Vietnam Itinerary 9 days is quite enough to cover major tourist destinations for international visitors.
“I fly to Ho Chi Minh City on Easter and plan to spend 9 days in Vietnam. Was thinking of Halong Bay, Nha Trang, Hoi An, and Sapa. Can someone recommend where all to go (we like beaches, quaint towns and a bit of history) and how to travel between cities?”
That's a lot to fit into 9 days. In order to really enjoy your time I think you need to try and cut down your destinations a bit.
You don't mention anytime in HCMC or visiting the Delta so I'm not sure why you are flying into HCMC rather than Hanoi. It seems like you'll save time and money by flying into Hanoi.
So let's say you fly into Hanoi, then Day 2 you could leave for Halong Bay. It is much better to spend 3 days in Halong rather than 2 and if you decide to do that you'll return to Hanoi from Sapa on Day4. You could catch the night train to Sapa arriving in Lao Cai on Day 5. If you spend three full days in Sapa you'd leave Lao Cai on the evening of Day7 and arrive back in Hanoi the morning of Day8. That would leave you Day 8 and 9 for Hanoi.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi Vietnam
If you cut down Halong to 2 days with one overnight and cut down a day from Sapa then you could fit in a quick Hoi An trip. But cutting down on Halong and not giving yourself time in Hanoi is not something I would recommend.
This itinerary could be turned around starting from Ho Chi Minh
Visit the War Remnants Museum
Learn about Vietnam’s recent history at Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)
Visit neo-Romanesque Notre Dame Cathedral
Visit Saigon Central Post Office
Once stepping inside Saigon Central Post Office, you will immediately be wowed by the French-impacted architecture.
Drop by Opera House
This is known as the counterpart of Hanoi Opera House.
Shop at Ben Thanh Market
Besides traditional goods and handicrafts, food vendors are also varied at Ben Thanh Market.
Pay a visit to Cai Be floating market
The floating market is a typical market form in Mekong Delta. You definitely should include it in your Vietnam Itinerary 8 days.
Have lunch at a local food stall on An Binh Island
Take a traditional rowboat deeper into the countryside
See: 3 days in Hanoi
It is hard to say that you have come to Hanoi without paying a visit to this top national historic site. Just grab your chance to gain an understanding of the Vietnamese leading figure as well as part of Vietnamese history.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum only opens in the morning. Therefore, you should notice this before planning your trip.
The architectural combination of both Lenin Mausoleum in Moscow and distinctive Vietnamese features will impress you a lot.
The modest stilt house demonstrates a frugal life of President Ho Chi Minh. Through that, you can understand why he has won the heart and respect of all Vietnamese generations.
The cozy atmosphere prevailing in this lovely house makes this my favorite destination in the complex.
One Pillar Pagoda is one of the two most iconic Buddhist temples in Vietnam.
Besides, the unique architectural feature which gave the pagoda the name One Pillar makes it unforgettable.
A lot of students particularly flock here before examinations to pray for luck. Temple of Literature is also a common spot for students to shoot photos for their yearbook.
Noticeably, Ong Do (Vietnamese calligraphers) sit patiently inside or around the Literature Temple to produce great meaningful handwritings on red paper.
Vietnam wars against French colonists are known in the world. The French colonial rule no doubt expanded effects on several aspects such as architecture.
There are reasons for the French Quarter to be called A Little Paris in Hanoi.
The exterior of Hanoi Opera House follows many different architectural styles: Roman, Renaissance, Baroque, Art Nouveau and French neoclassical.
This theatre in central Hanoi was modeled after Opéra Garnier (Opéra de Paris). Yet there is an argument that it has even more aesthetic merits than the original.
Hoa Lo Prison (also known as Maison Centrale) was built by French colonists. As a representative of the period of the Vietnamese resistance war, the prison still maintained a lot of torture tools.
As a representative of the period of the Vietnamese resistance war, the prison still maintained a lot of torture tools.
I have already recommended detailed Things to do in Halong Bay in my previous blog. Please read it for further information.
My plan includes highlighted features of this world natural wonder: Sung Sot Cave – Titop Island – Luon Cave.
Following this itinerary, you will have a relaxing cruise trip. As a result, no worries upon overwhelming your two days!
In the late afternoon of Day 3, you return to Hanoi and take a domestic flight to Da Nang.
You then transfer to Hoi An Ancient Town and have a free night there.
Da Nang is a center of culture and tourism in Central Vietnam. From here, you can combine with other destinations of Central, such as Hoi An ancient town, Nha Trang beach, Ba Na Hill, Hue ancient capital,... However, Da Nang city has too many sites to visit.
Following is my experiences with Da Nang travel.
- If your time is tight, only 1 day, you should main attractions such as: Dragon bridge (cầu Rồng ), Champa museum, Linh Ung pagoda (chùa Linh Ứng), 1 of some beaches: Non Nuoc, My An, My Ke, Han river bridge (in night) and 1of 2 following places: Son Tra peninsula (bán đảo Sơn Trà) or Ngu Hanh Son mountain (Ngũ Hành Sơn), these places are far apart so you must choose 1.
- If you have 2 days, you should add Ba Na hill. You can go to Ba Na by car or motor (rent in Da Nang city). I prefer going by a motor, it's freedom and convenient for taking photos.
- If you have more time, about 6 days, you should combine 3 adjacent places: Hue-Da Nang-Hoi An. 3 days in Hue, 2 days in Da Nang and 1 day in Hoi An.
*** Detail for 1-day schedule in Da Nang**
- Early morning, driving to Son Tra peninsula (cross Han river bridge and go straight AH17 highway ). Driving up the mount. I like sitting in the cafe, drinking a coffee and watching the bustling city. You should drive around the peninsula and relax with sea wind, then back to the city according to Hoang Sa road. Don't forget to visit Ling Ung pagoda on this road, where is very beautiful and peaceful. If going early, you will have enough time to visit the Dragon bridge and return to the city to lunch late.
- Afternoon, visit the Champa museum (in the city), then bath at 1 of 3 beaches: Non Nuoc, My An, My Ke.
- Evening, circling the city, eating famous snacks of Da Nang, watching Han River bridge. Last, sleeping in a hotel and dreaming about Da Nang. ^^