OK, so this is a toughie, narrowing down Vietnam’s top attractions to a top ten “things to do in Vietnam” list. But, here it is, our attempt at bringing you the best of Vietnam in one ultimate checklist – these are things that you really should see and do in Vietnam, no matter if you’re here for a few days or a month.
In no particular order (just click on the headings to jump to the relevant section to read more)…
The spectacular wonder of Halong Bay has to top many a visitor to Vietnam’s wish-list! And with over 2000 islands and islets created from limestone over several millennia, Halong Bay may just knock your socks off. Tourism to this stunning area has skyrocketed over recent years, so don’t expect to be alone as you cruise between the islets – but despite the ever-growing crowds, this is one absolute must-see in Vietnam. Add it to your things to do in Vietnam bucket list (if you’ve got the funds, try a Halong Bay luxury cruise), and read our full guide to Halong Bay here.
A largely unknown site in the north of Vietnam, Ninh Binh in our opinion has to make it to your must-see list for Vietnam. Also known as the “Halong Bay on Land”, this area is breathtaking and a definite gem that will surely start seeing the ravages of tourism sooner rather than later – visit here before the rush! Check out our full guide to Ninh Binh here.
The Mekong is one of the world’s major waterways and plays a major role in the lives of millions of Vietnamese. The proximity to Ho Chi Minh City means this character-packed river is easy to get to and enjoy, even if you just take a day trip. But stay longer and enjoy the delights of the hidden river trails through bamboo lined routes, or the teeming morning madness of the floating markets. Read our guide to the Mekong Delta and add it to that things to do in Vietnam list!
The Vietnam War was a traumatic experience for a whole generation of Americans – and Vietnamese. And witnessing the trauma from the “other side” is a whole new ball-game. You can expect some Vietnamese propaganda thrown in to the mix, especially when watching documentary films at sites like the Hanoi Hilton, but other sites like the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, and the Cu Chi Tunnels are well worth visiting to get a taste of the impact the Vietnam War had in this region…
In the far north of Vietnam lies the town of Sapa, some 350km from Hanoi. While a little harder to reach and visit, especially if you’re on a quickie visit to Vietnam, Sapa and the surrounding countryside – including Vietnam’s highest peak, Fan Si Pan – is well worth exploring! With amazing hikes in the area, Sapa will also give you a taste of what life is really like for the locals. Don’t miss our ESSENTIAL guide to Sapa, a must-read for those thinking of making the trip!
The capital city of Hanoi is a bustling metropolis, with Chinese, American and French influences clearly making their mark. But the Old Quarter of Hanoi is where the action really is… expect to be wowed by a seemingly never-ending maze of side-streets and alleys, where bargain-hunters will find the ultimate in shopping experiences. Enjoy delicious food and drinks, while browsing traditional Vietnamese products such as lacquered goods and silks. With hotels and hostels close by, the Old Quarter of Hanoi is the perfect place to stay if you want a cultural experience right on your doorstep! Add it to the things to do in Vietnam bucket list and read our complete guide to the Old Quarter here.
Some people fall absolutely head-over-heels for Vietnamese food, and after you’ve had an amazingly fresh bowl of Pho (pronounced Fuh, and like you’re asking a question!), had a great Banh Mi (a baguette sandwich typically filled with a whole array of meats, veggies, and pickles), and drunk some Vietnamese coffee, you’ll soon understand why! Check out our guide to some of the greatest and tastiest Vietnamese food, and reasons why you’ll fall in love with the coffee (especially the iced coffees…)!
Vietnam might not be known for its paradise islands in the way that Thailand is, but with islands like Phu Quoc fast becoming a magnet for tourists
If exploring the far northern corner of Vietnam grabs your fancy, then a motorbike tour of the HaGiang province, known as the HaGiang Loop, is a MUST DO. Whether you choose to go pillion or hit the road yourself, this is one of northern Vietnam’s true gems. Expect amazing views, great food, and amazingly friendly locals. Read our guide to enjoying this amazing ride.
Vietnam remains a place of hidden gems and undiscovered towns and Phong Nha is one such place. The area is home to the truly stunning Son Doong cave, the world’s largest cave (but which is off-limits to many due to its high cost of visiting – think in the region of $3000 for a 4-day hike there!), as well as other smaller caves around the small town. There is, however, a lot more to see and do if caving isn’t your thing, from trying out the local dishes to exploring the remote countryside around the town. Add it to the things to do in Vietnam list and check out our guide to Phong Nha here.