Vietnam is such a diverse and stunning country, with awe inspiring landscapes that is matched by a rich yet sometimes turbulent history and a people that are always welcoming, this is Vietnam a country that has something for every traveller.
Since there are so many things to see and do in Vietnam I have detailed just a few of the top attractions and places to visit, this is by no means a complete list, so I apologise if I have offended you by leaving of your favourite town city or attraction, I could have literally written pages and pages of the places I have visited in Vietnam that I love.
Spectacular Ha Long Bay
Perhaps Vietnams most well-known attraction, and for good reason with its stunning limestone islands that emerge from the water, like mountains through the clouds. There are literally thousands of these islands many of which with secretly hidden caves, beaches and villages. A day or overnight stay simply does not do Ha Long bay justice; I recommend at least 2 or 3 days to explore this simply amazing and unspoilt area of Vietnam.
Bargains and Bargaining at Bến Thành Market
Bến Thành Market is Hồ Chí Minh City’s main central retail market, even though this market’s primary cliental is now the hundreds of thousands of tourists that visit Saigon each year, it is still a great place to experience the sound, smells and tastes of this great city and to also pick up some tacky and not so tacky souvenirs.
As for most of Vietnam we recommend you start your bargaining at least one third of the quoted price and stick to whatever you are comfortable with paying, if negotiations are going nowhere start walking and most of the time things will go your way with you being amazed at what you have saved, or how much you could have saved if you started walking a little earlier.
The Items we recommend from Bến Thành market include:
Coffee & Vietnamese Coffee Filter
Vietnamese art and paintings
Cu Chi Tunnels
Located about 40 Km North west of Saigon Hồ Chí Minh City is the very popular Cu Chi Tunnels, this 250km tunnel system was built in the 1940’s during the French occupation to provide a strategic advantage in the war against the French, and were further expanded during the war with South Vietnam and the US.
It’s quite amazing to think firstly that these tunnels were dug out with simple hand tools, and secondly that thousands of people at a time would live in them full equipped with schools, hospitals living areas and command centres.
There are two main tunnels open to the public one that is not part of the original tunnels and was built for western tourists, made to a larger size so that we can fit in, the other which was part of the original tunnel network that is aimed at domestic tourists.
Travelling from District 1 you can save some money and take SaigonBus number 13 from the Bus Interchange near the front of Bến Thành market, the trip will take around 1 ½ hours and then Xe Om (Motorbike taxi) to one or both of the tunnels expect to pay VNĐ 7,000 for the bus and then around VNĐ 100,000 for the motorbike taxi but you will need to negotiate the motorbike taxi down from the original price they quote, by Taxi the trip will cost over VNĐ 800,000 and take around 1 hour
Hồ Chí Minh Mausoleum
Hồ Chí Minh Mausoleum holds the embalmed body of Nguyễn Sinh Cung (Hồ Chí Minh) and for anyone interested in the history of Vietnam his Mausoleum and the Hồ Chí Minh Museum next door is well worth a visit.
Following the death of Hồ Chí Minh on 2 September 1969 exactly four years to the day later work began on the Hồ Chí Minh Mausoleum it was then later inaugurated on 29 August 1975 the Mausoleum structure is based on Lenin’s Mausoleum in Moscow with elements of Vietnamese architecture
The Hồ Chí Minh Mausoleum is open from 9:00 until 12:00 daily however note the mausoleum is sometimes closed for preservation and restoration work on his body.
Trúc Lâm Pagoda Da Lat
The Trúc Lâm Pagoda is the best maintained and most popular pagoda in the Dalat area and given the location of Dalat in the mountains along with the elevation this pagoda it makes for some very impressive scenery and photography
Buddhist pagodas might not be your thing but Trúc Lâm is still worth a visit as it has one of the most amazing views looking down the hill to Tuyền Lăm lake if you get there at the right day and time you might be fortunate enough to see mist and cloud over the lake which is quite very tranquil and impressive sight.
Can Tho’s Floating Markets
A trip to Vietnam is not complete without a trip to one of the countries floating markets and the best can be seen in the southern Mekong hub of Can Tho city. These floating markets are a great opportunity to see how Vietnamese in the country side live and shop, as most Vietnamese head to the market on a daily basis.
I was going to mention only Cái Răng Floating market however if you are making the trip from Hồ Chí Minh City to Can Tho you should see both Cái Răng and Phong Điền as they are both great yet different Cái Răng is the main wholesale market were as Phong Điền is the main retail market. When visiting any floating market in Vietnam it is important to remember to get there early before the heat builds up and take plenty of memory card storage with you as there are tons of photo opportunities to be had.
Hồ Chí Minh City War Remnants Museum
Even though this might not be everyone’s cup of tea, most visitors to Hồ Chí Minh City will visit the War Remnants Museum at some stage during their first trip to Vietnam. This place is a sober reminder of the many wars and conflicts this country has endured over the past 1000 years
The highlight exhibits include several aircraft, tanks and vehicles of the various wars, in addition to this a photo gallery that displays many war time photographs then finally the last and most moving exhibit displays several mock-ups including one that depicts the darker side of war.
Nha Trang is a great place to rest on your journey through Vietnam as the pace of the city is a lot slower than bustling Hồ Chí Minh City and it is also home to Vietnam’s and one of the world’s best beaches which is really makes Nha Trang… Nha Trang. We recommend relaxing on the beach looking to the islands out over the turquoise water of Nha Trang bay while fresh seafood is being cooked right next to you, a great experience.
One of the things I always remember on my regular trips to Nha Trang is the drive from Cam Ranh Aiport into Nha Trang city the coastal road scenery is absoutly spectacular.
Other things to experience in Nha Trang are the mud baths, local Markets, Island hopping as well as the Long Sơn Buddhist Pagoda.
This now quaint little town is stepped with a rich history that dates back to the 7th Century when it was one of the main spice trading port of the Cham kingdom and then later as an international trading port during the 16th and 17th centuries, however with the trading port status ending many many years ago after moving further north to Da Nang what is left is the peaceful UNESCO World Heritage Hoi An.
On top of its world heritage listing Hoi An is also well known for its tailors that are some of the best in the world, simply drop to one of the many tailor shops for a measurement and then back to next day to pick up, the quality and style is A grade, at a price that won’t break the bank
As mentioned Hoi An was the main trading port for the Cham kingdom and then later a trading port so there is a lot of International influence in this little town and this is reflected in the architecture as well as the numerous temples that are found in and around the town.
My Son Ruins
Because of the closeness of My Son to Hoi An both in terms of culture and distance it could almost be listed as an attraction under Hoi An however I believe it deserves its own entry in this list of top destinations and attraction in Vietnam.
My Son was built by the Champas who ruled the area for yearly 1500 years and while these ruins are not in the legue of Angkor Wat or Bagan they are very much worth a visit.
Hanoi Old Quarter
Near Hoan Kiem lake the Hanoi old quarter consists of some 36 streets that make up the original layout and architecture of Old Hanoi, back then each street was named after and specialized in a different trade such as Pho Hang Bun (Vermicelli Street) Pho Hang Muoi (Salt Street), Pho Hang Huong (Incense Street), Pho Hang Bac (Silver Street), Pho Hang Ma (Paper Street) and Pho Hang Mam (Fish Sauce Street), today its unfortunate that most shops don’t specialise in the trade that their street is named after however there are a few that do.
If the market scene is you thing on Friday Saturday and Sunday evenings near Đồng Xuân market you can find a night market selling souvenirs and food.
Hue is the former imperial capital of Vietnam and can also be considered the cultural and spiritual capital of Vietnam.
What stands out about Hue is its imperial heritage with The Citadel which was the centre of power and home to Emperor of Vietnam from the early 1800’s from Emperor Gia Long, other places you have to see when in Hue include:
- Thien Mu Pagoda a Buddhist pagoda built around 1844 by Emporer Thieu Tri
- Hue Tombs – There are plenty of them some better than others we recommend you see the tomb of Tu Duc, Khai Dinh and Minh Mang.
Finally Sapa is the northern most destinations in this Top things to see and Do list however it is by no means has the least. The views that can be found in Sapa are absolutely breath taking, I recommend going on a short or overnight trek to experience Sapa’s true beauty, you also need to see the local markets that are any think but tourist oriented, these are original country markets the way they have been for many years before tourists arrived.
Sapa is home to several ethnic minorities that include the Black Hmong the Red Hmong and the Dzao, each of these groups have distinctly different dress.
As mentioned in the introduction this list is by no means nowhere near complete there are so many other attractions and areas in Vietnam that I love and adore so much if I have miss off one of your favourite Vietnam destinations or attractions let us know by leaving a comment below to share with fellow readers, and for a possible future follow up to this article.