Option 1: Ho Chi Minh City – Hoi An in One Week
If you arrive at Tan Son Nhat International Airport, then this is the itinerary for you! This one week option balances your time between the dynamic city of Saigon, which is the most developed city of the country, and the magical city of Hoi An, located in central Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh City
Tan Son Nhat International Airport, the largest one of the country, is located approximately 6-km from the city’s center (District 1). With such a convenient location, getting from the airport to your place in District 1 won’t take much time (if you are not traveling in rush hour, of course). Here are some must-dos in Ho Chi Minh City:
Taking A City Tour
Despite being the busiest commercial center of Vietnam, Saigon has been longtime popular for its cultural richness. Some of its many typical architectural representatives that you shouldn’t miss out include Notre Dame Cathedral, the Opera House, the Peoples’ Committee Building, Nha Rong Habor, the Reunification Palace, the old Post Office, the War Remnants Museum, Ben Thanh Market, Binh Tay Market, China town, etc.
Joining An Adventurous Escape to Cu Chi Tunnels
Being one of the top historic attractions in the Southern Vietnam, the Cu Chi Tunnels are always an ideal destination for those who hold an interest in history and adventure. Originally formed as a huge underground defense system with a total length of up to 250 km, the tunnels were dug and used during the Vietnam War. By coming here, you will be getting an in-depth look at one of the most violent wars in the 20th century and its consequences. Another highlight of the trip to Cu Chi is the peaceful countryside scenery on the way.
Situated around 70-km away from the center of Ho Chi Minh City, tourists can catch bus No.13 to get from Ben Thanh Market to the Cu Chi Bus Station. Here you can change to bus No.79.
Cu Chi is mainly interesting for its stories. It is best if you find a knowledgeable tour guide to help you understand what the soldiers and civilians went through during the time of war. For your information, tour company Onetrip provides five-star rated motorbike tours to Cu Chi Tunnels that will take you on a journey that is not only educational but also cultural.
Located 850-km away from Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An is known for being Vietnam’s most peaceful town and the best place to relax after all that hectic rhythm of Saigon. Currently, Hoi An still has no airport and railway station, so you need to take a flight to Da Nang airport and then continue from there to Hoi An by bus or taxis. Remember to contact your hotel in advance to check if they provide any pickup service, which is the case for many accommodations.
The Magical Ancient Town
Praised as a UNESCO World Heritage, Hoi An is an impressive little town housing over a thousand architectural monuments, such as famous streets, buildings, halls, temples, pagodas, churches, wells, etc. Some of the popular sites here include, but are not restricted to, Hoi Quan Quang Dong, Phuc Kien, Tan Ky, Phung Hung, Quan Thang, Chua Cau, and Bao Tang Sa Huynh, etc. Every night, when the sun goes down, all alleyways in the Ancient Town put on a glamorous outfit lit up by numerous colorful traditional lanterns.
Admiring Natural Scenes Nearby
Besides colorful lanterns and old tea-houses, Hoi An also has An Bang Beach and Tra Que Vegetable Village. Owning a 4-km stretch of sandy white shoreline, An Bang is an ideal location to spend a day doing nothing with your family and friends. This unspoiled beach is not overcrowded and is absolutely gonna offer you a truly enjoyable time of rest and relaxation. Many sun-umbrellas line the shore so take your pick and lay on a bench. There are many beach-side cafes and bars to spend your evening.
Don’t miss out on the beautiful Tra Que vegetable village as well. You will be surrounded by rice paddies, gardens, and ponds. It is here that people grow most vegetables and herbs that you find in your dishes in Hoi An and Da Nang. Cycling around, feeling the breeze on your face and watching the local farmers grow and harvest their produce is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You may even find a cooking class here.
Located in Tra Que Lovely Village, Christina’s Hoi An will take you through a journey of exploring this magical dreamland in the most authentic way. With their “Be a Farmer for the Day” experience, you will be able to pick your own veggies and cook them in their kitchen with the help of a brilliant local chef. What’s even more amazing is that Christina’s offers free bicycle rentals to guests so you can peddle your way through the empty Hoi An streets.
Option 2: Ha Noi – Ha Giang in One Week
The North of the country is home to multiple stunning landscapes and longstanding cultures of Vietnam. A one-week tour from Noi Bai International Airport is enough for you to have an overall glimpse of what life is like in this region.
Wandering around Historic Sites
Ha Noi is the capital of Vietnam and also one of the oldest city of the country. There are many fascinating museums and historical sites showcasing stories of the Vietnamese people and their culture that are simply a must-see during your time there. Some of these include The famous Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem Lake, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum, One-Pillar Pagoda, Temple of Literature, Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, St Joseph’s Cathedral, Opera House, West Lake, etc.
Exploring Traditional Craft Villages
Hanoi is also famous for retaining a lot of traditional villages and each one these possesses a distinctive look. Two of the most popular names are Bat Trang pottery village and Van Phuc silk village. If you are planning to visit and learn about the cultural and artistic values of the peoples or find some local souvenirs, visiting these traditional villages is right up your alley. From the central area of Ha Noi, you can opt to take one of many local buses that get there or easily catch a Uber/Grab or local taxi.
Because of its distant location with serpentine roads that go up the mountains, traveling to Ha Giang is a bit difficult comparing to other destinations along the country. A one-way trip from Ha Noi to Ha Giang often lasts 4 – 6 hours, not to mention that the distance from the center of Ha Giang to Lung Cu (the main attraction) is also an additional 150 km. Language barriers and costs are also a barrier to one’s getting there, therefore, booking a tour to Ha Giang is more convenient for tourists. However, if you do crave an adventure, you can go to My Dinh bus station and find a sleeping bus to Ha Giang for the price of around 250,000 VND. Check the schedule in advance, and do get some local to write down some important words for you on a piece of paper.
Being Amazed by The Grandeur of Nature
Ha Giang is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful provinces of the country. All year round, Ha Giang welcomes its lovely visitors by a wide diversity of natural highlights, from the spectacular buckwheat flowers that bloom during its season to immense terraced fields that are beautiful all year round. All you need is one day to fall in love with Ha Giang and all it offers. Most travelers describe it as heaven on earth with a perfect combination of rivers, mountains, forests and clouds.
Dong Van Old Quarter
Located right in the middle of countless rocky mountains, the old town was formed during the early 20th century with only a few ethnic families. Until now, Dong Van old town has around 40 houses of different minority groups and attracts more and more visitors every year thanks to its unique architectural and cultural beauty. The old town looks like a skillful masterpiece of various colors and tones varying from time to time, from the sparkling gold of sun rays in the morning to the vintage gray of tiled roofs at sunset. You should definitely not miss out on this experience.
Read more: Buckwheat Season in Ha Giang
If you’re planning a trip to Vietnam for just a week and hopefully, the above suggestions may help you come up with a tailor-made itinerary for yourself that suits your tastes. Vietnam has so many beautiful places to see that you will probably want to visit them all, but my suggestion is that you stick to a few, and see them the way they should be seen. Otherwise, you may waste too much time on transport, and thus waste a perfectly good week. Try this out and let me know what you think!