Few countries have changed so much over such a short time as Vietnam; Vietnam is a veritable phoenix arisen from the ashes. Many visitors find a vast number of places to visit that intrigue and excite them in Hanoi, Ho…
A long, narrow country squeezed in between the South China Sea and the Laos and Cambodia borders, Vietnam is a land of striking landscapes that range from the lush rice terraces and forested mountains in the north to the picturesque valleys of the Central Highlands and the fertile delta and beautiful beaches of the south. Included in the mix are booming modern cities, colonial towns, traditional villages, archaeological sites and otherworldly islands. Blessed with an insanely diverse landscape, you could be sliding down sand dunes in the morning, taking a stroll by the beach by noon and walking around a UNESCO heritage town by afternoon.
A land of staggering natural beauty and cultural complexities, of dynamic megacities and hill-tribe villages, Vietnam is both exotic and compelling. Vietnamese culture is complex, diverse and represents something of a history lesson. Ancient temples display distinctly Chinese influences in the north and Hindu origins in the south. Meanwhile the broad, tree-lined boulevards and grand state buildings that grace the capital date from the French colonial period. Incredibly subtle in its flavours and outstanding in its diversity, Vietnamese cooking is a fascinating draw for travellers – myriad street-food tours and cooking schools are testament to this. Vietnam is more of an urban/cultural destination. There are some nice beach towns, but the beaches are not the highlights of Vietnam.
Official site: http://www.vietnamtourism.com
The best time to visit Vietnam is spring (February to April) and autumn (August to October). The temperatures are more moderate and rainfall is lighter. In spring, March and April have the lowest rainfall across all destinations and temperatures are pleasant, though still cool in the far north. Vietnam is over 1,000 kms in length and has huge regional diversity, however as a truly year-round destination, travel to any part of Vietnam during any season is possible.
Language : Vietnamese
Currency : [VND] Vietnamese Dong
Timezone : GMT +7
Airports : Noi Bai International Airport [HAN], Tan Son Nhat International Airport [SGN], Da Nang International Airport [DAD]
Annual Number of Visitors : 12.9 million (2017)
VISA : https://www.xuatnhapcanh.gov.vn/web/guest/trang-chu-ttdt
Vietnam is a rough and rugged type of place, with the exception of its busy cities. With that in mind, make sure you bring a few quick dry clothes, a sturdy rain jacket, as well as a good pair of trainers. Your things are pretty safe in Vietnam, just don’t flaunt them or put them down carelessly where anyone could grab them and take off. Handing over more of your Dong is a serious problem for newbies in Vietnam. Look your bills over twice before handing them off. Try to eat only at restaurants that are busy, as their ingredients turn over more and they are likely to keep the gas on all day. Vietnamese love to do business and hate to see a customer walk away. Don’t let them squeeze any higher amount out of you. They respect a tough customer, even if you feel you’ve wasted their time and want to ‘give in’, don’t.
Beaches, Mountains, Forest/Jungle, Island, Peace and Quiet, Scuba/Snorkeling, Sunbathing, Zoo/Wildlife, Water Activities, Family Friendly, Party/Nightlife, Bars, Dance Clubs, Boating, At Sea, All Active/Outdoor, Off the Beaten Path, Romantic, Fishing, Hiking/Camping, Local Cuisine, Mountain Biking, Landmarks/Sights, Arts, Cycle Tours, Walking Tours, Road Trips, Museums, Spa
Enter the Cave
Vietnam is home to some of the world’s most extraordinary subterranean landscapes, with the most popular of the country’s caves the gigantic Hang Son Doong. So big it has its own weather system, the caves could accommodate a 40-storey skyscraper, or let a Boeing 747 pass through. Other caves include the Tu Lan cave systems, used in the filming of Kong: Skull Island (2017), and Hang Va. Headlamps and nerve are required. Visit before the sights become overrun with tourists.
Ride a Motorbike
Vietnam is known for the gazillion scooters and motorbikes roaming around the cities and the country sides. You can grab a cheap scooter rental and explore various regions of Vietnam on your own. If you got lost, you’ll see some truly sensational scenery and meet some lovely locals along the way. Unless you are feeling very brave, we recommend you avoid scootering around the larger cities like HCMC and Hanoi. The traffic there appears to have no rules. Well, at least none that outsiders would understand.
Take a Cooking class
Vietnamese food is some of the most delicious cuisine in the world so why not try your hand at cooking it yourself. Nearly all the major towns and cities offer full or half day cooking classes. From learning how to make traditional fresh spring rolls, to being brought to the market to pick out the right vegetables and herbs, Vietnamese cooking classes are a lot of fun and the best part of all is that you get to indulge in all the dishes you have created. Think mouth watering Nem Lui, Hoi An pancakes and fresh Vietnamese Pho…all for you!
Jump off a boat in Halong Bay
Halong Bay, one of the new 7 natural wonders of the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is best enjoyed from one of the many amazing boats that cruise around its waters. Whether you choose 5 star luxury or a backpackers party cruise, take some time to jump off your boat into the warm waters of the bay. It will give you an entire new perspective of how tall those limestone cliffs are and just how many islands there are in this fascinating wonder.
See Hanoi’s Train Street
Around 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. every day, a train hurtles through a series of narrow streets in Hanoi’s bustling, maze-like Old Quarter. Drying clothes are carried inside, children ushered indoors, and bikes pulled to the side of the road just before the train speeds past, with a couple of feet of clearance at most on each side. In some places the train is mere inches from the buildings. The street’s residents press tight to the walls or duck into nearby doorways with a startling nonchalance and go right back to walking across or sitting on the tracks as soon as the train has passed.
Hike through Rice terraces
The extraordinary hike in Sapa Valley will remain in your memory for years to come. The spectacular Muong Hoa Valley is protected from both sides by the majestic Hoang Lien Son Mountains. These mountains are home to many amazing local tribes, such as the Black Hmong Tribe. Visit Sapa when the amazing cascading-down-the-mountain rice fields are in full bloom or when the fields start to turn gold. This will allow you to truly capture the scenery at its best. It is a magical time to visit and see the rice terraces.
The famed Mekong river winds its way through Southeast Asia, but flows into the South China Sea at the Mekong Delta just south of Ho Chi Minh City. This is Vietnam at its most pastoral. Here, more than 1,000 species of animals live side by side in what is described as a “biological treasure trove”. Visitors can go to Can Tho, the largest city in the area, and get a real taste of rural life in this region affectionately known as the “rice bowl.” Traveling up the backwaters, visitors will be wowed by the floating markets and above all else, the friendly people who live in the region.
The best place to eat in Vietnam is on little, plastic stools on the sidewalk. Whether it’s noodle soups, like the iconic pho or bun ca (the fish and pork-based soup garnished with dill pictured here), or bun cha – char-grilled pork served over rice noodles with herbs and dipping sauces – the street food in Vietnam is nothing short of amazing. At any hour of the day, you’ll find Vietnamese people of all ages congregating under market awnings or outside store fronts, chowing down and enjoying each other’s company. Eating on the street is by far the most exciting – and accessible – way to truly experience daily life in Vietnam, and it’s also where you’ll find the best food.
Markets sell everything from fabric for clothing to dried baby shrimp. Needless to say, you can get lost exploring the rows for hours. They’re most active in the early morning and late evening, when the temperature cools down a bit and shoppers come out. During the middle of the day, you might find shopkeepers taking a nap in front of their stalls. When we say you could spend all day in these markets, we seriously mean it.
The locals in Vietnam are very friendly. They love tourists and welcome you with open arms everywhere you go. Especially when you want to get your hands dirty with them and help with the chores. Spending time with the locals gets you closer to their culture and teaches you few things about the country and yourself as well. The chance to immerse and delve deep into the local life is one of the reasons why you should visit Vietnam.
Vietnam’s history is tumultuous and complex, the country having been occupied and divided by various countries for decades. Colonial influences are visible everywhere, from the architecture to the food and the coffee. The aftermath of the Vietnam War is apparent too – in the museums and monuments but also in the faces and stories of survivors and the overwhelmingly young population.
With its aqua-green water and cluster of limestone rocky outcrops rising from the water like sea dragons, Halong Bay resembles a scene from a fantasy story. Located about 130 kms. east of Hanoi in northern Vietnam, this otherworldly bay features more than 2,000 jungle-covered islands pitted with intriguing caves, grottoes, sinkholes and lakes. Many of the islands have been sculpted over the centuries by natural processes into fantastic formations.
Year-round cool weather and idyllic scenery of misty valleys, lush pine trees and colorful flowers are some of the reasons that Dalat was once used by Vietnamese emperors and French colonials as a summer retreat. Today, this charming town in the South Central Highlands of Vietnam is a popular destination for those looking for relief from the heat. A walkable city, Dalat is a beautiful scene of French colonial architecture and villas set amid picturesque landscapes.
At the heart of Hanoi is its Old Quarter, an open-air museum of historic Asian and French colonial architecture that has largely remained intact despite the bombings of the Vietnam War. Here among scenic tree-lined boulevards, tourists can browse busy markets, sip coffee at quaint cafes and visit prominent sites like the Grand Opera House, the Presidential Palace and Saint Joseph Cathedral.
Located on the central coast of Vietnam near the Duy Phú village is the important archaeological site known as My Son. One of Southeast Asia’s most notable ancient sites, My Son was once a significant center of religious Hindu ceremonies where the kings of the Champa Kingdom built numerous temples devoted to the worship of the god, Shiva, between the 4th and 14th centuries.
Lying along the Siagon River near the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City was formerly known as Saigon and served as the capital of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Today, Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city of the reunified country, offering plenty of reasons to visit, from its blend of historic and modern attractions to vibrant shopping, dining and nightlife.
Located on one of Asia’s most beautiful bays off the coast of South Central Vietnam, Nha Trang is a popular seaside resort city. Picturesque mountains, beaches and lush islands all make it a favorite destination among tourists, Vietnamese and scuba divers. Adorned with resorts, amusement and water parks, palm trees and a lovely promenade, Nha Trang’s beach is its main draw.
Colorful floating markets, fruit orchards, rice paddies, sugar cane groves, bird sanctuaries and quaint villages are all what draw many to the Mekong Delta in southwestern Vietnam. Nicknamed “Vietnam’s Rice Basket”, the Mekong Delta is an agricultural region made fertile by the maze of canals and streams fed by the Mekong River. Stretching from the Gulf of Thailand to Ho Chi Minh City, the Mekong Delta feeds more than a third of the country from its rich plantations, orchards, rice paddies and fish farms.
Surrounded by pictorial mountains, rice terraces and a diversity of hill tribes in the remote northwest of Vietnam, Sapa is a quiet town frequently used as a base for trekking in the Hoang Lien Son Mountains and touring rice paddies and traditional villages. From the town, there are many organized tours that aide tourists in mountain hikes and exploring the nearby rice paddies & remote villages. These tours present views of beautiful waterfalls & the opportunities to experience the food, customs and way of life among the local tribes.
Located off the coast of the South China Sea in South Central Vietnam, Hoi An is a beautiful, old city dating back 2,000 years to the Champa Kingdom. The city’s historic architecture, traditional culture and textiles make it a popular destination in Vietnam. At the heart of Hoi An is its atmospheric Old Town which is small enough to walk around easily. The narrow, winding lanes of the Old Town are lined with beautiful old architecture, traditional wooden houses and hundreds of tailor shops selling clothing, shoes, bags, and souvenirs.
Situated on the banks of the Perfume River in Central Vietnam, Hue once served as the imperial capital of the Nguyen dynasty. Today, the vestiges of this former glorious period are reflected in the city’s architecture, culture and cuisine. Of the city’s monuments, the Citadel is the most famous. Once the seat of the Nguyen emperors, the Citadel is a sprawling complex of grand palaces, ornate temples, walls and gates. Another important landmark on the river is the city’s official symbol, the Thien Mu Pagoda.
Da Nang is a coastal city in central Vietnam known for its sandy beaches and history as a French colonial port. It’s a popular base for visiting the inland Bà Nà hills to the west of the city. Here the hillside Hải Vân Pass has views of Da Nang Bay and the Marble Mountains. These 5 limestone outcrops are topped with pagodas and hide caves containing Buddhist shrines. The Mỹ Khê, Mỹ An and Non Nước beaches – collectively known as “China Beach” by U.S. servicemen – are home to upscale resorts, and Non Nước also has a stone-carvers’ village. Colorfully lit bridges span the Hàn River, and the Dragon Bridge breathes fire and water from its mouth on weekends.
Ho Chi Minh Complex, Hanoi
Ho Chi Minh was the first Communist leader of Vietnam. He defeated the French in 1954. He is a well-respected leader and the locals often refer to him as “Uncle Ho”. Modeled after Lenin’s Mausoleum in Moscow, visitors can see Ho Chi Minh’s preserved body in a glass case. The complex itself includes the Presidential Palace, Uncle Ho’s House on stilt, Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, Ba Dinh Square, Ho Chi Minh Museum and One Pillar Pagoda.
Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son, Hanoi
The Hoan Kiem Lake, also known as the Turtle Lake, is located in the center of the city and it is a popular hangout place for locals and tourists. A bridge leads to an island in the middle of the lake where the Ngoc Son temple can be visited. You can opt to bike around or take a romantic stroll with your significant other and enjoy the views of the lake. Another tiny island on the southern section of the lake holds the stocky Turtle Tower – best viewed from the bridge.
Temple of Literature, Hanoi
It is a beautiful temple complex in the center of Hanoi that was built to be the center of learning dedicated to Chinese age and Confucius. In the last 1000 years, many buildings were added and today it is a beautiful park filled with pavilions, shrines and a rich garden. Graduating doctors always visit the temple of literature after their graduation.
Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, Hanoi
It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and known as the citadel of Hanoi. The building was the center of ancient Hanoi. The ancient site was the political center for 13 centuries and served as the capital of Vietnam for 8 centuries. The central flag tower of the citadel stands 40 m tall. It is a symbol of Hanoi. It is located in Ba Dinh and is open seven days a week.
Cyclo Tour, Hanoi
Once you get tired of all that walking, or the traffic gets a bit much, and your adrenaline rush of trying to cross the main roads has crashed, jump on board one of the many cyclos in the town. A ride on a cyclo amongst the traffic will also open your eyes to the lack of traffic rules on these Vietnamese roads, from entire families of 4 plus people with no helmets on one moped to crates of live chickens or pigs on the back of another- certainly an eye opener that’s for sure.
Hanoi Opera House
The opera house was modeled after the Paris Opera House and it is the most beautiful building in Hanoi. The opera is located in the French Quarter. It was built in 1911 during the French invasion of Hanoi and it was created to entertain the French elite at the time. The building went into decline after the French left Hanoi. It was renovated again in 1997 and it showcases Vietnamese Opera performances as well as Asian dance and ballet and musical concerts.
Water Puppet show, Hanoi
The most famous theater that showcases a water puppet performance is the Thang Long Puppet Theatre that has five shows a day. Here, puppets dance and slide over the liquid stage. Most shows tell the tale of Hoan Kiem Lake and the giant tortoise.
Dong Xuan Market, Hanoi
Visit the Dong Xuan Market to buy anything and everything you can imagine. It is housed in a four-story Soviet-style building. On the ground floor, you can see a fish market and on the other floors, you can buy souvenirs, fashion apparel, printed T-shirts, etc. at the best prices.
Hanoi Old Quarter
The Old Quarter is located in the Ba Dinh district. It is near the business area and it is the busiest tourist attraction. Here you can find small streets with many street vendors, selling food and souvenirs on the street. The streets are packed with scooters, bicycles, and cars. It is a truly local experience that will give you an idea what it is like to live in Hanoi. Here you will have the chance to observe French colonial architecture and try some tasty street food as well. The Old Quarter is absolute chaos, but completely mesmerizing, and an experience that you will never forget.
Halong Bay Cruise
If you are visiting Hanoi then you absolutely must take a day to go and visit the stunning Halong Bay – it’s one of the best places in Vietnam. In fact, the mesmerizing unique scenery has indeed featured in endless movies. Located in the North East of Vietnam, Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Quang Ninh Province. It is well known for the thousands of spectacular limestone cliffs emerging from its beautiful emerald green waters which are topped with tropical rainforests. The Bay is dotted with 1,600 limestone islands and islets and covers an area of over 1,500 sq. km.
Ba Vi National Park, Hanoi
This national park is a beautiful nature reserve 58 kms. away from Hanoi. It is an ideal place to go hiking on the hills and escape from the bustling city. The three-peak mountain in the National Park are often covered by the clouds. A diverse range of jungle plants and animals can be discovered in the national park. In the forest floors, you can find natural hot springs which you can visit. At the peak of the tallest mountain, there is a temple from the 11th century. From this place, you can see stunning views of its surrounding landscape.
Museum of Ethnology, Hanoi
Hanoi’s Vietnam Museum of Ethnology houses the extensive national collection and tells the story of Vietnam’s diverse cultures in a series of excellently well-curated exhibits. Here, the huge number of ethnic minorities who call Vietnam home are highlighted with beautiful displays of artifacts and art that showcase wooden carving, metalwork, and traditional costumes. In the garden area outside the main building, you can see the rural dwellings used by different ethnic minorities as well as the fascinating Giarai tomb.
Reunification Palace, Ho Chi Minh City
Reunification Palace was the base of Vietnamese General Ngo Dinh Diem and it made its name in global history in 1975. A tank belonging to the North Vietnamese Army crashed through its main gate, ending the Vietnam War. You can see two of the original tanks used in the capture of the palace parked in the grounds. It has lush gardens, secret rooms, antique furniture, and a command bunker. It’s still in use to host important occasions in the City.
Opera House, Ho Chi Minh City
The Saigon Opera House in Ho Chi Minh is an elegant colonial building very close to the famous Notre Dame Cathedral and the classic Central Post Office. The restored three-storey 800-seat Opera House was built in 1897 and is used for staging not only opera but also a wide range of performing arts including ballet, musical concerts, Vietnamese traditional dance and plays. The exterior has the appearance of polished pearl and makes a great place to photograph.
War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City
The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City first opened to the public in 1975. Once known as the ‘Museum of American War Crimes’, it’s a shocking reminder of the long and brutal Vietnam War. Graphic photographs and American military equipment are on display. The most talked-about exhibits at the War Remnants Museum are the ‘tiger cages’. The South Vietnamese government kept their political prisoners in these confinements. Locals believe the cages imprisoned up to 14 people at a time. The museum also has a guillotine brought in by the French government. Both the French and South Vietnamese used it to execute their prisoners.
Cu Chi Tunnels, Ho Chi Minh City
The Chu Chi Tunnels are part of a massive war museum in Ho Chi Minh. They offer visitors a sneak-peek at the underground life of Vietnamese soldiers back in 1948. The site has over 120 kms of underground tunnels, with trapdoors, living areas, kitchens, storage facilities, armoury, hospitals, and command centres. You can enjoy plenty of activities during your visit. Before entering the underground tunnels, visitors watch a short film of Chu Chi Tunnels so that they understand how the tunnel system works. Parts of Chu Chi Tunnels are also cemented and widened, so that the crawl is less harrowing than it would have been in the past.
Ben Thanh market, Ho Chi Minh City
Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City is a great place to buy local handicrafts, branded goods, Vietnamese art and other souvenirs. Here, you’ll find eating stalls inside the market where you can get a taste of hawker-style Vietnamese cuisine or simply cool off with a cold drink when the bargaining becomes too much. The market is big, difficult to navigate at times and certainly best avoided during the hottest part of the day but all the same its well worth a look. When night falls, restaurants around the perimeter of the market open their doors creating a vibrant street side scene filling the air with the scents of wok-fried noodles, barbecued fish and meats. Ben Thanh offers a great atmosphere that is absolutely authentically Vietnamese.
Notre Dame Cathedral, Ho Chi Minh City
Notre Dame Cathedral, built in the late 1880s by French colonists, is one of the few remaining strongholds of Catholicism in the largely Buddhist Vietnam. Located in Paris Square, the name Notre Dame was given after the installation of the statue ‘Peaceful Notre Dame’ in 1959. In 1962, the Vatican conferred the Cathedral status as a basilica and gave it the official name of Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica. Measuring almost 60 metres in height, the cathedral’s distinctive neo-Romanesque features include the all-red brick façade (which were imported from Marseille), stained glass windows, two bell towers containing six bronze bells that still ring to this day, and a peaceful garden setting in the middle of downtown Ho Chi Minh City.
Bitexco Financial Tower & Sky Deck, Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City’s Bitexco Financial Tower & Sky Deck stands 262 metres high at the centre of the city’s business district and offers visitors an unparalleled city view from its Sky Deck. Designed by renowned American Architect Carlos Zapata, this 68-storey tower is the highest in all of Vietnam with a sky deck offering 360 degree views of the city and surrounding area as well as a fantastic sky bar called Alto enjoy a cocktail and some tapas style international dishes.
Binh Tay Market, Ho Chi Minh City
Binh Tay Market, constructed by the French in the 1880s, mainly serves the local population with its extensive range of fresh fruits, vegetables, poultry, meat and seafood from regions across Vietnam. Also known as Cholon Chinatown Market, the market occupies a two-storey building along Thap Moui Street. Along with the interesting historical and cultural aspect of Cholon, Binh Tay Market is great for experiencing the local lifestyle and sampling unique Vietnamese-Chinese delicacies.
Jade Emperor Pagoda, Ho Chi Minh City
Built at the turn of the 20th Century by a community of Cantonese who migrated from Guangzhou province in Southwest China, Emperor Jade Pagoda, also known as Tortoise Pagoda, is a fine representation of Mahayanist branch of Buddhism that is practiced widely in Vietnam. Emperor Jade Pagoda is a living and working shrine very much in use by the locals who come here to prayer or make votive offerings of flowers, and light candles and joss sticks. With worshippers coming and going, the temple can get busy and feel a little cramped. There is an overcrowded tortoise pond in front of the temple grounds.
Hotel de Ville, Ho Chi Minh City
The stately edifice that stands at Nguyen Hué’s northern extent is the former Hotel de Ville, the city’s most photographed icon and an ostentatious reminder of colonial Europe’s stubborn resolve to stamp its imprint on the countries it subjugated, no matter how incongruous. Built in 1902–08 as the city’s administrative hub, this wedding cake of a building today houses the People’s Committee behind its showy jumble of Corinthian columns, classical figures and shuttered windows, and thus is not open to the public. A statue of Uncle Ho cradling a small child watches over the tiny park fronting the building, where flowerbeds add a splash of colour.
The Old Town, Hoi An
Hoi An, once a major Southeast Asian trading post in the 16th and 17th centuries, is basically a living museum that houses old-town architecture. Two great things about Hoi An’s Old Town are that it is small enough to get around in on foot and the traffic is nowhere near as heavy as in bigger cities. Some of the streets only allow bike and motorbike traffic and some are pedestrian only. Tradition is still very much alive in the Old Town.
Japanese Covered Bridge, Hoi An
One of Vietnam’s most iconic attractions, Hoi An’s Japanese covered bridge dates back to the 18th century and is a beautiful historical piece of Japanese architecture. It is claimed that it was created by the Japanese then living in Hoi An as a way to reach the Chinese quarter across the water. Know locally as Cau Nhat Ban or the Pagoda Bridge, the bridge connects Tran Phu with Nguyen Thi Minh Khai. Crossing over the bridge you will find plenty of paintings for sale by artists living in the vicinity. The bridge is about 60 feet in length and simply, yet colourfully painted in red with a wooden pagoda roof.