Known as one of the most beautiful south Asian countries, Vietnam is also a budget friendly destination. This southeast Asian country, lying on the eastern part of the Indo-Chinese peninsula, is specially made for those who want to save money but do not want to compromise on the experience while they explore. With various attractions in the country, that range from stunning natural landscapes, pristine islets and picturesque villages to war museums, colonial structures, and ancient citadels, Vietnam is an epic vacation destination. But with so many things to do and see, planning your travel itinerary as a first-time visitor can be a challenge. We have compiled a list of the best things to do in Vietnam for your first trip there (or your next)!
Get Exploring With This List Of The Best Things To Do In Vietnam
1. Visit The Historic Town Of Hoi An
This alluring town on Vietnam’s central coast is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a southeast Asian trading port dating from the 15th to 19th centuries. Hoi An offers a unique heritage that can be seen through its buildings and street plans which reflect the influences, both indigenous and foreign. It used to be a strategic port for Chinese, Japanese, Indian, French, Dutch, and Portuguese seafarers and traders until the mid-1800s, and later in 1999 was granted the status of a UNESCO heritage site. One of the best things to do in Vietnam is to enjoy Hoi An’s quaint cafes and independent shops on its signature cobbled streets, streetside markets, and of course the nightly lantern displays during Tết (the Vietnamese New Year).
2. Cruise Along Halong Bay
Considered one of Vietnam’s most beautiful spots, and one of the best places to see in Vietnam, Halong Bay is spectacularly impressive. It is located in northern Vietnam near the Chinese border, and is dotted with 1,600 limestone islands and islets rising from its turquoise waters. The name ‘Halong Bay’ translates to ‘descending dragon’ and covers an area of over 1,500 square kilometres and has been a designated World Heritage site since 1994. It is a vision of ethereal beauty that has been featured in various movies and features a wide range of biodiversity. If Halong Bay seems crowded, you can also try Bai Tu Long Bay, which is just a few miles away, offers the same jaw-dropping scenery but sees only a fraction of the visitors.
3. History From A Different Perspective: The Cu Chi Tunnels
Part of a massive war museum in Ho Chi Minh, the Cu Chi Tunnels will teach you about the infamous war that blighted Vietnam for decades. This enormous (120 kms) network of tunnels is located under the suburban Cu Chi District of Ho Chi Minh City for thousands of Viet Cong soldiers. This sprawling network of cramped passageways was an entire world unto itself, complete with trapdoors, living areas, kitchens, storage facilities, armoury, hospitals, and command centres. Through these tunnels, you’ll get a sneak peek of the underground life of Vietnamese soldiers back in 1948. Try this Vietnam tourist place and get a history lesson on your trip. This is one of the best things to do in Vietnam for some adventure.
4. Take Your Tastebuds On A Vietnamese Ride
One of the best things to do while travelling is trying local food, and Vietnamese cuisine is full of intriguing flavours. Considered one of the healthiest cuisines in the world, it has a variety that goes beyond pho and spring rolls. The cuisine’s most distinct quality is that it uses water or broth instead of oil while cooking and is therefore beneficial to overall health. So, experience the best delicacies in the country at a cost-friendly price wherever you go. Take a food tour in Hanoi to fall in love with quick, tasty meals made from simple ingredients. Whatever you cover, eating locally in Vietnam should not be skipped from your ‘things to do in Vietnam’ list!
5. Take A Boat Ride On The Mekong Delta
Known as the rice bowl of Vietnam, Mekong Delta is a network of distributaries in southwestern Vietnam, between Ho Chi Minh City and Cambodia. The river Mekong is Asia’s seventh longest river and after travelling over 4,000 kms from the Tibetan Himalayas (crossing through China, Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia) reaching Vietnam where it slows down to a more languid pace. The delta comprises dense green rice paddies, lazy canals (and streams), islands, villages on stilts, and a way of life that hasn’t changed for centuries — all of this making it a must see in Vietnam. Just hitch a ride with a cargo boat or go on a cruise to experience the region’s floating markets, uninhabited islands, wildlife, historical sights, and incredible landscapes.
6. Visit The Largest Island In Vietnam: Phu Quoc Island
The Phu Quoc district of Vietnam covers a total area of 574 square kilometres and is made up of 28 islands, most of which are uninhabited. Lying off the coast of Cambodia, this idyllic Vietnamese island is a haven for travellers hoping to escape the hustle and bustle of Vietnam’s cities. Along with idyllic beaches, romantic sunsets, evergreen forests, and a serene atmosphere, the island also boasts traditional villages, expansive nature parks such as Vinpearl Safari Care and Conservation Park and Buddhist pagodas. One of best tourist places in Vietnam, the island should not be missed! Don’t forget to hike through the dense forests of a UNESCO-listed national park—the Phu Quoc National Park and admire the gentle trickle of the Suoi Tranh waterfall there.
7. Trekking In Sa pa
A township located in northwestern Vietnam, in the Hoàng Liên Son Mountains, Sa Pa first became popular as a French hill station in the 1930s. Set on a 1,650 metres-high mountain ridge, the town boasts dramatic landscapes of Vietnam’s mountainous region, its vivid rice terraces, and a colourful market hosted and attended by the hill tribes from the surrounding countryside every Saturday. This cool, misty town is known as the hiking capital of Vietnam. Therefore, one of the best things to do in Vietnam is when you’re at Sa Pa relish these hikes that end in waterfalls, landscapes, rice terraces and hill-tribe villages.
8. Discover Vietnam’s Lost Imperial City: Hue
Renowned as the most royal city in Vietnam, Hue used to be the seat of the Nguyen dynasty from 1802 to 1945. The city of Hue is the capital of the Thua Thien Hue province in Central Vietnam, and is located on the bank of the Song Huong or Perfume river. The city’s history represents an outstanding demonstration of power of the Vietnamese feudal empire that once existed. One of the best things to see in Vietnam is the Imperial city of Hue. Its history can be experienced through Hue’s complex of monuments, tombs and pagodas, that attract tourists from all over the world. The Chinese-style Vietnamese imperial citadel Dai Noi, is a UNESCO-listed site that offers the grandeur of the former royal family. This former Vietnamese capital and modern-day city, along with temples and landmarks, offers a relaxing day out along the riverside.
9. Get A History Lesson In Ho Chi Minh City
Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is a blend of the old and the new, and one of the best places to see in Vietnam. You’ll find both towering skyscrapers and tree-lined streets with ageing villas here. The metropolis reverberates with the whirr of a million motorbikes offering fascinating culture, a hotchpotch landscape of French colonial architecture, pagodas, Soviet-style housing blocks, and sleek skyscrapers as well as venerable temples and pagodas. The city is home to over eight million people, and breathes life and vitality into all who settle here with its timeless alleys, incense-infused temples, chic designer malls, and sleek 21st-century skyscrapers.
10. Visit The Hidden Gem, Ninh Binh
Described as ‘Halong Bay on land’, Vietnam’s province Ninh Binh is located 100 kilometres south of Hanoi, and is blessed with natural picturesque scenery, beautiful historical and cultural sites. Confusingly, the province also has Ninh Binh town as its capital city, but when people refer to this part of Vietnam they are usually talking about the whole Ninh Binh district which comprises several towns, villages and key attractions. Nestled amidst limestone karsts, Ninh Binh province offers similar views as Halong Bay, but is less touristy and spoiled than its sister to the northeast. Of all of Vietnam’s tourist places, Ninh Binh isn’t known by many and is therefore unspoilt and untouched by tourists. Don’t miss the Tràng An Scenic Landscape Complex of the province which was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014. The complex’s village Tam Coc (also called Tam Cốc-Bích Động) offers stunning landscapes surrounded by lush green paddy fields and striking limestone outcrops.
Read More: Visit Vietnam’s hidden gem: Ninh Binh
11. Stroll Along The Golden Bridge
One of the best known tourist places in Vietnam is the Golden Bridge or Golden Hands Bridge. Also known as Giant Hands Bridge or Cau Vang (in Vietnamese), it’s located in the Da Nang province of Vietnam. The bridge is 150 metres long and is set high above the gorgeous greenery of the seemingly endless Ba Na Hills. It is 12.8 metres wide and is held up by two humongous, God-like stone hands. According to TA Landscape Architecture, the company that designed the reality-warping structure, the hands allude to the mountain god, and the bridge represents the yellow silk that instructs villagers to find Thien Thai (heaven) garden.
Which Of These Famous Vietnamese Locations Has Captured Your Attention?
Vietnam attracts tourists with the help of its staggering natural beauty, cultural complexities, dynamic megacities and hill-tribe villages. This exotic country will enchant you with its urban centres, time-honoured traditions, ancient landmarks and colonial structures. With such a compelling combination, whether you’re planning a historical tour, a relaxing beach break or simply want to escape the hectic city life, Vietnam has everything for everyone. Whatever you are looking for, remember to not miss out these 10 things to do in Vietnam, mentioned above. If we have missed any of your favourites, let us know in the comments below.