Ultimate 1 Week Travel Guide To Northern Vietnam

I’m so excited to bring to you my Ultimate 1 Week Travel Guide To Northern Vietnam! With only one week to explore, we decided to focus on Northern Vietnam, with the 3 main destinations being #Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, and Ninh Binh. I’ve pulled together all the main attractions to see, places to eat, where to stay, and other #traveltips to make this the perfect #travelguide for your trip to Vietnam. #TravelVietnam #visitVietnam #travelitinerary

Hi Loves!

I’m so excited to bring to you my Ultimate 1 Week Travel Guide To Northern Vietnam! Vietnam has been on my travel bucket list for years now, and it was amazing to finally go! Since we only had one week to explore, we decided to focus on Northern Vietnam, with the 3 main destinations being Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, and Ninh Binh. I’ve pulled together all the travel tips, main attractions to see, places to eat, where to stay, and other pertinent information to make this the perfect travel guide for your trip to Vietnam.

OUR ITINERARY
With 1 week to explore Vietnam, we used Hanoi as a base from which we would travel to our other cities in Northern Vietnam. Our loose itinerary goes as follows:
Day 1-2: Flight + Hanoi
Day 3-4: Ninh Binh
Day 5: Ha Long Bay
Day 6-7: Hanoi + Flight


TRAVEL ITINERARY

I’m so excited to bring to you my Ultimate 1 Week Travel Guide To Northern Vietnam! With only one week to explore, we decided to focus on Northern Vietnam, with the 3 main destinations being #Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, and Ninh Binh. I’ve pulled together all the main attractions to see, places to eat, where to stay, and other #traveltips to make this the perfect #travelguide for your trip to Vietnam. #TravelVietnam #visitVietnam #travelitinerary

TRAVEL TIPS

BEST TIME TO GO
The best time to visit Northern Vietnam is in the spring and fall, when it’s cooler, and the rains are less frequent. October through April will be your best bet. Here’s a breakdown by season:

January - March (coldest, dry)
May - September (peak season, rainy, hot, humid)
October - April (moderate, less rain)


WHERE TO STAY
Hanoi Airbnb: Here (Listing no longer available)
Ninh Binh Hotel: Ninh Binh Hidden Charm Hotel & Resort


HOW LONG TO STAY

If you can, spend several weeks exploring northern Vietnam, but if you have a limited amount of time, I’d recommend at least 1 week. That gives you roughly 2 days per city, including Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, and Ninh Binh. If you can, try to squeeze in a trip to Sapa as well!


HOW MUCH TO PACK
For a 1 week stay, a single carry-on and a small backpack/purse should suffice. Try to bring pieces that you can wear multiple ways, and take advantage of an Airbnb with laundry! I always prefer to pack too little and have to buy a shirt (for example), than pack too much and not need half the things I brought. Be ready for Vietnam’s tropical weather, and flash floods. A light rain jacket with a hood, and sandals will be a must!


 

HANOI


HANOI

Hanoi has been the capital of Vietnam for around 1,000 years and is a bustling city filled with Chinese, French, and Southeast Asian influences. I love pretending to be a local as I meander the bustling street markets, or weave through the sea of motorbikes. My favorite part of Hanoi is definitely Hanoi Old Quarter, because it feels like a place paused in time. Check out my extended post on the Old Quarter here! As you explore Hanoi, the mix of Buddhist temples, traditional Vietnamese architecture, and French colonial architecture is a visual reminder of the rich integration of cultures that make this place so special.

HOW LONG TO STAY
Because most people will be flying into Hanoi International Airport, Hanoi should be used as a base. 2-3 days should be good for Hanoi, and then you can take day trips or shorter trips to Ha Long Bay, Ninh Binh, or Sapa. We booked our Airbnb for the entire week, which allowed us to come and go as we please.

TOP SITES

BEST MODE OF TRANSPORTATION
Taxi is the easiest mode of transportation in Hanoi. Since there are a lot of taxi scams in Vietnam, we found using the Grab App was really useful. It’s the equivalent of Uber or Lyft. You just put in your pick-up and drop-off locations, then the nearest driver is located along with a fare estimate. You then get dropped off safely and payment is settled through the app. Very easy and worry free!


HANOI TRAIN STREET
Wouldn’t it be bizarre if a train ran inches from your doorway? That’s exactly what happens at 3 and 7 pm every single day for the residents living on Hanoi Train Street in the Old Quarter!

TEMPLE OF LITERATURE
The Temple of Literature was built in 1070 and dedicated to Confucius, scholars, and sages. It’s also the site of Vietnam’s first university, the Imperial Academy, since 1076. It’s a gorgeous example of traditional Vietnamese architecture.

HOAN KIEM LAKE
Hoan Kiem Lake feels like a serene oasis in the bustling Old Quarter. The lake surrounds Ngoc Son Temple, which was built in the 18th century. If you go early in the morning, you can see locals doing yoga and Tai Chi!

ST. JOSEPH’S CATHEDRAL
St. Joseph’s Cathedral was built by the French Colonial Government in 1886, and is the oldest church in Hanoi. It’s a beautiful example of the Gothic Revival style. The cathedral serves nearly 4 million Catholics in the country.



HALONG BAY


HA LONG BAY

Halong Bay is located in northeast Vietnam, a UNESCO site made up of around 2,000 limestone islets! The towering islets rise up from the beautiful, emerald water and is a gorgeous sight to see. So gorgeous in fact, that it’s been the shoot location for many Hollywood films, including Kong: Skull Island (2017), Pan (2014), and 007 Tomorrow Never dies (1997). The views are utterly magical. It’s a must-see stop in Vietnam!

HOW TO GET HERE
When you book a day tour or a cruise ship to Ha Long Bay, the tour service usually includes pick-up and drop-off from Hanoi. The ride takes about 3.5 hours to Ha Long Bay.

Northern Vietnam Map Ha Long Bay

DAY TRIP TO HA LONG BAY
If you’re planning on just a day trip to Ha Long Bay like us, I recommend booking a full day boat tour. We chose BC Family Tour, which included roundtrip bus rides from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay, a 4-hour cruise ride, a seafood lunch, an optional bamboo boat tour through the grottoes, and the Dong Thien Cung Caves, with amazing stalactite and stalagmite formations.

CRUISE TRIP TO HA LONG BAY
If you prefer cruises and want to spend a relaxing few days in Halong Bay, you can also book a cruise ship:


KAYAKING TO THE GROTTOES
One of our Ha Long Bay tour activities included going on bamboo boats and riding through the natural grottoes in the limestone islets.! Ha Long Bay is truly otherworldly.

DONG THIEN CUNG CAVE
Dong Thien Cung are natural grottoes, or limestone caves surrounding Ha Long Bay. The amazing stalactite and stalagmite formations are a sight to see. Legend says that the Dragon King and Cloud Princes had their wedding party here, and the guests turned into stone, hence all the animal-like rock formations!

HALONG BAY CRUISE
Whether you book a day trip, or a cruise boat, you’re going to want see the limestone islets as close as possible. The tranquil views are really unforgettable!



NINH BINH


NINH BINH

Ninh Binh Province is about 2 hours by train from Hanoi, and boasts gorgeous gorgeous mountain scenery, endless rice fields, serene rivers, and water grottoes (caves) that you can view by boat tours. You may recognize it as one of the filming locations for Kong Skull Island! The tranquil atmosphere and peaceful scenery is so healing to the soul. It was such a welcome respite, that I enjoyed it even more than bustling Hanoi! I absolutely recommend coming here.

HOW LONG TO STAY
Ninh Binh is an easy day trip from Hanoi if you’re pressed for time, but I definitely recommend staying longer. I was there for 1 night and 2 days, but I think 2-3 days is even better! It rained so much during our time there that I wish we could’ve had another day to see more sites.

BEST MODE OF TRANSPORTATION
BIKE: If your Airbnb/Hotel is within a few miles of many of the sites you’d like to see, I definitely recommend biking or scootering as the best way to experience Ninh Binh. You have the flexibility to stop and go as you wish and enjoy the gorgeous scenery. We rented our bikes at our hotel, but you can also rent bikes at most tourist sites, and the busy areas of town.
TAXI: For locations that are a little further away, book a taxi through your hotel, or you can hail a cab at popular tourist sites. Once I asked the lady at the ticketing booth at Mua Caves to help me call a taxi. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, there are many helpful locals!

Northern Vietnam Map Ninh Binh

HOW TO GET HERE
2 Hours By Train from Hanoi Railway Station
2 Hours by Bus
1.5 Hours By Taxi
Book Train, Taxi, Bus, Flights or Ferries: 12Go
Book Flights, Trains, Buses or Ferries: Baolau

WHERE I STAYED
Ninh Binh Hidden Charm Hotel & Resort

THINGS TO DO
Bai Dinh Pagoda
Bich Dong Pagoda
Bike riding Along The Countryside
Cuc Phuong National Park
Hoa Lu Temples
Mua Caves/Hang Mua
Phat Diem Cathedral
Trang An Grottoes Boat Tour


HANG MUA/MUA CAVES
We climbed 500 stone steps in the pouring rain to see this gorgeous view from the top of Hang Mua! It takes less than 30 minutes to reach the summit, and the mountain and river views are so breathtaking! It was one of my favorite spots in Ninh Binh!

BICH DONG PAGODA
Bich Dong Pagoda is a small but beautiful trio of pagodas with gorgeous mountain views. Don’t park your bike at the entry or you’ll be asked to pay a fee when you don’t have to. Instead, park at one of the restaurants down the road for free and just buy a small drink, or even further down the road with a lock if you have one.

TRANG AN GROTTOES BOAT TOUR  I went to Trang An but I didn’t take a boat tour because it started to rain cats and dogs. I definitely recommend that you go because the scenery is drop dead gorgeous. You can pick different routes based on duration and sites, and check out all the water grottoes!

TRANG AN GROTTOES BOAT TOUR
I went to Trang An but I didn’t take a boat tour because it started to rain cats and dogs. I definitely recommend that you go because the scenery is drop dead gorgeous. You can pick different routes based on duration and sites, and check out all the water grottoes!

BIKE RIDING IN THE COUNTRYSIDE
You should definitely rent a bike or scooter to explore Ninh Binh, as most sites are pretty close to each other. Rentals are usually available at or near your hotel, near tourist sites, and near restaurants and shops.


I hope you enjoyed this travel guide, and that you’ll be able to refer to it for your upcoming Vietnam trip! Feel free to ask me any questions you have below, or suggest any must-see sites that I may have missed. I can’t wait to go back to Vietnam and explore more! Don’t forget to bookmark this page to reference it in the future, and pin the images below as well. Happy traveling, loves.

And as always, thank you so much for reading!

XOXO
Annie


PIN IT

I’m so excited to bring to you my Ultimate 1 Week Travel Guide To Northern Vietnam! With only one week to explore, we decided to focus on Northern Vietnam, with the 3 main destinations being #Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, and Ninh Binh. I’ve pulled together all the main attractions to see, places to eat, where to stay, and other #traveltips to make this the perfect #travelguide for your trip to Vietnam. #TravelVietnam #visitVietnam #travelitinerary

I’m so excited to bring to you my Ultimate 1 Week Travel Guide To Northern Vietnam! With only one week to explore, we decided to focus on Northern Vietnam, with the 3 main destinations being #Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, and Ninh Binh. I’ve pulled together all the main attractions to see, places to eat, where to stay, and other #traveltips to make this the perfect #travelguide for your trip to Vietnam. #TravelVietnam #visitVietnam #travelitinerary

I’m so excited to bring to you my Ultimate 1 Week Travel Guide To Northern Vietnam! With only one week to explore, we decided to focus on Northern Vietnam, with the 3 main destinations being #Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, and Ninh Binh. I’ve pulled together all the main attractions to see, places to eat, where to stay, and other #traveltips to make this the perfect #travelguide for your trip to Vietnam. #TravelVietnam #visitVietnam #travelitinerary

I’m so excited to bring to you my Ultimate 1 Week Travel Guide To Northern Vietnam! With only one week to explore, we decided to focus on Northern Vietnam, with the 3 main destinations being #Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, and Ninh Binh. I’ve pulled together all the main attractions to see, places to eat, where to stay, and other #traveltips to make this the perfect #travelguide for your trip to Vietnam. #TravelVietnam #visitVietnam #travelitinerary

I’m so excited to bring to you my Ultimate 1 Week Travel Guide To Northern Vietnam! With only one week to explore, we decided to focus on Northern Vietnam, with the 3 main destinations being #Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, and Ninh Binh. I’ve pulled together all the main attractions to see, places to eat, where to stay, and other #traveltips to make this the perfect #travelguide for your trip to Vietnam. #TravelVietnam #visitVietnam #travelitinerary

I’m so excited to bring to you my Ultimate 1 Week Travel Guide To Northern Vietnam! With only one week to explore, we decided to focus on Northern Vietnam, with the 3 main destinations being #Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, and Ninh Binh. I’ve pulled together all the main attractions to see, places to eat, where to stay, and other #traveltips to make this the perfect #travelguide for your trip to Vietnam. #TravelVietnam #visitVietnam #travelitinerary

I’m so excited to bring to you my Ultimate 1 Week Travel Guide To Northern Vietnam! With only one week to explore, we decided to focus on Northern Vietnam, with the 3 main destinations being #Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, and Ninh Binh. I’ve pulled together all the main attractions to see, places to eat, where to stay, and other #traveltips to make this the perfect #travelguide for your trip to Vietnam. #TravelVietnam #visitVietnam #travelitinerary

CREDITS:
Photography: Annie Cho, Jackson Kuo

SHOOT LOCATION:
Hanoi, Ninh Binh, and Ha Long Bay in Vietnam

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