Places to Visit in Vietnam
From dynamic cities and breathtaking national parks to beautiful beaches and islands, our list of the best places to visit in Vietnam will surely impress.
With everything from superb cuisine to stunning landscapes, this corner of Southeast Asia dazzles the senses. Peaceful paddy fields give way to frenetic urban centres like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, where the youthful population rushes to embrace the future. Boutiques fill the French colonial buildings in enchanting Hoi An; in the north, a world away, are Sapa’s ethnic markets. Around Vietnam, lush jungles and jagged karst peaks beckon adventurers while its alluring coastline with its world-class beaches is the perfect place to relax. Absorb it all by following our list of the best places to visit in Vietnam and make the most of your trip to this corner of Southeast Asia.
Best Places to Visit in Vietnam
13. Ho Chi Minh City
From the finest of hotels to the cheapest of guesthouses, the classiest of restaurants to the tastiest of street stalls, the choicest of boutiques to the scrum of the markets, Ho Chi Minh City has it all. Wander through timeless alleys to ancient pagodas before fast-forwarding into the future in designer malls beneath sleep skyscrapers. The ghosts of the past live on in buildings that one generation ago witnessed a city in turmoil, but the real beauty of the former Saigon’s urban collage is that these two worlds blend so seamlessly into one thrilling, seething mass. Put simply, there’s nowhere else quite like it.
12. Nha Trang
Welcome to the beach capital of Vietnam. It may not be a charmer like Mui Ne or a historic jewel like Hoi An, but there is a certain something about Nha Trang that just keeps them coming back for more. For most it is the beautiful beach of fine, golden sand lapped by the balmy waters of the South China Sea, the best municipal stretch of sand in the country. But there’s much more to the town than beach appeal, with offshore islands offering decadent boat trips on the water and some of Vietnam’s best diving under it, ancient Cham towers to explore, natural mud-bath spas and a great dining scene.
11. Mekong Delta
Known as the ‘rice bowl’ of Vietnam, the Mekong Delta is a landscape carpeted in a dizzying variety of greens. It’s also a water world where boats, houses, restaurants and even markets float upon innumerable rivers, canals and streams that flow through the region like arteries. Those longing for a taste of local life far from fellow travellers will find it in many of the small, isolated cities in the Mekong’s forgotten corners. Visitors can experience southern charm in riverside cities where few tourists venture, sample fruits traded in the colourful floating markets, or dine on home-cooked delicacies before overnighting as a homestay guest. Down here, it’s less about the sights and more about the experience.
10. Phu Quoc Island
Lapped by azure waters and edged with the kind of unspoiled white-sand beaches that make sun seekers sink to their weak knees, Phu Quoc is ideal for slipping into low gear, reaching for a seaside cocktail and toasting a blood-orange sun as it dips into the cerulean sea. Days can easily slip by as you lounge on the beach, indulge in a massage and dine on fresh seafood. And if you want to notch it up a gear, you can dive the nearby reefs, kayak in the bays or grab a motorbike and hit the red-dirt roads to your heart’s content: the island is the size of Singapore.
9. Mui Ne
Perhaps the adrenaline epicentre of Vietnam, the beach resort of Mui Ne is a smaller, quieter version of Nha Trang, perfect for tourists who want some seclusion and simplicity. It’s famous as the kitesurfing capital of Vietnam with world-class wind and conditions, and excellent schools for professional training. For those who prefer to dry land, sandboarding, golf and bird-watching are popular alternatives. The resort itself has more than 20km of palm-fringed beachfront set amid pretty gardens along the shores of the South China Sea. From guesthouses to boutique resorts, designer bars to fine-value spas, Mui Ne has a broad appeal.
8. Cat Tien National Park
One of the most accessible and impressive protected areas in Vietnam, Cat Tien lies conveniently midway between Ho Chi Minh City and Dalat. The park is one of the outstanding natural treasures in Vietnam, and the hiking, mountain biking and bird-watching here are the best in southern Vietnam. Set on a bend in the Dong Nai River, there is something vaguely Apocalypse Now about arriving here. The park is home to the Dao Tien Endangered Primate Species Centre, where gibbons and langurs are coaxed back into their natural environment. The Wild Gibbon Trek is a must: one of the wildlife highlights of Vietnam.
7. Sapa & the Tonkinese Alps
Dubbed the Tonkinese Alps by the French, the spectacular Hoang Lien Mountains soar skywards along the rugged, uncompromising edges of northwest Vietnam towards the Chinese border. Shape-shifting banks of cloud and mist ebb and flow in this mountainous area, parting teasingly to reveal a glimpse of Fansipan, Vietnam’s highest peak. From the sinuous and spidery ridges, rice terraces and lush vegetation cascade down into river valleys, home for several centuries to ethnic minority villages of H’mong Red Dzao and Giay peoples. It’s a great place to get a unique glimpse of local hill-tribe culture as well as a jumping off point for trekking into the Tonkinese Alps.
6. Con Dao Islands
The furious energy that characterises Vietnamese cities can be intoxicating, but when you need an urban detox these idyllic tropical islands make the perfect escape. Isolated from the mainland, the Con Dao Islands are one of the star attractions in Vietnam. Long the Devil’s Island of Indochina, the preserve of political prisoners and undesirables, Con Dao is now a heavenly destination thanks to its striking natural beauty. The islands are ringed with lovely remote beaches, coral reefs and scenic bays which make for pristine dive sites and perfect habitat for nesting turtles. It’s a wonderful place to explore by bike in search of that dream beach, while the main settlement of Con Son is one of Vietnam’s most charming towns.
The capital of the nation for 150 years in the 19th and 20th centuries, Hue is perhaps the easiest Vietnamese city to love. Its location on the banks of the Perfume River is sublime, its complex cuisine is justifiably famous ad its streets are relatively traffic free. And that’s without the majesty of the Hue Citadel, its royal palaces and elegant temples, formidable walled defences and gateways. On the city’s fringes are some of Vietnam’s most impressive pagodas and royal tombs, many in wonderful natural settings. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this deeply evocative ancient capital still resonates with the glories of imperial Vietnam.
Showcasing sweeping boulevards, tree-fringed lakes and ancient pagodas, Hanoi, the oldest and one of the most attractive capital cities in Southeast Asia, is an inimitable mix of ancient culture, colonial charm and modern-day luxury. Today, Hanoi is emerging as an elegant, cultured, and affluent city, where museums and galleries coexist with chic shops and fashionable restaurants. In a few minutes, you can wander from the narrow streets of the Old Quarter to the imposing mansions and buildings lining the leafy boulevards of the former French Quarter. Hanoi’s past has also ensured a superb culinary legacy, where French and Chinese cuisines blend marvellously with Viet traditions. The same is true of Hanoi’s lively art scene, which is among the most sophisticated in Southeast Asia.
3. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
Picture jungle-crowned limestone hills, rainforests, turquoise streams and traditional villages. Then throw in the globe’s most impressive cave systems – river-created Phong Nha Cave, the ethereal beauty of Paradise Cave and the cathedral-like chambers of Son Doong, the world’s largest cave – and you can see why Phong Nha-Ke Bang is a World Heritage Site and Vietnam’s most rewarding national park to explore. Packed with stunning underground grottoes, towering stalagmites, glistening crystal-edged stalactites, and spectacular river systems, it’s a great place to really experience rural Vietnam at its most majestic. A tour of the cave by boat will be a highlight of your visit to Vietnam.
2. Hoi An
Vietnam’s most cosmopolitan and civilised town, this beautiful, ancient port is bursting with gourmet Vietnamese restaurants, hip bars and cafes, quirky boutiques and expert tailors. Immerse yourself in history in the warren-like lanes of the Old Town, shop till you drop, tour the temples and pagodas, and dine like an emperor on a peasant’s budget (and learn to cook like the locals). Then hit glorious An Bang Beach, wander along the riverside and bike the back roads. Whether you have as little as a day or as long as a month in this World Heritage town, it’ll be time well spent.
1. Halong Bay
Halong Bay’s stunning combination of karst limestone peaks and sheltered, shimmering seas is one of Vietnam’s top tourist draws, but with more than 2000 islands there’s plenty of scenery to go around. Designated a World Heritage site in 1994, this mystical landscape of limestone islets is often compared to Guilin in China or Krabi in southern Thailand. In reality, it is more spectacular. The bay’s immense number of islands are dotted with wind- and wave-eroded grottoes, and their sparsely forested slopes ring with birdsong. Book an overnight cruise and make time for your own special moments on this wonder – rising early for an ethereal misty dawn, or piloting a kayak into isolated caves and sandy coves.