Northern Vietnam

Northern Vietnam is home to every kind of Vietnam vacation experience you could want, from the controlled chaos of Hanoi to the misty mountains of the Ha Giang loop and the floating karst monoliths of Ha Long Bay. It’s also culturally diverse, hosting both the government capital and over 40 minority ethnic groups – the most of any part of Vietnam.

best time to travel to north vietnam

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Northern Vietnam Travel Guide

Best time to visit Northern Vietnam

The perfect time to go to North Vietnam depends on where you want to go and what you want to do. Picking the right time means you can soak up all the amazing sights and experiences each place has to offer. So, think about what you want to see and do, and plan your trip for when it’ll be the most awesome!

Below are some of the factors to consider when planning your trip to Northern Vietnam:


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Northern Vietnam experiences distinct seasons. The cooler, drier months from October to April are considered the best time to visit. During this period, you can expect clear skies, comfortable temperatures (typically 15°C to 25°C), and minimal rainfall, making it ideal for outdoor activities like trekking and sightseeing. 

Festival and Events

Mid-Autumn Festival in Hoi An

Northern Vietnam is rich in cultural celebrations and festivals throughout the year. These events can offer unique insights into local traditions and customs. Some notable festivals include the Mid-Autumn Festival, celebrated with lantern processions and mooncake feasts, and the Perfume Pagoda Festival, a pilgrimage to the Perfume Pagoda in Hanoi Province.


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Peak tourist times in Northern Vietnam are from October to April, during holidays and festivals, making places like Hanoi and Ha Long Bay crowded and pricey. For a quieter visit, consider May to September, when fewer tourists lead to a more laid-back experience.


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Autumn in Northern Vietnam, from September to November, features ideal mild weather for outdoor exploration. For those seeking lush landscapes in the rainy season or water activities like kayaking, May to September is the best time to visit.


Getting to Northern Vietnam

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By Air

The most convenient way to reach Northern Vietnam is by flying into one of the major airports:

  • Noi Bai International Airport (Hanoi)
  • Cat Bi International Airport (Hai Phong)
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By Train

Vietnam’s extensive railway network connects major cities in Northern Vietnam with other regions of the country. The Reunification Express is the main train route running from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, passing through cities like Hue, Da Nang, and Nha Trang along the way.

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By Bus

Several long-distance bus companies operate routes to Northern Vietnam from other parts of the country. Sleeper buses are a popular option for overnight travel, offering reclining seats or beds for added comfort.

Getting around Northern Vietnam

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By Train

Vietnam Railways operates trains connecting major cities in Northern Vietnam, including Hanoi, Hai Phong, and Lao Cai (for Sapa). Trains offer a comfortable and scenic way to travel between destinations, with various seating options available.

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By Bus

An extensive network of buses and minibusses connects cities and towns throughout Northern Vietnam. Public buses are the most economical option, while private minibusses and tourist buses offer more comfort and convenience for longer journeys.

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By Car or Motorbike

Renting a car or motorbike is a popular option for travelers who prefer flexibility and independence. However, traffic in Vietnamese cities can be chaotic, so driving requires caution and experience. Many tourists opt to hire a local driver or join guided tours for added convenience.

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By Air

Traveling by air within Northern Vietnam is facilitated by several key airports, ensuring smooth transit across this diverse region:

  • Noi Bai International Airport (HAN) in Hanoi
  • Cat Bi International Airport (HPH) in Hai Phong
  • Dien Bien Phu Airport (DIN) in Dien Bien Phu
  • Van Don International Airport (VDO) near Ha Long
  • Thọ Xuân Airport (THD) near Thanh Hoa

While direct flights between these airports may not always be available, Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport acts as the main hub for the region. For closer destinations or when flights are not feasible, consider exploring other transportation options like trains, buses, or car rentals to navigate the scenic landscapes of Northern Vietnam.

Customs and Etiquette

In Northern Vietnam, customs and manners are all about showing respect and honoring traditions. 

Elders, like grandparents and older folks, are highly respected, and everyone follows special rules to show them that respect. People there prefer modesty in how you dress and behave, especially when visiting religious places or rural areas. 

When you meet someone, it’s customary to greet them warmly with a smile and maybe a nod. At mealtime, it’s polite to wait for the oldest person to start eating before you dig in. And before entering someone’s home, you’re expected to take off your shoes—it’s a sign of respect and cleanliness. 

Also, a big no-no is sticking your chopsticks straight up in your food—it’s kinda like saying something bad might happen.

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Common questions about Northern Vietnam

Absolutely! Northern Vietnam offers a wealth of cultural treasures, breathtaking landscapes, and vibrant experiences. From the ancient charm of Hanoi to the majestic beauty of Ha Long Bay and the cultural richness of ethnic minority communities, Northern Vietnam promises unforgettable adventures for travelers seeking authenticity and discovery.

  1. Hanoi: As the capital city of Vietnam, Hanoi is a vibrant blend of ancient culture and modern charm. Must-see attractions include the historic Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem Lake, the Temple of Literature, and the bustling street markets. Don’t miss out on sampling the delicious street food and experiencing traditional water puppet shows.
  2. Ha Giang: Known for its breathtaking landscapes and ethnic minority communities, Ha Giang offers stunning scenery with towering limestone peaks, terraced rice fields, and winding mountain passes. Highlights include the Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark, Ma Pi Leng Pass, and authentic homestays in remote villages.
  3. Ninh Binh: Often referred to as “Halong Bay on land,” Ninh Binh features dramatic limestone karsts rising from emerald rice paddies and winding rivers. Visit Trang An Grottoes, Tam Coc-Bich Dong, and Hoa Lu Ancient Capital to explore ancient temples, caves, and natural wonders.
  4. Sapa: Nestled in the Hoang Lien Son Mountains, Sapa is famous for its stunning rice terraces, ethnic minority cultures, and trekking opportunities. Explore villages like Cat Cat, Lao Chai, and Ta Van, hike to the peak of Fansipan (the highest mountain in Indochina), and admire the panoramic views of the Muong Hoa Valley.
  5. Halong Bay: A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Vietnam’s most iconic destinations, Halong Bay is renowned for its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone islands topped with lush vegetation. Take a cruise through the bay, kayak around the karsts, visit floating fishing villages, and explore caves like Sung Sot and Thien Cung.

From Hanoi:

  • Hanoi Full-Day City Tour: truly explore Hanoi’s essence with our full-day tour, exploring the Old, French, and New Quarters for iconic landmarks and hidden gems.
  • Hanoi Countryside Motorbike Tour: Escape to the Red River Delta’s serene villages and farms on our motorbike tour. Experience rural life and the effects of urbanization firsthand.

From Ninh Binh:

From Halong Bay:

  • Luxury Halong Lan Ha Bay Cruise: Join a one-day cruise experience specially designed to witness the best parts of Halong Bay and get off the beaten track to discover Lan Ha Bay – the untouched neighbor of Halong.
  • Halong Bay 1-Day Cruise: This tour includes over 5 hours of sailing to some of the best places available on most 2-day cruise routes. Renowned for its striking passages, uninhabited islets, lagoons, and stunning beauty, Halong Bay is a UNESCO world heritage site that truly is a bucket list destination.

Beauty is subjective, and both North and South Vietnam offer their charms. The North captivates with its ancient temples, serene landscapes, and cultural richness, while the South entices with its dynamic cities, lush greenery, and coastal beauty. Ultimately, the “niceness” of each region depends on individual preferences and interests.

The ideal duration for exploring Northern Vietnam depends on your travel preferences and itinerary. However, to truly savor the region’s highlights, plan to spend at least 7-10 days. This allows time to explore Hanoi’s historical sites, cruise through Ha Long Bay, trek in Sapa, and immerse yourself in local culture.

Northern Vietnam experiences distinct seasons, with a cooler, drier climate from October to April and a warmer, wetter climate from May to September. Temperatures vary depending on the altitude and location but generally range from 15°C to 30°C. It’s advisable to check weather forecasts before traveling and pack accordingly for your trip.