Vietnam is phasing the reopening the country to foreign tourists as the pandemic is under control. Tourist attractions across the country have begun to take small steps towards new normalcy, lifting restrictions on everything.
Vietnam Insider selects top destinations that you should consider to visit, which are the charming capital city Hanoi, with its Old Quarter more than 600 years old; the UNESCO World Heritage Site Halong Bay, perfect for cruising and water activities; the idyllic Sapa, good for trekking and visiting minority villages; the old trading port Hoi An, with a rich cultural heritage; the cosmopolitan Ho Chi Minh City, with its colonial buildings and vibrant past; and the “rice basket” Mekong Delta, with tentacle-like waterways.
Hoi An ancient town
Hoi An is a beautiful and ancient port city in central Vietnam with over 2000 years of history. The name, Hoi An, translates to “peaceful meeting place”. The city was given this name because multiple cultures, influences, and cuisines all interact and exist together in this bustling metropolis.
Hoi An is truly a great place to see breathtaking villages and beaches as well as to explore a modern city and learn about the multiculturalism it consists of.
Sa Pa is a town in the Hoàng Liên Son Mountains of northwestern Vietnam. A popular trekking base, it overlooks the terraced rice fields of the Muong Hoa Valley, and is near the 3,143m-tall Phang Xi Pang peak, which is climbable via a steep, multiday guided walk. Hill tribes, such as the Hmong, Tay and Dao, make up much of the town’s local population.
Trekking in this remarkable destination brings you closer to the raw nature of Vietnam and gives you the chance to interact with locals. While trekking in Sapa, travelers have the option to have a home stay in a remote village. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity brings you into the home of a local family who happily feed you their best dishes and who are more than willing to exchange life stories.
There are also many chances for travelers to give back to the local Sapa community. Some of the most common ways are by teaching at local schools, helping build homes, and even trying your hand at farming. If you are interested in participating in any one of these activities, all you need to do is talking to your tour guide.
Halong Bay, one of Vietnam’s top sightseeing spots, is an area of beautiful limestone islands coming out of the ocean.
The bay is named Halong, which means descending dragon, and is located in Quang Ninh Province in Vietnam about 180 kilometers (110 miles) from Hanoi (3 hours by car) and has a tropical climate.
Spring (February to April) is the best time for sightseeing in Halong Bay, as well as to partake in water-sports, with moderate temperatures and clear skies.
A Halong Bay cruise trip is undoubtedly an excellent way to relax in natural surroundings, and is especially good for honeymooners, couples and senior travelers as it is a slower pace of traveling. You’ll be immersed in the magical karst scenery and be able to enjoy all of the natural beauty, partaking in activities if you want to!
Located in South Vietnam, the Mekong Delta is considered to be a must-see area for a genuine visit to this lovely country.
The mighty 4,909-kilometer-long Mekong River starts in the Tibetan Plateau in China, runs through six countries, and ends at the Mekong Delta where it discharges silt into the East Sea, forming a continuously expanding sediment bank in southwestern Vietnam. It takes 3 hours to get there by car from Ho Chi Minh City.
The Mekong Delta is the only area in Vietnam where you can visit a floating market. Crisscrossed by rivers and rivulets, some villages are often more accessible by waterways than by road. This has nurtured the floating market culture. Unlike the floating markets in Thailand, the floating markets in the Mekong Delta, such as Cai Rang Floating Market, are still the main way for local people to trade. Although you will still see travelers there, it is a good chance to be like a local villager, buying a simple breakfast (pho) in a breakfast boat and tasting this famous Vietnamese delicacy while the beef in the soup is still hot. Trying to bargain when buying fruit is another highlight.
Remember to get up early as the best time to enjoy the floating market is from 4 to 7am. Fewer trading boats will be seen after 8am.
Although it’s named the ‘rice bowl’ of Vietnam, rice is not the only delicacy in the Mekong Delta. You will get to taste local dishes that originated in or have been popularized by the Mekong Delta region.
Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, attracts visitors with its abundance in culture, diversity of cuisine, and charming scenery.
Before the pandemic, Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi is responsible for the most international routes in Vietnam. Direct flights are available from most Asian countries but some great international airlines in other countries also provide the service.
It’s recommended to have a 2-day visit in the city or a 3-day visit around the city. But if you would really love to explore Hanoi properly, you can also stay there for 10 days.
Hanoi’s tropical climate makes it suitable to visit all year round; however, the best times to visit are winter and spring, from October to March. During this time, the weather is dry and cool. From April to September, hot humid air will blanket most of the nation and rainfall is plentiful.
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Ho Chi Minh city, or HCMC, or Saigon is a bustling metropolis whose streets are teeming with activity. It is the largest city in Vietnam with over 8.2 million residents and is a must-see for those who want to enjoy the rich history and great food that Vietnamese cities have to offer.
As ‘the most delicious city’ in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City is suitable for travel all year round. Two to four days is enough to include the most famous tourist spots in the city, and also a trip to the Mekong Delta.
As international flights, buses and cruises connect with the city, HCMC has become one of the most popular ports of entry and departure in Vietnam before the pandemic.
Ho Chi Minh City is suitable for a visit all year round. The months November to April are probably the most comfortable months to visit.
From November to April the weather is cool and dry, suitable for outdoor activities. This is the best time to visit.
From May to October it is hot and wet. Rainfall increases sharply but the showers do not last long, and the rain can help by cooling down the temperatures.
The peak travel season is in August, when all prices rise steeply. You are strongly recommended to book in advance for August.