I’ve been to Vietnam a few times now, and each time I return I find even more about the country to love.
There are, of course, the standard places to visit in Vietnam – Hanoi and Halong Bay in the north, and Ho Chi Minh City in the south. But in between, there’s so much else to discover.
Visiting Vietnam is made a bit easier by its geography. Long and thin, you can just start at one end of the country and head either north or south to pass through many of the main attractions.
If you want some help planning your trip, I have this detailed two-week Vietnam itinerary that does a lot of the work for you.
As you travel through Vietnam, you’ll find gorgeous natural wonders like Trang An, charming heritage towns like Hoi An, fascinating World Heritage Sites like the Hue Imperial Palace, and relaxing beaches like the ones on the island of Phu Quoc.
The struggle is trying to fit it all in.
The nice thing about Vietnam is that, even if you can’t cover the whole country and see everything, you can get a mix of travel styles on the one trip. It’s easy to spend a few days in a city, then go into lush nature, and experience local culture on the way.
To help with your trip, I’ve put together this list of the best places to visit in Vietnam by category, so you can see how there’s such an incredible variety of things to do!
Vietnam’s cities are not just the places where you’ll likely begin your time in the country, they’re also where you’ll find some of the most vibrant experiences.
From Hanoi’s bustling streets to Dalat’s enchanting waterfalls, you can immerse yourself in the country’s rich history, hectic neighbourhoods, and enchanting cultural experiences.
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is a bustling metropolis offering a fascinating blend of modernity and rich history.
Formerly called Saigon (and still by many locals), it’s Vietnam’s largest city and boasts an energetic atmosphere, bustling markets, and diverse culinary scene which showcases the essence of its past, present, and future.
While you’re here, explore iconic landmarks like the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Central Post Office, and the historic Reunification Palace, which played a pivotal role in Vietnam’s history. The War Remnants Museum is also well worth a visit.
Beyond the official sights, there are lots of things to do in Ho Chi Minh City to immerse yourself in the city’s never-sleeping street life, where motorbikes weave through the traffic and food vendors serve tantalising delights. Make sure you drop into Ben Thanh Market, where you can shop for souvenirs and sample local delicacies that will make your taste buds sing!
If you have the time, it is also worth taking a leisurely stroll along the legendary Saigon River and enjoy the panoramic views of the city from the Saigon Skydeck.
Hanoi is Vietnam’s capital city, steeped in history and culture, where the colonial heritage blends harmoniously with Eastern delights.
Your first port of call should be the Old Quarter, featuring narrow streets filled with bustling markets, traditional shops, and food stalls, before heading to the nearby French Quarter where baguettes are served next door to bowls of noodles.
When it comes to landmarks, one of the most important is the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, housing the embalmed body of the former leader. For other things to do in Hanoi, check out Hoan Kiem Lake, the Hanoi Opera House, and the Temple of Literature for a deeper insight into the city’s rich history.
And one of the best things to do in Vietnam is experience Hanoi’s vibrant nightlife, so be sure to head to vibrant Ta Hien Street, known as the ‘Beer Street’, where you can enjoy local brews and soak up the lively atmosphere.
Over in central Vietnam, Da Nang is a captivating coastal city offering a delightful blend of natural beauty, cultural attractions, and modern developments.
Boasting pristine beaches, such as My Khe and Non Nuoc, it’s a haven for sun-seekers and water sports enthusiasts. The city is also renowned for its iconic Dragon Bridge, which creates a mesmerising spectacle of light at night when illuminated.
During your stay in Da Nang, visit the Marble Mountains – a superb range of limestone hills that house ancient caves, pagodas, and breathtaking viewpoints. There’s also the vibrant Han Market, with its locally made handicrafts, clothing, and fresh produce.
For a spot of culture, the Museum of Cham Sculpture will impress with its ancient Cham civilisation’s unique art. Alternatively, ascend the Ba Na Hills by cable car (assuming you’re not worried about vertigo!). There you can visit a remarkable French village replica.
Nestled in the Central Highlands, Dalat is a picturesque and charming destination renowned for its cool climate, lush landscapes, and romantic ambience.
Affectionately known as the ‘City of Eternal Spring’, it offers a refreshing escape from the tropical heat. Visitors can explore the city’s stunning natural attractions, including the serene Xuan Huong Lake, the mesmerising Datanla Waterfall, and the sprawling Dalat Flower Gardens.
There’s also the charming French-colonial architecture of the Old Quarter and the fascinating Dalat Railway Station. Or, for something a bit quirky, check out the Crazy House and its wacky architecture.
If you love coffee, you’ll want to indulge in some java and maybe a delicious pastry at one of the many quaint cafes in the city. For adventure enthusiasts, the surrounding countryside offers opportunities for trekking, canyoning, and a hike up the breathtaking Lang Biang Mountain.
Beyond the major cities, some of the best places to visit in Vietnam allow you to explore the country’s rich historical tapestry.
Overall, Vietnam has eight World Heritage Sites, from palaces and temples, to ancient ruins of a lost civilisation. There are also the remains of the devastating war and other sites offering a deeper insight to the country’s story.
The city of Hue enjoys a stunning location on the banks of the Perfume River in central Vietnam. For many years it served as the imperial capital of the Nguyen Dynasty, and remnants of its glorious past are still visible today.
The sprawling Hue Imperial Citadel is one of the best things to see in Vietnam. Listed as a World Heritage Site, it features a stunning collection of palaces, temples, and gardens that reflects the grandeur of its past.
Elsewhere, the spectacular Thien Mu Pagoda is an elegant seven-story pagoda perched on a hill overlooking the river. You should also take a boat cruise along the Perfume River to visit the ornate royal tombs, such as the Tomb of Emperor Minh Mang and the Tomb of Emperor Tu Duc.
Not too far away in central Vietnam is Hoi An, a captivating destination renowned for its well-preserved ancient town and enchanting atmosphere.
You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you wander through the narrow lanes of historic buildings, atmospheric temples, and colourful lanterns. The iconic Japanese Covered Bridge – an endearing symbol of Hoi An – and the Assembly Halls showcasing incredible Chinese architectural influences are also worth seeing.
Hoi An is famous for traditional handicrafts and tailoring so this is the place to come for some local shopping! It’s a popular spot to buy custom-made clothing or products made for you by skilled artisans.
The local cuisine here is also sensational, especially the savoury Cao Lau noodles, which you can get at the busy Hoi An Night Market (along with unique souvenirs, if you aren’t already shopped out).
If you want to explore further afield and discover more things to do in Hoi An, I would recommend take a boat ride along the gorgeous Thu Bon River, or a trip to the nearby beach.
My Son is an extraordinary archaeological site offering a captivating glimpse into the ancient Champa civilisation who once lived in central Vietnam.
Nestled amidst lush greenery and rolling hills, the temples of My Son present stunning Hindu architecture and intricate stone carvings built between the 4th and 13th centuries when it was an important cultural and spiritual centre.
Today, exploring the remnants of the once-vibrant religious complex is one of the best things to do in Vietnam.
The archaeological site is close to Hoi An, and I would recommend doing a tour to the My Son Sanctuary, where you can marvel at the temples’ intricate details and historical significance, despite the damage caused by time and war. A guide will offer valuable insights into the rich history and symbolism of the site.
Cu Chi Tunnels
The Cu Chi Tunnels are a remarkable historic site, not far from Ho Chi Minh City, that offers visitors a eye-opening and thought-provoking experience.
This intricate network of underground tunnels played a pivotal role during the Vietnam War and served as an elaborate network of hiding spots, communication routes, and supply channels for the Viet Cong.
Whilst here, you can explore a section of the tunnels, crawling through narrow passages and witnessing the ingenuity of the Vietnamese fighters. You will also gain insight into the harsh realities of war and learn about the resourcefulness of the soldiers who lived and fought in this underground world.
Additionally, the site features exhibits, displays, and demonstrations that provide you with a deeper understanding of the conflict. The Vietnam War isn’t something that dominates your travels here, but the Cu Chi Tunnels are a good way to appreciate the determination and resilience of the Vietnamese people during a significant chapter in history.
One of the things I love about so much about travelling in Vietnam is the country’s blend of heritage and nature, and the way you can experience both on the same trip.
Away from the cities and the cultural heritage, there are so many beautiful natural places to visit in Vietnam. From the imposing limestone karsts that define Halong Bay to the stunning rice fields of the Mekong Delta, you’ll witness breathtaking landscapes at almost every turn.
Over in northeastern Vietnam, Halong Bay is a breathtaking natural wonder that captivates visitors with its mystical beauty.
Defined by its emerald-green waters and thousands of limestone karsts jutting out of the sea, it offers a surreal and otherworldly landscape.
The best way to explore it is on a boat cruise on Halong Bay, taking you past towering cliffs and hidden caves adorned with stunning stalactites and stalagmites. If you do this, you will also witness the enchanting beauty of landmarks like Fighting Cocks Islet and Dau Go Cave.
There are lots of other things to do here as well – kayaking, swimming, and visiting floating fishing villages to get a closer look at the local way of life, for example. While spending a night on a traditional junk boat under the starry sky is an unforgettable experience.
Situated in the Ninh Binh province, not too far south of Hanoi, the World Heritage landscape of Trang An is an extraordinary place of limestone karsts, tranquil rivers, and lush greenery that’s sometimes referred to as the ‘inland Halong Bay’.
One of the best ways to explore the site is on a boat tour of Trang An, where you can glide through intricate cave systems, pass under limestone arches, and admire the breathtaking scenery. You’ll also discover hidden temples and pagodas within the karst formations, adding a spiritual dimension to the experience.
If you are feeling energetic, you can always hike or cycle through the countryside to further immerse yourself in its rural charm and idyllic scenery. Alternatively, you might also want to visit the ancient capital of Hoa Lu where historical sites like the Dinh and Le temples are reminders of Vietnam’s past.
Phong Nha–Ke Bang National Park
Phong Nha–Ke Bang National Park offers an unforgettable journey into a pristine natural wonderland, where stunning landscapes and captivating adventures await at every turn.
Located in central Vietnam, the highlights here are the caves that are found within the karst landscapes, behind curtains of thick jungle. For most visitors, a tour to Paradise Cave will be the best way to go underground, although there is a multi-day expedition with very limited number to Son Doong Cave – considered to be the largest in the world!
While you’re here in the natural playground, take a boat ride along the Son River or trek through the lush forests to discover hidden waterfalls and encounter diverse wildlife. There’s also zip-lining, kayaking, and ecotourism activities to promote conservation.
Offering a perfect blend of natural beauty, cultural immersion, and adventurous exploration, Sapa is renowned for its stunning landscapes, vibrant hill tribe cultures, and adventurous treks. In the very north of the country, this is one of the best places to visit in Vietnam for nature enthusiasts, photographers, and cultural explorers.
Sapa is best known for its picturesque terraced rice fields that cascade down the valleys, creating a mesmerising patchwork of different shades of greens. Many visitors who come here take the opportunity to go trekking overnight through lush countryside, visiting ethnic minority villages and meeting the locals.
Also, don’t miss the opportunity to soak in the therapeutic mineral-rich waters of the nearby Muong Hoa Valley. At the same time, you’ll also want to marvel at the grandeur of Fansipan, the highest peak in Indochina, which you can climb for breathtaking panoramic views.
Ba Be National Park
If you’re after a serene and authentic natural experience, a trip to Ba Be National Park could be just the thing. This hidden gem in northern Vietnam offers visitors an intoxicating mix of tranquillity, cultural immersion, and outdoor adventures.
This scenic park centres around the shimmering waters of Ba Be Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake in the country. You can explore it by boat while enjoying splendid views of limestone cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and lush forests.
If you prefer to stretch your legs, the park’s pristine trails reveal exotic flora and fauna as you trek along them. You can also visit ethnic minority communities such as the Tay, Hmong, and Dao to immerse yourself in their rich traditions and warm hospitality. The best way to do this is to spend nights in homestays, allowing you to experience local life firsthand.
The Mekong Delta, often called Vietnam’s ‘rice bowl’, is a mesmerising region in the country’s southwestern part.
This vast and fertile delta is crisscrossed by countless rivers and canals, creating a unique and vibrant landscape. You can explore them by taking a boat cruise along the Mekong River, where you can witness the daily lives of locals who rely on the waterways for transportation and livelihood.
Be sure to visit floating markets like Cai Rang or Cai Be, where colourful boats laden with fresh produce create a bustling scene, or base yourself in the town of Can Tho to explore the area more widely.
On land, you should check out the lush green rice fields and ride a bicycle through peaceful countryside paths. You may also want to take the opportunity to discover traditional villages and orchards, sample exotic fruits, and savour local delicacies.
Vietnam is known for its outstanding beaches and it’s increasingly become a destination for travellers looking for a sunny relaxing getaway.
Whether you want to go for long walks, swim in the refreshing waters, or top up your tan on its golden sands, the country has a beach for you.
Phu Quoc is an island paradise off the southwestern coast of Vietnam known for its stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lush tropical landscapes.
Its pristine shores, where powdery white sands meet sparkling turquoise waters, are perfect for swimming and sunbathing. You can also go diving or snorkelling to discover its vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life.
For those wanting to immerse themselves in the island’s natural beauty, Phu Quoc National Park is an oasis of lush forests and beautiful waterfalls, best explored through its hiking trails.
Foodies will want to indulge in fresh seafood at the Dinh Cau Night Market or visit a fish sauce factory to learn about the island’s famous production. Additionally, Phu Quoc offers terrific opportunities for ecotourism, with options for kayaking, trekking, and exploring local fishing villages.
Con Dao Islands
Comprising 16 pristine islands, The Con Dao Islands is a serene and untouched archipelago off the southern coast of Vietnam.
Boasting secluded white-sand beaches surrounded by crystal-clear turquoise waters, it provides a tranquil escape for those seeking relaxation, adventure, and a glimpse into Vietnam’s fascinating history.
Con Dao Prison is a reminder of the island’s past as a penal colony during the French colonial era. Tours of it will give you some idea of what it must have been like to have been incarcerated here.
If that sounds too confronting, you’ll no doubt enjoy breathtaking panoramic views from various scenic viewpoints, such as the notorious Ong Dung Beach and Bay Canh Island.
The islands are also a sanctuary for endangered sea turtles, which you can see on several turtle conservation experiences.
If you want to visit the beach, one of the best things to do in Vietnam is head to Mui Ne. Located on the southeastern coast, it is a paradise renowned for its gorgeous beaches, towering sand dunes, and kitesurfing scene.
Its glorious stretches of golden sand, including Mui Ne Beach and Hon Rom Beach, are ideal for a day of relaxation. However, if you fancy something a bit more active, sandboarding down the stunning Red and White Sand Dunes should give you a real thrill, especially if you do it at sunset when the colours of the sky are amazing.
Should you prefer to hit the water, sports like kitesurfing and windsurfing are popular thanks to a consistent wind for favourable conditions.
Mui Ne is also home to picturesque lotus ponds and the jaw-dropping Fairy Stream, a surreal landscape of colourful rock formations and gentle streams, ideal for exploration on foot.
Nha Trang is a popular beach destination that, being about halfway between Ho Chi Minh City and Hoi An, is also a convenient place to break up the journey. But the popularity and convenience means that Nha Trang feels much more developed than other beach retreats in Vietnam.
For many visitors to Nha Trang, it’s about soaking up the sun, swimming, and water sports – plus a fair bit of partying, if that’s what you’re looking for.
There are definitely cultural experiences here too, though, and you can explore the iconic Long Son Pagoda with its giant Buddha statue, or the Po Nagar Cham Towers, a historical complex showcasing the region’s Cham heritage.
Should the mood take you, there are island-hopping excursions to places like Hon Mun and Hon Tam, which offer more secluded beaches and excellent diving opportunities – perhaps the perfect antidote to Nha Trang’s vibrant nightlife scene!