Unforgettable Travel Company

Vietnam Off the Beaten Track

A typical first-time tour of Vietnam will take in the big-hitting highlights Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hue, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh City. Most visitors find themselves immensely charmed by this enthralling destination, with a second visit then opening up opportunities to get away from the tourist trail and explore in much greater depth. 

A run-down of our favorite remote and unexplored areas of Vietnam is below; more information can also be found here.

Kayaking in Bai Tu Long Bay Vietnam

Bai Tu Long Bay

Northern Vietnam

Halong Bay is Vietnam’s most instantly recognizable tourist treasure. The stunning karst scenery, and luxurious junk cruises which wind through it, is one of the world’s greatest travel experiences. Halong Bay is a very popular attraction however and some visitors are taken aback but the sheer volume of boats and tourists clogging up the area. 

No matter – Halong Bay is one section of a wider coastal zone which includes Cat Ba island to the west, Lan Ha Bay to the south, and Bai Tu Long Bay to the east. Lan Ha has become increasingly popular in recent years, but Bai Tu Long can still claim to be relatively ‘undiscovered’. The scenery here is just as beguiling, the activities just as enthralling, but with just a handful of boats plying the waters you’ll feel like you have it to yourself.

Village in Ha Giang Province Vietnam

Ha Giang

Northern Vietnam

In far Northern Vietnam you’ll find a rugged mountainous frontier, with the Chinese border falling somewhere between remarkable scenery of soaring mountains and impossibly steep rice terraces. Venturing this far north is something of an expedition, but intrepid travelers will find the valleys of Ha Giang, Yen Minh, and Dong Van well worth visiting. 

A full loop of this area – conducted solo on two wheels for the truly adventurous – will take 4-5 days. Each day brings you deeper into the high karst plateau, with long drives through a series of breathtaking passes, and early morning or afternoon treks to remote hill tribe villages. Each night is spent in local guesthouses or village homestays, where the accommodation is very simple but the hospitality is among the warmest in Vietnam.

Villagers hike to rice fields Pu Luong Vietnam

Pu Luong & Mai Chau

Northern Vietnam

Situated 4 hours west of Hanoi in rural Thanh Hoa province, Pu Luong is a protected nature reserve offering a bucolic escape well away from the city. The scenery here is emerald rice fields, crisscrossed by small streams, set against a backdrop of tropical green hills. The area is home to an array of hill tribes, each with a distinctive clothing style and culture, and is a base for trekking, rafting, and immersive cultural tours. 

Accommodation will be in a comfortable rural lodge which, while not being classed as luxury by any means, is of an excellent standard given the remote location. We generally recommend a stay of at least two nights out in Pu Luong in order to truly immerse yourself in the area. Mai Chau, a couple of valleys over, is another hidden gem with similar appeal.

Son Doong Cave Phong Nha Ke Bang Vietnam

Phong Nha

Central Vietnam

Central Vietnam’s central Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park is home to the world’s largest (Son Doong) and third-largest (Hang En) caves. Sitting within dense interior jungle just 20km from the border with Laos, the cave network was only discovered in 2009 and made open to the public in 2013. 

The caves have since been thoroughly mapped by the British Cave Research Association who, with a network of experienced local adventurers, now run epic overnight adventure tours which culminate in a night under canvas inside the huge entrance chamber. In a few short years, Phong Nha has gone from total tourism obscurity to its present status as ‘Asia’s Adventure Capital’.

Yellow cheeked Gibbon Cat Tien National Park Vietnam

Cat Tien National Park

Southern Vietnam

Located 150km north of Ho Chi Minh City, Cat Tien National Park is one of the largest nature reserves in the country. It is also one of Southeast Asia’s few remaining lowland tropical forests, with visitor numbers restricted to protect its’ centuries-old fauna and remarkable biodiversity. 

Your jungle treks here bring you into contact with some of southeast Asia’s rarest creatures, including gibbons, langurs, sun bears, Asian elephants, and – if you are incredibly lucky – clouded leopard. Stay in a simple but comfortable jungle lodge, taking the time in between dawn and dusk hikes to visit isolated forest communities or take boat trips on jungle lakes to look for tropical birdlife.

Coastal road on Con Dao Island Vietnam

Con Dao

Southern Vietnam

Of all Vietnam’s alluring southern islands, Con Dao is the most isolated and the most striking. A former French penal colony, this little inhabited archipelago is now a protected national and marine park, offering island adventure amongst its rugged interior and wide, near-deserted tropical beaches. 

Diving, snorkeling, and coastal trekking are the best in all Vietnam. Hiring cycles or scooters is highly encouraged to explore the winding, traffic-free roads which circle the island. Con Dao houses the Six Senses and Puolo Condor resorts – two of the very finest beach options in the country.

For isolated beach gems elsewhere in south Vietnam, we encourage looking to emerging Quy Nhon or the secluded, private resorts on the outskirts of Nha Trang or Mui Ne.

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