Traveling to Vietnam opens a whole new world of rich culture, cuisine, and unique landscapes. From the long, idyllic coastline to the bustling cities, and lush, often mountainous countryside in between, Vietnam is the definition of picturesque.
Whether you’re a photography enthusiast, foodie, history buff, or looking to uncover once-in-a-lifetime authentic cultural experiences, Vietnam has something to appeal to every type of interest.
From the capital city of Hanoi and the famous limestone islands of Halong Bay, to the enchanting artisan district in Hoi An and world-class beaches in Nha Trang, this diverse country is a treat to explore. Here are the best places to visit in Vietnam.
Ha Long Bay
Discover the magic of northern Vietnam’s best-known UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ha Long Bay is one of Southeast Asia’s most celebrated natural attractions, situated a little under three hours from the capital city of Hanoi. Breathtaking scenery awaits at this coveted, bucket-list-worthy destination where a forest of limestone rock formations soars out of an emerald sea.
Here, you can unearth and explore some of Ha Long Bay’s most mystical highlights. Venture into one of the several caves, such as Sung Sot, translated as “Surprise Cave”. Marvel at stalactites and stalagmites while exploring the interior.
Swim and snorkel off the idyllic beach at Monkey Island, (Cat Dua) or paddle through turquoise lagoons dotted with towering islands, where the scenery will make you feel as if you’ve been transported to another world. Halong Bay is one of the best places in Vietnam, and a must-visit.
Thien Mu Pagoda, Hue
Visit the most famous pagoda in Hue and admire the beautiful and intricate design of this architectural marvel. The Thien Mu Pagoda lures visitors to the edge of the Perfume River on Ha Khe Hill, just a few miles from the heart of downtown Hue. Meaning “Heaven Fairy Lady”, the pagoda was constructed in the early 1600s and has since had various structures added to its grounds.
Perhaps the best known is the Phuoc Duyen tower, built in the late 1800s by King Thieu Tri. With seven stories, the octagonal-shaped tower stretches 68 feet tall and has become an iconic symbol of the city.
Explore the gardens surrounding the pagoda’s structures which include the pavilion, temple, courtyards, and sanctuary hall, in addition to the tower. Take photos of the three Buddha statues and other stunning details, and the giant Dai Hong Chung, a bronze bell in one of the pavilions, that dates back to the early 1700s.
Ba Ho Waterfall, Nha Trang
Outdoor enthusiasts will find a natural haven near the city of Nha Trang, along Vietnam’s gorgeous coast. Situated less than an hour north of the city, Ba Ho Waterfalls cascades over smooth rocks into three natural pools.
Pack your swimming gear and challenge yourself to a 30-minute trek through the rainforest to reach the first tier of the waterfall. This first area is the most accessible, making it also the most visited. Reward your hiking efforts with a refreshing dip in the natural pool and relish in your lush surroundings.
Cliff jumping is popular here, plunging into the cool, green water. If you’re up for a more difficult climb on the river rocks, continue to the second and third cascades, recommended only for skilled hikers. Local vendors sell snacks and cold drinks, so you won’t go hungry.
Hanoi Old Quarter
One of the best things to do in Hanoi is to wander the vibrant Old Quarter for a rich cultural experience. Walk streets that date back 1,000 years and experience one of the top places to visit in Vietnam. Shopping for authentic artisan goods and sampling mouth-watering street food are popular activities in this historic section of the city.
You’ll see shoemakers, tailors, and basket weavers hard at work. This is an ideal place to purchase a Vietnamese souvenir such as clothing items on Hang Gai Street (Silk Street), or jewelry on Hang Bac Street (Silver Street).
The Old Quarter is also revered for its wide array of authentic cuisine. From higher-end restaurants to street food stalls, there’s something for every appetite.
Embrace the amazing flavors and try dishes like Bo Kho, a beef stew with French influence, egg coffee, and Cha Ca, Hanoi-style fried fish. The weekend night market is another fantastic choice for sampling Vietnamese foods like crab spring rolls and banh mi sandwiches.
Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, Ho Chi Minh City
Centrally located in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1, the Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the city’s most famous sights. Built in the mid 1800s by French colonists, the church has been renovated three times throughout its history.
Stroll through the courtyard, where you’ll have the opportunity to take photographs of the exterior, as well as the famed Our Lady of Peace statue. Marvel at the Neo-Romanesque architecture, impressive bell towers, the working clock, and a multitude of beautiful stained-glass windows.
Inside, you’ll have the chance to view the marble altar with carved angels, Roman and Gothic style details, and a hand-made pipe organ. Visiting this piece of living history is a must while exploring Ho Chi Minh City.
The Golden Bridge, Da Nang
Discover one of the world’s most unique bridges just outside the coastal city of Da Nang in central Vietnam. Sun World Ba Na Hills offers a fun-filled amusement park experience, with the Golden Bridge (Cau Vang), perched almost a mile above sea level as the star attraction.
Enjoy a cable car ride into the picturesque mountains to access the famous bridge and spot waterfalls along the way. Stretching almost 500 feet long, the pedestrian footbridge’s design has visitors walking on an elevated path across a jungly mountain, the structure held in place by two giant stone hands, representing a mountain god. You’ll feel as though you’re suspended in the sky as you traverse this bridge and take in the incredible surrounding views.
The Golden Bridge serves as the link between vibrant gardens and the cable car jump off point within the park. Take photographs, soak in the verdant rainforest landscape, and feel like you’ve stepped onto the set of a fantasy movie.
Po Nagar Cham Towers
Step back in time to the mystical Kingdom of Champa in central Vietnam. Although more than 50 ancient towers still exist, one of the most well-known and popular sites is the Po Nagar Towers just north of Nha Trang, on Cu Lao Mountain.
Dating back to between the 8th and 12th centuries, the three-level complex is a piece of history surrounded by the modern coastal city. Four of the original ten buildings remain, the tallest stretching approximately 80 feet tall.
Tour the complex where you can wander around the brick towers and soak in the views of Nha Trang, South China Sea, and the River Cai. The Hindu temples are shrines to the Gods Shiva, Ganesh, and Cri Cambhu, the goddess of fertility.
The most well known is the central tower, constructed in honor of the Goddess Po Nagar, “The Mother of the Country”, who is said to have created earth and rice. The Po Nagar Towers are a fantastic place to take photographs and learn about the history of the Cham people.
Hoi An City
Located close to Da Nang, the charming, historical city of Hoi An is one of the most enchanting places to visit in Vietnam. A photographer’s paradise and UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Old town portion of the city is a maze of quaint streets and canals.
Well-preserved shophouses sell a wide variety of authentic items such as the colorful Vietnamese lanterns and impeccably tailored handmade clothing that Hoi An. Heritage architecture, a beautiful 18th-century Japanese bridge, and enticing cafes are just some of the highlights you’ll find.
The Old Town is the perfect place to wander, browse shops, and chat with the local craftspeople. For a different vantage point, hop in a riverboat for a leisurely trip along the Thu Bon River and take in Hoi An from the water.
Taste some of Vietnam’s top culinary offerings while in the vibrant city too; as well as riverside markets and restaurants, there are several cookery schools here. Try Banh Bao Vac (white rose dumplings) with a savory pork filling, or Mi Quang, a dish made with turmeric noodles and bone broth.
In a class, you might learn how to make Vietnamese spring rolls, packed with fresh herbs, as well as Vietnamese pancakes, and Banana Flower Salad.
Cu Chi Tunnels, Ho Chi Minh City
Embark on a historical adventure from Ho Chi Minh City. Used during the Vietnam War, the hand-dug Cu Chi Tunnels stretch a total of 75 miles underground. The network of tunnels served as a base for the Viet Cong, with living quarters, communication operations, and supply storage, as well as a place to plan and prepare attacks.
Created between the late 1940s and 1960s, the extensive tunnel system can be explored with a knowledgeable guide, providing visitors with a glimpse into military history and life as a soldier during the Vietnam War.
Crawl through short sections of these tunnels where you’ll have the opportunity to view artifacts from the war and learn about the history and purpose of this important historical place, located an hour’s drive from Ho Chi Minh City.
The Marble Mountains
Visit the mythical Marble Mountains, rising out of the plains between the cities of Hoi An and Da Nang in central Vietnam. The five mountains, named after the elements of earth, fire, metal, wood, and water, are composed of marble and limestone and were born from a legend involving a mystical dragon.
This natural attraction offers not only an outdoor experience but a spiritual and historical one as well. The best way to enjoy the scenic Marble Mountains is with a hike up to the top, where you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding area, across the city of Da Nang to the South China Sea.
A spiritual site for the ancient Cham, the Marble Mountains continue to be a blend of nature and religious structures like pagodas, statues, and shrines built by Buddhists and the Nguyen Dynasty Kings.
The Mountain of Water is where you’ll find impressive pagodas dating back to the 17th century, as well as caves, jungle landscape, and the famous 400-year-old statue of Lady Buddha. Venture into the biggest of the Marble Mountain caves, Huyen Khong, where light rays create an otherworldly scene for photography enthusiasts to capture.
Yen Tu Temple
Located in between Hanoi and Ha Long Bay lies a collection of famous mountain top pagodas, known as the Sacred Capital of Vietnam. The Yen Tu Temple is a mix of incredible architecture, culture, history, and scenery, and is a contender for being named a future UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dong Pagoda is the most well-known and rests at the highest point on Yen Tu Mountain, a breathtaking 3,500 feet above sea level.
There are two ways to reach the peak of Yen Tu Mountain and visit the pagodas. The first option is to walk to the top, which involves trekking up thousands of steps. This is considered the most spiritual method. Alternatively, it’s possible to ride the cable car to reach the summit, with stops at Hoa Yen Pagoda and Mot Mai pagoda.
Or you could opt for a combination of the two and fully embrace the splendor of the Yen Tu National Forest surrounding you.
A luxury cruise is a fantastic way to take in all the best places in Vietnam. From culinary adventures to discovering the serene and spiritual landmarks of this diverse landscape, Vietnam is an exciting and exotic destination to experience. Browse our luxury cruises to Vietnam and book your next getaway today.