Vietnam: a 10-Day Action-Packed Itinerary for Southern Vietnam
Have you ever felt bored of South-East Asia?
Unlikely. But if you’re looking for a trip more adventurous than touring stepped rice fields and limestone-karst-filled bays, this itinerary for Southern Vietnam is for you.
Here’s how to have a unique, off-the-beaten-track adventure you’ll never forget.
Itinerary for Southern Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City – 3 days
The old capital that many still call Saigon is a bustling cornucopia of experiences. Allow at least 3 days in the city, especially for all the excursions close by. Here’s how I’d recommend planning your visit:
Day 1 – Arrive in Vietnam & Relax
Before you set off for Vietnam, download Grab, the taxi app. When you land at Ho Chi Minh airport, use the app to order a ride to your hotel. This affordable option can be under $20 for a 40-minute drive.
Once you’re checked in, take a moment to relax – you’re likely very jetlagged. For this reason, I’d recommend booking one of the many spa hotels in the city, or at least one with a rooftop pool so you can immerse yourself in your destination while you unwind.
When you feel ready, spend the rest of your first day exploring. The streets here feel safe, but remember to watch out for the hordes of motorbikes!
Wander the streets near the river, visit the Opera House, Independence Palace, and Post Office (much more impressive than it sounds), stopping for Vietnamese coffee and Banh Mi in between. I indulged in a coconut-milk-marinated pork belly Banh Mi opposite the post office, which still has a special place in my heart.
Find a traditional Vietnamese restaurant for dinner and try Banh Xeo, named for the sizzling sound the pancake makes when it hits the pan. Or try any other cuisine you fancy – everything from Mexican to Indian restaurants cover the city.
Day 2 – Mekong Delta
Book a tour of the Mekong River for your second day. Many tour operators pick you up right from your hotel.
Sip young coconuts as you’re rowed and tuk-tuked through the communities still living on the islands dotting the delta.
Depending on which tour you book, you may be treated to extra stops at a bee farm, fishing village, or island candy manufacturer!
Day 3 – Cu Chi Tunnels
Tours of the tunnels used by soldiers in the Vietnam War (or American War, as it’s called in Vietnam) are an education.
Crawling through them yourself is a haunting experience that will live with you forever. For any history buff, the visit is a necessity. For the rest of us, it’s eye-opening, though harrowing.
If that isn’t your thing, spend the day back in the city. There are countless sites to see, including independent breweries and an old apartment block that’s been converted into a tetris of cafes!
That evening, hop on your pre-booked 8-hour sleeper bus to Da Lat. They are surprisingly comfortable, cheap, and often come with WiFi, a TV, a charging port, and a pillow and blankets in your bed! I spent the time napping through movies and the journey flew by.
When you get off the bus, the cooler climate may come as a shock – you’re in the mountains now!
Da Lat – 2 days
Day 4 – Canyoning and Waterfalls
Once you’ve gobbled down your hotel breakfast, head out to see the stunning waterfalls this region is so famous for.
There are two ways to do this – hire a private driver so you can choose your own stops and benefit from their local knowledge (ours added a local Kopi Luwak stop), or book a group tour.
If you’re adventurous, try the once-in-a-lifetime waterfall climbing experiences. Otherwise, admiring the view while staying dry at the bottom is just as memorable. While there are many to choose from, I would especially recommend visiting Pongour and Elephant Waterfalls for their size and beauty.
Day 5 – Explore Da Lat Town
The mountain town is full of markets, cafes, gardens, and even has a gorgeous lake in the middle which you can hire paddle boats to explore.
At the end of the evening, make your way to Nha Trang by bus or private driver.
Nha Trang – 1 day
Day 6 – Vinpearl
You are in Nha Trang for one reason and one reason only – VINPEARL.
This mind-blowing park is situated on its own island.
Head out from your waterfront hotel to catch the cable car to the park and let the day begin! Whether you stay exclusively in the waterpark – one of the best I’ve ever been to – or venture into the theme park, botanical gardens, and beaches complete with an inflatable obstacle course, is up to you!
However you spend your day, make time for the Alpine Coaster; a self-driven downhill coaster that starts from the top of the island and comes with unforgettable views of the ocean and Nha Trang coastline in the distance.
The line to catch the cable car back to the mainland can be quite lengthy, so allow plenty of time to get back for your next sleeper bus.
We’re heading to the sand dunes of Mui Ne!
Mui Ne – 4 days
Day 7 – Relax on the Beaches of Mui Ne
Up until now, your schedule has been pretty hectic, so it’s ending with some true R&R. The coastline is full of everything from beach shacks to 5-star hotels. Whatever experience you’re looking for and can afford, Mui Ne has it.
Spend your first day lazing on the beach drinking cocktails, and wander the beachfront streets at night to find fresh seafood as you watch the sun go down.
Day 8 – Sand Dunes
While you can still spend some of today on the beach, carve out a chunk of time for a sand dune adventure!
There are two main areas, the smaller red dunes that are easier to get to, or the inconvenient but far more impressive white ones. My advice – book a tour that takes you to both. Tours vary from simple pick-up and drop-off to full-on dune buggy experiences.
On the ride back, stop at one-of-a-kind Fairy Stream. Kick off your sandals and wade through the water that’s cut through meters and meters of sand, leaving all the layers exposed.
Day 9 – The Beach, and Kitesurfing!
You haven’t been to Mui Ne if you haven’t tried its most famous activity – kitesurfing! Most beachfront hotels offer equipment and lessons, or are situated near a school that has everything you need.
If that feels like a bit too much for you, try your hand at the easier windsurfing option.
Even easier and equally enjoyable is lying on your sun lounger with a good book and cocktail. The choice is yours.
Day 10 – Home
Sadly your adventures in Southern Vietnam have come to an end! Once you’ve checked out and walked along the beach one last time, catch the 5-hour bus back to Ho Chi Minh City and jump on your plane home.
Make it Your Own Itinerary for Southern Vietnam
My last tip, remember that itineraries are completely flexible and this is just my suggestion!
- If you don’t like the sound of creepy war tunnels but love waterparks, spend one day less in the city and one day more on the rides
- Or if cities and culture are your thing but you aren’t worried by waterfalls, waterparks, and beaches, take the train from Ho Chi Minh to Hoi An for a completely different adventure
Most importantly, have an amazing time. Leave a comment if you’ve tried this out or have other suggestions for an itinerary for Southern Vietnam, we’d love to hear from you!