Top Places to See when Visiting Vietnam
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Top Places to See when Visiting Vietnam

Vietnam is a fascinating country in Southeast Asia, with a long history and a great deal to see.

Vietnam is a fascinating country in Southeast Asia, with a long history and a great deal to see. Vietnam is a long slender country bordered by China on the north, Laos and Cambodia (Khmer Republic) on the west and the South China Sea to the east and south.

When visiting Vietnam, any foreigner who wants to visit Vietnam must fill out one entry visa application form. A valid passport and a Vietnamese visa are required. Entry visas are not available upon arrival. If you plan to leave Vietnam and re-enter from another country, you might need a visa allowing multiple entries. If you should lose your passport while in country, the U.S. Embassy and Consulate General can issue limited validity emergency replacement passports in as little as one day

Places to Visit in Vietnam:

Halong Bay, Bay of Descending Dragons, is a UN World Heritage site, and it is one of the top sites to visit in Vietnam. Halong Bay is a four-hour drive east of Hanoi, Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonkin. It is spectacular with almost 2,000 limestone islands that rise like monoliths over the bay. The largest island in the bay is Cat Ba Island and is 87 square miles. There is a hotel on the island where many tours spend the night. In these islands are many caves with at least 20 of them open to visitors. Here is a list of some caves you might want to visit,

  • Do Go (Cave of the sticks). This is where in 1288 General Tran Hung Dao stopped the invading Mongol ships by placing steel-tipped sticks in the water.
  • Hang Trinh Nu (Virgin Cave).
  • Thien Cung Grotto (Heavenly Cave)
  • Sung Sot Cave (Surprise Cave)
  • Luon Cave (Tunnel Cave)
  • Trong Cave (Drum Cave)
  • Tan Cung Cave (Three Palace Grotto)
  • Bo Nau Cave (Pelican Cave)

Tours of the bay can be done in one very long day, but it is usually best to have a two-day tour. Some overnight stays are on Cat Ba Island or can be spent on the tour boat. Check with your travel agent for the best boat tour of Halong Bay.

Sung Sot Cave-Photo by Adam Jones

Hue, pronounced (hway) is the ancient capital of Vietnam and has many historical sites as well, though many have been damaged through war, they are still very much worth visiting. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hue is located 335 miles south of Hanoi and 400 miles north of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). Places to see in Hue are:

  • Cua Ngo Mon (The Noon Gate) is the main southern entrance to the city and was built in 1823.
  • Thai Hoa Palace, also known as the Palace of Supreme Harmony and was built in 1833.
  • The Imperial City, also known as the Citadel is Hue’s main attraction. Construction began in 1804. Some areas are still badly damaged from war and are undergoing reconstruction. There is enough to see that you should allow yourself several hours at least. Hire a good English-speaking guide.
  • There are also the tombs of the Emperors, which include tombs dating back to the 19th century.
  • Thien Mu Pagoda, which was built in 1601 and is considered the official symbol of Hue.

Hoi An can be a side trip in the Hue area. Hoi An was major international port from the 15th to the 19th centuries. Hoi An’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visiting Old Town can be somewhat touristy, but it is free of cars and the usual karaoke style places.

  • Quan Cong Temple built in 1653.
  • Museum of trade Ceramics is the best place to learn of the history of the area.

Ho Chi Minh City formerly known as Saigon is a large city and has many sites to see, a few of them are.

  • Notre Dame Cathedral is a reminder of the French rule and was built in 1883. Services are held only on Sundays in both English and Vietnamese.
  • Jade Emperor Temple built in 1909 honors the Emperor of Jade.
  • Giac Lam Temple was built in 1744 and is the oldest Chinese temple in the city.
  • Mui Ne is a resort community with sand dunes and beaches; the sand dunes are an interesting contrast to Vietnams lush tropical landscape.
  • Vinh Nghiem Pagoda is the largest pagoda in the city.
  • There are also boat trips on the Mekong River as far as Cambodia.

Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and is in the northern part of the country. It was the capital of French Indochina between 1887 and 1954 when it was a French colony. There is still a large influence of the French architecture. There are numerous sites to visit in Hanoi including numerous sites commemorating Ho Chi Minh, other sites are:

  • One-Pillar Pagoda, which was built in 1049, The Goddess of Mercy.
  • The Temple of Literature is a beautiful example of both Chinese and Vietnamese architecture. First founded in 1070 to honor Confucius became the countries first university in 1076.
  • Vietnam Museum of Ethnology is dedicated to the 53 different peoples who live in Vietnam.
  • Cuc Phong National Park is the largest national park in Vietnam and is a quick trip from Hanoi.

In the Hai Phong area there are numerous places to visit.

  • Du Hang Pagoda was first built in the 11th century.
  • Do Son beach
  • Cat Ba National Park is composed of more than 360 small islands located between Ha Long Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay.

Halong Bay photo by Andrew Crump/

When to go to Vietnam

There are many more places to visit while in Vietnam including sites of battles from the Vietnam War. In the area around the DMZ north of Hue, it would be advisable to hire a knowledgeable guide to see these sites.

The best tourism season in the north is from November to April, spring is the best when it is usually cooler and drier and there are many festivals. In the south it is much warmer and more humid, the best times to go October through April or May. Some people have said that March isn’t the best time to go since that is the smoggy season in Asia when rice paddies are burned after harvesting. May through October is the time of year when visibility is best Halong Bay, but it is also the hottest time.

Best Meals

  • The Temple Club in Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Pho Co in Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Green Tangerine in Hanoi.
  • Paris Deli in Hanoi.
  • Metropole Hotel in Hanoi also one of the best hotels.

Sam Montana © 10 February 2009


  • US State Department


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Comments (21)

I traveled many times to Asia but never visted Vietnam. Your article give me an impression how beautiful this country is. I always admire the hospitality of the population in Asia. Beautiful picture too.


i am vietnamease but never beeen to vietnam before

Those caves certainly look very interesting.

I doubt I'll ever get there, but this was a great tour, thanks.


I'm planning on going there feb'11. thank you for the information, surely worth to see with my own eyes ^_^

Vincent Ruan

Vietnam's greatest attractions are not in its cities, but in the countryside and along the country's long coastline. In the far north-west one can find the once mysterious hill tribes and ethnic minorities who still largely live as they have done for thousands of years. Despite their fierce resistance to the French colonists, they are a hospitable people who welcome visitors.

Blogged this over at One of my anthro. professors did his dissertation about Vietnam. I read it, and although Vietnam is a lovely place to visit, there a darker side many don't see.

Very informative. But I have no plan to visit yet.

Alli Blalock

This is so cool. I love this website.

I have been to Ho Chi Minh City twice because my son works there. I love the place, its people and shopping. The most memorable trip there was our visit to Kuchi tunnel.

Angie Rider

Me and my boyfriend are planning to go in Nov ´11 and after reading this i cant wait looks an amazing place, with loads to experience to see and do..... bring it on .

anderson paxtor

really great website to find out about Vietnam

anderson paxtor

really great website to find out about Vietnam

Sounds wonderful - I'm up for the Cuc Phong national park... I hope I've spelt that right !



You missed Sapa (north of Vietnam). Each city in Vietnam has a great website but for Hoi An (the middle part of Viet Nam), you can check to get more useful info.

Great post!

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I think Nha Trang is another wonderful place to visit in Vietnam. Beautiful beaches with a very relaxing atmosphere

Holiday Leaving Tomorrow

What happened to the VietCong! Are they still there? Who were they anyway?

Great, well-rounded article, Sam. I like that you included a list of the best restaurants and other practical travel info.


I have been in Vietnam 2 years ago. It was awesome. There are some more amazing places we should update into this article. It's Nha Trang and Mui Ne, there are very beautiful beaches. When you go from the North to the South, you can see a lot of places with various beauty and charm.


I have been in Vietnam 2 years ago. It was awesome. There are some more amazing places we should update into this article. It's Nha Trang and Mui Ne, there are very beautiful beaches. When you go from the North to the South, you can see a lot of places with various beauty and charm.