The perfect Vietnam itinerary

Beaches, history and culture—here’s an itinerary that packs in the best of Vietnam


Minimum stay: 3 days
The War Museum at Hanoi is a must-visit to understand the brutal 20-year period during which North Vietnam and its allies fought the US-supported South Vietnam. The museum is fascinating, but can be disturbing for some; supervise children closely. Out in the city, sit at a sidewalk café, and sip on traditional Vietnamese café sua, made of coffee and condensed milk, served hot or cold. Do not leave without trying Hanoi’s amazing street food.

Ha Long Bay

Minimum stay: 1 day
About 100km east of Hanoi is Ha Long Bay, where almost 2,000 limestone cliffs were pushed above the waterline by tectonic forces a million years ago. For its geological uniqueness, Ha Long Bay has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cruises offered on the Ha Long Bay are suited to all pockets. Make sure you visit the floating villages—permanent fisherman dwellings built on barges, where you can eat hot-off-the-stove fresh fish. Also take a kayaking trip through the natural cave-tunnels that litter the coastline.


Minimum stay: 1 day
A short distance from the coast is the Vinh Moc Tunnels, a complicated system of underground tunnels built by the Vietnamese to escape the relentless bombing. Whole lives were lived in these tunnels while death and destruction rained above. It is more of an experience than a sightseeing trip. You will slip your feet into cleverly designed shoes that sent US troops in the wrong direction. You will also crawl through narrow corridors and wonder how people stayed here for months.

Da Nang

Minimum stay: 2 days
In the 1960s, Da Nang served as an airbase for American troops. Today, this town is Vietnam’s emerging tourist hotspot. It has a charming riverfront promenade, lined with coffee shops and a gorgeous crescent-shaped beach. If you have time (and the skill), Da Nang also has an 18-hole golf course designed by Greg Norman, one of the world’s top golfers.

Hoi An

Minimum stay: 2 days
Hoi An was once a bustling trading port. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famed for its covered bridge, the Chua Cau, with ceramic tiles and timber. Its architecture is an eclectic mix of Japanese, Portuguese and Dutch fashions. The one must-do here is to order a bespoke piece of clothing at one of the many inexpensive tailoring stores. They can stitch anything from men’s suits to ball gowns in just a few hours, so carry your favourite fashion magazine for reference.

Nha Trang

Minimum stay: 2 days
For a break from architecture, history and culture, and going back to a little sun-worship, stop off and unwind at Nha Trang, Vietnam’s most scenic village, with a rolling ocean kissing paddy fields back-dropped by green mountains. The National Oceanographic Museum is a great place to see sharks, turtles, lionfish and other creatures of the sea. If you have the time, Nha Trang also has a few dive sites off the shore.

Mui Ne

Minimum stay: 2 days
Farther down, the beach at Mui Ne offers world-class kite-surfing courses, if you choose to acquire a brand new skill. Or, if you are a veteran of the sport already, the beach there offers the best winds. Also visit the Mui Ne market and fishing harbour, a quaint village on the outskirts of town. Watch fishermen sort their catch as their colourful boats bob in the waters. This one’s made for Instagram.

Ho Chi Minh City

Minimum stay: 3 days
Head to Vietnam’s most Hollywood-ed town, to relive the sometimes-dark, sometimes-lovely history of the late ’60s, early ’70s. Like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City is best experienced through its cafes. The city can feel a tad urban and hectic, especially after your rustic experience of the past few days, but lounging in the cafes can help you experience the city without actually tumbling through its traffic, heat, dust and the jar-head reject shops selling Zippo lighters and used fatigue-gear.

Mekong Delta

Minimum stay: 3-4 days
Round off your Vietnam journey with a trip to the Mekong Delta. Avoid the organised tours— they are cheaper but rob you of your freedom to explore. A little costlier, but for more time, space, and some real interaction with locals, choose the motorcycle option and explore these towns: My Tho, Ben Tre (famous for its fireflies), Vinh Long, Can Tho, Rach Gia and the beautiful Phu Quoc Island. From here, head back to Ho Chi Minh to fly home or cross over to Cambodia.