Vietnam has been on the backpacker trail for years, yet it still doesn’t get the international attention that it deserves. With more of a travel focus on Europe, the islands and more tropical countries in southeast Asia, Vietnam often gets overlooked. With a distinct culture, a sprinkling of UNESCO Heritage sites and more natural beauty than you thought was possible, Vietnam should be put at the top of every must-visit list. If you do decide to make it over to this interesting place, here are just a few of the must-see places you should visit.
Located in the northern region of the country, this small mountain town is a break from the hustle and bustle of Vietnamese cities. Nestled atop a mountain, Sapa continuously overlooks the rest of the ranges, terraced rice fields and traditional villages. Trekking is the thing to do when visiting Sapa and you can easily hire a local villager to take you through the mountainous villages. Stay overnight in the home of a local resident, enjoy home cooked meals before bed and wake up with the chickens to continue your trekking back to the town. Get a massage to soothe your aching feet or drink a Vietnamese coffee at a quaint café while enjoying the view.
As a popular city that hasn’t lost its culture, you won’t find many chain restaurants and shopping malls here. Streets are filled with whizzing motorbikes, bustling markets, street side cafes and small local food stalls in every dusty corner. The city is truly alive with tradition and displays of every day local life. Café culture is strong so make sure to wander around, try some traditional coffee and tea and enjoy the laid back atmosphere when you need a break from the busy city streets. Don’t forget to visit the ‘bia hoi corner’ an area of the popular nightlife district where visitors drink locally brewed beer on tiny plastic chairs and tables that flow into the streets.
Phu Quoc Island
Not yet overrun with tourists, Phu Quoc island is a destination with a sleepy local town and laid back resorts that back up to the beaches. There isn’t a whole lot to do besides lounge in the sun, swim in the bath water temperature sea and take as many snorkelling excursions as you care for. Rent a motorbike and visit the pepper farms, look for wild monkeys in the island’s national park or visit the night market to choose your own fresh seafood to be cooked table-side.
Ha Long Bay
This UNESCO Heritage Site is on the must-see list of most travellers that make it over to Vietnam. An emerald green bay surrounded by foliage covered cliffs with towering limestone pillars jutting out from the middle, the scene is other worldly. Rent a kayak and paddle out to the natural sea caves and uninhabited beaches.
Step back in time when you reach the historic town of Hoi An. Also a UNESCO site, this small city has preserved its buildings and streets to look like no time at all has passed since it was founded. The best way to see the town is to rent a bicycle and travel along the tiny roads stopping in boutique shops, restaurants serving traditional meals and the river that runs along the town. Make sure to wander around at night in order to see the city alight with glowing paper lanterns.
There is so much to do and see in Vietnam that it can sometimes be overwhelming. If you narrow it down to these most noteworthy sites you will be able to get in all of the best that Vietnam has to offer. For adventure, beauty and history, make Vietnam your next holiday destination.