Itinerary of Traversing Vietnam from South to North in 10 Days
Cities Covered in 10 Days
- Ho Chi Minh City
- Da Nang
- Hoi An
- Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
- Dong Hoi
- Halong Bay
Sapa, located at 1500 m above sea level, is the tourist capital of Northern Vietnam’s mountainous region. It faces the country’s highest mountain, Fan Si Pan, and is surrounded by villages of ethnic minorities, such as the Red Dao and Black Hmong. Its cool weather and magnificent scenery makes it an ideal base if you want to trek the mountains or explore the minority villages of the area. We took the overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai, the nearest railway station to connect to Sapa. We had a beautiful overnight stay at Sapa – this was the last leg of our Vietnam vacation.
Halong Bay is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site, because of its picturesque ocean karst topography. Its emerald waters and thousands of lofty limestone islands capped by rainforests mark the northeast Vietnam, located almost 170 km east of Hanoi. Halong Bay consists of around 2000 islands, both settled and uninhabited, with several large caves located inside the islands. There are many organized tours from Hanoi that take you to Halong Bay for a day tour to cruise over the water and explore the islets and caves and bring you back to Hanoi on the same day, but it is highly advisable to take an overnight cruise and have a lifetime experience, like we did.
Hanoi is a 1000-y old city flanked by Red river – the principal river of Northern Vietnam. It is the capital of Vietnam and its second largest city, Ho Chi Minh City being the first. Hanoi is an enthralling blend of East and West, combining traditional Sino-Vietnamese design with French panache. It was the main center of Vietnam’s imperial power until the late 18th century. Later it turned out to be a French colony. Luckily, it was untouched from the war miseries,. However, now it is booming to be a rapidly growing city in Southeast Asia. It is one of the most beautiful colonial Indochinese cities. It remains true to its essential personality. We had only one day to experience this amazing city.
The oldest karst mountains in Asia, almost 400 million years old, pervaded with hundreds of extensive cave systems, historic sites, and underground rivers form the area of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, which is Vietnam’s most interesting region. It is designated as UNESCO World Heritage site. The national park is home to Hang Son Doong, discovered in the early 1900s, which is known to have the world’s largest known cave passage cross-section in 2009. We visited the Paradise Cave and Phong Nha Cave today, among many other caverns here.
Do you know who ruled Vietnam before the communist government sprung up in Hanoi under Ho Chi Minh in 1945?It was ruled by the Nguyen Dynasty. It was a powerful family who had its capital in the city of Hue for more than 100 years. Hue was the national capital then. Also, it was considered to be the cultural, political, and religious center of Vietnam. Due to its well-known historic values, it is now known as the Imperial City of Vietnam. Furthermore, it has been recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Today, we flew to Da Nang – a coastal city of Vietnam and the largest city of Central Vietnam. It is located midway between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. It does not share the hustle-bustle of either of them. Da Nang is popular for its own city beach and beautiful bridges. The bridges lit up in the evening making the city look beautiful. The city is just by the East Vietnam Sea with Han river passing through the heart of the city. The city is used to be a French colonial port. Its close proximity to ancient cities of charming Hoi An, Champa ruins at My Son, and imperial capital of Hue makes it a popular vacationing spot for taking day trips or transit city for your onward journey.
Do you want to know how all the people of Vietnam get fed? Do you want to see the life of local people living outside the city? Then a visit to Mekong Delta is must. It is the agricultural heartland of the country as its soil is highly fertile. Here, the Mekong river approaches and empties into the sea through a of the vast maze of rivers, swamps and islands. It is only 1.5 h away from the city, and the tour can take around 7-8 h. Organized tours in Vietnam are cheaper and more convenient than self-made tours. We booked Mekong delta tour with a renowned travel agency in Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), commonly known as Saigon, is the former capital of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) and is the country’s largest city and is also the center of commerce. Its image of being a war-torn city has been gradually changed to a thriving metropolis with luxury hotels, fine restaurants, luxury branded shops, and glitzy bars and clubs, adding class to the Soviet-style housing blocks. There are many city tours and around-the-city-tours in Saigon – you should stay here at least for 3-4 days though we had only 2 days in hand. We decided to explore the city on our own on the first day, and on the next day, we planned to join an organized tour to Mekong Delta.