If there’s one thing to be said for Vietnam, it’s the county that really has everything. Stunning and diverse cities, villages, mountains, rivers and beaches all wrapped up in a 3000km long stretch of coastland for you to explore. But the appeal goes deeper than that; it’s the experiences you can enjoy that make Vietnam truly unique. Young or old, backpacker or family of four, you’ll find an almost inexhaustible list of things to do while in Vietnam. We’ve put a few of our favourites together to give you a taste of this enchanting destination.
1. Set off on a Ha Long Bay Cruise
Let’s start off with one of the most well-known things to do in Vietnam: Ha Long Bay. Despite the fact it’s a top tourist draw, it’s also a spectacularly impressive place. The bay – whose name means ‘descending dragon’ – is made up of emerald waters and 1,600 towering limestone karsts rising from its turquoise waters, speckled with greenery. As a result, it’s on every visitor’s list – and hundreds of boats offer cruise trips every single day. Rather than a quick day trip, book a multi-day cruise so you have time to explore the outcrops at your leisure. Watching the sunrise and set across the bay will be an unforgettable experience.
2. Light a lantern in Hoi An.
Historic Hoi An is a rainbow of colour with string lanterns hanging all around the town. This is accentuated ten-fold every year during Tet (Vietnamese New Year) and the lantern festival. Celebrations aren’t limited to lanterns and light either – food stalls and singing groups bring the whole town to a joyous life. Make sure you don’t miss the hundreds of lanterns making their way down the river during the festival. For a small price, you can board a sampan boat and take a closer look and even light one yourself, watching as it floats peacefully away.
3. Hike the hills in Sapa
Sapa is a town located in northwestern Vietnam. Set on a 1,650m high mountain ridge, the town boasts fabulous views of the Hoang Lien Mountains and a colourful market attended by hill tribes from the surrounding villages every Saturday. It’s a town well known to adventure seekers as a base for thrill-seeking activities. As well as this, it is famous for its beautiful rice terraces, but that’s not all there is to this stunning area. Dig deeper and you’ll find some stunning hidden gems. There are hikes leading to waterfalls and landscapes you wouldn’t expect to see in Vietnam. Some people even arrange to stay with a local family for an original insight into local mountain life.
4. Visit the coffee making heartland.
Buon Ma Thuot is the regional capital of the central highlands of Vietnam, a gorgeous area of thundering waterfalls and the traditional villages of the local Ede people. It is also the heart of Vietnam’s thriving coffee industry. You’ll probably come across ‘weasel’ coffee during your visit, which may claim is the best in the world. While many believe its unique taste is excellent, it is worth noting that recent investigations have found unethical animal welfare practices on coffee farms across the region.
5. Take a motorcycle tour in Da Lat.
Cruising around Vietnam on a motorbike is one of the best ways to take in the beautiful landscapes, vivid mountain passes, interesting relics and meet friendly new people. Da Lat is an alternative Vietnam, the weather is spring-like instead of tropical hot, the town is dotted with elegant French-colonial villas rather than stark architecture and the surrounding farms cultivate strawberries, coffee and flowers in place of the usual rice. Exploring on a motorbike is a unique experience and gives you a feel for everyday Vietnamese life, plus, the tour guides will fill your experience with hidden gems you wouldn’t otherwise have discovered. Some of these include the Elephant falls, Paradise Lake and Truc Lam Mediation Centre.