The classic tour for visitors to Vietnam, and with good reason – following this route gives you easy access to superb historical sights, high-octane nightlife, pristine beaches, mountain-dwelling minority groups and much more. It can easily eat up the full month of your visa.
Although it's not the capital, most would agree that this buzzing, cosmopolitan city is the true hub of Vietnam – its range of bars, restaurants, shops and hotels is unsurpassed.
This mile-high mountain city is highly popular with travellers, and not just for its fresh air or cooler temperatures. Its relaxed atmosphere lends itself to a leisurely exploration of nearby sights, which include some wonderful minority villages.
3 Mui Ne
It's all about the beach at Mui Ne, a curl of sand now fringed with top-drawer resorts. However, there are still a few cheap places to stay and a couple of bars maintaining that old-fashioned backpacker vibe.
Another place famed for its beach life, but with a totally different character to Mui Ne. This is one of Vietnam's party capitals, with bars galore attracting revellers with astonishingly long happy hours. Those who wake up before nightfall can hit the nearby Cham ruins, then sink into a mud bath.
This small city draws almost universally positive reactions from visitors: its food is the best in the country; its lantern-lit buildings are truly spellbinding at night; the nearby sea is great for diving; and the majestic Cham ruins of My Son are close by.
Notably relaxed for its size, Hué was capital of Vietnam's last dynasty, the Nguyen empire. Cross the Perfume River to the old Imperial City, a maze of opulent buildings that were home to emperors as recently as 1945.
The Vietnamese capital provides a truly startling contrast to Ho Chi Minh city – it has a far more traditional air and is home to some superb examples of colonial-era architecture. That said, its bars and restaurants are excellent too.
There are few better ways to round off a Vietnamese tour than a trip to Ha Long Bay, a dizzying mass of limestone peaks jutting from the sea. Most visitors spend a night at sea on a wooden junk, after a feast of seafood and cocktails.