostel which offers a buffet breakfast, beds with curtains and individual fans as well as a bar and lounge. This light, modern and clean hostel with a balcony for each room is a really great budget option in an unbeatable location and with a social vibe but without being a party hostel. It does also offer reasonably priced private rooms too.
Mid Range Hotel: Hanoi Elpis Central hotel
An elegant and stylish hotel right in the heart of the old town this boutique hotel is perfect for those wanting a high standard on a modest budget. With a continental breakfast, highly rated staff and right by Hoan Kiem Lake backpacking couples or budget travellers will love the luxury this place affords them.
Reasonably Priced Higher End Accommodation: Sunline Paon Hotel & Spa
Centrally located this modern and elegant hotel offers a rooftop pool and bar overlooking Hanoi alongside a spa and fitness centre and extensive buffet breakfast. For those looking for some luxury for a reasonable price this is the perfect spot in Hanoi. Enjoy panoramic views, comfortable rooms and 4* service for budget friendly prices for those wanting a treat.
Transport To Hanoi:
Hanoi being the capital city of Vietnam is well connected as expected. So the next bit of your Vietnam Itinerary: 3 weeks is easy to organise from here.
Buses run from almost every other city and corner of the country but expect them to take a while depending on where you are coming from though they should be bookable at short notice.
Trains connect Hanoi to Saigon via the reunification line that runs down the coast of the country. There is also a northern extension line that runs up to the Chinese border too.
Hanoi Airport serves almost every domestic destination but internationally it is somewhat limited by only offering flights mostly within Asia. However it is connected to hubs such as Singapore, KL, Hong Kong and Dubai. You can also connect domestically at Saigon for flights to Europe and Australia.
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Halong Bay – 1 Day Tour From Hanoi
Halong bay is a highlight of Vietnam for many of those who visit this wonderful country. Sailing through the mesmerising limestone formations has a real Jurassic Park vibe. Despite the fact it might not be quite as serine as it once was it still has an unmatched allure that has to be seen to be believed.
Visiting and scaling features such as monkey islands, kayaking through the many tiny caves within the peaks and witnessing the floating fishing villages in the bays was an unforgettable experience. Many of the more expensive tours also offer a much more intensive day including stopping off at more bays and islands as well as swimming opportunities in the warmer months. Halong Bay should still be pretty temperate all year round but can be slightly colder and wetter in the winter months.
With time being short we recommend doing a tour from Hanoi which should include transfers and food.
Book Your Tours for Halong Bay:
Sa Pa – 2 day Tour From Hanoi
Heading up to the far north of Vietnam was probably our overall highlight of our time in the country when we first visited and something we’re looking forward to expanding on during this trip.
It’s possible to head up to Sapa on your own and organise a trekking tour with some local tribes women but being on a tight schedule (on a Vietnam Itinerary: 3 weeks) we recommend doing a 2 day overnight tour from Hanoi.
Sapa is unlike anywhere else we’ve been, the combination of the unique tribal culture that still survives amongst the Red Dao and H’Mong peoples with the awe inspiring landscape makes it a perfect destination. Rice terraces cling to the misty mountains as tiny villages appear and disappear amongst the clouds with wandering tribes women keeping their traditions alive with their clothing and way of life. Staying with local families in the middle of this enchanting landscape, immersing yourself in a totally unique environment and culture is something that will stay with us forever.
Transport To SaPa:
If you want to make your own way up to Sapa you can take a bus all the way or a train to Lao Cai with a short bus up the mountains to Sapa itself. You should factor this in to your Vietnam Itinerary: 3 weeks.
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Ha Noi – 1 Day
Head back to the big city and spend one last day in the chaos of Vietnam. Wander aimlessly, indulge in street food, dodge motorbikes and just soak it all in. Before you go head to the Dong Xuan Market for some last minute souvenirs and bartering! Your 3 week Vietnam itinerary is unfortunately at an end but hopefully you’ve made some amazing memories.
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Vietnam itinerary: 3 weeks:
Ok, so there you have it! There’s a lot to see and do in Vietnam and 3 weeks might seem like a long trip for most people but it really is only long enough to scratch the surface. Your Vietnam itinerary: 3 weeks will provide you with a real taste of this fascinating country and all its highlights!
However you can still pack in a lot of the highlights and get a good mix of urban chaos, varied history, phenomenal landscapes, extraordinary culture and once in a lifetime experiences. With Vietnam you get to combine beaches with urban sprawls, mountains with citadels and tribal treks with war relics. It really has something for everyone and makes the perfect destination for those wanting a trip filled to the brim with varied adventures!
3 Weeks in Vietnam Itinerary: Related Content
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Hey, You’ve Got Your Travel Insurance Sorted Haven’t You?
Travelling and especially backpacking is a wild adventure, but make sure you are covered just incase something goes wrong, which if you’re living it up to the fullest it’s always a possibility! Any Vietnam Itinerary: 3 weeks will need some great insurance cover before you travel.
Check travel insurance prices with World Nomads here!
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