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Enchanting and evocative, a Vietnam tour is an adventurer’s paradise. From cruising around the vast Mekong Delta to exploring the underwater world of the Cham Islands, Vietnam has an extraordinary experience that suits all tastes! Venture into Cat Tien National Park and hike through tropical rainforests. Discover Can Tho and Tien Giang's colorful floating markets and meet the Mekong Delta locals. Explore Trang An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Bai Dinh Pagoda on an exhilarating cycling tour. From outdoor adventures to feasting on some of the world’s best cuisine, the choice of incredible things to do in Vietnam will have you return for more!

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1. SAIL HALONG BAY

Scenic view of islands in Halong Bay
Discover the awe-inspiring beauty of Ha Long Bay's emerald waters and towering limestone islands on a sunset cruise.

Rising from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin, Halong Bay is one of Vietnam’s most famous destinations, and sailing around this ethereal world is a must! Set sail on a junket from the Tuan Chau Marina or the Halong International Cruise Port and make your way through towering limestone karsts, wind-eroded grottoes, and tiny islands topped with verdant jungle. Marvel at the intricate stalactites and stalagmites in the famous Sung Sot Cave and visit floating fishing villages scattered throughout the bay.

Alternate destinations:

  • Bai Tu Long Bay: If you want to experience the beauty without the crowds, sail to Bai Tu Long Bay, just a few miles away. With similar towering limestone formations rising from the emerald waters, this tranquil bay has a peaceful ambiance and an untouched beauty. Discover the Thien Canh Son Cave, adorned with stalactites stalagmites, and explore the charming floating village of Vung Vieng.
  • Lan Ha Bay: Another crowd-free bay with karst islands and limestone outcrops to explore is Lan Ha Bay. Lying south of Halong, this bay has beautiful white-sandy beaches and a wonderfully isolated feel. It’s the perfect place for a one-of-a-kind sailing adventure.

Insider's tip: If you have the time, book an overnight sailing trip around Halong Bay. You’ll have more time to explore hidden gems and enjoy the beauty without the crowds when the day-trip boats leave.

2. HIKE on CAT BA ISLAND

Cat Ba Archipelago on a cloudy day.
A holiday in Vietnam is incomplete without exploring Cat Ba's green hills and the turquoise sea.

Explore Cat Ba National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve renowned for its biodiversity. Hike famous trails within the park, such as the Ngu Lam Peak Trail or the Kim Giao Forest Trail, which lead to scenic viewpoints and hidden caves. Embark on a guided day-long hike to Viet Hai Village or take on the challenge of climbing Ngu Lam Peak. Trek to Cannon Fort to discover tunnels, bunkers, and artillery pieces from the war. Venture up to Hospital Cave, once a secret underground hospital and haven for Viet Cong soldiers.

Alternate destinations:

  • Cat Tien National Park in Dong Nai: Want to connect with nature and experience the wonders of Vietnam's wilderness? Hiking in Cat Tien National Park in the Dong Nai Province promises an unforgettable experience. As you trek through the park's lush tropical rainforests, you'll encounter towering trees, vibrant orchids, and many exotic plant species. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife like gibbons, macaques, deer, and tropical birds. You can also explore ancient burial grounds and remnants of Cham temples.
  • Mai Chau Valley in Hoa Binh: Discover Vietnam’s rich ethnic cultures on a guided trek through the Mai Chau Valley in Hoa Binh Province. The Mai Chau Valley is renowned for its picturesque scenery and is home to several ethnic minority communities, primarily the White Thai people. Hike through picture-postcard landscapes to remote villages where you can interact with villagers and learn about their traditional way of life.

Insider's tip: Consider staying with a local family or participating in a community trek where you can learn about traditional customs, cuisine, and daily life from the people who call these regions home.

3. EXPLORE THE WORLD WAR SITE, CU CHI TUNNELS

A man crawling through Cu Chi Tunnels, a unique thing to do in Vietnam.
Experience the claustrophobic reality of the Cu Chi Tunnels, a testament to resilience during Vietnam's turbulent past.

Cu Chi Tunnels is a network of tunnels close to Ho Chi Minh City that spreads over 250 km and is famous as one of the main highlights of the Vietnam War. The tunnels were created in 1948 to assist the locals as they fought against the French for independence. They have storage areas, weapon factories, kitchens, living quarters, command centers, and field hospitals. Thousands of people lived underground during the war years, and many also led normal lives, including raising children and getting married. In 1988, two sections of the tunnels were opened up for tourists, and a Cu Chi Tunnels tour lets you explore the very best experiences of the Cu Chi tunnels.

Alternative destinations:

  • Vinh Moc Tunnels in Quang Tri: During intense bombing in the Vietnam War, this incredible tunnel system became an underground village for civilians to survive. Dug out of solid rock, it contained living quarters, kitchens, clinics, and even a maternity room where 17 children were born during the conflict. Touring the tunnels provides a sobering look at the hardships of war.
  • Dien Bien Phu Battlefield (Son La Province): This was the site of the climactic 1954 battle that led to the French defeat and the end of the Indochina War. See preserved trenches, bunkers, artillery craters, and memorials at this historic battlefield amid gorgeous mountain scenery. The excellent museum provides context on this pivotal confrontation.

Insider's tip: If you’re interested in firing one of those war-era AK47s or M16s, a nearby firing range lets you fire off rounds for a nominal fee. 

4. EAT YOUR WAY THROUGH VIETNAM

A bowl of traditionally prepared pho.
When in Vietnam, you must try authentic pho to find the pleasant distinction brought by local spices in this world-renowned dish.
Saigon's sandwiches sold in Vietnam.
Try the famous Saigon's sandwiches in the street markets of Vietnam.

Vietnamese cuisine is renowned worldwide for its vibrant flavors, fresh ingredients, and diverse influences, and one of the best things to do in Vietnam is eat! The best way to experience Vietnam's most delicious and unique foods is to explore local markets, street food stalls, and authentic eateries in each region. The most iconic Vietnamese dish is pho, a hearty noodle soup made with clear broth, rice noodles, and various cuts of meat flavored with aromatic herbs. Hanoi is one of the best places to visit for out-of-this-world pho. Ho Chi Minh City is also famous for its distinctive style of serving pho.

Alternative destinations:

  • Hanoi's Old Quarter: Head to the Old Quarter on your Hanoi trip to try bun cha, grilled pork patties, and slices of pork belly served over vermicelli noodles. This flavorful and aromatic dish is served with a plate of fresh herbs, lettuce, and dipping sauce.
  • Hoi An: Exclusive to the ancient town of Hoi An, Cao lau is a regional specialty featuring thick rice noodles, pork slices, bean sprouts, and herbs, all topped with crispy rice crackers and served in a savory broth. Ba Be Restaurant is one of the best places to visit in Hoi An to tuck into this mouthwatering dish.
  • Hue: The imperial city of Hue is a foodie’s paradise. More than half of Vietnam's estimated 3,000 local dishes are believed to have originated in the city. Must-try dishes in Hue are the vermicelli-noodle-based bun bo Hue, crispy banh khoai pancakes, and am thuc cung dinh, created by the emperors’ loyal chefs.

Insider's tip: Traveling in a new country means you get exposed to a lot of foreign bacteria. Choose the street food stalls carefully for your food tours, and be sure you are vaccinated for Hepatitis A as a preventive measure.

5. BICYCLE THROUGH SAPA RICE PADDIES

Terraced fields of Sapa in August.
Visit the Sapa Valley during Autumn in Vietnam to embark on a cycling tour through the yellow rice fields.

Situated in the northern mountains of Vietnam, Sapa Valley is famous for its intricate terraced rice fields, which blanket the landscape in vibrant shades of green throughout the year. Exploring these beautiful landscapes by bike is one of the best things to do in Vietnam. Cycle through the terraces and see local ethnic groups, such as the Hmong and Dao people, working the land as they have done for centuries. Ride to the base of Mount Fansipan (the ‘Roof of Indochina’) for spectacular views. Discover rural villages like Cat Cat, Ta Phin, and Ta Van.

Alternative destinations:

  • Ninh Binh: Known as ‘Halong Bay on Land,’ Ninh Binh is a spectacular area for cycling in Vietnam with picturesque countryside, tranquil waterways, and ancient temples. Witness breathtaking karst formations Tam Coc, pedal through the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Trang An, and visit Bai Dinh Pagoda, the largest pagoda complex in Vietnam. Cycle around Van Long Nature Reserve and spot rare bird species, langur monkeys, and other wildlife amid the picturesque scenery.
  • Cat Tien National Park: Rent a bicycle and hit the trails through tropical forests and tranquil riverine landscapes in Cat Tien National Park in southern Vietnam. The park is home to a rich diversity of plant and animal species—you might even spot rare and endangered wildlife like the Javan rhinoceros, Indochinese tiger, and Asian elephant! Venture to Crocodile Lake to see elusive crocodiles and cool off under Ben Cu Waterfall.

Insider's tip: For Cat Tien National Park, bicycles are available for rent from the main tourist center.

6. SCUBA-DIVE at NHA TRANG

Phu Quoc Sea on a sunny day.
After your scuba diving expedition in Phu Quoc, walk its picturesque shoreline.

Discover a mesmerizing underwater world at Nha Trang—a top-notch scuba-diving experience. Situated along the beautiful coastline of the South China Sea, Nha Trang has crystal-clear waters and vibrant coral reefs teeming with marine life. Explore underwater caves, swim through coral gardens in the Hon Mun Marine Protected Area, and enjoy marine encounters in the tropical waters of Hon Tam, Whale Island, and Madonna Rock.

Alternative destinations:

  • Phu Quoc: Described as a ‘paradise on Earth,’ the island of Phu Quoc attracts scuba divers from all over the world. Turtle Island, Finger Island, and An Thoi Archipelago are some of the best dive sites around the island, where you’ll see everything from lionfish to rays. After diving, hike in Phu Quoc National Park and explore the island’s lively night markets.
  • Cu Lao Cham: The Cu Lao Cham—or Cham Islands—off the coast of Hoi An are a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve that offers superb diving conditions and a wealth of amazing marine life. Hon Dai, Bai Bac, and Hon Tai are some of the best dive sites around the Cham Islands.

Insider's tip: While coral reefs are spectacular, don't overlook the thrill of muck diving. Vietnam's coastal waters harbor unique muck diving sites where you can encounter fascinating critters like seahorses, pipefish, and nudibranchs hiding amidst sandy or muddy bottoms.

7. LEARN HISTORY AT THE WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM

An old rusty tank displayed in a Viatnamese museum.
You can visit several military museums in Vietnam that display war weapons and tanks within their compound.

War Remnants Museum, formerly known as the Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes, is one of Vietnam's most popular tourist attractions. Very few museums manage to depict the brutality of war and the kind of effect it has on civilians, and this is what makes the War Remnants Museum unique. The museum documents the atrocities of the war, things that hardly ever get published, and offers another side of the story. The museum is covered with disturbing photographs, including photos of the My Lai Massacre, artillery pieces, infantry weapons, armored vehicles, and bombs. Other popular artifacts include the tiger cages that were used to house Viet Cong prisoners and the guillotine, one of the most iconic French appliances.

Alternate destinations:

  • Ho Chi Minh Museum: Housed by the capital city, Hanoi, in a striking modern building, this museum chronicles the life and revolutionary legacy of Vietnam's revered leader, Ho Chi Minh. Multimedia exhibits, artifacts, and archives provide insight into his roles in gaining independence from French colonialists and advancing communist reforms. Don't miss his iconic stilt house and belongings on display.
  • Hoa Lo Prison Museum: Another popular Hanoi museum, this grim site was ironically nicknamed the "Hanoi Hilton" by American POWs during the Vietnam War. Originally built by French colonists in the late 1800s to house Vietnamese prisoners, the harsh conditions are depicted through displays of cramped cells, guillotines, and other torture devices. A section reconstructs the quarters used to hold U.S. pilots shot down during bombing raids.

Insider's tip: Don’t miss out on the Requiem Exhibition that world-famous photographer Tim Page has compiled on the War Remnant Museum’s upper floors.

8. VIEW WATERFALLS AT DALAT

The beautiful Pongour waterfall in Dalat Vietnam.
Explore Pongour waterfall in Dalat that has been the most popular location in the region for getaway holidays since French colonial times.

Dalat was established in the 1980s as a holiday resort, and this certainly played a role in attracting travelers over the years. Dalat is famous for its twelve interesting waterfalls, including the multi-tiered, 40-meter-high Waterfall and the curved "elephant trunk" shape of the aptly named Elephant Waterfall. For a relaxing experience, Prenn Waterfall has a series of smaller falls and natural "jacuzzi" pools perfect for soaking. The twin Datanla Waterfalls are an impressive sight, allowing you to walk behind the water curtain into a cave. Many of Dalat's waterfalls have adventure amenities like zip lines, hiking trails, and even small roller coasters built around them, making waterfall-chasing a perfect way to experience the city's cool, fresh mountain scenery.

Alternate destinations:

  • Ban Gioc Waterfall in Cao Bang: Prepare to be awestruck by Ban Gioc, one of Asia's largest and most powerful waterfalls that straddles the China-Vietnam border. Cascading down a nearly 200-foot drop, the falls are a spectacular multi-tiered waterfall surrounded by lush jungle. wooden walkways and viewpoints allow you to take in this natural wonder from different viewpoints.

  • Dray Nur Waterfall in Dak Lak: An oasis in the Central Highlands, Dray Nur Waterfall features multiple cascades tumbling over granite rock formations into clear turquoise pools. Hike through the protected forest to reach the falls, where you can swim and picnic, surrounded by the sounds of the rushing water. Nearby minority villages offer a glimpse into traditional Vietnamese cultures.

Insider's tip: Rent a bike to go from one waterfall to another around Dalat as they are places in close proximity to one another.

9. Go Caving in Paradise Cave

Well-lit Paradise Cave in Quang Bin provience.
Explore the grandeur of Paradise Cave, an "underground palace" as dubbed by many, it is known for its magnificence.

Paradise Cave is a fascinating cave system that is located deep within a national park and is entirely surrounded by karst peaks and forests. Although visitors only get to see the first kilometer of this 31-kilometer maze, a trip to Paradise Cave is entirely worth it. The sheer scale of the complex is known to be mind-numbing and climbing down those wooden staircases to check out monstrous formations of stalactites and stalagmites is one of the most fascinating experiences that Vietnam has to offer.

Alternative destinations:

  • Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park: This UNESCO World Heritage site contains the largest known cave passage in the world, the incredibly vast Hang Son Doong Cave. Discovered in 1990, it has an underground jungle and river within its caverns that stretch over 5 miles! Other massive caves like Phong Nha and Tien Son offer guided expeditions to explore intricate cave systems.
  • Tú Làn Cave System near Nha Trang: A series of newly-explored caves make up the Tú Làn Cave System, located in the scenic Nui Chua National Park. Marvel at the cathedral-like caverns filled with unique rock formations and underground rivers. Guided tours include camping within the caves for the full adventure experience.

Insider's tip: To really explore the Paradise Cave, book a trekking trip which penetrates deep into the cave system and also includes lunches under light shafts and swimming in underground rivers.

10. CRUISE THE MEKONG DELTA

Tourists enjoying a boat ride in Mekong Delta.
Enjoy canoeing through the Mekong River Delta as your guide takes you through its history and significance.

One of Vietnam's most iconic and culturally rich regions, the Mekong Delta provides a fascinating glimpse into the traditional way of life along the mighty Mekong River. Take an unforgettable journey through the labyrinth of waterways, vibrant floating markets, verdant rice paddies, and charming riverside villages. Visit famous floating markets like the Cai Rang Floating Market in Can Tho and the Cai Be Floating Market in Tien Giang. Venture to sacred sites like Vinh Trang Pagoda in My Tho and Cao Dai Temple in Tay Ninh.

Insider's tip: Learn about age-old crafts such as rice paper making, coconut candy production, and rice noodle processing at traditional workshops around the Delta.

Vietnam’s rich culture, history, spectacular landscapes, and sublime cuisine bring visitors worldwide to experience this incredible country. Whether you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind adventure or a tranquil break from the hustle and bustle of life, you’ll find many amazing things to do in Vietnam. From bustling cities to serene countryside, Vietnam promises an unforgettable journey filled with adventure, discovery, and lasting memories.

To experience these incredible destinations in Vietnam and more, contact one of our experts, who will help you with a customized trip to Vietnam. For more information, please go through our Vietnam travel guide.

Published by Erik Jensen, updated on March 22, 2024

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