The Very Best Things to do in Vietnam from North to South

Written By: The Planet D

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

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

Beautiful sunset Tourist junks floating among limestone rocks at Ha Long Bay, South China Sea, Vietnam, Southeast Asia.

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.

2. Sapa

vietnam things to do sapa
Farmer in rice terrace,Vietnam

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.

3. Hanoi

Hoan Kiem lake (Sword lake, Ho Guom) in Hanoi, Vietnam

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

things to do in vietnam - ho chi minh city
Ho Chi Minh City skyline and the Saigon River, Vietnam

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

war remnants museum
HO CHI MINH , VIETNAM- AUG 12 : Old attack helicopter of United state army display at Vietnamese War Remnants Museum, museum keep history evidence of war time for Saigon

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

vietnam things to do 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

what to do in vietnam 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

things to do in vietnam 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 sand dunes must visit places in vietnam

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

vietnam travel highlights bicycle in 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

things to do vietnam mud baths

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

dragon 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

16. Hue

what to d in vietnam tomb of the emperors

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.

best things to do in Vietnam

And these are the best things to do in Vietnam. Have you been? What do you suggest for the top Vietnam attractions?

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About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

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23 thoughts on “The Very Best Things to do in Vietnam from North to South”

  1. Great info, Honeymoon destinations is great outstanding experience for couples where they are thought, life planning, regarding budget, important sharing info between with them. On the other hand, Thailand, Hong Kong, Dubai, Switzerland are more remarkable places for honeymoon. Thanks for exciting information.

    Reply
  2. Yeah I think I’m gonna have to pass on the Cu Chi tunnels… lol… or at least the claustrophobic parts. Just watching the videos of people going through them makes me all uncomfortable.

    Reply
  3. Thanks for sharing such an amazing & informative blog which will surely be a big help to those travelling to the vietnam. There are many amazing places to visit and out of many the beach resorts in the southern part of the country is very popular among the tourists.There one can find many beautiful beach resorts which provides top class hospitality & great food.

    Reply
  4. All the sites in Vietnam are amazing,especially cu chi tunnels.I am happy to say because this is in my bucket list.This article is very useful for me ,thanks.

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  5. Awesome article, i would love to visit CU CHI TUNNELS and feel how it was for soldiers during the war
    Do we have to pay for firing?

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  6. Hello,
    Looks like a great trip you had! We are planning to go to Vietnam in the end of February and then 3 weeks ahead. Can I ask what time a year you went? We are curious to know if Sapa is worth visiting that time a year?
    Thank & best regards,
    Helle from Copenhagen, DK

    Reply
  7. Enjoying food is also one of the memorable experiences when traveling to Vietnam. If you have the opportunity to come here, do not forget to eat pho, beef vermicelli, bread, pancakes.

    Reply
  8. For those who does not know. Sinh Cafe is not a popular company, it’s a popular brand. Many small agent buy the name of this brand to make business. They are not all of 1 company!

    Reply
  9. Discovering Halong Bay by a cruise trip is an amazing experience. The boat I stayed ( La Pinta cruise) was so clean and modern. The boat dropped by Viet Hai fishing village then we did bicycle tour around. Such an interesting activity.

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  10. Hi Dave And Deb thanks for writing the informative blog.One should definitely go through the blog for a brief knowledge before travelling to vietnam.The southern part of the vietnam is my favorite part as it has many beautiful beaches and beach resorts are located in phan theit and mui ne.

    Reply
  11. Hi,

    thanks for the post. My last trip to VN was 10 days covering major tourist attractions in major cities. This coming trip like you said you can spend 2 mos in vn exploring the countryside is what I plan on. Any thoughts on which village and what factors to consider going to these hidden gems. thx for the reply

    Reply
  12. Hello, I’m Vietnamese, Thank you for visit my country. I see you have fun in Vietnam. I live in Hanoi, I went to Sapa, Hoi An, Hue like you. I hope I can go Nha Trang someday. I’m a travel bloger, too. This is my blog: https://hotieugiang.com/, when you come back to Vietnam, I’m so proud of giving you good informations.

    Reply
  13. I love the Northwest and Northeast Vietnam. The landscapes are so stunning. Besides, I am also impressed Halong Bay.
    I had a night on the cruise, and It is the special time for me.
    Hope to visit again.

    Thanks for your experience.

    Reply
  14. Hi Dave and Deb,
    I am about to book my tickets to Vietnam for 13 days but as you said, not enough. As I followed your tips when I made the Everest Base Camp and was most happy with your tips, I ask you:
    -How long is the minimum to see some top sites I’m Vietnam from top to bottom ?
    -Is it better start in Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi?
    -I feel claustrophobic in tunnels. Is any thing else to do on the tour to the Co Chi Tunnels rather then enter in it?
    -Is the Hop on Hop off buses too prone to be assaulted?
    Sorry for so many questions but I am going on my own and I want to make sure not to incur in unnecessary risk.
    Thanks a lot.
    Have wonderful time in Bhutan!
    Jacy

    Reply
  15. Vietnam is so beautiful, I had a trip to discover a district – Hoang Su Phi in the Northeast Vietnam. It is so stunning. I met the local people, they are ethnic minority in Hoang Su Phi and enjoyed very delicious meal with them. That is my memorable moment.

    Reply
  16. The best time to visit Vietnam is the end of each year, although Vietnam is beautiful around year.
    Another point is Nothern Vietnam is one of the best places for adventure tour.

    Thanks for your useful article.

    Reply
  17. Hi Anhhh, thanks! we did love our time in Vietnam. Halong bay is one of the most beautiful sights on the planet and we look forward to going back one day.

    Reply
  18. We are heading to Vietnam tonight – via overnight bus from Kunming China. First stop – Sapa – we booked a tour with a local all femal H’mong company and are very excited for it! Will have to look into the hop on hop off bus ticket – sounds like a great deal!

    Reply
  19. So admiring. Sound like your trip covered most of the famous places in Vietnam. Did you guys have good time there? I want to have the same trip as well. Halong bay is my favorite destination. I love sleeping in the cruise with thousands of limestone covering outside. unique experience. Mui Ne is wonderful too. A magnificent place. Nowhere else that you can see such an amazing beauty.

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    • Hi Anhhh, thanks! we did love our time in Vietnam. Halong bay is one of the most beautiful sights on the planet and we look forward to going back one day.

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  20. The ATM’s are easy to use and you can find them in all large cities.
    The hop on hop off busses are easy to find in all towns. Happy Tour and Sinh Cafe are the popular ones.
    Just take out the maximum amount of money from the ATm’s about 2 Million Dong, it will last you and it is a lot of bills to carry around at once.
    Definitely go to Ha Long Bay and Sapa. Stay in a homestay in Sapa for a more authentic experience.
    Ha Long is beautiful.
    Sinh Cafe and Happy Tours offer a lot of tours you can pick and choose from them, going to the Cu Chi tunnels is a must, the At Thu Wheels motorbike tour in Hue is great too.
    Have a great trip.
    Dave and Deb

    Reply