Vietnam is a country that is very special in the hearts of travellers. Whether you are a student backpacker, a business person, or a family on vacation, Vietnam will steal your heart and your breath away.
Long ignored by neighbouring China, Cambodia and Thailand, Vietnam is a country where your senses and your imagination come alive. Your photo albums will be filled with images of ancient ruins, imperial capitals from yesteryear, dramatic natural scenery and the faces of friendly citizens welcoming you to their beautiful country.
Vietnam is a long thin country with numerous places to explore and fall in love with. Because of this it can be a bit tricky trying to visit everywhere you want to go. This article provides you with the top ten destinations in Vietnam to provide you with a taste of what this remarkable country has to offer.
A trip to Vietnam cannot be complete without visiting the beautiful capital so why start anywhere else? Hanoi may be a small capital, but its welcoming atmosphere will charm everyone who visits.
From a small Bronze Age village to a thriving modern city, Hanoi has something to offer everyone. If you only have 24 hours here, a trip to Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum is a good start. From here, it is only a stone’s throw away from the One Pillar Pagoda and Ho’s House.
The Temple of Literature is a beautiful and interesting location where history comes alive and awakens your imagination to what it would have been like centuries ago. Behind this is the Fine Arts Museum where you can continue to feast your eyes. The next site to visit is the Museum of Vietnamese History and the nearby Opera House which are both well worth a visit.
Around the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake there are dozens of charming little cafes to refresh yourself. Afterwards you can pop over to the charismatic Ngoc Son Pagoda on an island in the middle of the lake before setting off to do a little bit of shopping on Nha Thao, Ly Quoc Su and Hang Gai Streets.
To finish off the night, head on down to Hang Hanh Street where there are many bars, cafes and restaurants to choose from. Sit back with a well-earned drink and wander the streets taking in the atmosphere.
Both charming and beautiful, Sapa captivates all who visits. Situated in the north of the country, Sapa takes her charms from the diverse ethnic groups who live nearby and the breath-taking Fan Si Pan, Vietnam’s tallest mountain which overlooks the town.
Although there are new hotels springing up, the old French buildings still retain the beauty and the charm of the colonial period. With Fan Si Pan in the background, Sapa has a decidedly Alpine feel with a South East Asian twist.
A pleasant place to unwind and soak in the atmosphere Sapa has a few places well worth visiting. The Sapa Church was only built in 1930 but it has a legacy of local and bloody legends. Next, take a trip up to Dragon’s Jaw Hill where you can take in the exquisite natural beauty of the surrounding region. More than this, local ethnic groups perform native dances on the mountain. For those of you who take an interest in local cultures, the Sapa Museum with its collections of ethnic costumes and other artifacts should be visited next.
Around Sapa is a collection of different villages. Strolling through these villages is definitely a highlight of any trip to Vietnam. The villagers here have gained prosperity and welcome tourists with open arms. The magnificent scale of the lush green rice terraces will simply steal your breath away.
Danang is the third largest port city and is situated in the central region. It has a high-energy atmosphere with its spectacular beaches and three World Heritage Sites on its doorsteps, making Danang a popular location.
Originally the city was known as Cua Han (‘Mouth of the Han River’) and was then renamed Tourane by the French colonists. Next it was given the name Thai Phien and then finally Denang. It was the home of the great Champa kingdom, which was overthrown in 1471. Today there are around 90,000 Cham still living in the region.
Due to its magnificent history, a trip to the Cham Museum should be first. The Museum houses many collections dedicated to the kingdom, including religious artifacts and Champa art, which was influenced by Indian, Indonesian and other Asian cultures.
Beach babies will not be disappointed. China Beach used to be highly praised in rock songs but still deserves this today even though it is much quieter now. Locally it is known as My Khe Beach and was named China Beach by the American GIs who came here on retreat. The Bac My An Beach is situated 8km from the city centre and is just as lovely.
The Marble Mountains overlook Danang and were so named by the Nguyen Emperor Minh Man in 1825. In reality they are five limestone crags with marble outcrops and locals believe they represent the five elements. At the base of the mountains are many villages, which sell exquisite marble carvings. These mountains hide many grottos, pagodas and cave temples for visitors to explore and marvel at.
Saigon is a hot destination, full of bustling energy, traffic and fancy restaurants, bars and shops. Known as the Pearl of the Orient, Saigon is the largest city in the country. It started as a Khmer trading and fishing village but soon came under Vietnamese power in the late 17th century.
The city was destroyed and then rebuilt by the French forces in 1859 and given the name Saigon which means ‘wood of the kapok tree’. In 1975, it was officially renamed Ho Chi Minh City but still answers to the name Saigon.
There are many places in Saigon that you should not miss out on. You shouldn’t pass up on visiting the Cu Chi tunnels where you can put yourself in the shoes of the Viet Cong and experience the tunnels as they did during the war. The Cao Dai Great Temple is 96km outside the city but the religious ceremonies held every morning more than make up for an early day trip.
Shop till you drop along Dong Khoi Street and fill your suitcases with clothes, jewelry, bags, silk accessories and local handicrafts. Visit the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral, the Reunification Hall (or Presidential Palace), and Botanical Gardens and Zoo before enjoying a drink on one of the city’s hotel rooftop bars and watching the sun set or the boats sailing past on the river.
Can Tho is a rapidly growing town situated in the middle of the Mekong Delta. It started as a small settlement during the 18th century but prospered under the hands of the French authorities. Today, it is a thriving community and the ideal base to visit the many floating markets in the surrounding region.
These floating markets are held daily and are busiest from 6 – 9am. You can rent sampans from the locals for around 20,000 per hour for two people, or 30,000 for up to four people. It is best to arrive as early as possible before the tourist boats start to arrive.
Vietnam is a country that offers something for all travellers no matter their budget or timeframe. A land of diversity, no matter if you are looking for stunning scenery, meeting hill tribes, the history and culture of the cities, or architectural and scenic gems, it is all waiting for you in this beautiful and distinctive land.