If you want a travel experience full of the wonder of the natural world, with added city sights, Vietnam is the place for you. Often overlooked in favor of other destinations in Asia, Vietnam is a fascinating place with an amazing mix of beautiful natural sights and cultural highlights.
The scenery highlights include soaring limestone cliffs in an emerald bay, jagged mountains, lush valleys, and bright green paddy fields. The cities and towns are full of architectural delights and you can experience a wide range of ethnic identities as well as some stunning food.
Visit the capital, or take in some of the smaller towns in Vietnam. You can also enjoy outdoor pursuits like hiking, biking, and boating – or take a sedate cruise among the limestone karst in Halong Bay. Vietnam is an economical place to visit and ideal for the next stop on a tour of Asia after Bangkok. Vietnam offers something for everyone, and it is a surprise that more people haven’t travelled in this rewarding country. Here are some of the highlights to inspire you to take your next trip to Vietnam.
1) Halong Bay
Halong Bay is a huge UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is one of the most stunning natural sites in the country. The bay in the Gulf of Tonkin holds thousands of limestone islands or outcrops, which tower from the water, fashioned into strange and wonderful shapes by the effect of weather and water over the centuries. There are plenty of places to explore in Halong Bay and your best bet is to take an overnight boat tour so you can see this natural wonder in all its best lights. There are also plenty of caves you can walk into, and different areas to explore by boat so it will take at least a couple of days to see it all from the excellent vantage point of a cruise boat.
This is a glorious historic town in Vietnam which is packed to the rafters with interesting historic items. The town is located on the banks of the Perfume River and is home to the Imperial Enclosure – the grounds are ideal for exploring and there are many halls that display celling murals and well-preserved historic art. One of the best ways to explore the area surrounding Hue is by a boat tour that takes in royal tombs, pagodas, and other interesting spots on the river.
3) Ho Chi Minh City
If you love the city, you can’t miss Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. This is a chaotic, noisy, and captivating place which is always full of life. You’ll find hundreds of wonderful bars, cafes, and restaurants, plenty of top-quality shops, and some nice cultural sites. The central district is easy to walk around and explore. In this district you will discover the HCMC Museum, which houses a collection of items linked to the history of the city. You will also find the Notre Dame Cathedral which dates from the 19th century. The historic district of Da Kao showcases some wonderful examples of colonial architecture, and there is also the Jade Emperor Pagoda and its eye-catching displays of Buddhist and Taoist items. The History Museum is also worth a visit, as is the Reunification Palace and the War Remnants Museum.
4) My Son
My Son is a ruined temple surrounded by jungle and mountains. The Cham temple dates back to the 4th century and it offers a beautiful display of ruined architecture and some lovely examples of ancient artifacts.
5) Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is the ideal place to visit if you like caving. It is one of the best locations for caving in the world. There are huge caverns you can walk through, and wet caverns you need to swim through. The Phong Nha Caves are accessible by boat, and there are also plenty of stalactite and stalagmites on display.
6) Sapa Countryside
Take a trip back in time in the gorgeous rice fields of Sapa, overlooked by the Hoang Lien Mountains. Here you will find some of the best views in the country, where deep and verdant valleys mix with steep mountain peaks.
7) Hoi An
One of the most beautiful cities in Vietnam, Hoi An is a wonderful place to explore, especially the Old Quarter which is full of old merchant houses and buildings from the silk trading era. Don’t miss the Japanese Bridge which is located at the western end of the main street, as well as the temple in the old town and many smaller pagodas and some interesting museums.
This is a wonderful city to stay, and it buzzes with a frenetic appeal. You won’t find peace and quiet here but you will find historic sites, art museums, cafes, bars, and restaurants. The old town is a particularly interesting place to visit.