If you are planning to visit Vietnam for 2 weeks, let us help with the detailed itinerary about things to do for 15 days in Vietnam. Vietnam is a beautiful country to explore. Spend 15 days in Vietnam will be enough for you to meet friendly people, enjoy great food as well as every amazing things and exciting activities in this S-line country. In this article, we will provide a recommended schedule for your 15 day itinerary in Vietnam.
Table of Contents
During 15 days, you will be able to explore a lot of city attractions in Hanoi, experience an overnight cruise in Halong Bay and discover beautiful beaches in Da Nang and the best things in Hue, Hoi An ancient town. Also, head to the Southern part of Vietnam, you can discover amazing things in Mekong Delta area as well as Ho Chi Minh City. Below is our recommended itinerary for you:
Day 1: Arrive at Hanoi
Day 2: Hanoi one day tour
Day 3: Hanoi-Mai Chau-Trekking/ Biking to village
Day 4: Trekking to Buoc Village-Transfer to Hanoi
Day 5: Hanoi-Halong Bay-Overnight on Cruise
Day 6: Bai Tu Long Bay-Hanoi
Day 7: Flight to Hue
Day 8: Hue one day tour
Day 9: Hue-Danang-Hoi An
Day 10: Hoi An one day tour
Day 11: Explore Hoi An
Day 12: Hoi An-Danang-Flight to Ho Chi Minh city
Day 13: Discover Mekong Delta
Day 14: Explore Ho Chi Minh City
Day 15: Ho Chi Minh Departure and finish your trip
Now, let’s see what are waiting for you to explore in this beautiful country.
Depending on what time you arrive at Hanoi, you will know how to arrange your schedule for the first day here. To transfer from Noi Bai airport to the city centre, you have several options. The first one is that you can take a bus at the bus stop at the airport. The second one, you can take a taxi right outside of the gate. If you land in the morning, you can transfer to your hotel, check in and then explore Hanoi in the afternoon. If you land late in the afternoon or in the evening, you don’t have many options other than relax and get ready for the next day.
However, who don’t get excited when they first come to a new country? We bet you would love to go out, see new things and find out what’s interesting for you. Therefore, we recommend some activities you might enjoy the first day in Vietnam. Other than sightseeing, there are some kinds of traditional performance which you cannot find anywhere else than in Vietnam.
The Water Puppet Show presentsancient tales
The first one is the Water Puppet Show which plays in Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre or Lotus Water Puppet, both of them are near Hoan Kiem Lake. In this show, puppets are moved under the water with folk music in the background, presenting ancient tales in the Vietnamese countryside. After the show, you can buy souvenir puppets at the theater. The other show we recommend is the Tu Phu (Four Palaces) Show. This is about ritual spirit practiced in the Vietnamese religion. However, this show only runs on Thursday and Saturday every week.
To start the second day in Vietnam, you should have the famous Vietnamese beef noodle soup (pho bo) for breakfast. Next, there are many tourist attractions in Hanoi that you would love to visit. You can begin with the Temple of Literature (Quoc Tu Giam). This is the first university of Vietnam which was founded in 1076 to educate Vietnam’s royalty, mandarins and also the members of elite. The Temple of Literature is one of Hanoi’s most picturesque attractions with an excellent example of traditional-style Vietnamese architecture.
The Temple of Literature Hanoi
Visiting the Temple of Literature you will see many turtle steles, courtyards, passageways, and pavilions along with historic buildings from the Ly and Tran dynasties. These buildings now become a memorial to education and literature where you can find the names of successful graduates engraved on a stone stele.
Leaving the Temple of Literature, you can come visiting Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is the final resting place of uncle Ho, the most iconic leader of Vietnam. His body is preserved in a glass case inside the Mausoleum. It was constructed in 1973 and was first opened to the public in 1975. Visiting Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, you should dress with respect, just like when you step in a pagoda. However, visitors are not allowed to bring their bags and cameras inside because of tight security. Additionally, you have to move quickly as the place is constantly busy. You also need to check with your hotel before getting there if it is open that day.
For lunch, we suggest you should try Bun cha, one of the most famous dishes in Hanoi. Then continue with Tran Quoc Buddhist Pagoda which is located next to West Lake, the largest lake in Hanoi. Tran Quoc Pagoda has a history of more than 1500 years, so it is considered to be the most ancient pagoda in Hanoi. Visiting the pagoda, you can admire the beautiful architecture along with the picturesque West Lake.
Another destination that you cannot miss is Hoan Kiem Lake. This peaceful and quiet place is a perfect spot to observe daily activities of Hanoians. Contrary to Hoan Kiem Lake, the Old Quarter right next to it is a bustling place with beer streets, bars and pubs where you can find a lot of travellers as well as locals relaxing and having fun. It is definitely a great spot to enjoy the exciting nightlife in Hanoi.
Mai Chau is a mountainous area in Vietnam which is famous for the green rice paddies and outstanding beauty of nature. This place is home of Thai and H'mong ethnic minority groups. Visiting Mai Chau, you will be able to explore the spectacular scenery, visit remote area and experience the life of these hospitable villages.
Trekking to rural villages in Mai Chau
Mai Chau is about 140 km from Hanoi then it takes you about 3 hours on the bus to get there. If you are adventurous, you can rent a motorbike and ride there. Either way, you should get up early, have breakfast before starting your journey, and make sure to have a short stop for refreshment. Once you get to Mai Chau, you might need a local guide and then ride to Xa Linh Village or Tra Day village, have lunch there and then head to Hang Kia, where you can start your exciting trek to beautiful villages.
The first one you could do is a trek from Hang Kia to Van Village. Van Village is the home of white Thai minority group, it is a beautiful village for you to explore. The first thing you do to get there is to spend one hour to walk on jungle trail. Then you will walk down the hill, passing beautiful farm and terraces while enjoying stunning mountain views with expansive valley. Afterwards, you will cross a small river and reach the village. You can spend some time to observe daily life of the locals here which will be exciting for you.
For the next trek from Van Village to Buoc Village, it will take you about 3 hours, so you can choose to do it the first day, or wait until the next day. Buoc Village is another home of white Thai minority people. To get to this scenic village, you will go uphill and downhill through farms, terraces and bamboo forest. If you decide to do it the next day, you can spend the night in one of the local home in Van Village.
On the second day in Mai Chau, you should get up early and enjoy the sunrise over the mountain tops while local farmers do their early morning activities. Afterwards, you can have breakfast with the local family you are staying with, before starting 3 hours of trekking to Buoc Village. Once you get to Buoc Village, enjoy traditional lunch there. Then you can ride a bicycle or walk around to see the peaceful surrounding of the village, watch their daily activities to understand more about their culture and customs. You can also spend time shopping before getting back to Hanoi. Since you have had 2 days of trekking, you need to rest for a new adventure on the 5th day in Vietnam.
Halong Bay was declared to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 and also voted as a Wonder of Nature by the New7Wonders Foundation. This is definitely a place worth visiting and you should spend one night in this world famous bay. The best way to experience this picturesque landscape is by boat or cruise. As Halong is a popular destination for travellers, booking a Halong Bay cruise is easy and available at every hotel and travel agency in Vietnam.
Based on your budget, you can book a luxurious cruise or a diesel-powered junk to explore Halong Bay. However, we recommend the cruise because it offers you the best experience in Halong Bay. You should stay overnight on the cruise to enjoy plenty of beautiful landscape in this bay. Most cruises include English-speaking guides, meals, and on-board services. It makes your trip more convenient.
Halong Bay is worth visiting
Once your cruise is booked, you just need to get ready in the morning and then you will be picked up for the adventure at about 8 am. Visiting Halong Bay, you will be able to discover the beautiful scenery of many islets, beaches, grottoes, and villages. Also, the cruise will offer stops for outdoor activities such as swimming, fishing, snorkelling, or kayaking.
There are some islands in the list of stops, and the most popular one is Cat Ba Island. This island is famous for its floating villages, hotels, restaurants, and bars. It is also where you can find some endangered animals, such as black giant squirrels and civet cats. Another beautiful island is Dau Be Island which is a prominent swimming and diving spot. Bo Hon Island is where you can find the most famous caves in Halong Bay. To visit these stunning caves, you need to row a boat at low tide.
The most exciting experience for you in this trip is an overnight stay on the cruise in the middle of the Bay. You can have dinner on the cruise and then enjoy the rest of your night in a peaceful quiet place.
Waking up early in the morning by the sounds of the sea, you will be able to see the beautiful sunrise in the bay. After breakfast, you can visit Bai Tu Long National Park which is a treasure of the biosphere in the northeastern coast of Vietnam. Bai Tu Long National Park’s main area is Ba Mun ecology-island which is located in the Bai Tu Long Bay. It is the repository of a lot of genetic samples regarding rare animals and plants species recorded in the Red Book. There are plenty of rare and endangered animal and plant species living in forests and water area of the National Park. They have high value for conservation of genetic resources.
The National Park has a diversity of endangered species
Apart from the National Park, the highlight of Bai Tu Long Bay is the Bat Cave Valley which includes 10 hectares of mangrove forests. Flowing seawater through underground caves help create the diversity of plant and animal species here. Additionally, this is a reserve area of natural landscape along with culture, and history as archaeologists discovered the existence of the ancient Vietnamese here.
Leaving Halong, you will need to have a good sleep before the exciting adventure to the Central Vietnam on the 7th day of the Vietnam journey.
You should catch a morning flight to Hue from Noi Bai airport. It will take about 1 hour 20 minutes to get there. After you land in Hue, check in your hotel and list the things you should do while you are here, so you will not miss and regret anything.
Hue was not only the national capital, but also the political, cultural and religious center of Vietnam under the Nguyen dynasty. This city has an elegant setting on the bank of the Huong River (Perfume River) and is one of the World Heritage Sites recognized by UNESCO.
Visiting Hue, you will be amazed at how small and quiet this city is along with the magnificent architecture of the historical destinations such as citadels, palaces, royal tombs, pagodas and temples. All of them were built under the Nguyen dynasty. Additionally, Hue has preserved its cultural heritage which includes music, the arts and other traditions. This is considered to be the best place in Vietnam to get a sense of imperial life because of its well-known historic values.
If you are a history-lover, this city is a perfect land for you. It represents the outstanding demonstration of the vanished Vietnamese feudal empire’s power. There is a complex of monuments, tombs and pagodas in the city that has attracted tourists from all around the world. Besides, Hue also has beautiful beaches (Thuan An and Lang Co) for you to bath and lie under the sun. In addition to that, there are several mineral hot springs (Thanh Tan) where you can relax after a long day.
Com hen is one of the most famousdishes in Hue
Another thing that you cannot miss when you visit Hue is food. Hue is famous for a diversity of traditional food which you cannot find anywhere else with the same flavor. All the dishes are not only to satisfy basic needs, but also they are forms of art. One of the popular dishes in Hue is rice with baby clams (com hen). It is very simple and cheap, but offers delicious flavor of rice and herbs, mixed with the buttery, sour, spices, grease, and baby clams. You should also try other famous dishes such as rice pastry with meat and shrimp (banh bot loc), sweet sticky rice wrapped in leaves (banh la), rice vermicelli with grilled meat (bun thit nuong), rice vermicelli with beef and pork (bun bo gio heo) and sweet soups (che) while you are here.
Read more: Best Local Food in Hue - Hue Cuisine
You can start to explore Hue by a visit to Thien Mu Pagoda (Pagoda of the Celestial Lady). Thien Mu pagoda was built on a hill overlooking the Perfume River. It is only 5km from the city center, not too far for visitors to approach. You can get there by boat, by car or by motorbike.
Thien Mu Pagoda has its legend
The oldest pagoda in Hue has its own legend. When Nguyen Hoang (the first Lord of the Nguyen dynasty) was sent to Central Vietnam to rule this area, he needed to find a site for settling down. One day, when he was riding his horse along the Perfume River side, he saw a small hillock which looked like a dragon turning its head back. The local people told him a story about an old lady in a red blouse and green trousers came here every night, saying that a true Lord would come to this place and build a pagoda which made the prosperity of the country. That’s the reason why it is called Thien Mu pagoda (Pagoda of the Celestial Lady).
By the time, with the development, prosperity and spread of Buddhism, Thien Mu pagoda was rebuilt on a larger scale with many great architectural structures. In 1710, a big bell was installed here. With its enlarged scale and natural landscape, Thien Mu pagoda was said to be the most beautiful one in the area at that time. Visit the Pagoda today, you can see its unique architecture surrounded by a garden of flowers and plants. At the end of the garden, you will see the Tower of the Superior Buddhist monk Thich Don Hau. He is the most famous head of Thien Mu Pagoda who devoted his whole life to promote Buddhism.
The Imperial City of Hue has charming beauty
Next stop, we recommend the Imperial City of Hue (the Hue Citadel). Famous for the poetic and charming beauty, Hue was chosen to place the Citadel where royal families can live. The Imperial City of Hue is an enormous complex of executive and bureaucracy. It is enclosed within a square fortress. Each of the four walls is about 2 kilometers long and there is a wide moat on the outside. There are temples, palaces, offices, gardens, and residences inside the Citadel. It takes about 2 hours to walk through the Imperial City because of the sheer size and also, there are quite a few different sections that are worth looking at.
The most important bit is the Purple Forbidden City which is located in the middle of the Citadel. It was where the emperor and his closest confidants lived and worked. No one could access to the place at the time. Today, of course, tourists can walk through and see what remains in it. All the buildings in the Imperial City of Hue have been restored over the years. Visiting the Hue Citadel, there are plenty of historical marks for you to see, you will also be told about the history of Nguyen dynasty while taking a tour around it.
To fulfill your day tour in Hue, don’t forget to enjoy some of the foods that we mentioned above. Then get some rest in the evening, or you can take a short trip on the Perfume River by boat.
From Hue, you have two options to transfer to Hoi An Old Town. As there is no airport and train station in Hoi An, the first option is to travel by bus from Hue to Hoi An which takes 4 hours. The second one is to travel by train to Da Nang (which is only 20 km from Hoi An) and then travel by bus to get there. This option takes you longer to get there (about 5 hours), however, Da Nang is a beautiful beach city, so it is a perfect stop for you to relax, it also offers a lot of services for tourists.
Hoi An Old Town is a World Heritage Site
Once you get to Hoi An, you will be amazed with this World Heritage Site. Hoi An Old Town is a well-preserved example of a trading port in Southeast Asia from the 15th to the 19th century. It is said to be a living museum of old-town architecture with notable heritage buildings such as Chinese temples, a Japanese design bridge with some pagodas, wooden shop-houses and old canals. Not only the buildings, but also the streets reflect the influences of both indigenous and foreign architecture.
Hoi An has been preserving and restoring its charming roots successfully even though large-scale trading had been moved. One of the best destinations to spend the night is Hoi An Riverside which is lit by old-fashioned lanterns. Visiting Hoi An, you can enjoy its great food, have fun shopping, meet friendly people and enjoy the cozy atmosphere.
Hoi An’s Old Town is a small town so you can get around it on foot. The traffic here is very light too. Only bike and motorbike are allowed in some streets, some others even allow only pedestrians. You can also explore the beauty of Hoi An by getting a cyclo riding tour instead of going on foot. That’s why Hoi An is very attractive and inviting for most travelers to Vietnam, especially for those who want to escape from the bustling and vibrating big cities.
A lot of buildings in this Old Town were built more than 100 years ago and they feature strong Chinese influences. If you take a look at the wooden signboards, you can see them bearing the company names which are carved and gilded in Chinese characters. Many of the old shops have been converted to modern businesses with care to preserve the past. All the businesses today include tailors, souvenir shops, restaurants, cafes and art galleries aim at tourists. All the major attractions or landmarks of Hoi An are located near each other, so you can easily walk there while looking around the streets.
Hoi An is a small and quiet town
Although Hoi An is a small and quiet town, you can find a lot of locals and Western cuisines at the restaurants. Many of these restaurants have big lounge bars on the ground floor and eating sections with balconies upstairs. You can choose to have Western food if you miss your home food, however, you will be pleased if you try Vietnamese specialties while you are here too.
Some restaurants also offer cooking classes in English. You will be taught to cook 3 to 5 dishes and eat them afterwards. After dinner, you can enjoy the nightlife or go back to the hotel to get some rest. The nightlife here is not special and hectic, given Hoi An is a very quiet place. However, you can still find some bars to have a few drinks or play games. Some bars here even start from 4pm, but in general, things get quiet after 10pm. That makes Hoi An a perfect destination for visitors who want to relax in a quiet and peaceful place.
For the 11th day, you can discover My Son Sanctuary in Hoi An, which is well known as a collection of Champa ruins. It used to be a political centre and a royal burial ground with a complex of structures that devoted to Hindu gods, built by the Champa Kingdom. Similar to other historic sites, My Son Sanctuary was destroyed by wars and then was renovated by the French in 1898.
My Son Sanctuary is famous for its architecture
What makes My Son attractive to tourists is its architecture. The first Hindu temple was made of wood then was rebuilt with red bricks and sandstone. The most important constructions here are the monuments. All the temples were inspired by the conception of Mount Meru, the home of Hindu gods at the center of the universe. Visiting My Son Sanctuary, you will be able to see the insight of Cham religious and political thought through the technological sophistication of engineering skills. Also, it will remind you of the great Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
It is fun to visit Cam Thanh coconut village
Another option is Cam Thanh Village which is located about 5km from Hoi An Old Town. This village is famous for its water coconut forest and the craft of making coconut paintings. Also, Cam Thanh is a peaceful village where provides seafood products to the region. Visiting the village, tourists will easily join the farmers in preparing and fertilizing land, get to know the village's tradition and daily life.
One of the most exciting activities that you can do is to learn some fishing techniques and how to paddle the bamboo basket boats. In addition to that, you can explore the water coconut forest and get some coconut fruit. Also, there are many restaurants here that offer cooking class, so you can have more fun trying delicious food after cooking. Finish day 11, you should get back to the hotel and get ready for another flight the next day.
As there is no airport in Hoi An, you need to transfer to Da Nang to take a flight to Ho Chi Minh City. We suggest that you take a morning flight, check in the hotel after landing and then enjoy the attractions and sightseeing in Ho Chi Minh City in the afternoon. Additionally, there are some popular traditional performances that you might be interested in, such as the A O Show. Otherwise, you can just rest in the hotel and have a good sleep to be ready for the exciting trip the next day.
Ho Chi Minh City is so close to the Mekong Delta area which is famous for the region’s diversity. There are many towns in the delta with facilities for tourists, but most travellers choose to visit Can Tho as it is the delta’s biggest settlement. You need to get up early in the morning to take an early bus to Can Tho.The best way to explore this area is taking a boat ride in the river and see the daily activities of the locals.
Cai Rang is the most famous floating market in Vietnam
Can Tho also has the most famous floating market in Southern Vietnam which is Cai Rang market. The market is 6 km from Can Tho city. Once you get here, you’ll see the extremely crowded trading atmosphere of Cai Rang floating market. As the market is one of the main trading centers in the Mekong Delta, this is where you can find a wide range of products catering to the local daily lives. The prices of products are reasonable as it is a wholesale market. You can easily buy fresh fruits harvested from nearby farms and other processed specialties with cheap prices.
As the travel time from Can Tho to Ho Chi Minh City is about 4 hours by bus. So you need to make sure that you can catch the last bus back to Ho Chi Minh in time.
Many of Ho Chi Minh City attractions have the French colonial architecture, such as the Notre Dame Cathedral. This is a mini version of the Notre Dame de Paris-a cathedral church in Paris and is located in a quiet corner of this busting city. Visiting the Cathedral, you can see a Virgin Mary statue standing in front. Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral is not only a tourist attraction, but also serves as a religious institution for the local people. Be aware that when you visit here, dress appropriately and try not to disturb the worshippers.
Right next to the Notre Dame Cathedral is the Reunification Palace which was the base of Ngo Dinh Diem-the first President of Republic of Vietnam. This Palace has five levels. The basement has a war room which has original maps on the walls, tunnels, and telecommunications centre where the equipment is still on display today along with the war propaganda materials. Also, there's a card playing room on the third floor and a casino on the fourth floor. Especially, the rooftop was designed to be a heliport.
In the evening, you can experience the exciting nightlife in Ho Chi Minh City. There are two famous walking streets (Nguyen Hue and Bui Vien) with many bars and pubs which have attracted many travellers as well as locals. Don’t forget to enjoy street food while you are here too.
For the last day of your trip in Vietnam, you can just walk around the city, taste Vietnamese food and enjoy every last moment that you have before leaving. Or you can buy some souvenirs for families and friends in the Ben Thanh market.
With the detailed plan for your 15 days in Vietnam, we hope you can have the best experience in every land of Vietnam and enjoy the beauty of our country. Have a wonderful trip in Vietnam!
(Images source: Internet)