• 2.94K views
  • ~ mins read

A trip to Vietnam is an experience of fascinating culture, authentic Vietnamese cuisine, striking landscapes, and dynamic cities. This Southeast Asian country displays a heavy cultural influence of the countries nearby; southern parts of the country display Indian and Hindu culture in the temples of Chan and the spicy regional cuisine, while there is a strong Chinese influence in the north. In terms of landscapes, the blue-streaked coastline stretches inland towards lush rice terraces, emerald-green mountains, and picturesque valleys dotted with traditional villages and colonial towns. When in Central Vietnam, sightsee the historic old port of Hoi An and the magnificent royal pagodas and tombs. In Northern Vietnam, discover tribal villages near Sapa Valley, and in Southern Vietnam, admire Ho Chi Minh City.

Deciding where to go in Vietnam can be confusing when presented with many diverse options. Let’s look at some of the best places to visit in Vietnam that our travel experts recommend.

Thrilling Vacation
  • Laura Taylor
  • From USA
5 - Excellent
“Wow, our family trip to Vietnam was, like, the best! Odynovo really hooked us up with...” Read More
View Incredible Tours in Vietnam

1. Hanoi

Well-lit Tran Quoc Pagoda and West Lake in Hanoi during evening time.
Built in the early Ly Dynasty, Tran Quoc Pagoda is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Hanoi, featuring intricately carved wooden architecture and a serene atmosphere amidst a small lake.

The bustling capital city of Hanoi is the perfect place to start your Vietnamese adventure. Set on the bend of the Red River, the thousand-year-old city of lakes has a fascinating history, evident in its well-preserved colonial architecture, ancient temples, and narrow streets bustling with life. One of the best things to do in Vietnam is to explore the street food scene of Hanoi. Don't miss out on trying local delicacies like pho (noodle soup), banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich), and bun cha (grilled pork with noodles) from street vendors and hole-in-the-wall eateries.

Highlights:

  • Wander through the labyrinthine streets of the Old Quarter, visiting traditional shophouses and sampling local cuisine.
  • Stroll the picturesque Hoan Kiem Lake and visit Ngoc Son Temple on the small island.
  • Pay homage to the revered leader of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, at his imposing mausoleum. Explore the nearby Presidential Palace and One Pillar Pagoda.

Insider tip: On your Hanoi tour, sample famous egg coffee, a creamy and indulgent concoction made with egg yolks, condensed milk, and robust Vietnamese coffee. Head to one of the city's renowned cafés, such as Giang Café, to enjoy this sweet treat.

2. Hoi An

Chua Cau, one of the best places to visit in Vietnam, in the morning.
Chua Cau, built in 1776, is a historic Buddhist temple on towering arches over Red River in Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.

Journey into Vietnam's rich, layered past with a visit to the charming ancient town of Hoi An on the Thu Bon River. Once one of the most important ports in Asia, the now UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to beautifully preserved architecture, rich cultural heritage, and a vibrant culinary scene. The town's atmospheric streets, adorned with colorful lanterns and lined with teetering shophouses, tea warehouses, and colorful Confucian and Buddhist pagodas, harken back to its trading port days. Hoi An is Vietnam's premier destination for custom tailoring, with hundreds of tailor shops offering made-to-measure clothing at affordable prices. If you’re in the market for a bespoke suit or dress, this is the place to order it!

Highlights:

  • Explore the narrow streets and atmospheric alleyways of Hoi An Ancient Town, lined with centuries-old merchant houses, temples, and pagodas. Don’t miss the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge, the ornate Phuc Kien Assembly Hall, and the charming riverside promenade.
  • Experience rural life in Vietnam by visiting Tra Que Vegetable Village, where farmers cultivate organic herbs and vegetables using traditional methods.
  • Discover the ancient ruins of My Son Sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritage Site a short drive from Hoi An. This 4th-century archaeological site features impressive Hindu temple complexes.

Insider tip: Hoi An and Hue are among the must-visit destinations in Vietnam. It just so happens that one of the most spectacular rail journeys in Southeast Asia is between these historic cities. The train from Da Nang (near Hoi An) to Hue crosses the Hai Van Pass, which goes around a mountain instead of through it. This means you get spectacular sea views while the train winds through the jungle along the coast. There are only a few trains that travel during the day, so you need to get the ticket in advance. — James Clark from Nomadic Notes

3. Sapa Valley

A giant statue of  Buddha atop the Fansipan mountain in the Sapa region.
Just nine kilometers from Sapa town is the Fansipan mountain, the "Roof of Indochina" at 3,143 meters, offering breathtaking views over the clouds and mountains beneath it.

If you want to see the Vietnam of the Instagram photos, head to the Sapa Valley. The hilly town is surrounded by stunning scenery – mountains, valleys, and a patchwork of rice fields that turns golden in the autumn sun. Sapa is the base for trekking in the region, with many affordable hotels, homestays and shops selling trekking gear.

Highlights:

  • Enjoy a guided trek to the local tribal villages and take in the superb scenery along the way.
  • Take a class with local villagers and learn the art of batik, embroidery, and cooking regional dishes.
  • Trek to Mount Fanispan, the highest mountain in Vietnam.

Insider tip: The best time to visit the Sapa Valley is during the autumn in the Northern region, stretching from September to Early December. This is when the rice fields are at their prime golden color, as it is the harvest season.

4. Phu Quoc Island

The cable car system and boats in the Phu Quoc island.
The world's longest sea cable car connects Phu Quoc Island to Pineapple Island, spanning almost eight kilometers over stunning turquoise waters.

When it’s time to hit the beach, Phu Quoc Island is one of Vietnam's top spots. This tropical paradise off the southwest coast of the Gulf of Thailand boasts beautiful white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and vibrant coral reefs. Several spectacular beaches offer everything from sunbathing and swimming to snorkeling, kayaking, and jet skiing. Picture-perfect Sao Beach has beachfront cabanas and seaside restaurants where you can tuck into local delicacies like seafood hotpot, fish sauce, and Phu Quoc pepper.

Highlights:

  • Explore the island's pristine rainforest and diverse ecosystem at Phu Quoc National Park. Trekking trails lead through lush jungle, past cascading waterfalls, and to scenic viewpoints overlooking the island's interior.
  • Soak up the lively atmosphere, sample local delicacies, and shop for souvenirs at the Phu Quoc Night Market.
  • Explore the surrounding archipelago on a boat tour or island-hopping excursion from Phu Quoc. Visit nearby islands such as Hon Thom, Hon May Rut, and Hon Mong Tay, where you can snorkel among colorful coral reefs, swim in secluded bays, and relax on crowd-free beaches.

Insider tip: Rent a motorbike or hire a local guide to escape the crowds of Long Beach and Sao Beach and discover secluded, off-the-beaten-path spots.

5. Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City Hall, a must-visit on your Vietnam trip.
Ho Chi Minh City Hall, built in French colonial style, is one of the city's main attractions.

Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is fast-paced, frenetic, and fun, with a dynamic and cosmopolitan vibe. Skyscrapers tower over bustling streets lined with street vendors, cafés, and shops, and grand colonial-era buildings and poignant war museums showcase its rich history. The city is a melting pot of cultures, with influences from Vietnam's indigenous tribes, Chinese immigrants, and French colonizers, and it’s a paradise for food lovers. The striking French colonial architecture of Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral, built entirely with materials from France, is one of the city's most recognizable landmarks.

Highlights:

  • Practice your bartering skills at Binh Tay Market, where you'll find lanterns, textiles, and other souvenirs. This is also a great place to sample the famous Vietnamese egg coffee and traditional street food.
  • Reflect on Vietnam's recent history at the War Remnants Museum. Of all the places to visit in Vietnam telling the story of the country’s harrowing war, this is one of the best.

Insider tip: On your Ho Chi Minh City tour, navigate the city's bustling streets easily using ride-hailing apps like Grab or Gojek. These apps offer convenient and affordable transportation options, allowing you to explore the city’s attractions with minimal hassle.

6. Mekong Delta

A Vietnamese woman rowing a boat behind other boats with tourists.
Mekong Delta is known for its floating markets, rice terraces and its rural way of life.

The crisscrossing waterways of the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam are among the best places to visit and experience rural Vietnamese life. The Mekong Delta’s intricate network of waterways serves as the region's lifeblood, feeding vast paddy fields and mangroves. Traditional floating markets jostle for space along the canals and countryside, boasting verdant rice paddies, fruit orchards, and coconut groves.

Highlights:

  • Experience Cai Rang Floating Market's vibrant hustle and bustle, one of the Mekong Delta's largest and most famous floating markets. Boats laden with fresh fruits, vegetables, and local products navigate the maze of waterways.
  • Explore the tranquil beauty of Tra Su Cajuput Forest, a lush wetland sanctuary teeming with biodiversity. Cruise through narrow canals lined with towering cajuput trees and observe exotic bird species nesting amidst the dense foliage, including egrets, herons, and storks.
  • Visit Vinh Trang Pagoda, one of the most prominent Buddhist temples in the Mekong Delta, known for its ornate architecture and serene ambiance.

Insider tip: Enjoy a unique cultural experience with a traditional homestay in the Mekong Delta. Share meals with your hosts, learn about traditional farming practices, and participate in hands-on activities such as rice planting, fishing, and cooking.

7. Da Nang

Fireworks over the famous Dragon Bridge in Da Nang during New Year's.
The famous Dragon Bridge in Da Nang puts up a spectacular fireworks show during the Lunar New Year.

Da Nang is a modern port city in central Vietnam with many bars, restaurants, and hotels, as well as a lovely beach. If you’re looking to get off the tourist trail and observe ordinary Vietnamese life, this is where to go. Da Nang also makes a good base for day trips to the ruins at My Son and the cities of Hue and Hoi An.

Highlights:

  • Visit the Cham Museum to see the world’s largest collection of artifacts found in ancient Champa.
  • Relax on the city beach, a six-kilometer strip of sand with a promenade lined with seafood restaurants and cafes.
  • Visit the Golden Bridge in Ba Na Hills and admire the giant hands that "support" the bridge.

Insider tip: Stay as close as possible to An Thuong 2 Street. This expat area is also the most walkable, offering a glimpse into authentic local life while still conveniently located near popular attractions.

8. Hue

The Meridian Gate leading to Hue and its natural surroundings.
Meridian Gate, an imposing entrance to Hue's Imperial City, dates back to early 19th century Nguyen Dynasty rule.

Nestled along the Perfume River in central Vietnam, Hue served as the country's imperial capital during the Nguyen Dynasty and has well-preserved remnants of that era. Steeped in history, culture, and architectural splendor, the city has a wealth of historical and cultural treasures, including imperial palaces, royal tombs, and ancient pagodas.

Highlights:

  • Explore the UNESCO-listed Imperial City, a vast citadel surrounded by fortified walls and moats. Within the citadel, discover the Forbidden Purple City, as well as ornate palaces, temples, and gardens.
  • Visit the elaborate royal tombs scattered throughout the outskirts of Hue, each reflecting the personality and tastes of the Nguyen emperors. Highlights include the Tomb of Khai Dinh and the Tomb of Minh Mang, set amidst tranquil gardens and lotus ponds.
  • Marvel at the iconic Thien Mu Pagoda, Hue's tallest religious structure overlooking the Perfume River. Dating back to the 17th century, this seven-story pagoda boasts intricate carvings, statues, and ancient relics.

Insider tip: Take a sunset cruise along the Perfume River to see the city bathed in a soft, golden light that is nothing less than magical.

9. Halong Bay

Cruise boats on Halong Bay, one of the best places to visit in Vietnam.
Cruising through Halong Bay's limestone karst islands and emerald waters is a must-do experience in Vietnam.

Although often full to bursting with tourists, Halong Bay is still nothing short of spectacular. The vast landscape of craggy limestone islands rising up from the sea is mysterious and enchanting. There are countless places to see in Vietnam with gorgeous scenery, but Halong Bay tops the list. There’s simply nothing better than cruising around the bay, cocktail in hand, taking in the view.

Highlights:

  • Kayak around the bay, exploring the many lagoons, sea caves, and hidden lakes
  • Get up early and take a relaxing Tai Chi class onboard as the sun rises

Insider tip: For encountering a lesser crowd (although it will still be pretty crowded), book a night cruise to Halong Bay. You can also pair your trip to Halong Bay with the quieter and more laid-back Bai Tu Long Bay visit.

10. Ha Giang

A terraced paddy field in Ha Giang.
Various ethnic minorities, including the Mong, Tay, and Dao, who are locals of Ha Giang, can be seen working in the paddy fields during harvesting season that starts from September and lasts till October.

Head to the northernmost region of Vietnam to visit Ha Giang, a hidden gem renowned for its spectacular landscapes, vibrant ethnic cultures, and adventurous outdoor activities. The Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with unique geological formations and incredible ecosystems, making it a paradise for nature lovers. This remote region also has several ethnic minority communities like Hmong, Tay, Dao, and Lo Lo, showcasing Vietnam's rich cultural heritage.

Highlights: 

  • Embark on a thrilling journey along one of Vietnam's most spectacular mountain passes, offering panoramic views of the Ma Pi Leng Canyon and Nho Que River below.
  • Explore the charming streets of Dong Van Old Quarter, where French colonial architecture blends with traditional Hmong and Tay ethnic influences. Visit the Dong Van Sunday Market to shop for handmade crafts and local delicacies.
  • Ascend to the summit of Lung Cu Flag Tower, Vietnam's northernmost point, for incredible panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

Insider tip: Ha Giang's mountainous terrain can experience unpredictable weather, so pack waterproof clothing and sturdy footwear for outdoor activities.

11. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

Campsite in the dark Hang En cave of Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park boasts the third largest cave in the world, Hang En, where adventurous campers can experience an unforgettable overnight expedition.

Venture underground into the world’s largest cave at Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Located in the Quang Binh Province, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to some of the most impressive karst formations in the world, with dramatic limestone cliffs, towering mountains, and lush jungles. Featuring over 300 caves and grottoes, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is one of the top tourist places in Vietnam.

Highlights:

  • Explore the world's largest cave passage in Son Doong Cave, a natural wonder that stretches over five kilometers and reaches heights of over 200 meters.
  • Take a boat tour along the Son River to Phong Nha Cave, one of the most famous caves in the park. Admire the cave's magnificent stalactites and stalagmites, illuminated by colorful lights.
  • Experience an adrenaline-pumping adventure at Dark Cave, where you can zip-line over the Chay River, kayak through cave passages, and explore the cave's dark depths with headlamps.

Insider tip: Due to limited access and high demand, it's advisable to book cave tours in advance, especially for popular attractions like Son Doong Cave and Paradise Cave.

12. Con Dao Islands

Van Son, a Buddhist pagoda in Can Dao island, during the day.
The Van Son Pagoda, situated atop a hill on Can Dao Island, stands as the only Buddhist Pagoda in the area, offering panoramic views of the island's southern region.

Take a walk on the wild side and go to the Con Dao Islands off the southern coast of Vietnam. This untouched archipelago of 16 islands boasts spectacular natural beauty with lush green hills, dramatic cliffs, and secluded coves fringed by golden sandy beaches. Healthy coral reefs surround the islands, making them a snorkeling and scuba diving mecca. The Con Dao Islands have a dark history as a former French colonial prison and later a detention center during the Vietnam War. Today, visitors can explore historical sites and museums that showcase the islands' turbulent past.

Highlights

  • Explore the largest and most developed island in the archipelago, Con Son Island, home to the main town of Con Dao. Visit historical sites such as the Phu Hai Prison, where Vietnamese revolutionaries were once incarcerated, and the Con Dao Museum.
  • Dive or snorkel among coral reefs, teeming with marine life, including tropical fish, sea turtles, and reef sharks. Con Dao's marine ecosystem is protected as part of Con Dao National Park, offering world-class diving.
  • Hike through lush forests and rugged terrain and can spot diverse flora and fauna endemic to the islands. Watch for rare species such as the Con Dao langur, a critically endangered primate found only in this region.

Insider tip: Due to limited access and high demand, it's advisable to book cave tours in advance, especially for popular attractions like Son Doong Cave and Paradise Cave.

From the ancient streets of Hanoi to the picturesque shores of Phu Quoc, the majestic karst formations of Ha Long Bay, and the bustling energy of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam promises some of the best places to visit in Southeast Asia, and perhaps, even the world.

Ready to plan your trip to Vietnam? Fill out our Vietnam customized trip form so our travel experts can help incorporate all of the places you’d like to visit in your itinerary. For more information, go through our Vietnam guide.

Published by Sofie, updated on March 15, 2024
Plan a trip to VietnamWe offer different tour types. You can also chat with a local travel specialist if you want a customized tour to Vietnam.
  • Jacqueline Nguyen
    Jacqueline NguyenTravel Expert in Cambodia & Vietnam
  • Tran Thu Ha
    Tran Thu HaTravel Expert in Cambodia & Vietnam
  • Hien Do
    Hien DoTravel Expert in Vietnam & Cambodia
Our travel experts are recommended by:
  • BBC
  • Independent
  • Lonely Planet
0 COMMENTSWe welcome your questions or comments to this article. Our travel experts will respond within 48 hours.