Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay, in northern Vietnam, is dotted with 1,600 limestone islands and islets and covers an area of over 1,500sqkm. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, for many visitors, this surrealistic place is like something right out of a movie.
Approximately a four-hour drive from downtown Hanoi, the area is also home to different kinds of limestone caves such as phreatic caves, karstic foot caves and marine notch caves. Activities include exploring the many cave formations, kayaking around rocky outcrops and watching the wildlife.
This northern province shares a border with China and is home to some of the most dramatic landscapes in Vietnam. Terraced rice fields, forested limestone and granite mountains, and magnificent caves are this province’s claims to fame, as well as Quan Ba pass, also known as Heaven’s gate for its panoramic views of terraced rice fields.
Surrounded by pictorial mountains, rice terraces and a diversity of hill tribes in the remote northwest of Vietnam, Sapa is a quiet town frequently used as a base for trekking in the Hoang Lien Son Mountains and touring rice paddies and traditional villages. From the town, there are many organized tours that aide tourists in mountain hikes and exploring the nearby rice paddies and remote villages. These tours present views of beautiful waterfalls and the opportunities to experience the food, customs and way of life among the local tribes.
Hue is a historical city in central Vietnam that housed the last emperors of the Nguyen dynasty. The ancient citadel is a spectacular sight to behold, especially during the annual Hue festival. There are temples, pagodas, and delicious cuisine famous throughout the country. Along the Perfume River are multiple tombs of former Nguyen dynasty emperors – make sure to visit the architecturally ornate tomb of ancient emperor Khai Dinh.
A surprise entry in this poll, the modern riverside city of Da Nang is increasingly making it onto every traveller’s must-see list. It is particularly attractive after dark when the neon light spills across the Han River, on weekend nights the quirky Dragon Bridge is illuminated and, astonishingly, it breathes fire. East of the city, a seemingly never-ending stretch of sandy beach extends 30km to Hoi An.
Charming colonial Hoi An is another top choice for Vietnamese and foreign vacationers. The old city is full of colonial architecture and is a lovely place to take in an early morning or late afternoon stroll, when the sun is no longer at its blistering peak. Lush gardens, illuminated lanterns glowing after dark, good food and gorgeous beaches await at this dreamy, ancient spot in central Vietnam.
Phu Quoc island
Way down in southern Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand, Phu Quoc is a classic deserted island getaway. It's still relatively undeveloped, and travellers rave about the west coast with its picture-perfect white-sand beaches and spectacular ocean sunsets. It is also well worth exploring the red dirt roads of the lush interior, which is dotted with pepper plantations and dominated by a national park.
The Mekong Delta
A vast sprawling delta through which the Mekong River makes its last push to meet the South China Sea, the landscape here is a lush maze of languid waterways and mangrove forests. This fertile region is Vietnam’s rice bowl and travellers flock to atmospheric floating markets to watch produce being hawked from colourful boats bathed in early morning.