Home of the conical hat and fine cuisine, Vietnam’s war-torn and communist-heavy days are well and truly over, although the country remains under communist rule. Towns and cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have been beautified to compete with other Asian destinations and come with a huge supply of ancient pagodas, temples and French colonial architecture.

Vietnam boasts a stunning coastline which runs the entire length of the country, with good diving and sunbathing opportunities, while the lush Mekong Delta and Ha Long Bay are its other major natural attractions.

Vietnam weather – When to go

Like Thailand, Vietnam has differing weather systems depending on where you are; north, south, coastal areas or mountains. If you plan on visiting Hanoi, Ha Long Bay and other northern climes, the best time to come is between September and December, when days are sunny and nights cool. Summer temperatures soar in Hanoi.

Those visiting Ho Chi Minh, the Mekong Delta and the south in general would do well to get here sometime between November and April. If this is not possible, try and at least avoid May to August (the wet season) when it literally pours and widespread flooding is commonplace.

Vietnam highlights – Places to visit

  • Hanoi

    the Vietnamese capital and lies right up in the north of the country. It is an old-fashioned yet slightly chaotic place but has a tremendous amount of life and charm about it. It has a peaceful lake at its centre – Hoan Kiem Lake – with a temple in the middle and a walking path around the outside. Most people head for the old quarter, which is full of old shops, French colonial architecture and a huge number of guesthouses and coffee shops. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is a must-see and if you are into beer, have a tipple of the local brew on a street corner.

  • Ha Long Bay

    located in north-eastern Vietnam, not far from Hanoi, this UNESCO World Heritage site is the most stunning natural attraction in the country after the Mekong Delta. It can be found in Quang Ninh province and features thousands of lofty limestone karsts and islets rising out of the calm Gulf of Tonkin emerald waters. The region is also pockmarked with numerous grottoes, the most famous of which is Hang Dau Go with its massive trio of chambers. Ha Long City is okay in its western parts, although the main draw is kayaking the bay.

  • Ho Chi Minh City

    the old capital of South Vietnam (Saigon) lies above the vast region of the Mekong Delta in the south of the country. It is a busy city with many interesting and famous attractions, which include the War Remnants Museum and the nearby Chu Chi Tunnels. The Reunification Palace is also a major landmark, complete with tanks in the front, while just outside the city are stunning temples, pagodas, churches and the botanical gardens. The markets, malls and souvenir shops are lots of fun and you are spoilt for choice by the sheer amount of eateries here.

  • Mekong Delta

    lying just south of Ho Ch Minh City, this beautiful area of the world marks the southern extremity of the mighty Mekong; an extremely lush area of paddy fields and timeless beauty. The main attractions are the many floating markets in the major settlements here as well as the national parks and nature reserves. A popular method of taking in the delta is to take a boat tour from Ho Chi Minh and take in My Tho, Ben Tre, Can Tho, and the An Binh peninsula. Quaint canal trips are best had through the swamplands of My Tho. The Mekong Delta is directly accessible by boat from the former capital.

  • Dalat

    is great for a visit during the hot season of Vietnam, owing to its mountain setting. It is known as the jewel of the southern Central Highlands and is often used as a jumping off point for escapades into the nearby highlands. Dalat has a fascinating café culture, which can more than likely be attributed to the French presence here; the French Quarter is particularly interesting. For a spot of culture in the town check out Emperor Bao Dai’s Summer Palace. Dalat is about seven hours from Ho Chi Minh by bus and there is also an airport outside town.

  • Phan Thiet

    this coastal city is a popular place to spend a few days away from Ho Chi Minh City, with its pleasant town and inviting turquoise waters. Phan Thiet is a diverse travel option as it has an interesting town filled with temples and palaces, nearby beaches and a backdrop of rolling hills. The town centre is a most appealing place to stay and comes with fantastic restaurants and nightlife. Another popular attraction in the region is nearby Mui Ne Beach, with that perfect tropical beach look of coconut trees and red sand dunes. Phan Thiet lies on the north/south train line a few hours outside Ho Chi Minh.

  • Hue

    another popular coastal city, Hue lies midway down the country and is the perfect stop off for those on a complete tour of Vietnam. This is definitely one for the culture-vulture as it has loads of fancy pagodas, including the revered Thien Mu Pagoda just outside town, one of Vietnam’s most important. The Imperial Citadel is another major sight here, featuring myriad temples, pavilions, gates, shops and galleries, while high-profile and forgotten tombs are dotted all around the city. The café culture is also good in Hue and there are several fun bars to check out. Trains, planes and buses all serve Hue.

  • Other Vietnam highlights

    the Chu Chi Tunnels are a major Vietnam highlight and must-see for every tourist, a network of hundreds of miles of tunnels amid dense southern jungle. Hoi An, near Da Nang and Hue, is another popular tourist stop while Vung Tau is an easily accessible coastal resort just an hour from Ho Chi Minh by bus.

Vietnam holidays & adventure tours

If you want to travel around Vietnam as part of an organised tour, both G Adventures and Intrepid Travel offer some great Vietnam adventure tours. These are ideal for single travellers or those want to see harder-to-reach places and have just a limited time for their holiday in Vietnam.

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