15 Ridiculously Amazing Places to Visit in Vietnam
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Are you trying to decide on where to go in Vietnam? You’ve probably heard of the usual places like Saigon, Hanoi, and Halong Bay. But you’re not sure where else to visit after the big three. In this blog post, I’m going to tell you what other destinations you should add to your itinerary with this list of 15 best places to visit in Vietnam.
1. Hanoi (2 – 3 Days)
My favorite place to visit in Vietnam is Hanoi. In my opinion, it is one of the top 5 cities to visit in Asia. It’s got a bit of European charm mixed with Vietnamese energy and culture. It’s got some of the best food in Asia as well. One bite and you’ll turn into a Vietnamese food fanatic. I’m serious!
When in Hanoi, you MUST join a food tour. This is the best way to really discover ALL that Hanoi has to offer when it comes to food. The dishes you’ll try won’t be the typical ones that you get in Vietnamese restaurants in your home country (those are owned usually by Southern Vietnamese).
Once you’ve tasted the local cuisine, walk around and explore the old quarter of the city with its narrow winding lanes. Here you’ll find some incredible architectural gems from the French colonial period.
Then mix up the rest of your visit with some traditional history by visiting the Temple of Literature and some communist history by touring Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum and the Hoa Lo Prison (a.k.a Hanoi Hilton).
Finally, in the evening attend a water puppet show at the Municipal Water Puppet Theater and find somewhere to drink bia hoi (fresh draught beer) before it sells out.
To find out how to do all of these fabulous things and more, visit my travel and itinerary guide to Hanoi.
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2. Halong Bay or Lan Ha Bay (3 Days)
You cannot leave Vietnam without taking part in a cruise of Halong Bay, the less touristy Lan Ha Bay, or both. The photos of these limestone karst-filled bays are deservedly iconic. You can visit the bay by taking a 2-day / 1-night cruise or a 3-day / 2-night cruise. Most cruises involve kayaking, visiting a cave, eating, and just cruising around. You can book your cruise with Booking.com or Agoda before your trip or book once you get to Hanoi.
I went with a 3-day / 2-night cruise with Signature Cruises and got to do both Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay. On the first day and a half, we went to the crowded Halong Bay. Then those who had chosen the 2-day 1-night cruise got off the boat, and our boat visited Lan Ha Bay, where we saw only ONE other boat the whole time we were cruising.
Halong Bay is definitely one of the best destinations in Vietnam.
3. Hoi An (2 – 3 Days)
The third must-see place to visit in Vietnam is Hoi An. If you only have time for one week in Vietnam, add this charming city to your itinerary.
Until the river leading into the city silted up, Hoi An was a major trading port, attracting merchants from all over the world. This environmental disaster kept Hoi An from “modernizing,” thus saving the city’s traditional architecture. Luckily, the city’s buildings did not become collateral damage during the American-Vietnam War.
Today most visitors to Hoi An spend their time walking around and admiring the traditional buildings of the old town. Most get an outfit or two or three or four made by one of the many tailors in the city.
The cuisine of central Vietnam is also as delicious as that of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Like Hanoi, Hoi An has many wonderful restaurants where you can try many dishes that you’ll never see on a menu in your home country.
I highly recommend taking part in a cooking class that involves a market tour. Book early!
Looking for more info on Hoi An? Check out this detailed Hoi An itinerary.
4. Hue (2 Days)
Hue is the perfect destination in Vietnam for both foodies and history buffs. I still dream about the food I had in Hue—foods I’d never had before like banana blossoms or pomelo in a salad.
Hue has played an important part in Vietnamese history. It used to be the capital of Imperial Vietnam. So you’ll find palaces, temples, and pagodas around Hue. Sadly, the city was also the sight of a devastating battle during the Vietnam War, resulting in the loss of many of its historic buildings.
My favorite experience (or second favorite after the food) happened outside of Hue on a tour of the Demilitarized Zone (the DMZ), the line that separated North and South Vietnam during the America-Vietnam War. You can take a tour to some of the famous battle sites and to the underground tunnels of the North Vietnamese.
In order for the tour to be worthwhile, it’s a good idea to do some reading up on the war. You can check out my list of books on Vietnam here to get some ideas on what to read. It’ll help you understand what you’re looking at and it’ll make the tour more meaningful. Also, you need a good tour guide. I think part of the reason why I enjoyed my tour so much was that the guide was amazing—informative and passionate about the history of the war.
Check out my Hue itinerary to find how to see all these historic sights.
PRO TIP: Don't travel anywhere without bringing these essential items with you to keep you safe and secure:
Combination lock - The one thing you MUST bring with you to Asia if you're planning on staying in hostels is a combination lock. Hostels provide lockers and you provide the lock.
Anti-Theft Purses - Travel-on Anti-theft purses are great because they're made of a material that's difficult for thieves to slash. They've got lots of pockets as well and a way to lock the zippers.
Privacy Screen Protectors - Privacy screen protectors prevent people from seeing what's on your screen while working cafes, hostels, or co-working spaces. You can buy one for any type of laptop.
5. Sapa (4 Days)
Another must-visit place in Vietnam is the old French hill station of Sapa, located near the Chinese border. Even though getting there takes twelve hours by bus, try really really hard to add Sapa to your Vietnam itinerary. Just seeing the terraced rice fields along with the mountains and plunging valleys is an experience that you won’t forget. For those who like to get out in nature and do some hiking, this is the perfect destination.
Most people do a trek through the valleys and rice terraces. The hike involves stops in different villages and an overnight stay with a local hill tribe family.
One not-to-miss hike is the one through the scenic Muong Hoa Valley. Along the way, you’ll see stone paintings that are over 3,000 years old.
One of the most challenging hikes you can do is to Fansipan Mountain.
You can also visit the local markets where the hill tribes sell their handicrafts and fresh produce.
Add a few days to your itinerary with a visit to Bac Ha.
Sapa is definitely one of the most unforgettable places to visit in Vietnam.
6. Ho Chi Minh City (2 – 3 Days)
Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) is a typical bustling and noisy Southeast Asian City—taxi drivers that wouldn’t blink an eye if they were cheating you out of your last dime, pollution that takes several years off your life, and traffic that seems to live by its own set of rules. However, HCMC is such an important city historically that it should not be skipped on any tour of Vietnam. Plus, the food is damn good!
Ho Chi Minh City was the capital of South Vietnam, so there are a number of museums and historical landmarks covering this period.
- War Remnants Museum – highlights the atrocities committed by the American military during the war between the North and the South.
- Reunification Palace – the home of the South Vietnamese government. Visiting it feels really surreal, It’s as if you’re stepping back in time to the 1960s.
- Cu Chi Tunnels – the Viet Cong used the tunnels to infiltrate the South and to launch attacks on the American and South Vietnamese troops.
For architecture lovers, stop by Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office.
And whatever you do, don’t leave Saigon without eating pho, a dish that I think the South beats the North by a mile
You can read how to see all these amazing places in Ho Chi Minh City in my detailed itinerary.
7. Phu Quoc (3 – 5 Days)
Although Vietnam’s a great country to visit, it’s also so different and so chaotic from most travelers’ own country that it’s easy to get sensory overload. You start to feel like you need a vacation from your vacation.
The perfect place in Vietnam to destress is the island of Phu Quoc. It has all that you need—white sandy beaches, crystal clear water, super fresh and healthy food, and a laidback atmosphere.
And travelers of any budget level can find somewhere to stay. The island has some great boutique hotels with bungalows on the beach and some great hostels for backpackers to chill out at.
There’s not much to do on Phu Quoc. And that is NOT a bad thing AT ALL. Basically, you can spend your days as you would on any other island paradise: snorkeling and diving, kayaking around the island, lying on a beach, getting a massage, or chowing down on some fresh tropical fruit and seafood.
The best way to get to Phu Quoc is by plane from any major city in Vietnam. If you’ve got plenty of time but not plenty of money, you can also get there by bus and then boat from Ha Tien.
Phu Quoc is definitely one of the best beach destinations in Vietnam.
8. Phong Nha-Ke Bang (3 Days)
I had such a fabulous time here riding my bike through the Vietnamese countryside and spelunking through some of the most amazing and bizarre caves I’d ever seen.
Phong Nha Ke Bang is located in the northern half of Vietnam (but south of Hanoi) near the town of Son Trach. The area is famous for its caves including the largest cave in the world, Hang Son Doong (in order to tour it, you need to pay thousands of dollars).
Usually, people visit the caves (Paradise Cave) on an organized tour. There is one cave (name unknown) that is completely filled with mud that goes up to your chest. An added bonus is that you get to it by zipline. It’s the most amazing and bizarre experience I’ve ever had. You can also go on jungle hikes, boat rides, or bike rides through the countryside.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang is definitely one of the best places in Vietnam for those who love adventure!
PRO TIP: The best time to visit Vietnam is not an easy question to answer because it depends on what part of the country you’re visiting. In the South, the weather is best from November to February. In central Vietnam, it’s from March to September. And in the North, the weather will be best from March to May and September to November. (Lonely Planet, 2019)
9. Mekong Delta (1 – 3 Days)
The Mekong River begins somewhere in Tibet and winds its way down through China, Thailand, Cambodia before it gets to the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. There it branches off into distributaries, eventually emptying into the South China Sea.
Travelers often visit the Delta through day tours from Ho Chi Minh City. But I recommend staying overnight in a rural homestay along one of the canals, instead. The Mekong Delta is a great place to relax in a hammock along a riverbank, float down one of the numerous canals, visit a floating market, or bike ride along the back roads of this flat, bike-friendly region.
The Mekong Delta has a number of towns that make for good places to visit on a day trip or to use as a base to explore the area. One town, Vinh Long, is an excellent base to explore the floating markets and islands of the Delta and to stay in a rural homestay along the river.
Another popular town is My Tho. It’s got a pleasant riverfront. You’ll also canals filled with islands.
Nearby is Phoenix Island, the home of the Coconut Monk.
But probably my favorite town in the Mekong Delta is bustling Can Tho. Here you can take a boat ride down one of the canals to a really cool floating market.
The Mekong Delta is one of the best places to visit in Vietnam for those who want to explore the culture of southern Vietnam more deeply but also get away from the chaos of Saigon.
PRO TIP: Download these apps onto your phone for your trip to any country in Asia. They will make your life so much easier!
- Grab: - Grab is the ride-sharing service that people use in Southeast Asia. It's a must-have for getting around Manila, Hanoi, Singapore etc. It's not so necessary on the smaller islands.
- Klook - Klook is a tour-booking website used by lots of travelers in Asia. You're more likely to book with an honest tour company through Klook than through anyone else.
- WhatsApp: What's App is the best service to use for getting in touch with other travelers, tour guides, and businesses in the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, etc.
- Booking.com: I think Booking.com is the best website to use for booking accommodations in Asia.
- MAPS.ME & Google Maps: I have both of these apps on my phone. Sometimes MAPS.ME works better than Google Maps and vice versa. Make sure to download your maps to your phone before you start your adventure so you can view them offline. If you switch SIM cards, you might lose your downloaded maps.
10. Danang / Da Nang (2 Days)
Danang has become more popular with tourists recently thanks to the construction in 2018 of the Sun Bridge at Ba Na Hills. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen so many pictures of this on Instagram that I’m beginning to think that this is the most popular tourist attraction in all of Vietnam.
But there are more things to do in Danang than just the bridge. It’s got some great beaches, ancient Cham ruins, and mountains with great views nearby.
Danang is located on the central coast of Vietnam and about one hour by bus from Hoi An.
Except for a museum that has a large collection of Cham artifacts and the light show at Dragon Bridge, most of Danang’s attractions are outside the city.
First, climb Ba Na Hills for the views of the surrounding area and for the Sun Bridge.
Next, visit Marble Mountain, five limestone mountains, where you can find pagodas, caves, and some Buddhist and Cham carvings.
Monkey Mountain is another popular spot to go for spectacular views of the area.
For history lovers, head outside of the city to the Cham ruins of My Son.
Finally, if beaches are your thing, head to Non Nuoc Beach or China Beach.
Danang is definitely one of the most jam-packed places to visit in Vietnam.
11. Ha Giang Province (4 – 5 Days)
Located in northern Vietnam near the Chinese border, Ha Giang Province is the ideal destination for the truly adventurous traveler. Unlike its more well-known neighbor Sapa, Ha Giang is harder to get to and harder to get around without your own wheels or a private tour. BUT if you have the time, it’s well worth it. It’s a very mountainous area filled with picturesque rice fields, windy cliff-hugging roads, and remote hill tribe villages.
Start your travels in the city of Ha Giang.
Then make your way to Dong Van. Along the way, stop at Quan Ba Pass to view the spectacular and dramatic Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark. Dong Van is a great place to chill out for one or two days. Explore the old quarter, visit the old French fort and the Vuong Palace, and if you’re there on a Sunday, the Sunday Market.
Finally, make your way to Meo Vac along the steep and windy Ma Pi Leng Pass, where you can see a river cutting its way through the valley far below.
Ha Giang is one of the best places in Vietnam to visit for those who really want to get off-the-beaten path.
RELATED POST: 25 of the Best (and Worst) Books on Vietnam
12. Ninh Binh (2 – 3 Days)
Number twelve on my list of best places to visit in Vietnam is Ninh Binh. It sort of reminds me of Halong Bay but on land. You’ll find a countryside of rice paddies with islands of limestone mountains and a winding river cutting through all of it.
Ninh Binh is an ideal destination for those who are looking for a place to chill out, take photos, and go on a leisurely bike ride. AND it’s just a short distance from Hanoi.
The best thing to do when you’re in Ninh Binh is to leave Ninh Binh. Instead, find a homestay or guesthouse in the countryside outside of the industrial town.
Then grab a bike and just travel around the countryside stopping off at the various temples and sights all while taking in the view.
Another unforgettable thing to do is to climb up the stairs to Hang Mua Peak for drop-dead gorgeous views of the river slicing its way through the rice fields and limestone mountains.
You can also take a cruise to the overly touristy, Trang An Grottoes.
Ninh Binh is an easy addition to any Vietnam itinerary.
13. Dalat / Da Lat (2 – 3 Days)
Dalat is the perfect destination for those who are tired of the sweltering heat of Vietnam. It’s located at an elevation of 1,502 meters (4,928 ft) above sea level, so temperatures are a spring-like 14 to 23 degrees Celsius (57-73 degrees Fahrenheit) all year round.
Dalat is a young city having been created by the French in 1890 as a resort town. Fortunately, during the war, the North and South Vietnamese governments agreed to leave the hilltown alone. As a result, you’ll find a French Quarter with a lot of French villas and old pagodas. Even the Emperor’s Summer Palace is still intact.
Dalat is also known for its waterfalls and lakes.
It’s about seven to eight hours by bus from Ho Chi Minh City.
What should you see in Dalat?
In the city, the most popular tourist sights are the Gaudi-like Hang Nga Crazy House, Emperor Bao Dai’s Summer Palace, and the colonial villas in the French Quarter.
Outside of Dalat, the best religious structure is the Truc Lam Pagoda. Two other popular destinations are Datanla and Elephant Falls. You can also join tours of the countryside, go canyoneering, hiking, and kayaking.
Dalat is one of the best places to visit in Vietnam for those who love history and nature.
14. Ba Be National Park (3 Days)
Another beautiful place to visit in Vietnam is Ba Be National Park. Located about six hours from Hanoi (change buses), the park is another destination in Vietnam with great scenery, lots of trekking opportunities, and interesting minority villages. At the center of the park are three lakes (Ba Be) that are surrounded by limestone mountains and dense rainforests. Like other areas of Vietnam, you’ll find your supply of waterfalls, caves, and pagodas.
Your first order of business when getting to Ba Be is to make sure you’re staying in a homestay in one of the villages along the lake. The most popular village is Pac Ngoi, but you can also stay at Coc Toc and Bo Lu.
Then see Mr. Linh, a local travel agent who organizes tours around northern Vietnam, about organizing a multi-day trek around the area.
Most people take a boat ride around the lakes visiting An Ma Pagoda, Puong Cave, and Ao Tien Lagoon. Make sure to check out Hua Ma Cave and Dau Dang Waterfall as well.
Ba Be is one of the best places to visit in Vietnam for those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of big cities and tourist-saturated destinations.
15. Con Dao Islands (3 – 5 Days)
The best thing about Con Dao Islands is that they’re so remote (located off the southern coast of Vietnam) that they don’t get so many tourists like Phu Quoc. This means that the sandy beaches and heavily forested interior are uncrowded and undeveloped.
Most of the 16 Con Dao Islands are part of the Con Dao National Park, so the waters around the island are protected. This keeps the waters around the island crystal clear and the coral reefs healthy, thus making it an ideal spot for snorkeling and diving.
You can fly into Con Dao from Ho Chi Minh Cityor take a ferry from the mainland.
The island is also a worthwhile destination for history buffs as these islands were home to Vietnam’s most notorious political prisons under the French and Americans. There were eleven prisons here, but the three most important sights you should visit are Phu Hai Prison, the Tiger Cages, and Hong Duang Cemetery.
Other popular experiences include going on turtle-watching tours, hiking to Bamboo Lagoon or Ong Dung Bay, and diving around the waters of the Con Dao Islands.
Con Son Town with its renovated French villas is also a pleasant place to explore.
Con Dao is one of the best places in Vietnam to visit for those who need a beach but also something off-the-beaten-path.
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Where to go after Vietnam
There you go! Those were my 15 favorite destinations in Vietnam. If you’re looking to fill your itinerary for Vietnam, these 15 are great options.
You may be wondering why I haven’t included Nha Trang or Mui Ne in this list. It’s because I was only in Nha Trang for a couple of hours. For Mui Ne, I really disliked my time there.
Now where to next?
Once you’ve toured Vietnam, the next easiest destinations are Cambodia and Laos. Both border Vietnam so you can get to them by bus. Both Phnom Penh and Angkor Wat in Siem Reap are ideal destinations for history lovers. Koh Rong Sanloem is an excellent beach destination. You can check out my guide to Cambodia here.
If you have any questions or comments on traveling in Vietnam, please feel free to leave one in the comment section below.
Thanks for visiting the Bamboo Traveler! ♥
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