16 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Vietnam

Jul 22, 2021

Vietnam is one of the planet's poorest nations, a country carved up by a colonial legacy, corrupt government, and enemy invasion. It's also one of Asia's most rewarding travel destinations, with soaring sandstone cliffs, coconut plantations, lush rainforests, quiet beaches, bustling cities, and some of the world's best coffee.

Thanks to a surge in international tourism in the past two decades, Vietnam's cities have undergone a boom in gentrification, most famously in Ho Chi Minh City, which has transformed from a gritty war zone to a fun and vibrant metropolis.

While Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam's premier tourist destination, the country's oldest and most vibrant cities are also well worth a visit. They offer old-school charm, friendly people, and colonial architecture, not to mention traditional art, color, and delicious cuisine.

The best way to truly understand Vietnam is to get off the beaten path and venture to places like Ha Long Bay and Halong Bay. Here you'll find waters as turquoise and serene as a country lake, soft limestone mountains as jagged and plunging as a tropical rainforest, limestone karst peaks that jut skyward, and sleepy islands just waiting for you to discover.

See our top 10 attractions in Vietnam for a look at what the country has to offer.

Ho Chi Minh City

Photo of Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City: en.wikipedia.org

With a population of almost 8 million, the ever-expanding capital of Vietnam has one of the world's most unique collections of temples and ancient sites. Renowned for its spectacular new skyline, graceful French colonial-era architecture, and a lively night life, Ho Chi Minh City attracts a crowd of both Vietnamese and foreign tourists. Highlights of a visit include the fine choices of bars, cafes, and restaurants, while time is well spent in the historic neighborhoods of District 1, near the Cambodian and Malaysian borders, and the emerging North District, home to Vietnam's burgeoning arts scene. Visitors shouldn't miss the iconic Giant Swing in Binh Tan, an eerie testament to South Vietnamese-era fantasies.

Read more 👉  Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Ho Chi Minh City

Halong Bay

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Hạ Long Bay: en.wikipedia.org

Halong Bay is one of the most spectacular sights in Vietnam. It consists of a series of submerged limestone islets and towers, connected by narrow passages, which emerge from the waters of Halong Bay. These mysterious, ancient islands, some of them just natural formations, others constructed by man, are the heart of a special area known as Halong Bay. The Bay extends over an area of more than 600 km and is separated from the South China Sea by the narrow peninsula of Hon Mieu. The floating islets are a watery gallery for boats on the return journey from Hanoi to the sea, the sea to Hanoi and Saigon, as well as the port of Halong.

Hoi An

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Hội An: en.wikipedia.org

With its overgrown alleys and narrow alleyways, the old quarter of Hoi An is not easy to navigate even for locals. And yet Hoi An is a treasure, brimming with heritage. Today Hoi An is a favorite for tourists who want to explore Vietnam's own ruins and sightseeing. One of the oldest towns in Vietnam, Hoi An dates back to the thirteenth century. Built on the banks of the Thu Bon River, Hoi An is home to the architectural marvels of the Japanese Shophouse style. It is also renowned for its silverware and craftsmanship. If you don't have time to get to Hoi An, a visit to the old town is a must. Follow the steps of Marco Polo, if you like, to step back in time.

Hanoi

The history and charm of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, are contained in its walking-only streets. Located on the banks of the mighty Red River, Hanoi's charm emanates from its French colonial architecture, a legacy of the years when French influence was at its height. When not seeking out the city's many temples, old and new, head to the banks of the Red River for a paddle along the beautifully landscaped lawns. An Asian banyan tree, located next to the Central Post Office, is said to have been planted by Chinese merchant Li Thanh Tong in 1864, on the occasion of his purchase of the Red River property. It's a peaceful spot, and walking up the main avenue of Nguyen Du Street, passing through the Hanoi Opera House, is one of Hanoi's most pleasant walks.

Read more 👉  Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Hanoi

Sapa

Located at a bend of the Mekong River, the village of Sapa in the northern province of Lào Cai was traditionally the gateway for people traveling along the trade route between Yunnan and Laos. Now the name of the town is synonymous with the breathtaking mountain scenery, high-altitude rhododendron forests and thriving ethnic minority cultures that can be seen in the surrounding area. Hiking, mountain biking, caving and spelunking (as it was called in the 1960s) are all popular pastimes. Another drawcard is the distinctive ethnic costumes of the ethnic minority groups and local minority women, who will be glad to have you visit their homes and serve refreshments.

Mekong Delta

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Mekong Delta: en.wikipedia.org

The famous Vietnamese Mekong Delta is a broad plain of rich tropical vegetation, dotted with floating rice fields. It is dotted with small islands, which when flooded form a natural river. The delta area is also known as the Saigon region, after the capital city, Ho Chi Minh City. The delta area also serves as a center of wine production, including rice wine, while there are many fishing villages around the coast, which are important centers of the trade and transport industries. Tourism is an ever-increasing industry in the Mekong Delta. The most obvious historical sight is the medieval city of Hue, with its fine, ancient walled capital, the Citadel, and a large French colonial district of the city of Ho Chi Minh City. The unique pagodas of the old city of Hoa Lu, in the Mekong Delta, are also worth visiting, while outside of Hoa Lu lies the "city of 4000 islands," Cai Be. The surrounding area of the Mekong Delta is peppered with historic temples and rural villages that are worthy of a visit. Travelers can explore the colonial architecture of Can Tho and other small cities, while at the same time having the chance to visit some of the small Vietnamese islands, including the Mekong Delta islands.

Da Nang

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Da Nang: en.wikipedia.org

The small but still enjoyable city of Da Nang is best known for its stunning beaches and for being the home of the American and French armies in their campaign to defeat the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. There's plenty to do in the city and out on the beaches, as well. You can admire the sunset along the broad, sandy beaches that border the city, walk along the Saigon River, enjoy an authentic Vietnamese meal or a drink at one of the bars lining Nguyen Thiep Street or just relax with a good book. Da Nang has a very humid climate with an average temperature of around 82 degrees Fahrenheit, so dress appropriately.

Read more 👉  Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Da Nang

Nha Trang

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Nha Trang: en.wikipedia.org

A group of tiny islands in the South China Sea, Nha Trang has become Vietnam's popular holiday spot and is a popular wedding destination, too. A winding three-hour bus ride takes you to its heart, the old fishing port town of Mui Ne, a special place with interesting galleries, cafes and souvenir shops. There are many beaches, but Mui Ne beach, with its clear turquoise waters and sheer, white-powder sand, is undoubtedly the most popular. Other beaches include those at Tuan Chau, Long Beach and the hidden Mua Island. After a day exploring the islands, visit Mui Ne, a place of temples and wonderful French villas. Take a walk through the nearby Durian Garden, where you can see exotic fruits, or visit the botanical gardens.

The Cu Chi Tunnels

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Củ Chi tunnels: en.wikipedia.org

If you are looking for a war history tour that is both exciting and informative, then The Cu Chi Tunnels is a must. Built by the Viet Cong forces, this labyrinthine network of underground tunnels and galleries is not only a fascinating site to visit, but an invaluable piece of historical evidence. The history and use of the tunnels is also brought to life with photos and personal accounts of the experience. After a short tour, visit the nearby Cu Chi Memorial Museum to learn more about the history of the conflict and how it has affected the lives of many Vietnamese people. Cu Chi is now a part of Ho Chi Minh City and is renowned for its street markets and nightlife.

Hue

Known as the "Venice of the East," the city of Hue is surrounded by a series of fascinating pagodas, which act as pilgrimage destinations for Vietnamese people. Explore the very center of the city, which contains several large groups of ancient buildings with the city's famous Citadel looming above. Take a rice noodle boat ride on the Perfume River. Visit the Thien Mu Pagoda, which dates back to 1430, the Holy Relic Pagoda (Vong Thap) and the Temple of Jade Emperor (My Lai). On the outskirts of Hue, some of the most fascinating pagodas to visit are the Round City Pagoda (Tu Huong Pagoda), the Mountain of 10,000 Buddhas, the Temple of the Jade Emperor (Tu Do Temple) and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Thien Mu Temple).

Mui Ne Beach

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Mũi Né: en.wikipedia.org

Mui Ne Beach is one of the highlights of traveling in Vietnam, a popular coastal area with the presence of water sports like sea-kayaking, surfing, and scuba diving as well as numerous resorts, nightclubs, hotels, restaurants, bars, and cafes. The landscape is picturesque as it is covered with lush tropical forest and dotted with beautiful white sandy beaches. Things to do in Mui Ne include relaxing on the beach, walking around the scenic landscaping of the resorts and shopping at the markets. Afternoons at Mui Ne are often pleasantly warm and cooling sea breezes keep the sand shaded. In the evening, the numerous cafes and restaurants along the beachfronts often put on live music and dancing with beautiful sea views. Travelers looking for a longer beach break should head to nearby Phu Quoc Island, or choose a different location in Vietnam where there are more water activities to enjoy, such as the beaches of Nha Trang, Vietnam or Sapa.

Hue Citadel

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Imperial City of Huế: en.wikipedia.org

Hue Citadel, built from 1178 to 1183, is the largest citadel in South-East Asia and the last major construction from the Nguyen Dynasty in the region. It's located in the province of An Hoa and has two parks of interest: the Citadel Park, a protected natural park and the Military Museum, housing thousands of artifacts from Vietnamese soldiers. It was here that General Ngo Quoc Te, the youngest general of the Liberation War, defeated a large French force in a surprise attack on 25 January 1885. His death in battle is commemorated on a large marble slab at the museum.

My Son

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Mỹ Sơn: en.wikipedia.org

My Son is the third-largest city in Vietnam and a popular destination for tourists who wish to stay in an interesting city, but are looking to avoid Ho Chi Minh City. One of the city's charms lies in its preservation of its 1950s colonial architecture. Transport is via rail, with Ho Chi Minh City, 200 km from My Son, being an hour-and-a-half train journey away. My Son is also close to a host of other attractions in Vietnam, such as Ha Long Bay in the far north, Phong Nha Cave in the central mountains, and the beautiful and wild Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. It is a popular destination for diving enthusiasts who visit the nearby island of Phu Quoc and the reefs surrounding My Son.

Can Tho

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Cần Thơ: en.wikipedia.org

Can Tho is a pretty, peaceful city in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. The biggest city in the province of Can Tho, the lively, lively capital city itself is very photogenic, as are the expansive rice fields which surround it. Highlights include the historic island city of Phuoc Chau, which is home to the country's most famous colonial building. A number of local experiences are available if you have the time, including scuba diving in the Mekong Delta and exploring the nearby capital city of Vinh Long, where you can visit an elephant sanctuary, Cai Be floating market and botanical gardens. The Mekong Delta is a major agricultural area where Vietnamese rice farmers have created the famous 'floating gardens', rice fields which are a product of millions of years of land subsidence and the rising level of the Mekong. These can be seen throughout the region, particularly in Phuoc Chau. A canal-like system of roads runs through the cities, the city center, and the floating gardens and the roads are full of people and animals during the busy times of the year.

Cat Ba Island

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Cát Bà Island: en.wikipedia.org

Cat Ba Island is a small, quaint, picturesque island situated in the South China Sea, 20 kilometers north of Ho Chi Minh City. The island has an area of 8.4 square kilometers with a maximum length of 7.5 kilometers. The island is a very popular destination for both Vietnamese and Western tourists and is an excellent base from which to explore the country. One of the major draws of Cat Ba Island is the beautiful seascape and panoramic views of the surrounding islands and islands, in particular the resort island of Con Dao. All together the islands make up Vietnam's largest marine protected area. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the island was once a bustling port, and today there is a small ferry to the island. There are several restaurants and seafood markets with a variety of food vendors, while boat trips are available to explore the island's beaches and scenic wonders. Cat Ba Island is one of the best-kept secrets in Vietnam, and you'll likely pass through on your way from or to Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City. Cat Ba Island is often referred to as "Vietnam's little Switzerland."

Hai Van Pass

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Hải Vân Pass: en.wikipedia.org

A narrow road winds down to the tiny, idyllic town of Bu Dap in Vietnam. Rising between steep limestone cliffs that tumble into the Red River, the Pass offers visitors an amazing view over the changing hues of the river's banks and some of the region's most breathtaking scenery. There are a handful of boutique hotels in the area offering stunning views across the rivers.