The best places to visit in Vietnam
Long and thin, Vietnam lends itself well to itinerary planning, with its snow-capped mountains, limestone karst bays and historic towns lining up in a neat row between the leafy streets of Hanoi in the north and the fascinating war museums of Ho Chi Minh City in the south. Add in the floating markets and winding waterways of the Mekong Delta, and you’ve got yourself a diverse trip through one of Southeast Asia’s most captivating countries. Below we’ve listed just a few of our favourite places to visit in Vietnam, all of which we can tailor make into an itinerary for you.
Most visitors to Vietnam fly into Hanoi, its pagodas and tree-lined avenues making a gentle introduction to the freneticism of the rest of the country. The Old Quarter holds the best of the sites, while the cafés and bars of the French Quarter offer a touch of European flavour.
Start with the central Hoan Kiem Lake, a peaceful spot with a pretty temple, then hit the streets and sample the fresh noodles, browse the museums and sip bia hoi in the markets.
The must-see sight in northern Vietnam, Halong Bay’s green waters are dotted with towering karst peaks, caves and coves, and make for a peaceful spot for a day or two’s cruise on a traditional junk boat.
Halong Bay is just a three-hour drive from Hanoi, so easily tacked on to a stay in the city. Choose from a short day sail or an overnight or multi-day cruise, dining onboard your boat and sleeping under the stars.
Set beside the Perfume River, Hue’s palaces and pagodas are found within the crumbling Imperial City walls, while outside the Old City you’ll find long riverside promenades and the Royal Tombs.
Hue is an obvious stop on the Hanoi to Hoi An route, and easily reached via the overnight Reunification Express train from Hanoi. To see all the sights, you’ll need at least two days, or longer if you want to tack on a trip to the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ).
Hoi An’s main draw is its quaint old-world architecture, its cobbled streets and its tiny shop houses. Look around the museums, try out the waterfront cafés and browse the numerous craft stalls.
The best way to see Hoi An is to wander along the banks of the Thu Bon River, calling in at the temples, houses, handicraft shops and tailors as you go. For a relaxing break, take a songthaew to An Bang beach, just outside town.
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as it was once known, is filled with history museums and remnants of the Vietnam War, such as the Reunification Palace, untouched since the fall of Saigon in 1975. It’s a lively city too, with some great restaurants and lively rooftop bars.
After a day or two touring the museums, don’t miss a day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels, once used by the Viet Cong, and the colourful Cao Dai Temple in Tay Ninh.
The palm-lined system of waterways that make up the Mekong Delta are home to fishermen, floating markets, rice paddies and traditional riverside villages, and make a peaceful escape from Vietnam’s cities.
The Mekong is best accessed from Can Tho, around four hours’ drive from Ho Chi Minh City. From here, take a relaxing cruise along the canals, spend the night onboard and then return to the city, or even continue on by boat to Phnom Penh in Cambodia.