5 Days in Vietnam: 5 Curated Itinerary Ideas For All Travellers

Author: Veruska Anconitano, Award-Winning Food Travel Journalist, Sommelier & Outdoor LoverAuthor information
About the author
Veruska Anconitano
Veruska is a a food travel journalist with awards to her credit, such as World Best Food Travel Journalist. She holds a certification as a sommelier and she is also an ardent lover of the outdoors. Aside from this, Veruska is a Multilingual SEO and Localization Consultant and co-owns multiple websites that cater to a global audience.
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Vietnam seems like a destination that demands weeks to explore fully. However, the truth is that with meticulous planning and a focused approach, you can indeed spend 5 days in Vietnam and experience its essence in full. These compact itineraries are perfect for travelers either visiting nearby regions and wishing to add a brief yet immersive Vietnamese experience to their journey or for those with limited time but a strong desire to explore this captivating country.

Understanding the challenge of condensing the vast beauty of Vietnam into such a short time, I have crafted these itineraries drawing from our extensive three-week exploration of the country. My aim is to offer you a distilled version of the best Vietnam has to offer, tailored to maximize your experience in a specific area. Each itinerary is a concentrated exploration, ensuring you don’t spread yourself too thin and miss the depth of local experiences.

Whether you’re a first-time visitor with a tight schedule or a nearby traveler seeking a quick Vietnamese escapade, these itineraries are designed to guide you through the most enriching experiences Vietnam offers in just five days. From the bustling streets of Hanoi to the serene waters of Ha Long Bay and from the historic citadels of Hue to the tranquil rice terraces of Sapa, these custom-crafted journeys are based on firsthand experiences and insights aimed at delivering the best of Vietnam in a brief but unforgettable adventure.

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Itinerary #1: Northern Vietnam Highlights

Ha Long Bay

This itinerary is a whirlwind tour of northern Vietnam’s must-see attractions, including Hanoi’s vibrant street food scene and the stunning Ha Long Bay. This carefully crafted itinerary is designed to encapsulate the essence of Northern Vietnam, taking you on a journey through time and landscape.

Day 1: Arrival in Hanoi – Your adventure commences in the pulsating heart of Vietnam, Hanoi. This city, a harmonious blend of ancient traditions and modern vibrancy, invites you to immerse yourself in its rich cultural heritage. Stroll through its bustling streets, witness the fusion of French colonial architecture with classic Vietnamese elements, and feel the energetic pulse of this historic city.

Day 2: Hanoi City & Street Food Tour – Dive deeper into the soul of Hanoi with an exploratory tour of the iconic Old Quarter. Meander through its labyrinthine alleys, each turn revealing a new facet of Hanoi’s multifaceted personality. Later, embark on a gastronomic adventure with a street food tour. Savor the flavors of local specialties like the world-renowned Pho, and experience the unique taste of Vietnamese egg coffee, a testament to the city’s rich culinary landscape.

Day 3: Hanoi to Ha Long Bay – Transition from the urban charm of Hanoi to the ethereal beauty of Ha Long Bay. This UNESCO World Heritage site, known for its crystal-clear waters and thousands of limestone islands shrouded in verdant rainforests, offers a serene escape from the bustling city life. An overnight cruise amidst these majestic isles not only brings you closer to nature’s heart but also treats you to a spectacular sunset and sunrise over the bay, a truly magical experience.

Day 4: Return to Hanoi from Ha Long Bay – After basking in the tranquil beauty of Ha Long Bay, return to the lively atmosphere of Hanoi. Spend your evening exploring the city’s dynamic nightlife. Whether it’s a quiet evening revisiting the quaint corners of the Old Quarter or discovering new, lively neighborhoods, Hanoi at night is a spectacle in itself.

Day 5: Departure from Hanoi – As your journey through Northern Vietnam draws to a close, depart from Hanoi with a heart full of memories. This itinerary offers a profound glimpse into a land where history is woven seamlessly into the fabric of modern life, where the energy of urban streets harmoniously coexists with the tranquility of natural wonders.

Day-by-Day Overview

  • Day 1: Arrival in Hanoi, the historic capital.
  • Day 2: Explore Hanoi’s Old Quarter and its culinary delights.
  • Day 3: Journey from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay for an overnight cruise.
  • Day 4: Return to Hanoi from Ha Long Bay.
  • Day 5: Departure from Hanoi.
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Itinerary #2: Northern Vietnam Culture & Adventure


Experience the cultural richness of northern Vietnam, with a special focus on Hanoi’s ancient heritage and the serene landscapes of Ninh Bình Province. This itinerary offers an immersive experience into the heart of Vietnam’s heritage and natural beauty.

Day 1: Arrival in Hanoi – Begin your adventure in the vibrant capital city of Hanoi. This day is your introduction to the city’s dynamic blend of history and modernity. Wander through its bustling streets, absorb the unique atmosphere, and prepare for an exploration that transcends time.

Day 2: Exploring Hanoi – Delve deeper into the cultural depths of Hanoi. This day is dedicated to uncovering the city’s historical treasures and culinary delights. Explore the ancient architecture, visit significant landmarks, and indulge in the rich flavors of traditional Vietnamese cuisine, an integral part of Hanoi’s charm.

Day 3: Travel to Ninh Bình, Sampan Boat Ride at Tràng An – Venture to the serene landscapes of Ninh Bình Province, a region known for its majestic limestone karsts and tranquil waterways. Here, experience the unique pleasure of a sampan boat ride through the scenic Tràng An, a journey that offers a glimpse into the peaceful rural life and the stunning natural beauty of Vietnam.

Day 4: Hạ Long Bay Boat Cruise – The journey continues to the iconic Hạ Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Embark on an unforgettable boat cruise through the bay, navigating between towering limestone islands emerging from the emerald waters. This experience combines adventure with tranquility, as you witness the awe-inspiring beauty of one of Vietnam’s most famous natural wonders.

Day 5: Tour Hạ Long Bay, Depart Hanoi – Spend the final day of your itinerary exploring more of Hạ Long Bay’s hidden gems. Discover its secluded beaches, floating villages, and vast biodiversity. As the day concludes, return to Hanoi, carrying with you a treasure trove of memories, ready to depart from this journey through Northern Vietnam’s culture and adventure.

Day-by-Day Overview

  • Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi.
  • Day 2: Discover Hanoi’s historic and culinary landmarks.
  • Day 3: Travel to Ninh Bình for a sampan boat ride at Tràng An.
  • Day 4: Enjoy a boat cruise in Hạ Long Bay.
  • Day 5: Tour Hạ Long Bay and depart from Hanoi.

Itinerary #3: Southern Vietnam Exploration

Ho Chi Minh city

This itinerary is designed for those who wish to experience the vibrant culture and serene landscapes of Southern Vietnam. It offers a perfect blend of urban exploration and rural adventure, providing a comprehensive view of the region’s diverse character and charm.

Day 1: Arrival in Ho Chi Minh City – Begin your adventure in the bustling metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. This city, a hub of energy and history, offers a fascinating blend of modern skyscrapers and French colonial architecture. Spend your first day soaking in the vibrant atmosphere, exploring the city’s diverse neighborhoods, and experiencing its lively street life.

Day 2: Củ Chi Tunnels & Ho Chi Minh City Tour – Dive into the historical depths of Ho Chi Minh City with a visit to the Củ Chi Tunnels, a remarkable network of underground passages used during the Vietnam War. Later, explore the city’s rich heritage with visits to iconic landmarks, delving into its past and understanding its transformation into the bustling city it is today.

Day 3: Day Trip on the Mekong River – Leave the urban landscape behind and venture into the tranquil waterways of the Mekong Delta. This day trip is a journey into the heart of rural Vietnam, where life moves at a slower pace. Glide along the river, witness the daily activities of local communities, and immerse yourself in the peaceful rhythm of life along the Mekong.

Day 4: Cần Thơ Floating Market – Continue your exploration of the Mekong Delta with a visit to the Cần Thơ Floating Market. Experience the vibrant and colorful market life, where locals trade goods from their boats, a tradition that has been the lifeline of the delta for centuries. This unique market experience offers a glimpse into the cultural and economic activities of the region.

Day 5: Depart from Ho Chi Minh City – Conclude your Southern Vietnam exploration by returning to Ho Chi Minh City. Reflect on the diverse experiences of the past days, from the city’s energetic streets to the delta’s serene waterways. Depart with a deeper understanding and appreciation of Vietnam’s southern region’s cultural richness and natural beauty.

Day-by-Day Overview

  • Day 1: Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Day 2: Explore Củ Chi Tunnels and Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Day 3: Day trip on the Mekong River.
  • Day 4: Visit Cần Thơ’s floating market.
  • Day 5: Depart from Ho Chi Minh City.
Do you want to know the best places to visit in Vietnam?
Check our comprehensive guide and add these destinations to this itinerary!
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Itinerary #4: Central Vietnam Adventure

Hue Vietnam

This itinerary is an invitation to explore the heart of Central Vietnam, offering a journey through time, culture, and scenic beauty. It’s perfect for those who seek to immerse themselves in this unique region’s historical elegance and coastal charm, providing a comprehensive and enriching travel experience.

Day 1: Arrival in Hue – Your journey begins in Hue, a city that resonates with the echoes of Vietnam’s imperial past. Once the capital during the Nguyen Dynasty, Hue invites you to explore its rich history. Spend your first day wandering along the Perfume River and absorbing the unique atmosphere of this historic city.

Day 2: Explore Hue: Imperial Citadel, Thien Mu Pagoda & Thủy Bieu – Delve into the historical treasures of Hue. Visit the iconic Imperial Citadel, a grandiose complex that once served as the emperor’s residence. Discover the ancient Thien Mu Pagoda, an epitome of spiritual heritage, and later, explore the Thủy Bieu village, known for its traditional lifestyle and lush orchards.

Day 3: Hue Handicrafts, Minh Mang’s Tomb & Chuon Lagoon – Continue your exploration in Hue with a focus on local handicrafts and historical sites. Visit the tomb of Emperor Minh Mang, an architectural masterpiece, and experience the serene beauty of Chuon Lagoon. This day offers a blend of cultural immersion and natural exploration.

Day 4: Hue to Hoi An, Explore the City – Journey from Hue to the enchanting city of Hoi An. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a beautifully preserved example of a Southeast Asian trading port dating back to the 15th century. Spend your day strolling through its historic streets, exploring the vibrant markets, and admiring the well-preserved architecture that tells stories of a bygone era.

Day 5: Hoi An to Da Nang & Depart – On the final day, travel from Hoi An to Da Nang, a coastal city known for its sandy beaches and history as a French colonial port. Reflect on the rich tapestry of experiences from the past days, from the historical depths of Hue to the charming streets of Hoi An, before departing from this central Vietnam adventure.

Day-by-Day Overview

  • Day 1: Arrive in Hue.
  • Day 2: Explore Hue’s Imperial Citadel and other landmarks.
  • Day 3: Discover Hue’s handicrafts and visit Minh Mang’s Tomb.
  • Day 4: Travel from Hue to Hoi An and explore the city.
  • Day 5: Depart from Da Nang.
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Itinerary #5: Hiking in Sapa


This itinerary is an ideal choice for nature enthusiasts and trekkers who desire an off-the-beaten-path experience. It’s a journey that not only challenges the body but also enriches the soul, offering an intimate encounter with the untouched beauty of Sapa in Vietnam.

Day 1: Arrival and Sapa Town Exploration – Begin your adventure in Sapa by settling into your accommodation and acclimatizing to the cooler mountain climate. Spend the afternoon exploring the vibrant Sapa Market, where local H’mong and Dao people showcase their crafts and produce. Enjoy a leisurely stroll around Sapa Lake, followed by a taste of regional cuisine at a local restaurant.

Day 2: Trekking to Ethnic Villages – Embark on a guided trek to the Black Hmong village of Cat Cat, delving into their culture and traditions and marveling at the stunning Cat Cat waterfall. Continue to Sin Chai village, known for its authentic cultural experiences and scenic beauty. Return to Sapa town for a relaxing evening.

Day 3: Ta Phin Village and Fansipan Peak – Visit the Red Dao minority in Ta Phin Village to learn about their unique customs. In the afternoon, either trek or take a cable car to Fansipan, the highest peak in Indochina, offering breathtaking views. Spend your evening at leisure in Sapa.

Day 4: Silver Waterfall and Tram Ton Pass – Discover the majestic Silver Waterfall and then head to Tram Ton Pass for spectacular panoramic views. Enjoy a picnic lunch amidst these scenic landscapes and later visit the romantic Love Waterfall. Conclude your day with a cultural show or a quiet dinner in town.

Day 5: Final Exploration and Departure – In the morning or afternoon, depart for Hanoi, carrying a heart full of memories from this unique cultural and natural escapade.

Day-by-Day Overview

  • Day 1: Travel from Hanoi to Sapa and enjoy the village.
  • Day 2: Trek to Ethnic Villages.
  • Day 3: Explore Ta Phin Village and Fansipan Peak.
  • Day 4: Silver Waterfall and Tram Ton Pass.
  • Day 5: Return to Hanoi.
Check out our article about the best beaches in Vietnam to add to your Vietnam itinerary.
Read the article

Embracing Vietnam’s Essence In 5 Days

In pursuing a meaningful and enriching travel experience during your 5 days in Vietnam, the importance of thoughtful planning cannot be overstated. It’s crucial to resist the urge to rush through multiple regions and, instead, to immerse oneself deeply in one specific area. This focused approach allows for a more relaxed pace and ensures a richer, more intimate connection with the local culture, landscapes, and people.

Each itinerary I’ve presented offers a unique lens through which to view and understand Vietnam, providing diverse experiences that cater to different interests and preferences. Whether it’s the urban exploration of Hanoi, the serene beauty of Ha Long Bay, the historical depth of Hue, or the natural splendor of Pu Luong, these carefully curated journeys are an excellent introduction to the many facets of Vietnam.

Ultimately, the choice of itinerary is personal, and there is no ‘best’ option. Each path offers its distinct flavor and insights into Vietnam’s rich heritage. By choosing an itinerary that resonates with your interests and engaging deeply with your chosen destination, you’re setting the stage for a truly memorable and authentic Vietnamese adventure.

Do you want to plan your 5 days in Vietnam?
Check our Vietnam travel guide for more information and start planning your trip!
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