Discover The Best Of Vietnam In 10 Days – A Sample Itinerary

Vietnam is often said to be one of Southeast Asia’s most beautiful countries. Vietnam indeed has many facets that fascinate travelers from all over the world. Nature enthusiasts can explore the country’s gorgeous rock formations, rice terraces, beaches, sand dunes and river valleys. However, Vietnam also features bustling urban centers with both modern skyscrapers and colonial architecture, cultural sights, and numerous historical landmarks. Going on a road trip from south to north (or vice versa) is ideal as it will cover the most beautiful regions and you will be able to experience a little bit of everything.

Vietnam Map Itinerary

The Route In A Nutshell

Day 1: Ho Chi Minh
Day 2: Mekong Delta
Day 3: Bus To Mui Ne
Day 4: Mui Ne
Day 5: Nha Trang
Day 6: Nha Trang
Day 7: Hoi An
Day 8: My Son
Day 9: Hanoi
Day 10: Ninh Binh

Highlights Of The Trip

– Seeing the traditional Mekong Delta
– Visiting the sand dunes in Mui Ne
– Taking a mud bath in Nha Trang
– Strolling around the gorgeous town of Hoi An
– Visiting the UNESCO awarded temple ruins of My Son
– Exploring Vietnam’s capital city Hanoi
– Discovering Tam Coc in the Ninh Binh province.

10-Day Itinerary

Make your way to Ho Chi Minh City one day before the start of your program. Since this itinerary has a pretty tight schedule, be sure to add a few extra days here and there if you prefer traveling slowly. You will spend three nights in a night bus instead of a hotel due to the vast distances you’ll have to cover to get from the south to the north. Mind you, Vietnam is pretty much the only country to offer real sleeper buses for long journeys. Everyone on board has a lot of space and a seat that can be put into an almost 180 degrees horizontal position. Therefore traveling by bus in Vietnam is not only dirt cheap but also super comfortable.

Day 1: Ho Chi Minh City

Accommodation: Ho Chi Minh City

In the morning, make your way to Ho Chi Minh’s Central Post Office (opposite Hard Rock Café). Stroll around the district for a while. It’s a lot more quiet, less crowded and more authentic than the bustling city center. There is a small street full of bookstores and cafés, which offers a couple of instagrammable spots. Not far from here, you’ll also find Notre-Dame Cathedral.

The city center of Ho Chi Minh aka. Saigon is very noise and packed with both people and cars – it will for sure take a while for you to adjust. However, despite having become the modern Vietnamese business capital over the last decade, the city still offers a lot of historical sites. Visit the War Remnants Museum as well as the Reunification Palace to learn all about the 30-year war between the US and Vietnam. Strolling around the city, you will also see a lot of French architecture, beautiful relics from the French colonial era, such as Binh Tay Market, the Central Post Office and the Notre-Dame Cathedral – the last two were even designed by Gustave Eiffel.

Ho Chi Minh
Saigon is Vietnam’s largest city and festures both modern skyscrapers and traditional colonial architecture.

Ho Chi Minh City also offers numerous temples, which you can visit. Among the most colorful and most gorgeous temples are the Mariamman Hindu Temple and the Jade Emperor Pagoda. If you’re into temples, consider taking a trip to Cao Dai Temple 100 km north of Saigon.

This vibrant city has weekend markets in many districts. Be sure to ask at your accommodation if there is one taking place close to you. These weekend markets are famous for their various food stalls. Some of the dishes may not look too special to you, but the combinations make them truly mouthwatering. For example, try some cheese-filled hot dog sausages on a stick wrapped in french fries or go for some Vietnamese Nasi Goreng with chicken and shrimp served in a pineapple. Most of all, the food at those weekend markets is incredibly cheap.

If there’s no weekend market while you’re there, make your way to Co Giang Street in the first district in the late afternoon. Co Giang Street is one of the many famous street food roads. Try to get some Vietnamese specialties, such as Bo La Lot, which has become one of my overall favorite dishes in Vietnam.

Day 2: The Mekong Delta

Accommodation: Ho Chi Minh City

Today it’s time to escape the Vietnamese chaos! Book a day trip to the Mekong Delta, which is located around 70 km from Saigon.

The Mekong is Asia’s longest river with a total length of approximately 4000 km. It starts in China, runs through Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Life around the Mekong is very different to other parts of Vietnam. Thanks to the nutritious soil in the area, there are many fruit plantations and bee farms. On tour, you will visit a traditional farm that produces honey for cosmetical use. You will take part in a traditional Vietnamese tea ceremony and get to taste a plate of locally grown fruits, such as dragonfruit, jackfruit, pineapple, papaya, and banana. You will be shown around a pomelo and water coconut plantation. In small boats aka. sampans, some Mekong villagers will row you through the narrow channels to a coconut candy farm, where you can watch the locals produce sugarfree fudge out of an entire coconut – including free candy! 😉

Mekong Delta
Life around the Mekong Delta is still very traditional.

Afterward, you will take a bigger boat and cross the Mekong River to get to a cute, little restaurant on Turtle Island, where you’ll enjoy an authentic Vietnamese lunch. On the way back to Ho Chi Minh, you will probably also visit the pagoda of Vinh Trang. It’s famous for its three giant Buddha statues in different positions: sleeping (which resembles the present), standing (which resembles the past) and sitting (which resembles the future).

Day 3: Mui Ne

Accommodation: Mui Ne

Book a sleeper bus to Mui Ne in the morning. You’ll arrive at Mui Ne after a 5-hour bus ride. Book a sunrise tour to the sand dunes for the next day. These tours can be booked through most hotels and tour operator shops in town. If you’re still up for it, take a walk around Mui Ne in the late afternoon, grab some dinner and have an early night because you will have to get up way before sunrise the next day.

Day 4: Mui Ne Sand Dunes

Accommodation: Night Bus

The famous Mui Ne White Sand Dunes have naturally been formed by oceanic winds over the last decades. After a one-hour ride, you will get to see a magical sunrise in the desert, surrounded by hills of white sand, the sea and three lakes, one of which is covered by lotus leaves. The advantage of the sunrise tour is not only the fact that the sunrise makes the sand dunes glow but also it is less hot and less crowded.

Afterwards, the trip will take you to the Red Sand Dunes, which are much smaller than the white ones as well as the famous Fairy Stream. Walking up the sandy fairy stream barefoot is indeed an experience you don’t want to miss when you’re in Mui Ne. After a few hundred meters, when most tourists have already turned around, the scenery around the stream becomes incredibly beautiful, with red, yellow and white sand rock formations on each side.

Mui Ne Sand Dunes
Seeing the sun rise in the White Sand Dunes of Mui Ne is a magical experience.

At night, board a night bus to Nha Trang, which will take you around 5 hours.

Day 5: Nha Trang

Accommodation: Nha Trang

The coastal city of Nha Trang is mostly famous for its beaches, diving and mud baths. Nha Trang will only be a short stopover before heading to what will probably be one of the supposed highlights of your trip: the city of Hoi An.

Spend a relaxed day at the beach or enjoy an authentic Vietnamese mud bath including jacuzzi and sauna afterwards. One of the most traditional mud baths can be found at Galina Hotel.

Mud Baths
Taking a mud bath is a must-do activity when in Nha Trang.

Day 6: Nha Trang

Accommodation: Night Bus

If you’re a scuba diver, Nha Trang offers some really decent diving opportunities in the Nha Trang Bay Marine Protected Area. Use this chance to add Vietnam to your log book. Otherwise, go on an island-hopping cruise with one of the numerous tour operators in the city. Lunch, hotel pick-up, and snorkeling gear are usually included in the price. Moreover, you can immerse yourself in the local culture by taking part in a Vietnamese cooking class. These half-day cooking sessions are available at many restaurants in Nha Trang.

Nha Trang
Nha Trang is famous for its beaches, water activities and mud baths.

In the evening, take a night bus to Hoi An.

Day 7: Hoi An

Accommodation: Hoi An

You’ll arrive at Hoi An early in the morning, which is good because it gives you a whole day to discover the city. Hoi An is a beautiful town to explore on foot. Visit the central market, stroll along the river, check out some of the historical sites. Be sure to try some of Hoi An’s street food, for example, the famous fried crabs.

Also, book a tour to My Son the next day. Again, I recommend going for the sunrise tour as it will be less crowded and less hot.

Once it’s dark, the city becomes illuminated, and the colorful lanterns in the streets are lit. You can buy paper flowers with candles inside from locals, light them and release them into the river. It is widely believed that this brings fortune and prosperity. Hoi An with all its glowing lanterns and slow sampans on the river creates a very peaceful and friendly vibe that you will not feel anywhere else in Vietnam. Perhaps it is this atmosphere that makes Hoi An a favorite among travelers from near and far.

Hoi An
Stroll around Hoi An by day and night to see the beautifully lit lanterns in the streets.

Day 8: My Son

Accommodation: Night Bus / Night Train

The tour operator will pick you up at your accommodation and take you to My Son, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, about one hour from Hoi An. My Son is a Hindu temple complex built by the Champa, a predominantly Hindu group of Vietnamese people. The Champa ruled South and Central Vietnam from the 3rd until the beginning of the 19th century. Most of the temple structures at the site were built between the 4th and 14th century with the primary intention to serve as a place of worship. Today, it’s only a set of ruins, but one of the most important heritage sites in Vietnam and often referred to as the Angkor of Vietnam. The whole site lies within a tranquil and remote area making this half-day trip even more special.

My Son Temple
Often referred to as the ‘Angkor of Vietnam’, this ancient temple is best-visited in the early morning.

In the afternoon, take a night bus or night train to Hanoi. The ride is almost 16 hours, which is pretty long, but you’ll cover a long distance. If you want to split the journey, stay in Hue for one night. Hue also offers many sights as well as half-day trip opportunities.

Day 9: Hanoi

Accommodation: Hanoi

The capital city of Hanoi will be the last stop on your trip through Vietnam.

Definitely take a walk around the beautiful old quarter of Hanoi with its narrow streets and colonial architecture. Here you’ll find many restaurants, street food stalls as well as souvenir and handicraft shops. Close to the old quarter, there’s also Hoan Kiem Lake with a small shrine in the middle, which is pretty much the centerpiece of the city.

If you want to see some more of Vietnam’s history, visit the Hanoi Imperial Citadel, which is walking distance from the old quarter.

Hanoi is famous for its old quarter with colonial architecture and many handicraft shops.

Hanoi is also famous for numerous coffee places serving mostly Vietnamese coffee as well as typical dishes like Bun Cha, which is a plate of grilled meat served with broth and fresh herbs.

Book a day trip to Ninh Binh for the next day.

Day 10: Ninh Binh

Accommodation: Hanoi

By car or bus, the tour operator will take you into the Ninh Binh province about 2 hours from Hanoi. Together with a guide, you’ll float down Sao Khe River for a while. You will get to see the beautiful scenery with caves and limestone outcrops. In the afternoon, the tour will also take you to Tam Coc, which is a famous tourist destination elapsing between rice paddies and karstic rock formations. This day trip will be a welcoming alternative to the noisy and chaotic life in Vietnam’s capital city.

Ninh Binh
Ninh Binh is a lovely nature alternative to Hanoi’s bustling city center.

How To Extend Your Trip?

If you still have a few days left in Vietnam, I recommend going to Ha Long Bay, east of Hanoi. This place is one of the most famous destinations in Vietnam, though you should spend at least a few days here to see the impressive towering limestone islands. Go on a cruise or spend some time on an island.

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Hi, I'm Lena. I've been on the move traveling the world, diving oceans and climbing mountains for almost 10 years. On the blog, I share with you my favorite once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences, places off the beaten path and tips on how you can travel and dive the world without spending a fortune. Also, say hi and join my journey on Instagram - see you there!

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2 Responses

  1. I might travel to Vietnam in December this year, specifically Kon Tum. There are many Vietnamese immigrants in my home city, so I’m especially interested in traveling there.

    I met some travelers who have been to Vietnam, and they were also disappointed about their interactions with the locals. While I hope the locals will be friendly when I travel there, I’m not confident about it.

    1. Hi there,
      thanks for your comment!
      Just because I had these experiences doesn’t mean that you’ll have the same. I think you should definitely go there, but be aware of possible rip-off attempts. However, don’t over-worry. 🙂 I’m sure you’ll also meet some incredibly friendly and accommodating people. Locals play a big part when traveling through a country, but landscapes, sights and other things also make a country special. Vietnam is definitely worth a visit.
      Would love to hear about your experiences when you go there in December.

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