Hello, I’m Tony Vu – the travel blogger of A21 Tours, this post will give you a suitable schedule within 5 days to discover the famous places of North Vietnam. For those of you who have more time, please refer to our 1-week or 10-day schedule at the following link.
Day 1: Airport – Hanoi
Morning: Airport – Hanoi
After arriving at Noi Bai airport, arranging luggage, the first thing I recommend is to buy a phone sim with data. Then move to Hanoi. Believe me, connecting to the internet in a country where not many people speak your language is very important, so buy it as soon as possible. Buying a sim in a city with complicated traffic will be much harder. And the Vietnamese have a saying: The first given money is a wise one.
Moving from the airport to Hanoi has two options: bus no. 86 for tourists (see here), call a Grab taxi and Airport transfer service by A21’s private car which is suitable when traveling in group who would be picked up at airport lobby without waiting for anything. This is the best option for travel groups who want to save costs, time, effort. Choose wisely and spend every minute, every penny, every breath to discover Vietnam.
Afternoon: Explore Hanoi city
After having lunch and checking in the hotel room, you will have an entire afternoon to explore Hanoi. Here are some places you should visit:
- Walking around Hoan Kiem Lake, visiting Ngoc Son Temple: Hoan Kiem lake is the heart of Hanoi capital, a place associated with many legends in the history of Vietnam. Hoan Kiem Lake has two floating islands: Ngoc Island and Turtle Island. On the weekend, the streets around Hoan Kiem Lake will become a walking street with many interesting activities such as street music, folk games. attracting a lot of visitors. There are many ways to visit the lake: dynamic motorbikes, relaxing cyclo.
- Temple of Literature: Being named the first university in Vietnam, Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam is not only a famous historical site in the capital but also a place for the essence of the period of historical feudal history and preservation site for the traditional values of Vietnam. Today, Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam is also the place where the poetry community is organized. This is also the place where students are honored for their excellence.
- Enjoying the sunset on Long Bien Bridge: This bridge is associated with the history of Vietnam anti-French and anti-American wars witnessing the change of the capital Hanoi. In the sunset, the sunbeams mixed with the yellow, brown of Long Bien bridge to create a romantic scene on the river. This will be the moment you seatback, slowing down after a long and exhausting day.
- The Railroad street: The blend of ancient and modern or the sumptuous culture of the two continents of Asia has created the city its own beauty. Nowhere in Hanoi would have the railroad and local houses so close. Each time the train crosses, the distance between the train and the door is only one arm. This risk is the distinctive charm of the road. After the train runs past, people quickly return to their usual pace of life.
For those who are in love with local cuisine, join the Hanoi Food Tour to discover some delicious dishes in Hanoi with a local guide: Hanoi attracts visitors not only for its natural landscapes, historical relics but also by a rich and diversified cuisine that makes visitors remember it forever. Hang Sach, Ta Hien, Ly Quoc Su, Dong Xuan Market, Nha Tho Street are famous dining areas.
Day 2: Halong bay – the must-see experience – Night bus to Sapa
The destination for the second day will be Ha Long Bay with a one-day boat tour started in Hanoi which includes a 6-hour boat cruise on Halong Bay. This can be considered a convenient shortened version of the 2 day trip to Ha Long for those who do not have much time: you will be picked up at your hotel, visit the most outstanding destinations of Ha Long: enjoy Tuan Chau Island, discover the longest and most beautiful cave of Halong Bay, go kayak in Luon cave, go trekking to conquer the summit of Titop. The cruise will end at around 6pm. From Halong bay you have two options to move to Sapa – a romantic mountain town in the north.
- Option 1: you say goodbye to the yacht group at the ferry, move to Halong city for dinner, then catch the bus to Sapa at 9 pm (arrive in Sapa at 5am on the next day). This option would provide more free time, up to 3 hours to dine before catching the bus.
- Option 2: You return to Hanoi with the group, then take the train or sleeper bus to Sapa. This option would save $11 because Hanoi – Sapa tickets are $11 cheaper than Halong – Sapa tickets.
Day 3: Sapa: Fansipan in the morning, Cat Cat village in the afternoon
Arriving in the early morning at Sapa, you should have a breakfast, then check in at the hotel, leave your luggage here and then take a cable car at the price of about $30 to reach Fansipan peak. The cable car taken in the morning will take you to the top at about 10 am when the sky is clear and the scene will be more beautiful.
Visiting Cat Cat in the afternoon: Cat Cat village not only attracts tourists by its wild natural poetry scenery but also by the traditional cultural characteristics of the H’Mong people here. You will really enjoy the harmony of the gentle dance of the beautiful H’Mong girls or even dance with the Mong boys and girls. If coming to Cat Cat in the beginning of the year, visitors also have the opportunity to participate in the Gau Tao festival to seek happiness, pray for the people. Besides, local people still preserve a lot of customs, unique practices. One of those is “wife pulling practice”. When a boy falls in love with a girl, he will organize a party to invite his friends to make plans to “pull” the girl home and keep her for three days. Then, if the girl agrees to be his wife then the official wedding ceremony will be conducted. If the girl disagrees, they drink wine together and make friends.
Freely explore Sapa town at night: Night in Sapa is quite cold, so you should prepare warm clothes. For youngsters who want to challenge their biggest limits, outdoor camping is a great option: set up camps, sit back together for great barbecues, drink warm wine, watch stars and tell each other about the exciting experience. Or you can also go to the city to shop or experience the nightlife while sitting back to enjoy a quiet, tranquil Sapa before returning to rest and prepare for trekking on the next day.
Day 4: Sapa trekking – Hanoi
Medium trekking in Lao Chai – Ta Van route, late afternoon, shopping in Sapa central market
Today’s schedule will be spent exploring trekking through the valley of Muong Hoa valley – Lao Chai – Ta Van village. This will be the day of walking, and the day to discover the upland ethnic culture. Only in Sa Pa are there long walks that are so interesting. Your steps will take you from the H’Mong village to the Day village. You should buy a day trekking tour or rent a local person (like the H’Mong women you met in the town) as a guide. They will introduce the customs, culture, and people here. Moreover, the scene in Lao Chai valley – Ta Van is beautiful. Have lunch at Lao Chai village, then go to Ta Van village.
In the afternoon you return to Sapa, explore the central market, looking to buy the products of the local ethnic minority saved as souvenirs or as gifts to family and friends such as towels and brocade clothes.
Have dinner at Sapa then back to Hanoi by night bus or train.
In case you want to return to Hanoi sooner, you can take the bus at 3 pm from Sapa, to Hanoi at 9 pm. Still have enough time for a lavish night in Hanoi.
Day 5: Hanoi city – Flight back
On the last day of your journey, you can explore Hanoi freely through the streets of the old quarter, then transfer to the airport.
There are some shopping venues:
- Trang Tien plaza: Located in the heart of Hanoi, at 24 Hai Ba Trung street, Hoan Kiem District, opposite to Hoan Kiem Lake, near the Hanoi Opera House, it has the area of up to 20.000m2 with 6 floors to sell a variety of luxurious goods.
- Aeon Mall: a Japanese style shopping center that attracts many customers because of Japanese sales, Japanese quality. Supermarkets on the first floor sell fresh sushi and fresh food daily at an affordable price.
- Dong Xuan market: As the main wholesale market in the North, offers a wide range of products such as clothing, footwear, household items, toys, fabrics with traditional designs, candy, souvenirs, food, etc. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, there is a night market at Dong Xuan market.
- Hom market: Considered as the paradise of clothes, bags and other fashion accessories, the Hom market always attracts Hanoi women to see and go shopping
- Hang Gai Street: Also known as Silk Street, the lively Hang Gai is one of the famous shopping areas of Hanoi. The street is famous for its silk shops and tailor-made tailors. Stalls, tailors, street vendors, and art galleries are decorated with backdrops combining traditional and modern architecture.
To go from Hanoi to the airport, you have 3 choices as public bus, Grab car, and book a private car to the Airport.
With this 5-day schedule, you have come to the 3 most must-see destinations in the north of Vietnam and experience the best in the north of Vietnam in 5 days. If you have a little extra day and a bit of extra budget, then cruise in Halong Bay mentioned above should be replaced by 2 day 1 night cruise on the bay, then back to Hanoi and catch the night bus to Sapa.