The 15 Best Places to Visit in Vietnam

By on May 30, 2019 in Asia, VIETNAM with 2 Comments

The 15 Best Places to Visit in Vietnam

Before I stepped foot across the border, I honestly had no idea how delightfully diverse, climatically different, geographically various and huge Vietnam was – seriously poor research on my part I know!

Which is why I ended up only having 15 days in this country and running around like a lunatic trying to squeeze in as much as a I could!

But squeeze in as much as I could, I certainly did… and that’s taking into account the large distances between locations in this, long thin country too!

Needless to say I left Vietnam pretty exhausted, but very happy, because this place is truly spectacular and I absolutely loved my time here.

No question I’ll be back, but until then, here’s my list of the 15 best places to visit in Vietnam.


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#1 Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, Pink Church

Stay: DaBlend Hostel

Coming in at number 1 on this list of the best places to visit in Vietnam, it’s probably my favourite city in the country – Ho Chi Minh.

I absolutely loved my time here and ended up spending longer than I planned because there’s so much to see and do both in and around the city… and don’t even get me started on the food!

All the major tourist sights in District 1 are a great intro to Ho Chi Minh, but it’s all about getting out to the surrounding, more local areas, if you really want to soak in the colours, chaos, authenticity and charm of this place… as well as its best coffee!!

Highly recommended are district 10 and 3, where just wandering around, high as a kite on caffeine, and seeing what you stumble upon (including pink churches) is the quite the adventure!

READ MORE: Ho Chi Minh : The 17 Best Things To Do

 

#2 Phu Quoc

Cambodia, Koh Rong Sanloem, Sand

Stay: 9Station Hostel

This paradise island definitely offers Vietnam’s best beaches in my opinion, so if it’s sand, sea and sun you want, this is certainly the spot to head.

Every bit as beautiful as the idyllic spot of Koh Rong Sanloem in nearby Cambodia, Phu Quoc is however more developed and therefore more pricier, but worth it if you need some island time!

Diving, kayaking and motorbike jungle rides are all possible here, as well as the obligatory sunbathing, hammock-swinging and seafood feasting of course.

 

#3 Cu Chi Tunnels

Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, Cu Chi Tunnels

The Ch Chi tunnels lie north of Saigon, but are still within the Ho Chi Minh area, and therefore make a great day trip from the city as one of the best places to visit in Vietnam.

This is due, not least to the fact they provide a great opportunity to become more acquainted with the hugely complex and hugely horrific war in Vietnam that lasted many decades.

The option to actually crawl through the tunnels used by Guerrilla fighters here, which are set amidst dense jungle, really is quite extraordinary and gave me a whole new appreciation for how resilient, hardcore and determined these people were.

I took a tour to this location with TakeMeTour, which also included breakfast at a local café and lunch, as well as an excellent English speaking guide – such a super way to learn more about Vietnamese culture, history and politics.

 

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#4 Mekong Delta

Vietnam, Market, Food

I actually crossed through the Mekong Delta area – which is the kind of bulgy butt of Vietnam that juts out from Ho Chi Minh – on my way to this city from Cambodia!

And if you cross the border from Kampot to Ho Chi Minh too, you’ll do the same.

Stopping to take in the amazing floating markets here, as well as some of the excellent homestay experiences in this part of the country is a great opportunity to get into the very chilled pace of life along the delta.

Otherwise, you can visit the Mekong area on a number of popular day trips or overnight excursions from Ho Chi Minh.

Check out the trip offered by TakeMeTour – a company who employ local guides and who I’ve used across Southeast Asia – highly recommended!

 

#5 Dalat

Vietnam, Dalat, Bike

Stay: Cozy Nook Hostel

Feeling much more similar to north of the country given its mountainous landscape, Dalat is like a breath of fresh air after the sweaty south and definitely one of the best places to visit in Vietnam.

Due to the high altitude, the weather tends to be cooler here – perfect for all those outdoor activities on offer!

From trekking, mountain biking, canyoning and climbing, there’s no shortage of epic ways to soak in this area at its best.

Or, if you prefer things a bit more sedate, the old French colonial buildings make for some great snaps and you can’t miss the so-called “crazy house” either!

 

#6 Hoi An

Vietnam, Hoi An, Old Lady

Stay: Love.Ly Hostel

Probably the crown in Vietnam’s tourist crown, Hoi An is wildly popular, especially with tour groups, so definitely don’t expect to have this place to yourself!

What you can have however are some of the prettiest historic, colonial streets you’ve ever seen, pasted against the backdrop of a flowing river and gently swinging Chinese-style hanging lanterns.

This UNESCO beauty is also worth a stop for its great food and markets, as well as its nearby beach.

Small, charming and relaxed, it’s also a nice respite from the hectic pace of Vietnamese cities, so it really is no surprise this picturesque beauty always seems to keep travellers for longer than they plan!

And while you’re in Hoi An, don’t miss out on a trip to the fabulous nearby My Son ruins. Nearly deserted and surrounded in jungle foliage, this UNESCO site is one of the best set of temples I visited in Southeast Asia and can be visited easily by hopping on an inexpensive half day tour.

 

#7 Da’Nang

Vietnam, Danang, Marble Mountains

Stay: Terra Cotta Homestay & Hostel

Just north of Hoi An, Da’Nang is a large coastal city that apparently used to be something of a backwater, but now is certainly reinventing itself with a ton of tourist development going on.

Located right on the coast, Da’Nang actually makes a nice stop for a few days if you want to hit the beach and enjoy some good eating and nightlife.

The Golden Bridge is a popular, if not pricey trip, otherwise the abandoned waterpark, Marble Mountains, or the fire-breathing Dragon statue all are good cheaper alternatives!

 

5 PACKING ESSENTIALS FOR VIETNAM

#1 Lonely Planet Guidebook – The Vietnam Lonely Planet is excellent and very helpful for any trip to this country with lots of top tips and recommended places to eat.

#2 Walking Shoes – There’s likely to be a lot of walking in Vietnam, especially around those temples and cities! As such, I advise packing a pair of good runners, like these New Balance trainers, which were perfect for my time here.

#3 European & British Power Adapters – Vietnam has a mix of power outlets, but generally opts for a mix of the European and British ones, so make sure you come prepared with a Skross world adapter.

#4 Camera and Lens – I love my Sony A6000 mirrorless, which was ideal for capturing the colour, chaos and cuisine of Vietnam.

#5 Travel Scarf – A great multi-purpose travel item that can be used to safely store valuables as well as cover your shoulders while you explore many of Vietnam’s top sights, a travel scarf is a must for me!

 

#8 Hue

Vietnam, Hue, Imperial Citadel

Stay: Bon Ami Hostel

Once a home to an Imperial Citadel, there’s no doubt Hue has faded over the years, but this very relaxed city, set along a meandering river and still boasting the ancient citadel, as well as some nearby tombs (all of which you can visit in a day or 2) definitely makes this one of the best places to visit in Vietnam’s central belt.

 

#9 Tam Coc

Vietnam, Tam Coc, Boat

Stay: Tam Coc Central Bungalow

And now we begin creeping north on this list of the best places to visit in Vietnam as we hit Tam Coc, near the city of Ninh Binh.

Famed for its giant, limestone rock formations, this place has been described as “Halong Bay” on land!

You can motorbike or cycle through the incredible landscape here, as well as enjoy a boat trip to some caves and through rice padis.

Whatever you do, just make sure you get here – the sunsets are to die for and many rate it  as their fav spot in the whole country!

 

#10 Phong Nha

Vietnam, Phong Nha Hang Tien

Stay: Linh’s Homestay

UNESCO Phong Nha National Park is all about the caving…

…And what caving!

With the largest known cave IN THE WORLD, as well as some pretty epic runners up, this place is definitely one of the best places to visit in Vietnam and worth the slightly out of the way journey to get here.

Phong Nha is actually best slotted in between Tam Coc and Hue during your Vietnam route, with direct bus connections between both.

And once in Phong Nha, I recommend spending at least 3 nights here, so that you not only get to experience the caves near to town – like Paradise, Dark and Phong Nha, but also some of the further away beauties, such as Ha Tien and Hang En, care of some epic day trips with the great company Oxalis.

Indeed I took a 1 day trip with this company and absolutely loved it. 

The scenery, guides, trekking, caving and landscape were all superb and I only wished I booked far enough in advance to secure a place on a longer, mulit-day trip with these guys to be honest!

 

THE BEST TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR VIETNAM

I’d never even consider travelling to Vietnam without proper coverage and always recommend travel insurance from World Nomads who I’ve used throughout my time in this country and beyond.

I love that they cover of a wide range of adventure activities – which is definitely needed for a country like Vietnam – as well as their great customer service and the fact you can easily claim or extend your coverage while you’re still abroad, online.

 

#11 Ha Giang

Vietnam, Ha Giang, Motorbike

And now we head right up to the far north of the country, and about as close as China as you can get, care of the Ha Giang province, arguably the BEST place to visit in Vietnam by those who’ve been there.

Trekking day trips from the main access town of Dong Van are wildly popular, as are the markets and lookouts; but by far the jewel in the Ha Giang crown is the multi-day motorbike loop here, which one travel fanatic I met rated as the “best travel experience he’s had anywhere, ever.”

Food for thought indeed!

 

#12 Cat Ba Island

Vietnam, Cat Ba lsland. Boats

Stay: Secret Garden Hostel

And, following on from Ha Giang, another one of the best places to visit in Vietnam if you want to get away from the crowds is Cat Ba Island.

Situated over on the coast, a few hours journey from Hanoi, this island makes a super base if you want to explore the stunning coastal scenery nearby.

However the island is beautiful in its own right too.

Forget the town, which is a good accommodation base but otherwise awful, and head inland to the national park – here great hiking trails, nature and lookouts await you.

 

#13 Lan Ha Bay

Vietnam, Lan Ha Bay, Cruise

Desptie the national park situated at its heart, most people actually visit Cat Ba Island because they want to go to Lan Ha Bay, which is exactly why I went there too.

And I’ll let you in on a little secret…

… You’ll probably notice that the very famous Halong Bay is actually missing from this list of the best places to visit in Vietnam.

And that’s because it’s now become so overrun with tourist boats, ruined by pollution and is so horrendously expensive that I didn’t want to include it.

In fact, so many travellers I met in Vietnam relayed such awful experiences to me, that I didn’t even go to Halong Bay!

Instead, I went to the area just south of it, which is essentially the same landscape, just demarcated by a different name because it stretches into a different province.

And that name is Lan Ha Bay.

Lan Ha Bay is Halong Bay without the awful level of crowds or trash.

It is also way cheap to visit.

Just compare the price of a day trip to Halong Bay (which generally has to be taken from Hanoi at a cost of at least $150 USD) with a day trip to Lan Ha Bay from Cat Ba Island (price $23 USD).

Yup no brainer for me either!

Loved kayaking through caves in Lan Ha Bay with not a single other tourist boat around.

Winning!

 

#14 Sapa

Vietnam, Sapa, Green

THE place to go trekking in Vietnam, Sapa is again located in the north of the country and accessible from Hanoi.

Many companies based in the capital provide multiple day trekking trips, which include transport to Sapa, but you can also just get a bus to this town and then arrange a tour once you’re there.

Whatever you do, just don’t miss this epic destination, or one of its multiple day treks with a homestay – undoubtedly one of the best experiences you’ll have in the country.

 

#15 Hanoi

Vietnam, Hanoi, Old Quarter

Stay: Little Charm Hanoi Hostel

And last but not least, it’s the crazy capital Hanoi that makes it onto my list of the 15 best places to visit in Vietnam.

Allow yourself at least 1 day at either the start or end of your trip to soak in this bustling city – including its historic Old Quarter, its wealth of temples and its amazing coffee shops – my favourite of which had to be Hidden Gem… trust me, it is!

 

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And there you have it, my list of the 15 best places to visit in Vietnam.

Have you travelled this amazing country?

Which was your favourite place on this list or have I missed somewhere out?

Tell me all the in comments below…

 

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About the Author

About the Author: Creator of Big World Small Pockets, Stephanie Parker is a budget travel addict! Originally from Jersey in the Channel Islands, Stephanie backpacks the world collecting tips, advice and stories, to share with a smile .

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There Are 2 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Hey, Steph. I like your post. As an adventure seeker and history lover, one of the best places I love visiting in Vietnam is the Cu Chi Tunnels. What was your experience like? I hope you enjoyed it.

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