If you’re ever lucky enough to travel to Vietnam then I cannot stress to try and spend as much time there as possible. Vietnam is a beautiful country with so much to offer, and so much going on, that it really does need around 3 weeks to really allow you to explore Vietnam. If you don’t have that amount of time, then don’t worry! I recently have made a short 10 day Vietnam itinerary for people who are struggling for time which you can read here. But for today…here’s my ‘Vietnam Itinerary 3 Weeks’….
Vietnam Itinerary 3 Weeks
Day 1-2 Hanoi
Personally, I always like to start my trip in Hanoi. Just like I recommended in the 10 day Vietnam tour, if you want cheap and friendly then stay at Vietnam Backpackers Hostel. The reason for this is because it’s a great hostel to stay out. It’s clean, it’s fun and you get to meet a lot of people!
I would start the trip by taking the walking tour at the hostel. This is because most people that stay there do the walking tour as it takes you on a fun tour of the city and it’s FREE!
During the evening time, Hanoi really comes alive as street entertainers and bars become set for the night time. Number one recommendation is going to Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi. Here, street performers dance with fire, put on their own magic shows and really entertain the crowds around the lake. You can also get involved by playing huge games of tug of war, human jenger and become volunteers for street performers.
On day 2, you can spend the day visiting the old buildings and monuments Hanoi has to offer. Some of the citadels date back thousands of years, such as the Thang Long Imperial Citadel. The 11th century Citadel is in brilliant condition and is a complex of historical buildings in the centre of Vietnam.
You can also take a kayak trip on West Lake where you can enjoy the sunsetting and relax on the lake.
I mentioned this place to eat in the last article, but seriously they offer some of the best food I have ever eaten in Vietnam. Hanoi-Lang Lieu, offers the best spring rolls you will have ever tried, and has some amazing Asian dishes. I must have eaten here about 5 different times during my stay. The prices are really fair and the food is delicious so don’t judge me too much.
Day 3-6 Sapa
Now you’re leaving Hanoi, it’s time to explore what the rest of the country has to offer. Sapa will be the first destination that you visit from Hanoi. Book a tour with Backpackers Hostel, and they will take you to the northern region of Vietnam. Taking a 6 hour bus journey you will eventually arrive at your hotel ready to explore the mountains.
On arrival rent a bike straight away and go off riding around the mountains in Sapa. You will come across lots of waterfalls, such as the Waterfall of Love, and see some amazing sights along the way.
Give yourself plenty of time to just ride around Sapa. Genuinely, the views on offer are just amazing, and you will have many pit stops and photo opportunities so it’s a good idea to give yourself a couple of hours to really explore the region.
Day 4, a local guide will come to your hotel and start taking you on your trek through the mountains. This was one of my favourite activities in Vietnam as I really like hiking and being in the sun, mountain views and having a good group of people, I couldn’t ask for much more.
People from your hostel will come with you, for us we had people we met on the pub crawl travel with us for most of our time in Vietnam!
For your hike, you can always choose to wear some really good hiking trousers which will make your hike a lot more easier. Personally, I’ve taken walking trousers with me on many of my hiking trips and always found them to be really useful.
Back to the trekking, the trek will last most of the day but there are opportunities to chill, swim in the river and to eat. As the sun sets you will make it to the homestay where you will be staying for the night. The family we stayed with were really cool and chill and made us bucket loads of food. They also gave us some rice wine which really got us all drunk quickly, especially at the altitude.
Next morning you will wake up really early, and continue your trek for sunrise. Before long, you’ll be trekking back down the mountain and after about 4/5 hours you’ll be back at your hotel ready to go back to Hanoi in order to start another great adventure! A night stay back at the hostel in Hanoi is called, just so you can be refreshed and ready to go the next morning!
Day 7-9 Halong Bay
Now the real party starts! It’s time to go kayaking on Halong Bay and party until you probably fall over. Again book through the hostel as it just makes your life easier, and you’ll end up spending 2 nights on your own private island in the middle of a natural wonder. Your own private island is Castaway Island where you’ll explore the bay via boat, kayak and the occasional dive into the sea.
You’ll also get to participate in activities such as: rock climbing, wakeboarding, high-speed tubing and kayaking. You can also play ping pong, drinking games and listen to the DJ all night long! If you love to party and meet new people then you’ll absolutely love this. I remember just feeling completely separated from reality as I was in a natural wonder just having the absolute time of my life!
Hopefully you brought your snorkel with you, if not then don’t worry, the hostel provides one for you. But you can also get a really good snorkel from Amazon.
You’ll be sharing the island with around 75-100 different people from the hostel, and on the second day of island life, you’ll get the chance to go and party on a booze cruise. The cruise takes you around different islands in the bay, and allows you to get really drunk, swim with the fishes, kayak and just relax sunbathing and listening to music.
After several days of early starts, extremely late nights and hardcore parties, it’s time to come back to Hanoi and relax for a little bit before looking for the next adventure.
Day 10 Hoi An
You’ve just had the best 10 days of your life, and I know what you’re thinking: “How can this get any better?” Well, day 10 starts a whole new epic part of your 3 week trip.
Now it’s time for the BUFFALO RUN (Hanoi to Hoi An in 7 Days!)
On the first day of a trip down to Hoi An, we cycled to a local temple where our tour guide (Ricky) explained about the history of Vietnam and its kings. After this we took a two-hour boat tour through caves and around mountains where they filmed ‘Kong: Skull Island’. This was a lot of fun as everyone we met got competitive and we made it into a race to see who could get around the quickest. This was funny as our guides who were rowing us also got competitive. After you’ve hopefully won your boat race, you’ll take a night bus to Phong Nha.
Day 11-12 Phong Nha
After driving for about an hour from your hotel, you get to take a 400m zip line trip across the river before entering the dark caves. In Vietnam, they have a naming method in English which is very exact. So, the dark caves are genuinely just caves that are dark. However, these caves had a mud bath right at the end, where many a mud pie was thrown when the lights were turned off. Nevertheless, it was a great laugh, especially the mud slide back into the river at the end of the cave.
Lunch consisted of DIY spring rolls, before venturing onto a cave in which 80 people became trapped and died from in a US bombing campaign. Ricky explained a lot about the history of why the US bombed the area and it was a sobering activity. After visiting the war cave, you’ll go to a farm stay where you’ll be able to sit by a pool drinking beer and watch a beautiful sunset.
Day 13 Relaxing Pub Day!
Day 13 will be a really relaxing day where you’ll get to go to the ‘Pub with Cold Beer’ – literally a pub that serves cold beer. You can partake in a more unusual, perhaps once in a lifetime activity and kill a chicken. The method for doing so is somewhat brutal (a machete to the back of the neck) and not for the faint of heart.
Day 14-15 Hue
On day 14 you’ll travel to Hue! After arriving in Hue, at another Vietnam Backpacker Hostel, there was a pub crawl with the theme ‘bad shirt night’. Hue is pretty much similar to Hanoi as it is just a place that offers a great atmosphere and party experience. And you’ll have an amazing time really partying hard in Hue!.
You’ll also have a beach day in Hue where you will get the chance to just chill by the beach for as long as you want, can play volleyball, drink some ice cold beers and really just enjoy the moment.
Day 16 Back to Hoi An
You will have such an awesome experience travelling to Hoi An via the Hai Van Pass in ex-army jeeps from the war. This was such an incredible experience as big fans of Top Gear. We also stopped off for lunch and had a swim at the beach before arriving in Hoi An. Again, stopping at a Backpackers hostel, we signed up for the ‘Beer Olympics’ but were cheated out of a victory! But it was all just fun and games really, and there was the opportunity for everyone to get involved.
Day 17-18 Bamboo Boats and Crab Fishing
On the final days of the Buffalo Run, we rowed in bamboo boats and went crab fishing. Accidentally, one of us dropped a crab in our boat and as the guide went to pick it up the crab pinched him. This was funny though as he made a massive joke out of it and we continued to have a really fun experience. As it was our last day we had one last game of volleyball in the hostel pool before going out for our last night out together. Here we met up with our friends from Halong Bay and had an amazing night.
Day 19-21 Ho Chi Minh City
Ending the trip in Ho Chi Minh will allow you to end your stay in style. Check out the Cu Chi tunnels to really get a flavour of what people had to go through during the Vietnam War. I’d also recommend visiting the night market, Ben Thanh Market, in particular, as it has literally everything that you would want from a market.
A quick side note, the food is just sublime. If you want fresh, rich, authentic Asian food, then this market will be one of your highlights of a trip of many highlights.
Personally, when I go to the city, region or country I like to eat traditional food. Hence why I love the night market in Ho Chi Ming so much. However, another great Vietnamense restaurant in the city is ‘The Garlik’ – it makes fresh Vietnamense food. The service is sublime, the prices are really cheap and the food is exceptional!
If you enjoyed this Vietnam Itinerary 3 weeks, you might also like to read about the best Yoga retreats in Vietnam.
You might also like to read about Best Destinations for hiking in Asia, Vietnam Itinerary 1 Week