If you’re considering visiting South East Asia in the near future, click here for our list of can’t miss place to visit in Vietnam!
From the floating markets of the Mekong Delta to the bustling street food vendors of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam is a wonderland of unbelievable sights and unique experiences.
If you’re lucky enough to find yourself traveling here, one challenge you’ll face is deciding which of the mind-blowing cities, rice paddy-filled countrysides, and awe-inspiring natural wonders to visit first.
There is a lot to choose from.
So take a look at this list of the 9 most amazing places to visit in Vietnam. (And get out a pen, because you’ll probably want to take notes.)
1.) Ha Long Bay
The unique karst topography of Ha Long Bay, where limestone pillars and islets rise up from an otherworldly turquoise sea, is unlike any place on earth.
Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Quang Ninh Province on the northern coastline, and it’s one of the most popular destinations in Vietnam for a reason.
The name Ha Long means “descending dragon,” and there is certainly a fantasy-like element here. While many travelers claim that taking a cruise through the Bay is an absolute must, there is also an abundance of hiking, biking, kayaking, snorkeling and other adventurous activities.
Make sure you plan to spend at least a few days in this epic natural wonder.
2.) Sa Pa
When you picture the iconic, sloping, multicolored fields of the rice terraces of Vietnam, you are probably thinking of Sa Pa.
Nestled among picturesque mountains, the geometric patterns of the blues and greens of rice paddy cultivation decorate this ancient countryside.
Located in the Lao Cai Province, in the very northern part of the county, the region is lush with quiet, traditional villages, and waterfall-rich hikes.
There are five different tribes that live in the area, and it is common for families to invite you into their home to experience the local food and drink, and to learn about their culture.
You couldn’t find a stronger contrast to Sa Pa than the vibrant streets of the capital city of Hanoi.
The city is ablaze with motorbikes, street vendors, and so much delicious food that you won’t know where to begin.
The Old Quarter is the rich, historic heart of the city where lanterns hang from fig trees and markets sell anything you can dream of.
Nearby is the Hoan Kiem Lake, one of the most beautiful places in Hanoi, where you can take a rest from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Other must-see sites include Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology and the Temple of Literature. You could spend a month in Hanoi and never run out of things to do.
4.) Ninh Binh
From Hanoi, you can catch a bus to Ninh Binh, which is often described as the Ha Long Bay on land.
Located in the Red River Delta, the surreal limestone mountains are chock-full of stunning hiking trails, hidden caves and ancient temples. The Bai Dinh Pagoda boasts the largest Buddha statue in all of Southeast Asia.
Whether you travel by bicycle, on foot, or decide to take a boat tour through the meandering rivers, Ninh Binh is guaranteed to be one of the most beautiful sites to see in Vietnam.
5.) Mui Ne
The coastal region of Mui Ne is known for its stretches of red and white sand dunes that make you feel like you’re in a desert at sea.
It’s proximity to Ho Chi Minh City makes it a desirable destination, and it’s laid-back beach resorts are a welcome change from the electric city atmosphere.
Visit quiet fishing villages to learn about the local people, and make sure to plan a hike to the Fairy Stream, a magical, winding trek through amazing views that are often compared to the Grand Canyon. The stream itself is only a few inches deep, so you’ll feel like you’re walking on water.
6.) Phong Nha
If you’re someone who’s fascinated by the natural wonders of caves, then you’re not going to want to miss Phong Nha.
Located in central Vietnam, Phong Na-Ke Bang National Park is home to Hang Son Doong, the largest cave in the world. Many travel junkies say that this is the single most amazing place they’ve ever seen.
The enormous cave was only recently discovered, making it that much more magical.
Hue is one of the most historic cities in Vietnam. Located on the Banks of the Perfume River, Hue was the home-base of the Nguyen Dynasty from 1802-1954.
The centrally located citadel of the Imperial City should be at the top of your list, as it is often compared to the Forbidden City of Beijing.
There is no shortage of ancient architecture and historical relics, so if you find yourself short on time and can only visit one tomb, check out Minh Mang’s, the second emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty.
8.) Hoi An
Another historic city located in central Vietnam, with a much different atmosphere, is Hoi An.
Described by many travelers as the most beautiful city in Vietnam, this is another destination that has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Hoi An was a trading mecca for Chinese and Japanese merchants at the turn of the 15th century, and there are plenty of preserved merchant homes that you can tour, to get a glimpse of what life was like at that time.
Take a stroll through picaresque Old Town, which is lined with traditional wooden houses, and shop for tailor-made clothes or souvenirs to take back to your loved ones.
There is also a stunning Lantern Festival that happens every month. It takes place the day before every full moon, so try to schedule your visit accordingly.
9.) Da Nang
A short trip from Hoi An will find you in Da Nang, the fourth largest city in Vietnam, located at the start of the Han River.
This is a great place to rent a motorbike, to help you explore the “City of Bridges.” This vibrant city is a smorgasbord of delicious foods, from the traditional fish ball soup to the fried chicken feet (but they also have amazing wings for you less adventurous eaters).
And while you are in Da Nang, make sure to take a day trip to visit the My Son ruins, an archaeological wonder that dates back to the 4th century. This eerily beautiful collection of abandoned temples was once a sacred location for sacrifices to the Hindu god Shiva.
So Much to Do, So Much to See
Vietnam is a place unlike any other.
Besides experiencing all of the natural and historical wonders, make sure to eat lots of bahn mi sandwiches and sing karaoke whenever possible. Whether or not you decide to try some durian is up to you…
Ready to start planning your trip? Is your passport up to date?
Changes to the US’s passport requirements have left some travelers confused. Learn more about the new policies to make sure you’re ready to begin your life-changing adventure in Vietnam.