The most beautiful places to visit in Vietnam | i Travel Blog

 

 


The most beautiful places to visit in Vietnam

 

When you mention to people who have been there that you are visiting Vietnam, their eyes light up as they start telling you how incredible a place it is. Recommendations of where to go and what to see, they tell you about the food and the people and everything in between. Because it invokes such a passionate reaction in past visitors, I was really looking forward to a couple of weeks in this country and I can tell you honestly, it lives up to the hype. 

Starting in Hanoi in the north and working our way south through the narrow Vietnam, visitors tend to follow the same route either north or south. Finishing in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) the journey takes you the length of Vietnam and the absolute minimum amount of time recommended for the trip would be 2 weeks. We visited the main hotspots of Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Dalat and Ho Chi Minh and I will talk a little about each destination below.

 

Hanoi

Depending on the time of year and the part of Vietnam you visit, the weather can vary hugely. At the end of July, the north is hot and extremely humid, so it was difficult to roam around and explore during the day as temperatures soared to 38 degrees. 

 

 

For two nights, we stayed in the Melia Hanoi, a 5 star establishment about 20 minute walk to the old quarter of the city. It was beautiful and had all the amenities one would look for – business centre, spa, gym, swimming pool. The breakfast had every kind of food imaginable to suit every pallet. There was even a beehive by the honey station! The rooms were spacious and modern and the staff were extremely polite. We did not try either of the restaurants on site, so I cannot comment but would wholeheartedly recommend this hotel in Hanoi. There is a lovely lake in the centre close by this hotel which is great for walks in the evening and at the weekends the whole area is closed to traffic and there are music performances and dancing for entertainment which both locals and tourists enjoy.

 

 

For the following 2 nights we moved to the old quarter. This was truly chaotic with the infamous Vietnamese traffic and scooters buzzing around you through the narrow streets. As is the norm in Vietnam, the footpaths were filled with tiny plastic coloured chairs where friends and families were seated for their dinner outside the restaurants. It is hard to know what the etiquette is for dining here which is why I would recommend a food tour of this city. 

We opted for 'Hanoi Street Food Tours' (highly rated on Tripadvisor) It was $20 and took 3 hours. It sounds like a long time to be walking around sampling food but it goes by very quickly and our guide was so informative and chatty. Each place we visited seemed to be better than the last and we were fed 7 amazing dishes popular in Vietnam. We learned the names of each, so we would know what and how to order in future. We never would have discovered the gems they took us to had we not signed up for it, I thoroughly enjoyed it! 

 

Halong Bay

From Hanoi, there are many agencies selling trips to Halong Bay. What most people do is book a round trip from Hanoi where you are picked up from your hotel and transferred by coach to Halong Bay (approx 4 hours). You are then brought to your boat in the harbour where you will embark on either a 2 day / 1 night or 3 day / 2 nights trip around the bay. 

 

There is a range of standards and prices that you can choose from but the minimum cost you would expect to pay for a decent standard one night trip is 130 euros per person. This would include any activities such as kayaking, all of your meals and transfers. This is what we paid and we got a lovely 4-star boat, a double room ensuite and the food was lovely. There was sunrise yoga on the deck, cooking demonstrations and you could opt for squid-fishing in the evenings if you wished. 

Well worth a trip to this wonder of the world in Vietnam, the scenery and sunsets were breathtaking. 

 

Hoi An

Hoi An is a UNESCO world heritage site and is in central Vietnam on the coast. A small town with a beautiful historical quarter known for its picturesque lanterns hanging above every street and released along the river in the evening time giving it a really magical feel. 

 

We flew to Da Nang from Hanoi after returning from Halong Bay and got a taxi from there to Hoi An (45 minutes – reasonable price of 30 euro). You must pay a couple of euro entrance into the old quarter but this allows you access to 5 history and culture sites throughout the town such as museums, old houses, temples etc. 

There are also 2 beaches in the surrounding area of Hoi An if you would prefer to base yourself there and travel the few kilometres into the town to explore.

 

 

A day trip that we took from Hoi An which is very popular is the My Son Ruins Trip. It is about an hour outside of the city and well worth a visit. It takes a few hours to walk around the interesting ruins with your guide and learn about the history. You have a choice to return to the city by coach or by boat down the river which includes lunch. We opted for the latter but the lunch of rice and vegetables left a lot to be desired and the boat took about 45 minutes to return by which time we were very hot and tired so I would probably take the bus if I had my time again. 

 

There are plenty of day trips to choose from which can be arranged from your hotel for example cooking classes and countryside treks and walks. 

About 3 days overall is perfect for this little town, my favourite spot in Vietnam!

 

Nha trang

Known as a popular beach holiday destination in Vietnam, Nha trang is further down the coast from Hoi An. This time of year is absolutely perfect for central Vietnam. Blue skies and temperatures in the high 20's. We took an overnight train (12 hours) and arrived at 7am in the morning. 

 

We actually booked into a backpacker's paradise hostel called Ninhvana Backpackers which is an all-inclusive resort about 1.5 hours outside of Nha Trang. For any young group of friends this place is a haven. All meals, activities and transfers to and from Nha Trang were included. There was yoga, soccer, volleyball, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, jungle treks and bike tours. A hot tub pool and lagoon pool and hammocks to stretch out in. There was a spa that included a treatment each day (massage, facials, pedicures, manicures). They also provide an opportunity to go to the local community centre twice a week to spend an hour with the local children teaching English. 

 

It was in a very remote area of Vietnam so you are confined to the hostel during your stay but all your meals and unlimited drinks are included. The food was of a high standard and there was good variety each day. I cannot comment on Nha trang itself but it looked like a nice beach city to spend a few days relaxing in. 

 

Dalat

Nestled among the highlands of southern Vietnam, Dalat is a small town that provides much welcomed cooler temperatures from anywhere else. The temperatures dropped to 24 degrees which made us feel cold! 

 

The drive from Nha trang to Dalat is very scenic and took about 5 hours. We took a taxi for a group of 6 which worked out the same as taking a local bus. This area is famous for canyoning; an activity involving trekking through canyons, rappelling cliffs and abseiling and jumping down waterfalls. There are also opportunities to see waterfalls, motorbike tours, countryside walks and cycles. You can book numerous day trips and half day trips to see various attractions or hire a driver for the day to take in many of them in one go. 

 

 

Aside from these outdoor activities, there is not much to do in the town itself and we only stayed 2 nights here as it broke up the journey from the coast to Ho Chi Minh – our final stop. 

 

Ho Chi Minh City

 

We had heard a lot about the crazy traffic of the former capital of Vietnam and it just has to be seen to be believed. The pedestrian crossings are merely suggestions, you just have to focus on the other side of the street and start walking. It is true that all the scooters don't stop for you, they will just avoid you. As long as you keep your pace the same as you are crossing the road, they will not hit you. It gets the adrenaline pumping for sure! All part of the experience as they say...

 

Many people have mixed feeling about Ho chi Minh city but I must say I really liked it. It is chaotic but the food and the markets stole my heart. Numerous attractions are within walking distance of the centre and I would suggest staying around the area of Ben Thanh. The places below were within 20 minutes walk from where we stayed:

Independence Palace

War Remnants Museum

Ben Thanh Market

Siagon Notre Dame Basilica

Bui Vien (nightlife area)

 

The Cu Chi Tunnels are a famous day trip from the city. It takes about 1 hour to get there. Once there your guide takes you around the area and explains the history of the Vietnam war and the tunnel networks and defensive techniques used at the time. You also get a chance to go down into the tunnels themselves for about 100m. The tunnels have since been widened for tourists but it is still a tight squeeze as you crawl through. There are exits every 20m in case people become panicked. It is worth a visit. 

 

On your bucket List?

Overall Vietnam was a magnificent adventure trip, the people are so friendly and inviting, the food is out of this world and the country itself is very beautiful. It has beaches, natural wonders, bustling cities, quiet countryside towns and villages, amazing scenery and a fascinating history – it really has it all and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend adding on your bucket list.



 

Ellen

Travel Consultant at J Barter Travel

Currently travelling around Asia, with stops in SingaporeMalaysia, Thailand, Laos, VietnamCambodiaPhilippinesIndonesia and Hong Kong, and also Australia and New Zealand.




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