Vietnam’s capital city is one of a kind. Chaotic it may be, but its charms far outweigh the traffic, with peaceful lakes, crumbling colonial buildings, narrow streets of the Old Quarter and one of the best street food scenes in the world. There are also plenty of great day trips to be made from your base here.
This former French hill station in the northwest has become a major magnet for trekkers thanks to the wealth of ethnic minority cultures and the stunning rice terrace-clad valleys. It’s also now possible to stay outside the town in a choice of excellent lodges.
Bordering China, Ha Giang Province serves up the most dramatic road trip scenery in Vietnam with magnificent, rugged peaks and deep, sheer-sided gorges. Add to this a host of local minority villages and markets bustling with life and you have a rewarding destination to travel off the beaten path.
A UNESCO-listed site, Halong Bay is a true wonder of nature. Thousands of limestone islands and islets punch abruptly skyward out of a pan-flat, deep-green sea. Enjoy an overnight cruise on a traditional junk boat, explore caves and hike to the top of an island for captivating vistas.
Vietnam’s newest hotspot for adventure travellers, Phong Nha is a tiny town on the edge of the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. The surrounding limestone hills here are riddled with caves including some of the largest in the world. Take a one-, twoor even five-day trip deep into the heart of these other-worldy wonders.
Hué is a sleepy little city that was once the imperial capital of Vietnam. Emperors built lavish mausoleums all around the outskirts, many of which can be visited by taking scenic boat rides. In the heart of town the citadel complex is another major draw. It is a must-visit for history buffs.
Hoi An is an exquisitely pretty little riverside town and a former Chinese trading port. It has been remarkably well preserved and, while it is now unashamedly aimed at tourists, it retains much of its charm and character. The nearby beaches are also fantastic and the ancient Cham ruins of My Son are within striking distance.
The Central Highlands are home to coffee plantations, myriad ethnic minority cultures, dramatic waterfalls and national parks where elephants can be ridden. More remote trips can be mixed with a stay in the kitsch city of Dalat.
Ho Chi Minh City is an enthralling and captivating place with an infectious buzz. There is a palpable sense of dynamism here and life is fast-paced, particularly compared to Hanoi. The city’s face is rapidly changing, with new urban zones taking shape and shiny new skyscrapers altering the skyline. This is a fantastic place to eat, catch a band, view art, shop and party.
The rice basket of Vietnam, the delta is a lush, green lowland where verdant rice paddies stretch as far as the eye can see. Head on a tour of floating markets, take in the views from the top of Sam Mountain and stay in a homestay with a local family.
Vietnam’s largest island, Phu Quoc is home to a huge range of excellent beach-side accommodation from basic backpacker bungalows to the very best five-star resorts. Explore the island’s many brilliant white-sand beaches and take boat tour of the outlying islands.
The Con Dao archipelago is one of the most unspoilt places in Vietnam and the waters surrounding it are the best for diving. The main island is a former prison colony and the old jail building can still be visited along with a fascinating and deeply moving museum. The interior is densely forested and home to a plethora of wildlife.