The perfect destination for a getaway, Full of colour and activity, Vietnam offers a whirlwind of great food, culture and natural wonders. Here’s our list of some of Vietnam’s top must-see destinations
As the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi distinguishes itself as a travel destination through its history, its rich cultural heritage, and its picturesque blend of French and Chinese influences. The combined effect of its chaotic streets, French colonial architecture and curious odes to communism resonates with history buffs and the culturally curious alike. Hanoi is at once charming, perplexing, vibrant, and chaotic. The combination intrigues travellers who want to experience a destination that has a fascinating story to tell.
Nearly every visitor to Hanoi will put a visit to the Old Quarter at the top of their list. As the most historic part of the city, make sure you visit Ngoc Son Temple at the north end of scenic Hoan Kiem Lake – both central to Hanoian folklore.
History buffs shouldn’t miss a visit to the Hanoi Citadel and the War Museum, and the haunting but intriguing Hoa Lo Prison Museum. The serene Temple of Literature promises a fascinating look at the roots of Hanoi’s Confucian values, while St. Joseph’s Cathedral is a spectacular example of French inspired architecture.
Last but not least, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum demonstrates the country’s nationalistic pride, as well as locals’ deep veneration of their revolutionary leader.
2. Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay, located in the Gulf of Tonkin, within Quang Ninh Province, in the northeast of Vietnam, is165 km from the capital of Ha Noi. Covering an area of 43,400 ha and including over 1600 islands and islets, most of which are uninhabitated and unaffected by humans, it forms a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars and is an ideal model of a mature Karst landscape developed during a warm and wet tropical climate. The property’s exceptional scenic beauty is complemented by its great biological interest.
No visitor to Halong Bay should ever miss the opportunity to enjoy a sunrise or sunset over the bay – both easily done on board a traditional junk boat cruise. Most overnight cruises will visit its most famous attractions, including Surprise Cave and Bai Tu Long Bay. Some cruises visit Cua Van Floating Village and a pearl farm, depending on weather and water conditions
The historic capital of Vietnam, Hue, sits astride a truly majestic and beautiful river, the Song Huong (Perfume River). Hue’s complex history has earned it a reputation as a political, cultural and religious center, but nowadays, visitors to contemporary Hue will find a city that only dimly reflects on its past, and only does so as a begrudging nod to its western visitors. Like Halong Bay to the north, the complex of tombs, pagodas and palaces throughout Hue and its surrounds has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Hue’s most impressive historical attractions, including the Citadel and Royal Palace. No visitor to Hue should miss a visit to the Minh Mang Tombs or the Khai Dinh Tomb.
The architectural marvels of Thien Mu Pagoda and The Mieu Temple are perhaps Hue’s most photogenic attractions, while a river cruise down Perfume River is a great way to end a day of exploring.
4. Hoi An
Hoi An is a small coastal town on the scenic central coast of Vietnam. As an important port city in colonial and pre-colonial times, Hoi An is a unique cultural melting pot boasting nearly a thousand-years of history. Honey-yellow architecture, ancient Chinese shop houses and a notably laid-back atmosphere make Hoi An a must on the Vietnam circuit. A convenient destination to catch your breath on a lengthier journey in Vietnam, Hoi An is the perfect place to go if you like strolling down quiet alleyways and breezy walking streets
On arrival you can walk around Hoi An’s Ancient Town – the historic downtown area famous for its charming architecture. No Ancient Town exploration would be complete without a stop at the Japanese Covered Bridge, the Fukian (Phuc Kien) Assembly Hall or Tan Ky Old House.
Beyond Ancient Town, the rural villages further afield promise uniquely local experiences. A favourite is the village of Cam Thanh, a small fishing and farming community easily reached by bicycle from Hoi An
5. Nha Trang
The city is indisputably beautiful, bordered by mountains, with the beach tracing an impressive long swoop along a bay dotted with islands. Topiary and modern sculpture dot the immaculately manicured foreshore.
Nha Trang offers plenty to keep tourists occupied – from island-hopping boat trips and scuba diving, to mudbathsp and tour historic site as Po Nagar Cham Temple Complex, not far from the centre. the fantastic views at Long Son Pago, a 79-foot-tall Buddha overlooking the city. But the main attraction for most visitors is lounging around on deckchairs at a beachfront bar and drinking cocktails in comfort
6. Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City sits on the banks of the Saigon River, almost 1800km from the Northern capital of Hanoi. Full of hustle and bustle, Ho Chi Minh offers amazing adventures for those willing to explore. Stop by the city’s Ben Thanh markets for a flurry of colour and activity, or head out to some of the city’s many bars and nightclubs. The best nightclubs are scattered around the city centre. For those looking for some history, visit the city’s War Remnants Museum. The museum was established following the Vietnam War, and offers a snapshot of this city’s emotionally charged history. As Ho Chi Minh City’s cyclo drivers rest easy below vast neon billboards, the emerging Vietnamese middle class — mobile phones in hand — cruise past draped in haute couture on their imported motorcycles. Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City — Vietnam’s largest and most exciting city