Top 10 best places to visit in Vietnam

Jack Crooks


That’s a lot of country to take in on one vacation, so it pays to plan your trip around the places you absolutely can’t miss. The stops on your list may influence whether you fly into cultured Hanoi in the north or energetic Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) in the south, or whether you bypass these two megacities for the laid-back beaches of tropical Phu Quoc.

Here’s our selection of Vietnam’s highlights, from fast-paced cities to beautiful beaches and misty mountains that feel like the edge of the known world.

1. Phu Quoc

Best for beach lovers

About as far south as you can get from Hanoi without splashing into the Gulf of Thailand, the island of Phu Quoc is where beach worshippers come to pray. Lapped by jewel-blue waters and edged by fine sandy beaches, this is a place to slip into low gear, reaching for a cocktail as the ember-colored sun dips into the bay. But it’s far from undiscovered – local tourists come in droves for theme park thrills at VinWonders and giddying views over the sea from the world’s longest over-sea cable car. Phu Quoc is a popular stop for families, and if you fancy a change from the tourist scene, there are dense jungles to explore inland from the sand.

Planning tip: If you’re bound for Phu Quoc, there’s no need to go via Hanoi and HCMC; numerous Asian airlines offer flights from hubs such as Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Seoul, connecting with long-haul flights further afield.

2. Hanoi

Best for city slickers

Every trip has to start somewhere, and the ideal point of arrival for first timers is Vietnam’s historic capital. As well as easy infrastructure, inexpensive accommodation, world-class dining and more history than you’ll ever have time to take in, Hanoi is the leaping-off point for the islands and outcrops around Halong Bay and the forest-draped trails of the mountainous northwest. Give yourself time to graze through Vietnam’s catalog of street food treats, and pause to soak up the atmosphere in cozy cafes in the Old Quarter as well as rush around the sights.

Planning tip: To enjoy Hanoi nightlife on a budget, swing by the streetside bia hoi (draft beer) stalls at busy Bia Hoi Junction on the drinking strip of P Ta Hein.

3. Lan Ha Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay

Best for iconic photos

The crowds mob Halong Bay but for our money, the shimmering bays to the north and south have a slight edge over Vietnam’s most famous collection of outcrops and islands. While trips to Halong Bay are highly commercialized, with motorized luxury junks blowing diesel fumes around the eroded karst islands, Lan Ha Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay are a bit more laid-back, and you won’t have quite so many cruise ships in your photos. Try kayaking between the outcrops, explore the tropical trails on Cat Ba Island – gateway to Lan Ha Bay – or kick back on the sand on Bai Tu Long’s idyllic Co To Island.

Planning tip: If you visit Cat Ba Island, take time to explore the trails around Cat Ba National Park – if you trek with your own guide, it’s easy to leave the crowds behind.

4. Ho Chi Minh City

Best for a sense of the past

Cosmopolitan Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is the southern counterweight to Hanoi in the north, taking its cultural cues from the Mekong Delta and neighboring Cambodia. It’s fast-paced, frenetic and fun, particularly after dark, when the pavements transform into a mobile buffet of street food stalls and roadside bars. A little of the frontier feel of the war years lives on in HCMC, and you’ll get a humbling introduction to this troubled time at sites such as the War Remnants Museum. The ghosts of French Indochina linger too – set aside some time to wander past the city’s colonial-era landmarks, then settle into a coffee shop with a drip-brewed ca phi and consider how far Vietnam has come since the end of French rule.

Planning tip: For a break from the city crush, swing out to nearby Tay Ninh, where the Cao Dai Holy See offers a fascinating introduction to the all-embracing Cao Dai religion.

5. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

Best for unique experiences

Vietnam’s biggest natural attraction – literally – is Hang Son Doong cave, the largest cavern in the world by volume and a true wonder. An entire New York City block could fit inside its vast main passage, but this monster cavern is only accessible on expensive guided treks. The good news is that surrounding Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is pockmarked with caverns that you can clamber, crawl, boat or zipline through for a fraction of the cost. Trips to the Tu Lan, Phong Nha and Paradise caves are possible on a shoestring budget; more cash will buy access to Hang En, where trekkers set up tents on a subterranean beach, illuminated by shafts of natural light.

6. Hoi An

Best for history

A stay in harmonious Hoi An is a journey into Vietnam’s lavish, layered past. This was once one of the most important ports in Asia, and traders from as far afield as Japan, Spain and North America filled the pockets of its merchants with gold. Locals used their money wisely, packing the Old Town with teetering shophouses, tea warehouses, fanciful covered bridges, elaborate Chinese guildhalls, and colorful Confucian and Buddhist pagodas. History is only the beginning – many travelers stay for days, learning to make white rose dumplings and summer rolls on chef-led cooking courses, and ordering made-to-measure suits and gowns from the city’s modestly priced tailors’ shops.

Planning tip: For a change of pace, head inland from Hoi An and spend a night in a friendly community homestay in the Co Tu minority village of Bho Hoong.

7. The Central Beaches

Best for sun-seekers

Sandy bays stud Vietnam’s central coastline, but the mood varies widely from beach to beach. Package tourists flock to high-rise Danang and Nha Trang – famed as military R&R stops during the American War – but we rate the calmer beaches along the coast, where a little of Vietnam’s old seaside charm still endures. To the south of Nha Trang, Mui Ne is a lively kitesurfing hub following a string of sandy coves, while Doc Let Beach to the north serves up 18km (11 miles) of sand, surf and seafood. For a quieter experience, hit the coast between Hue and Danang – Thuan An is the gateway to a string of serene and sandy beaches flanking a lagoon-backed barrier island.

8. Hue

Best for imperial history

The former capital of the Nguyen dynasty – which ruled over large parts of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the 19th and 20th centuries – drips with imperial history, despite the ravages of US bombers during the American War. Much was lost in Hue, but the grandeur of dynastic Vietnam lives on in the Citadel and Imperial Enclosure, housing the emperor’s residence, temples, palaces and court. At one time, entering without permission would bring instant death. Just outside town are the tombs of Vietnam’s greatest emperors, resting serenely in green compounds beside the Perfume River. Another relic of royal rule is Hue’s imperial cuisine – arguably the finest in the country – try a spicy bowl of bun bo Hue (vermicelli noodle soup) or a crispy banh khoai pancake and you’ll see what we mean.

Planning tip: To stay one step ahead of the crowds at Hue’s imperial tombs, rent a motorcycle or scooter to explore; don’t miss the Thien Mu Pagoda on your way out of the city.

Leave a Comment

Black Swan Capital LLC is an independent currency advisory firm serving both retail and institutional clients around the globe. We provide high quality impartial advice with a considerable depth of knowledge to our clientele.

Quick Link



Black Swan Capital, LLC

2161 SW Racquet Club Drive
Palm City, Florida 34990


Contracts for Difference ("CFDs") are leveraged products and carry a significant risk of loss to your capital, as prices may move rapidly against you and you may be required to make further payments to keep any trades open. These products are not suitable for all clients, therefore please ensure you fully understand the risks and seek independent advice.

Forex trading involves substantial risk, and may not be suitable for everyone. Trading should only be done with true risk capital. Past performance, either actual or hypothetical, is not indicative of future performance. Black Swan Capital newsletters do not provide individual, customized investment advice. The money you allocate for futures or forex should be strictly the money you can afford to risk.