Discovering the Best of Southern Vietnam in Two Weeks


If you’re looking to explore Southern Vietnam, we’ve got you covered with a two-week itinerary that will take you from the vibrant streets of Saigon to the tranquil beaches and luxurious resorts beyond. Join Tanya Joslin as she discovers why Southern Vietnam is quickly becoming a must-visit destination in Southeast Asia, and get ready to create your own unforgettable adventure!

Ho Tram Beach, Vietnam
Ho Tram Beach, courtesy of Meliá Ho Tram Beach Resort

Outside of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Vietnam’s southern region is often overlooked by tourists – a real surprise because the south has much to offer, including beautiful islands and beaches, luxurious accommodation, and historic architecture.

And while Vietnam hasn’t shared the same spotlight as Thailand and Bali in recent years, that is changing … fast! Meaning now is the perfect time to beat the crowds and experience the country’s vibrant culture, mouth-watering cuisine, and gracious local hospitality.

For two weeks, we had the pleasure of exploring the breathtaking southern region of Vietnam. Our journey began in the bustling city of HCMC, but we also took the time to venture off the beaten path and discover some of the area’s hidden treasures and new accommodations.

If you’re looking to create your own unforgettable two-week itinerary in Southern Vietnam, here’s our guide to get you started.

Days One to Four – Ho Chi Minh City

Saigon Skyline at Night

Begin your two-week journey in Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city in Vietnam. Formerly known as Saigon, this bustling metropolis is a hub of history, culture, and commerce and the first stop for many visitors who arrive via Tan Son Nhat International Airport.

Saigon, as many locals still prefer to call it, is a fascinating mix of old and new, with gleaming skyscrapers and shopping malls sharing the streetscape with ancient pagodas and European-style landmarks.

While French colonial-era influences are still woven into the city’s fabric, modern HCMC has a youthful, ambitious energy, vibrantly juxtaposed with its rich cultural past. With Vietnam’s booming economy and young population, the city is rapidly reinventing itself, reflected in its fresh crop of restaurants, bars and hotels.

Take a walking tour of the city’s historic landmarks, including the Reunification Palace, the War Remnants Museum, and the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Don’t miss out on the vibrant street food scene, where you can sample local delicacies like banh mi and pho.


To help cut through the HCMC hustle, we recommend jumping on the back of a motorbike for a tour or hailing a cyclo: a three-wheeled bicycle taxi perfect for people-watching. Just remember to negotiate your price in advance!

Also good to know? The city is divided into geographical districts (also called Quân), each with their own identity. For example, District 1 is the city’s tourism, culture, and economic epicentre, District 3 is known for its colonial-era architecture, museums, and religious sites, and District 5 is home to Chinatown.

Where to Eat & Drink in HCMC

HCMC Food Market

Good food is easy to find in HCMC, from cheap and cheerful eateries and street food carts to fancier fine-dining haunts. If you’re keen to try an authentic Vietnamese dish, look to pho (pronounced ‘fuh’) a tasty broth bowl with flat rice noodles, herbs, and meat. Or sample the crunchy/soft, French/Vietnamese baguette goodness of bánh mì.

Coffee-lovers can join the locals sipping cà phê sua dá (ka-fay sooh-da), a rich iced coffee drink blending condensed milk with robust drip coffee.

When it comes to bars and restaurants, one of our new favourites is The Triêu Institute. Occupying a vintage two-storey building in the vibrant Mac Thi Buoi neighbourhood of District 1, the street-level dining space and open kitchen leads to an atmospheric upstairs bar and lounge spilling out to an open-air terrace.

Australian-born Executive Chef Chris Donnellan has crafted a menu of contemporary dishes incorporating the aromatic herbs and botanicals found in Lady Triêu gins, using premium ingredients and local flavours from Vietnam and highlighting the diverse regional flavours of the country. Perfect for a fun night out.

Another Australian connection can be found at the Summer Experiment cocktail bar in District 1, the brainchild of Aussie mixologist Jay Moir. Think moody yet upbeat bar vibes and playful, experiential cocktails with fruits, vegetables, and herbs plucked from the rooftop garden or sourced locally.

Related: Here’s How to Do Northern Vietnam in Style – a 12 Day Itinerary for Hanoi, Sapa, Halong Bay and More!

Stay: Fusion Original Saigon Centre

Pool Fusion Original Saigon Centre
Pool Fusion Original Saigon Centre

In the heart of District 1, you’ll find a fabulous urban retreat perfect for lovers of art, shopping, and design. Fusion Original Saigon Centre occupies ten floors in the city’s prestigious Saigon Centre and Takashimaya Shopping Mall with lavish rooms and amenities, a generous guest lounge, and impeccable service. A special treat (especially after a day exploring the city) is the incredible sixth-floor swimming pool overlooking the buzzing streetscape and breathtaking skyline.


Each of the 146 rooms offers city views and warmly luxurious interiors. Look for the Premium Deluxe room for a comfy king bed, lovely bathtub, city views, complimentary mini-bar, 24-hour Reload Pantry, and access to the exclusive guest lounge.


This unique hotel will stir the senses and put the dynamic city at your fingertips, including the Ben Thanh Market and Opera House just minutes away. Our tip? Dine at Miss Thu, the signature restaurant on the 24th floor.

Read our comprehensive review of Fusion Original Saigon Centre here.

What to See & Do in HCMC:

Notre Dame Cathedral Saigon
Notre Dame Cathedral Saigon

• Head for the clouds and enjoy breathtaking 360° city views at the Saigon SkyDeck, located 49 floors up in the Bitexco Financial Tower in District 1.

• Take a stroll along Dong Khoi, an historic tree-lined street brimming with trendy boutiques and shops that will take you close to the Opera House.

• In the heart of the city, don’t miss the majestic Opera House, even just for a photo-op. Built in 1898 by French architect Eugene Ferret, this lavish landmark building embodies French colonial architecture.

• Set aside a few hours to see The War Remnants Museum (District 3): a must-visit for anyone interested in understanding Vietnam’s history and culture. The museum showcases a collection of artifacts, photographs, and vehicles from the Vietnam War, offering an important local perspective on the conflict. While some exhibits can be difficult to view, the museum serves as a valuable reminder of the importance of peace.

• After wandering through the peaceful 30/4 Park and marvelling at the Notre Dame Cathedral (both District 1), stop by The Reunification Palace. The basement holds the fascinating discoveries of all, with tunnels of maps and telecommunications gear from the 1960s.

• Count your blessings at the Thien Hau pagoda in District 5. This revered 200-year-old temple is renowned for its stunning architecture and serene atmosphere, popular for locals and tourists alike to seek blessings for families and loved ones.

Read our guide on what to do and see in Saigon here.


Days Five to Seven – Ho Tràm

Melia Ho Tram

Traditionally an antidote to the hustle of HCMC, Ho Tràm (also called Ho Chàm) is now a resort town on the rise. Located in the Bà Ria – Vung Tàu province (125 km southeast of HCMC), this area is already a favourite with locals as a peaceful beach escape, and the addition of upscale accommodation and a world-class golf course has only increased interest.

In 2022, Lonely Planet flagged Ho Tràm as one of the highlights to visit near HCMC — so see it now before everyone else gets here!

After a hectic few days in Saigon, Ho Tram is just a two-hour drive away and offers the perfect escape. Treat yourself to a luxurious beachside hotel and indulge in some sun, sand, swimming, and spa treatments to unwind and recharge and begin the relaxation part of your Southern Vietnam odyssey. We recommend booking at least two or three nights in this lovely coastal region.

Related: Your Comprehensive Guide to Vietnam’s Best Beach Resorts

What to See & Do in Ho Tram

Sunset in Ho Tram

• Hit Ho Tràm Beach. After all, sun, sand and water is what draws many to this coastal locale.

• Soak your cares away at the therapeutic hot springs and mineral-rich mud baths of the Binh Chau Hot Springs, about half an hour away in the scenic Binh Chau – Phuoc Buu Nature Reserve.

• Sample the daily catch at an oceanfront café or the night seafood market.

• Play a scenic round at one of Asia’s premier golf courses, the Greg Norman-designed The Bluffs Grand Ho Tram Strip.

Stay: Meliá Ho Tram Beach Resort


With a pristine oceanfront position, the five-star Meliá Ho Tram Beach Resort is a world away from the busy-ness of HCMC.

In addition to spacious, light-filled private pool villas, and rooms and suites with sweeping sea views, the 17-hectare resort also features an impressive line-up of amenities. Choose from three superb restaurants (including a beach club), three ocean-facing swimming pools and a swim-up bar, a coffee shop, YHI Spa, outdoor cinema, and much more.

Elevate your stay in one of The Level Villas to unlock a host of bespoke services and benefits, including access to the executive lounge and complimentary cocktail time. For a romantic stay, The Level Private Pool Villas offer tropical luxury in a secluded garden setting while The Level Oceanfront Villas let you soak up those glorious ocean views from the terrace, lounge, or private pool. Choices, choices.

Nearby attractions include The Bluffs Grand Ho Tram Strip golf course, Binh Chau Hot Springs, and the historical sites of Long Tan and Long Phouc. 

Read our comprehensive review on Meliá Ho Tram Beach Resort here.

Days Eight to Ten – Mui Né

The Anam Mui Ne
The Anam Mui Ne

The charming fishing village of Mui Ne is fast becoming a popular beach destination with locals and tourists alike. Around four hours east of HCMC (soon to be two hours when the new expressway opens), Mui Ne is famous for its beautiful beaches and the stunning red and white sand dunes nearby. A handful of luxury resorts and shopping strips are also popping up along the beachfront, drawing a new crowd to this beautiful escape.

Mui Ne is also Vietnam’s adrenaline capital, attracting surfers (August–December) and kite-surfing enthusiasts (October-April).

What to See & Do in Mui Né

Yoga at The Anam Mui Ne
Start Your Day Right with Morning Yoga at The Anam Mui Ne

• Sled over a sand dune. The white sand dunes (doi cat trang), resembling a miniature version of the Sahara, can be explored on foot, by sled/sledge, or on the back of an ATV. Visit at sunrise when the morning rays create a breathtaking and highly photogenic vista.

• See the red dunes (doi hong) at sunset when they take on a beautiful rusty red/brown hue. Or see it all on a hot air balloon ride over the region.

• Trek Tà Cú (also called Takou) Mountain, home to a ginormous bright-white reclining Buddha said to be the longest in Southeast Asia. Around an hour’s drive from Mui Ne, you can brave the jungle path up or take the cable car to the summit for awesome views.

• One for the foodies and history-buffs. Head to Làng Chài Xua, the fish sauce museum, for a window into the area’s origin story.

•Try your hand at kite-surfing. There are plenty of schools and hire shops located along the beachfronts.

Stay: The Anam Mui Né

The Anam Lobby

The gold-dipped shores of Mui Né Beach are home to a gorgeous new resort that evokes the romance of a bygone era. Opened in January 2023, The Anam Mui Ne Blends Indochine stylings with modern luxuries and tropical sustainability: think warm teak furnishings, custom antique-style tiling, and 100+ original oil paintings by Vietnamese artists.

Flowing through the palms to the East Sea, this ultra-elegant property gives major nostalgia vibes. Relax into one of 127 beautifully appointed rooms and suites (each with a clawfoot bath), and swan around the two excellent restaurants, atmospheric Saigon Bar, signature Anam spa, and two swimming pools.

If you’re in the market for a little extra indulgence, be sure to book a Private Pool Suite — an elegant private haven where you can sink into heavenly Irish cotton bed linens and step out to your own terrace and pool.

Anam Mui Ne: A New Standard for Boutique Luxury in Vietnam

The resort’s delightful boutique showcases local designers (perfect for souvenir-shopping) and you can take home new skills with a Vietnamese cooking class. As Vietnam’s only Small Luxury Hotels of the World ™ affiliate, you’re assured a special stay in this authentic and indulgent retreat that’s ideal for exploring the best of Mui Né.

Read our comprehensive review of The Anam Mui Ne.

Days 11 – 14 – Cam Ranh

Alma Resort Cam Ranh

A hidden gem in the southern Khành Hóa province, Cam Ranh carries a low-key and lovely charm. Once a prominent US military base during the Vietnam War, Cam Ranh has only recently opened up for tourism in a meaningful way, making it perfect for those who want to dodge the tourist crush. 

With over 300 days of sunshine a year, Cam Ranh blends cultural discovery with lazy beach days and island-hopping adventures.

A local highlight is the pretty resort town Nha Trang (think beaches, cultural attractions, and a lively nightlife), just 45 kilometres south. If you have the time, consider including both into your southern Vietnam itinerary.

What to See & Do in Cam Ranh

Aerial View Nah Trang
Aerial View Nha Trang

• Relax on low-key Bai Dai Beach, a sweeping stretch of golden sand with clear waters and a few handy amenities including loungers, food stalls, and water sport hire.

• Find island time at Binh Hung Island, a gorgeous under-the-radar destination close to Cam Ranh where you can enjoy pristine beaches and fresh-catch seafood. Nha Trang Bay is also home to several stunning islands, including Mun, Mot, and Hon Tam, where you can snorkel, swim, and try a range of water sports.

• Say hello to history at Nha Trang’s magnificent Po Nagar Cham Towers: arguably the most impressive monument to the Champa Empire, built between the 7th and 12th centuries. The unique pagodas of Tu Van at Cam Ranh are also worth a look, crafted by monks from millions of tiny shell and coral pieces.

• Visit the local fishing village and experience the area’s traditional way of life.

Stay: Alma Cam Ranh


Located on the stunning Cam Ranh peninsula, Alma Resort is one of the newest luxury destinations in what was, until recently, one of Vietnam’s best-hidden gems. This five-star escape offers a beacon of luxury and relaxation set amongst 30 hectares of prime beachfront, just 15 minutes’ drive from the airport.

Choose from a range of spacious and contemporary ocean-facing suites and pavilions (there are 580 rooms in total) in one- two- and three-bedroom configurations. The pavilions are a honeymooner’s dream, with private balconies or terraces and glorious sea views. The Ocean Front and Ocean View Pavilions even throw in a private jacuzzi or pool. Perfect!


Although large by any standard, Alma Resort is a picturesque village-style destination that encourages guests to explore its interconnected buildings and pathways. Impressive facilities include 14 dining options, 12 beachfront swimming pools, a 70-seat cinema (perfect to step out of the midday sun!) and an art gallery featuring works by local artists and offering art classes.

Sports enthusiasts will be in holiday heaven with kayaking, bodyboarding, tennis, archery, 18-hole putting green, open-air exercise station, and plenty more. Just leave time for a treatment at Alma’s Le Spa, with its 13 villas surrounded by lush botanical gardens.

Read our comprehensive review on Alma Cam Ranh here.


Visas: Unlike some Asian countries where your visa is granted on arrival, Australians travelling to Vietnam must apply for their E-visa online in advance, via the Vietnam Immigration Dept. These take three working days (but we recommend leaving longer) to process and are valid for 30 days of travel.

 Getting there: Direct travel to Vietnam is now easier and cheaper than ever thanks to regular, low-cost Jetstar fares. Jetstar flies direct to HCMC from Sydney and Melbourne with one-way fares starting from as little as $229 for travel July/Aug 2023 and $259 Oct/Nov. Visit to book

Getting Around Southern Vietnam: From time-saving domestic flights and taxis for local jaunts to trains and buses for scenic trips, there are plenty of ways to explore Vietnam. For a fun and affordable way to navigate the city crush, jump aboard a local cyclo: an iconic three-wheeled bicycle taxi introduced in the French colonial era. 

If you’re looking to maximise your time in Southern Vietnam, consider driving one way and flying back to the international airport for your connecting flight home. This approach worked well for us when we travelled from Saigon to Cam Ranh by private mini-van, and then flew back to Saigon from Cam Ranh International Airport. By doing so, we were able to make the most of our two weeks in the region and highly recommend this approach.

Planning a holiday or honeymoon to Vietnam? Why not add Hanoi to your itinerary? Here’s your guide to Honeymooning in Hanoi.

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