Top 10 places to visit in Vietnam
Updated: Jul 21
A land of astonishing natural beauty and cultural complexities, of dynamic megacities and hill-tribe villages, Vietnam is both exotic and compelling.
Vietnam is one of Southeast Asia’s most beautiful countries, attracting travellers to its lush mountains, bustling cities and golden sand beaches. Despite rapid modernisation in Vietnam’s urban centres of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, time-honoured traditions remain intact amongst the locals. There are numerous ancient landmarks and colonial structures that have survived throughout the bumps and scrapes of history.
Unforgettable experiences are everywhere in Vietnam. There’s the grandeur: gazing over a surreal seascape of limestone islands in Halong Bay. The ridiculous: taking 10 minutes just to cross the street through a tsunami of motorbikes in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. The inspirational: exploring the world’s most spectacular cave systems in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. The contemplative: witnessing a solitary grave in a cemetery of thousands of war victims. And the comical: watching a moped loaded with honking pigs weave a wobbly route along a country lane.
Vietnamese cuisine encompasses the foods and beverages of Vietnam, and features a combination of five fundamental tastes (sour, bitter, sweet, spicy and salty) in overall meals. Each Vietnamese dish has a distinctive flavour which reflects one or more of these elements.
Vietnamese food contains influence from several different cultures including Indian, Chinese, French and American. As a result many see Vietnamese cuisine as original and unpretentious fusion food. Must-tries from a Vietnamese menu include Pho (beef noodle soup), Banh Mi Thit (Vietnamese baguettes stuffed with various ingredients such as ham) and Vietnamese fresh rolls with shrimps.
There is lot to do in this country so take your time.
This top 10 places to visit in Vietnam guide can help you plan your trip and fall in love with the country’s beauty, people and food.
1. Hang out in Hoi An
Hoi An is an ancient city located in central coast of Vietnam. This ancient town is well known for its tranquillity and beautiful scenery. Besides the city traditional neighbourhood and its beautiful yellow walls, Hoi An also has great beaches, green rice fields that separated by small roads which make it perfect for bicycle rides.
Hoi An is easily my most favourite place in Vietnam
2. Explore Halong Bay
No trip to Vietnam will be complete without a visit to Halong Bay. Known as the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Halong Bay appeals to world-wide tourists by its picturesque natural scenery.
Characterised by towering karst limestone pillars and small islets of various shapes and sizes amidst crystal blue waters, Halong Bay's ethereal beauty is a sight to behold.
The most common way of exploring the region is via a cruise or day-trip boats, where tourists laze around in the boats while cruising among the limestone pillars and a number of islets. Many cruises and day-trips also include an island drop off and cave explorations. There are some floating villages as well which allow visitors to come and interact with the locals, try their food and buy knick-knacks.
3. Walkaround Hanoi
Layered with French and Chinese influence, Hanoi has emerged as a cultural capital that's 100 percent Vietnamese. Located on the banks of the Red River, Hanoi is one of the most ancient capitals in the world, where travellers can find well-preserved colonial buildings, ancient pagodas, and unique museums within the city centre.
A great place to explore on foot, this French-colonial city is also known for its delectable cuisine, vibrant nightlife, silks and handicrafts, as well as a multi-cultural community that’s made up of Chinese, French and Russian influences.
4. Explore Ho Chi Minh City
As Vietnam’s largest economic centre and cultural capital, Ho Chi Minh City boasts soaring skyscrapers that tower over charming French colonial structures and traditional pagodas from Saigon’s yesteryear. Past the bustling streets and dizzying traffic, uncover the delicious street food, booming nightlife and historical landmarks that give this city its distinct appeal.
Ho Chi Minh City is definitely a foodie's dream. One can get cheap eats to tasty vegetarian options to Vietnamese Fusion. Ben Thanh market is a must-see for amazing food and there is a great buzz of activity within the place.
5. Crawl through Cu Chi tunnels
An absolutely fascinating experience for everyone, not just those interested in Vietnam’s modern military history, the Cu Chi Tunnels are an extensive tunnel network stretched for more than 250 kilometres, allowing VC troops to operate and communicate in the area surrounding Ho Chi Minh City.
Many tour operators provides day trips. Tours involve a description of the tunnels, after which tourists are allowed to crawl inside a tunnel and fire AK47s at shooting targets. Must visit for those who are interested in the history of wars.
6. Unwind in Hue
Hue, the former royal capital of the Nguyen empire in central Vietnam, is one of the oldest cities in the country. Set on the banks of the Perfume River, Hue is a primarily a historical city which famously houses the Imperial City (declared a World Heritage Site in 1993) within the Citadel, which acted as the seat of power of the royal family.
In today's times, Hue has evolved into a budget-friendly destination with many hotels, bars and restaurants located in the areas of Pham Ngu Lao, Vo Thi Sau street and Chu Van An which together are known as the Backpacker district.
Exploration of the many buildings, temples and constructs of the Royal empire is highly recommended. Some of these historical attractions include the tombs of the royal emperors, Tu Hien Pagoda and even the famous Thien Mu Pagoda which is regarded as the official symbol of Hue. Along the Perfume River are several buildings built during the French rule, which showcase French architecture in its most elegant.
7. Explore My Son
Surrounded by lush jungle-covered mountains, My Son is a ruined Cham-era temple city that dates from the 4th century. This old Hindu religious centre was still very much in use during the 7th to 10th centuries and only fell into complete decline and abandonment during the 13th century.
There are around 20 temple structures still standing here, all built of brick or sandstone blocks and showing interesting influences from various Asian empires, including Indian and Malay.
Easy access to My Son is from Hoi An. There are a few ways to get to My Son. You can book a tour or simply hire a car that picks you up from your accommodation in Hoi An and go privately.
If you already have a motorbike, this will be your cheapest option. You can easily get there on your own and there are well-marked paths that lead you to different areas, including the best-preserved sections.
8. Go to Sapa Countryside
The verdant rice field countryside surrounding Sapa, bordered by the jagged peaks of the Hoang Lien Mountains (often still known by their French colonial era name of the Tonkinese Alps), is home to Vietnam’s most beautiful rural vistas.
The deep valleys here are home to a diverse mix of the country’s ethnic minorities, including the Hmong, Giay, and Red Dzao people, while the rippling hills are terraced with rice fields and overlooked by the country’s tallest peak, Fansipan Mountain.
This is the top trekking destination in Vietnam, with oodles of options to trek or day hike between tiny villages and experience the staggering mountain views. Sapa itself is the main base here – an old French hill station and now a bustling and forever growing tourist centre that is a stark contrast to the sumptuous tranquil countryside right on its doorstep.
9. Check out Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta is a network of tributaries in southwest Vietnam, between Ho Chi Minh City and Cambodia. The river itself starts in the Himalayas and passes through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia before reaching Vietnam, which partly explains why the waters are so murky.
The area is filled with small villages, pagodas, mangroves, orchards, and floating markets.
The best way to experience the area is to go on a boat or bike tours.
10. Mui Ne Tour
Ancient civilization gets a tropical beach twist in Mui Ne, a resort town in southeast Vietnam. Despite being a fishing village, Mui Ne has got a significant tourism due to its popularity as a wind and kite-surfing destination. Candy-coloured fishing vessels bob gently in the waters of Mui Ne Harbour, where you can buy steamed seafood that’s literally fresh off the boat.