Top Tourist Attractions in Vietnam

Vietnam is a stunning mix of natural highlights and cultural diversity. The scenery ranges from winding mountain passes down to verdant paddy fields, while the nation's long history mean that culture explorers will find plenty to admire.

While the rural areas fill with awesome panoramas, the urban places breathe with contemporary life and provide ample chances to get stuck into Vietnam's tasty cuisine highlights.

Outdoor lovers can get their teeth into the countryside within the national parks, while the spectacular karst seascape of Halong Bay is one natural sight that can experience up close on a cruise.

1. Halong Bay

The karst shapes of Halong Bay is one of the world's most spellbinding sea views and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thousands of limestone islands locate within the bay in the Gulf of Tonkin.

There are plenty of caves in the bay that can be entered including the Sung Sot cave, Dao Go cave, with superbly fantastic stalagmites and stalactites. For most people though, the highlight is simply cruising amid the karsts and soaking up the changing scenery of the amazing nature.

The best way to get to Halong City is by car, minibus or bus (limousine) from Hanoi which is only 170km away, takes about 2,5 hours. If budget is not a problem, an hour-long helicopter transfer is also available.

2. Hoi An

Hoi An is the most charmed ancient city in Vietnam, with a bunch of surviving historic architecture. The old town quarter is a attractive to explore, packed to the brim with well-preserved merchant houses that hark back to Hoi An's trading center heyday of the 15th century, when the town was a major meeting space for Japanese and Chinese merchants who flocked here for the local silks. The best is 17th-century Tan Ky House, with fascinating architectural and decorative elements.

Hoi An symbol is the delightful Japanese Bridge at the western end of Tran Phu Street, while nearby, the Assembly Hall of the Fujian Chinese Congregation is the old town's most highly decorated temple. There are numerous small pagodas and museums dotted about town, but Hoi An's true charm is found in simply rambling the old town streets admiring the well-preserved facades.

3. Ninh Binh

Sweeping natural landscapes entice travelers to discover the rural scenery of Vietnam. Life for the locals in this quiet agrarian city is centered around farming. Lesser visited than other Vietnamese destinations, Ninh Binh sits inside jutting towers of limestone karst, similar to the iconic Halong Bay.

The city is a languid place, great for meeting locals and making new friends and works perfectly as an entrance into exploring the surrounding stunning countryside. Trang An Grottoes is a network of caves situated just outside of the city, an easy bike ride away – or take a day trip to the Tam Coc Area of Natural Beauty.

4. Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon to many of the locals, takes its names from the great communist leader himself and serves as a reminder of the Vietnamese military and social powers, the buzzing and crazy commercial hub of the country. The streets are an crowded clog of motorbikes and cars, the restaurant and café scene is incredibly cosmopolitan, and the shopping is the best in the country.

5. Hue

One of Vietnam's most historic towns, Hue was once Vietnam’s imperial capital, home to the ruling class, but much of its once resplendent palace was destroyed during the war. Sitting along the banks of the gorgeous Huong River, relics from the reign of the 19th-century Nguyen dynasty. One of the nicest ways of visiting a collection of outlying sites is by taking a riverboat cruise on the Huong River. If you're short on time, the best tomb to visit is the Tomb of Tu Duc and the most important pagoda in the area is the Thien Mu Pagoda, with its tower that soars for 21 m high.

6. Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park

World Heritage-listed Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park is a spectacular karst mountain formation honeycombed with giant caverns, which are happening weird and amazing stalagmite shows. The surrounding area is packed full of adventurous activities, such as exploring the strange and mystical cave networks of Phong Nha Cave. The most famous place within the park is the Paradise Cave, which extends for a staggering 31 km below ground.

7. My Son

Surrounded by lush jungle-covered mountains, My Son is a ruined Cham era temple city that dates from the 4th century. During the 4th to 13th centuries there was a unique culture on the coast of contemporary Vietnam, owing its spiritual origins to the Hinduism of India. This is graphically illustrated by the remains of a series of impressive tower temples in a dramatic site that was the religious and political capital of the Champa Kingdom for most of its existence.

8. Sapa Countryside

The town of Sapa in Vietnam is 350km northwest of Hanoi, located in Lao Cai Province. The verdant rice field countryside surrounding Sapa, bordered by the jagged peaks of the Hoang Lien Mountains (often still known by their French colonial era name of the Tonkinese Alps), are home to Vietnam's most beautiful rural vistas.

Sapa has the most of the spectacular views emerging on clear days; it overlooks a plunging valley, with mountains towering above on all sides. The deep valleys here are home to a diverse mix of the country's ethnic minorities, including the Hmong, Giay, and Red Dzao people, while the rippling hills are terraced with rice fields and overlooked by the country's tallest peak, Fansipan Mountain. This is the top trekking destination in Vietnam, with oodles of options to trek or day hike between tiny villages and experience the staggering mountain views.

9. Hanoi

Vietnam's capital is the frenetic heartbeat of the nation and a place that befuddles travelers as much as it charms them. The motorbike frenzy, pollution, and constant clamor of street vendors can get too much for some travelers, but if you want to dive into Vietnamese city life, Hanoi is the place to do it. Hanoi is a city brimming with beautiful architecture, an enigmatic youth scene and layers of history. Staying in the city’s old town means living amongst the crumbling, vine-covered facades of the French colonial architecture.

10. Nha Trang

The resort town of  is a thriving city on the South China Sea. The city sits on a long stretch of sandy beach that attracts tourists (too many for some) with its diverse marine life, clean waters and healthy reefs.. The well-maintained beach trundles for six kilometers along the shoreline of central Nha Trang city and during summer is jam-packed with local families on vacation, as well as foreign visitors.

11. Cu Chi Tunnels

A completely appealing experience for travellers, Cu Chi tunnels are a vast network of tunnels during the war, spanning more than 250 km, allowing Vietnamese soldier to operate and communicate in the surrounding area Ho Chi Minh City.

Two short sections of the network can be visited with a guide who'll take you down into the narrow unlit confines, which definitely are not for claustrophobia sufferers. You will literally be crawling on your hands and knees and some points.

12. Da Lat

In the south of Vietnam’s central highlands, Dalat is a cool spring city. With a fresher climate than other cities in the country, Dalat is an elegant rural city that is scattered with French colonial villas. Initially developed as a French holiday resort, the city has become somewhat of a romantic holiday destination for Vietnamese couples.

The streets filled with horse-drawn carriages and there’s a somewhat tacky Eiffel Tower-type structure overlooking the city. It isn’t all about romance though, those who are into adventure sports find their way here to try out a spot of mountain biking, trekking in the mountains or perhaps some white-water rafting.

13. Ha Giang

On the banks of the Lô River and surrounded by misty mountains, the city of Ha Giang is a place where time stands still. This lesser visited city in the north of Vietnam is surrounded by hills and valleys which are home to many different ethnic minorities. The cultural heritage of the area is evident in the city. On Sunday its lively market brims with people selling animals, fresh food and handmade goods.

14. Mekong Delta

The far south of Vietnam is where the mighty Mekong River finally finds its way to the sea in a maze of waterways that crisscross the floodplain. Incredibly lush, with paddy field vistas and mangroves, and full of local life, with chaotic floating markets to explore by boat, the delta is one of the most interesting regions for travelers to discover.

Can Tho is the most popular town to use as a base as it's close to the floating markets of Phong Dien and Cai Rang, while boat trips from Ca Mau allow you to explore the U Minh Mangrove Forest and Cau Mau Nature Reserve.

15. Mui Ne

Once a sleepy coastal fishing town, Mui Né has developed into a beautiful beach resort town and a prime destination for windsurfing, sailing, and kitesurfing. Compared to other beach destinations in Vietnam, however, Mui Né remains relatively unknown - and this means pristine beaches and a quiet retreat for most of the year.

One of Mui Né's most unique attractions is the natural Red Sand Dunes just outside town, where visitors can practice sand-sledding or rent dune buggies for a more adrenaline-charged experience.

Tucked away between nearby fishing villages and towering orange limestone formations, there's the Fairy Stream, a slow-moving warm stream that almost feels like a walkway because it's so shallow - follow it to the end to reach a waterfall. For those wishing to explore beyond the coastline, there's also the ruins of the Po Shanu Cham Towers - remnants of the Cham Empire that dominated the area many centuries ago.

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