Though Vietnam looks small on the map, you could easily spend weeks exploring this fascinating country. From the jagged mountains in the north to the tropical beaches in the south – and all of the history and culture in between – here are the 15 best destinations for you in Vietnam.
Hà Giang is rugged, remote and spectacular. This area features some of the best views in the country, overlooking terraced rice paddies and deep valleys that have been carved into the limestone mountains over thousands of years. And if you love motorbike rides, be sure to check out either the Quản Bạ Pass or the Mã Pí Lèng Pass.
Home to several ethnic groups, Sa Pa has grown substantially in the past few years. While some are put off by the tourism boom in this once-quiet mountain town, there are still many good reasons to visit. We recommend you seek out a homestay in one of the surrounding villages. Also, if the weather permits, you can climb Fansipan, the tallest mountain in Indochina.
Hanoi’s Old Quarter
Vietnam’s capital city is full of history and culture, especially in the Old Quarter near Hoan Kiem Lake. This is epicenter of tourism in the city, with market streets, nightlife options and some of the best Vietnamese food in the country.
Hạ Long Bay
When it comes to Vietnamese tourism, you have to mention Hạ Long Bay. The rampant commercialisation of this natural wonder may detract from its raw, undeniable beauty, but you have to escape the crowds first. Try to get on a reputable tour boat, or stay on Cát Bà island. Another option is a trip to nearby Bai Tu Long Bay.
This is likely the most popular of the many excellent day trip options out of Hanoi, and it’s no wonder why. The limestone karsts, serpentine rivers and lush scenery make for perfect holiday photos. Most trips to this area are combined with a visit to the Tràng An caves and grottoes as well.
Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park
Unless you’re making your way the whole length of Vietnam, this national park is pretty far out of the way. But those who do make the effort to get here will be rewarded with some of the most unique experiences in all of Vietnam. This park is famous for its caves, and even has the largest in the world by volume.
This city was once the capital of imperial Vietnam, and much of its rich history still remains. The centerpiece is the Citadel and the enclosed Imperial City. Much of it was destroyed by American bombers during the war, but plenty remains to give you an idea of the former splendor. Huế is also famous for its spicy cuisine, so be sure to check some local versions of popular Vietnamese dishes.
Hai Van Pass
The mountains that run along the Laos border jut out into the sea between Huế and Đà Nẵng. Here, the road climbs up into the clouds, with twists and turns and views you’ll never forget. In a country known for its motorbike routes, the Hải Vân Pass is definitely the most famous.
If you only have time to visit a few places in Vietnam, make Hội An one of them. The first time you walk out by the river in the Ancient Town is a special moment. It’s exactly as captivating as the pictures show, and it gets even more beautiful at night because of all the lanterns. This town is also home to hundreds of professional tailors, so spend a couple of days and have a nice dress or suit made just for you.
Though Nha Trang is significantly busier than some of the other beach towns in the south, that also means there is so much more to do. The nightlife is a lot of fun, and there are so many extreme activities for the adrenaline junkies among you – jet skiing, surfing or even a flyboard, if you’re brave enough.
For those of you looking to escape the heat, Đà Lạt is exactly what you need. This mountain town is a popular holiday destination for families and young couples from Ho Chi Minh City, which is why it’s also known as the City of Love and Flowers.
Even if you aren’t a morning person, it’s worth waking up early to see the sunrise at the sand dunes in Mũi Né. After that, relax at one of the amazing resorts, or just find a nice spot on the beach to read and sip on your favorite drink. This sleepy little town is a popular stop for tourists – and for good reason. You’ll love how peaceful it is.
Now we’re into the traffic madness of Vietnam’s biggest city. Many are put off by the hectic pace of Saigon – as it’s also known – but there’s so much to love about this place. There are museums, world-class restaurants, rooftop bars, luxury hotels, street food stalls and as good a nightlife scene as you’ll find anywhere in the region.
Most people opt for the easier day trip to Mỹ Tho, but if you have the time, you really should venture farther into the Mekong Delta and visit Cần Thơ. The floating market, Cái Răng, is the largest in Vietnam, and much more impressive than the others in the region. If you have your heart set on visiting a floating market, make it this one.
Here’s a slice of heaven for beach lovers. This island, just off the coast near the border with Cambodia, has some of the most pristine beaches you’ll ever see. Parts of the island have big resorts, but others are secluded, with nothing but you, palm trees and the waves.