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5 Top Places Not to Miss in Vietnam

Authored by Agness Walewinder

There are numerous reasons why you should make it to Vietnam one day. Breath-taking landscapes, friendly and hospitable Vietnamese, affordability (backpacking in Vietnam is popular and it’s a well known destination among budget travellers), and of course, coffee, coffee, coffee! Yes, there is nothing better than enjoying a cup of black (ca phe den) or iced coffee with condensed milk (cap he sua da) while watching as life goes by on a corner of the street!

When planning your Vietnam itinerary, there are certain places you can’t afford to miss. You may not know, but Vietnam has all the off-the-beaten-path experiences that you are all looking for, such as hiking the Northern mountain area of Sapa or taking photos over the beautiful sunrise in Hoi.

Stunning Ninh Binh. Northern Vietnam.

Stunning Ninh Binh. Northern Vietnam.

Here are top 5 places you definitely should add to your Vietnam bucket list:

Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh is often underrated by many foreigners which is a real pity as it offers a stunning scenery, relaxing boat riding and extraordinary pagodas surrounded by Vietnamese villages.

Ninh Binh is a charming and small city located in the Red River Delta of northern Vietnam. In my opinion, it is even more beautiful and relaxing than the scenery of famous Ha Long Bay.

This is a typical place where you can hide when trying to get some more local experience, Vietnamese hospitality or simply chill out and get some rest from your constant travels across the country.

Ninh Binh.

Ninh Binh.

Cu Chi Tunnel, Saigon

This is definitely a place for history lovers who are interested in the Vietnam War. Cu Chi Tunnel is the most intelligent and immense network of connecting underground tunnels in the world.

Used as a place where thousands of fighters and villages could hide, nowadays it is the most visited country’s prime tourist attraction. It is located in the Cu Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and you can easily reach it by a local bus.

Cu Chi Tunnel.

Cu Chi Tunnel.

Mekong Delta

Mekong Delta is definitely one of the major tourist attractions when visiting Southern Vietnam. It is a place of various exotic fruits, extraordinary flora and fauna and friendly locals.

When in Vietnam, you should definitely go for one day trip to Mekong Delta so you can see the beauty of this wonderful water world, best to be explored by boat.

Snake wine at Mekong Delta!

Snake wine at Mekong Delta!

Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay is located in Northern Vietnam and as you may already know, it is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and it is also one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Ha Long Bay is considered as one of the world’s natural wonders and the most beautiful tourist destination of Vietnam and this is so true.The view from the boat was very beautiful.

There are more than one thousand extraordinary limestone islands with different shapes and sizes. Just picture some stunning mountains sticking out from the crystal clear water – impressive, isn’t?

Ha Long Bay.

Ha Long Bay.

Cua Lo, Northern Vietnam.

Cua Lo is a hidden town district of Nghe An Province, in the North Central Coast region of Vietnam. Why would you make it there? It has a stunning and quiet beach with white sand, clean water and a shady grove of pine trees, where you can chill out and swim.

Cua Lo beach is 16km northeast of Vinh and can be reached easily by motorbike or taxi. If you feel like recharging your batteries and getting some tan, don’t miss it out!

Agness at Cu Lo Beach.

Agness at Cu Lo Beach.

As you can see, Vietnam offers a lot of different places to explore for its visitors. Every town and city is different so Vietnam will keep surprising you with the hospital locals, delicious Pho and stunning views and beaches!

Meet Agness and Cez – best friends and travel companions from Poland. This duo stands behind eTramping.com, a travel website where you can find plenty of budget travel tips on how to travel the world with $25 in your pocket.

Since 2011, they have been travelling the world while teaching English in different Asian countries such as China, Thailand or Cambodia. They are both photography passionates obsessed with Chinese cuisine and culture. If you would like to read more about China, you can check out their “Add the Brick to the Great Wall:” Experience-based Advice for China from Expats” e-book which sums up their two-year experience of teaching, living and travelling in the Land of Dragons.

    51 Comments

  1. Wow! This is amazing. I’ve always wanted to go to Vietnam. Really need to move this up on my list!

    • You won’t be disappointed! Vietnam is an absolutely amazing destination!!

    • I really hope you can make it there Lance. Absolutely worth it!

  2. I would definitely recommend Hoi An. It can be touristy but it’s absolutely gorgeous. The whole town is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The food there is amazing too. Can’t be missed!

    • Thanks Arnette! Hoping to get back and do some more of Asia very shortly – will have to add Hoi An to the list!

    • I agree with that. Me and Cez loved street food and night markets.

  3. Great post! It show how diverse Vietnam is, and why I love traveling there. YAY!

    • Glad you enjoyed the list! Maybe we’ll bump into each other back in Vietnam one day! Have a great weekend :)

  4. Great post, just wish I’d had the chance to visit when we were in SEA in 2013.

    • Sounds to me like the perfect reason to plan another trip :D!

    • Definitely, Franca!

  5. I’ve not made it to Vietnam yet so these ideas are great for planning. I’m particularly fascinated by those tunnels. (Was that Cez slipping underground?)

    It’s also great to see 2 of my favourite travel bloggers collaborating :-)

    • I believe that is indeed Cez slipping underground! I’m guessing he got out safely :D!

      Love Agness and Cez – their adventures and travels are always inspiring!

  6. All of these look amazing, I shall add them to my list!

    • Definitely do! And have a wonderful time in Vietnam!

  7. I also liked Ninh Binh. Also worthwhile is the bus journey to Sapa via Dien Bien Phu the west route through the mountains.

    • Thanks Jeremy! Will definitely check it out when we hit up Vietnam!

  8. Totally agree with Ninh Binh!! Loved it from the first second and I’m ready to go back any time :).

    • Return trips are often the best! Happy travels!

  9. One of the great things if you are from the US or the West is the value of our currency to the VND. This will mean your days in Vietnam will be 5 star quality, at 2-3 star prices. This for me is the killer about Asia. A posh 5 star London hotel might cost $400 a night, but in Vietnam, it’ll be around $100. There’s a ton of history in Saigon and Ho Chi Minh City (my favourite) and you can at least enjoy a week there. From there, you can visit a couple of the above destinations, but keep HCMC as your 5 star basecamp!

    • That’s also the biggest thing about Asia for me – your dollar really goes so much further, and those luxury vacations which may normally seem super far out of reach are very available on a mid range budget.

      Definitely agree that it’s a great spot to splurge and really enjoy a little luxury while traveling through! By that same token, it also means it’s an amazing spot for budget travelers who don’t need that luxury and truly can live off $20 a day. Win win for everyone!

  10. Thanks for sharing, I will add your post to bookmark.
    Quang Dung

    • Glad you enjoyed the post :)

  11. Hi,
    Thanks for sharing. Interesting, as I am heading (back) to Vietnam in one week (was there in 2003).
    I am surprised you do not mention Hoi An nor Hue…
    Cheers
    Gilles

    • Trying to mention more off the beaten path destinations to get people thinking out of the box from the regular tourist destinations :D Hope you found some inspiration!

      Happy and safe travels – have a wonderful time in Vietnam!

  12. I am traveling to Vietnam in 3 weeks, I just got the tickest, and I am currently trying to create an itinerary. This is very helpful – thank you!

    • Glad to hear we could help! Happy and safe travels – stay in touch and let us know how your trip goes! I’m sure you’ll have a fantastic time!

  13. We are seasoned travellers to Europe, but this would be our first trip to Asia (other than Istanbul!). Your write-up on Vietnam sounds good enought to try. Just wondering, how did you travel to all the different locations? We have always rented a car, but I don’t think that will be an option in this part of the world. also, did you prebook your accommodations? Do you have any highlights for Cambodia?

    Thanks from Canada!

    • Hi Barbara, we mainly travelled by bike. If the distance was too long, then we packed our bikes to a local bus. We never rented a car, so I can’t say anything about that, but the buses were pretty comfy, affordable although the journey could take ven up to 7 hours. As for Cambodia, check out these blog posts: http://etramping.com/destinations/asia/cambodia/

  14. Couldn’t agree more regarding Ninh Binh. Such a wonderful and beautiful part of Vietnam.

    Hoi An is my favourite place in Vietnam. There is a charm about it unlike anywhere else.

    • So glad you enjoyed your time in Vietnam Dean :) I jumped at the chance ot feature a guest post from Agness when she said she had been – we haven’t hit much of Asia yet, and would love to get to both Ninh Binh and Hoi An. Can’t wait!

  15. I don’t know if I could do the tunnels! I’m so claustrophobic! Was it as terrifying as it seemed? Loved Vietnam and will totally go back but passed this last time we were there.

    • If you are claustrophobic, I would not do the tunnels. They were pretty dark and long. Besides, it was pretty hard to get out in the end, so in case you start panicking, it will be hard to leave the tunnel quikly.

  16. Would you recommend going there in August at all… Ill have to miss out Sapa though :( Thanks!

    • Hi Simona :) I haven’t been in August, but I believe it depends on which part of the country you’re going to. I’ve read that this is peak month for rainfall in the North but the rain seems to back off in the Centre and South Vietnam. The temperature varies between 27 and 32 in Hanoi and slightly lower in Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City. Highland areas remain cool but with rain- the temperature can drop to below 20 at night.

      There’s some great info on which times are the best to travel on “Rough Guides” which should be really helpful: http://www.roughguides.com/destinations/asia/vietnam/when-to-go/

      Hope that helps!

  17. Hi, We’ve decided to take a last-minute trip to SE Asia and are now struggling with itineraries. Quick overview: we are doing a 2-night stopover in Shanghai, arrive early hours of AM in Ho Chi Minh City October 29th. We leave from Bangkok to come home Dec 4th so basically we have 36 days to explore. Hope to do Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand – thinking from what I’ve read that VN & Thailand are the most interesting so Oct 29-Nov 12 in Vietnam, Nove 13-19 in Cambodia, Nov 19-Dec 3 in Thailand. Reading your notes, sounds like getting from HCMC to Hanoi via train is a good option? Then flying from Hanoi either to Phu Quoc or to Pnom Pehn) Any thoughts on that? (We are two people aged 54-62 but do a lot of travel, most recently to Turkey, Egypt, Greece) Thanks!

    • Hi. Sounds like a nice plan! If your budget allows, you can take a 2h flight from HCMC to Hanoi using very affordable airlines such as JetStar, VietJetAir or Vietnam airlines. That will save you a lot of time. From Hanoi you can also fly to Phonm Pehn from where taking a bus to Siem Reap seems the best option. Good luck!

  18. Hello, dear, we are planning to visit Vietnam next year! Thanks for your suggestions. We have a hot list:
    1. Vietnamese Women’s Museum
    2. Old Quarter
    3. Vietnam Museum of Ethnology
    4. The Nguyen Dynasty Tombs
    5. Cu Chi Tunnel, Saigon

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Monika – have a wonderful trip!

  19. We just got back from an amazing trip. But tired when we spent 6 days for Hanoi, Halong, Sapa.

    • Glad you enjoyed your time in Vietnam John :)

    • Amazing that so many thousands of fighters and villages could hide here!

  20. Agreed with you that Mekong is one of the places not to miss in Vietnam. However, in our heart Mekong is great for canals and floating markets; and it’s surprising you are so impressed with snake rice whisky, hehe

    • Thanks for sharing your love of Mekong Long! Haha maybe the snake rice whisky is a tourist thing :D

  21. This is amazing. I was born in Vietnam but lived in America. Very rarely get back home where I was born. The location is really beautiful. I have been going 2 out of 5 places. And I have learned that in Vietnam there are more Phong Nha caves where Vietnam’s wildest cave, Son Doong. It is really beautiful and magnificent. If you have the opportunity to come to Vietnam to explore it. I think you will like it at first sight.

    • Thanks Zenni! I’m really looking forward to getting to Vietnam at some stage – we publish many amazing guest posts from people who have been, and they have such inspiring photos and stories! I can’t wait!

  22. Great post!
    I have known many tourist destinations in Vietnam when I work at a travel agency. Vietnam has a lot of beautiful scenery with wild and peaceful.

    • Thanks Lisatran, glad you enjoyed the post! Vietnam is a beautiful country indeed :)

  23. Dear Nikhil,

    Thank you very much for the great detail.

    Could you tell me more about itineraries

    I am looking forward to hearing you.

    Thanks a lot

    • Hi Sinh, I’m not sure who Nikhil is? These are places we suggest you include on your Vietnam itinerary, but we don’t have any specific itineraries created on our site yet. I will let you know if we add any soon :)

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