As a country starting with V according to Countryaah, Vietnam is a fantastic destination with countless fascinating attractions. For example, you can explore the ancient Hindu ruins surrounded by magnificent mountains, cruise along the rugged karst islands in the emerald green waters of Halong Bay, or relax on the tropical paradise island of Phú Quốc.
Below you can read more about 10 fascinating sights that you can experience on your trip to Vietnam.
Cruise the beautiful Halong Bay
You can best enjoy the fabulously beautiful scenery of Halong Bay on a cruise ship that slowly sails through the emerald green waters of the bay amidst steep karst islands. There are more than 1,600 islands and islets in the whole bay.
The Gulf of Halong was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994 due to its unique and still quite untouched nature. The beauty of the bay comes into its own, especially on a leisurely boat cruise. The ship’s route winds through enchanting landscapes, with fantastic views of the green islands from the deck. In addition to admiring the scenery, the cruise offers much more to do and see. On some ships you can borrow a kayak and go paddling to explore the impressive nature of the bay and the mysterious caves a little closer. You can also swim in the beautiful green water or just rest and relax.
The cruise route also passes small floating fishing villages whose residents have adapted to the conditions of the bay for thousands of years during their long history. However, the lifestyle of fishing villages has changed significantly since the recent change in the law. The villagers have had to move to the mainland partly because children want to get a decent school and partly because the pollution threatening the Gulf of Halong could be stopped.
Colorful lanterns in the old town of Hoi An
Hội An is an incredibly well-preserved old trading town, with an old district to experience the atmosphere of historic Vietnam.
Hoi An Old Town was one of the most important port cities in Southeast Asia in the 17th and 18th centuries, attracting merchants from all over the world. The influence of many foreign travelers is still evident today in the charming architecture of the district. There are a total of about 800 old but very well preserved buildings in the area, 28 of which are open to the public.
Interesting places in the old district include Chinese temples, houses from the French colonial period and many charming little streets.
One of the most popular attractions is the Japanese Bridge , one of the most famous landmarks in all of Vietnam. Built as the name implies, the Japanese-style bridge dates back to the 18th century, when Japanese residents of Hoi An decided to arrange an easier route to the Chinese Quarter on the other side of the river.
The riverside scenery of the Thu Bồn River, which flows through Hoi An, provides the perfect setting for an evening stroll. The city is famous for its colorful lanterns, and when they are lit when the evening comes, the light reflected from the surface of the water creates a magical atmosphere on the river bank.
There are many cozy restaurants along the river that serve delicious Vietnamese dishes. Many also teach the preparation of authentic Vietnamese food. In the vicinity of the river there are also small markets and marketplaces where fishermen gather early in the morning to trade their catch.
Sail under coconut palms in the Mekong Estuary
The Mekong Estuary in southern Vietnam is about 40,000 m2 in size. The estuary consists of many small rivers and streams that form a huge lace-like labyrinth.
The mighty Mekong River flows from its sources for 4,500 kilometers through as many as six countries before it reaches its estuary. The lush environment of the Mekong Estuary provides a breeding ground for many different species and also creates an excellent setting for agriculture. In particular, the booming rice production has given the Mekong estuary the nickname “Vietnamese food barn”.
On a boat trip in the estuary, you sail along small rivers and streams, which form winding paths between green palm trees growing in the water of the estuary. Along the way, you can meet local merchants selling watermelons, coconuts and pineapples from their boats.
The conditions of the estuary may seem impossible from our point of view, but people still live and work here. On the boat trip you will pass small local rural villages where you can, for example, visit a rice paper mill and get to know the family that makes roofs from coconut palm leaves.
Underground Củ Chi tunnels
The Củ Chi tunnels near the city of Ho Chi Minh belong to an almost city-sized underground tunnel system that served as a base for Vietkong guerrillas during the Vietnam War in the 1960s.
The total length of the Củ Chi tunnels is 120 km, and the tunnel network once had everything the Vietcong guerrillas needed in the middle of the war – from hospitals to kitchens and command centers.
Some of the tunnels are so narrow that only very sloppy people can pass through them. However, it is possible to visit some underground corridors, as some of the tunnels have been built wider and reinforced with cement.
For example, you can walk underground along a 100-meter-long corridor that runs to a depth of seven meters. The corridor is passed through a narrow tunnel where the Vietkong guerrillas hid in the middle of the war. At some points the tunnels are illuminated, but in places they are pitch black. So you get to experience what life has been like inside the tunnel system during the war.
In addition to the tunnels, there are many small cavities dug in the forest in the area, where Vietnamese soldiers also hid during the war. The cavities are so small that most adults today can’t fit to crawl inside them.
Sapa rice terraces, mountains and culture
In Sapa, in the northern part of Vietnam, at an altitude of about 1500 meters, you can experience the most amazing nature experiences in Vietnam. Surrounded by the Hoàng Liên Sơn Mountains, Sapa is known for its magnificent scenery and beautiful green rice terraces.
It is Sapa’s diverse and beautiful nature that makes it one of the best hiking destinations in Vietnam. For example, hike from the village of Ta Van to Lao Chai, a residential area of the local Hmong people. Vietnam is home to about a million people belonging to the Hmong ethnic group, whose residential areas are mainly mountainous areas on the northern border. The Hmong people are divided into many different groups that you can distinguish from each other, for example, by the color of their clothes.
The hike takes you past the dazzling green rice fields and rugged mountains, but in addition to the natural scenery, you can also get to know the local life of Sapa. When you are hurting a mountainside, you can see, for example, farmers plowing their fields with bull-drawn plows or harvesting rice.
In addition to the Hmong, Sapa is also home to many other ethnic minorities, such as the Yao, Zay, and Ha Pho peoples. Each ethnic group has its own traditions, dress styles and customs, and Sapa is the most culturally diverse region in all of Vietnam. These ethnic groups live throughout the areas around Sapa, but many travel regularly to Sapa to sell rice, corn and handicrafts, for example.
Asia is wrongly interesting local markets and markets, and Vietnam is no exception. The Vietnamese market sells everything from fresh fish to fine silk scarves.
One of the best is Hoi An Central Market, located on the banks of the Thu Bồn River. The market opens early in the morning, when you can buy fresh fish from local fishermen, for example. As a fish button, you can buy delicious spices and herbs used in Vietnamese dishes .
Local colorful silks in all their forms are also popular. The tailors are, in fact, reserved an entire section of the market area where you can buy the cheapest custom-made clothes in Vietnam. If you plan to shop, keep in mind that many merchants ask for a brisk overprice on their products. So here you have a good opportunity to practice your bargaining skills .
On weekends, you can visit the Hanoi Weekend Night Market, where you will find charming souvenirs and delicious street food, among other stalls. The evening market is incredibly colorful, lively and busy, and here you can also see locals living in the capital shopping and listening as street musicians dressed in traditional costumes play Vietnamese music to the delight of shoppers.
The historic buildings around the square are beautifully lit, so a tour of the market can also be taken as a light sightseeing tour.
You can also enjoy dinner at the market, where many food stalls sell more delicious dishes. Taste, for example, a Hanoi specialty, Bún Chả noodles.
The white sandy beaches of Phú Quốc
On the tropical island of Phú Quốc, you will find miles of sandy beaches and swaying palm trees. The island belongs to the county of Phú Quốc, which consists of 28 islands, of which Phú Quốc is the largest.
The marine nature surrounding the island is incredibly diverse – for example, there are as many as 135 different species of colorful coral fish. With good luck, you can also spot a broth turtle or a loggerhead turtle.
There are also short day trips from Phú Quốc to other islands in Phú Quốc County. One of these is the idyllic Hòn Xưởng, which is said to be the most beautiful island in the whole region. Hòn Xưởng has no resorts, so it seems almost deserted, hence its nickname Robinson Crusoe Island .
Phú Quốc Island offers many other fascinating nature experiences. Half of the island’s area is part of a protected national park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can visit the park at Khu rừng nguyên sinh forest reserve, which can be reached from the village of Gành Dầu. In the park you can see, among other things, exotic birds and with good luck also monkeys and otters.
Mỹ Sơni Temple Area in Hoi An
The temple area of Mỹ Sơn, consisting of the ruins of historical Hindu temples, is located about 40 km from Hội An. Temples were built between the 300s and 12th centuries for religious ceremonies in the Cham dynasty, but they were also used as royal burial sites.
The first temples dedicated to Shiva-God were built of wood, but they were destroyed by fire in the 5th century. Many of them were rebuilt, and there have been more than 70 different temple buildings in the area.
Shortly after the last temples were built in the 13th century, the area was abandoned. It remained in oblivion until 1898, when the Frenchman MC Paris “rediscovered” it.
Today, the temple area, which is about two kilometers wide and surrounded by mountains, has been partially restored. In the temple area you can admire the many beautiful and impressive ruins that over the years have partially blended into the surrounding nature.
Huến Imperial Fortress
On the banks of the Huong River – nicknamed the Perfume River – is one of Vietnam’s UNESCO sites: the Imperial Fortress of Huế. Huế was the capital of Vietnam from 1802 to 1945, when the imperial family lived in the fortress.
Inside the sturdy stone walls surrounding the fort are a number of impressive buildings, temples, pagodas and towers modeled on the Forbidden City of Beijing.
The southern entrance to the fortress is the famous Ngọ Môn Gate, which in fact consists of several different gates. Only the emperor was once allowed to pass from the middle entrance. The emperor also used to follow the exercises of his army from the plateau above the Ngọ Môn gate.
As soon as you enter the Ngọ Môn gate, you arrive at the Palace of Supreme Harmony, or Throne Palace, where the emperor’s main ceremonies were held.
The fortress includes many fascinating buildings, such as the former emperor’s private residence and other historic building complexes and pavilions. Although part of the fortress was destroyed during the Vietnam War, it has for the most part been successfully restored, and today the imperial fortress is one of Huến’s most interesting sights.
Street kitchens in Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnamese food culture is incredibly rich, and you can experience diverse taste experiences in different markets, local restaurants and street cuisine, for example.
You can sample Vietnamese traditional delicacies in the street kitchens of Ho Chi Minh City, for example. When the evening comes, a lot of small “pop-up restaurants” and street kitchens appear in the street scene, where the locals are happy to enjoy their evening meal. The next morning, the small restaurants have disappeared from the scenery again.
If you want an authentic cultural experience, sit down and enjoy dinner on a small plastic chair in a pop-up street kitchen or restaurant at a small plastic table. A delicious alternative is, for example, the Vietnamese national dish phở, which is a noodle soup made with beef or chicken broth and seasoned with vegetables, meat and spices.
A tasteful addition to the street kitchen scene in Ho Chi Minh City is the Ben Thanh Street Food Market, whose stalls sell as delicious and almost as affordable food as Vietnamese street kitchens. The food market has 20-25 stalls specializing in Vietnamese food, where you can buy crispy spring rolls, tasty seafood dishes and much more. There are also several bars near the food market where you can get a feel for the nightlife of Ho Chi Minh City.
Vietnam offers a myriad of different experiences – there is something for everyone in the country, whether you are a nature lover, a cultural enthusiast or a beach lover!