This route will take you in 3 or 4 weeks to several highlights and the most beautiful spots of Vietnam. My trip started in Hanoi but you can also start in Ho Chi Minh of course.
After this traveling through Vietnam you can go home or travel further to Cambodia over the Mekong river like I did.
Hanoi & Ha Long Bay
My travelling in Vietnam started in Hanoi. From the airport you can take a taxi ($15) , minivan ($2) or bus ($0,50) to the city center. I stayed in the ‘Old Quarter’ and I believe that this is the best area for your accommodation.
Things to do in Hanoi are walking around the Haon Kiem Lake, visit the Dong Xuan night-market or just get lost in the Old Quartier to discover tons of restaurants and bars.
In high season months July and August it is the best option to arrange your bus + boat ticket to Cat Ba (Halong Bay) a couple of days in advance. In the meantime you can visit SaPa first and when you return to Hanoi you can take this morning the bus to Halong Bay. I recommend to take the 2 nights tour (1 night at the boat and 1 night on an island).
From SaPa you can take the night train back to Hanoi where you will arrive early morning at 5.30am.
You can take a taxi from the train station to the bus station where you can take the bus in 4 hours to the boat terminal in Ha Long.
SaPa and Bac Ha
To visit the small town of SaPa you can take the bus ($12) or the train ($35). The bus takes 7 hours and the train around 10 hours. I took the night train from Hanoi to Lào Cai. If you arrive Sunday morning I can recommend to go by minivan ($2) to the minority market in Bac Hà. In the afternoon you can take the minivan back to Lào Cai and further on with the bus to SaPa ($3). I stayed for 2 nights in SaPa but if you want to do a trek than you can stay longer of course. In SaPa you can discover the beautiful nature and I can recommend to do a least 1 day-trek (around 10 km) to one of the minority groups who live in this area.
After you return from Halong Bay in Hanoi your journey continues to Hue. If you want you can make a nice overnight stop in Ninh Binh. I took the 14-hour train ride from Hanoi to Hue. In Hue you can visit the imperial city and several tombs (Minh Mang, Khai Dinh and Tuc Duc) by bicycle or city tour.
Today you will visit one of the most cozy villages in Vietnam, Hoi An. From Hue you can take a motor ride (easy riders), by bus or taking the train to Hoi An. Travelling by train is not only cheap also very comfortable. You will pass the Hai Van Pass and the views on this scenery are amazing. The train stops in Da Nang and from here you can take a short bus or taxi trip to Hoi An. The city center is easy to reach by bicycle and/or by foot from your accommodation. I recommend to stay here a couple of days to enjoy this cozy place.
Dalat and Mui Ne
There are several options to travel from Hoi An to Dalat. To most cheap option is by bus (total 15 hours) but you have to go to Nha Trang (11 hours) first and take another bus to Dalat (4 hours). The fastest way is by plane from Da Nang to Da Lat, this will take 1 hour and cost around $100. I took the train from Da Nang to Nha Trang and stayed 1 night in this touristic place (mostly Russian influences) and the next morning I took a bus to Da Lat.
Da Lat is located in the mountains and the altitude is 1500 meters above sea level. Therefore this countryside is famous for the flowers and I can recommend to visit the flower garden and the Xuan Huong Lake.
Other great things to do are canyoning through a waterfall, mountain biking or hiking in the area.
From Dalat you can easy take a bus to Mui Ne which takes around 4 hours. Mui Ne is still a small and quit city where you can find the beautiful white and red sand dunes. During sunset this places are a must see in Mui Ne. You can visit the dunes by jeep tour from the center or your accommodation. If you like surfing or just hang on the beach this place is also ideal because of the strong wind and most sun hours in Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh
To travel from Mui Ne to Ho Chi Minh you can take the bus which brings you in 5 hours to the city center. If you prefer the train you have to go to Phan Tiet train station and this journey will take around 3,5 hours.
Once you have arrived in Ho Chi Minh (former Saigon) you will notice a difference between most Vietnamese cities. In Ho Chi Minh you can find High Rise buildings, Skybars, fastfood restaurant Mc Donalds and more western influences. A must visit are the famous Cu Chi tunnels, which is a large connected network of tunnels from where the Viet Cong operated during the Vietnam War.
From Ho Chi Minh you can easily visit the Mekong Delta (Can Tho) where you can take nice boat tours and visit one of the floating markets.
After Ho Chi Minh you can return home from the airport or you take a boat through the Mekong Delta to Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Here you can read my blog and tips about the sights in Cambodia.