You’ve probably seen it in the background of countless war movies, but nothing can prepare you for the epic beauty of Vietnam. There is no denying that it is very beautiful and filled with a variety of breathtaking landscapes. From the natural beauty of Phanxipang Mount and Halong Bay to the man-made artistry of the sacred temples and pagodas to the rice terraces and beaches, Vietnam has a lot to offer travelers.
Wander around Hanoi – Vietnam’s capital handsomely combines French colonialism with Eastern influences. Enjoy an afternoon exploring the narrow streets of the Old Quarter or visit the countless temples and galleries dotted around this bustling city. Don’t miss the history museum, which showcases artifacts from Vietnam’s colorful history and the Ho Chi Minh City Mausoleum. Hanoi is also a good base for doing multi-day tours to Halong Bay, Hua Lu and Tam Coc. It’s a hectic, chaotic city — embrace it!
Hike in Halong Bay – More than 3,000 islands sit within the emerald green waters of Halong Bay, one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. Cat Ba Island has great for hiking and many tourists find themselves taking one of the cave tours. Tours here usually leave from Hanoi and last 3 or 5 days. Try to find a good operator as many oversell or lie about what their boats look like (ask for advice from your hotel staff or travelers who have just returned from their trip).
Get adventurous in Sapa – This is northern Vietnam’s premier trekking area and it’s hugely popular with all sorts of travelers. Sapa is famous for its hill tribes, lush vegetation, beautiful hiking trains, and breathtaking mountains. If you really want to get out and see it all, come to Sapa. To avoid the tourists, come off season or take longer hikes to parts the crowds don’t go. It’s really easy to base yourself here for a week or so and bike, hike, relax, or take a cooking class!
Tour the Mekong Delta – The delta is a 60,000km long web of interconnected waterways, which span across three Vietnamese provinces. The area is filled with small craft villages, Khmer Pagodas, mangroves, orchards and the trademark floating markets. The best way to experience Delta life is to go on one of the many boat or bike tours. Spend a few days exploring the stunning region. I did a bike trip here and it was one of the best things I did while in the country.
Hang out in Hoi An – Hoi An is one of the most popular destinations for tourists traveling to the country. The place is packed with historical homes and buildings and quaint cafes. It’s small and great for walking, buying suits (they have a huge fashion and tailor market), eating, nearby beaches, and relaxing by the river. It was easily my favorite place in Vietnam. It’s not unusual to find backpackers using Hoi An as a resting ground while they recharge from constant traveling. This is a relaxing quality to it that makes staying for a while very attractive.
Explore Ho Chi Minh City – Also known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s largest city and is definitely worth exploring. Like most cities in Vietnam, you’ll be met with the roar of motorbikes speeding through colonial streets. Ben Thanh market is a must-see for amazing food and there is a great buzz of activity within the place. If flying into the SGN airport, it’s worth spending a day or two exploring the city. I recommend spending the night at The Common Room Project for a great hostel experience.
Get active in Mui Ne – Despite being a fishing village, Mui Ne has got a significant tourism scene due to its popularity as a wind- and kite-surfing destination. The rolling sand dunes nearby are the main draw and worth checking out!
Relax in Hue – Hue is generally passed by, making it a bit of a quieter stop along the tourist trail. Stroll along the beautiful Perfume River and into the Imperial Citadel. Don’t miss the Tombs of the Emperors.