Vietnam is a gorgeous land of sublime landscapes and vibrant cities. The country is starting its three-phase plan to resume regular international flights beginning in 2022! Now is the perfect time to start planning your trip and the top 5 destinations in Vietnam you don’t want to miss!
The Mekong Delta
Vietnam’s Mekong River meanders through the south of the country, and feeds nine tributaries which comprise the fertile Mekong Delta, known as the ‘rice bowl’ of Vietnam. For hundreds of years communities have existed on the river, relying on it for food and transport. The main town at the heart of the delta is Can Tho, a busy cultural and transport hub, whose waterfront is lined with floating restaurants, pagodas, hotels and tranquil gardens. It’s a great base for exploring the region’s temples, lush orchards and traditional villages.
From Can Tho, join a leisurely boat cruise around the delta’s famed floating markets. At bustling Cai Rang, wholesale traders converge en masse upon the canals, steering boats laden with locally grown fruit and vegetables. Phong Dien is a quieter, more traditional floating market, where kitchen utensils, farming tools and fishing equipment are up for grabs alongside fresh produce. Here you’ll find more hand sculled boats than motorised vessels, and a more laid back ambience than Cai Rang. Most of the markets’ action takes place early in the morning, so set your alarm clock to beat the heat and the crowds.
Phu Quoc Island
Basking in the Gulf of Thailand off the coast of Cambodia, Phu Quoc Island is the largest of the 28 remote islets that make up Vietnam’s Phu Quoc region. A beach lover’s paradise, the island boasts over 20 shores including Long Beach, a 12 mile tract of powdery white sand, perfectly placed for watching the setting sun. Much of Phu Quoc’s rugged interior is designated UNESCO protected biosphere, a pristine wilderness of craggy peaks, tropical rain forest and plunging waterfalls. The coral reefs that surround the island are home to hawksbill and green turtles, and perfect for diving and snorkelling. Take a ride in the cable car that connects Phu Quoc Island to neighbouring Hon Thom, and enjoy spectacular seascapes as you whizz through the air, five miles across the gulf.
This historic seaside town and former trading port has its roots in the 15th century. Blissfully car-free, the scenic old town offers a charming cultural mashup of Japanese, Chinese and French colonial architecture, intersected by a network of canals. Don’t miss the beautiful Japanese covered bridge, built in 1590 to link Hoi An’s Japanese and Chinese communities.
The town enjoys a vibrant culinary reputation, a nod to centuries of cultural diversity. Join a cooking lesson where you’ll head to market to buy locally grown ingredients, then learn to rustle up (and devour) a tempting feast. Rent a bike and explore the surrounding countryside along quiet country lanes edged by vivid green paddy fields. Three miles north of the town you’ll find the white sands of An Bang beach, where you can cool off in the surf and laze beneath thatched sun umbrellas before grabbing a beer and a bite at one of the beach bars.
Vietnam’s bustling capital is an enticing medley of ancient temples, serene lakes, tree lined boulevards, cacophonous traffic and historic colonial architecture. Wander the narrow alleyways of the thriving old quarter, filled with crafts shops, bars, coffee shops and the irresistible aromas of street food stalls. Wander around the tree lined shores of serene Hoan Kiem Lake, the lungs of the city, where locals come to relax and practice yoga and Tai chi. An 18th century temple, Ngoc Son, sits on a small island at the lake’s centre. Look closely, and you may spot the resident endangered soft shell turtles that reside in the waters. For shopping, head to Dong Xuan Market, the largest in Hanoi, where you can browse four floors of clothing, food and electrical products. Bring your bartering skills – it’s all part of the fun!
Ha Long Bay
Located in the northeast of the country, glittering Ha Long Bay is beloved for its astonishing natural beauty. The area is Vietnam’s number one tourist attraction, thanks to its otherworldly splendid appearance. This UNESCO world heritage site comprises a vast expanse of emerald sea dotted with over 1600 jutting karsts, limestone islands which soar dramatically out of the water. Many of the tree-clad islets contain surreal grottoes filled with stalagmites and stalactites. Join an excursion aboard a traditional Vietnamese junk, or sailing vessel. You’ll sail around the bay, stopping at many of the island’s untouched beaches where you can swim, kayak and snorkel in the idyllic waters.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com