From one end to the other, see firsthand the incredible diversity of landscape, sights and food. Whether northbound, southbound or staying on a tropical beach, here are our top 9 places to visit in Vietnam!
The epic mountainous coastal country of Vietnam has it all. Spectacular natural wonders and incredible biodiversity, eight UNESCO World Heritage sites and one of southeast Asia’s longest coastlines. Travelers to Vietnam are spoiled with an incredible variety of destinations, from north to south. Here are our Top 9 places to visit in Vietnam that we firmly believe are well worth the journey to Southeast Asia and would leave even seasoned travelers awestruck.
The misty highland town of Sapa has long been a favorite for travelers of Vietnam for good reasons. Its towering rice terraces on sloping mountainsides, minority villages with local H’mong, Giay, Dao and Tay groups and a still slow-moving and blissfully peaceful aura makes a travelers paradise. Many of the locals still tend to farmland and the mountainous outskirts of Sapa is the site for a variety of village markets. Here, you’ll find the same hand woven fabrics that make up the traditional clothing still worn by groups in the area to this day, with many of the sellers fluent in English and French thanks to Sapa’s booming tourism. The gorgeous landscape is best explored by foot–where treks lead to some of the country’s most beautiful sights!
Located about 130 kilometers east of Hanoi, Halong is known as the “Bay of Descending Dragons” in Vietnamese, and the magnificence suggested by its name isn’t an overstatement. The seascape of limestone pillars rising up from the water really does look like something otherworldly, and its spectacular visual feast is part of why its now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Boats now sail between some 2000 islets that hide any number of caves and aquatic flora and fauna, with each islet named after what shape it most resembles. Some of the most famous are Voi Islet (which means elephant) and Ga Choi Islet (which means fighting rooster). The best way to see the area is via a boat, often called a “junk”, painted pearly white thanks to the UNESCO recognition. There’s also the ever impressive seaplane ride!
Hanoians are very proud of their city’s thousand years of history and travelers that arrive in the bustling city quickly find out why. Although now one of southeast Asia’s most busiest capitals, Hanoi is still home to remnants of its past and is littered with museums, war era ruins and beautiful French colonial architecture. Nearly every era in Hanoi’s history is represented by some architectural or cultural remnant between dozens of lakes and parks that offer a refuge of calm in an otherwise frenetic city. Hoan Kiem lake, in the centre of the old quarter, is named after a famous folklore legend and is now one of the most popular destinations within the city. That combined with stunning French colonial architecture an array of museums on tree-lined boulevards, and winding bustling alleyways and Hanoi is a favorite for travelers worldwide!
Located on Vietnam’s pristine central coastline, Hoi An is regularly touted as one of Vietnam’s more picturesque and charming townships. Often referred to as an ancient town, Hoi An’s historic centre is home to hundreds of buildings dating back hundreds of years, and places like the Japanese Covered Bridge and Quan Cong Temple are like something out of a storybook. Travelers here can revel in more than just beautiful architecture, but also in central Vietnam’s beautiful seaside weather — its only a short distance from a beach — and some of the country’s most iconic traditional artwork. See lanterns being made and traditional fabrics being woven at some of its downtown shops, or simply cycle through and enjoy quaint agricultural sights of water buffalos padding through rice fields.
The Imperial City during the Nguyen dynasty from 1820 to 1945, Hue is no longer the capital, but still magnificent and with its location along the Perfume River and its ancient walled border still largely intact. The ancient Citadel and monuments at city centre as well as grand palaces and myriad temples are among the many sights, but the city’s also famous for it’s spicy and delicious food! Snack on some Nem Lui before heading to attractions like the tombs of Emporers and Thien Mu Pagoda while visiting this central jewel of Vietnam.
Nha Trang remains one of Vietnam’s best spots for scuba diving and snorkeling, and boasts some of the most pristine water in the country. Regular boat trips are available to some of the outlying islands and fishing villages for those looking for something different! While ancient culture can easily head to the Cham ruins across the bridge. Most, though, prefer lounging on the beach before enjoying Nha Trang’s bustling nightlife scene, where bars, lounges and clubs stay open into late hours.
Nationally recognized for its agricultural exports–from coffee to wine and flowers–Dalat has a simple and rustic charm that few other towns in Vietnam have. Year round cool weather and surrounding misty valley scenery makes Dalat something of an escape from other cities of Vietnam. A popular summer retreat for Vietnamese emperors and French colonials years ago, today, this charming town in the south central highlands is easy to explore and offers some of the best sights of French colonial architecture in the country.
Ho Chi Minh City
Nestled along the Saigon River and just off of the Mekong Delta, Ho Chi Minh City is the largest metropolis in Vietnam, and unlike its northern cousin, has hot and sunny weather year-round. Ho Chi Minh City is the economic hub of southern Vietnam, and boasts an array of shopping malls, restaurants, clubs and cafes alongside historic French architecture like the central post office and the Opera House. Architecture lovers often find Ho Chi Minh City as strange as it is interesting, since its seen rapid development and now has remnants of five distinct architectural styles. Perhaps its most iconic built marvel is the Bitexco Financial Tower, which stands glistening and towering above the rest of the city. Its certainly a testament to Ho Chi Minh City’s incredible economic boom in recent years, and although at odds with historical colonial architecture, is a unique aspect of the city’s skyline.
The Mekong Delta often stirs up imagery of rice hat clad farmers and rice paddy fields in the minds of travelers, and luckily, its modern aura is not far off from the fantasy. Colorful floating markets, bird sanctuaries, sugar cane groves, fruit orchards and rice paddy fields are all common elements in the Mekong landscape. Its quaint villages still are home to traditional agriculture and landscape, and spots like bird paradise Cao Lanh and stone grotto central Hon Chong are favorites for visitors. Heading further afield brings travelers in the Mekong to the chocolate waters of Ben Tre and finally to Phu Quoc island, a favorite beach destination for locals and a perfect spot for snorkeling and kayaking.
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