The long, skinny country of Vietnam offers a fairly clear route to travellers wanting to explore the length and breadth of the country. But it’s a case of where to stop among the wonderful rural outposts, astounding natural wonders and vibrant cities. If you’ve only got a few weeks or less, you’ll need to prioritize. Here are the five places you can’t miss if you want to get a sense of the real, luxurious sights of Vietnam.
This is Vietnam’s most popular seaside resort, which in the hotter months is buzzing with beachgoers and water-sport enthusiasts. This is a great place to try kite surfing – considered one of South East Asia’s best places for the sport. Alternatively, relax in one of the beach side bars with a delicious cocktail made with fresh fruit juices.
Ho Chi Minh City & the Cu Chi Tunnels
Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s largest and is home to numerous historical buildings and attractions. A visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels – a short drive from the city – is an unforgettable one that will give you an insight into one of history’s most bizarre wars.
The tunnels are an underground maze covering 250 kilometers which once served as living quarters, command centres and ammunition stores by the Viet Cong guerrillas. It’s the tour guides that make this attraction so amazing – often you are taken around the site by former soldiers and guerrillas – some are even those who fought with the Americans and lost and give a fascinating insight into this drawn-out, political battle.
This ancient Imperial city is a fairly quiet backwater today, but was once the seat of a powerful empire: between 1802 and 1945, it was the imperial capital of the Nguyen Dynasty. The main attraction is the walled Imperial City set along the edge of the Perfume River and the citadel is a fascinating place to spend a day. The other main draw is the Tombs of the Emperors complex, south of the city alongside the river. They are accessible by taxi or bike from central Hue, but the best way to see them is to hire a river boat and go for a relaxed cruise.
It’s often a photograph of this stunning bay which is used to illustrate Vietnam in one image. And it’s no surprise. This picturesque marine park, with its soaring limestone crags, eerie caves and sparkling emerald waters is like nowhere else on Earth. Join a trip aboard a traditional wooden junk for an exploration of this World Heritage Site’s highlights. Many tours offer snorkeling, kayaking and land walking tours as part of the itinerary. Stop to climb Cat Ba Island for an unbeatable view across the Bay.
Phu Quoc Island
If it’s barefoot luxury you’re after then hop aboard one of the boats out to Phu Quoc Island at the very bottom of the country. In fact, you can usually see Cambodia from here. The island’s tourist industry is slowly growing, but it’s still the perfect place to relax on an uncrowded beach or play games with the local children. There’s a real mixture of accommodation from simple bungalows to luxurious five star hotels.