To help inspire or plan your trip to Vietnam, some of its major attractions
for travellers are shown below, including some of the best natural, historical, cultural and adventure sites in the country.
These include all of UNESCO World Heritage Sites for Vietnam which represent the best
of the world's cultural and natural heritage.
Click on the icons below to focus on specific types of features (click again to return to all).
Halong Bay, whose name means "descending dragon", is a stunning site, where 3,000 limestone karst islands and peaks rise out of the emerald green waters of the bay. The best way to appreciate this area is on a slow junk boat ride through the bay, stopping off to explore limestone caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites, encounter floating fishing villages, enjoy secluded beaches or just swimming in the bay itself.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Ha Long Bay
Hanoi combines the bustle and pace of a capital city with an old world charm and nostalgia from its French colonial past. Characterised by wide boulevards, faded colonial buildings and tree-lined lakes, Hanoi is a wonderful city for strolling and soaking up the atmosphere. In particular, the maze-like Old Quarter between Hoan Kiem Lake and the Red River invites exploration of its narrow streets and myriad of shops. Other attractions include the Temple of Literature, Vietnam's oldest educational establishment, the colonial architecture of the Presidential Palace, the One Pillar Pagoda, Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and the infamous Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the Hanoi Hilton. Also worth checking out are the famous water puppet theatres for a truly Vietnamese experience.
|Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is located on the Red River Delta in Hanoi. Built in the 11th century on the remains of a Chinese fortress, it marked the independence of the Dai Viet and was the regional centre of power of nine centuries, lying between the Chinese to the north and the Kingdom of Champa to the south.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long - Hanoi
Sapa is a hilltown northwest of Hanoi founded by the French as a retreat from the heat and humidity of the plains. Located at 1000 metres in the mountainous terrain of the Tonkinese Alps, it's an area of stunning natural beauty and perfect for exploring on foot or motorbike. Local villages inhabited by Vietnamese and minority tribes such as the Black Hmong, Tay and Red Dzao ensure some fascinating cultural interactions. It's a perfect region for trekking, either through the hills and villages or, for the more ambitious, to scale Mount Fansipan, at 3143 metres the highest peak on the Indochina peninsula.
Mau Chau is a village in the Hoa Binh province 135 kilometres from Hanoi. Located within a verdant valley, the area has stunning scenery and is an excellent spot for trekking. The region is home to Thai minority tribes such as the Hmong and home stays in the village will allow you to appreciate the customs and culture of these peoples.
Most trips to Vietnam will take you from Hanoi in the north to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in the south (or vice versa). By far the best way to travel the length of the country is by train on the Reunification Express. The train line was re-opened after the war in 1975, hence its name. The total distance of the line is 1,700km and a non-stop trip takes 30 hours. The train passes through some of Vietnam's beautiful scenery, from lush tropical landscapes and rural scenes of paddy fields and water buffalo to the spectacular vistas of the coast around Danang. For a non-stop trip, be sure to book a sleeper car and choose a train that passes the best of the scenery during the day. It's worth breaking the trip to see sights like the old imperial capital of Hue and the historical town of Hoi An (disembark at Danang for Hoi An) - separate tickets need to be purchased for each stage of the trip.
Hue was the imperial capital of Vietnam, and its religious and cultural centre, under the Nguyen dynasty from 1801 to 1945. The walled imperial citadel, containing the Forbidden Purple Palace (an exact replica of Beijing's Forbidden Palace), covers a vast area but much of it was destroyed during the Tet Offensive in 1968. The Ngo Mon Gate, some of the outer walls and the Flag Tower remain however, providing an eloquent glimpse at the glories of imperial Vietnam. The beautiful and evocative Perfume River runs through Hue and dragon boat rides along the river will take you to more of Hue's attractions. The Thien Mu Pagoda is the oldest monastery in Hue and one of the most beautiful buildings in Vietnam. There are also the tombs of the Nguyen emperors, such as that of Tu Duc, which provide insights into the lifestyles of the emperors.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Complex of Hué Monuments
The city of Danang was once the centre of the Kingdom of Champa between the 4th and 13th centuries. Today the Cham Museum in Danang allows you to see some amazing Cham sculptures. The landscape around Danang is extraordinary, including the limestone peaks of the Marble Mountains, once used by both the Champas and in ore recent times as a haven for the Viet Cong and containing many Buddhist shrines. You can also visit the famous China Beach nearby. The road north to Hue also offers spectacular scenery, especially over the Hai Van pass, known as the Pass of the Ocean Clouds.
The Champa Kingdom developed on the coast of Vietnam between the 4th and 13th centuries. The kingdom displayed spiritual and architectural influences from Indian Hinduism. The ruins at My Son, the religious and political capital, comprise a series of impressive and well preserved tower temples located in a secluded valley.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: My Son Sanctuary
From the 15th to the 19th century, Hoi An was one of the most important trading ports in Vietnam, visited by ships from all over the world trading goods such as spices, silks and ceramics. When its harbour silted up in the 19th century it became eclipsed by Da Nang and other ports. Hoi An's economic loss was the world's gain, as the town preserved its old appearance and, as the only example of a traditional Vietnamese town, has become a major tourist destination. Hoi An is characterised by narrow streets and beautifully preserved buildings displaying indigenous and foreign influences, including the famous Japanese bridge. It's a beautiful town for wandering, tasting the fantastic local cuisine or exploring the surrounding countryside and nearby beaches. Hoi An is also famous for its myriad of clothes shops which will produce tailor made clothes from hundreds of materials and designs within hours at very low prices.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Hoi An Ancient Town
The My Lai massacre was one of the turning points of the Vietnam war and the memorial museum at Quang Ngai tells the story through a harrowing set of photographs.
The city of Nha Trang is Vietnam's premier beach resort. The 4km stretch of white sands spans the entire length of the city with the warm, blue waters of the South China Sea on the shore. Boat trips take you to nearby islands, with opportunities for snorkelling and scuba diving, and allow you to appreciate the rugged coastlines around the city. Nha Trang is also famous for its seafood, which can be sampled in numerous restaurants in the town.
|Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh Province comprises a very complex karst landscape, the oldest in Asia. It contains 65 kilometres of caves and underground rivers - Phong Nha Cave is almost 45 kilometres long and tour boats can travel over 1500 metres into the cave. On the surface the park is mostly covered by tropical forest and over 500 vertebrate species have been identified, including ten species of primates.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
The old French hill station of Dalat was founded over a century ago as a mountain resort town for colonialists to escape the heat and humidity of the coast. Today, it performs the same function for locals and tourists alike. In addition to the surrounding hills, forests and tranquil lakes, Dalat has some excellent architecture, including the Bao Dai Summer Palace (used by the last emperor of Vietnam), Dalat Church, Lam Ti Ni Pagoda, the old railway station that connected Dalat with the coast and Hang Nga Villa, known to the locals as "Crazy House" due to its bizarre architecture.
|Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as it's still known, is Vietnam's largest city and economic powerhouse. It's a vibrant, noisy and bustling city but also retains some of the colonial French architecture, such as the post office and city hall. Other attractions include the Reunification Palace, the chilling War Remnants Museum and Notre Dame Cathedral. Also worth visiting is the Chinatown district of Cholon to see the Binh Tay Market, pagodas and temples.
|Cu Chi Tunnels
Almost 200 kilometres of underground tunnels were dug at Cu Chi, north of Saigon, during the Vietnam War which acted as a refuge for Viet Cong guerrillas and a means of staging attacks, particularly during the Tet Offensive in 1968. They included living quarters, hospitals and kitchens. Today, a small section has been renovated that allows visitors to crawl through. It's a cramped, dark and claustrophobic experience which gives you just a small indication of the conditions endured by the fighters. The sounds from a nearby firing range, where you can purchase bullets to fire from a range of weapons including AK-47s, adds to the atmosphere.
The Mekong River originates in the Tibetan Plateau and flows through China, Burma, Laos and Cambodia before reaching Vietnam and splitting into many waterways and channels to form the Mekong Delta. The Delta, home to about 20 million people, is one of the most fertile areas on earth, known as Vietnam's rice bowl and where many of its tropical fruits are grown. The region is best explored on boat and travelling along the canals, rivers and backwaters allows you to appreciate the beauty of the area and understand the lives of the local people. You will pass rice fields, villages of stilted houses, local markets (the floating market at Cai Be is famous) and see the cottage industries of the villagers.
|Citadel of the Ho Dynasty
The citadel of the 14th -century Ho Dynasty reflects the flowering of neo-Confucianism in Vietnam in this period. Designed by feng shui principles, it was built in a landscape of great scenic beauty on an axis joining the Tuong Son and Don Son mountains in a plain between the Ma and Buoi rivers.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Citadel of the Ho Dynasty
Other World Heritage Sites in Vietnam
|Trang An Landscape Complex