A stunning combination of pristine, palm-fringed white sands and turquoise bays, lush mountains, rice fields and cities with ancient temples, Vietnam offers something for every traveller. Whether you want to explore history, sample mouthwatering foods, take part in outdoor adventures or do nothing but gaze out at the breathtaking scenery, you’ll find it all in Vietnam. With so many enticing destinations, it can be hard to decide where to go, but these are the country’s must-visits. Find out our selection of best places to visit in Vietnam.
Halong Bay is one of the most breathtaking destinations on the planet, a collection of some 1,600 limestone karst outcrops that rise from emerald waters. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the world’s seven natural wonders, while it may attract countless tourists, it’s a place that everyone should see at least once. One of the best ways to experience it is to take an overnight cruise, for a variety of views under the changing light, with opportunities to swim and paddle in a kayak to discover surreal lagoons, hidden lakes and caves with stalactites and stalagmites. At the end of the day, look forward to sunset cocktails and then rise early to watch the sun come up while re-energizing with a Tai Chi class on the top deck.
One of Vietnam’s most Instagrammable places, hilly Sapa is surrounded by dazzling scenery, with verdant rice fields, lush valleys, and the jagged peaks of the Hoang Lien Mountains. This tranquil town makes a great base for trekking with miles of scenic routes that wind through remote villages, rice paddies and mountains. Hike to Mount Fanispan, the country’s tallest, embark on a guided tour to marvel at cascading waterfalls and learn about local culture by taking a class hosted by villagers to learn how to cook regional dishes or the art of batik.
Pu Long Nature Reserve
A nature lover’s dream, Pu Luong Nature Reserve in northwest Vietnam is home to mist-enveloped mountains, fertile valleys, lush jungle, waterfalls, and rare wildlife, including the Asian black bear and palm civet. It’s also the place to experience local culture, home to tribes that still live in traditional houses which can be visited on a guided tour, on foot or motorbike. Overnight stays in traditional stilt houses provide an in-depth look at the country’s rural life, complete with home-cooked meals. Long established ways of living have been passed down for generations here, with the people keeping their ancestors’ traditions alive, including basketmaking, embroidery, and weaving. Craft workshops offer to teach these skills to visitors, a great way to help support local communities and their timeless traditions while bringing home a more useful souvenir.
Ninh Binh is considered the “Halong Bay on land” with its magnificent landscape of limestone hills, yet it’s far less visited, offering an unspoiled destination with caves and ancient citadels. If you’re up for a climb, ascend the 500 steps to the summit of Hang Mua in Tam Coc, the top place to go to marvel at the region’s most jaw=dropping scenery. Boat rides along the picturesque Sao Khe River will bring you to Trang An while visiting temples and caves along the way. In Vietnam’s ancient capital, Hoa Lua, you can explore a 10th-century citadel.
The buzzing capital of Vietnam is characterized by soaring skyscrapers that sit beside colonial buildings, with narrow alleyways and wide boulevards, while countless street vendors sell tasty bites and the sounds of motorbikes are a constant presence. The city has a complex history that can be discovered in outstanding museums like the National Museum of Vietnamese History, and along the streets of the Old Quarter, an open-air museum itself, with historic Asian and French architecture. It’s also a great place to discover shops selling local handicrafts and indulge in the mouthwatering food scene. Visit the Saint Joseph Cathedral and Presidential Palace, and be sure to sample the pho, with some of the very best in the country found here.
Vietnam’s most atmospheric city, Hoi An was a center for the spice trade and a main port for some 500 years between the 15th and 19th centuries, now protected as a World Heritage Site, with hundreds of buildings designated historic landmarks. The ancient town along the Thu Bon River has an especially alluring Old Quarter with centuries-old temples and cobbled streets lit by lanterns. With no vehicles permitted in the historic center, it’s ideal for exploring on foot. One of the topo destinations for foodies, be sure to sample the delicious street foods, including juicy barbecue, and join a cooking class that begins by gathering ingredients in the local market and ends with tasting the results.
Vietnam’s “Rice Basket,” the Mekong Delta is where the Mekong River flows to the sea, a landscape of fertile flood plains and farmland. One of the most picturesque regions in the country, it offers lush scenery with rice fields, sugarcane groves and mangroves, along with charming villages explored on guided tours for the chance to observe tranquil rural life. Take a cruise along the river to visit the colorful floating markets, temples and delta towns where there are few other tourists. This region is also home to many rare and endangered species like the Indochinese tiger, Asian elephant, and Irrawaddy dolphin, along with endemic species, such as the saola or “Asian unicorn,” one of the rarest mammals on Earth.
Ho Chi Minh City
One of the top destinations for exploring Vietnam’s war history, explore its tragic past in institutions like the Ho Chi Minh City Museum and the War Remnants Museum. The latter is one of the best at revealing the story of its harrowing conflicts through first-person accounts, a bloodied guillotine, bomb remnants and more. A lively metropolis, visitors can also discover plenty of street markets, cafes and barns. Binh Tay Market is a great place to practice bartering skills, with everything from textiles and lanterns to souvenirs. It also offers tasty traditional street foods and Vietnamese egg coffee, a must try.
One of the most idyllic beach retreats in Vietnam, Phu Quoc is the place to go if you want to soak up the sun and the sand. The group of 28 islands is filled with powdery white sand beaches framed by a crystal-clear turquoise sea. While it was once a sleepy destination, it’s becoming one of the country’s most popular vacation spots, with lots of luxurious hotels, outstanding restaurants and bars, but visitors can still find secluded spots for quiet contemplation and refreshing dips in an uncrowded sea. Be sure to visit the night market and sample the delectable, fresh seafood in one of Duong Dong’s many outdoor eateries. If you’re feeling adventurous, hire a motorbike to explore the backroads.
Marking the halfway point between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang is Vietnam’s fourth largest city, a modern port town with a wide range of shopping venues, restaurants, bars, and hotels. It’s a popular base for day trips to Hue, Hoi An, Long Co and My Khe beaches while providing the chance to explore off the beaten path for an authentic glimpse as daily Vietnamese life. It’s home to an approximately four-mile stretch of sand with a promenade hosting great cafes and seafood restaurants, while the Cham Museum boasts the world’s most extensive collection of artifacts uncovered in ancient Champa.
This beautiful beach resort town offers the quintessential palm-lined white sandy beaches framed by pristine waters. There are 19 islands just offshore, ideal for island-hopping with opportunities to snorkel among vibrant coral reefs. There’s plenty to enjoy in its interior too, with magnificent natural beauty and rich heritage to explore, with everything from cascading waterfalls to pagodas. When you’re looking for a bite to eat, you’ll have lots of options, but one of the best comes straight from the fishing boats, including fresher than fresh crab, squid and prawns.
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