Vietnam's Main Attractions

Most travelers to Vietnam are attracted by the country’s wonderful natural beauty: From the green rice fields in the north to the fascinating bustle of the Mekong Delta in the south. Vietnam however is also a country with a long history and ancient traditions. It has many historic attractions and old temples. An overview of the most amazing tourist attractions in Vietnam.

Vietnam Tourists Map
Vietnam Tourists Map

Vietnamhighlights from north to south

***Sapa, a remote town in the scenic northwest of the country where colourful hill tribes (e.g. Dao, H'mong, and Kinh people) gather for market days.
The famous Saturday market is inevitably touristy but still a brilliant, psychedelic experience.
380 km from Hanoi, it needs 3 days to make it worthwhile.

***Hanoi, the 1,000-year-old capital city is set in a beautiful lake-scattered landscape with a relaxed, old fashioned atmosphere and a sticky sub-tropical climate. It features many striking French colonial buildings from its time as centre of the French Indochina empire, as well as fine Chinese-influenced Vietnamese architecture including many temples. The city is now being modernized with some speed.

Ha Noi's prime attractions are the Old Quarter, the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh (the body of Uncle Ho is taken to Moscow for annual maintenance every November), The Temple of Literature (Van Mieu), One Pillar Pagoda and a few worthwhile museums including the excellent Museum of Ethnology (ie. ethnic tribes displays), hilarious Ho Chi Minh Museum and Museum of the Vietnamese Revolution.

Hanoi offers planty of modern entertainment options but also captivating, traditional water puppetry that is very popular with tourists. The city has been listed as one of the top ten foodie destinations in the world.

Possible short trips that can be arranged in Hanoi:
- Bat Trang, a famous ceramic/pottery village just 9kms south, easy to reach via Bus 47.
- Tam Coc and Hoa Lu, pointy hills (karsts), grottoes, ancient king's shrines and an hour's boating
- the Perfume Pagoda (mountain hikes, boating and temples), 60 kms southwest.
- Halong Bay's magical, water-embedded peaks.
- Sapa, a two or three day jaunt, see at top.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

***Halong Bay, the panoramic view of the bay with more than 3,000 limestone islets (karsts) is one of the world's must-see natural wonders. A one day trip from Hanoi is possible, although it is better to stay overnight at nearby Haiphong, or on board, in order to sail further for much more scenic views or for wildlife - the Cat Ba island, for instance. Better to avoid February - April when it is cold, wet and grey, as well as crowded July and August.

***Hue, the ancient imperial city - beautifully located with a tranquil atmosphere - has a Citadel and a fortified palace which is one of the country's most important historic sites.

The prime attractions are: The Citadel, including Imperial City, Tien Mu Temple (Pagoda), Royal Tombs including Tombs of Minh Mang and Khai Dinh.
The road to Da Nang - aka 'the Mandarin Road' - through Truong Son Mountains is a superbly picturesque driving route, with the highest point known as 'the Pass of Clouds'.

Lang Co, a fishing village on a sand strip in the lagoon nearby has a beach, but it is not as beautiful as from a distance.
This is a good area to buy fish/shrimp sauces.

***Da Nang, Vietnam's 4th biggest city, has not much to see, apart from Cham Museum, but head a few miles out and there are limestone caves of *Marble Mountains, and the endless white sands of **China Beach where American troops landed during the War.

***Hoi An, a medieval trading port, has a unique historic background of mixed Chinese, Japanese and European influences.
The whole town is like a an open-air museum - a local guide would be useful here.
Not to be missed are old Chinese houses (e.g.Tran house, Ceramic Museum), the Fujian Congregation Hall (Phuc Kien Pagoda) and also the Japanese bridge-pagoda.

Try to stay at least one night (in oriental rooms if you can) to hang out at peaceful riverside cafes and to stroll in the morning market.

This nostalgic, laid-back town is Bugbog's favourite place in Vietnam. It's 30 km from Da Nang.

***My Son is a small, peaceful complex of 4thC Cham/Hindu temples, 50 km south of Hoi An. The ruins used to be the focus of the Cham civilization and Vietnam's cultural/ religious centre.
Don't expect anything like Cambodia's Angkor, but it is worth seeing if you are in the area, or an ancient wonder lover.

***Da Lat, a cool mountainous town, is a pleasant place to avoid heat or to explore the highlands. Do not miss a bizarre sculpture piece, the Hang Nga Tree House Hotel (also called Cobweb House/Crazy House).

***Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), a vibrant commercial centre with bustling street life where tourists can get a glimpse of ancient culture, though it doesn't measure up to Hanoi for tourist-oriented attractions.
The prime sights are: Reunification Palace, the Giac Lam Pagoda, Notre Dame Cathedral, Ho Chi Minh City Museum, Ben Thanh market, China Town and the War Remnants Museum.
This is fantastic place for eating, varied shopping and spa treatments.
Explore the

***Cu Chi Tunnels and other war relics nearby built by the Viet Cong during the America-Vietnam war; also cruise the Mekong Deltaby boat (see below).

***Mekong Delta offers a good example of local agriculture lifestyle.
The best places to see are Vinh Long or Can Tho for the boat trip, Cai Rang for the floating market, Chau Doc for the boat houses or Soc Trang and Tra Vinh for Khmer pagodas. There are also bird sanctuaries at Cao Lanh and Long Xuyen.
If you haven't much time, try a short boat trip along My Tho, for just a taste of the Delta (you still need 5-6 hours though). Not recommended in September's flood season.

***Beaches. Vietnam has nearly 3500 km of coastline, with many newly built resorts. The beaches are not as impressive as those in Thailand nor Malaysia, but less commercial and with far less visitors.
Try Mui Ne, Nha Trang, Ha Tien, Phu Quoc Island.

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