WHAT ARE THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN VIETNAM?
Ideally located at the crossroads of Southeast Asia, Vietnam is a travel destination that has remained authentic while undergoing a tremendous economic and cultural transformation.
For travellers, Vietnam offers a multitude of varied and each time unique landscapes. Mountains and high plateaus occupy two thirds of Vietnamese territory and its fine white sandy beaches are also omnipresent thanks to its 3,260 kilometers of coastline and its countless islands and archipelagos.
The colonial architecture of some beautiful buildings within the cities testifies to the French presence and a vanished past. The country abounds with places to visit as diverse as markets, museums, historical sites and imperial mausoleums. Away from the urban centers, you will have the opportunity to approach different peoples, ethnic groups and tribes from the mountains during a hike, cross the rice fields by bicycle under the gaze of buffaloes or even sail to surrealist and paradisiacal islands.
On this page, you will be able to discover the essential experiences not to be missed in Vietnam, its essential tourist sites as well as the activities to be done absolutely.
This selection may be useful in preparing an itinerary and organizing your trip to Vietnam, giving you a taste of the best things to do and places to visit.
The practical information is evolving rapidly, so don’t hesitate to leave a comment if there are any points to change or if you want to share good tips for travelling to Vietnam.
Here are 15 must-see things to do and see during a trip to Vietnam:
1 – HO CHI MINH CITY
Once called Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is the economic capital of Vietnam, very different from Hanoi. In some ways it is reminiscent of Bangkok (many shopping malls, a backpacker district in the style of “Khao San Road”, nice rooftops bars…). We can see monuments dating back to colonial times. Not to be missed: the Reunification Palace and the War Museum.
2 – THE MEKONG DELTA
The most fertile region of Vietnam, located in the south of the country. It’s a huge plain crossed by the nine arms of the Mekong River where you can see lush landscapes crossed by many rivers and canals. There is the real rural Vietnam, with its villages, rice fields, floating markets, and life around the river.
3 – NHA TRANG
A very popular seaside resort in Vietnam, which are on the classic routes of those who cross Vietnam from North to South. You can dive, relax and enjoy the sun and the beach. The perfect place to take a break after the noisy cities filled with scooters.
4 – CU CHI TUNNELS
Located 40km northwest of Ho Chi Minh City, the Cu Chi tunnels are a huge network of tunnels and underground rooms used by the Vietcong during the Vietnam War. An interesting place to discover the ingenuity of the soldiers.
5 – HUÉ CITADEL
Vietnam’s former imperial capital (built between 1804 and 1833), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located in the centre of the country. Its architecture is reminiscent of Chinese imperial palaces such as Beijing’s Forbidden City. The ideal is to visit the place with a guide.
6 – SA PA
Located in Hoàng Liên Sơn, a mountain range in North Vietnam 350 km from Hanoi and at an altitude of 1650 metres, Sa Pa has fabulous landscapes of terraced rice fields as far as the eye can see. You can hike there and meet people from ethnic minority villages who have had an unchanged way of life for hundreds of years.
7 – HOI AN
A charming old town listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in central Vietnam. It is often a favorite for travellers who visit this country. The centre of Hoi An is closed to motor vehicles, so you can walk or cycle there. The city is beautiful both during the day and in the evening. You can see old merchant warehouses and colonial houses superbly lit by lanterns, as well as an old Japanese bridge.
8 – NINH BINH PROVINCE
Ninh Binh Binh province is located in northern Vietnam, 100km from Hanoi. You can discover beautiful landscapes of karst rocks as well as several interesting cultural sites (pagodas). The most touristic place in Ninh Binh is Tam Coc, nicknamed the “land Halong Bay”, where you can go boating on the Ngo Dong River and see several caves. Do not miss the visit of the Tràng An ecotourism complex.
9 – HA LONG BAY
One of the most famous landscapes in Asia: thousands of islands and islets of all sizes create a spectacular panorama of limestone masses emerging from the sea. Most of the islands are uninhabited and contain hidden caves. The site has been classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1993.
10 – MY SON SANCTUARY
The sanctuary of My Son (pronounced “Mee Sun“) is a collection of ancient red brick temples and buildings, which was once the religious and political capital of the Kingdom of Champâ. Even if it’s not as impressive as Angkor Wat, the place is well worth a look because the surrounding landscape is remarkable. The ruins are located about 35 km west of Hoi An.
11 – PHU QUOC ISLAND
The largest of the Vietnamese islands (50km long), located not far from Cambodia, and which have beautiful forests and beaches. You can dive there to discover the marine life, relax and admire the sunsets on the beach….
12 – PHONG NHA-KE BANG NATIONAL PARK
Phong Nha National Park – Kẻ Bàng is famous for its huge caves: there is the largest in the world, the Son Doong cave (but this one is difficult and expensive to access). The region has not been fully explored. To get as close as possible to Phong Nha National Park – Kẻ Bàng, the best is to stay in Son Trach village, accessible from Dong Hoi city.
13 – DA LAT
A small town known for its temperate climate, its artificial lake and its old French colonial buildings and villas. Not much to do but the place is pleasant to discover and you can enjoy the fresh air (Da Lat is at an altitude of 1500 meters).
14 – HA GIANG PROVINCE
An alternative to Sa Pa but difficult to access because it is located in the far north of Vietnam, bordering Yunnan, in southern China. It’s a region where the valley landscapes are magnificent and where you can meet ethnic minorities. Ideally, you should discover the province by motorcycle. Don’t miss: the geopark of the Dong Van karst plateau (Dong Van Karst Geopark Plateau).
15 – HANOI
The capital and the second largest city in Vietnam after Ho Chi Minh City, but with a completely different atmosphere. Hanoi is very noisy and polluted but deserves two days of visit to discover its superb museums and its old quarter, taste street food and see the huge mausoleum of Ho Chi Min. Hanoi is also an ideal starting point to discover other parts of Vietnam.
MORE INTERESTING PLACES TO SEE IN VIETNAM
- The marble mountains near Danang
- The two Cham Po Shanu towers in Phan Thiêt
- The site of the battle of Diên Biên Phu
- Go to the top of Phan Xi Mountain Păng, Vietnam’s highest point (3143 m)