I. GENERAL KNOWLEDGE ABOUT NORTHEN VIETNAM
Northern Vietnam’s the most ancient region of Vietnam’s destinations, originated more than two thousand years beside the Red River Delta. Although Northern Vietnam gets fewer visitors than Ho Chi Minh City and the coastal cities in the South, this offers something not to be missed. Northern Vietnam’s the place where locates Hanoi, Vietnam capital. Northern Vietnam is also where you’ll find breathtaking cliffs, stunning rice terraces and jaw-dropping scenery.
Northern Vietnam’s cultural attractions are diversified ranging from the chaotic highland markets to the hill-tribes in the far north.
Looking for backpacker route in Northern Vietnam? On this 10-day trip which takes you from place to place in Northern Vietnam, you’ll learn loads and get to experience this amazing region at its dazzling best. Covering a huge distance and a wide range of tourist destinations, Northern Vietnam offers tourists wandering around amazing historic and religious sites, trek through hundreds of cliffs and taste full of Vietnam cuisine.
II. BEST TIME TO VISIT NORTHERN VIETNAM
The Northern Vietnam’s climate suffers 4 rough seasons around the year. It’s different from the climate in the South (which only two kinds: dry and wet). Having 4 seasons means that Northern Vietnam suffer different climate and atmosphere each time in a year.
In summer, the highest temperature can reach 38 C degree, while it can be cold and snowy some places in the highlands in winter.
Different climate seasons create a special characteristic for this region. As Northern Vietnam’s a large region and has many destinations for traveling, it can be up to your choice to pick the most suitable time to spend a visit.
Northern weather in brief, not sure to be exactly correct in all cases
- March – May: perfect weather, warm and dry, for trekking and outdoors activities
- June – September: rainy weather and crowded with Vietnamese tourists
- Late September – mid December: cool dry weather, perfect for photos and trekking
- Mid December – February: harsh winter but few tourists, perfect for people watching
III. ITINERARY AND TRANSPORTATION
You can take it as reference for your 10-day itinerary in the Northern Vietnam
First destination: Ninh Binh
Start your 10-day Vietnam journey in Ninh Binh, the ancient citadel of Vietnam in the old time.
Departing destination should be Ninh Binh, a majestic destination for sightseeing and scenery. Recognized by UNESCO as a natural and cultural world heritage, Ninh Binh is a place where the drastic beauties of karst formations meet the idyll of floating paddy fields. Visitors must go on an expedition to visit the well-hidden and sacred temples. With immense beauties in culture and nature, there’re a lot of things to do in Ninh Binh Vietnam.
When in Ninh Binh, it’s said to be unmissable to visit Trang An. Covering such a vast area, Trang An is a biological treasure trove obtaining over 350 species of plants, animals and many other rare species. Taking a boat through 9 caves of Trang An complex and visiting some historical and cultural places on the way are highly recommended.
From Trang An, visitors shouldn’t miss Bai Dinh pagoda – the largest Buddhist pagoda in Vietnam with impressive architecture. Other destinations in Ninh Binh that you should visit: Trang An, Bai Dinh Pagoda, Tam Coc Bich Dong & Mua Cave,…
2-3 days is a suitable time to spend in Ninh Binh. It’s enough for you to wander around as well as relieve yourself in the trip.
Destination 2: Hanoi
Next, depart your journey to Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam and the largest city in Northern Vietnam. Hanoi’s very different from Ho Chi Minh City in the South. There are a lot of motorbikes around Hanoi & a lot of cultural things. That in itself is a thing to discover.
For more advice you can see Hanoi here: Backpacking Hanoi
Find more activity: Top 5 Art Gallery in Hanoi
What to see in Hanoi: A few famous places in Hanoi you can check out include Hoan Kiem Lake, night markets (beware of pickpockets), Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Ho Chi Minh Museum and Ta Hien draft beer corner.
You can stay in Hanoi for 2-3 days to feel the soul of a combination between antique and modernity of the city.
Destination 3: Ha Long Bay
From Hanoi, a shuttle bus will take you past some lovely scenery until you reach one of the must-see sights in Northern Vietnam – the crystalized Ha Long Bay. One of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, where the huge bay boasts over 1,600 limestone islands that rise up out of the water. Grottoes and caves litter this unique & special landscape. Cruising around the beautiful emerald waters will live long in the memory.
Ha Long Bay needs to be seen to be believed is such a the beauty on show. Spend an overnighting in a homestay will enable you to make the most of this unforgettable experience.
Ha Long Bay need 1-2 days for you to fulfill your experience before leaving for the next place.
Destination 4: Sapa – Lao Cai
If you’re keen on traversing the cultures and traditions of the tribal groups, a journey to Sapa will provide a hands-on and unmediated experience. With its mist-covered mountains, colorful local tribes-people and the faint yet undeniable feel, it’s pretty easy to find a reason to visit Sapa. Highlights of the trip to Sapa which cannot be missed are trekking through cliffs, conquering the highest mountainous peak of Indo-Chinese – Fansipan & strolling in villages of ethnic minorities,…
See what to do when in Sapa: Backpacking Sapa
For plenty of destinations to pay a visit in Sapa, you should spend about 3-4 days in your journey for this last destination.
IV. ACCOMMODATION IN NORTHERN VIETNAM
In this article, I will mention and recommend good places to pay a night in each destination according to subjective opinions of backpackers community. You can search on Tripadvisor or Backpackersvietnam group for more references.
Good accommodation in Ninh Binh
- Quoc Khanh bamboo homestay
Convenient location for moving from places to places. 15km away from Bai Dinh Pagoda.
Buffet breakfast is available.
Price from $35, dorm room for $6
- Tam Coc white swan hotel
Tam Coc Bich Dong, Hoa Lu, Ninh Bình; Contact 098 834 26 22
Price: starting from $10 a room for 2 adults
- Hoa Luan restaurant hotel
Group 3, Ninh Hai ward, Hoa Lu district, Ninh Biinh. 10km away from Bai Dinnh Pagoda. Contact 094 743 34 12
Price staring from $14
Good accommodation in Hanoi
- Luxury Backpackers Hotel
Phường Hàng Trống, 56 Ngõ Huyện, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
Price: started from $14 a night
Convenient location for sightseeing, entertainment and moving around the city, various choice for meals.
- Vietnam Backpacker Hostels – Downtown
9 Phố Mã Mây, Hàng Buồm, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội; Contact: 024 3935 1891
Price: starting from $17, can book in advance
Perfect for backpackers. Convenient location for sightseeing, entertainment and moving around
- Funky Jungle hostel
Dorm rooms for just $5 a night.
73 Ma May Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Located right in the center of the Old Quarter
Perfect accommodation in Ha Long bay
- Signature Halong Cruise Signature Halong Cruise
No 6 Lê Thánh Tông Street, Wharf, Ha Long Bay; Contact 024 3927 6999
Price: starting from $262 for a room for two adult
- Azalea Cruise
Price: starting from $380
Contact: 093 983 35 79
- Orchid Halong Cruise
Dang Ba Hat, Yet Kieu, Ha Long city, Quang Ninh province; Contact: 092 371 79 07
Price from $433
Good accommodation in Sapa
- Mimosa hotel Sapa
Tue Tinh road, Sapa town, Lao Cai. Located 200m away from the center
Price from $15 a night
Perfect view and service
- Little View homestay hotel
042 Cau May, Sa Pa town, Lao Cai. Contact: 098 878 77 11
Breathtaking homestay in Sapa
Price from $15
- Sapa Signature Inn
47 Alley, Fansipan, Sa Pa Town
Perfect space for backpackers and foreigners
Price starting from $22
V. SPECIALITY DISHES MUST TRY
On your journey through Northern Vietnam, there are various dishes that’s worth a try.
Egg coffee in Hanoi
If you haven’t tried Vietnamese egg coffee, you may be pleasantly surprised of its unique being. The most common place to find egg coffee is Northern Vietnam, especially Hanoi.
- Giang Cafe
Location: 39 Nguyen Huu Huan, Ly Thai To, Hoan Kiem
- Dinh Cafe
Dinh cafe costs about 17.000 – 20.000 VND
Location: 13 Dinh Tien Hoang, Hang Trong, Hoan Kiem
- Loading T Cafe
Location: 8 Chan Cam, Hang Trong, Hoan Kiem
- Lam Cafe
Location: 60 Nguyen Huu Huan, Hang Bac, Hoan Kiem
Location: 5 Nguyen Quang Bich str., Hoan Kiem dist., Hanoi
Pho – Vietnamese Beef noodle
Northern Pho or common known as Hanoi Pho is a worldwide famous speciality that you must try when come to Vietnam. Price range from VND 30000 – 60000. You can try Pho at:
- Pho Thin
13 Lò Đúc, Ngô Thì Nhậm, Hai Bà Trưng, Hà Nội
Open hour: 5:30 -21:30 everyday
- Traditional Pho Bat Dan
49 Bát Đàn, Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
Open hour: 6:30 – 20:30 everyday
- Pho Suong
24B Ngõ Trung Yên, Đinh Liệt street, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
Open hour: 5:30 – 11:00 and 16:30 – 21:30 everyday
Bun Cha – range from VND 30,000 – 60,000
- Huong Lien
24 Lê Văn Hưu, Hai Bà Trưng district, Hà Nội
- Bún chả Cửa Đông
41 Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm district, Hà Nội
- Bún chả Đắc Kim
1 Hàng Mành, Hoàn Kiếm district, Hà Nội
Cốm (Green sticky rice)
Price range: VND 15,000/pack
A type of soup cooked with a horse’s part. Thang Co is a speciality in highland of Northern Vietnam. It sounds terrible to me. LOL
Price range: VND 100,000 – 300,000/hotpot
VI. TIPS YOU SHOULD KNOW IN NORTHERN VIETNAM
Take one step onto the streets of Hanoi & get involved in the traffic. Stop at this point & I’d say goodluck to you. You’re sure to experience sensory overload: endless streams of motorbikes, loud traffic. Make sure you are brave enough to once experience crossing the road in chaos traffic in the urban capital. One tip’s that you just watch carefully and walk slowly when taking a step into the road. Try to keep yourself away from buses and big vehicles on the road.
Street food cuisine in Northern Vietnam
Similar to Thailand, Vietnam has a wonderful street food cuisine. Especially, Northern Vietnam with Hanoi is really popular about street food culture. The Hanoi ancient town are full of street vendor stores which serve coffee or other specialties. You shouldn’t miss a chance to taste it at least once in a life time. Street food’s very cheap and delicious. You only need an empty stomach. The food sanitary of street vender stores is another story. Just enjoy!
Be careful of pickpocketing & snatching
Pickpocketing and cheats on tourists seem still be a big problem when traveling Vietnam. Should be careful to protect yourselves in advance. Take caution in crowded places and remember to go in group in rural destinations to avoid being taken advantages.
Take advantages of free activities
There’s plenty things to do in Northern Vietnam backpackers route that costs absolutely nothing. Stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi or wander in a local minority market could be a wonderful experience.
Also, visit Bat Trang village if you’re a pottery lover.