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Despite the bad rap it got in the international press in the mid 20th century, Vietnam has made tremendous progress as a tourist destination — and for the right reasons. This slender country boasts the terraced highlands of Sa Pa, pristine tropical islands with idyllic beaches like Phu Quoc and numerous tranquil bays along the Gulf of Tonkin (Ha Long Bay being the most popular). For a more wholesome experience, add the stunning architecture of Hoi An and the lush greenery of the Mekong Delta to your Vietnam itinerary.
When it comes to Vietnam, there is not much that can be incorporated in a short tour, usually lasting four to five days, except for its two largest urban centers, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and a natural landmark: Ha Long Bay, for example. Therefore, to make the most of your stay in the country, go for something longer. You can cover most of its must-see natural wonders, including Sa Pa and Phu Quoc, in seven to eight days.
However, since traveling means more than just destination-hopping, we recommend tours that are at least 10 days or longer to truly appreciate the people and the place. With enough time at hand, you can venture through the tribal areas of northern Vietnam, discover picturesque bays and pristine islands along its central and southern coast, and explore the historic sites like Hue and Mỹ Sơn.
If five days is all the time you have for a Vietnam tour, it is best to cover one region rather than dash from one corner of the country to another. Start your trip from Hanoi if it is hill tribes and trekking you are interested in. Head north from the city to Sa Pa and Bảo Lạc, where numerous ethnic groups live amid stunning natural scenery replete with lush forests, cascading waterfalls and paddy terraces that run across the hills. For beach bums and lovers of water sports, it is the south of the country that offers some amazing options. Travel to Nha Trang, a coastal resort city, if you do not mind the crowd. However, if you want a more secluded spot, Phu Quoc and Con Dao offer great options.
Combine trekking, island retreats and other activities with urban sightseeing during your seven-day Vietnam tour. Ho Chi Minh City, formerly called Saigon, is known for its urban landscape and opulent French architecture, while Hanoi, the cultural soul of Vietnam, is much more traditional. Not far from these two cities are other highlights worth exploring. Nearly 45 kilometers north of Saigon are the tunnels of Cu Chi, part of an underground labyrinth built by the Vietnamese to hide from the French and the Americans. Similarly, Ba Vi National Park, a nature reserve with dramatic scenery and diverse plants and animals, is located just two hours away from Hanoi and is known for its iconic three-peaked mountain that punctures the sky.
For an immersive experience, choose a ten-day Vietnam tour. Having seen the best of its biggest cities, you might want to visit historic destinations like Hue and Hoi An. While the former offers glimpses of Vietnam’s historic past in the form of citadel, tombs and temples, the latter, a port city, is known for its atmospheric streets, quaint Chinese shophouses, grand French colonial buildings and ornate Vietnamese tube houses. If history is your cup of coffee, add a trip to Mỹ Sơn in your itinerary while in Hoi An. The sprawling ruins of this Hindu temple complex dedicated to lord Shiva were constructed by the Cham people between the fourth and the 14th century. Then follow the maze of rivers and canals that cut through the Mekong River Delta, exploring life in one of Vietnam’s most scenic region.
A 14-day itinerary could as well be the extended version of a 10-day one with slight alterations. Take a boat to the Chàm Islands while in Hoi An. Snorkel amid its tropical coral reefs and sprawl on quiet stretches of sand. Visit the tunnels of Cu Chi while in Ho Chi Minh City and discover the floating markets of Can Tho on a trip to the Mekong River Delta. The green, undulating landscape of Cat Ba, the largest island on Hạ Long Bay, calls for a solid hike while Lan Ha Bay, located nearby, offers scenery rivaling Hạ Long sans tourists.
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