Vietnam is one of the most beautiful countries in South-East Asia. This country has the most inviting emerald mountains with rice terraces; bustling cities where modern buildings meet colonial structures and ancient landmarks; golden beaches with a relaxed pace of life; limestone cliffs that jut out haphazardly from sea and land; and super delicious food. Below is a round-up of the best places to visit in Vietnam. These destinations have something for everyone- the tree huggers, the history buffs, the culture enthusiasts, the adventure seekers, the relaxation lovers, the gourmands – you name it. The most inviting aspect of it all is that the country is extremely inexpensive, so you can see the most beautiful places in Vietnam without burning a hole in your pocket.
These places have been mentioned as per their location in the country – North to South. However, we start at the capital, Hanoi (not the northernmost place on our list), assuming this is the city you’ll land in before venturing out into the beauty that is Vietnam.
Explored by Emily from Wander-Lush
No trip to Vietnam would be complete without visiting Hanoi, the country’s buzzing capital and biggest city in the north. Hanoi perfectly encapsulates the culture, colour and chaos modern-day Vietnam is known for. You will need at least three full days to do the city justice.
The Old Quarter is the heart of Hanoi and ground zero for travellers. Each of the busy streets bears the name of a different trade or product, a nod to a time when Hanoi was Vietnam’s main hub for traders and craftspeople. Today, the Old Quarter is the best place to sip Vietnamese iced coffee (or Ca Phe Trung, Hanoi-style egg coffee), eat street food (there are copious amounts of it on every corner), and shop for locally made ceramics and textiles at some of Hanoi’s best souvenir shops.
Don’t miss the the top things to do in Hanoi – the Temple of Literature, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum along with Ba Dinh Square, and Tran Quoc Pagoda, the oldest Buddhist temple in the city. The Vietnamese Women’s Museum is among the best of the country’s cultural institutions and is well worth a visit to learn about Vietnam’s ethnic diversity. Truc Bach island and Ngoc Ha are two lovely outer suburbs where you can escape the crowds and get a taste of ‘real’ life in Hanoi.
If you want to stay somewhere central, Hanoi Essence is a lovely boutique hotel at the northern end of Hoan Kiem Lake in the very centre of the Old Town. You’ll have no trouble finding restaurants and bars within walking distance – and the famous ‘Beer Corner’, where people gather every night to sip Bia Hoi, is a short stroll away.
Hanoi, like the rest of the North, has a relatively harsh winter and a very hot summer. The best time to visit Hanoi is around September/October when temperatures start to dip. February in Hanoi is a treat as the Tet Lunar New Year celebrations unfold across the city (just bring a jacket, and avoid moving around during the holiday week as transportation becomes very busy). Avoid March in Hanoi at all costs, as it is very warm and humid.
2. Ha Giang
Explored by Bilyana from Owl Over The World
One of the best places to visit in Vietnam has to be the Ha Giang Province. An off-the-beaten-path destination that is slowly, but surely gaining popularity among travellers, especially because of the Ha Giang Extreme Motorbike Loop which is the best way to explore the region.
Ha Giang is a province in the Northeast region of Vietnam that shares a 270km border with Southern China. This part of the country has towering mountains, deep valleys, winding rivers, ethical villages, and curvy roads surrounded all over by high karst plateaus.
The provincial capital is the town of Ha Giang, which is not that interesting but is the starting point for the loop. From here, you can rent a motorbike, prepare for the trip, and get a permit to drive around the province.
While exploring the region, you should visit the Lung Cu Flag Tower that marks the northern-most point of Vietnam. From the tower, you have a beautiful view of the Chinese mountains on the other side of the border.
Also, you shouldn’t miss the Ma Pi Leng Pass. Located at an elevation of 1500 meters above sea level, it is known as the King of the Vietnamese mountain passes and has the most jaw-dropping mountain roads in Vietnam.
This loop will take three days to do but it could be done in less if you don’t make many stops and could be done in a week too, covering more than what is included in the original loop route. Dong Van B&B in Dong Van and Mr Hung’s Guest House in Meo Vac are amazing places to stay in the Ha Giang region. The best time to visit is the dry season from October to April, however, winter months from December to February may be very cold.
Regardless of the way you choose to explore the region, Ha Giang is a great option to include in your Vietnam itinerary.
Explored by Paula Martinelli from Paula Pins The Planet
Sapa is a mountain town located in northwest Vietnam, beyond the clouds in Lao Cai Province which also includes Fan Si Pan, the highest mountain in Vietnam with a height of 3,142m above sea level.
It is one of the most beautiful places in Vietnam. On a clear day, you will be treated to views of steeply terraced rice fields, towering verdant ridgelines, primitive mud-thatched villages, raging rivers, and astounding waterfalls. The main activities here include trekking and visiting the local hill tribes along the way. A homestay with a local Black H’mong family is a fascinating must-have experience.
While it is possible to trek on your own, it is better to have the assistance of a local guide to guarantee a more enriching experience. Their local knowledge is especially handy on long hikes and overnight village stays. You have an option to book a tour in advance with a travel agency or a local lady. You can also book a tour after arriving in Sapa.
The best way to get to Sapa is by an overnight 9-hour train from Hanoi to Lao Cai. Upon your arrival in Lao Cai station, you can take a mini-bus up into the mountains to Sapa Town, which takes approximately 1-hour.
The dry season begins from January and lasts until June. December to January are the super cold and foggy months. The best time to visit Sapa is between March to May. From mid-September to November is the time when you’ll get a chance to see the bright yellow-green terraces Sapa is famous for.
4. Halong Bay
Explored by Christina from Travel2Next
Halong Bay is a stunning UNESCO World Heritage site in the Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam’s Quang Ninh Province. The region is one of the best places to visit in Vietnam because it is home to more than 1,600 islands.
The top thing to do in Halong Bay is to go on a day cruise, over-night cruise, or multi-night cruise around the bay, stopping at various islands and exploring caves. While on the cruise you can kayak around the bay, swim or dive. There are plenty of cruises to choose from for an island-hopping adventure, including traditional junks.
The most famous attraction in the area is the Hang Sung Sot Cave, an impressive cave on Bon Hon Island with one chamber being a whopping 30m high. It is a bit of a hike to the cave, but the views are worth the effort.
Other islands to visit include the Cat Ba Island (where you can explore Cat Ba National Park), Monkey Island (which has one of the most beautiful beaches) and Hon Ga Choi Island, which is also a famous landmark in Vietnam. The best time to visit Hon Ga Choi island is at sunset when the two large rocks rising from the sea resemble fighting cockerels.
You should spend a minimum of a day in Halong Bay but because it is such a beautiful area, a week would also not be too long, especially for those who love water activities and islands. Most visitors stay for two to three days.
The best time to visit here is from September to November or March to May because this is when Halong Bay is dry and the weather lovely. If you’re on a budget, visit in the low season from May to September when the cost of cruising is cheaper. July and August are the monsoon months so there may be a risk of cruises being cancelled.
5. Ninh Binh
Explored by Lee and James from The Travel Scribes
Towering limestone karsts that reach high up into the sky and glittering waters surrounded by lush green trees. Such scenery can only be found in Ninh Binh – a town tucked away in Vietnam’s Red River Delta that is often called ‘Ha Long Bay on Land’ for having such similar scenery.
Situated a short 90-minute drive from Hanoi, Ninh Binh – or if you’re exact, the charming village of Tam Coc – has become one of the more popular destinations on the Vietnam tourist trail. It is not only known for its incredible vistas but also its laidback village atmosphere, favoured by relaxed backpackers and families alike. The Ninh Binh region has an abundance of rivers and lakes best explored on the multitude of river cruises in the area.
Most visitors centre themselves around Tam Coc, where they take a short tour down the Tam Coc river, powered only by the feet (yes, that’s right – the feet!) of the fisherman turned oarsman who glides them down. The Tam Coc area also has a cave complex and several impressive temples – from the lonely Thai Vi temple, nestled in the fields, to the stunning mountainside temples of Bich Dong, a trio of cave temples punctuated by scenes of waterlilies. More adventurous travellers can make their way up to the nearby Vietnamese landmark, Trang An, an epic UNESCO World Heritage area which boasts its river and a series of nine ethereal caves.
Not keen on cave hunting or waterway tours? Grab a bicycle and simply ride around the breathtaking countryside, stopping off at temples or roadside vendors, or tucking into the world-class wood-fired pizzas at Chookies, the village institution.
It is usually best to visit Ninh Binh during harvest season (May to July), so you see the incredible paddy fields, even though it might be a little warm. If you prefer cooler weather, head there in September or October.
Ninh Binh is a popular destination visited as a day trip from Hanoi but it is better to stay here for 3-5 days at least to take in all the sights. It is definitely one of the best places to go in Vietnam.
6. Phong Nha
Explored by Joanna Davis from The World In My Pocket
Phong Nha is one of those places that is not yet discovered by tourists. Located in central Vietnam, Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park is a paradise. Even though the village is small, there are plenty of things to do in Phong Nha, especially if you love nature.
The main reason why tourists come to Phong Nha are the beautiful caves hidden in the mountains surrounding the national park. Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park is home to the largest (Son Doong Cave), third-largest (Hang En) and fourth-largest ( Hang Pygmy) caves in the world that can be accessed on multi-day organized tours. However, the entry to these caves in limited and the expeditions difficult and expensive. Parts of the movie Kong: Skull Island were filmed in and around the Tu Lan cave system here. Watch the movie to virtually see the scenery that awaits.
Three main caves in Phong Nha that are accessible without a guide or special preparation are the Phong Nha Cave, the Paradise Cave and the Dark Cave. They are all very different from each other, so it is highly recommended you spend a night in the village and visit them all. Though you can visit these caves on your own, it is better to hire a guide to understand how the caves were formed and not miss any of the spectacular rocks formations.
One of the most entertaining places in Phong Nha is actually the Duck Stop, a peculiar experience in which you can be the leader of hundreds of ducks.
You will need at least 2 days here to see the caves and more to explore the country-side, hidden hiking trails and kayak in the river. When in the area, stay at a farm stay or homestay to get a feel of the rural life. Phong Nha is a destination suitable for visiting year-round. However, many caves in the area are inaccessible during the rainy season from October-December.
Explored by Daniel and Ilona from Top Travel Sights
Hue is a great place to dive into Vietnam’s rich history. It has plenty to do in and around the city so you can easily spend 2-4 days exploring.
The main attraction to see in the city is the citadel which was once the home of the emperor of Vietnam. The buildings in the citadel are in various states, ranging from fully restored to almost destroyed. The palace suffered severe damage in the Vietnam War, and while walking around, you can still see some of the bullet holes from back then. Plan enough time for this visit as the citadel complex is humongous -it takes up a large chunk of the city centre.
Besides visiting the citadel, one of the best things you can do in Hue is to take a dragon boat tour down the river. This vantage point allows you to see the city from a different angle and to visit temples and pagodas along the way.
You should also consider taking a day trip to explore the tombs around Hue. All the emperors who used to live in the citadel have their final resting places outside the city. Each grave has its unique appeal, and visiting the different complexes allows you to escape the city for a day while learning about Vietnamese history.
Like all of Vietnam, Hue also offers you the chance to try delicious food. Banh Khoai, for example, is a Vietnamese crepe filled with shrimps and vegetables which you can find in restaurants all over the city.
Another excellent place to try Vietnamese cuisine is the night market. In the evening, sample local delicacies from the stalls set up by the river.
The Ngoc Binh Hotel offers excellent value – clean rooms and an easy walk to the city centre- for a very affordable price.
Hue can be visited all year long but the best time is from February to April when isn’t too hot or rainy. The wet season lasts from September to December. You can still enjoy Hue but expect frequent rain and dress accordingly.
8. Da Nang
Explored by Mark from Wyld Family Travel
Most people use Da Nang, a city in central Vietnam, as a staging point on their way to visit Hoi An. However, Da Nang should not be skipped as it is one of the best places in Vietnam for holiday – especially for families.
White sand beaches as far as the eye can see with warm calm waters is enticing, to say the least. Beach clubs allow you to kick back and enjoy a drink between swims. The yellow sand beaches are at their busiest in the late afternoons when tourists flock to the water after the sun’s sting is gone. The main beach areas have lighting so you can enjoy the waters even as the sun goes down.
Sunworld theme park, located in the middle of the city, is great value for money with rides and entertainment for everyone. You will find high-speed roller coasters, the largest Ferris Wheel in Vietnam and more. Try the buffet, entry combo for a great evening out.
The Giant Hand’s walkway in the hills behind Da Nang, sitting at 1400 meters above sea level, provides splendid views of the coast. It is the most popular attraction.
The Marble Mountains offer a chance to explore caves close to the city that once produced most of Vietnam’s marble. These rocky escarpments are similar to ones rising out of the water in Halong Bay.
On the Son Tra Peninsula, you will find the Giant Lady Buddha which stands at a height of 67 meters and is visible from all over the city. You can climb the Buddha for an amazing view over Da Nang.
It would be best to eat local food at small restaurants for an authentic feel. However, if you’re missing western food head to Lotte Mart.
Da Nang can be visited all year round but it will be better to skip the summer (June-August) and monsoon months (Sep-Dec) for a better experience.
9. Hoi An
Explored by Chrysoula Manika from Travel Passionate
The gorgeous city of Hoi An, one of the top destinations in Vietnam, is located at the heart of the central east coast. It is a must-visit stopping off point for any trip from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City.
With French, Chinese, Japanese, and traditional Vietnamese influence, Hoi An is a real eclectic town with well-preserved tourist attractions as well as hidden gems to keep you enthralled. This UNESCO World Heritage Town features pagodas, markets, art galleries, patisseries, tailors, and temples that keep travellers visiting year after year.
Spend your time in Hoi An cycling around the old townhouses, visiting the quaint Japanese Covered Bridge, touring the city temples, and taking a stroll along the peaceful riverside. If you’re lucky enough to be in Hoi An for Full Moon, you’re in for a treat as the city comes alight with colourful lanterns and locals pay homage to their ancestors with candle-lit lanterns floating down the river.
Another thing that Hoi An is famous for is high-end tailoring at relatively low prices, so if you’re looking for a suit, a dress or a whole new wardrobe this is the place to come. You can even discover the silk-making process at Thang Loi tailors before deciding what you want to have made.
While visiting Hoi An don’t forget to try a delicious Vietnamese coffee, visit the Museum of Folk Culture, take a day trip to the nearby My Son Architectural Site or head out for some relaxation at An Bang Beach. If you’re seeking a tranquil accommodation option on the outskirts of the city, stay at the blissful KOI Hoi An Resort and Spa.
10. My Son
Explored by Rose Munday from Where Goes Rose?
A trip to the My Son Temples makes a great addition to your Hoi An itinerary. This charming city in Central Vietnam has plenty of history in the form of Chinese and European colonial buildings. However, a trip to My Son will bring you up to speed on the more ancient of the region: the Cham empire who governed much of Southeast Asia between the 4th and 15th centuries.
Located 40km from Hoi An, it’s worth spending half a day at this ancient temple site. Unlike other colourful temples in Vietnam which date back to Chinese rule, the crumbling stone pagodas and pillars at My Son will remind you more of Angkor Wat. Even though My Son was heavily bombed during the Vietnam War, plenty of detailed statues showing Hindu gods have survived.
Tragically, French colonialists looted My Son and beheaded many of the statues. Now their heads reside in La Louvre in Paris.
It’s easy to take a day trip from Hoi An to My Son. Several tour companies book half-day trips by bus, either direct or including a river cruise on the way back. Alternatively, you can hire a taxi and driver for the day or self-drive a scooter there and back. Entry to My Son is VND 150,000(around USD 5). It would be advisable to hire a guide to learn about My Son and appreciate it fully.
If you are visiting independent of a tour group, it would be wise to arrive early and have the temple site to yourself. The tour groups arrive mid-morning bringing in the rush. There isn’t much in the way of food and drink near My Son, but you’ll be back in Hoi An by lunch which is the best place to eat for miles around!
11. Nha Trang
Explored by Janine from Get Out With Kids
Nha Trang is a fantastic place to visit in Vietnam. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for water activities, land-based activities or mountain jaunts, Nha Trang has you covered. Often overlooked for the more popular places in Vietnam like Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Hanoi and Hoi An, there are still plenty of things to do in Nha Trang.
Located 440kms north of HCMC, Nha Trang is easy to get to by plane, train or bus. Once there you will find a plethora of things to do to suit all kinds of travellers.
If water sports are your thing, book yourself a diving tour– Nha Trang is well known for them. Or head to neighbouring islands like Hon Lon or Hon Loa islands for your very own tropical getaway.
Beach lover? Check out the plethora of beaches.The main beach, called Tran Phu Beach, is an easy stroll from anywhere in Nha Trang. It is full of gorgeous resorts, hotels, restaurants and shops.
One of the main attractions of Nha Trang is Vinpearl Land. This amusement park is part of the Vinpearl Resort but you can take a day trip here to enjoy the rides and water slides all day long. Take the 10-15 minute cable car ride across to the island where to park is located. It is the most fun way to get there!
If mountains are more your thing, hire a car or a motorcycle and take a tour of the local mountains to get some spectacular views. You will definitely want to check out Hon Ba Nature Reserve too! There is a range of tours you can take to enjoy the local scenery around Nha Trang.
As you can see, Nha Trang has plenty to do, so spend at least 3 days here. Book any hotel along the main beach with a sea view room on a high floor. Avoid restaurants at the beach to stay away from tourist traps.
Whilst Nha Trang is lovely all year round the peak season is between February and May. If you are keen on diving, anytime between January and October is good.
Explored by Claire from Claire’s Footsteps
Sitting in Vietnam’s southern highlands (making it the ideal place to visit if you need to cool down!), Dalat is a great place to see another side of Vietnam. Around the town, there are lots of lakes, waterfalls and rice terraces – you can rent a bike or take a tour to see some of the most beautiful spots in the area!
Due to its climate, it is also where a lot of Vietnam’s produce – from mushrooms to flowers – is grown. A guided tour in Da Lat will take you to some of these farms and tell you about their methods for producing food here.
Da Lat town is fairly small and quiet, with a few points of interest. The Crazy House is a hotel and museum dedicated to all things weird and wonderful, and Maze Bar is a multi-themed and levelled bar!
It’s also worth checking out the historic train station, which was designed and built in the 1930s during the French colonial period, and thus has architecture typical of the region. You can take a vintage train to Linh Phuoc Pagoda in Trai Mat from here, enjoying the scenery on the way.
To eat, An Lac Tam is a lovely little vegetarian restaurant, run by locals and serving up Vietnamese classics – noodle soups, salads, vegetable and tofu plates, and more! And after dinner, do as the locals do, and enjoy a glass of soy milk from a roadside stall!
Da Lat isn’t on everybody’s Vietnam itinerary, but it is one of the more beautiful places in Vietnam and is well worth the side trip up to the highlands!
13. Ho Chi Minh City
Explored by Marya Sutimi from The BeauTraveler
Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is not only one of the top destinations in Vietnam but also all of South East Asia. It is a buzzing modern skyscraper-filled city with rich culture and history, delicious food, endless coffee shops, thriving nightlife and never-ending motorbikes.
There’s a lot you can do in HCMC, but learning Vietnamese history should be on top of your list. Visit the War Remnant Museum to understand the Vietnam War’s meaning from the Vietnamese people’s perspective. You can also visit the Cu Chi Tunnel located outside the city that offers a peek at the underground life of Vietnamese soldiers during the war.
You should also enjoy modern-day HCMC. Take a tour or walk around the city admiring HCMC’s charming buildings – The Independence Palace, The Saigon Central Post Office, The Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, The People’s Committee of HCMC and The HCMC Opera House . While you’re at it, don’t forget to sip on delicious and cheap ( $0.50 per cup) Vietnamese Coffee and eat tasty street food.
Your time here isn’t complete without visiting the famous Ben Tanh Market, to hunt for cheap souvenirs and strolling on Bui Vien Walking Street.
If you love drinking beer, don’t forget to visit The World of Heineken at Bitexco Saigon Tower. Heineken is evidently the Vietnamese people’s most-favourite beer since Vietnam is Heineken’s second-largest source of profit after Mexico. This is the main reason why HCMC was chosen to be the first and only location of The World of Heineken in Asia.
3-4 days in HCMC will be enough for you to explore the city, with District 1 being the most popular area to stay at for visitors, especially those travelling on a budget. Do try South East Asia inspired food at Hum Vegetarian Restaurant and Indian Food at Baba’s Kitchen.
14. Mekong Delta - Can Tho
The Mekong Delta, the rice basket of Vietnam, is one of the best places to go in Vietnam for one and all. The delta is a network of distributaries in south-west Vietnam that has unique ecosystems, diverse communities, famous floating markets, interesting stilt house and villages, orchards, pagodas and more. The Mekong Delta can be visited as a day trip from Ho Chi Minh City in popular locations such as My Tho and offbeat ones such as Ben Tre. However, the best way to see the delta is through a multi-day visit with an overnight stay at Can Tho.
Explored by Jackie Szeto of Life of Doing
Located along the southern area of the Mekong Delta and only a few hours away from Ho Chi Minh City is Can Tho (Cần Thơ in Vietnamese). As the largest city along the Mekong Delta, it is a fantastic place to see life on the delta.
The popular attraction in Can Tho is Cai Rang Floating Market. Take a tour or head to Ninh Kieu Wharf and hire a wooden sampan. It takes about 40 minutes to reach the floating market. Once you enter the market, you’ll see hundreds of small and large boats filled to the brim with fresh fruits and vegetables such as pumpkin, pineapple, watermelons, and more. It is exciting to see sellers and buyers negotiate and go about their day. The tour also takes you to see various factories making rice paper, dry rice noodles, and puffed rice snacks.
Besides the floating market, Can Tho has many Buddhist temples and pagodas that are within walking distance from the Ninh Kieu Wharf. Check out Ong Temple and Phat Hoc Pagoda for the beautiful architecture.
In the evening, head to the two night markets, Can Tho and Tan Dai Phong, for some cheap eats. Try delicious street food such as bánh tráng nướng, grilled rice paper stuffed with meat and quail egg, fish balls and other meats on sticks, and grilled seafood.
You will need at least 2 days in Can Tho. It has plenty of affordable guesthouses and hotels to choose from. Ruby Can Tho Hotel is recommended as it is less than a 10-minute walk to the wharf. Plus, the location is close to restaurants and shopping.
15. Phu Quoc
By Lotte from Phenomenal Globe Travel Blog
Phu Quoc is a beautiful island in the Gulf of Thailand and an excellent place to explore, unwind and relax – one of the best places in Vietnam for holiday. While not an overly large island, Phu Quoc will keep you occupied. Things that should feature on any Phu Quoc itinerary are eating your way around the Phu Quoc Night Market in Duong Dong, riding the longest cable car in the world, visiting the Suoi Tranh Waterfall, and snorkelling at the stunning An Thoi islands.
The best way to explore Phu Quoc is with a scooter. Having your own wheels allows you to visit some of the smaller and more off-the-beaten-path villages on the island, such as Ganh Dau and Bai Thom.
The best (but also busiest) time to visit the island is from November to March, which is the dry season. Days are sunny and temperatures are around 30°C. If you prefer travelling in the shoulder season, April is also a good month to visit, crowds are fewer and accommodation prices are (much) lower.
If you don’t mind visiting a few sights per day, you can explore Phu Quoc in three days. However, if taking it slow and relaxing on a beach is more your style, it’s easy to spend a week on this tropical island!
Phu Quoc has lots of accommodation options, suitable for any budget. A good and very affordable place to stay is the Kinh Bac Hotel. If you are looking for something special, consider booking Cassia Cottage which was rated as the best hotel on Phu Quoc in 2018.
One of the things you must eat on Phu Quoc is seafood, which is freshly caught and often prepared on a BBQ, simple but delicious!
We hope this blog post helps you plan your Vietnam itinerary. Do tell us your favourites from this list in the comments below. Which places in Vietnam would you definitely want to visit?
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