Ultimate 2-week Northern Vietnam itinerary: Hanoi, Ninh Binh and Halong Bay

Northern Vietnam offers the perfect blend of cultural exploration, natural beauty, and adventure.
From the vibrant streets of Hanoi to the majestic Halong Bay, the serene landscapes of Cat Ba Island, and the picturesque Ninh Binh, every day of this 2-week itinerary promises a new and exciting experience.
Get ready for an unforgettable adventure filled with diverse experiences, from bustling markets and ancient temples to serene boat rides and limestone karst formations.

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2-week Northern Vietnam itinerary

Week 1 - Hanoi and Halong Bay

Day 1-3: Hanoi, the heartbeat of Vietnam

Start your adventure in the bustling capital of Vietnam, Hanoi.
Explore the Old Quarter’s narrow streets filled with ancient architecture, amazing street food and local markets.
Visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Temple of Literature, and the iconic One Pillar Pagoda.

Don’t forget to indulge in Vietnamese street food, including the famous pho and banh mi.

Day 4-6: Halong Bay

Embark on a scenic journey to Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its emerald waters and thousands of limestone karsts.
Enjoy a cruise through the bay, exploring hidden caves, fishing villages, and floating markets.
Kayak through secluded lagoons and witness the magical sunset over the karst formations.
A visit to Sung Sot Cave and Ti Top Island is a must for panoramic views.

If you decide to do one of the famous Halong Bay cruises, most of them include transport to and from Hanoi.

Week 2 - Cat Ba Island and Ninh Binh

Day 7-9: Cat Ba Island

Take a ferry to Cat Ba Island, the largest island in Halong Bay, renowned for its pristine beaches and lush national park.

Explore the island on a motorbike or bicycle, stopping at Cannon Fort for panoramic views of the bay.

Trek through Cat Ba National Park, home to diverse flora and fauna, and relax on the beaches of Cat Co Cove and indulge in fresh seafood at the local restaurants.

Day 10-12: Ninh Binh

Travel to Ninh Binh, often referred to as “Halong Bay on land.”
Take a boat ride through Tam Coc, a UNESCO site with limestone karsts, caves, and lush rice paddies.
Visit the iconic Bai Dinh Pagoda, the largest Buddhist complex in Vietnam.
And don’t miss the opportunity to climb to the Hang Mua viewpoint and enjoy the breathtaking scenery.

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More helpful travel tips for planning your 2-week Northern Vietnam trip

Travel costs

Vietnam is a very budget-friendly destination for the most part.
The popular areas like Halong Bay are more expensive, so budget accordingly.

I’ve created a breakdown of costs for this exact 2-week Northern Vietnam itinerary.
Of course you can splurge or save wherever you want, this is just to give you an idea of the costs for food, accommodation etc.

Transportation

Bus to Halong Bay from Hanoi:
Around 25 € one-way, per person

Ferry to Cat Ba island:
4 € one-way with motorcycle, per person

Motorcycle rental in Ninh Binh:
10 – 15 € per day

Accommodation

Between 15 – 75 € per night

Food & drinks

Between 5 – 20 € per meal

Halong Bay Cruises

Prices vary depending on the cruise type and accommodations.
Budget cruises start from 150 €, while luxury cruises can exceed 500 € per person.

Read about the full Halong Bay cruise experience here.

The best time to visit Northern Vietnam

For the best weather, not so many crowds and an overall amazing time, the best time to visit Northern Vietnam is from October to April.
Consider traveling during the shoulder seasons (March to May, and September to November) to enjoy milder weather and fewer tourists.

Halong Bay and Ninh Binh experience a tropical climate. Plan your trip between October and April when temperatures are cooler, and there is less chance of rain.

What to pack for your Vietnam trip

Packing for a Vietnam trip is a tricky one because the weather is unpredictable.
Dressing in light, breathable layers is the way to go.

Also, to fit everything nicely into your suitcase or backpack, use packing cubes!
They’re a game changer and make it possible for me to basically travel with hand luggage only whenever I go anywhere.

Packing cubes gift ideas for travel lovers

My favourite are these ones from traveldude, made from 100% recycled plastic so they’re super practical AND sustainable!

Don’t forget about travel insurance!

Better to be safe than sorry, so don’t forget your travel insurance before heading to Vietnam.

Last but not least, do you need a visa?

European passport holders can visit Vietnam without a visa for 14 days, or get an E-visa which is valid for 30 days for 25 € per person.

Thanks so much for for reading my 2-week Northern Vietnam itinerary!
I hope it inspired you to plan your own epic adventure in this beautiful country.

An toàn đi lại (safe travels in Vietnamese),
Nadine

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The best things to do in Ninh Binh, Vietnam.
Things to do in Hanoi
Book an epic cruise adventure in Halong Bay, Vietnam.

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I share my best travel tips, detailed itineraries and delicious food recommendations
over on Instagram @haveyoutriedtraveling to make your next trip epic.

Nadine in front of the Ferris wheel in Dubai.