Top 15 Places to visit in Vietnam (from iconic destinations to beautiful countryside)
Vietnam, officially known as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is a small communist country in Southeast Asia that is quickly rising up in rank as having one of the SEA region’s fastest-growing economies. But the economy is not the only thing that is rising in Vietnam. The tourism industry has been booming as well, with the country seeing a 26% increase in visitor arrivals from 2015 to 2016 alone.
Are you planning to check out why people are coming here as well? Check out our list of places to visit in Vietnam! Here are some of the most notable places that you should definitely not miss if you’re planning to take a journey through this historical Southeast Asian country.
When is the best time to visit Vietnam?
Vietnam is located in South East Asia which border stretches from China, Laos, and Cambodia. Just like its neighboring countries, it offers tropical season and experiences heavy rainfall and extreme heat in particular months during the year. That said, if you want to enjoy a nice vacation, the best time to visit Vietnam depends on where you want to go. For instance, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh are good to visit all year round while Northern Vietnam is perfect during March and June while Central Vietnam is good to visit from June to August.
Nevertheless, it is also good to know that rainy season (also the low season for tourism) occurs around September to November while the peak of summer (high season) is around July and August and the weather is hot and humid. If you’re not a fan of extreme Vietnam summers, come between December to March when the weather is cooler up north and just perfect down south (it is drier).
Do you need a visa to enter Vietnam?
Most members of ASEAN member countries and passport holders from Scandinavian and Nordic countries, Japan, Korea, and Russia do not need a visa to enter the country. That said, all other citizens do require a visa before entering Vietnam and for those who like to plan ahead of time, it is possible to get Vietnam visa on arrival online, just make sure to fill the application accordingly and check in this link if your passport need or don’t need a visa to enter Vietnam before you start on processing anything.
TIP: Here’s a good guide how and where to get a Vietnam visa for US citizens.
Top 15 Places to visit in Vietnam (from iconic destinations to beautiful countryside)
Ha Long Bay
Take a peek at any Vietnam travel guide, and you’ll certainly see Ha Long Bay on the list of Vietnam’s points of interest. Ha Long Bay, or Vinh Ha Long in Vietnamese, is a bay filled with limestone monolithic islands located in the
Phú Quý in Vietnam is a small, rocky island located in the Phan Thiet Sea. Its name means, “rich and precious”, and this is actually a good description of the place as a whole. Although it’s quite far from the mainland – it takes around 6-9 hours to go to the island by ferry boat – Phu Quy is a destination worth traveling for. Some of the top sites in Phu Quy island includes Nui Cao Cat, Linh Son Pagoda, and, Vinh Trieu
Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park
The Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park is a national park in the Quang Binh Province in Vietnam. It was originally established in order to protect the karst regions in the area, also known as one of the world’s largest karst regions. In 2003, it was declared to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, mostly for its geological values, specifically its caves and rock formations. Nowadays it is widely known as a Vietnam tourist destination, aside from a world heritage site. The number of tourists increased ever since its declaration as a UNESCO site, and tours are now open to anyone, ranging from cave expedition tours, ecotourism tours, and extreme activity tours such as mountain climbing and trekking.
Ho Chi Minh City
Have you ever heard of Saigon? Saigon, a prominent name during the Vietnam war, used to be the old name of Ho Chi Minh City, now Vietnam’s largest city in terms of population size. Like the USA’s Big Apple, New York, Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam is the Southeast Asian country’s very own ‘city that never sleeps’. At the present, Ho Chi Minh City is at the forefront of Vietnam’s economy. A lot of tourists visit due to its historical value, which can be seen from its War Remnants Museum, History Museum, and Notre-Dame Cathedral. Aside from these though, there are other reasons to visit what is previously known as Saigon. Ho Chi Minh City is also filled with cheap but delicious local food, high-end shopping boutiques, and really good nightlife options. There’s also the option to visit their Fine Arts Museum as well as to go on a Bonsai River Cruise at the Saigon River.
Vietnam’s third largest city, Da Nang, lies in the central region of Vietnam. It’s not a common choice for travelers, which may seem a bit strange considering that Da Nang actually hosts an international airport, but nevertheless, it’s also worth a look. Its three gold-sand beaches are definitely worth a peek, at least. My Khe Beach, home to high-rise hotels, Pham Van Dong Beach, with the Temple Resort and its gorgeous infinity pool, and Holiday Beach, definitely a paradise for surfers, due to its much bigger waves. If you’re not a fan of beaches though, your trip to Da Nang still won’t be wasted. There’s the Son Tra Peninsula, where you can ride a scooter or motorcycle and course through a beautiful view, and the Marble Mountains, where you can explore all its caves and tunnels and revel in its beauty.
The Mekong Delta, labeled as the “rice bowl” of Vietnam, is one of the largest agricultural areas near Ho Chi Minh City. It has a variety of fruit orchards, coconut palms, and sugar-cane groves. Of course, this is still apart from its main product, which is rice. It definitely exudes homey, countryside feels, with its rice paddies, monkey bridges, and water channels. Tourists will enjoy exploring the Mekong River, going on boat-rides, seeing the Ong Dao Dua or the Coconut Monk, and home-staying in the delta. They will also enjoy sight-seeing in the area as they take a breath of its fresh air, something that’s quickly getting rare because of modernization. Sometimes it’s just nice to lay back and enjoy nature.
Ninh Binh City
Ninh Binh City, also known as the capital of Ning Binh Province, lies in the northern part of Vietnam. Despite its small size, Ninh Binh City is a city shrouded in ancient history, therefore making it one of Vietnam’s top tourist destinations. It has a lot of attractions, having mainly something to do with its history. It used to be the ancient capital of Hoa Lur, the capital of Vietnam in the 10th and 11th century. King Dinh Tien Hoang Square is built in memory of an ancient hero. Another attraction is the Phat Diem Cathedral, often labeled as one of the most beautiful churches in Vietnam. Another one is the Bái Đính Temple, which currently holds the world record for having the largest Buddha statue ever.
Mỹ Sơn, located in the province of Quảng Nam in Central Vietnam, is a group of abandoned Hindu temples which are now in partial ruin due to the lack of use and upkeep. They were first constructed between the 4th and 14th century, in order to worship the god Shiva or Bhadreshvara. A large part of this cluster was ruined due to the Vietnam War, after the U.S.’s carpet bombing. Because of its historical value especially to the Hindu religion and culture, it was declared to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. If you plan to visit this country, be sure to include Mỹ Sơn in your list of places to visit in Vietnam.
Hanoi is Vietnam’s capital, back from the time of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, up until now, with a reunified Vietnam. It is Vietnam’s second largest city, at least in terms of population size. There are a lot of things to do in Ha Noi. Some of the most notable attractions involve historical places since the city itself played such an important part in Vietnam’s history. The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, modeled after Lenin’s mausoleum in Moscow, holds the body of the country’s greatest leader after which a city was named—Ho Chi Minh himself. The Hanoi Old Quarter, situated in the city, is a place where tourists can go back in time to see well-preserved colonial architecture in modern times. The Hanoi Opera House, in the French Quarter, gives off a feel of Paris, French, with its distinctly French architecture.
Ha Giang Province
The Ha Giang Province is another one of those places that receive fewer tourists than the usual, but still well-deserving of a visit, let alone a look. Tourists who are tired of the usual city and beach vibes can easily find themselves at home in this part of the country. Those who like seeking different thrills won’t get disappointed, though. There’s a very popular motorbike loop in the province, where you can view the beautiful mountainous area of Ha Giang. If you like ethnic things, then try to visit the Meo Vac market on a Sunday morning and you’re sure to find something. If you’re looking for a destination to spend your Vietnam holidays that has all mountains and rivers, then look no further: Ha Giang Province has that all for you.
For a whole century and a half, the Nguyen Dynasty ruled Vietnam, establishing their capital in the old city of Hue. This was abolished in 1945, and nowadays, Hue is no longer exclusive to the ruling family. However, it is still commonly known as “Vietnam’s Imperial City”, due to its colorful history. Nevertheless, there are a lot of things that can be done here by the interested tourist who wants to explore the different places to visit in Vietnam. They can be awestruck at the temples and pagodas in this old city, they can stuff themselves with a delicious banquet dinner, and they can even spend some time relaxing by the Perfume River.
Photo by Gavin White | CC 2.0
Ba Bể National Park
The Ba Bể National Park is located in the Bắc Kạn Province of Vietnam, protecting the Ba Bể lake, a freshwater lake surrounded by a lush evergreen forest and limestone deposits. This lake can be considered pretty extraordinary because while usual karst limestone lakes, it never has a dry period and the water level stays arguably high throughout the whole year. If you enjoy going on nature trips, then going to this park should be on of your top things to do in Vietnam. There are a lot of Vietnam tours available if you want to go the easy route. You can avail of trekking tours, adventure tours, motorbiking tours, kayaking tours, and you can even book online for independent tours or custom tours.
Hội An, a relatively small city in terms of population size, is not just a Vietnam tourist destination, it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And it has been, since 1999. Aside from that, Hội An also hosts several museums, in order to properly portray their rich history as well as culture. These are the Museum of Trade Ceramics, the Museum of Sa Huỳnh Culture, the Precious Heritage Museum, and of course, the Museum of History and Culture. If you’re not much of a fan of history though and would instead prefer dining and shopping, Hội An is still worth a visit. Don’t forget to try out the local dish, Cao lầu!
Phan Thiết is a small but gorgeous Vietnamese city, located in the Binh Thuan province. It’s not often included in the list of Vietnam tourist destinations since it only mainly known as the gateway to a much larger destination, Mui Ne, but it does have a lot of merits on its own. Phan Thiết has a long strip of public beach, where tourists can take a walk and relax in the darkness of the night. There is also the Ke Ga Lighthouse, located near the white-sand beach of Ke Ga. And if you’re going this route anyway, then you can also take a day trip to Ta Cu Mountain, where a two-hour hike can take you to the 59-meter long reclining Buddha. You shouldn’t miss the Fairy Stream as well, with its majestic limestone formations in vibrant colors.
About three hours from Phan Thiết you’ll find yourself in Dalat where you can witness some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Vietnam!
Trekkers, rejoice! Sapa, the capital of the Sapa District in the province of Lao Cai in Northern Vietnam, is known to be one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the whole country. It has been voted as the best trekking spot in Vietnam, with all its mountain ranges and terraces. Make sure to hike a trekking guide if you want to try this activity though. The paths here are rather dangerous, so having someone more knowledgeable to guide you will save you a lot of headaches and potential trouble. After this, don’t forget to visit the Sapa Radio Tower in order to get a 360-degree view of the nature around you. And to make the memories last, be sure to drop by the market to buy durable handmade bags, jewelry, and all sorts of other products!
As you can see, Vietnam is a very diverse country, filled to the brim with a variety of activities and tourist destinations. With all these places to Vietnam, there’s no need to fret. Whether you’re a history buff, a cultural geek, a thrill-seeker, a shopaholic, a food enthusiast, or a nature-lover, Vietnam’s definitely got it all for you.
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- Have you been to any of these destinations?
- If not, which of these places to visit in Vietnam caught your attention?
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