Vietnam

Hanoi

Vietnam's capital races to make up for time lost to the ravages of war and a government that as recently as the 1990s kept the outside world at bay. Its streets surge with scooters vying for right of way amid the din of constantly blaring horns, and all around layers of history reveal periods of French and Chinese occupation – offering a glimpse into the resilience of ambitious, proud Hanoians.

Sapa

Sapa is orientated to make the most of the spectacular views emerging on clear days; overlooking a plunging valley, with mountains towering above on all sides. Views of this epic scenery are often subdued by thick mist rolling across the peaks, but even when it's cloudy, local hill-tribe people fill the town with colour.

Cat Ba Island

Rugged, craggy and jungle-clad Cat Ba, the largest island in Halong Bay, has experienced a tourism surge in recent years. The central hub of Cat Ba Town is now framed by a chain of low-rise concrete hotels along its once-lovely bay, but the rest of the island is largely untouched and as wild as ever.

Halong Bay

Towering limestone pillars and tiny islets topped by forest rise from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1994, Halong Bay's scatter of islands, dotted with wind- and wave-eroded grottoes, is a vision of ethereal beauty and, unsurprisingly, northern Vietnam's number one-tourism hub. The best way to experience the bay is by taking overnight cruise.

Dien Bien

Dien Bien Phu (DBP) plays a star role in Vietnam's modern history. It was in the surrounding countryside here, on 7 May 1954, that the French colonial forces were defeated by the Viet Minh in a decisive battle, and the days of their Indochina empire became numbered. History is DBP's main attraction with the clutch of bunkers, museums and war memorials attracting mostly domestic tourists.

Mai Chau Valley

Set in an idyllic valley, hemmed in by hills, the Mai Chau area is a world away from Hanoi's hustle. The small town of Mai Chau itself is unappealing, but just outside the patchwork of rice fields rolls out, speckled by tiny Thai villages where visitors doss down for the night in traditional stilt houses and wake up to a rural soundtrack defined by gurgling irrigation streams and birdsong.

Pu Luong Nature Reserve

Pu Luong in Thai language is the highest peak. Pu Luong Nature Reserve belongs to Ba Thuoc and Quan Hoa districts and Thanh Hoa. It has an area of ​​more than 17,600 ha and rich flora and fauna. With the untouched beauty of the rainforest, hill tribe villages located on the terraces. This place is one of the North West tourist attractions that attracts many visitors.

Ba Be Lake

Ba Be Lake lies in the middle of the vast limestone mountain range of Ba Be National Park with large and small islands of limestone rising out of the water, many of which can be explored as you kayak around. There are also several caves to find, with beautiful rock formations that have developed over millions of years.

Ha Giang

Ha Giang is the final frontier in northern Vietnam, an amazing landscape of limestone pinnacles and granite outcrops. The far north of the province has some of the most spectacular scenery in the country, and the trip between Yen Minh and Dong Van, and then across the Mai Pi Leng Pass to Meo Vac is quite mind-blowing. 

Ban Gioc Waterfall

Ban Gioc waterfall is the largest waterfall in the country, though not the highest. Its vertical drop is "only" around 30m, but it has an impressive 300m span. One side of the falls is in China, and the other is in Vietnam. Water volume varies considerably between the dry and rainy seasons, and the falls are most impressive from May to September.

Cuc Phuong National Park

With 307 species of bird, 133 species of mammal, 122 species of reptile and more than 2000 species of plant, Cuc Phuong National Park is one Vietnam’s most important protected areas.

Trang An

Situated near the southern margin of the Red River Delta, the Trang An Landscape Complex is a spectacular landscape of limestone karst peaks permeated with valleys, many of them partly submerged and surrounded by steep, almost vertical cliffs. Exploration of caves at different altitudes has revealed archaeological traces of human activity over a continuous period of more than 30,000 years. 

Tam Coc

With limestone outcrops amid serene rice paddies, Tam Coc is best appreciated on a languorous row-boat ride with the soundtrack of the river lapping against the oars.

Son Doong Cave

There’s a place underground so large, it can fit an entire New York City block, complete with 40-storey skyscrapers. Jungles thrive deep inside, as well as towering 80-metre tall stalagmites. When news spread in 2010 about Hang Son Doong it sounded like a children’s adventure tale, too wild to be true. But it does exist. It is now the world’s largest cave and a select number of travellers each year can explore its fantastical inner reaches.

Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park

Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park is located in central Vietnam, with its karst mountains, underground rivers, historic sites, extensive caves and unspoilt jungle, is packed with opportunities to hike, bike, paddle or relax in one of Vietnam's most spectacular and interesting regions.

Danang

Nowhere in Vietnam is changing as fast as Danang. For decades it had a reputation as a provincial backwater, but big changes are ongoing. Stroll along the Han riverfront and you'll find gleaming new modernist hotels, and apartments and restaurants are emerging. Spectacular new bridges now span the Han river, and in the north of the city, the landmark new D-City is rising from the flatlands.

Hue

Pronounced ‘hway’, this deeply evocative capital of the Nguyen emperors still resonates with the glories of imperial Vietnam, even though many of its finest buildings were destroyed during the American War. Hue owes its charm partly to its location on the Perfume River – picturesque on a clear day, atmospheric even in less flattering weather.

Hoi An

Hoi An owes its easygoing provincial demeanour and remarkably harmonious old-town character more to luck than planning. Had the Thu Bon River not silted up in the late 19th century – so ships could no longer access the town’s docks – Hoi An would doubtless be very different today. For a century, the city’s allure and importance dwindled until an abrupt rise in fortunes in the 1990s, when a tourism boom transformed the local economy. 

My Son Sanctuary

My Son was once the most important intellectual and religious centre of the kingdom of Champa and may also have served as a burial place for Cham monarchs. It was rediscovered in the late 19th century by the French, who restored parts of the complex, but American bombing later devastated the temples. Today it is a Unesco World Heritage site.

Central Highlands

Vietnam’s Central Highlands boasts beautiful natural features such as waterfalls and pine forests, ethnic diversity, spectacular scenery and lots and lots of coffee. The region has slowly opened up to tourists over the past decade after years of government-enforced travel restrictions. Today foreigners can explore the main centres of this region with ease but there are some areas that will require you to hire a guide when trying to explore further afield.

Dalat

Dalat 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 socialist architecture, and the surrounding farms cultivate strawberries, coffee and flowers in place of rice. A great place for biking through pine forests.

Phu Quoc Island

Fringed with white-sand beaches and with large tracts still cloaked in dense, tropical jungle, Phu Quoc rapidly morphed from a sleepy island backwater to a must-visit beach escape for Western expats and sun-seeking tourists. Beyond the resorts lining Long Beach and development beginning on the east coast, there's still ample room for exploration and escaping. Dive the reefs, kayak in the bays - most wanted acitvities here.

Nha Trang

Loud and proud (say it!), the high-rise, high-energy beach resort of Nha Trang enjoys a stunning setting: ringed by a necklace of hills, with a sweeping crescent beach, the city's turquoise bay is dotted with tropical islands. The shoreline has been given a huge makeover in recent years, with parks and sculpture gardens spread along the impressive promenade, while the streets inland reveal some quirky boutiques and a cosmopolitan array of dining options.

Mui Ne

Mui Ne is well known for unique white sand dunes, featuring several lakes and even swamps straight in the middle of sandy terrain. It is also the only place in Vietnam with hot air balloon ride service for adventurous tourists.

Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)

Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is Vietnam at its most dizzying: a high-octane city of commerce and culture that has driven the country forward with its pulsating energy. A chaotic whirl, the city breathes life and vitality into all who settle here, and visitors cannot help but be hauled along for the ride.

Cu Chi Tunnels

The tunnel network of Cu Chi became legendary during the 1960s for facilitating VC control of a large rural area only 30km to 40km from HCMC. At its peak, the tunnel system stretched from the South Vietnamese capital to the Cambodian border; in the district of Cu Chi alone more than 250km of tunnels honeycomb the ground. The network, parts of which were several storeys deep, included countless trapdoors, constructed living areas, storage facilities, weapon factories, field hospitals, command centres and kitchens.

Mekong Delta

The ‘rice bowl’ of Vietnam, the delta is carpeted in a dizzying variety of greens. It's a water world that moves to the rhythms of the mighty Mekong, where boats, houses and markets float upon the innumerable rivers, canals and streams that criss-cross the landscape like arteries.

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