The Planet D: Adventure Travel Blog

22 Best Things to Do in Vietnam In 2024

Visiting Vietnam is unlike many other destinations, mixing a fascinating blend of adventure, history, and scenic beauty that is unmatched. If you want a fascinating adventure in Southeast Asia with a blend of past and present, Vietnam is the place for you! There are so many things to do in Vietnam; you could easily spend two months exploring its countryside. We spent 30 days in Vietnam, and even that was barely enough time to see everything this diverse nation offers. 

Top things to do in Vietnam

Be it the mesmerizing views of Sapa and Ha Long, the fascinating history of the DMZ and Cu Chi Tunnels, or the busier hubs of Hanoi, Vietnam will “WOW” the adventurous spirit in you. Here are our favorite things to do in Vietnam.

We worked our way from Southern Vietnam to the North, starting from the border of Cambodia. Vietnam has some amazing sites to see. From beautiful natural wonders to fantastic shopping, mountain adventures, and chill-out beach life, Vietnam has something to offer for everyone.

The list of things to do in Vietnam is endless, and you could visit Vietnam again and again. But this guide will help you plan the must-see attractions and top places to visit in Vietnam.

1. Visit Halong Bay

things to do in vietnam ha long bay

Halong Bay is a wonder of nature in the South China Sea, where thousands of islands jut out of the turquoise water, creating a never-ending horizon of mountains.

Taking a boat tour of Vietnam is like entering a mythical world of emerald waters and towering karst formations dot the horizon. This UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its breathtaking natural beauty, is a top highlight for any Vietnam itinerary. You can book your 2-day cruise here.

You can kayak through hidden lagoons, explore magnificent caves like Sung Sot or Thien Cung, or even find a secluded cove for a swim. Halong Bay is one of the top things to do in Vietnam, and it was our most memorable experience. We explored the labyrinth on a small teak cabin cruiser, where we had our private bunk and were treated to a feast. 

Sleeping in the bay surrounded by these sleeping giants while looking into the clear night sky is a unique experience Read: Halong Bay or Bai Tu Long Bay – How to Choose Your Vietnam Cruise?

2. Cat Ba Island

southeast asia favourite country vietnam

Cat Ba Island in Vietnam is a slice of paradise that’s perfect for anyone looking to add a bit of adventure and relaxation to their Vietnam trip. Tucked away in the Gulf of Tonkin, just a stone’s throw from the famous Halong Bay, this laid-back island is all about striking scenery with its cool jungles, awesome limestone cliffs, and dreamy beaches.

Cruises often include a visit to one of the caves on Cat Ba Island during our Halong Bay cruise. There are four interesting caves on the island. Hospital Cave served as a hospital for wounded soldiers and a bomb shelter for the Vietnamese. Trung Trang Cave is the largest cave on the island, and Hoa Cuong Cave is known for its beautiful stalactites.

If you’re into snorkeling, the clear waters around the island are a treat. For those who love a good trek, the trails through Cat Ba National Park are a must-try – you never know what wildlife you might spot! And hey, if chilling on the beach is more your thing, Cat Ba’s got you covered. Plus, it’s the perfect spot to hop over to the gorgeous Lan Ha Bay for some fun on the water.

3. Bai Tu Long Bay

Bai Tu Long Bay is an alternative to Halong Bay for travelers who love to discover the road less traveled. Nestled just off the beaten path of its famous neighbor, Ha Long Bay, Bai Tu Long offers a more laid-back, authentic experience.

It’s the perfect place to escape the crowds while cruising on a traditional junk boat, surrounded by serene emerald waters and dramatic limestone karsts. You can explore hidden caves, visit fishing villages, and even find secret beaches to have all to yourself.

The vibe here is all about taking it easy and savoring the moment. Whether you’re kayaking in the bay’s calm waters or just chilling on the deck of your boat, Bai Tu Long Bay is the ultimate place to relax and soak in some of Vietnam’s most breathtaking landscapes. Check out prices and availability here.

4. Sapa

things to do in vietnam rice terraces of sapa

A journey through the jaw-dropping mountain scenery of Sapa took our breath away in more ways than one! Trekking through the high rice terraces near a mountain town near the Chinese border feels like you are walking through a postcard. 

We stayed with the hill tribes, visiting ethnic minority villages of the Hmong, Red Dao, Tay, Giay, and Xa Pho Peoples. We trekked for three days through the vast rice terraces of this rugged land. The beauty is overwhelming as every corner I turn leaves me more amazed. 

Giant terraces filled with water glistened in the sun for as far as we could see.  Water buffalo graze in the fields, and villagers dressed in traditional handmade clothing greeted us as we walked along the path.

The villagers live by the old ways here. They harness water from the mountain to use as irrigation, they hand weave their own material, and they grow their own rice. They are a people truly at one with the land.

5. Rice Fields of Tam Coc

things to do in vietnam Hang Son Doong

The enchanting Rice Fields of Tam Coc is a hidden gem in Vietnam’s picturesque Ninh Binh province. Often referred to as the ‘Halong Bay on Land’, Tam Coc is a dreamy landscape of lush green rice fields surrounded by towering limestone karsts, best explored by a leisurely boat ride along the Ngo Dong River.

As you glide through the water, you’ll be captivated by the tranquil beauty of the rice paddies, with local farmers tending to their fields and the majestic hills providing a stunning backdrop. Each season brings a different hue to the fields, from emerald green in the spring to golden yellow during harvest time.

Tam Coc isn’t just about the scenery; it’s a place to connect with the peaceful rhythm of rural Vietnamese life. Don’t forget to bring your camera, as the natural beauty here is simply photogenic. Whether you’re a nature lover, a photographer, or just someone seeking a serene escape, the Rice Fields of Tam Coc promise an experience that’s both soothing and visually spectacular, making it a top pick for your Vietnam itinerary.

6. Hanoi

things to do in vietnam Hoan Kiem lake (Sword lake, Ho Guom) in Hanoi

Hanoi is hectic and overwhelming; even crossing the street can be an adventure. We sat on a second-floor terrace watching people take their lives in their hands as they crossed the road a busy intersection like a game of Frogger. , it was definitely a lot of hours of amusement.

We explored Hanoi’s sights, eating French baguettes and sipping lattes on Hoan Klem Lake. This is a great place to escape the hectic pace of the city. Hanoi has a rich French colonial past, and to see it, you need to explore Hanoi’s old quarter.

It is also in Hanoi that you see the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum honoring Ho Chi Minh who was the founder of modern Vietnam. Other things not to miss in Hanoi are the Magical Water Puppet Show, continuing a thousand-year-old tradition, the temple of literature, and you must sample Vietnamese food on a food tour of Hanoi. Read More: The 29 Best Things to do in Hanoi, Vietnam

Suggested Food Tours Hanoi

Street Food Tour – Take a walk through the old quarter of Hanoi with a local guide. Sample street food and local favorites. Free cancellation up to 24 hours in advance. Street food and Water Puppet Show Combo – Sample delicious Vietnamese, learn about Hanoi’s unique food culture, enjoy the night view of Hoan Kiem Lake and finish off with the water puppet show. Easy cancellation on tours with 24 hours’ notice.

7. Ho Chi Minh City

things to do in vietnam - ho chi minh city

Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is a bustle with markets, food stalls, and nightclubs. This is where our Vietnam adventure began, and it was an eye-opener of a first stop. A city of 7 million people, Ho Chi Minh City, is the heart of Vietnamese nightlife, with Karaoke bars, nightclubs, and many places offering cheap beer and cocktails.

Trishaw drivers won’t take no for an answer as they follow you down the street looking to make their fare. Where shopping is the main priority and dodging touts is a full-time job.

The city has French colonial buildings mixed between neon lights and skyscrapers. The most popular tourist attractions are probably the Reunification Palace, Jade Emperor Pagoda, Binh and Tay Market.

8. War Remnants Museum

things to do in vietnam war remnants museum

No one can forget the Vietnam War, and there are many tributes and places to visit in Vietnam that pay respect to the country’s war history. In Ho Chi Minh City, The War Remnants Museum is an emotional look at the effects of war. A stand-out display was one that honored photographers and correspondents who lost their lives covering the war.

Other attractions to see in Ho Chi Minh City are the Reunification Palace, which is the site where the Vietnam War symbolically came to an end. We walked by the American Embassy, known for the infamous rooftop helicopter evacuations after the fall of Saigon, and we checked out the thriving waterfront with luxury hotels, nightclubs, and the bustling Mekong River.

Paying tribute to its French colonial past, the city is also home to a cathedral named after Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Check out all the things to do at The Best of Ho Chi Minh City

9. The Cu Chi Tunnels

things to do in Vietnam cu chi tunnels

The fascinating Cu Chi Tunnels are an amazing day trip from Ho Chi Minh where you can experience what the Viet Cong soldiers and fighters went through living life underground during the war.

Agent Orange, napalm, and constant bombing wiped out the jungle during the Vietnam War, but it is now lush and green and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Vietnam.

Our guide showed us how the Vietnamese would escape in the jungle and camouflage the entrances with termite hills. We learned that they fought in sandals made from automobile tires to avoid jungle rot. And we learned how they wore checkered scarves to announce that they were fighting for the North and how farmers snuck food to soldiers.

It was then into the claustrophobic original tunnel to crawl for 100m in darkness to get a sense of just how uncomfortable the conditions were. Read more at The Cu Chi Tunnels of Vietnam

10. Cruise the Mekong Delta

things to do in vietnam mekong delta tour

The Mekong River is a massive river spanning 4500km of diverse wildlife and incredible views, starting in China and flowing through Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam before ending at the Mekong Delta in South Vietnam. One of the best things to do in Vietnam is to book a tour of the Mekong Delta to see its floating markets,

Along the way, you will find floating markets selling local produce and everything from fruit and vegetables to conical hats and fake clothing, unlike the markets in Ho Chi Minh City.

At small factories, we learned how to make coconut candy and rice paper, being offered a taste to entice us into buying a souvenir. It is all a little contrived at times as they try very hard to make you purchase something, but the scenery is incredible, and watching local life unfold is fascinating.

Book a full day Mekong Delta Tour including a trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels with Get Your Guide. Free cancelation for a full refund within 24 hours of activity.

Ho Chi Min City Tour companies offer great package deals fighting for tourist dollars to all destinations. Life remains unchanged in the Cu Chi Tunnels as farmers still bring their produce to the floating market and people still wash their clothes by hand on its banks. 

11. Beautiful Beaches of Mui Ne

things to do in vietnam mui ne

Our first beach stop in Vietnam was Mui Ne, and it was our favorite. A spectacular beachfront where kite surfers ride the waves in its windy bay, and the sunsets here are some of the most spectacular you will ever see. The high winds whip and swirl the clouds throughout the day, and when dusk sets in, the setting sun illuminates the sky with deep reds and bright yellows.

things to do in vietnam mui ne sand dunes

Mui Ne may have beautiful beaches, but the highlight of the visit was going to the sand dunes. A short jeep ride takes you out to the town’s main attraction of giant rolling hills of sand surrounded by green fields looking as though a bit of the Sahara has been dropped into South East Asia. We walked to the top in the scorching heat and took a thrilling magic carpet ride down its sandy banks.

Tour operators can take you out for some sandboarding and hiking on the massive dunes.

12. Phu Quoc Island

Best things to do in Vietnam Phu Quoc Island

Phu Quoc Island is closer to Cambodia than Vietnam, but it is a part of the Vietnamese territory. When we were in Vietnam, it was a little off the beaten path and reserved for backpackers, but it has gained in status thanks to its gorgeous beaches, crystal clear waters, and fantastic nightlife. There are plenty of things to do in Phu Quoc. It now has high end resorts offering jet skiing, scuba diving, fishing, and personal boat hire are all great options.

It has acquired a bit of a legendary status with backpackers in Vietnam due to its stunning beaches, clear seas, and great bars.

13. Hoi An

vietnam travel highlights bicycle in Hoi An

Image by by photographer Réhahn. See his full photostory of Vietnam here.

Hoi An has a thousand-year history luring visitors to its ancient buildings along the Thu Bon River. The river has been attracting traders from the South China Sea for centuries. This ancient town is a blend of Asian and colonial architecture with sidewalk cafés and cobblestone streets.

If you happen to be in Hoi An during the Vietnamese New Year (Tet Festival), you will witness thousands of lanterns lining the roads.

It is truly a photographer’s dream with photo opportunities of the Japanese Covered Bridge, the Lantern Festival, and the contrast between Chinese tube houses and French colonial buildings.

Tailor-made Clothes in Hoi An

Hoi An is a favorite of many travelers to Vietnam to have some tailor-made clothes whipped up in a matter of hours! Choosing a shop can be difficult and we were standing in the rainy street confused when a lady approached us and said to follow her. Reluctantly, we followed her through winding streets and alleyways when we finally came to her shop in the market.

We proceeded to pick out patterns and styles while an army of women took our measurements and aided us in choosing materials and colors from walls of fabric. We spent way too much money and got caught up in the frenzy of buying, knocking off several days of our budget on 25 kilos of clothes that we sent home to Canada.

Word of caution: Take your time, and don’t get talked into anything. Know what you want to be made and ask for it to be double-stitched. We were very happy with our purchases and are glad we had clothes made in Vietnam.

14. Mud Bath in Nha Trang

things to do vietnam mud baths

The next beach stop took us to Nha Trang. It’s a far busier beach town with high-rise buildings, giant resorts, nightclubs, and fine dining.  This long stretch of beach is well-developed and touts are everywhere selling jewelry, hats, t-shirts, and of course cheap photocopied books.

We took a day to visit the Thap Ba Hot Springs where we took a dip in the mud baths to bask in its cool medicinal mud.  There’s a therapeutic mineral waterfall, hydrotherapy, and a swimming pool. All of my travel-weary bones and muscles are treated to a relaxing day of pampering and nurturing, preparing me for the days to come. The mud baths are an affordable day at the spa and a very unique experience.

15. Dragon’s Bridge of Da Nang

things to do in vietnam dragon bridge of da nang

Da Nang, Vietnam’s vibrant coastal city, is an absolute must-visit for anyone hitting up Vietnam. It’s an awesome blend of modern vibes and traditional charm set against a backdrop of stunning beaches and rolling mountains. What’s not to love? Whether you’re into surfing the waves at My Khe Beach, exploring the Marble Mountains, or just enjoying the laid-back beachside atmosphere, Da Nang has something for everyone. And let’s not forget the city’s iconic Dragon Bridge – it breathes fire and water, which is as cool as it sounds!

Dragon Bridge is the longest bridge in Vietnam, spanning 666 meters across the Han River. Seeing it at night is a must as it lights up and the dragon spits fire and water during festivals and on weekends.

Foodies, you’re in for a treat here, too. The local cuisine is out of this world, with street food stalls and upscale restaurants serving up some of the best flavors in Vietnam. Plus, Da Nang’s central location makes it the perfect base for day trips to Hoi An or the imperial city of Hue.

16. Golden Bridge

best things to do in vietnam Golden Bridge

Located an hour and a half from the city, the Golden Bridge is one of Vietnam’s newest and most jaw-dropping attractions in the Da Nang region. Architect Vu Viet Hong created it to “invoke the sensation of walking along a thread stretching through the hands of God.”

This attraction is part of the Sun World Ba Na Hills Amusement Park. It was created strictly to lure tourists to the area, and it worked! It wasn’t yet created when we were in Vietnam, but we had to include it because it is not to be missed! Standing 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) above sea level, it extends over the edge of a cliff. The Ba Na Hills used to be a hill station for French colonialists

17. Imperial City of Hue

things to do in vietnam tomb of the emperors

Hue is located in Central Vietnam and is a treasure trove of history and culture, making it a must-visit for anyone touring Vietnam. This ancient city, once the imperial capital, is home to the stunning Hue Imperial City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s like stepping back in time.

Walking through the sprawling complex of temples, pavilions, and museums, you’ll get a real sense of Vietnam’s royal past. Here, you’ll find the tombs of the Ancient emperors. The Imperial Citadel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is Vietnam’s answer to China’s Forbidden City. The walled fortress was the seat of the Nguyen Dynasty from 1802 to 1945.

But there’s more to Hue than just its historical sites. The city is also famous for its unique Vietnamese cuisine, offering dishes you won’t find anywhere else in the country – think rich, flavorful broths and delicately crafted bites.

Plus, the serene Perfume River adds a picturesque charm to the city, perfect for a leisurely boat ride or evening stroll along its banks. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or just looking to explore a less-traveled path, Hue has something special to offer.

18. DMZ Tour

things to do in Vietnam DMZ Tour

The DMZ in Central Vietnam was the dividing line between North and South Vietnam, and it is here that you can tour many war relics. Hue was also where we booked a full-day tour to explore the DMZ zone.

If you are a history buff, this is a fascinating tour. We stopped at the former headquarters of the US Marines, Dong Ha, and famous battlegrounds like Hamburger Hill. (there was a movie made about this battle.)

We also visited another set of tunnels that were much bigger than the Cu Chi Tunnels. The Vinh Moc Tunnels were a strategic point for the Vietnamese to hide from American bombers.

19. Caves of Phong Nha

Best things to do in Vietnam Phong Nha Caves

If you have time to plan and some deep pockets, the caves of Phong Nha are a must. Hang Son Doong is the world’s largest cave, and there is a long waiting list to see it! Located in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, this UNESCO World Heritage Site can be visited on a day trip or an expedition of up to 5 days.

Discovered in 2009 in the Quang Binh province, this massive cave boasts sections up to 200 meters high and 150 meters wide, complete with its own weather system and unique ecosystem. The journey to Son Doong Cave is a multi-day trek, usually spanning 4 to 5 days, and involves hiking, camping, river crossings, and navigating the rugged terrain of the national park.

There are other caves in Phong Naha besides Son Doong so if you don’t have the money or time to spare, you can also check out Hang En Cave, Tu Lan Cave System, Hang Tien Cave, Hang Va Cave, and Nuoc Nut Cave.

All tours are conducted by licensed tour operators with experienced guides to ensure safety and minimal environmental impact. The tours often involve local porters and guides, providing economic benefits to the community and promoting sustainable tourism.

20. Ngo Dong River

Things to do in Vietnam Ngo Dong River

The Ngo Dong River in Vietnam is a serene escape that’s perfect for travelers looking to soak up some unique Vietnamese scenery. Picture this: you’re gently rowing down a calm, winding river flanked by lush, green rice fields and towering limestone cliffs. It’s like stepping into a postcard!

Located in the scenic Tam Coc region, a ride along the Ngo Dong River is all about embracing the peaceful vibes and breathtaking views. It’s where you’ll get those awesome photos of local life, with farmers working in the fields and fishers casting their nets. And don’t forget about the incredible limestone caves you’ll pass through – it’s like nature’s own cathedral.

Whether you’re a solo explorer or with your family, a trip down the Ngo Dong River is a must-do. It’s not just a boat ride; it’s an experience that lets you connect with the tranquil beauty of Vietnam in a way that’s both relaxing and unforgettable. So, when you’re planning your Vietnam adventure, make sure to add the Ngo Dong River to your itinerary – it’s a highlight that’s not to be missed!

21. the Central Highlands

central vietnam near da nang

The Central Highlands’ cool climate, especially in towns like Da Lat, known for its French colonial architecture, flower gardens, and pine-covered hills, offers a refreshing retreat from Vietnam’s tropical heat. Da Lat is particularly famous for its adventure sports like canyoning, mountain biking, and hiking.

The Central Highlands of Vietnam a region of serene beauty known for its rolling hills, dense forests, and ethnic minority villages. This part of Vietnam provides a stark contrast to the country’s bustling cities.

Here there are opportunities for trekking and exploring the numerous national parks like Yok Don and Bidoup Nui Ba.

The region is also a haven for coffee lovers, as it’s the heart of Vietnam’s coffee-growing industry. You can visit plantations in Buon Ma Thuot, the coffee capital of Vietnam, and enjoy freshly brewed local varieties.

Cultural experiences abound in the Central Highlands. Visitors can immerse themselves in the unique traditions of the local ethnic groups, such as the Ede and M’nong, by visiting their villages, experiencing their traditional gong music, and learning about their way of life.

The region’s markets, especially in towns like Kon Tum and Pleiku, are vibrant and colorful, offering a glimpse into the daily life of the highlanders.

22. Indulge in Vietnamese Cuisine

Best Vietnamese Food Banh Xeo

Did you know that Vietnamese culture is one of the oldest in Southeast Asia? This impressive feat has given the Vietnamese people plenty of time to master their art of cooking. Today, the best Vietnamese cuisine is in restaurants around the world.

One thing you’ll find that you will eat constantly is Pho, their rice noodle soup that is beyond delicious. But there are plenty of dishes to try with influences from its French Colonial times and ancient traditions. From Vietnamese egg coffee to Banh mi, a French stuffed baguette and staple rice noodles, the cuisine of Vietnam is as diverse as its regions. Local food changes as you travel from northern Vietnam to the south, and it’s easy to dig into traditional cuisine at street stalls and small cafes.

And these are the best things to do in Vietnam. Have you been? What do you suggest for the top Vietnam attractions?

Plan Your Next Trip to Vietnam With these Resources

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