Vietnam is a long country on the eastern coast of the Indochina peninsula. The country offers an incredible variety for visitors, from the towering pinnacles of Halong Bay and the cascading tea plantations of Sapa in the north, to the Mekong Delta’s lush rice paddies and Phu Quoc island’s sandy shores in the south, with charming towns & bustling cities in-between. Vietnam has allure in abundance.
Vietnam’s capital city Hanoi sits in the north of the country. This is one of the most appealing capitals in Asia, with old-word charm, a bustling old quarter, tree-lined boulevards and scenic lakes. The city’s Temple of Literature is one of the prettiest temples in the country, and Hanoi is also the home of Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, an imposing concrete edifice.
Hanoi is also the gateway to the rest of northern Vietnam’s highlights. To the east lies Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site comprising thousands of islands and islets dramatically jutting from the emerald sea. To the north-west, close to the border with China, Sapa attracts visitors with incredible mountain scenery and fantastic trekking. Ninh Binh sits to the south of Hanoi, and is often referred to as the ‘Halong Bay on land’ due to the limestone hills which punctuate an otherwise fairly flat landscape. The Pu Luong Reserve and Mai Chau valley are to the west of Ninh Binh, offering wonderful scenery to be explored by bike or on foot, and the chance to learn more about some of Vietnam’s hilltribes.
The central coast of Vietnam offers some of the country’s best beaches, particularly around Nha Trang and the Danang Coast. Close to Danang is the town of Hoi An, which is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. This delightful town is a pleasant place to stop for a few days, soaking up the culture including temples, merchant houses, bucolic countryside and some excellent restaurants.
For those looking for something more quaint than the glamourous resorts around Danang and Nha Trang, Phan Thiet and Mui Ne have still maintained a local fishing village feel. Mui Ne also boasts Vietnam’s only sand dunes! Whilst Phu Quoc is developing fast, this also feels much more untouched than some of the other islands in the Gulf of Thailand, and boasts huge sandy beaches. The Con Dao Archipelago is home to a number of uninhabited islands which can be visited on day trips from the main island, Con Son.
For those seeking adventure, Vietnam has plenty of options. As well as the northern areas of Mai Chau, Pu Luong and Sapa, the gorgeous countryside around the town of Da Lat in the Southwest Highlands also offers brilliant trekking, and it is also possible to do rafting and even canyoning here. Two of Vietnam’s most exciting national parks are Cat Tien and Phong Nha-Ke Bang. Cat Tien is one of the best places to spot wildlife in Vietnam, with an incredible array of bird species and several primate species. The limestone mountains in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park date back 400 million years, making them the oldest in Asia. The mountains conceal incredible caves, some of which have to be accessed by kayaking or swimming.