11 Best Destinations to Travel in Vietnam

Vietnam, a country that mirrors the shape of an elongated ‘S’, spans across the Indochinese Peninsula. It covers a land area of 128,000 square miles, comparable to Italy or New Mexico in the U.S. It shares its borders with China in the north, Laos and Cambodia on the west, and is flanked by the South China Sea on the east.

The topography of Vietnam is a lush blend of towering mountains, fertile deltas, primeval forests teeming with unique wildlife, winding rivers, mysterious caves, surreal rock formations, and heavenly waterfalls and beaches. But Vietnam’s allure extends beyond its natural beauty, offering a rich cultural and historical tapestry for those who seek it.

For ease of understanding, Vietnam can be divided into three distinct regions: north, central, and south. The northern region is celebrated for its alpine peaks, the Red River Delta, the plains of Cao Bang and Vinh Yen, the captivating Halong Bay, and the historic city of Hanoi. It’s also recognized for the diversity of its ethnolinguistic minorities.

11. Ha Giang Loop

The Ha Giang Loop, a must-visit for the adventurous traveler, is nestled in the stunning and remote province of Ha Giang. Here, tourists can embark on an exhilarating motorbike journey through some of Vietnam’s most spectacular landscapes. This picturesque route meanders through towering mountains, verdant valleys, and terraced rice fields.

11 Best Destinations to Travel in Vietnam

This journey offers a deep dive into the authentic culture of the ethnic minority communities residing in this region. As you traverse traditional villages, you’ll witness the rich heritage, vibrant attire, and warm hospitality of the locals.

The loop boasts breathtaking viewpoints such as the Ma Pi Leng Pass, offering awe-inspiring views of the Nho Que River winding its way through the mountains. Other attractions include the Dong Van Karst Plateau, a UNESCO Geopark, and the enchanting Lung Cu Flag Tower.

Typically spanning three to four days, this journey is ideal for those seeking an experience away from the typical tourist trails. Its rugged beauty and remote nature make it a truly unique adventure.

10. Tam Coc

Often referred to as the ‘Halong Bay on land’, Tam Coc is a captivating locale in the Ninh Binh province. As part of the UNESCO World Heritage Tràng An scenic landscape site, it’s famed for its dramatic limestone karsts that majestically emerge from lush green rice fields. The breathtaking natural landscape of Tam Coc leaves an indelible imprint on every visitor’s heart.

The primary allure of Tam Coc is a picturesque boat ride along the Ngo Dong River. Here, local rowers adeptly steer through a series of caves and limestone formations. As you drift along the serene waterways, the harmonious blend of nature and verdant rice paddies creates a mesmerizing tableau.

Tam Coc also hosts ancient temples and pagodas, such as the Bich Dong Pagoda. Perched atop a hill, it offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. For cycling enthusiasts, exploring the area on two wheels provides an even more detailed perspective of this enchanting destination.

9. Phu Quoc

Phu Quoc, a picturesque island nestled in the Gulf of Thailand, is officially a part of Vietnam, though it’s geographically closer to Cambodia. Today, it’s a paradise characterized by dense tropical jungles, soft sandy beaches, and rolling hills. However, the island holds a rich history, having served as a French missionary base and later as a French colonial wartime prison – a somber reformatory that visitors can explore today.

Beyond its historical significance, Phu Quoc is a tropical haven. Days here are filled with sunbathing on sandy beaches, exploring fishing villages on scooters, visiting pearl and pepper farms, and for the adventurous, trekking to waterfalls.

Renowned for its seafood, Phu Quoc offers a unique culinary experience. Don’t miss the chance to taste Phu Quoc’s famous fish sauce (nuoc mam). You can even visit one of the local fish sauce factories for an immersive experience!

8. Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City, once known as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam and was the former capital of the Republic of Vietnam. Despite being renamed to Ho Chi Minh City after the fall of Saigon in 1975, its original name is still widely used today, particularly when referring to the city’s vibrant heart.

The city offers a diverse range of attractions, from temples and museums to parks and shopping destinations, catering to a variety of interests. For a breathtaking panoramic view of the city, especially at night, a visit to the Saigon Skydeck is a must.

History enthusiasts will find the Cu Chi tunnels intriguing. These tunnels served as the headquarters for numerous military operations during the Vietnam War. The Reunification Palace, also known as the Independence Palace, is another historical site worth visiting. It marks a significant moment in Vietnam’s history when Saigon fell as a tank crashed through the palace gates. A replica of this tank can be seen on the palace grounds.

For those interested in delving deeper into the war history, the War Remnants Museum and the Museum of Vietnamese History offer insightful exhibits.

7. Nha Trang

Nha Trang, Vietnam’s most renowned seaside resort, offers a relaxed ambiance and exceptional scuba diving. While it may not match the scale of Asia’s other stunning beaches, Nha Trang boasts warm waters and picturesque offshore islets.

The beachfront promenade is always bustling with activity, adorned with parks and sculptures that make a walk here intriguing. Like most beach resorts, Nha Trang comes alive at night with vibrant bars and restaurants near the beachfront.

But Nha Trang offers more than just sunbathing and leisurely strolls. You can rejuvenate with a soak in the Thap Ba Mud Bath or experience a ride on the world’s longest cross-sea cable car. The sacred Po Nagar Cham towers, dating back to the 7th to 12th centuries, provide a glimpse into the city’s history. These towers continue to serve as an active religious site for Cham, Chinese, and Buddhists even today.

6. Sapa

Sapa, a charming remote town nestled in the Hoang Lien Son mountains of northern Vietnam, offers an elevation of 1,500 meters above sea level. This high-altitude mountain town is a trekker’s paradise, with terraced hills and slopes that provide a challenging yet rewarding experience. Sapa’s allure extends beyond its natural beauty, offering a glimpse into its raw and authentic culture.

Days in Sapa are filled with treks through verdant rice paddies, untouched rural villages, and the cloud-covered Fansipan – Vietnam’s highest peak. But the real highlight is the chance to interact with the local people along the way. Local children often accompany trekkers, selling handmade jewelry or practicing their English skills.

In Sapa town, visitors can explore French colonial sites such as the Gothic church, the town square, and city hall. As a major market town, Sapa hosts various ethnic tribes who gather to sell their handicrafts – these make for excellent souvenirs. The Sapa Culture Museum offers insights into the history and cultures of these ethnic groups.

5. Hue

Hue, once known as the Panduranga of the Cham Kingdom, was the imperial capital of Vietnam. Situated in the central region, Hue played a significant role in the Vietnam War. The city was captured by the Viet Cong for 24 days, during which thousands of people suspected of sympathizing with the south were killed.

Today, the Perfume River divides the city into two halves – the ancient ruined citadel in the north and the modern city in the south. The Demilitarized Zone, marking the former official border, is a popular day trip from Hue. The city’s official symbol is the Thien Mu Pagoda.

The Citadel, once home to the Nguyen emperors, is Hue’s most famous monument. This expansive complex features grand palaces, ornate temples, walls, and gates. Key attractions within the Citadel include the Forbidden Purple City, Thai Hoa Palace, and Ngo Mon Gate. The Thien Mu Pagoda, another important landmark on the river, is the city’s official symbol.

A walk along the promenade is also recommended. It takes you through parks adorned with statues and leads to the Tombs of the Emperors on the city outskirts. Dating back to the 19th and 20th centuries, these tombs are a sight to behold. The Tomb of Tu Doc, with its impressive Buddhist architecture, is a highlight.

4. Hoi An

Hoi An, a laid-back and charismatic town, is a must-visit on any Vietnam itinerary. Located south of Da Nang and within cycling distance of warm-water beaches along the central coast, this vibrant old town is a riot of color, with lanterns adorning every building.

The narrow, winding lanes of the old town are filled with historic buildings, Chinese temples, and wooden-fronted shops, offering ample opportunities for retail therapy. The bustling night market and lantern-lit streets are perfect for shopping and people-watching.

You can also enjoy a boat ride along the Thu Bon River or join a cooking class to uncover the secrets of Vietnamese cuisine. Indulge in a spa treatment, or have a dress or tailored suit custom-made at one of the town’s renowned tailors.

Don’t miss the beautiful Japanese Covered Bridge and the glazed-roofed Chinese merchant houses that date back hundreds of years and are home to a quarter of the town’s population. Hoi An offers plenty to fill your afternoons with memorable experiences.

3. Ba Be National Park

Ba Be National Park, also known as Ba Be Lake, is located in Bac Can Province, about 240 km from Hanoi. The park covers over 23,000 hectares of stunning natural beauty, including waterfalls, deep rivers, valleys, lakes and caves. The area is also home to many ethnic communities. Ba Be Lake is actually three lakes connected by wide channels and spans about 8 km in length. The lake’s surface is always calm and perfect for a relaxing boat trip downstream. In 2004, Ba Be National Park was recognized as an ASEAN natural heritage. Many incentives and joint venture programs have been implemented to promote tourism in the park. Ba Be National Park is a complex of rivers, lakes, and lowland evergreen forests on limestone mountains nourished by three rivers: Ta Han, Bo Lu and Leng. The park boasts high biodiversity with 1,268 plant species, including many valuable and rare species recorded in the Red Book of Vietnam and the World. The park is home to precious and rare species of timber trees such as “Nghien,” “Dinh,” “Lim,” “Truc Day” and “Lat Hoa.” “Truc Day” is a special bamboo species of Ba Be that often grows on cliffs, creating a beautiful landscape. The national park is also evaluated by domestic and foreign scientists as the highest diversity and endemic center for orchids not only in Vietnam but also in the whole of Southeast Asia. The fauna and fish system is very rich with 470 species of vertebrates and 106 species of fish. The center of the park is Ba Be Lake, which is located at an altitude of about 178m above sea level with a length of up to 8km and a width of 500m. This is the largest and highest natural freshwater lake in Vietnam.

Ba Be Lake is also considered “a natural mountain lake with significance benefit in Vietnam”. Ba Be means “three lakes,” and the Tay people call it “Slam Pe” (Pe Leng lake, Pe Lu lake and Pe Lam lake). Ba Be Lake is a continuous lake with countless small streams stretching nearly 8km from north to south. Because of its magnificence, Ba Be is sometimes referred to as “Halong Bay on land.” In 2011, the park was recognized as a wetland area of international importance, ranking third in Vietnam and 1938th in the world.

2. Hanoi

Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, is a bustling city with a unique blend of French and Sino-Vietnamese influences. As one of the fastest-growing cities in Southeast Asia, it offers a vibrant and chaotic charm.

Visitors to this dynamic capital should brace themselves for its energetic atmosphere. The city’s traffic can be overwhelming, with cars, motorbikes, and tuk-tuks jostling for space on roads that seem to lack rules. One of the best places to witness Hanoi’s frenetic pace is at Legend’s Corner. The ideally situated Legend Beer restaurant offers a front-row seat to the rush hour frenzy as the sun sets.

The historic Old Quarter of Hanoi is a labyrinth of narrow streets filled with colonial architecture, street vendors, and lively markets. Exploring it on foot or by cyclo (cycle rickshaw) allows you to fully immerse yourself in its ambiance and discover hidden treasures like the ancient Temple of Literature or the bustling Dong Xuan Market.

For a more tranquil experience, take a leisurely walk around Hoàn Kiếm Lake in the Old Quarter or delve into Vietnamese history at the Thăng Long Imperial Citadel. A visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the final resting place of the Revolutionary leader and Vietnamese President, is also highly recommended.


1. Ha Long Bay

Situated approximately 130 km (80 miles) east of Hanoi in northern Vietnam, Halong Bay is renowned for its stunning emerald waters, thousands of spectacular limestone karsts, remarkable waterside caves, and beautiful tree-topped islands.

Halong Bay is a hub for adventure, offering activities such as scuba diving, kayaking, hiking, and rock climbing in and around Cat Ba National Park. For those seeking relaxation and breathtaking views, a variety of Halong Bay cruises are available, ranging from basic to luxurious.

The bay is dotted with thousands of islands, varying from isolated landmasses inhabited by free-roaming monkeys and antelope to larger inhabited islands boasting fantastic beaches. Boat cruises offer the best way to experience the natural wonder of Halong Bay.

With a fleet ranging from traditional Chinese junks to luxury cruisers, boat tours can be day trips or multiple-night journeys. These tours often include meals, nightlife activities, and excursion stops to explore islands, caves, and lagoons. Most boat cruises can be arranged from Hanoi or ports such as Haiphong, Halong City, and Cai Rong.

As with most water-based holidays, the weather can significantly impact your Halong Bay experience. It’s advisable to plan your trip between March and June for optimal conditions. The off-season from June to September often offers great deals, but do keep an eye on the weather forecast as monsoons can disrupt your plans.

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