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Top 12 best things to do in Vietnam

woman on river in vietnam

Are you planning a trip to Vietnam? With such a large, varied country it’s hard to know where to start.

To help, we’ve selected the best places to visit in Vietnam, and the best times to travel to each of them. You’ll also find some key festival dates to help shape your travel plans…

Best Places to Visit in Vietnam

1) Hanoi

Famous for its centuries-old architecture and chaotic Old Town, Hanoi is a spectacular city full of culture and history.

Tour the temples and other historic architecture, or take a food tour to discover the much-loved street food of the city.

Best time to visit: January is one of the driest months, and temperatures are slightly cooler

2) Halong Bay

One of the most popular places to visit in Vietnam, Halong Bay, never fails to impress.

The bay, with its emerald waters is filled with small islands, jagged limestone columns, and impressive rocky arches. Take a one or two-night cruise on a traditional junk boat to get the best experience.

Best time to visit: March has a higher chance of clear, blue skies

3) Sapa

In the far north of Vietnam, close to the border of China, lies the mountain town of Sapa.

Surrounded by terraced rice paddies and lush green valleys, the town is famed for its stunning landscapes and exceptional trekking routes. Whether you’re a keen hiker, or simply enjoy a nice view, there are treks to suit all abilities and fitness levels.

Best time to visit: March-May and September-December are best for trekking conditions

4) Hue

Once the capital of Vietnam, Hue is a small, pleasant city in Central Vietnam. The highlight is the ancient, walled Imperial City, which encompasses several palaces and temples. But this is also the perfect city to discover the cuisine of Central Vietnam, which tends to be a little spicier and very different to the north and south of the country.

Best time to visit: During April for the bi-annual Hue Festival

5) Hoi An

Hoi An is one of the most popular cities in Vietnam, and it’s easy to see why. The well-preserved Ancient Town is a jumbled blend of Vietnamese, French colonial, and Chinese architecture, all painted a uniform yellow.

Loved for its beautiful buildings, skilled tailors, and excellent food scene, Hoi An is a must for any Vietnam itinerary.

Best time to visit: During any full moon to enjoy the monthly lantern festival

6) Ho Chi Minh City

Once called Saigon, HCMC is most famous for the pivotal role it played during the Vietnam War.

Visitors can explore the War Remnants Museum for a deeper (and at times, disturbing) look at the history of the war, or take a visit to the nearby Cu Chi Tunnels, which were used by the Viet Cong soldiers.

Best time to visit: During the drier months of December to March

7) Phu Quoc Island

Phu Quoc is a small island paradise off the coast of Cambodia. White sandy beaches and luxurious resorts line most of the southwest coast, and are the perfect place to head in search of relaxation. More than half of the island is the Phú Quốc National Park, where more active visitors can explore hiking trails or take wildlife tours.

Best time to visit: November – March

Festivals and Events in Vietnam

8) Tet

Tet is the Chinese New Year, and is the largest and most famous festival in Vietnam.

The celebrations are huge, with fireworks, street food stalls, and colourful performances. Bear in mind that prices for domestic travel and accommodation can go up around this time, and many shops and restaurants close for the whole week.

2019 dates: 5th February
2020 dates: 25th January

9) Perfume Festival

During the Perfume Festival, pilgrims from all across Vietnam make their way to the Perfume Pagoda in Hanoi to pray for a prosperous year.

The temple, inside Huong Tich cave, is filled with decorations and offerings.

2019 dates: 19th February (although pilgrims make the journey from January-March)
2020 dates: TBC

10) Buddha’s Birthday

Buddha’s Birthday is celebrated across Vietnam, with temples covered in lavish decorations and flower garlands.

The best place to celebrate is Hoi An, where various processions and parades can be seen in the city centre, while locals perform religious rites at the Phap Bao Pagoda.

2019 dates: 12th May
2020 dates: 12th May

11) Ghost Festival

Wandering Souls Day, or the Ghost Festival, is the second largest after Tet and is a fascinating, spiritual festival.

Known in Vietnamese as Trung Nguyen, this is a Buddhist festival for pardoning condemned souls who have been released from hell. Families make offerings of food, flowers and temples, to help guide the wandering spirits of their ancestors’ homes.

2019 dates: 15th August
2020 dates: 2nd September

12) Mid-Autumn Festival

Also known as the Harvest Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival is considered to be mainly for children.

Parents buy their children paper lanterns and funny masks, and many children travel door to door to perform the lion dance, which is believed to bring luck and fortune.

2019 dates: 13th September
2020 dates: 1st October

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