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Mountains, rice terraces, majestic rivers, and dramatic bays; Vietnam is blessed with countless magical landscapes. The towns are full of history and atmosphere, and the great cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh buzz with life, twenty-four-seven. Wherever you choose to go, some aspect of the country’s rich culture – whether it is food, coffee, music or art – is waiting to be explored.
There is a huge amount to see and do on a Vietnam tour, but don’t feel overwhelmed. We’ve come up with twelve of the country's most interesting and beautiful towns, cities and natural sights. Of all the places to visit in Vietnam, these are the ones you shouldn’t miss.
Northern Vietnam is known for its culture and natural attractions. From the stunning limestone formations in Halong bay and rice terraces in Sapa, to Vietnam's capital, Hanoi; there are plenty of things to see in Northern 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.
- 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
Wide boulevards, colonial buildings, alleyways, and skyscrapers are side by side in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi. The city has a rich, complex history which you can learn about in the many excellent museums. Spend a few days here and you’ll also learn how to order pho and navigate the crazy traffic.
- Head to the Old Quarter to see Hanoi’s traditional buildings, shop for local handicrafts and dive into the street food scene.
- Visit Hanoi’s museums, the best of which include the National Museum of Vietnamese History and the National Museum of Fine Arts.
If you want to see the Vietnam of the Instagram photos, come to Sapa. 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.
- 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 or how to cook regional dishes.
- Trek to Mount Fanispan, the highest mountain in Vietnam.
Looking to escape the city? Ba Be National Park is a breath of fresh air. Around five hours' drive from Hanoi, the park is the location of Vietnam’s largest natural lake which is more than seven kilometers long and 30 meters deep in parts. Explore the lake by boat, and hike in the surrounding countryside, which is home to rich birdlife.
- Tour the lake by boat and explore the many tunnels, caves and lagoons
- Find a local guide to accompany you on a hike to local villages inhabited by some of Vietnam’s many ethnic minority tribes.
Known as the ‘Halong Bay on land’ thanks to the limestone hills dotting the landscape, Ninh Binh is a relatively lesser known destination which is overshadowed by its northern counterparts like Ha Long Bay and Sapa. If you want to check out unspoilt parts of Vietnam, ancient citadels and caves, this is where you should go in Vietnam.
- Visit Tam Coc to take in the spectacular landscape of the limestone hills and maybe even climb one. Hang Mua, one of the peaks in Tam Coc can be conquered by climbing 500 steps to the top.
- Take a boat ride to Trang An along the scenic Sao Khe river and visit caves and temples surrounding the area.
- Explore a 10th century citadel in Hoa Lu, the ancient capital of Vietnam.
Pu Long Nature Reserve is a series of mountains and valleys in Northwest Vietnam of remarkable natural beauty. This is where to come to discover Vietnam's tribal minorities, who live in traditional houses in the mist-covered mountains. Streams, waterfalls and lush vegetation are home to rare wildlife.
- Explore on foot or by motorbike and visit the villages of the Black Thai minority with a guide
- Stay in a traditional stilt house where you can enjoy home-cooked food, breath-taking scenery and discover Vietnamese rural life.
Southern Vietnam is known for its coastal cities, floating markets and Vietnam's largest metropolis, Ho Chi Minh City. If you are wondering where to go in southern Vietnam, visit the floating markets in Mekong Delta, learn about the country's history in Hue or relax in the white sand beaches of Phu Quoc Island.
Vietnam’s largest city is a lively, sometimes chaotic metropolis. Full of street markets, cafes, bars and buzzing with motorbikes, this is Vietnam at its most authentic. Spend any length of time in 'HCMC' and you’ll also discover a city teeming with culinary delights.
- 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.
Hoi An is an ancient town on the Thu Bon River. Once a major port and center of the spice trade, the city has an atmospheric old quarter that is perfect for exploring on foot. Hoi An is also known for its vibrant culinary scene. If you’re a foodie, this destination should be top of your list.
- Hoi An is one of the best places to visit in Vietnam if you love food. Take a cookery class where you can hunt for ingredients in the market and learn to make the city's famous dishes.
- Relax on the waterfront with a beer, watch the boats meandering down the river, and grab some tasty food from one of the many street barbecues.
Where the Mekong River reaches the sea is a landscape of fertile flood plains and farmland that is often called the rice bowl of Vietnam. One of the most beautiful parts of Vietnam, it’s a perfect spot to take in the view and observe Vietnam’s peaceful rural way of life.
- Cruise the river for a few days visiting floating markets, temples and charming delta towns that see hardly any tourists.
- Spend a night in a homestay and meet local people who will cook you the best Vietnamese food you have ever tasted.
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 come. Da Nang also makes a good base for day trips to the ruins at My Son and the cities of Hue and Hoi An.
- 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.
There are many places to visit in Vietnam if you’re seeking sun, sea, and sand; but Phu Quoc is the most idyllic. Lying off Vietnam’s south coast, Phu Quoc is a group of 28 islands fringed by white-sand beaches. Fast becoming Vietnam's top holiday spot, Phu Quoc has plenty of luxury hotels, restaurants and bars.
- Soak up the sun on one of Phu Quoc’s many sandy beaches and explore further afield to find the quietest spots.
- Walk around the night market and outdoor seafood restaurants in Duong Dong where you can dine on the catch of the day.
The former capital of Vietnam and seat of the Nguyen dynasty, Hue is one of the most intriguing places to visit in Vietnam. This cultured city is full of crumbling palaces and pagodas which you can explore on foot or by boat.
- Explore the Imperial City, which is now a world heritage site and undergoing restoration. Its ornate gates, palaces and temples are full of exquisite details.
- Take a boat ride down the majestic Perfume River, stopping off at ancient pagodas and royal tombs along the way.
If you’re sweltering in the heat, beat a path to Dalat, a resort town high on a plateau in Lam Dong Province. Where the Vietnamese come on holiday, Dalat is one of the best places to visit in Vietnam for outdoor activities. The cool climate is ideal for hiking in the surrounding forests and hills.
- Visit the Lam Dong Museum, which tells the story of the region through ceramics, jewelry, and other artifacts.
- Get outside in nature and try one of the many outdoor activities on offer which include mountain biking, rafting, and trekking.
A picturesque beach town with a beautiful coastline, clear waters, and reefs, Nha Trang is one of the best beach destinations in Vietnam. But Nha Trang has more to offer than beachside fun, it is also home to natural beauty and rich heritage. From pagodas to waterfalls, there are many places to be explored here.
- Try fresh seafood coming straight from the fishing boats like prawns, squid, crab dishes or even jellyfish, prepared using the best fish sauce in Vietnam.
- Island hop the 19 islands just off the coast and snorkel among the coral reefs.
- Go inland and visit the Suoi Do Pagoda, Ba Ho waterfalls or Po Nagar Cham Towers.
A trip to such a diverse place as Vietnam takes some planning. Include some of these ideas in your itinerary, allow yourself plenty of time to see them, and you’re sure to get beneath the surface of this alluring country.
Travelling to Vietnam? Chat with a local travel specialist in Vietnam who can help organize your trip.
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