Start in Hanoi by following our 24-hour guide, which focuses on historical museums, temples and the local life in Old Quarter. As it takes only a few minutes to move between tourist attractions, you can spend hours sightseeing and chilling out in town. If you want to avoid being stuck in gridlocked traffic inhaling fumes, check out our walking guide. Do not miss street food stalls as Hanoi boasts one of the country’s best cuisines, ranging from the worldwide-known pho to the trendy bun cha.
A hill trek is one of the most northern Vietnam must-do activities. While Sapa has quickly become developed with plenty of tourism projects, make your way to Ha Giang instead. Most visitors are here to trail through the endless curves of golden terraced rice fields and soaking up the indigenous culture. It is just about doable for a day trip, however, an overnight stay will allow you to savour both sunset and sunrise among the mountain ranges and canyons on the peaks of Dong Van Karst Plateau.
If you have enough courage to skip Ha Long Bay which has recently gained notoriety for being uncomfortably overcrowded, Ninh Binh is a perfect off-the-radar alternative. There are caves and a nature reserve to visit in Van Long, boat rides alongside rice paddies and lakes in Tam Coc, and the splendid Bai Dinh temple with its grottoes area in Trang An, all embracing a majestic limestone setting and stunning greenery landscape.
Hue Citadel – the country’s capital until 1945 – attracts few tourists but is the gateway to a rich history of Vietnam. History buffs should not miss Khai Dinh’s tomb which distances itself from traditional beauty with more European touches. You can take a bike ride across the bridges, visiting Dinh Palace, Tu Cung Residence and lesser-known royal tombs. If you need a break from history, sample its savoury, tasty cuisine.
Four and a half hours from Hue by bus, Hoi An is another laidback ancient town that makes a good base for architecture, cuisine, history and beaches. Hoi An has its charm, but on the downside, expect it to be packed with tourists. You can wander around the old streets in the early morning to get a sense of the slow-paced local life or take a bike ride to the surrounding countryside. Opt for cooking classes if you are into the culinary culture of central Vietnam. Relax at the end with blissful time at An Bang Beach, a low-key alternative to Cua Dai – the most popular beach in town.
Da Lat is home to vast colonial and post-colonial French architectural buildings, coffee culture and plenty of options for natural adventure. It has widely been known as a go-to place for wedding photoshoots and honeymoon destinations, thanks to its cool temperature and lush landscape. The leisurely pace of Da Lat, with its web of waterfalls and lakes, makes it a good place to refuel before heading south back to the heat.
The stunning beauty of red and white sand dunes at dusk and dawn in Mui Ne is just one of the reasons why you should make a beeline to Phan Thiet. It also opens the door to the rough, chaotic yet authentic life of local fishermen in the coastal port city. Be sure to visit the Mui Ne Fishing Village in the early morning as a horde of boats flock to the shore with its catch of the day including fish, crabs, squids, and shrimps. If looking for more than to work on your tan, there is sailing, diving, quad biking, kitesurfing, windsurfing and stand-up paddleboarding.
A comeback to the big city is equivalent to a return to the bustle, hustle, and chaos of its traffic and crowds. To get the best of your two-day stay, check out our recommended list of 20 options for sightseeing and activities. The guide into accommodation will help you determine what kind of place you want to bed down. And make sure to spare your time to sample its amazing street food, whether during the day or at midnight.