A long, narrow country wedged between the South China Sea and the borders of Laos and Cambodia, Vietnam is a land of stunning landscapes that range from lush ri
ce terraces and forested mountains in the north to picturesque valleys in the Highlands. Central and the fertile delta and beautiful southern beaches.
Vietnam has seen its fair share of fighting. Ruled for almost a thousand years by various Chinese dynasties until 938 AD. C., Vietnam became a French protectorate in the 19th century. After independence came the Vietnam War.
Today Vietnam is a proud country and you can see why. Not just for fiercely defending its own independence, but for its incredible scenery and history.
The first words on everyone’s lips when talking about Vietnam are undoubtedly Halong Bay, a beautiful set of islands and karst formations off the north coast. Hanoi is the bustling capital full of motorbikes. Plan your trip to this beautiful tourist destination in Southeast Asia with our list of the best places to visit in Vietnam.
The year-round cool climate and idyllic landscape of misty valleys, lush pine trees and colorful flowers are some of the reasons Vietnamese emperors and French settlers used Dalat as a summer retreat. Today, this charming city in the South Central Highlands of Vietnam is a popular destination for honeymooners, weekend getaways, and those looking to relieve the heat.
A walkable city, Dalat is a beautiful scene of French colonial architecture and villas set amid picturesque landscapes. The city is well known for its royal palaces that were owned by the last emperor of Vietnam. These enchanting palaces are open for tours, as is Hang Nga Guesthouse, the city’s weirdest attraction. Informally called the “Crazy House,” this structure is a fantastical construction with caves, spider webs, and the shapes of animals and mushrooms.
Dalat’s lively market is a great place to find locally grown fruits, flowers, and vegetables, as well as handicrafts and silk-embroidered items.
Outside the city there are picturesque lakes, flower gardens, plantations and mountains that offer beautiful waterfalls and trails for hiking and mountain biking. A must-see is the Valley of Love, an incredibly beautiful valley with pine forests and lakes where tourists can enjoy pedal boating and canyoning.
2. My Son
Located on the central coast of Vietnam, near the town of Duy Phú, is the important archaeological site known as My Son. One of the most notable heritage sites in Southeast Asia, My Son was once an important center of Hindu religious ceremonies where the kings of the Champa Kingdom built numerous temples dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva, between the 4th and 14th centuries.
It is believed that it once contained more than 70 temples that were built with bricks and decorative carvings and sculptures with scenes of animals, priests, gods, mythical battles and inscriptions in Sanskrit and Champa. Today, My Son presents a complex of ruins in various states of disarray. and repair, all arranged in several groups.
Inside the site is a museum where visitors can view exhibits and artifacts to better understand and appreciate the ruins. Near the entrance of My Son there are some cafes, food vendors and a souvenir shop. At certain times of the day, visitors can watch live Champa dance performances. In addition, the site is surrounded by jungle, hills, and a lake where visitors can enjoy hiking and kayaking.
My Son is often visited by organized tour groups from Hoi An. However, visitors can also reach My Son by rental motorbike.
3. Phu Quoc
Phu Quoc is a picturesque island in the Gulf of Thailand. While officially part of Vietnam, it is actually closer geographically to Cambodia. Today, it is characterized by dense tropical jungle, soft sandy beaches, and rolling hills. But the island has a fascinating history, having served first as a French missionary base and then as a French colonial prison during the war, a grim reformatory you can visit today.
History aside, the island is most enticing for its alluring tropical nature. Days in Phu Quoc are spent sunbathing on sandy beaches, scootering through fishing villages, visiting pearl and pepper farms and, if you feel like it, hiking to waterfalls.
An island that is famous for its seafood, don’t miss the opportunity to try the famous Phu Quoc fish sauce (nuoc mam). You can even visit one of the fish sauce factories while you’re here!
4. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
Tucked away in the Quang Binh province in the Central Coast region of Vietnam, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is one of the most picturesque parts of the country. With a solid reputation as the filming location for 2017’s Kong: Skull Island, and with a nearby international airport, the national park is more popular than ever.
Opened to the public in 2010, the attraction of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is an escape from the city. Here, you’ll live life in the slow lane as you traverse the jungles of Kong at your own pace.
Home to 400-million-year-old karst mountains, there are hundreds of caves and secret rivers to explore. Son Doong cave is a must see. Home to its own hidden jungle, microclimate and underground river, it is one of the largest caves on Earth.
Due to its location near the border with Laos, access to the park is strictly controlled and visitors can expect to find a heavy military presence here. This is mainly due to its history of war: the park has one of the highest amounts of unexploded bombs in the world, so visitors can only visit this place with a licensed tour guide.
5. Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is the largest city in all of Vietnam. It is also the former capital of the Republic of Vietnam. When Saigon fell to the north in 1975, it was renamed HCMC, but its former name is still used today, particularly when describing the beating heart of the city.
Hoi Chi Minh City has a bit of everything: temples, museums, parks, and tourist shops. Whatever your interests, you’ll find something to do here. Head to the top of the Saigon Skydeck for an astonishing 360-degree view of the city, especially impressive at night when the lights twinkle below.
History buffs shouldn’t miss out on exploring the mysterious network of Cu Chi tunnels, the headquarters for many military operations during the Vietnam War.
The five floors of the Reunification Palace, also known as the Independence Palace, are also a fascinating place to visit. It is a famous place in the history of Vietnam as it captures the moment when Saigon fell when a tank broke through the palace gates. A replica of this very tank can be seen on the grass outside the palace.
If you are curious to know more about the war, you will enjoy a visit to the War Remnants Museum or the Museum of Vietnamese History.