Vietnam is one of the best destinations in Asia. From the vibrant capital of Hanoi to its serene countryside filled with beautiful mountains, rice fields, and serene bodies of water, this country offers a wealth of experiences for every kind of traveler. In this article, we’ll show you the most unique places to visit in Vietnam as suggested by expert travel writers.
- 1. Egg Coffee Cafes in Hanoi
- 2. Hoi An
- 3. Sapa
- 4. Halong Bay
- 5. Bai Tu Long Bay
- 6. Ha Giang Loop
- 7. Mui Ne
- 8. Mekong Delta
- 9. Tra Su Forest
- 10. Da Nang
- 11. Ho Thuy Tien
- 12. Ninh Binh
- 13. Da Lat
- 14. Pu Luong Nature Reserve
- 15. Phong Nha
- 16. Cao Bang
- 17. Central Highlands
- 18. Cat Ba National Park
- 19. Cham Islands
- 20. My Son Sanctuary
- 21. Hue
1. Egg Coffee Cafes in Hanoi
One of Hanoi’s most unique traditions is the famous Vietnamese Egg Coffee. This drink has a fascinating history, the birthplace of which is Cafe Giang, a coffeeshop still in operation today in central Hanoi.
The history of Vietnamese Egg Coffee starts in the 1940s at the Sofitel Hotel, when Mr. Nguyen Van Giang, a bartender at the renowned Hanoi Sofitel Hotel, had a brilliant idea.
Inspired by the Italian cappuccino, he aimed to create a Vietnamese version. However, due to the scarcity of fresh milk during the war, Mr. Giang had to find an alternative.
Mr. Giang replaced fresh milk with a mixture canned condensed milk and egg yolks. The result was a much thicker and sweeter cappuccino that won the hearts of coffee enthusiasts across Hanoi. The success was so overwhelming that Mr. Giang was able to leave his position at the Sofitel and establish his own café.
Today, Cafe Giang remains a family-run establishment. When you visit, you can still savor the original Egg Coffee that took Hanoi by storm.
Egg Coffee has become an integral part of Hanoi’s coffee culture, and while it’s not for everyone’s taste, be sure to give it a shot on your next trip to Hanoi! When you go, make sure to visit Cafe Giang and try the original. It’s a chance to try a unique Vietnamese creation that continues to captivate locals and visitors alike.
2. Hoi An
Hoi An is one of the most popular places to see in Vietnam, but make no mistake, it’s always worth including it in your itinerary.
Hoi An is a charming riverside town located on the central coast of Vietnam featuring timeless beauty, rich heritage, and warm hospitality of the locals. Explore Hoi An’s Ancient Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site where you can see ancient merchant houses, ornate temples, and graceful pagodas. Don’t miss visiting the iconic 17th-century Japanese Covered Bridge and the numerous tailor shops and boutiques where you can buy ao dais (Vietnamese traditional dresses) and other artisan-made clothing.
Beyond the Ancient Town, Hoi An offers scenic nature attractions. Explore the surrounding area by bicycle or motorbike and discover lush rice paddies, coconut groves, and tranquil beaches. You can also take a boat ride along the Thu Bon River, where you can witness the daily life of local fishermen and enjoy stunning views of the countryside.
The closest airport to Hoi An is Da Nang International Airport, located about 30 kilometers away. Alternatively, you can take a train to Danang from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City and then travel by road to Hoi An. Buses are also available from major cities in the country.
Sapa is one of the most unique places to visit in Vietnam, with natural attractions that can leave you breathless.
Located in the northwest of Vietnam, Sapa is known for its towering mountains, lush valleys, and cascading rice terraces that stretch as far as the eye can see. The region’s landscape transforms with each season – in the spring, vibrant blooms adorn the terraces, while summer brings lush greenery. Autumn casts a golden hue as the rice ripens, and in winter, the terraces may be dusted with a delicate layer of snow, creating a majestic winder landscape.
Apart from these, you can also explore the local villages where you can meet ethnic communities, including the Hmong, Red Dao, Tay, Giay, and Xa Pho.
Another thing that you should do in Sapa is to visit the famous Bac Ha Market, where you can sample local delicacies, buy unique handicrafts, and see the locals in their traditional attire.
The easiest way to get to Sapa is to ride a direct bus from Hanoi to Sapa.
4. Halong Bay
Known for its emerald-green waters and towering limestone karsts, Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most unique places to visit in Vietnam.
Halong Bay means “Descending Dragon Bay,” and it is said that the islands were formed by dragons descending from the heavens and spitting jewels into the sea, forming a magnificent landscape of thousands of limestone islets.
There are cruises where you can explore the beauty of Halong Bay, including the islands, the hidden caves and grottoes, and floating villages where local communities live.
Have a relaxing tour or engage in outdoor activities including kayaking to discover hidden lagoons and secluded beaches, snorkeling among colorful marine life, or fishing.
There are different ways to reach Halong Bay. From Hanoi, you can get on a shared shuttle bus service or even join an organized day or overnight tour. You can also go on a cruise from Hanoi for a luxurious and immersive cruise experience. Sea plane services are also available Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi.
5. Bai Tu Long Bay
If you are planning on visiting Vietnam, you have probably heard of the cruises in Halong Bay and seen those pictures with a bright turquoise sea and limestone islets in different shapes and sizes. Halong Bay is a very beautiful area, but it is actually quite crowded, as you will be surrounded by dozens of other ships in your trip.
If you want to experience the beauty of the area but are looking for a more quiet and peaceful experience, Bai Tu Long bay is the best option for you. Bai Tu Long is located just next to Halong, so it has a very similar scenery, but is less known among tourists.
To get there, you can book a tour from Hanoi and board a van that will take you to the pier, approximately 3 hours away. From there, you will board the cruise that will take you around the bay. You will usually sleep on the boat for one or two nights, have the opportunity to swim around, visit one of the islands, and explore a village of fishermen that live in floating houses on the sea. The cruise might also take you around Halong Bay, so you could even get two experience both places!
6. Ha Giang Loop
By Backpack Moments
In the far north of Vietnam, there’s a region so unbelievably different than the rest of the country.
Ha Giang Province is as picturesque as it is diverse. Epic views await you, should you make the 7-hour bus journey from Hanoi. Ha Giang is home to at least 43 ethnic groups with different customs, traditions, clothing, and way of life.
The northernmost parts of the region around Dong Van are so remote, so isolated, that even the French colonial administration gave up on controlling the region and built the so-called Heaven’s Gate to block the Dong Van Plateau.
Most travelers rent a motorcycle in Ha Giang and then go through Yen Minh, Sa Phin, Dong Van, Meo Vac, and back on what’s come to be called The Ha Giang Loop. You can also rent a motorcycle in Ha Giang and do it yourself, or hire an “easy rider” — an experienced driver who’ll tour you around the Loop on the back of his motorcycle.
The Ha Giang Loop takes around 3-4 days to complete. While in the remote region, make sure to visit the Palace of the Hmong Kings, the traditional markets in Dong Van and Meo Vac, the northernmost point of Vietnam marked with the Lung Cu flagpole, and the stunning Ma Pi Leng Pass where the views will simply take your breath away.
7. Mui Ne
By 24 Hours Layover
Mui Ne is a lovely coastal town 200 kilometers east of Saigon. Known for its stunning natural landscapes, beautiful beaches, sand dunes, and vibrant kitesurfing scene, Mui Ne is a popular destination for tourists seeking a unique experience in Vietnam.
The vast White Sand Dunes in Mui Ne are particularly picturesque. Visitors can rent a jeep or a quad bike to explore the dunes, go sandboarding, or simply enjoy the views. The Red Sand Dunes are also stunning, particularly during sunset.
Mui Ne is perfect for kitesurfing and windsurfing, with its consistent winds and calm waters. Several kitesurfing schools and rental shops are available along the beach.
Beach lovers will also love the long beaches in Mui Ne. Relax on the beach, swim in the clear waters, and enjoy fresh seafood from local restaurants. Fairy Stream is another unique attraction here, where visitors can take a stroll along a small stream with colorful sand formations on either side, resembling a fairy tale setting.
You can reach Mui Ne by bus or car from Saigon. The journey takes 4-5 hours. Mui Ne also has its own airport, Lien Khuong Airport, which receives domestic flights from major cities in Vietnam.
8. Mekong Delta
Between Cambodia and Southern Vietnam is a large area of rivers, swamps and islands that is called the Mekong Delta. The scenery is lush and green. When gliding through the small canals on a rowing boat it is easy to see why this is called the “Rice Bowl of Vietnam.” In addition to rice, a variety of other crops are also grown here and they can be viewed and purchased at one of the many floating markets.
The most famous floating market is Cai Rang. It is open every day from 4AM but try to arrive before 9AM when it is at its busiest.
Buses heading to the Mekong Delta leave from the Western bus station in Ho Chi Minh City. The journey takes 3-4 hours. You can explore the area on your own but the easiest way to experience everything on offer is by doing a tour. Viator and GetYourGuide both offer everything from day trips to multi day tours.
If you have time, make the most of your trip and spend more than one day visiting this amazing area.
9. Tra Su Forest
By Travel the World Pages
One of the most stunning places you can visit when traveling to the Mekong Delta is the magical Tra Su Forest. The Tra Su Forest will greet you with the sight of its lush green canals covered on a carpet of lotus flowers and the enchanting melodies of the many birds that dwell in the area. You will get transported to another dimension where the hectic sounds of the Mekong delta will fade away as if they never existed.
The best way to explore the forest is by taking a boat tour through the forest so that you get to know all its intricate paths and secrets. The boat will bring you to the bird watch tower and will give you enough time to go up for some bird watching and photography and have a meal or a drink in the nearby restaurant.
Do not forget to set your camera on burst mode to not miss any opportunity when photographing wild life. The forest is home, since January 2020, to the longest bamboo bridge in the world and it is also called “the bamboo bridge of the ten thousand steps” as it is 10 km long.
The best way to visit Tra Su forest is to stay in Chau Doc as it is just 26 km distance from the forest and
you can combine your visit with some of the many other attractions in the area.
10. Da Nang
Da Nang is definitely one of the most unique places to visit in Vietnam. With about 1 million inhabitants, the lively costal city in central Vietnam it is the 5th largest city in the country and offers its visitors an impressive combination of culture, nature and modern charm.
The main sight of downtown Da Nang is undoubtedly the famous Dragon Bridge. This 666-meter long architectural masterpiece is illuminated by 2500 LED lights at night and stretches majestically across the Han River. The dragon’s head usually spits fire for three minutes on Saturday and Sunday evenings, followed by a torrent of spray.
The Cham Museum is a must-see for history buffs as it houses the largest collection of Cham sculptures in the world. These sculptures are a fascinating testament to the ancient Cham culture that once flourished in the region.
For beach lovers, Da Nang offers some of the most beautiful beaches in Vietnam. My Khe Beach, also known as China Beach, stretches for 30 kilometers and offers sparkling white sand and crystal-clear waters.
About 30km southwest of downtown, in the Ba Na Hill is the world famous “Golden Bridge“: Two hands, carved out of the rock, seemingly playfully hold the golden bridge.
Da Nang is convenient and easy to reach: The city has an international airport, a cruise port and very good public transportation by train and bus to many other destinations in the country.
11. Ho Thuy Tien
By Pina Travels
Ho Thuy Tien is an old, abandoned water park about 10 kilometers (6 miles) outside of Hue, Vietnam. Since closing in the early 2000s, Ho Thuy Tien has been slowly swallowed back up by the jungle, and the structures, rides, and waterslides are in disrepair. This has made it an exciting site for both locals and visitors to explore. In fact, it’s a popular spot for photography!
Wandering Ho Thuy Tien, you’ll come across a building shaped like a dragon that was meant to be an aquarium on the inside. Now, all the aquariums have been smashed. You can climb up (carefully) a staircase that takes you to the top of the dragon building, where you’ll have a view of the whole park, including its lake.
You’ll also find a massive amphitheater with tons of seating in grandstands. This theater would have been used for water shows or other performances. Another exciting thing to see is the park’s old water slides!
Ho Thuy Tien is about a 25 minute drive that can be done by car or by scooter. The park is located between the tombs of Tu Duc and Khai Dinh, and it’s accessible via a quick detour off the main road.
12. Ninh Binh
By A Couples Calling
Ninh Binh is one of the most unique places in Vietnam thanks to its breathtaking landscapes and cultural sites. It’s located in the north of the country and is just a 3.5-hour drive from Ha Long Bay.
There’s a train station in Ninh Binh, with the most popular route being from Hanoi. You’ll also find several bus routes that run here, from destinations including Hue, Hoi An, and Hanoi among others.
Compared to other places in Vietnam, relatively few tourists visit this UNESCO heritage site. Boasting an ancient city, a variety of wildlife, and breathtaking landscapes, this incredible destination has so much to offer, so that’s a real shame!
Some of the top attractions in Ninh Binh and the surrounding area include Mua Caves, Bai Dinh Temple, Van Long Nature Reserve, and Tam Coc. These places offer you the best chance to appreciate your surroundings and learn about the local culture.
If you’re looking to get away from Vietnam’s bustling cities, then Ninh Binh should be your next stop. It’s extremely peaceful, really affordable, and there are plenty of things to do here!
13. Da Lat
Da Lat is a little piece of France nestled within the misty mountains of the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
Da Lat, or Dalat as it is also known, is famous for its mild climate, which made it a much-loved destination for French colonialists looking to escape the scorching heat of the coast. Today the French influence can be seen throughout the city in the attractive art deco buildings of the 1920s and 1930s.
The area has the perfect climate for growing flowers, which has earned Da Lat the name “City of Eternal Spring.” The Central Highlands is also Vietnam’s main coffee producing region and you will see many coffee plantations as you drive through the mountains.
Sitting in the heart of Da Lat is the pretty Xuan Huong Lake, which is a short walk from the hustle and bustle of Da Lat night markets and the massive flowerlike glass structures of Lam Vien Square.
One of the most popular things to do when visiting Da Lat is to take a tour of the coffee plantations, flower fields, and Buddhist temples of the surrounding countryside.
Da Lat is a 3-hour drive from the city of Nha Trang and can be reached by air from Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.
14. Pu Luong Nature Reserve
By Colorful Journeys
Located in the Northern Region of Vietnam, Pu Luong Nature Reserve emerges as a hidden ecotourism gem near Hanoi. Often referred to as ‘Little Sapa,’ it is dotted with beautiful rice terraces, traditional villages, and plenty of hiking opportunities. It’s quickly becoming a popular option for trekkers looking for a less crowded alternative to Sapa.
One of the best things to do in Pu Luong is to rent a motorbike and discover the villages. Make sure to check out the waterwheels, visit the Hieu Waterfalls, and explore the Doi Cave located in Kho Muong Village. Also, don’t forget to pack your comfortable walking shoes, insect repellent, and your camera to capture the amazing landscapes.
Getting to Pu Luong from Hanoi is straightforward, with vans leaving daily from the old quarter. With just a 4-hour drive from Hanoi, Pu Luong is the perfect getaway if you’re looking for an adventure or simply want to relax and escape the city.
15. Phong Nha
Phong Nha is a beautiful small village located on the Son River in Central Vietnam. Renowned for it’s limestone cave system and home to Son Doong, one of the largest caves on earth, it is recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site.
To reach Phong Nha, you have a couple of transportation options. One is to take a flight from either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City to Dong Hoi airport. Alternatively, you can choose to travel by train on the reunification railway and get off at Dong Hoi train station. From there, you can arrange a transfer, hire a taxi, or catch a public bus to reach Phong Nha.
Within Phong Nha-ke Bang National Park, taking guided tours to the iconic caves is an unforgettable experience. These include Son Doong, Dark Cave, Paradise Cave, Phong Nha Cave, and Hang En Cave, all of which offer exciting exploration opportunities.
The park also offers nature walks in the Botanic Gardens, wandering around the Bong Loi Countryside, cycling through small villages, taking a boat down the quiet Son River and walking through the quiet town during sunset.
Phong Nha is one of the unique places in Vietnam that you should visit. The serene atmosphere and breathtaking landscapes is perfect for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.
16. Cao Bang
Cao Bang is a hidden gem in northern Vietnam next to the Chinese border. It’s not on the regular tourist route but has a lot of great attractions to see. The main attraction here is the massive Ban Gioc Waterfall. Other popular places to visit nearby include Phong Nam valley, Nui Mat Than (a cool-looking mountain), Khuoi KY Stone Village, and Nguon Ngao Cave.
To get around, you can either hire a motorbike, bicycle or your hotel may offer a shuttle service. If you don’t have your own transport, you can choose to stay near the Ban Gioc waterfall, which places you near the cave and a nearby pagoda too.
To get to Cao Bang, you can catch an overnight or day bus from Hanoi. Another popular way to arrive is by catching a day bus from Ha Giang, after doing the Ha Giang motorbike loop. This takes a full day and involves a directed change in bus in Bao Lac. You may also consider hiring a private car if going from Ha Giang to Cao Bang if you want to get there quicker.
Pro Tip: As this city is not firmly on the tourist trail, it is recommended to have a Vietnamese sim card, and the number of your homestay or hotel. The bus stop for the city is not well located, so its handy to be able to call your homestay when the bus is inevitably late. From the bus stop you can use a local taxi, your homestay pickup service or the GRAB app to get to your accommodation.
17. Central Highlands
Vietnam, one of the countries where to enjoy some of the best landscapes (and the best food!) of southeast Asia, is a country of contrasts. Although physically invisible nowadays, the border between the North and the South of the country is still palpable in its history, its people, and its gastronomy. In the middle rests a jewel that remains almost untouched, off the beaten track for most of the tourism and where you’ll find the most fulfilled experiences: Vietnam’s Central Highlands.
Picture this: 5 days, more than 700 km on a motorbike, no bus schedules, just freedom, wonderful people along the way, and a “born to be wild” constant mood.
Don’t have any experience in riding a bike or wouldn’t dare to do so in Vietnam? No worries, Vietnamese Easyriders (motorbike with a driver) is the best idea ever: they know their way around the central highlands of the country and will introduce you to the best adventures of your holidays, You’ll meet villages of matriarchal communities with its own dialects, visit restaurants that barely get any tourist, and touch traditions that persist time, wars and generations.
You can start this adventure meeting with your easy rider in Da Lat and decide on the route you would be interested in, depending on your preferences. We knew we wanted to cross the Central Highlands until the magical city of Hoi An and were very open to their proposals. We ended up passing through idyllic Lak Lake (sleeping in a traditional long house), the vibrant cities of Buon Ma Thuot and Kham Duc, meeting ancient villages and even doing a part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
All this while enjoying the landscapes sitting in the back of the motorcycle. Already convinced? What are you waiting for? Include Central Highlands in your next itinerary in Vietnam!
18. Cat Ba National Park
By Travelers and Dreamers
If you are traveling to Vietnam then visiting Halong Bay is probably high on your bucket list. It is indeed a unique location, but it is also crawling with tourists! One of the lesser-known and equally impressive places in the Halong Bay area is Cat Ba.
Cat Ba island is the largest island of the Cat Ba archipelago. It is bordered by the UNESCO heritage site of Halong Bay in the north and the equally beautiful Lan Ha Bay in the south. Cat Ba is the perfect place if you want to explore all the beauty this area has to offer, but in a more authentic way and with fewer tourists around.
On the island, there are plenty of things to do. You can take a Lan Ha Bay cruise or visit the Cat Ba National Park, which offers stunning views of the surrounding limestone cliffs that are covered in dense lush greenery. Furthermore, you can go kayaking, snorkeling, caving, and even rock climbing.
Cat Ba is very easy to get to from Hanoi. Transport companies offer an easy bus-boat-bus option that will take you to the island in less than three hours. Most travelers stay in Cat Ba town but it’s worth it to stay in one of the smaller villages to experience Vietnamese island life off the beaten track.
19. Cham Islands
The Cham Islands in Vietnam offer a tropical paradise for beach lovers, divers, and snorkelers. Located off the coast of Hoi An, these islands provide a perfect getaway during your Asia backpacking trip.
You can easily reach them by boat from Hoi An, with many tour options available for day trips or longer stays.
The main island, Hon Lao, features two fishing villages: Bai Huong in the east and Bai Lang in the west. While Bai Lang attracts most tourists with its beautiful white sand beach, those seeking a more authentic experience can visit Bai Huong. Additionally, exploring lesser-known beaches like Bac Xep, Bai Bim, and Bai Bac can offer a quieter and more secluded atmosphere.
Diving and snorkeling are popular activities on Cham Islands, thanks to its inclusion in the protected National Marine Park. Just remember to avoid visiting during the rainy season for the best experience.
With its serene beaches, underwater wonders, and authentic coastal village life, Cham Islands is one of the must-see places in Vietnam.
20. My Son Sanctuary
By Time Travel Turtle
For about a thousand years from the 4th century, a civilization called the Champa lived in central Vietnam, where they built ornate Hindu temples covered with carved stone artworks. Most of their history has been lost to time, but the My Son Sanctuary is one of the few — and the best — places to see the Champa story.
This World Heritage Site is about an hour’s drive from Hoi An and makes for a good half-day trip. You’ll be able to walk around the dozens of temples that are standing (in various states of disrepair) amongst the jungle. Even the best-preserved buildings, adorned with detailed statues of the god Shiva, have green plants growing from their cracks, while unfortunately there are also piles of rubble where bombs destroyed structures during the Vietnam War.
Although you can visit the My Son Sanctuary independently, there isn’t any good public transport to the site, so a tour from Hoi An or Hue is probably the easiest way to come here.
Hue is a city known for its rich history and mouth-watering cuisine. Located in Central Vietnam, Hue is the capital of Thua Thien Hue province, north of Da Nang.
It served the imperial capital of Vietnam from 1802 to 1945. During the Nguyen Dynasty, Hue was a political, cultural and religious centre in Vietnam. UNESCO listed the Complex of Hue Monuments as a World Heritage Site in 1993.
The top things to do in Hue are the Hue Historic Citadel, Thien Mu Pagoda, Mausoleum of Emperor Khai Dinh, Mausoleum of Emperor Minh Mang, and Mausoleum of Emperor Tu Duc. In addition to the historical places, you should not miss the Thuy Xuan Incense Stick Village, Perfume River, and Dong Ba Market.
While in Hue, you must also try Hue local delicacies, such as Bun Bo Hue (noodle soup), Banh Beo (savory rice cakes), Banh Nam (thin rectangular dumpling wrapped with banana leaves), Banh Khoai (crispy pancake), and Nem Lui (pork patty skewers).
The easiest way to get to Hue is by taking a minivan or joining a day tour from Da Nang. The journey between Da Nang and Hue is around 2 hours.
That concludes our list for the most unique places to visit in Vietnam! Do you have other places to recommend? Let us know in the comment section below!
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Katherine Cortes is a 30-something freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).