Now well established as a holiday destination Vietnam offers a great mix of history, cultures (including ethnic communities), tropical beaches and buzzing cities. Stretching from dramatic Halong Bay in the north to lush waterways of the Mekong Delta in the south you could see most of the highlights in a fortnight. Accommodation is excellent, and good value, while the food is outstanding and should be a real highlight of your time here.
While definitely no longer a backwater on the banks of the Red River, Hanoi, has an elegant charm and grace in its tree-lined streets. The modern buzz of Vietnam sits comfortably alongside the Old Quarter, temples and tranquil lakes. It is an excellent base to explore the more rural north, including the scenic mountains and colourful hill tribe areas around Sapa. The undoubted highlight is however Halong Bay with its jagged emerald green islands rising out of the South China Sea. If you have time an overnight on a traditional junk, many quite luxurious, enables you to see the best of the islands, bays and villages together with its fantastic seafood.
Hue, Hoi An & beaches
The centre of the country, approximately the area just south of the DMZ (demilitarised zone) from the Vietnam War, acts as the watershed from north to south and contains some absolute gems. Take time to enjoy the old Imperial capital Hue with its Citadel and Royal Tombs spread out along the banks of the Perfume River – this charming city is also well known for its food. Everyone’s favourite spot in Vietnam is Hoi An with its narrow streets, Japanese Covered Bridge, merchant houses, night-time lanterns and wooden shop fronts. Shopping. Cookery lessons, art & crafts and just enjoying the old-word charm are the things to do. Stay in one of the boutique hotels of base yourself at one of the excellent nearby beaches.
Ho Chi Minh and Mekong Delta
HCMC (Saigon) is a bustling metropolis and Vietnam’s biggest city. It’s fast and furious but at the same time you can find temples and markets hidden away. It is full of sights and contains two of the best know from the Vietnam War era – the ex-Presidential Palace (Re-unification Palace) and the nearby Cu Chi Tunnels which were used by the Vietcong in the war. Further south explore the rice bowl of the Mekong Delta visiting a floating market, possibly in Can Tho, and staying out on one of the islands. There are plenty of boat trips, of all standards, from here upstream on the Mekong into Cambodia and, if you wish, up to Siem Reap for the temples of Angkor. The south also contains many fine beach options such as Phu Quoc island.
- Many of the hotels are of exceptional value so it’s a great chance to try out some luxury properties.
- As the food is superb really try to experience it as much as possible – ask advice from guides and hotels for their recommendations.
- With the exception of the north (which can be chilly in winter) most of the country is basically tropical so can be visited year round.
- Stay at least one night overnight on a junk in Halong Bay
- Get some clothes made for you in Hoi An.
- Vietnam can link in very well with time in Cambodia or Bangkok.
- Staying on a traditional junk in Halong Bay
- The food throughout the country – highlight might be the cha gio or spring rolls?
- The anarchic bustle of downtown Saigon
- Peace and calm in the tombs of the Emperors along the Perfume River in Hue
- A cruise along the Mekong – perhaps all the way to Angkor
- Indigenous tribal areas and mountains along the northern borders.
- Visa Required: Yes
- Stop Press – Visa being waived until 30th June 2021 for stays of up to 15 days
- Population: 90 million
- Capital City: Hanoi
- Currency: Dong
- Classic Dish: Pho (noodle soup)
- Local Tipple: Saigon beer (£1.00)
- Being a very long country stretching north to south it is difficult to get the perfect time so we regard it as year round really.
- If pushed we would say November to April.