With dramatic landscapes, rich history, and diverse cultures, it is no wonder that Vietnam is one of the top tourist destinations in Asia. It offers everything travelers could hope for, from unwinding on white sandy beaches to exploring compelling and bustling cities.
To help you with planning your Vietnam adventure, here is a list of 9 must-see attractions.
Old Quarter in Hanoi—1000-Year-Old Market
This old-style market in central Hanoi is in stark contrast to the rest of the booming metropolis. Instead of high-rises, the Old Quarter consists of narrow streets lined with antique brick houses. The 36-street marketplace is best known for its 15th-century architecture and fascinating glimpses into the past.
Walking through the Old Quarter, visitors will see ancient houses of merchants, sacred Buddhist monuments, and bustling streets full of vendors and artisans.
With merchandise ranging from medicinal herbs to prayer flags and handicrafts, the Old Quarter in Hanoi is a great place for experiencing Vietnamese culture, as well as for finding the perfect souvenir.
Muong Hoa in Sapa—Valley of Rice Terraces
Muong Hoa is most renowned for its breathtaking scenery. Once in the valley, visitors will find themselves walking next to a gentle river, surrounded by picturesque and cascading rice terraces.
With a suspension bridge, waterfall, and numerous minority villages, the journey through Muong Hoa Valley offers incredible views and cultural experiences, all in the course of a 5-hour trek.
Every village in the valley is different, but most of the locals belong to the Dao minority group. Dao women are known for their black, richly-embroidered trousers and scarlet turbans decorated with tassels or bells. In the villages, women can still be seen in their intricate traditional clothing, unique to the Muong Hoa area.
Ha Long—Bay of Descending Dragons
Ha Long Bay is Vietnam’s most popular tourist destination because of its incredible natural beauty.
Known for its aqua-blue waters and 1,969 towering limestone islands, Ha Long Bay’s unique topography leaves visitors feeling like they have entered a mythical realm. The name Ha Long means Bay of Descending Dragons and accurately expresses the impressive appearance of this natural wonder.
Each island in Ha Long is unique, as each has been created by natural erosion over a period of 500 million years. Many islands have stunning arches or large caves and some islands are big enough to contain their own lakes.
The best way to experience Ha Long Bay is via a boat tour, sailing around the bay to enjoy views of the most stunning islands.
Ancient Town in Hoi An—Port of the Far-East
The Ancient Town in Hoi An comprises 1,107 well-preserved historical buildings, and transports visitors back to the 15th-century, when the region was an important center of commerce. Most structures in the town look just as they did centuries ago, making it an exceptional example of an ancient Asian port.
The Ancient Town is a fusion of Vietnamese and foreign cultures, exemplified by tottering Japanese houses, and Chinese temples and tea parlors. One of the main attractions in the area is the famous wooden Japanese-style bridge (or Buddhist pagoda), built in the early 1600s.
The best time to visit the Ancient Town is at sunset, when the streets are illuminated by yellow lanterns which glow in the windows of antique merchant homes.
Hoi An Beaches—White Sand and Blue Water
The two famous beaches near Hoi An are Cua Dai and An Bang. Cua Dai has long been known as the most beautiful and popular beach in the area, but in recent years, it has been subject to coastal erosion. While Cua Dai still offers clear blue waters and great dining, those looking for white sandy beaches will no longer find them there.
Because of the erosion at Cua Dai, An Bang is now the area's go-to beach. An Bang offers seafood restaurants and casual bars, as well as white sandy shores which are often speckled with umbrellas and beach chairs. Clear blue water and several tropical Cham Islands can be seen from the beach.
Both beaches offer many activities for visitors, including surfing lessons, kayaking, snorkeling and of course relaxing in the sun with a beautiful view.
Imperial City in Hue—The Walled Fortress
The Imperial City in Hue is a former capital of Vietnam, originally built in 1362. It took 203 years and thousands of workers to complete building the city. To date, this fortress is the most massive structure ever built in Vietnam. The entire city is surrounded by a moat that draws water from a nearby river.
The Imperial City can be divided into two main areas: the Citadel and the Forbidden City. Historically, the Citadel served to protect important palaces and tombs while the Forbidden City was where the emperor and royal family lived.
An impressive example of classical eastern architecture with rich history, the Imperial City is a must-see destination.
War Remnants Museum—A Powerful Reminder
Few museums in the world are able to show the brutal effects of war as powerfully as the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City. The museum is one of the most popular in Vietnam and attracts around half a million visitors every year, the majority of whom are foreigners.
Visitors to the museum start their journey on the first floor with an exhibit that expertly displays the international anti-Vietnam-War movement. As you continue upwards, the exhibits become more graphic, with photographs of US military atrocities and of Vietnamese people affected by napalm and Agent Orange.
No one can leave the War Remnants Museum unmoved by the images they have seen.
Cu Chi Tunnels—Vietcong Tunnel Complex
The Cu Chi Tunnels are a 75-mile long network of underground tunnels, which were the base of Vietcong operations during the Tet Offensive.
The Vietcong used the tunnels for hiding during the day and for launching guerrilla attacks at night, for supply routes and even as living quarters. Some portions of the network are many stories below ground.
The Vietnamese government decided to preserve the tunnels as a war memorial, since they played such an important part of the Vietcong success in the war. They have become a popular tourist attraction and visitors are allowed to crawl through some of the safer stretches of the tunnel system.
Mekong Markets—Multitude of Floating Bazaars
The floating markets are a historic and important part of commerce in the Mekong Delta. At the markets, locals buy goods for their own businesses. All sales are made directly from the boats, creating an animated scene of sellers and buyers jostling for position in the waterways.
Every boat has a large pole, which the sellers typically use to hang their goods upon, so they can be seen across the swarms of boats. There are many floating markets in the Mekong Delta, including the popular Cai Rang and Cai Be, as well as smaller markets which are typically more traditional.
The best time to visit these markets is in the early morning, as that is when they are most active.
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