Vietnam is a country where ancient traditions, history, and natural beauty combine to create an unforgettable experience for travelers. From bustling cities to breathtaking countryside, there’s so much to explore in this Southeast Asian gem. Whether you’re planning to spend a few weeks or a few months here, we’ve compiled a list of the top things to do in Vietnam to help plan your trip.
Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is the biggest city in Vietnam and a fantastic mix of the old and new worlds. On one hand, it’s a chaotic metropolis with skyscrapers and busy streets, and, on the other hand, it’s filled with old temples, French colonial buildings, and wide boulevards.
Take a walking or cycling tour to explore the city’s highlights, including the beautiful Notre-Dame Cathedral, the War Remnants Museum, and the Reunification Palace.
Ho Chi Minh City is a vibrant and bustling city, filled with incredible landmarks that make it an ideal destination for photographers. From its iconic pagodas to modern skyscrapers, the city’s skyline is constantly changing and evolving.
Here are the best landmarks to photograph in Ho Chi Minh City:
Notre Dame Cathedral:
This French-built cathedral was constructed in the late 19th century and still stands tall today as one of the most iconic buildings in the city. The building’s neo-Romanesque style makes it a popular spot for photographers looking to capture shots of its unique architecture.
Central Post Office:
This beautiful post office is located near Saigon’s Notre Dame Cathedral. Built in 1886, it has remained largely unchanged over the years and is a great spot to take photographs of a classic Saigon landmark.
Known as Independence Palace until 1975, this stately building was formerly used by South Vietnam’s president Thieu. Its modernist architecture makes for an interesting subject for photography enthusiasts.
Jade Emperor Pagoda:
Located in District 5, this stunning pagoda is one of the best examples of Taoist architecture in the city. The intricate carvings, colorful decorations, and traditional statues make it an ideal place to capture some amazing shots with your camera.
Saigon Opera House:
Dating back to the late 1800s, this building is a classic example of French colonial architecture in Vietnam. Its grand facade makes it an ideal spot for photographers looking to capture shots of some of Saigon’s oldest buildings.
Bui Vien Street:
If you’re looking for some nightlife action, head to the vibrant Bui Vien Street, where you can find cheap beer, street food, and live music.
Hoi An, located on the central coast of Vietnam, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its well-preserved old town. The town is famous for its mix of Vietnamese, Chinese, and Japanese architecture and cobbled streets lined with lanterns.
Hoi An was once a significant trading port on the Silk Road, and its well-preserved historical sites provide a great window into Vietnam’s past. Take some time to explore the vibrant markets, museums, pagodas, temples and traditional houses. Don’t forget to visit the Japanese Bridge – one of Hoi An’s most famous landmarks.
Shopping & cuisine
Also, there are plenty of chances for shopping in Hoi An, ranging from local markets to upscale boutiques. Visit places like An Hoi Market or Dai Ban Village for unique souvenirs like silk lanterns and bamboo hats – you might even find some interesting antiques. Hoi An is also famous for its tailoring and you can get custom-made clothes from the local shops.
As a former trading post, Hoi An has developed its own unique cuisine that draws influences from Chinese, Japanese and French settlers who lived in Hoi An in centuries past.
The most popular dishes include Cao Lau Noodle Soup, White Rose Dumplings, Com Ga (rice chicken), Banh Xeo (Vietnamese pancake) and Che Bap (sweet corn pudding). You can sample all these dishes at any local eatery or food court to gain an understanding of Hoi An’s culinary culture.
Halong Bay is undoubtedly one of Vietnam’s top tourist destinations, and it’s not difficult to see why.
This iconic bay, located in Northern Vietnam, boasts more than 3,000 limestone islands rising from its emerald waters. A cruise on Halong Bay offers a stunning opportunity to see the limestone karsts up close and take in the picturesque views.
Here are the top 5 things to see in Halong Bay:
The Cua Van Floating Fishing Village
The Cua Van fishing village is an iconic part of Halong Bay’s landscape – and it happens to be the largest floating fishing village in Southeast Asia! It’s home to around 400 people who live on houseboats, catch seafood from the bay and take tourists out for day trips. A visit here will allow you to get a glimpse into traditional Vietnamese life, as well as some stunning views of the surrounding karsts. You can also try your hand at kayaking, swimming or even squid-fishing with locals.
Thien Cung Grotto (Heavenly Palace Cave)
Thien Cung Grotto is one of Halong Bay’s most popular attractions – and it’s easy to see why. This stunning limestone cave, nestled within one of the bay’s many islands, boasts a spectacular array of stalactites and stalagmites that have been carved into intricate shapes by the natural forces of erosion. It’s also home to a wealth of sculptures, wall paintings and even an underground lake.
Ti Top Island
Ti Top Island is another must-see attraction in Halong Bay. Here, you can climb up to the peak of this small island for some incredible views across the bay as well as nearby Cat Ba island. There are also plenty of activities available here, including kayaking and snorkeling – or just lounging around on the island’s sandy beach.
Bai Tu Long Bay
Bai Tu Long Bay is a lesser-known but equally stunning part of Halong Bay that often gets overlooked by tourists in favor of its more popular neighbors. Here, you can explore the untouched limestone islands and take in views of the emerald waters stretching as far as the eye can see – all from just a few meters away!
The Surprise Cave (Sung Sot Cave)
The Surprise Cave (or Sung Sot Cave) is an incredible grotto located on Bo Hon Island in Halong Bay. It consists of two huge chambers filled with fascinating stalactites and stalagmites, along with many other treasures such as fossils, stone flowers and crystals. The cave is also known for its small lake, which reflects the sunlight streaming in from the entrance – creating a magical atmosphere.
Sapa, located in northern Vietnam, is known for its beautiful rice terraces and friendly ethnic minority tribes.
The town is surrounded by mountains, making it an excellent destination for hiking and trekking. Spend time discovering the local minority tribes in the area and learning about their culture and traditions. It’s a fantastic opportunity to immerse yourself in the beauty of Vietnamese countryside life.
When exploring the Sapa countryside, there are some important things to keep in mind. First, respect the culture and customs of local people. Don’t take pictures or film without asking first.
If you wish to take photos or video, make sure you treat the locals with courtesy and kindness. Additionally, don’t purchase any items that could be seen as exploiting local culture, such as items made from endangered species.
It’s essential to be aware of your impact on the environment when visiting Sapa countryside. Stick to marked trails when hiking and trekking – do not wander off into nature without permission from a knowledgeable guide who can ensure regulated tourism.
Also, be mindful of how you dress when visiting the Sapa countryside and its hill tribes. Avoid wearing clothes that are too revealing, as it can be seen as disrespectful. Wear clothing that is culturally appropriate and comfortable for trekking – long shorts or pants are generally best.
Imperial City of Hue
Formerly the capital of Vietnam, Hue is a beautiful city situated on the banks of the Perfume River.
The city is famous for its ancient monuments, architecture, and significant cultural value, making it one of Vietnam’s most important historical destinations.
Explore the Imperial City where emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty once resided, and visit the tomb of past emperors on the outskirts of the city.
Nha Trang is Vietnam’s premier beach destination, with its idyllic white sandy beaches, coral reefs and clear turquoise waters. Relax on the beautiful beaches, soak up the sun, and enjoy some delicious seafood. It’s also an excellent destination for snorkeling and scuba diving.
With so many beaches to choose from, here are some of the best that Nha Trang has to offer.
Hon Tre Island is one of the most popular and scenic beaches in Nha Trang. Located just off of Nha Trang’s mainland, Hon Tre Island boasts stunning views, turquoise waters and white sand beaches. It can be reached via a cable car or boat ride across the bay. Swim beneath the surface and explore the beautiful coral gardens that line Hon Tre’s shoreline, or relax on the beach with a cocktail in hand.
Mun Island is another great spot for beach lovers who want to experience nature at its finest. With crystal-clear water surrounded by limestone rocks and a variety of corals and sea life, Mun is an ideal destination for snorkeling and diving. Enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and take in the stunning views of Nha Trang Bay.
Dai Beach is another beautiful beach located just south of Nha Trang City. It features soft white sand with clear azure waters that are perfect for swimming and enjoying outdoor activities like kayaking or stand up paddle boarding. The beach is lined with umbrellas, so it’s easy to lounge around all day soaking up the sun.
Doc Let Beach
If you’re looking for something more secluded, Doc Let Beach in Khanh Hoa province is an excellent option. This tranquil spot offers postcard-perfect scenes with its white sand and crystal clear waters. Explore the nearby caves for more diving opportunities and take in the breathtaking views of the mountains rising up from the sea.
The Mekong Delta is the rice bowl of Vietnam, famous for its floating markets, lush green rice paddies and winding canals. Take a boat ride, explore the rustic village life, and taste some of the best fruit and vegetables the country has to offer. Be sure to visit the local markets and sample the delicious street food.
No trip to Vietnam is complete without experiencing the country’s delicious cuisine.
Vietnamese food is rich and varied, with a fantastic mix of flavors and textures. Whether it’s pho, banh mi, or spring rolls, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Here are the top foods to taste during your stay:
Pho: Pho is one of Vietnam’s most popular dishes, and it’s a must-try when you’re in the country. This comforting noodle soup is made with rice noodles, herbs, and spices. It can be topped with beef or chicken, as well as a variety of garnishes such as bean sprouts, cilantro, lime wedges, and basil leaves. Enjoy a bowl for breakfast or lunch – it’s sure to leave you feeling satisfied!
Banh Mi: Banh mi is an addictively delicious sandwich made from French baguettes filled with meats, pickles, chilies, carrots and cucumbers. Often served with a side of Vietnamese cold cuts, banh mi is a perfect snack or light lunch.
Spring Rolls: Another popular dish in Vietnam is spring rolls. These tasty morsels are filled with pork, shrimp, bean sprouts and herbs, and then wrapped in rice paper before being deep-fried to perfection. Dip them in sweet chili sauce for an extra kick!
Cha Ca La Vong: This Hanoi specialty consists of pan-fried fish fillet served with noodles and dill. The fish is marinated with turmeric before being cooked in butter over charcoal – it’s truly a delicious experience!
Bun Bo Nam Bo: This spicy beef noodle salad is a popular street food in Vietnam. It consists of grilled beef and bean sprouts, served over vermicelli noodles with herbs and peanuts. The dish is often topped with fish sauce, lime juice, and chili peppers for an extra kick!
Banh Xeo: This savory Vietnamese pancake is made from rice flour, turmeric, mung beans and coconut milk. Banh xeo is then filled with pork or shrimp before being pan-fried to perfection. Dip it in fish sauce for the perfect flavor combination!
Goi Cuon/Summer Rolls: These refreshing cold spring rolls are made from thin sheets of rice paper filled with lettuce, herbs, pork or shrimp, and vermicelli noodles. The rolls are then served with a sweet and savory dipping sauce.
Com Tam: This popular street food is made from broken rice topped with grilled pork, pickled vegetables, cucumber slices and a fried egg. It’s typically served with fish sauce or chili peppers for an extra kick!
Banh Chung: This traditional cake is made from sticky rice filled with pork, mung beans and spices before being wrapped in banana leaves. The cakes are traditionally eaten during the Lunar New Year celebration but can be found year-round in Vietnam.
Ca Phe Trung: Egg coffee is one of the most unique dishes you’ll find in Vietnam. It’s made from Vietnamese-style coffee mixed with beaten eggs and condensed milk, creating a creamy, sweet treat.
Vietnam is a beautiful and diverse country full of fascinating history, culture, and nature. From the bustling cities to rural countryside, pristine beaches, ancient monuments and delicious cuisine, there’s so much to explore and experience in this fantastic Southeast Asian destination.
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