If you want a fascinating adventure with a blend of past and present, Vietnam is the place fo you! There are so many things to do in Vietnam, you could easily spend two months exploring its countryside. We spent 30 days in Vietnam and it was barely enough time to see everything that this diverse nation has to offer.
Be it the mesmerizing views of Sapa and Ha Long, the fascinating history of the DMZ and Cu Chi Tunnels, or the busier hubs of Ho Chi Minh, Nha Trang, and Hanoi. Vietnam will “WOW” the adventurous spirit in you.
Here are our favorite not to miss things to do in Vietnam.
things to do in Vietnam
Table of Contents
We worked our way from Southern Vietnam to the North these are in the order that we loved the most! We started from the border of Cambodia and made our way to Ho Chi Minh City where t began a 30 day journey from South to North.
Vietnam has some amazing sites to see. From beautiful natural wonders to fantastic shopping, mountain adventures, and chill out beach life, Vietnam has something to offer for everyone.
The list of things to do in Vietnam is endless and you could go back again and again. But this guide will help you plan the must-see attractions and top places to visit in Vietnam.
1. Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay is a wonder of nature in the South China Sea, where 1000’s of island jut out of the turquoise water creating a never-ending horizon of mountains.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, HA Long Bay is one of the top things to do in Vietnam and it was our most memorable experience. We explored the labyrinth on a small teak cabin cruiser, where we had our own private bunk and are treated to a feast.
Sleeping in the bay surrounded by these sleeping giants while looking into the clear night sky is a unique experience.
A Journey to Sapa took our breath away in more ways than one! Sapa is a mountain town near the Chinese border.
We stayed with the hill tribes in the vast rice terraces and trekked for three days in this rugged land. The beauty is overwhelming as every corner I turn leaves me more awestruck.
Giant terraces filled with water glistened in the sun for as far as we could see. Water buffalo graze in the fields and villagers dressed in traditional hand made clothing greeted us as we walked along the path.
The villagers live by the old ways here. They harness water from the mountain to use as irrigation, they hand weave their own material, and grow their own rice. They are a people truly at one with the land.
Hanoi is hectic and overwhelming, even crossing the street can be an adventure. We sat on a second-floor terrace watching people take their lives in their hands as they crossed the road a busy intersection like a game of Frogger. , it was definitely a lot of hours of amusement.
We explored Hanoi’s sights eating French baguettes and sipping lattes on Hoan Klem Lake. This is a great place to escape the hectic pace of the city. Hanoi has a rich French colonial past and to see it is to explore Hanoi’s old quarter.
Things to do in Vietnam – Hanoi
It is also in Hanoi that you see the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum honoring Ho Chi Minh who was the founder of modern Vietnam. Other things not to miss in Hanoi, the Magical Water Puppet Show continuing a thousand year old tradition, the temple of literature and you must sample Vietnamese food on a food tour of Hanoi. Read More: 7 Things to do in Hanoi – Complete Guide To A Kid-friendly Trip
Suggested Food Tours Hanoi
- Street Food Tour – Take a walk through the old quarter of Hanoi with a local guide. Sample street food and local favorites. Free cancellation up to 24 hours in advance.
- Street food and Water Puppet Show Combo – Sample delicious Vietnamese, learn about Hanoi’s unique food culture, enjoy the night view of Hoan Kiem lake and finish off with he water puppet show. Easy cancellation on tours with 24 hours notice.
4. Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigain) is a bustle with markets, food stalls, and nightclubs. This is where our Vietnam adventure began and it was an eye opener of a first stop. Ho Chi Minh is overwhelming. A city of 7-million people, Ho Chi Minh is the heart of Vietnamese nightlife with Karaoke bars, nightclubs and many places offering cheap beer and cocktails.
Trishaw drivers won’t take no for an answer as they follow you down the street looking to make their fare. Where shopping is the main priority and dodging touts is a full time job.
It is a city with French colonial buildings mixed between neon lights and skyscrapers.
Things to do in Ho Chi Minh
The main tourist attractions are probably the Reunification Palace which is the site where the Vietnam War symbolically came to an end.
5. War Remnants Museum
No one can forget the Vietnam War and there are many tributes and places to visit in Vietnam that pay respect to those who died. In Ho Chi Minh City, The War Remnants Museum is an emotional look at the effects of war. A stand out display was one that honored photographers and correspondents who lost their lives covering the war.
Other attractions to see in Ho Chi Minh City are the Reunification Palace which is the site where the Vietnam War symbolically came to an end. We walked by the American Embassy known for the infamous rooftop helicopter evacuations after the fall of Saigon and we checked out the thriving waterfront with luxury hotels, nightclubs, and bustling Mekong river.
Paying tribute to its French colonial past, the city is also home to a cathedral named after Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Check out all the things to do in Ho Chi Minh City at The Best of Ho Chi Minh City
6. The Cu Chi Tunnels
Continuing our tributes to the Vietnam War (or the American War as it. is called in Vietnam. The fascinating Cu Chi Tunnels are an amazing day trip from Ho Chi Minh.
Agent Orange, napalm and constant bombing wiped out the jungle during the Vietnam War but it is now lush and green and the Vietnamese are capitalizing on tourism.
Our guide showed us how the Vietnamese would escape in the jungle and camouflage the entrances with termite hills. We learned that they fought in sandals made from automobile tires to avoid jungle rot. And we learned how they wore checkered scarves to announce that they were fighting for the North and how farmers snuck food to soldiers.
It was then into the claustrophobic original tunnel to crawl for 100m in darkness to get a sense of just how uncomfortable the conditions were. Read more at The Cu Chi Tunnels of Vietnam
7. Mekong Delta Tour
Tour companies in Ho Chi Min City offer great package deals fighting for tourist dollars to all destinations. Life remains unchanged in the Cu Chi Tunnels as farmers still bring their produce to the floating market and people still wash their clothes by hand on its banks.
Strong women row our boat down an estuary surrounded by thick jungle and we don conical hats pretending to be Rambo. Along the way, you will find floating markets selling everything from fruit and vegetables to conical hats and fake clothing – not unlike the markets in Ho Chi Minh City.
At small factories, we learned how to make coconut candy and rice paper being offered a taste to entice us into buying a souvenir. It is all a little contrived at times as they try very hard to make you purchase something, but the scenery is incredible and watching local life unfold is fascinating.
Book a full day Mekong Delta Tour including a trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels with Get Your Guide. Free cancelation for a full refund within 24 hours of activity.
8. Mui Ne
Our first beach stop in Vietnam was Mui Ne and it was our favorite. A spectacular beachfront where kite surfers ride the waves in its windy bay and the sunsets here are some of the most spectacular you will ever see. The high winds whip and swirl the clouds throughout the day and when dusk sets in the setting sun illuminates the sky with deep reds and bright yellows.
9. Sand Dunes of Mui Ne
Mui Ne may have beenour favvorite beach, but the .ut the highlight of the visit was going to the sand dunes. A short jeep ride takes you out to the town’s main attraction, the sand dunes. Giant rolling hills of sand surrounded by green fields looking as though a bit of the Sahara has been dropped into South East Asia. We walked to the top in the scorching heat and take a thrilling magic carpet ride down its sandy banks.
10. Phu Quoc
Phu Quoc is closer to Cambodia than Vietnam, but it is a part of the Vietnamese territory. When we were in Vietnam, it was a little off the beaten path and reserved for backpackers, but. it has gained in status thanks to its gorgeous beaches, crystal clear waters and fantastic nightlife. There are plenty of things to do in Phu Quoc. It now has high end resorts offering jet skiing, scuba diving, fishing, and personal boat hire are all great options.
11. Hoi An
Image by by photographer Réhahn see his full photostory of Vietnam here.
Hoi An has a thousand year history luring visitors to its ancient buildings along the Thu Bon River. The river has been attracting traders. fromthe South China Sea for centuries. A colonial city full of French architecture, sidewalk cafés, and cobblestone streets Hanoi is a favorite of many traveling to Vietnam. If you happen to be in Hoi an during the Vietnamese New Year (Tet Festival) you will witness thousands of lanterns lining the roads.
12. Tailor made Clothes in Hoi An
If not, the draw is to have tailor-made clothes whipped up in a matter of hours! Choosing a shop can be difficult and we were standing in the rainy street confused when a lady approached us and said to follow her.Reluctantly we followed her through winding streets and alleyways when we finally came to her shop in the market.
We proceeded to pick out patterns and styles, while an army of women took our measurements, aided us in choosing material and colours from the walls of fabric.We spent way too much money and got caught up in the frenzy of buying knocking off several days of our budget on 25 kilos of clothes that we sent home to Canada.
Word of caution: Take your time and don’t get talked into anything. Know what you want made and ask for it to be double stitched. We were very happy with our purchases and are glad we had clothes made. in Vietnam.
13. Mud Bath in Nha Trang
The next beach stop took us to Nha Trang. It’s a far busier beach town with high-rise buildings, giant resorts, nightclubs, and fine dining. This long stretch of beach is well developed and touts are everywhere selling jewelry, hats, t-shirts, and of course cheap photocopied books.
We took a day to visit the Thap Ba Hot Springs where we took a dip in the mud baths to bask in its cool medicinal mud. There’s a therapeutic mineral waterfall, hydrotherapy and swimming pool. All of my travel weary bones and muscles are treated to a relaxing day of pampering and nurturing, preparing me for the days to come. The mud baths are an affordable day at the spa and a very unique experience.
14. Dragon’s Bridge of Da Nang
Da Nang is the fifth largest city in Vietnam and is making quite a name for itself with its big city attractions. Dragon Bridge is the longest bridge in Vietnam spanning 666 meters across the Han River. Seeing it at night is a must as it lights up and during festivals and on weekends, the dragon spits fire and water.
15. Son Tra Mountain (Monkey Mountain)
Da Nang is surrounded by picturesque mountains including a cluster of five limestone kharst mountains known as the marble mountains and the 650 metre high Son Tra Mountain. (Monkey Mountain).
16. High Seated Buddha
Be sure to visit the 20-mile stretch of white sand at My Khe Beach and visit the Phap Lam Pagoda to see the high seated Buddha and the Goddess of Mercy.
15. Golden Bridge
Located an hour and a half from the city, the Golden Bridge is one of Vietnam’s newest and most jaw dropping attractions.Created by architect Vu Viet Hong, it was created to “invoke the sensation of walking along a thread stretching through the hands of God.”
This attraction is part of the Sun World Ba Na Hills Amusement Park. It was created strictly to lure tourists to the area and it worked! It wasn’t yet created when we were in Vietnam, but we had to include it because it is not to be missed! Standing 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) above sea level it exends over the edge of a cliff. The Ba Na Hills used to be a hill station for French colonialists
We booked a motorbike trip to see the sights and it is a thrill to explore the countryside in the fresh air of Hue. Hue is located on the Perfume River and a great places to explore the Royal history of Vietnam. Here you’ll find the tombs of the Ancient emperors. The Imperial Citadel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is Vietnam’s answer to China’s the Forbidden City. The walled fortress was the seat of the Nguyen Dynasty from 1802 to 1945.
17. DMZ Tour
Hue was also where we booked a full day tour to explore the DMZ zone (demilitarized zone) during the Vietnam War. If you are a history buff, this is a fascinating tour. We stopped at the former headquarters of the US Marines, Dong Ha and famous battlegrounds of. the Vietnam War like Hamburger Hill. (there was a movie made abou tthis battle. )
Here we visited another set of tunnels that were much bigger than the Cu Chi Tunnels. The Vinh Moc Tunnels were a strategic point for the Vietnamese to hide from American bombers.
18. Phong Nha
If you have time to plan and some deep pocket the caves of Phon Nha are a must. Hang Son Doong is the largest cave in the world and there is a long waiting list to see it! Located in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park this UNESCO World Heritage Site can be visited on a day trip or on an expedition of up to 5 days.
There are other caves to visit besides Son Doong so if you don’t have the money or time to spare, you can also check out Hang En Cave, Tu Lan Cave System, Hang Tien Cave, Hang Va Cave and Nuoc Nut Cave.
And these are the best things to do in Vietnam. Have you been? What do you suggest for the top Vietnam attractions?