Top Things to Do in Vietnam
Begin your trip in Hanoi and explore several unique UNESCO sites there. Cruise in Halong Bay, track back to the old imperial Hue, and immerse yourself in the timeless charm of Hoi An ancient town.
Discover the remnants of the Cu Chi Tunnels and visit floating markets in the Mekong Delta, before ending in Ho Chi Minh City.
It takes at least 9 days to take in all the highlights, as Vietnam is an ecologically and culturally diverse country with lush mountain valleys, scenic beaches, fertile deltas, distinctive ethnic minorities and a fascinating culture, suitable for all ages, especially family holidays and annual vacations for senior travelers.
1. Explore the Old Quarter
Hanoi - Recommended to Visit for a Half-Day
Hanoi’s attractions are clustered in one key area — the Old Quarter — making it easy to explore the city’s charm by visiting sites like the elegant Bach Ma Temple and Dong Xuan Market, the oldest local market in the city.
Start from Hoan Kiem Lake, watching locals practicing tai chi and painters painting landmarks, before walking north to the bustling Old Quarter. Filled with a warren of shops, the Old Quarter is still vibrant 600 years after its inception.
Purchase souvenirs at the little shops, taste local food in some of the eateries, and even watch a water puppet show. With many interesting sights for the Western eye, you can get the real feel of Hanoi… as long as you don’t mind crossing roads filled with fast-moving motorbikes.
See more on Hanoi Old Quarter Guide
2. Local Street-Food Adventure
Hanoi/Hoi An/Ho Chi Minh City - 2-3 hours at night
Vietnam has a rich tradition of street food. Vendors with their own recipes and cooking skills set up in the streets, with baskets of delicious snacks such as baguette sandwiches, spring rolls, fresh fruit, sugar cane juice and grilled meat wrapped in banana leaves.
Most snack foods can be found at a local market, where you will be able to taste the food and enjoy the atmosphere dining with locals, while sitting on plastic chairs.
The best part is that you can watch how the food is prepared in front of your eyes and wait just a few minutes to get it. Wash it down with iced drinks like local beer, coffee or fresh coconut-milk before heading to the next vendor.
We highly recommend that gastronomically-adventurous people or those interested in local food join a street-food tour, as doing so helps experience the culture. Spoiling your senses with Vietnam’s exotic flavors, when exploring Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, would be a nice way to spend the night.
Read more on Hanoi Walking Tour and Street Food Tour
3. Stay Overnight on a Junk to See Halong Bay
Halong Bay - Recommended to Take a 2D1N Junk
Halong Bay is touristy, with some of the most impressive natural scenery in Southeast Asia. Actually, it is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, so describing it as an ‘other-worldly’ sight is not an overstatement. It hosts more than 2,000 pinnacle-shaped limestone peaks and some dramatic karst caves.
Explore the bay by taking a cruise for 2 days and 1 night. Cruise across the bay and enjoy the sunset after adventures on an island, exercising with water activities like swimming, kayaking or canoeing, and visiting a fishing village.
The western part of the bay is much more crowded, as many of the tourist attractions are here. It makes for a more relaxing trip to take a cruise around the less-visited areas of the shimmering bay.
We could help arrange cruises for 2 days and 1 night or 3 days and 2 nights, with selected cruise operators.
More on Cruising in Halong Bay
4. Track Back to the Last Emperor’s Life in Hue, the Imperial City
Hue - Recommended Trip: One Day
Hue is the former imperial city of Vietnam, well-known for being one of the country’s most significant cultural and historic centers. The city is celebrated for its traditions and imperial citadel, a good destination for history buffs.
Renowned as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Imperial Hue Citadel was established in 1805 by Gia Long, the emperor who founded the Nguyen dynasty.
The citadel is an elegant complex consisting of three concentric enclosures and designed by application of Chinese geomancy. Visitors should spend at least half a day to see the complex and know more about its history.
Besides visiting the emperors’ tombs and Thien Mu Pagoda, it’s a good idea to hop on a motorbike to catch the beautiful sunset at Tam Giang Lagoon.
5. Take a Cooking Class in Hoi An
Hoi An - Recommended Tour: Half a Day
Boasting beaches nearby and an impressive cultural heritage, Hoi An is a mosaic of various cultures. In addition to Old Town, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its excellent roadside cafes, Hoi An provides fun hands-on cooking class opportunities.
Starting with a stroll around a local market, your guide will lead the way to shop for the necessary ingredients, such as fresh herbs, shrimp paste and meat. After arriving at the cooking school, you can walk through its herb garden and learn about the herbs that give Vietnamese cuisine its distinctive flavors.
During the class, the chef will reveal various culinary secrets. You will have a chance to learn how to prepare 3 to 5 typical delicacies, such as spring rolls, Hoi An pancakes and seafood salad, and make Vietnamese-style plate decorations with vegetable carving skills.
Finally sit down with your classmates and enjoy the food together!
More on Hoi An Cooking Class
6. Go Deep Into the Cu Chi Tunnels
Outside Ho Chi Minh City -Recommended Visit: Half a Day
To view and experience the legacy of the War in Vietnam from the perspective of Vietnamese people is another reason for Westerners to travel there.
The Cu Chi Tunnels are considered one of the most significant war-related sites, a remnant of the country’s war against the United States famous for their elaborate network.
There are two different tunnel systems — one at Ben Dinh village used by Vietcong during the war, the other at Ben Duoc better equipped for tourism. At both locations, you can experience history via a guided tour following an audio-visual presentation and observing booby traps.
More on Cu Chi Tunnels Guide
7. Visit the Floating Markets
The Mekong Delta - 2 days
“Without doubt, no other river, over such a length, has a more singular or remarkable character,” gushed Francis Garnier, second-in-command of the French Mekong Expedition in the 1860s.
With a length of 4,909 kilometers, the Mekong River goes through six countries in total. China, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam are all linked by the Mekong Delta.
When traveling to the Vietnamese part of the Mekong Delta, floating markets and a boat tour are the most popular ways to experience the local highlights. We recommend both Cai Rang and Cai Be floating markets, as each has its own charms.
Wake up early and visit the floating market. It has retained its traditional way of doing business and you will be able to see standing boat rowers there. Then take a sampan through tree-shaded canals to visit the islets and get on a bike to ride around the orchards and enjoy the exotic fragrance of the plants. A 2-day trip is enough to explore the area, with a stay in the Can Tho area.
Regional Map of Floating Markets in Mekong Delta (Vietnam Part)
8. Unwind on the Beach of Phu Quoc Island
Phu Quoc Island - Recommended Visit: 2-3 Days
As the biggest island in Vietnam, Phu Quoc is blessed with many stunning beaches. Most Westerners tend to choose the island for its quiet environment and quality beaches. It is also renowned for producing very good fish sauce. You will have the opportunity to visit a fish sauce production factory.
Almost 70% of the main island is occupied by the National Park, covered with tropical forest, offering visitors a few hiking trails with scenic views. Lined by various hotels, Bai Truong beach is best known for its wonderful sunset views and swaying palms.
Hon Doi Moi, with a coral reef and a wide variety of marine life, is a great spot for snorkeling and diving. Visiting a fishing village to try the local seafood cuisine also generates much fun.
The island has its own airport, Duong Duong Airport, and is easy to access by plane from Ho Chi Minh City. It is big enough to justify taking 2 or 3 days to unwind on its beach.
9.Go Trekking in Tribal Mai Chau
Mai Chau Valley - 2 days
For hiking or trekking in the north, most travelers go to Sapa, which is known for its lush vegetation, cascading rice terraces and ethnic diversity.
Mai Chau has it all, but is less commercial. Its verdant mountain scenery and tribal culture are highlights of the area, along with its delightful trails, providing excellent trekking opportunities.
Visitors to Hanoi have a chance to see the charming and fertile Mai Chau valley, only 3½ hours' drive from Hanoi. Most of the inhabitants of Mai Chau are White Thai, known for their warm hospitality.
Families offer home-stay facilities in stilt huts made of bamboo and timber, providing visitors an authentic way of experiencing life in the hills. Locals built these houses on stilts to prevent water from getting into them and to shelter the animals.
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Visit Vietnam with Asia Highlights
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