Vietnam is a lovely place to spend your holiday. You would have numerous options for travel. From jungle trekking to a relaxing cruise around Halong Bay. In this article, I’d like to share with you the top 16 activities you should do in Vietnam.

1. In Hoi An, light a lantern.

Hoi An is turned into a kaleidoscope of color and light for the Lantern Festival every Tt (Vietnamese New Year). The festival lasts seven days, with hundreds of multicolored lanterns adorning the path from Hoi An Bridge to Hoai River Square.

Over 50 workshops participate in the contest, each attempting to build the most beautiful lantern. The colors are vibrant, and the designs are traditional.

The festivities are concentrated in the old town, between the Japanese Covered Bridge and the Cau An Hoi Bridge. It’s busy, noisy, and celebratory, with spontaneous singing and food carts everywhere you look. It is a celebration for both locals and visitors.

The most spectacular sight is the thousands of floating lights on the river; hire a sampan boat to get a closer look. You can buy a light and set it adrift for a little fee.

If you can’t make it to Hoi An for New Year’s, don’t worry: smaller lantern festivities are held every full moon. In 2022, Vietnamese New Year was on February 1st, while it will be on February 10th in 2023.

things to do in Vietnam - hoian
Hoian City – Things to do in Hoian

2. Visit Halong Bay and its equally magnificent neighbor.

Halong Bay is undoubtedly considered one of Vietnam’s most stunning places, with 1,600 limestone spires soaring from its blue seas. As a result, it’s on everyone’s bucket list, and hundreds of vessels provide daily cruises. The bay is vast, but it can still feel congested.

Bai Tu Long Bay, a few miles away, has the same breathtaking beauty but only a fraction of the visitors. Explore uncrowded caverns and little beaches while feasting on super-fresh delicious seafood.

Boat cruises to Bai Tu Long Bay, like those to Halong Bay, depart from the packed port in Halong City. Yet you’ll go in the opposite way, to where the islands are a little lower and more spread out – but, according to locals, look just like those in Halong Bay.

3. Trek around Cat Ba Island

Ngu Lam Peak is the final destination of a renowned Cat Ba hiking trail 

A trip to Cat Ba Island cannot go wrong. The vistas are amazing, and the adjoining Lan Ha Bay is a fantastic Halong alternative – another breathtakingly beautiful bay without the crowds.

What makes it unique? The hiking, according to Wanderlust’s Rosie Fitzgerald. Enjoy walking across the enormous national park’s natural jungle. The Lookout Tower Trail is a well-known and relatively easy hike. Walk uphill for almost an hour until you reach a rusting shelter, from which you can see how unspoiled Cat Ba truly is.

If you wish to go much higher, you can reach the magnificent Ngu Lam Peak. It’s worthwhile to make the effort to gaze out over the jagged, green mountains that fade into the distance.

For a more difficult task, hire a guide and hike the Cang Viet Hai Track, an 18-kilometer, undulating trail that needs good fitness. Prepare to scramble over thick knots of tree routes that block the path and ascend steep, slippery trails.

4. Take a Mekong Delta cruise.

The Mekong River enters Vietnam after traveling over 4,000 kilometers from the Tibetan Himalaya. With islands, rice terraces, stilted towns, and a way of life that hasn’t changed in decades, the river appears to want to relax and enjoy the scenery.

You can accomplish exactly that if you hitch a ride on a cargo boat. Simply pick a shady area to hang your hammock and gaze out at distant riverbanks while your boat, laden with fruit and rice sacks, ploughs the treacherous brown flow.

Alternatively, board one of the many commercial cruises that run along the river. A sail from Cai Be to Can Tho is an excellent way to spend a night on the river. The Mang Thit River, which connects the Tien Giang and Bassac systems, becomes so narrow that you can peek into the riverbank’s dilapidated stilts dwellings as you proceed south.

Floating marketing in Mekong Delta Vietnam – Things to do in Vietnam

5. Visit Phong Nha National Park and explore the world’s largest cave.

Quang Binh province is a wild region of scarcely permeable jungle in Vietnam’s thin middle, near the Laotian border. Hundreds of deep caves dot the landscape, including one of the world’s largest, Hang Son Doong. It has a cavern that is so large that a skyscraper could fit inside it.

The small town of Phong Nha serves as the area’s caving hub, and its eponymous cave is another UNESCO World Heritage Site worth visiting. You can hire both guides and the equipment needed to descend into the caves here.

If venturing underground does not appeal to you, the area is also well-known for trekking. The surrounding jungle is full of beautiful waterfalls and a thriving (and noisy) population of monkeys and flying foxes.

Buon Ma Thuot is the provincial capital of Vietnam’s central highlands, a stunning place with thunderous waterfalls and ancient Ede villages. Look for stilted constructions with carved breasts that can be reached by a ladder. They can only be used by the women of the family in this staunchly matriarchal area.

Buon Ma Thuot also serves as the epicenter of Vietnam’s flourishing coffee industry. The Trung Nguyen coffee firm is the dominant player here, and its emblem can be found on every paddy field and industrial zone in the vicinity.

There are numerous coffee-related attractions in the city. Year-round, visitors to the World Coffee Museum can learn about the country’s and the world’s coffee industry. During the yearly Coffee Festival in March 2023, the city’s numerous coffee outlets will give freebies to promote local production.

During your tour, you’ll most likely come across ‘weasel’ coffee, also known as kopi luwak or civet coffee, which aficionados swear is the best in the world. While many people think its distinct flavor is outstanding, recent studies have revealed questionable animal welfare practices on coffee farms around the region.

“If you can’t make it to the coffee heartland, try a Vietnamese egg coffee while you’re in Hanoi,” suggests Wanderlust executive director Jackie Scully. “I enjoyed the Note coffee shop, which is located near the capital’s main lake. It was more than simply a caffeine boost, since it was covered in inspiring post-its from travelers from all around the world.”

7. In Hanoi, go for the tastiest pho in Vietnam.

Pho is a popular Vietnamese dish comprised of four simple ingredients: clear stock, boiling beef, rice noodles, and herbs or green onions. It is served on street corners, at expensive restaurants, and in every family home in Vietnam.

Hanoi has earned a reputation as Vietnam’s pho capital. Every restaurant in town has a secret recipe. Take your time looking for the best – it’s all part of the enjoyment! But what if you want our opinion? Go to Lo Duc in the French Quarter and have a meal at Pho Thin.

This simple pho restaurant, with wooden seats and laminated tables, handles things a little differently, like stir-frying the beef in garlic before adding it to the soup. Local foodies claim it adds a distinct smokiness to the pho that you won’t get in other restaurants. Pho Thin is often crowded, but once inside, you’ll realize it was worth the wait.

Pho Hanoi – Things To Do In Vietnam

8. Learn about Vietnam’s violent history at Ho Chi Minh City.

More than 60% of the Vietnamese population was born after the Vietnam War ended in 1975. But it doesn’t imply its bloody history is forgotten. Vietnam has moved on as a nation, but the sacrifices made by both sides of the conflict are still honored throughout the country, particularly in Ho Chi Minh City.

The Ho Chi Minh City Museum includes a number of instructive exhibitions that explain the country’s tragic history through images, artifacts, and memorabilia. It’s done carefully, without sugarcoating the atrocities, and is situated (somewhat ironically) in the Gia Long Palace, where Ngo Dinh Diem spent his final hours in power before his assassination in 1963.

The War Remnants Museum is a more gruesome – but no less important – reminder of local crimes. This is a haunting reminder of life not-too-long ago, with spooky bomb remains and first-person recollections by war veterans, as well as a bloodied guillotine and images of severe napalm burns.

9. Attend church in Vietnamese way.

Tây Ninh, a bustling Mekong Delta hamlet, is possibly the world’s most unlikely holy city. Cao Dai Temple, the Holy See of the Cao Dai religion, is located here, among the crowded streets, booths, and heavy traffic.

Caodaism is a Vietnamese hybrid religion that dates back to the 1920s. It combines Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, the occult, and Islam in order to break free from the cycle of life and death. The religion worships Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, and even French novelist Victor Hugo.

The temple’s towers resemble a parish church from a distance. A closer look reveals an eclectic facade complete with sword-wielding gods, swastikas, a Communist red star, and an Orwellian all-seeing eye.

Prayers are held four times a day, with the one at midday being particularly popular with day-trippers from Ho Chi Minh City.

10. Ride your bike around Hue

Hue, located halfway between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, served as a border between the north and south during the Vietnam War. Set on the beautiful Perfume River, it has long played an important role in Vietnamese history and is rich in historical landmarks.

It’s also an excellent area to go cycling. Set out early in the morning for the Tiger Fighting venue, which is three kilometers outside of town. It was Vietnam’s version of the Colosseum, where elephants and tigers would fight to honor the monarchy’s strength. Then, proceed to Tu Duc Tomb before reaching Vong Canh Hill, which offers the greatest views of the Perfume River.

Downhill from Vong Canh Hill comes one of Hue’s most atmospheric pagodas, Tu Hieu, which is set in a calm and picturesque pine forest. Before returning to town, stop by the mausoleum of Minh Mang, the second emperor of the Nguyen dynasty.

When you get at the Imperial Citadel, you have two options: ride through the UNESCO World Heritage Site and Vietnam’s version of the Forbidden City, or enjoy a quiet drink close to the Perfume River.

Doesn’t that sound like a lot of work? You find a cyclo driver nearby who will do all of the work for you.

11. Discover love in Sapa’s love market.

Sapa, a market town in Vietnam’s hilly north, rose to prominence as a French hill station in the 1930s. The hamlet, located on a 1,650m-high mountain crest, offers spectacular views of the Hoang Lien Mountains as well as a colorful market visited by hill tribes from the surrounding region every Saturday.

The village has grown in popularity among tourists, but there are still historic customs concealed in its hidden corners. One of these is the Love Market, where Dao (and H’mong) men and women travel long distances to perform love songs to each other. It used to be held at the end of Saturday market trading, but overzealous tourists snapping unwanted photos drove the practice underground.

The Love Market still exists, but it now takes place in secret locales late at night, far from the eyes of visitors. However, if your interest is real and you can locate a local prepared to trust you, you can still find romance.

12. Sail past the Tam Coc rice paddies.

The Tràng An Scenic Landscape Complex in Ninh Binh Province, northern Vietnam, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014. It’s no surprise to anyone who’s seen it: spectacular limestone karsts and wide, deep green valleys, frequently with boats drifting down the Red River Delta.

The village of Tam Cc-Bch ng (commonly referred to simply as ‘Tam Coc’) is part of this complex, and its famous rice paddies are also UNESCO-listed. The best way to experience them is to take a calm, leisurely boat ride down the Ngo Dong River, savoring the strange scenery as you go.

Tam Coc is now more accessible than ever. To be sure, the area has grown in popularity among travelers in recent years, and for good cause. Buses and trains from Hanoi to Ninh Binh take roughly three hours, and organized day tours and two-day journeys are available if you’d rather not plan your own adventure.

You’ll want to spend at least a day here, if not more, according to Wanderlust’s Jackie Scully. “If you visit Hang Ma while in Ninh Binh province, you will be rewarded for climbing the 486 stone stairs with a spectacular vista. Avoid the heat by arriving early.”

Boat trip in Tam Coc, Ninh Binh – Things to do in Vietnam

13. Visit Cat Tien National Park to see uncommon primates.

Cat Tien National Park in southern Vietnam is a wildlife lover’s paradise: a 720-square-kilometer biosphere reserve made up of botanical gardens and lowland forest, with a wealth of unusual species and birdlife kept safe and sheltered in a number of sanctuaries and rescue centers.

The Dao Tien Endangered Primate Species Centre has seen golden-cheeked gibbons, silvered langurs, and native pygmy lorsies, among other unusual monkeys. Tens of sun bears live at Cat Tien Bear Sanctuary.

Asian elephants and clouded leopards have also been spotted in Cat Tien by wildlife enthusiasts. Birders will have their hands full as well, with sightings of Asian barred owlets, blue-rumped and bar-bellied pittas, and orange-necked partridges, to mention a few.

Some of the park’s animal residents come alive at night, so if you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind wildlife encounter in Vietnam, try staying the night in one of Cat Tien’s homestays or hotel accommodations and going on a midnight drive.

An added benefit? Those on a day excursion will have returned to Ho Chi Minh City, which is around three hours and thirty minutes away by car, so you’ll have more of the park to yourself.

14. Behold the Ban Gioc Waterfall

Ban Gioc is the name of not one, but two crashing waterfalls along the Quay Son River in Vietnam’s Trung Khanh District, Cao Bang, and China’s Daxin County, Guangxi.

You’ll be witnessing one of South-East Asia’s most magnificent natural wonders. Its sheer height (70m tall and 208m wide) is impressive, but the way the falls cascade down its craggy, limestone face is the most impressive. If you’re up for a challenge, you can travel up to the ‘falls high points as long as you have the proper walking gear.

After you’ve taken in the breathtaking views, there’s much to see and do in the Cao Bang region, which is located in the country’s mountainous north-east. There are caves to explore, native homestays to experience, and even more spectacular waterfalls to see.

15. Visit Da Nang’s Golden Hands Bridge.

Have you ever seen a bridge like this before? The Golden Bridge (also known as the Golden Hands Bridge or the Giant Hands Bridge) in Da Nang province is unique.

Pedestrians can walk across the 150m-long pathway, high above the seemingly-endless greenery of the Ba Na Hills, and feel as though they’re being held in the sky by two huge, God-like stone hands. The stone hands, as it happens, are supported not by God, but by a strong steel frame and fiberglass.

The reality-altering structure was built to entice more people to the Da Nang area, and no one can deny its social media success. The #GoldenBridge hashtag alone includes almost 124,000 photographs of the bridge.

If you travelled to Vietnam and didn’t upload a photo of the Golden Hands Bridge on Instagram, did your vacation ever take place?

16. Enjoy peace and quiet on Phu Quoc Island

The picturesque Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc is located off the coast of Cambodia and is a retreat for travelers looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Vietnam’s cities.

On Phu Quoc, there’s never a shortage of things to see and do. Visitors to Vinpearl Safari Care and Conservation Park can expect to see elephants, white Bengal tigers, macaques, and silver langurs, among other animals. Hike through the lush trees of Phu Quoc National Park while witnessing the calm trickle of Suoi Tranh Waterfall.

After you’ve exhausted your walking options, take the extraordinarily long cable car to Hon Thom Nature Park or kick back and enjoy on the exquisite white beaches of Sao Beach, Ong Lang, or secluded Khem Beach. You’ll feel like you’re on the outskirts of paradise, surrounded by palm palms and forest.

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