Vietnam is has a lot to offer. The rich food culture (Pho! Springrolls! Banh mí!), impressive (war) history, and diverse nature – Vietnam has Ha Long Bay, enchanting beaches, jungle and no less than 33 national parks – offer destinations for everyone. Longing for a city trip, beach holiday, or rather action and adventure? Discover new cultures and tastes?
We have some good news for you: you don’t have to choose. Vietnam offers it all in two or three weeks.
Below, we have listed the 15 Best Things to Do in Vietnam. Choose your favorite destinations in Vietnam and determine your ideal route through this elongated country. Get the most out of your holiday in Vietnam.
Vietnam off the beaten track
Don’t like crowds, have you been in Vietnam before, or just have all the time in the world? For each place of interest, we also provide you an alternative activity or destination for an unforgettable and off the beaten track Vietnam experience.
Experiencing the Vietnamese cuisine is the highlight of any visit to Vietnam. Try something different every time you get the opportunity and enjoy the subtle flavors and large amounts of fresh herbs. Tips: pho bo, bánh xèo, bun cha and bánh mì.
Don’t mind if there is no menu?
Order the best food at unpretentious carts and tents on the street, where you sit on small plastic stools, and only one dish is being served. Is it crowded? Then you know you’re in the right place.
Alternatives to the popular destination Ha Long Bay are Lan Ha Bay and the even less known Bai Tu Long Bay. Or go to the beautiful Ninh Binh, about 100 kilometers south of Hanoi.
Completely undiscovered by mass tourism is Ta Dung National Park, ‘the Ha Long Bay of the Central Highlands’. Ta Dung is the most recent addition to the National Parks in Vietnam, and is located about 150 kilometers south of Dalat.
The Vietnam War took place between 1954 and 1975 and left its marks on Vietnam. Popular Vietnam destinations are the Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi or the War Remnants Museum and the Cu Chi Tunnels, respectively in and near Ho Chi Minh City.
During the Vietnam War, North and South Vietnam were separated by the Demilitarized Zone, the DMZ. The DMZ is located roughly between Phong Nha and Hue. Here you’ll find (remains of) U.S. military bases, the Vinh Moc tunnels and impressive war memorials. You can also see with your own eyes the damage Agent Orange has done to the landscape.
Famed Mountain Roads
According to car program Top Gear, the Hai Van Pass is one of the most beautiful coastal roads in the world. Hop on a motorcycle and drive in a day from Hue to Hoi An (or the other way around) over this beautiful mountain pass. Along the way you’ll pass another popular destination in Vietnam: either the Marble Mountains, a temple complex located in dozens of caves, or the dizzying Golden Bridge near Da Nang. The 1400 meter high bridge is held up by two huge ‘divine’ hands.
Comfortable at a motorcycle?
The mountain formations, rice terraces, and river valleys of Ha Giang can be explored in three to four days by motorcycle on a route called the Ha Giang Loop.
Visit the imperial palace in Hue and imagine yourself as a nineteenth century emperor in Vietnam. Go early: the complex is huge and the shadeless area tends to gets very hot!
Can it be older?
Get up early and pay a visit to My Son, located near Hoi An, at sunrise. The reflection of the first rays of the sun on the imperial city of the Champa era (4-12th century) is breathtaking.
Drink Vietnamese ca phe
Order a traditional Vietnamese slow drip coffee with condensed milk and drink it slowly. Find the best coffee in Hanoi in Trieu Viet Vuong street.
Order a ca phe with cot dua (coconut), sua chua (yoghurt) or trung (egg). Totally coffee crazy? In March, the city of Buon Ma Thuot hosts an annual coffee festival.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Unesco World Heritage since 2003, houses some of the world’s largest caves. It’s not hard to imagine why this area is a one of the most popular destinations in Vietnam. Visit the Phong Nha Cave, Paradise Cave or Dark Cave. With an organized tour you can explore them all in one day.
Excess of time, energy and/or budget?
Go caving! Walk and climb your way to the deep jungle caves Tu Lan, Hang En or Hang Son Doong (the largest cave in the world). You’ll spend the night in a tent in the pitch-dark cave, a unique experience. The designated operator for these tours is Oxalis Adventures.
Explore Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City during one of the famous Baja Bikes tours. Hoi An and surroundings also offer welcoming roads: most hotels and guesthouses rent bikes and the roads are flat.
Do you prefer cycling in nature?
Close to Phong Nha you can cycle beautifully through the Bong Lai Valley. From Ninh Binh you can cycle across the rice fields to the Mua Cave or the karst landscapes at Tam Coc and Trang An. Avid mountain bikers should be in Dalat.
The cities of Nha Trang and Mui Ne are popular destinations in Vietnam, right by the sea and combine a vibrant nightlife with miles of pristine sand. Perfect for wind, surf, and beach lovers. Close to Hoi An is the popular An Bang Beach.
Rather enjoy the beach with locals or by yourself?
Popular among locals are the bustling coastal town of Quy Nhon, and the resorts and fantastic sea food restaurants dotted along Lang Co Beach (just south of Hue). Looking for a secluded beach? Go to Bai Nom, a beautiful beach about 35 kilometers south of Quy Nhon.
Visit a Tradition Community
There are 53 different ethnic minorities living in Vietnam, each with their own traditions, beliefs, and language. In Sapa you will find the H’mong, who like to accompany you on a trekking along their rice fields in the mountainous area bordering China and Laos. Popular operators are Friends Travel and Sapa Sisters.
If you’re going inland...
Several tribes live along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and in the Central Highlands. Visit a traditional Rong home near Kon Tum, marvel at the tombs of the J’rai or play soccer with children of the Van Kieu tribe. In some provinces you need a permit, so make sure to join a professional local guide.
The Mekong Delta is known for its rice production and the complex network of waterways. Popular destinations are the floating markets of Cai Be or Cai Rang, where you can buy fresh fruit at one of the market boats.
More time to spend?
Stay a few days in the surroundings of Ben Tre and book a homestay at the waterfront. Hop on a bicycle or traditional wooden boat and explore how the residents of the Mekong Delta provide for the livelihood of millions of people.
Drink ice-cold Bia
Beer (bia) is popular in Vietnam. Order a local brand – like Saigon, Huda or 333 – or try craft beer at one of the craft beer breweries in Ho Chi Minh City. At Bia Craft, there is a delicious biramisu on the menu…
Drink beer like a Vietnamese?
Act like a local and visit a beer garden, particularly popular in Hue and Ninh Binh. Order your beer by the crate (including unlimited amounts of ice) and pour the unchilled (!) beer over the ice cubes in your glass. Empty bottles are put back in the crate; at the end of the evening you only pay for what you drank. Also tasty: daily fresh beer (bia hoi or bia tuoi), widely available in Hanoi, Hoi An, and Mui Ne.
In the jungle, the mighty jungle…
One of the largest stretches of protected jungle in Vietnam can be found in Cat Tien National Park, about 150 kilometers southwest of Dalat. Near Hanoi you can combine a boat trip with a trekking through the jungle of the Cat Ba National Park, located in the middle of Ha Long Bay.
Want to spend a few days in nature?
Nature lovers and hikers can indulge themselves in Ba Be National Park. Spending the night in the park can be done in homestays, staying with a local family. Elephants, tigers, leopards, and the giant ibis live in Yok Don National Park, the largest nature reserve in Vietnam. Spot them during a kayak trip on the Serepok River, a breakaway of the Mekong.
Feast your Eyeballs at the Market
The covered market place of Ben Thanh is a symbol of Ho Chi Minh City. Buy dried herbs and souvenirs to take home with you. Ignore the ‘fixed price’ signs and negotiate firmly.
Want to buy fresh products?
Take a cooking class and visit a local market with the chef. You can watch, taste, and ask questions… and get to know products and tastes you’ve never heard of. Want to buy something? This time you pay the same as locals.
Idyllic beaches, romantic sunsets, and the vibe of a tropical island. That and much more can be found on Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam’s most popular island.
Full Robinson Crusoe experience?
During the French occupation and the Vietnam War, political prisoners were held on Con Dao Island. Nowadays, the tropical island is known for its unbelievable beauty. Take the boat from Vung Tau.
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