Vietnam and Thailand Itinerary: How to Spend 3 Weeks in Vietnam and Thailand
If you are planning to visit Southeast Asia, this 3 week Thailand and Vietnam itinerary will show you the perfect way to spend 3 weeks in Southeast Asia.
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Southeast Asia is a popular travel destination for tourists from all over the world. It’s a region known for its rich history and culture, stunning natural beauty, friendly people and delicious cuisine. It’s a perfect destination for travelers seeking for a unique, fun and unforgettable experience.
There are many countries in Southeast Asia, including Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam, etc. Traveling through Southeast Asia to visit every country would take months or even a year.
From the pristine beaches of Thailand and the Philippines to the lush jungles of Indonesia and Malaysia, the region offers a wide range of natural wonders to explore. For the history buff, the ancient temples of Angkor in Cambodia and the colonial architecture of Hanoi in Vietnam offer plenty of cultural treasures to explore in Southeast Asia.
If you only have 3 weeks in Southeast Asia, you won’t be able to see every country. Therefore I suggest just 2 countries to explore: Vietnam and Thailand. Vietnam and Thailand are popular destinations to visit in Southeast Asia and you will have a great time there.
This 3 week Southeast Asia itinerary will cover the highlights of Thailand and Vietnam so you get a variety of different experiences in both countries.
Why Should You Visit Thailand and Vietnam?
Thailand and Vietnam are two of the most popular destinations in Southeast Asia, and for good reason.
Thailand, known as the “Land of Smiles,” is a country that offers a perfect balance of culture, nature, and relaxation. From the bustling city of Bangkok to the ancient temples in Chiang Mai, you can indulge in delicious street food, and experience the world-famous hospitality of the Thai people.
Vietnam is a country rich in history and culture. From the French colonial architecture of Hanoi to the ancient city of Hue, Vietnam is a country that offers a fascinating glimpse into its past.
Visitors can also explore the country’s stunning natural beauty, from the limestone cliffs of Halong Bay to the rice paddies of the north. Vietnam is also known for its delicious cuisine, with dishes like pho and banh mi that are popular around the world.
Thailand and Vietnam are two destinations that offer a perfect blend of culture, history, nature, and relaxation. From bustling cities to the peaceful countryside, there’s something for everyone in these two amazing countries. Whether you’re looking for a cultural experience, an adventure, or just some time to relax on the beach, Thailand and Vietnam are destinations that are sure to leave a lasting impression.
When is the best time to visit Thailand and Vietnam?
Thailand and Vietnam have a diverse geography and many micro climates within each country. But in general, Southeast Asia has a dry season and a wet season.
Dry season is generally from November to April and rainy season from May to October. It is best to not visit during rainy season as there can be flooding especially in Central Vietnam during that time.
Best months to visit Thailand
The best time to visit Thailand is between November and February, during the cool and dry season. This is also the peak tourist season, so expect higher prices and larger crowds.
If you’re looking for a quieter time to visit, consider going during the shoulder seasons of September to October, although you may experience some rain.
If you prefer not to travel in the heat, you may choose other months to travel to Thailand rather than March to May. I went in April and it was 40C+ every day.
Best months to visit Vietnam
The best time to visit Vietnam is during the cooler and drier months of December to February. If you are visiting Central and South Vietnam, the winter months can be quite comfortable.
Sapa in the North is best visited during July to September when you will see the green rice terraces while you may experience some rain, it won’t be like the coastal flooding in Da Nang.
In addition if you do plan to visit the mountainous regions of Vietnam, the winter months (November to March) can be quite foggy, so summer and fall months may be better.
How Do You Get Around Thailand and Vietnam?
It is very easy to get around Thailand and Vietnam, which is also why these two countries are often first choices for backpackers and foreign tourists. You can easily get around and travel within Thailand and Vietnam by flying, trains, buses, taxis, luxury vans, tours, tuk-tuks and renting motorbikes.
If you are thinking about ride sharing services, the best app is Grab, since Uber and Lyft do not operate in Southeast Asia. You can link your foreign credit card to Grab (or you can pay cash after you take the ride).
Specifically within Thailand, metered taxis are a good option in Bangkok and other major cities, while tuk-tuks are a fun and affordable way to get around in smaller towns and shorter distances.
The easiest way to travel within cities and towns in Vietnam is to rent a motorbike. If you cannot ride one, you can also ask your hotel to help you arrange private taxi and luxury van if you are planning to travel from city to city.
What to Pack for Vietnam and Thailand?
Since you will be spending 3 weeks in Southeast Asia, it is important you bring the right things with you to make the trip more enjoyable and easier.
Summer clothes with layers: Southeast Asia is normally pretty warm so bring summer clothes. However if you are going between December and February and planning to visit mountainous regions, then be sure to bring layers with you as it can get chilly in the mountains.
Cash: Vietnam and Thailand are very cash heavy countries. Even though you can pay for hotels and most meals with a credit card, most attractions and vendors still only take cash. If you do not have enough cash, be sure to bring a no fee ATM card as withdrawing from local ATM machines give you the best exchange rate.
Ear plugs & eye mask: These are super useful if you are trying to sleep on sleeper buses and trains since it could be loud and bright!
Medications: If you have prescription medications you should be sure to bring them. You can buy generic brands in Thailand and Vietnam if necessary.
For the most part, you can buy things you need such as toiletries, sunscreen, hats, lotion, and other necessities in Southeast Asia when you travel there. They are generally cheaper than what you get in the US or UK and it helps you to save space in your luggage.
How Safe is Thailand and Vietnam?
Thailand and Vietnam are very safe countries for travelers, even for solo female travelers. This is also why there are many backpackers that love to travel to Vietnam and Thailand.
Both Thailand and Vietnam have a low crime rate and the locals are friendly and helpful. However as with any tourist destinations, there is always petty crime so be sure to watch your belongings.
World Nomads provides travel insurance for travellers in over 100 countries. As an affiliate, we receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is information only and not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.
Another potential risk while traveling in Vietnam and Thailand is food safety. Be sure to eat at reputable restaurants to minimize the risk of food poisoning. Some people also advise avoid getting ice but I never had any issues, in fact I have never gotten food borne illness in Thailand and Vietnam.
You should also be aware of scams targeting tourists, such as taxi and tuk tuk scams that overcharge tourists using “meters”. Always be aware of any “too-good-to-be-true” deals offered by tour operators and vendors.
3 Week Vietnam and Thailand Itinerary
Day 1 – 4: Bangkok, Thailand
Day 5 – 8: Chiang Mai (or the islands)
Day 9 – 13: Central Vietnam
Day 14 – 21: Northern Vietnam
Thailand and Vietnam are both large countries, so this 3 week itinerary can only show you parts of both countries that I think are unique and beautiful.
If you want particular experiences within Thailand or Vietnam, you can always customize this itinerary based on your interest.
Day 1 – 4: Bangkok, Thailand
Start your trip in Bangkok, Thailand’s vibrant capital city. You can spend a few days exploring the city’s temples, markets, and street food scene.
Day 1 in Bangkok
Assuming you are landing in Thailand on Day 1, you should take this time to relax and try to adjust jet lag. But if you are feeling up for it, you can visit Wat Paknam, a popular temple among locals and tourists alike due to its unique architecture and spiritual significance.
Wat Paknam is famous because of its role in making the Dhammakaya meditation method known in Thailand. It is also easily recognizable because of the seated 69m golden statue that was finished in 2021.
You can also spend some time visiting China Town, getting a Thai massage and checking out the fancy shopping center Icon Siam on your first day in Thailand.
Day 2 in Bangkok
During your 2nd day in Bangkok, start your day by visiting the Grand Palace, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Bangkok. The palace was once the home of the Thai kings and is a great example of traditional Thai architecture.
Within the Grand Palace complex, be sure to not miss the temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew), famous for the seated jade Buddha clothed in gold.
After visiting the palace, slowly walk over to Wat Pho, known for its 46-meter-long reclining Buddha statue.
If there is time, you can also enjoy a river cruise around the city and get off at Wat Arun to enjoy the sunset.
Finish your night by visiting the famous Khao San Road, a vibrant street that is packed with bars, restaurants, shops and street vendors. You can try very interesting and exotic street food on Khao San Road.
Day 3 in Bangkok
Most people who visit Bangkok opt for a couple of day trips not far from Bangkok after exploring the city.
The floating market near Bangkok is a popular tourist attraction where vendors sell their goods from boats on the water. There are several floating markets in and around Bangkok, but the most famous one is Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, which is located about 95km (1.5 hour drive) from Bangkok.
At the floating market, visitors can see vendors selling a variety of goods including fresh produce, local handicrafts, souvenirs, and cooked food from their boats.
If Muay Thai is not of interest to you, you can always grab a drink at some of Bangkok’s best rooftop bars such as Sky Bar at Lebua Hotel which was featured in the movie Hangover 2. Other nice rooftop bars include Moon Bar, Red Sky restaurant, Octave, and SEEN.
Day 4 in Bangkok
The city of Ayutthaya was the second capital of the Kingdom of Siam; it was once the largest and most prosperous city in Southeast Asia. However it was destroyed by the Burmese army in 1767.
Today Ayutthaya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to many temples and ruins, including the famous Wat Mahathat, known for its iconic Buddha head in the roots of a tree.
The Erawan Museum is a unique 3 story building shaped like a giant elephant and is home to a collection of art and antiques from Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries.
The Ancient City is a beautiful outdoor museum that showcases Thailand’s history and culture. You can see the replicas of ancient temples, palaces, and villages, and explore exhibitions showcasing traditional Thai art and culture at the Ancient City. It is also one of the most popular photo spots for Instagrammers because of its beautiful architecture.
If you are on a budget, take an overnight train (12-14 hours) or overnight bus (9-10 hours) to the next destination: Chiang Mai.
Where to stay in Bangkok
Bangkok is a huge city so you can find accommodations that fit your budget, whether it is hostels or 5 star hotels. I have visited Bangkok a few times and stayed at various places ranging from really cheap to moderately expensive.
You can also book Airbnbs in Bangkok if you are traveling with a large party and prefer to stay together.
Day 5 – 8: Chiang Mai
If you are not taking the overnight train or bus from Bangkok, you can book an early flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand and it is located in the northern region of Thailand. Chiang Mai is known for its rich history, culture, and natural beauty.
The city is surrounded by mountains and lush forests, and is home to many historic temples and landmarks. Chiang Mai also has a laid-back and relaxed vibe, with plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities.
Many people actually like the chill vibe in Chiang Mail more than Bangkok, but I think both cities are unique and are enjoyable in different ways.
Day 5: Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai was founded in 1296 and was the capital of Lanna Kingdom until 1558. As a former capital city, it is not surprising to find a walled old city protected by a moat.
During your first day in Chiang Mai, you can explore this fortified old city and visit the many temples there. Some of the most famous temples to visit in Chiang Mai include Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chiang Man.
One of the most popular things to do in Chiangmai among visitors is to visit its night markets, such as Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, Wua Lai Walking Street, or even the Chang Phuak Gate Night Market. At these night markets you can shop for souvenirs and try some delicious street food.
Day 6: Chiang Mai
After spending the entire day yesterday in the city center of Chiang Mai, today you will venture out a little to do some light hiking and visit Doi Suthep-Pui National Park.
Wat Pha Lat is a serene and tranquil Buddhist temple nestled in the lush greenery of the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. You can visit Wat Pha Lat by car or by foot via Monk’s Trail, which is a unique and rewarding experience.
After Wat Pha Lat, make your way to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, one of the most popular Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai. It is located on the top of Doi Suthep mountain and can be visited by car or climbing up 309 steps.
Once at the top, you can marvel at the stunning golden pagoda, which is believed to enshrine a relic of the Buddha. You will also have a sweeping panoramic view of the surrounding area from the temple’s terrace.
In the afternoon you can relax at a cafe in Chiang Mai or get a Thai massage (I highly recommend getting a massage everyday while you are in Thailand!).
Day 7 & 8: Day Trips From Chiang Mai
There are a number of fun half day and full day trips you can do from Chiang Mai, which is also why people love visiting Chiang Mai.
<Alternative Day 5 – 8 in Thailand>
If temples are of no interest to you, don’t worry, you can still enjoy Thailand!
Thailand is famous for its white sand beach and islands, in fact many people fly to Thailand just for its beautiful beaches and water activities.
Instead of going up to Chiang Mai, you can fly down south to Phuket from Bangkok.
Phuket is a vibrant beach town with a lot of resorts, restaurants and bars. There are also numerous day trips to the various islands and beaches from Phuket. In fact Phuket is where most first time visitors to Thailand stay.
If you want to get away from the bustling and hustling of Phuket, you can always stay at the more quiet Krabi or Phi Phi Island and still enjoy all the water activities and white sand beach.
Day 9 – 13: Central Vietnam
Central Vietnam is a popular region of Vietnam that offers a rich history, interesting culture, delicious cuisine and beautiful scenery.
Central Vietnam is home to some of the country’s most iconic attractions, such as the ancient city of Hue, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hoi An, the beautiful Marble Mountains, and the fun filled Ba Na Hills.
You will spend the next 4 days exploring Da Nang, Hoi An and Hue.
Day 9: Da Nang
Catch the first flight out from Chiang Mai (or Phuket) to Da Nang to maximize your day in Da Nang.
Da Nang is the largest city in Central Vietnam, known for its beach, Marble Mountain, religious sites, and its proximity to Ba Na Hills, Hue and Hoi An.
To maximize your day in Da Nang, I would recommend picking either the Marble Mountain area or So’n Tra Mountain to visit. If you have a lot of time you can also try to visit both of these sites.
Marble Mountain is actually 5 limestone peaks in Da Nang; these 5 peaks are known as the five elements in nature: water, fire, earth, wood and metal.
There are a number of pagodas, caves and towers on Marble Mountain and it is one of the most visited areas in Da Nang.
The most famous attractions on Marble Mountain include the Linh Ung Pagoda and Non Nuoc Pagoda, Tam Thai Pagoda, Huyen Khong Cave, Hoa Nghiem Cave and Non Nuoc Stone Carving Village. You will also get beautiful a view of the coast line from Marble Mountain.
Son Tra Mountain (Monkey Mountain) is also a famous attraction area in Da Nang, famous for Son Tra Linh Ung Pagoda (not to be confused with the one on Marble Mountain) and its Lady Buddha (the tallest Buddhist statue in Vietnam) and Ban Co Peak.
Where to stay in Da Nang
Day 10: Ba Na Hills
Ba Na Hills is an amusement park about 40 minute drive from Da Nang city center. Insta-famous for its Golden Bridge, Ba Na Hills is a nice day trip from Da Nang for the entire family.
Ba Na Hills also has one of the longest cable cars in Vietnam and the whole ride in itself is an attraction and takes about 20 minutes from the bottom of the hill to the amusement park.
Day 11: Hoi An
After taking your photos at the Golden Bridge and grabbing breakfast, it is time to check out and travel to Hoi An. From Ba Na Hills you can get a taxi or Grab to Hoi An, which is about 1 hour away by car.
Hoi An was an international trading center in Vietnam back in the 16th and 17th centuries. Because of its trading activities, there were many foreign merchants that came to Hoi An and set up their own quarters.
The Old Town of Hoi An has a number of architectural monuments such as shrines, temples, pagodas, ancient houses and they are preserved intact. It is now an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
While in Hoi An, you can get a tourist ticket (passes to see up to 5 attractions) and visit some of the most famous places in Hoi An, which include:
- Japanese Covered Bridge
- Assembly Halls (Phuc Kien, Quant Trieu, Trieu Chau, Hai Nam)
- Old houses (Tan Ky, Quan Thang, Duc An, etc)
- Communal Houses
But to be honest, Hoi An is best experienced just by walking around the different streets, admiring the lanterns and architecture, people watch at a cafe, getting custom dresses and shirts made at a tailor, checking out Hoi An night market and taking an evening boat ride on the Hoai River.
Where to stay in Hoi An
Most visitors stay near the ancient town of Hoi An although you can also stay at a resort near the beach.
If your plan is to spend most of your time exploring the old town of Hoi An, then I would highly recommend these hotels:
Day 12 & 13: Hoi An & Hue
Spend early morning in Hoi An to explore and take some photos while there is no crazy crowd like the previous afternoon. Early morning is actually the best time to explore Hoi An if you want photos since most tours come later in the day.
You can also grab some delicious pho at Phở Tùng, one of the best reviewed Pho restaurants in the old town. Or you can get Bahn Mi (Vietnamese sandwich) from the famous Bánh Mì Phượng, the most popular Bahn Mi places in Hoi An after it was featured in Anthony Bourdain’s – No Reservations.
After a morning in Hoi An, take a bus or private taxi to Hue, the ancient capital of the Nguyen Dynasty in Vietnam.
Hue is a large city and the main attractions include:
- Imperial Citadel: walled citadel including palaces of the imperial family
- Thien Mu Pagoda: 7 story Buddhist temple by Perfume River east of Imperial Citadel
- Ancient tombs: tombs of Emperor Tu Duc, Emperor Khai Dinh, Emperor Ga Liang, Emperor Minh Mang
- Dong Ba Market: the oldest market in Hue
- Abandoned Water Park
- Hue Night Walking Street: a street full of restaurants and bars
With about a day and half in Hue, you will be able to see all the main attractions, try some delicious local food before either taking an overnight train to Ninh Binh or taking a short flight to Hanoi.
Where to stay in Hue
Hue is a large city and personally I think the best places to stay in Hue are either close to the imperial citadel or the Night Walking Street.
Hue is quite big and the tombs are not in the city itself. The best way to get around Hue is to rent a scooter or hire a private taxi to take you around the different spots. I would not recommend using Grab outside of the city as you may not be able to get cars in the outskirts of town.
Day 14 – 21: Northern Vietnam
Northern Vietnam is a stunning region that is characterized by its beautiful mountain landscapes, diverse ethnic communities, and rich cultural heritage. The region is home to many of Vietnam’s most iconic destinations, including the UNESCO World Heritage site of Halong Bay, the rice paddies of Sapa, the incredible landscape of Ninh Binh, and the stunning waterfall of Cao Bang.
You will spend the next week of your 3 week Thailand and Vietnam trip exploring some of the best spots in Northern Vietnam before flying home from Hanoi.
Day 14 & 15: Ninh Binh & Hanoi
If you flew to Hanoi from Hue, you would need to take an early morning bus or private taxi or luxury van from Hanoi to Tam Coc in Ninh Binh. Or if you took a overnight train from Hue to Ninh Binh, you will need to ask your hotel to book you a taxi from Ninh Binh Train Station to Tam Coc to start your day.
Ninh Binh is a popular region in Northern Vietnam, about 2-3 hours by car from Hanoi. Located southeast of Hanoi, Ninh Binh is often referred to as “Halong Bay on Land” due to its striking karst landscape, which is made up of towering limestone cliffs, lush forests, and meandering rivers.
Ninh Binh is also home to many ancient temples, pagodas, and other historical sites and view points and it is no wonder it is one of the most popular day trips from Hanoi. With about 2 days in Ninh Binh, you can see some of the best attractions:
- Mua Caves: beautiful view points of the entire area
- Bai Dinh Pagoda: one of the largest Buddhist temple complexes in Southeast Asia
- Hoa Lu Ancient Capital: ancient capital from the 10th to 11th century
- Bich Dong Pagoda: ancient pagoda nestled at the foot of a towering mountain
- Tam Coc Boat Ride: a scenic 1.5 hour boat ride in the town of Tam Coc that takes you through the rice paddies and limestone cliffs and caves
- Trang An Boat Ride: a beautiful 3 hour boat ride that has 3 different routes and lets you see caves and religious sites with the option of getting off at each site
If you have more time in Ninh Binh, you can also check out Van Long Wetland Nature Reserve, caves, Thung Nham Bird Park and Cuc Phuong National Park.
If you decide to travel around Ninh Binh by scooter or taxi, then I would recommend visiting Bai Dinh Pagoda, Hoa Lu Ancient Capital and Trang An Boat ride on the first day since they are not too far from each other.
On the second day you can go to Mua Caves, Bich Dong Pagoda and take the Tam Coc boat ride. Mua Caves do get really crowded once all the tours come, so it’s best to visit early in the morning to avoid the crowd. All of these are not too far from Tam Coc so they should be done together.
Where to stay in Ninh Binh
Most people stay in the town of Tam Coc when they visit Ninh Binh because there are a lot of restaurants and bars.
Hanoi in the afternoon on Day 15
Finish your Ninh Binh excursions around noon so you can take a bus or luxury van back to Hanoi to explore this wonderful capital city of Vietnam.
There is a lot to see, do, drink, and eat in Hanoi. The main attractions in Hanoi near the Old Quarter include:
- Hanoi Train Street: a street full of cafes famous for its daily train passing
- Temple of Literature: a stunning example of traditional Vietnamese architecture and a symbol of the country’s dedication to education and scholarship.
- Hoan Kiem Lake (and Ngoc Son Temple): a picturesque lake in the middle of Old Quarter surrounded by historical landmarks and popular attractions
- One Pillar Pagoda: a famous Buddhist temple in Hanoi known for its unique architecture
- Quan Thanh Temple: a historic Taoist temple that is one of the four Sacred Temples in Hanoi
- Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum: the resting place of President Ho Chi Minh that offers an insight into Vietnam’s history
- Imperial Citadel of Thang Long: a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Hanoi
- St. Joseph Cathedral: a famous neo-Gothic cathedral; its architectural style resembles Notre Dame in Paris and it was constructed during the French colonial period
- Hanoi Night Market: a vibrant weekend night market in the center of Old Quarter that sells food, souvenirs and clothing items
- Ta Hien Beer Street (best visited at night): a busy street with restaurants and bars and seating outside that is lively at night
After visiting Hue, you may be less interested in some of the religious and historical sites above and that’s ok!
You can simply enjoy Hanoi by wandering through the narrow streets of Old Quarter, people watch at a Cafe and try Egg Coffee, finding street food at every corner, shopping for souvenirs or clothes, or simply grabbing a drink and dinner at Ta Hien Beer and taking in the lively vibe of the city.
Where to stay in Hanoi
Most people stay in Hanoi Old Quarter when they visit Hanoi for the first time. There are so many restaurants, cafes and shops in the Old Quarter and most tours will also only pick up from hotels in the Old Quarter.
There are plenty of accommodations for all budgets in the Old Quarter and they are within walking distance to all the attractions and restaurants.
I have stayed at a number of the hotels listed above during my most recent trip and have only good things to say about the staff and location of these hotels.
Day 16 & 17: Halong Bay & Hanoi
Halong Bay is one of the most popular natural attractions in Vietnam and it is especially convenient to visit Halong Bay from Hanoi.
Most people visit Halong Bay by doing a cruise and there are different types of Halong Bay cruises:
- One day cruise (no overnight)
- 2 Day 1 Night cruise
- 3 Day 2 night cruise
There are also visitors that spend a night or two on Cat Ba Island, the largest island in Halong Bay instead of doing a cruise.
If you are planning to take a Halong Bay Cruise which most visitors do, there are cruises for all budget types, from as little as $100 a person to over $1000 a night per cabin.
Most people book a 2 day 1 night Halong Bay Cruise and the schedule generally looks something like this:
Day 1 of 2 day Halong Bay Cruise
- 8am pick up from Hanoi
- 12pm boarding Halong Bay Cruise
- 1pm Lunch
- 2 – 4pm activities such as cave exploring, beach, kayaking, swimming – depends on your particular cruise company
- 4-6pm: Happy hour on board
- 6pm: dinner
- Evening: squid fishing and relaxing
Day 2 of 2 day Halong Bay Cruise
- 6:30am cooking class or Tai Chi
- 8am Breakfast
- Morning activity, brunch and checking out
- 3pm back in Hanoi
Day 18 – 20: Sapa
Sapa is a popular city in northern Vietnam, about 380km away from Hanoi. The town is situated at an altitude of 1,600 meters and is surrounded by breathtaking mountains and rice terraces.
Sapa is home to several ethnic minority groups, including the Hmong, Dao, and Tay; you can visit their villages when you trek through Sapa.
If you took an overnight train from Hanoi, you would arrive in Lao Cai, a city near the border of China, around 6am. You will need to ask your hotel or trekking company to help arrange van transportation from Lao Cai train station to Sapa town.
If you took an overnight bus from Hanoi, you will arrive in Sapa instead of Lao Cai, but you might need transport from the bus station to Sapa Town.
Some of the most popular activities in Sapa include trekking through rice terraces and ethnic minority villages, Fansipan, Cat Cat Village and checking out Sapa Town itself.
Trekking in Sapa
Trekking is one of the best things you can do in Sapa if you want to get away from the town and see rice terraces and experience nature and how the Hmong people live.
The most popular trekking tours in Sapa include day treks (from 9am to 3pm) or 2 day 1 night treks with an overnight homestay in one of the villages.
Fansipan is known as the “roof of Indochina” and it is the highest mountain in Vietnam.
Before cable cars were built, people used to trek 2-3 days to go to the peak of Fansipan. But now there is a cable car that can take visitors up to Fansipan without doing the overnight treks. The cable car only takes about 15-20 minutes to take you up to Fansipan, and you will need to hike about 15 minute to the top of the peak.
On a clear day you can see the beautiful view of the surrounding area and mountains from Fansipan Summit at 3143m (10312 feet). It generally takes about half a day to visit Fansipan.
Cat Cat Village
Cat Cat Village is a popular tourist town about 2km (20-30 minute walk) from Sapa town.
You can either take a taxi or simply walk to Cat Cat Village from the center of Sapa. On a clear day you will see a beautiful view of rice terraces as you take a leisurely stroll to Cat Cat Village.
You need to purchase a ticket to enter Cat Cat Village. Once inside, you can explore the narrow alleys, rose gardens, photo spots, cafes, bamboo forest, the famous waterfall CatScat (this is how the name Cat Cat Village came about).
Many visitors rent traditional ethnic minority clothing when they visit Cat Cat Village. The shop owners will help you with make up and hair as well, so it is a pretty fun experience. It usually takes at least 3-4 hours to fully explore Cat Cat Village.
Explore the town of Sapa
The town of Sapa is an attraction in itself. There is a large lake that many people check out. There are also a lot of restaurants that are popular among tourists.
There are a number of photo spots (usually at cafes and restaurants) that visitors go to take Instagram worthy photos. On a clear day you can get a nice view of the rice terrace from certain spots in Sapa town.
Some of the most popular photo spots in Sapa include Swing SaPa, Ansapa Village, and Moana Sapa.
Where to stay in Sapa
Sapa has a number of nice hotels, some offer fantastic views of the valley and rice terraces.
If you have more time in Thailand or Vietnam, you can check out the beaches of Thailand by flying to Phuket and going to Koh Phi Phi or Krabi and do some snorkeling or just lying on the white sand beach.
If you do not want to visit Northern Vietnam, you can certainly travel south from Da Nang and visit cities such as Da Lat, Ho Chi Minh City or the beautiful island of Phu Quoc.
I hope this 3 week Vietnam and Thailand itinerary will inspire you to explore the beautiful countries of Southeast Asia, a destination for every dream.
Useful Resources to Plan Southeast Asia Itinerary
For transportation within Southeast Asia
- Grab app for getting taxis
For hotel booking within Southeast Asia
For booking tours within Southeast Asia
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