Vietnam (Socialist Republic of Vietnam)

Languages: Vietnamese

Currencies: VND · Vietnamese đồng (₫)

Capitol: Hanoi

Continents: Asia

Borders: Laos, Cambodia, China

More useful information

Area: 331,212km2

Population: 97,338,583

Traffic/driving side: right

Landlocked country: No

Independent country: Yes

United Nations member: Yes

IDD Prefix: +84

Timezones: UTC+07:00

Last updated on July 25, 2023

Imagine yourself immersed in a vibrant tapestry of history, culture, and breathtaking landscapes — this is the allure of Vietnam. A country rich in diversity and contrast, offering an array of experiences that make each visit as thrilling as the first.

From its bustling cities echoing with the honking of a million motorbikes to tranquil countryside filled with verdant rice terraces and age-old traditions, every corner of Vietnam tells its own tale.

The country’s main draw lies in its ability to harmoniously blend antiquity with modernity, making it a great destination for every type of traveler. You’ll be charmed by intricate architecture dating back centuries, and then dazzled by gleaming skyscrapers reaching for the heavens in the very next moment.

Join me as I delve into the heart of Vietnam and discover its abundant attractions, rich history, delectable cuisine, and much more. Whether you’re planning your first trip or seeking to relive cherished memories from past adventures, I guarantee there’s something new waiting for you here.

Buckle up and read on to unveil my handpicked list of the best places to visit and things to do in Vietnam!

Key Takeaways

  • Vietnam balances antiquity and modernity, from it’s bustling capital city to serene Hoi An.
  • Vietnam’s landscapes range from sandy shores and lush islands to majestic Halong Bay.
  • Sites like the Cu Chi Tunnels and Phong Nha Caves serve as testaments to Vietnam’s tumultous history.
  • Hue city offers insights into Vietnam’s regal past, featuring stunning imperial architecture.
  • Mekong Delta’s fertile lands offer a glimpse into traditional river-based life and unique culinary delights.

Exploring the Bustling Streets of Ho Chi Minh City

Every time I step out onto the bustling streets of Ho Chi Minh City, I can feel its energy.

The city, formerly known as Saigon, is a dizzying blend of traditional and modern influences. Skyscrapers tower over French colonial buildings, while street vendors peddle their wares amidst the constant hum of motorbikes — it’s a sensory overload that is quintessentially Vietnamese.

I recommend to start the journey in District 1, the city’s vibrant commercial hub. Here, you can find yourself standing before landmarks like the majestic Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon. A short stroll will take you to the Central Post Office, another architectural gem designed by Gustave Eiffel himself.

Exploring further, you can find the Ben Thanh Market. But Ho Chi Minh isn’t just about manicured parks and bustling markets. Venturing into the city’s back alleys reveals an entirely different world — one where locals huddle over steaming bowls of pho at roadside eateries and children play impromptu games of football amidst the labyrinthine lanes.

A visit to War Remnants Museum offers a sobering perspective on Vietnam’s turbulent past. The exhibits provide a stark reminder of the horrors of the war, leaving the visitors with a deep sense of respect for the resilience of the Vietnamese people.

Ho Chi Minh City always leaves me with an appreciation for its dynamic contrasts — where tradition mingles with modernity and history merges with progress. It’s this eclectic mix that gives this city its unique character and makes navigating its bustling streets an adventure in itself.

Venturing Into the Ancient Town of Hoi An

This ancient town, with its well-preserved architecture and a slow pace of life, offers a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of the Ho Chi Minh. Nestled on the banks of the Thu Bon River, Hoi An is a melting pot of cultures — a place where Chinese temples rub shoulders with French-style houses and Vietnamese tube homes.

Hoi An’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is an excellent spot to start your exploration. As you wander through its narrow lanes lined with mustard-yellow merchant houses, you’ll b transported to an era when Hoi An was a thriving port. Each house is a historical monument in itself, their wooden facades adorned with intricate carvings telling tales of prosperous merchants who once resided here.

A visit to the Japanese Covered Bridge (Chua Cau Temple Bridge) — one of Hoi An’s iconic landmarks — is a must. This charming bridge, with its ornate detailing and vibrant red hue, stands as a testament to the town’s multicultural heritage.

But it’s not just architecture that makes Hoi An special. The town’s famed tailoring industry is also worth exploring. Local tailors, known for their exceptional skill and speed, can whip up custom-made garments within hours.

When night falls, Hoi An transforms into an enchanting spectacle of lights. Hundreds of colorful lanterns illuminate the streets, reflecting off the river to create a scene straight out of a painting. It’s during these magical evenings that I truly appreciate the gentle charm of this town.

Discovering the Tranquil Beauty of Vietnam’s Famous Islands.

As you set foot onto the sandy shores of Phu Quoc — Vietnam’s largest island, prepare to be immediately struck by its serene beauty. With its white sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters and lush tropical jungles, Phu Quoc Island is a paradise for nature lovers and beach enthusiasts alike.

The island’s Long Beach offers an idyllic setting to soak up some sun or indulge in water sports.

From the Phu Quoc Island, I recommend setting sail for the Cat Ba Island. The largest island in Lan Ha Bay, Cat Ba is a sanctum of natural beauty and biodiversity, boasting lush forests, limestone cliffs, and emerald waters that teem with marine life.

From the Cat Ba Town, a lively port brimming with local eateries and charming guesthouses, you can head towards Cat Ba National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve that covers more than half of the island. As you venture into its dense forests, the symphony of chirping birds and rustling leaves creates a peaceful soundtrack to your exploration.

But Cat Ba Island isn’t just about vibrant landscapes. Its coastline is punctuated by serene beaches perfect for sun-soaked relaxation or exhilarating water sports. Among these, Cat Co 1 and Cat Co 2 are my personal favorites — their secluded coves fringed by rocky cliffs offer an idyllic retreat amidst nature.

A trip to Cat Ba Island would be incomplete without exploring its underwater treasures. Snorkeling in its crystal-clear waters can be a great introduction to the vibrant marine ecosystem teeming with colorful corals and exotic fish species.

Exploring the Majestic Wonders of the Halong Bay

If you visit Vietnam, you need to see the Halong Bay (Hạ Long Bay in Vietnamese), which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, located in northeastern Vietnam. Thousands of limestone karsts and islets, shaped by nature over millions of years, rise dramatically from emerald waters, creating a spectacle that will leave you spellbound.

An adventure in Halong Bay can begin aboard a traditional junk boat. As it glides through the tranquil waters, each turn reveals picturesque views that seem straight out of a fantasy novel.

But Hạ Long Bay isn’t just about scenic views; it’s also home to an incredible array of biodiversity. With the help of local guides, you can kayak into hidden lagoons and untouched caves to encounter diverse marine life — from colorful coral reefs to playful dolphins.

A visit to one of the bay’s floating villages offers a fascinating glimpse into local life. Here, families have adapted to life on water for generations, making their living through fishing and aquaculture.

As night falls, the bay takes on an even more magical guise. Sitting on the deck under a canopy of stars, listening to the gentle lapping of waves against the hull — it’s moments like these that encapsulate the enchanting allure of this place.

Exploring Halong Bay is more than just a journey; it’s an immersive experience that awakens your senses and resonates deep within your soul. Its majestic wonders serve as a reminder of nature’s immense power and timeless beauty — making it a destination worth cherishing.

Embarking on an Adventure in Phong Nha Caves – the biggest caves in the world!

As you set foot into the mystical world of the caves of Phong Nha, you’ll feel a sense of awe and anticipation. Nestled in the heart of Phong Nha National Park, this expansive cave system is a testament to nature’s wonderous creativity.

Phong Nha the biggest caves in the world – Vietnam.

Such journey usually begins with a serene boat ride along the Son River, with verdant jungle foliage on either side. As you approach the mouth of Phong Nha Cave, the limestone cliffs tower above your head, their rugged facades hinting at the marvels that lie within.

Inside, a labyrinth of stalactites and stalagmites awaits, their intricate formations shaped by water and time. As I navigate through dimly-lit passages and vast caverns, each corner reveals unique rock formations that stir up my imagination.

Beyond its natural wonders, Phong Nha also bears historical significance. The “Chamber of Weapons,” for instance, was once used as a munitions depot during the Vietnam War. Exploring these relics amidst such an otherworldly setting adds an intriguing layer to your adventure.

Journeying Through History in the Cu Chi Tunnels

The tunnels of Củ Chi , an extensive network of narrow passageways located near Ho Chi Minh City, are a poignant reminder of Vietnam’s past.

The tunnels were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots during combat in the Vietnam War. As you crouch and crawl through these claustrophobic passages, you can’t help but admire the resilience and ingenuity of the soldiers who lived and fought here under harsh conditions.

Exploring further, you can discover hidden trapdoors, living quarters, and even makeshift hospitals — all ingeniously designed to remain undetected by enemy forces. The experience offers a stark contrast to the tranquil rice paddies and lush jungles that lie above ground.

Emerging back into the daylight after your journey through through the tunnels will leave you struck by a profound sense of respect for the Vietnamese people’s indomitable spirit during one of history’s darkest chapters.

Touring the Imperial City of Hue.

Ho Chi Minh City is not the only metropolis worth your time. In fact, your list of things to do in Vietnam should also include Hue. Located in central Vietnam, Hue was once country’s political, cultural, and religious heart.

Now, it serves a stunning testament to Vietnam’s regal past.

The Imperial City, or the Citadel as it’s often called, should be your first stop. As you walk through its vast courtyards and grand palaces, you’ll be transported back to an era of emperors and royal courts. Each structure within the complex tells its own story — from the Thai Hoa Palace with its ornate lacquered pillars to the Forbidden Purple City, once home to the emperor’s personal concubines.

Just outside the Citadel lies another of Hue’s historical treasures — the Thien Mu Pagoda. Towering over the Perfume River, this seven-story pagoda is not only a significant religious site but also offers panoramic views of the river and beyond.

But what truly sets Hue apart is its collection of royal tombs. Located in tranquil settings along the Perfume River, these tombs were built as resting places for Nguyen emperors. Each tomb uniquely reflects the personality and taste of the emperor it was built for — from Minh Mang’s serene lakes and manicured gardens to Khai Dinh’s fusion of Eastern and Western architectural styles.

Sailing in a Traditional Vietnamese Boat in the Mekong Delta.

The mighty Mekong River flows through the Southeast Asia, starting in China, passing past Laos and Cambodia, and ends in the far south of Vietnam where it finally finds its way to the South China Sea.

There, the Mekong Delta is an incredibly fertile region, known as Vietnam’s “Rice Bowl.” It’s also a mesmerizing maze of rivers, canals, and islands where life is governed by the ebb and flow of its waters.

Sailing through the Delta’s waterways is a perfect opportunity to watch local life unfold in front of you. Wooden houses on stilts line the riverbanks, fishing boats cast their nets with deft precision, and children wave enthusiastically from the shoreline.

One your first stops can be the floating market — a defining feature of this area.

The lush islands scattered across the Delta are another highlight of such a journey. Each island offers its unique charm — from orchards laden with exotic fruits like durian and rambutan to traditional workshops demonstrating coconut candy making and honey farming.

But it’s not just about scenic landscapes and local culture; the Delta also offers culinary delights that can tantalize your taste buds. From slurping up a bowl of hu tieu — a hearty noodle soup — to biting into a fresh spring roll packed with herbs and shrimp, each dish is a flavor explosion that reflects the region’s abundant produce.

Vietnam – never cease to amaze…

…there’s no doubt that Vietnam, with its enthralling fusion of ancient and modern, can be a perfect place for travelers looking for a true array of diverse experiences.

From the bustling streets of Ho Chi Minh City, the tranquility of Hoi An, the idyllic islands of Phu Quoc and Cat Ba, the majestic Halong Bay, the mystical caves of Phong Nha, the historical Cu Chi Tunnels, to the regal city of Hue and the fertile Mekong Delta, the country never ceases to amaze.

It’s a land that tells tales of resilience and ingenuity, paints scenes of striking natural beauty, and invites exploration into its rich cultural tapestry. Whether it’s your first visit or a return trip, Vietnam always offers something new to discover.

Sassari Sardinia

Hey - I'm Eva!

Hiker, adventurous traveler and the author of this blog. My biggest joy is mountaineering and writing reportage travel stories here on this blog, to help you create a unique travel experience. Traveling is freedom, allows you seeing the world truly, meet communities, grow. Taste it!