The food is outstanding, the people welcoming, and the country is as beautiful as it is diverse. From trekking with the Hmong in Sapa to abseiling down waterfalls in Dalat and admiring all the colorful lanterns in Hoi An, there are innumerable amounts of incredible experiences and unique things to do in Vietnam.
These are some of the top favorite Vietnam experiences. This post is the result of my two extended trips there in both 2014 and 2016. Whether you’re traveling to Vietnam on a budget or going all out, check out as many of these experiences and places to visit in Vietnam as possible.
Pro Tip: If you’re planning to travel to Vietnam for a few weeks, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have decent travel insurance – especially if you plan to tour by bike or scooter. I always use World Nomads, as they’re known as the best insurer for backpackers and long-term travelers.
50 Unique Things To Do & Places to Visit in Vietnam
There are some crazy things to do in Vietnam, whether you’re going on an outdoor adventure, eating your way through the city, or looking for Vietnam things to do with kids in Hoi An and beyond.
1. Find the Pool With the View
One of the best things about Vietnam is that some of the most spectacular places are a mission to get to – which means only those that make an effort will be rewarded!
Topas Eco Lodge is one of the most unique hotels in Vietnam, and with its new infinity pool overlooking the terraced rice fields outside of Sapa in the far north of Vietnam, it has to be one of the most incredible pools in the world.
You can read the full Topas Eco Lodge hotel review here. It is by far one of the most remarkable!
2. Spend a Night at a Traditional Homestay
One of the best things to do in Vietnam is to sign up for a traditional homestay like this one. You can go through a company like Vietnam Backpacker’s Hostel or try to arrange it yourself.
For this Mai Chau homestay (photo above), you can organize it through a tour agency on the street in Hanoi. However, for the Sapa homestay (first photo, with young children), this was done independently. Sometimes an amazing Hmong family will greet and befriend you when you get off the bus. If you’re lucky, they might kindly agree to take me to their village the next day.
The experience is unlike anything else you will have backpacking around Southeast Asia. Seeing how the locals live, eating the food that they cook, and just appreciating the beauty of the landscape with no interruptions was by far one of the highlights of my entire trip to Vietnam.
Top tip: Bring some warm clothes and extra socks, as it can get quite cold at night time, especially in Sapa.
3. Cycle Through the Rice Paddies in Mai Chau
While some might consider Mai Chau to be very firmly on the Vietnam backpacker trail, it feels like you are miles away from all-night parties and motorbike-mayhem.
Cycling through the rice paddies, stopping only to take a dip in a fresh-water stream or to let a herd of buffalo cross the road, is one of the most relaxing activities you will do in Vietnam. You’ll love stopping to play with local kids, and the farmers working in the fields are very welcoming. Some might even stop to let you take some photographs with them.
The entire valley is so green it almost hurts your eyes, and there are lots more challenging routes for those looking for a little more exercise and adventure. If you are feeling extra adventurous, you could sign up for a multi-day cycling tour from Hanoi to Mai Chau. There are also great budget Vietnam tours that go all the way from Sapa to Mai Chau.
Top tip: Don’t bring your expensive camera or any valuables you don’t want to get wet. It rains a lot. And, while travel insurance is important to have, not all will cover water damage!
4. Party All Night at Hanoi Backpacker’s Hostel
This hostel is one biggest backpacker hostel in Vietnam. Pretty much anyone visiting the country under the age of 25 has probably stayed here. It is the perfect base before heading off on trips both South and North.
This hostel also guarantees a wild night out. It’s a pretty mad place if I’m honest. It’s sort of like walking into a nightclub that is, in fact, a hostel. It’s impossible not to make friends here, and every last staff member is totally bonkers.
If you’re a guest, they give out FREE BEER every night at 17:00, and they have more happy hours than you can count on both hands. Read this post if you’re looking for more fun things to do in Hanoi.
Top tip: Ask for a room on level five or six if staying here. Otherwise, you’ll never get to sleep!
5. Learn How To Ride a Buffalo
This is advertised as part of many tours and locally operated day trips. Learning to ride a buffalo is surely a great life skill, perfect for when you become a farmer and need to plow your fields! ;-) Or, heaven forbid, your horse is lame, and you need alternative transportation!
Places that offer this kind of activity include Mai Chau, Sapa, and Hoi An. Even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg sees the value in riding a Buffalo!
6. Buy a Cheesy T-Shirt and Wear It With Pride
Granted, I wouldn’t be caught dead walking down Grafton Street in Dublin with a t-shirt that says “Ireland” on it. But I wore all my cheesy Vietnam souvenir t-shirts with such pride while in Vietnam.
The fact that it was about 100% humidity meant that I changed clothes about three times a day. So it was a great excuse to keep buying new t-shirts. Classics include tank tops with the slogan “Saigon Beer” and “Good Morning Vietnam.”
Top tip: Never settle on the first price given. Bargain, bargain, bargain!
7. Walk Down Hanoi’s Famous Train Street
This hidden find was one of my favorite things to see in Vietnam. Mainly because so few people know about it. Essentially there’s a very narrow residential street near the train station that a massive train passes through twice a day.
Here you can take many videos and photos while visiting the Terrifying Hanoi Train Street. While they might not do it the full justice, it deserves compared to the real thing. You can trust that this is a seriously unique experience you cannot miss.
It is sure to get your heart racing if you visit at 15:30 when the train passes, and even at other times, it is pretty much a photographer’s heaven. If you plan to travel to Vietnam by train, be sure to book your ticket in advance!
Top tip: Get there 30 minutes before the train and expect the train to arrive early.
8. Spend an Evening at Beer Corner in Hanoi
Oh, Beer Corner, how we love you so. No visit to Hanoi would be complete without spending a few hours sitting in Hanoi Old Quarter on the corner of Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen street.
This place really comes alive on the weekends. The entire area becomes pedestrianized, and there are lots of talented street musicians around to keep you entertained. Just pick up a tiny plastic chair, sip a few cold Beer Hanois, and watch the world go by.
The beer is dirt cheap, and it is super easy to make friends as everyone shares tables, chairs, and everything else. It is one of the truly fun things to do in Vietnam, whether you’re a beer lover or not.
Top tip: Go early to snap up a chair in one of the more popular spots.
9. Make Friends With a Hmong Family
Making new friends along the road is always a huge part of one’s travels, and Vietnam was no different. Many of the young Hmong girls up in Sapa had a high English level, which helped a lot. They also love to chat and have a lot to say on various topics. So, feel free to start up conversations with them.
When you step off the bus, these young girls warmly greet you and want to take you hiking. Befriending locals and talking to them teaches you so much about the area and their way of life. They might even offer you homemade friendship bracelets as a small gift and unspoken agreement that you’ll visit again.
The locals are friendly and will probably introduce you to their Mom, Grandmother, kids, brother, sisters, and neighbors. You will learn so much in just a short few hours, and you will honestly have a friend for life.
Top tip: They LOVE photographs. Ask for their address and post them pics when you get home.
10. (Window) Shop at the Rural Food Market
One of the more unusual things to do in Vietnam (at least from a Western standpoint) is to visit the rural market. Be warned that these are not for the faint of heart, so make sure you do your research before visiting.
You might not recognize half of what’s for sale. There will be huge chunks of raw meat, animal carcasses, and bowls of blood full of oddities. While it may look and smell odd, remember to be respectful of others’ cultures and practices regardless if you understand them or not.
While it can be pretty upsetting to see things like dogs on display, a long tradition here, it is a very unique thing to do while in Vietnam. And it will certainly open your eyes to how other people live and eat.
Top tip: Don’t visit if you’re already feeling queasy. And, unless you know what you’re tasting, I’d suggest just to look, but don’t eat. Because you’re not used to some things here, you have no idea how your body will react to them.
11. Enjoy a Glass of the World’s Cheapest Beer
Vietnam is home to the famous Bia Hoi beer, the cheapest glass of beer in the world. These beer prices can range between 10 to 30 cents a glass, depending on where you buy it. Nothing beats the feeling of drinking all night and being presented with a bill of a few single dollars.
The beer is brewed locally every day and then delivered to all the local bars. This means the beer is ridiculously fresh and with just 3% alcohol content. It’s a perfect drink on a hot summer’s day.
It is best tasted while sitting on a small plastic chair on a street corner, such as Beer Corner in Hanoi, but can be found all over the country if you look hard enough.
Top tip: Don’t drink too much of this stuff. The hangovers are killer.
12. Do a Vietnamese Cooking Class
Vietnamese food is some of the most delicious cuisines in the world, so why not try your hand at cooking it yourself? Nearly all the major towns and cities offer full or half-day cooking classes, such as this Market Tour, Basket Boat Ride, and Cooking Class in Hoi An, or this longer Halong Bay 2-Day Luxury Cruise around the capital city with cooking class.
From learning how to make traditional fresh spring rolls to being brought to the market to pick out the right vegetables and herbs, Vietnamese cooking classes are a lot of fun, and the best part of all is that you get to indulge in all the dishes you have created. Think mouth-watering Nem Lui, Hoi An pancakes, and fresh Vietnamese Pho. All for you!
Top tip: Try to book a morning class, so you get to go to the market and help buy the food.
13. Treat Yourself to Some Daily Pho
Speaking of Pho, you can’t travel around Vietnam without having a bowl in every town and every city. Why? Because the taste, flavor, and texture of traditional Pho changes throughout Vietnam’s many regions.
There are many ways to enjoy this broth. You can have it as clear soup or dark soup, with a lot of vegetables and herbs or very little at all. Enjoy it with beef, pork, chicken, and sometimes hot enough to make you scream.
It really is the darling dish of Vietnam, known the world over but best tasted on home territory! Enjoy with a cool Hanoi Beer to cool your mouth down after too much chili sauce.
14. Jump off a Boat in Halong Bay
Halong Bay, one of the new seven natural wonders of the world and a UNESCO world heritage site, is best enjoyed by one of the many amazing boats that cruise around its waters.
Whether you choose a 5-star luxury or a backpackers party cruise like this Castaway Island Party boat, take some time to jump off your boat into the warm waters of the bay.
It will give you an entirely new perspective of how tall those limestone cliffs are and just how many islands (thousands…that’s right, thousands!!) there are in this fascinating world wonder.
Top tip: Ask about safety and rocks before jumping.
15. Go on a Vespa Adventure in Hoi An
One of the top things to do in Vietnam’s Hoi An is to take a Vespa Adventure through the rural countryside. Even if you might not feel well from last night’s party, the fresh air will surely cure you once you’re flying through rice paddies and over bridges.
You can book a tour with a tour guide or just rent a scooter yourself and have endless possibilities on where and what you’d like to explore.
On your Vespa adventure, stop by local eateries and try special dishes like homemade shrimp pancakes. Meet locals like a Vietnam War Hero with a wooden leg who sings songs with his guitar and can’t stop smiling. All in one morning!
Vespas are super comfy and allow you to get up and close with the local area and their way of life. If you’d like to get more information about certain areas, try booking a local guide or asking the locals for stories about it.
Top tip: Wear lots of sunscreen. You can get very burnt driving around all day.
16. Overeat on a Food Tour of Hanoi
You can become so obsessed with Vietnamese food while traveling. That is why it is a good idea to join food tours while in Hanoi. Armed with these recipes and techniques back home you’ll have ZERO REGRETS.
While some people don’t want to part with $20 for a 4-hour Hanoi food tour because you know you can get dinner for a dollar at the side of the street, I guarantee it’s worth the money. The guides are bursting with information about life in Vietnam, growing up here, food, cooking, and even just life and travel in general.
They take you to cafes and restaurants you would not have dreamed of going inside and introduce you to food that your taste buds will never forget!
Top tip: Don’t eat lunch before an evening tour like this one. You will eat enough to last you days!
17. Kayak Through Caves in Cat Ba National Park
Most tours to Halong Bay organize a kayaking trip around the islands and through the cave formations. Do your research and MAKE SURE that your Halong Bay tour does this as it’s a real highlight of the trip. On my first visit to Halong Bay, things were quite tame, and we just spent an hour kayaking slowly around the bay, taking in the beautiful scenery.
My second visit involved drinking while kayaking as it was part of a party cruise, so that experience was…slightly wilder. Either way, it’s one of the most memorable things to do in Vietnam—an experience you cannot have anywhere else!
Top tip: Don’t forget your waterproof camera. GoPro’s are the best!
18. Attend the Ho Chi Minh Opera House
Once you have tired yourself out with every adventure activity under the sun (or from North to South), it’s time to reward yourself with a trip to the Opera House.
Put on your cleanest clothes and best shoes (no flip-flops, please) and spend a magical evening at the stunning Ho Chi Minh Opera House. Built in 1898, this 48-seater theater is one of Ho Chi Minh city’s most beautiful buildings, both inside and out. You can find a program of what’s on at their official site.
19. See Ho Chi Minh From a Rooftop Bar
By the time most visitors reach Ho Chi Minh City, they are tired, dirty, and longing for a taste of home.
The city has many spectacular rooftop bars, where visitors can sit outside enjoying panoramic views of the skyline. The fantastic views allow them, even just for a few minutes, to feel like they’re average citizens again and not just scruffy backpackers.
Throw on your favorite dress and button-up, and head up to Chill Skybar. The bar and sky lounge is alive with a vibrant energy every night. It is worth a visit, even if the purpose is just to take some cool photos!
20. Ride the Hai Van Pass on a Motorbike
Made famous in an episode of Top Gear, the Hai Van Pass and the coastal road between Hue and Hoi An is one of the most fun rides in Vietnam. You can ride your own bike or choose to sit on the back of someone else’s.
If you’re unfamiliar with this pass, consider hiring motorbike drivers like Amazing Easy Riders to take you along the route. This 21 km (13 miles) stretch of spectacular coastline is a thrilling ride full of hairpin bends and narrow roads. There is even a change in climate as you pass from North to South.
Top tip: Give yourself a full day, and leave as early as possible in the morning.
21. Light a Lantern in Hoi An
The prettiest town in Vietnam, Hoi An, is so full of color that it can be difficult to believe it’s all for real. Walking through the pedestrianized streets, which smell of incense and fresh flowers (that grow up the side of the ancient buildings), you get the immediate feeling you are in a very special place.
You can buy paper lanterns on the main bridge or anywhere along the river, light them, and set them to sail down the river. There are also lots of fun bars and clubs along the riverfront, which come alive after 22:00 each evening.
Top tip: Avoid buying goods from kids. It encourages child labor.
22. Drink Some Snake Blood Shots
A truly cool thing to do in Vietnam is downing some snake blood, snake bile, and snake venom shots. In Vietnamese culture, it is believed to have many health benefits. Whether you share this same belief or not, this kind of experience is amazing at the time, but you *may* regret it later.
If you’re not a shot drinker, don’t worry. You can still get your portion of serpent snacks made with snake meat. While it doesn’t taste the same, the texture is similar to pork or chicken. Try the snake meat spring rolls. Supposedly, they are simply delicious!
23. Visit the Ho Chi Minh War Remnants Museum
There aren’t too many museums in the world where I have found myself wandering around for hours, silently shedding tears and feeling like an emotional wreck.
The Ho Chi Minh War Museum is a haunting place, full of photographs and detailed stories from the Vietnam War. There is so much to learn from a visit here, and it’s one of the most important things to do in Vietnam, no matter how little time you may have.
It is such a beautiful country today. But we must understand what it has been through in the past and how the entire country was almost destroyed. Try to give yourself at least a few hours to spend here.
Top tip: Bring some tissues, because you will cry. And some water, it’s quite hot in there.
BOOK NOW: Hotels in Ho Chi Minh from $4!
24. Crawl through the Cu Chi Tunnels
You will never fully understand the extent the Viet Cong went to in staging secret attacks and remaining hidden until you spend a day at the Cu Chi tunnels near Ho Chi Minh city.
Additionally, you will never fully understand the meaning of claustrophobia until you lower yourself into these tiny underground tunnels and spend a few minutes in the pitch dark crawling through them.
It is a fascinating complex of tunnels used during the war. A visit here will also educate you on other methods of capture used during the war. Take this half-day tour to explore the tunnels and even get the chance to shoot weapons such as AK47s. It was a pretty eye-opening experience.
Top tip: Don’t try to squeeze through if you’re nervous around tight spaces. They really are compact.
25. Travel the Mekong Delta in a Traditional Boat
The best way to see this unique part of Vietnam is to at least do a two-day tour or to stay in a place in the area. If you choose a one-day trip from Ho Chi Minh City, you risk spending most of the day on a bus.
Trips through the Mekong Delta usually include traveling on a large ferry to get to the smaller islands. Then, traveling by smaller dug-out canoe to meander through the narrow, overgrown canals, similar to the photo above.
It is a unique experience in Vietnam sitting in that boat with your smiling guide, wearing a traditional cone hat, rowing you through the narrow waterways. It is one of those moments where you sit back and think, “WOW, this is Vietnam.”
Top tip: Use Mekong Lodge as a base for your adventures.
26. Taste Your First Egg Coffee
Vietnam is pretty famous for its coffee, and you will find coffee shops on every corner of every street. What you might not have known is that there are also a lot of specialty coffees, such as this deliciously frothy egg white coffee which you can purchase in certain cafes in Hanoi.
A real treat after a long day sightseeing! Head to the Giang cafe if you want to try it while in Hanoi.
27. Watch a Water Puppet Show
Hanoi’s famous water puppets are one of the top things to see and do. The Thang Long Water Puppet Theater is really one of a kind, and while a very simple concept, it is a truly enjoyable evening.
Located in the center of Hanoi, next to the lake, shows take place every evening at 16:00, 18:30, 19:20, and 20:00. It is a great way to learn about Vietnamese culture and an excellent outing if you are looking for things to do with kids in Hanoi or are a bug kid yourself.
Top tip: Lines can be long. Get these skip-the-line tickets, so you don’t miss the show.
28. Eat Dinner at the Side of the Street
Street food in Vietnam, how the people miss you so! You will honestly find the best food options on the side of the street, be it freshly made spring rolls, chicken feet grilled on a small BBQ, or finding the sugar cane man to buy a delicious sugary treat.
The trick is to get over your fear and worry about getting sick and just dive straight in. If you’re not sure where to go and what to eat, you can sign up for a street food tour where a young, local guide will introduce you to all the best street vendors and will take you to places they know are high in quality and taste!
29. Tour Hue’s Imperial City in a Carriage
Hue is often overlooked by many in a rush to get to beautiful Hoi An. Hue’s Imperial City is a great reason to stick around for a few days, as each step further inside the complex transports you back in time. If you have the budget, paying to tour the city inside a traditional (and elaborately decorated) horse and carriage is a real bucket list treat.
Not so long ago, this city was the Imperial Capital of Vietnam. It was constructed in 1804, with the large fortress and palace complex surrounded by 2.5-kilometer armor and a perimeter wall. It’s a wonderful place to explore and photograph, brimming with color and history.
Top tip: Bring lots of water as you will be wrecked walking here.
30. Go Quad Biking in Mui Ne
The sand dunes of Mui Ne are hauntingly beautiful, a real contrast to the rolling green hills and rice paddies to be found in the rest of the country. If you show a photo of people cruising over sand dunes on ATV bikes and ask them to guess where the photo was taken, you can be sure they would never guess Vietnam!
A few days in one of Vietnam’s least visited destinations is always a good idea, and if you’re looking for some adventure, sign up for a quad biking tour. Within a few minutes, you will be transported to a totally foreign landscape and will create memories you will never forget.
31. Slide Into the Natural Pools at Elephant Springs
Located about 50 km South of Hue and a great place to stop if you are doing the Hue to Hoi An motorbike ride, Elephant Springs is unique on this list as it attracts more locals than tourists. Located halfway up a mountain and up a dirt track, it’s the kind of place you would never find unless a local told you exactly where it is.
Elephant Springs is essentially a network of natural springs that flow into a series of pools that are used like swimming pools. Entire families congregate here at weekends, singing, eating, and enjoying each other’s company.
You can slide down the rocks into the icy water or even jump off the rocks if you’re feeling brave. You can rent life jackets here if anyone in your group is unable to swim, and there are also ladies selling both cooked and prepackaged snacks and drinks.
Top tip: If you’re traveling independently, ask your hostel how to get here.
32. Have a Beach Day in Nha Trang
People have a love/hate relationship with Nha Trang, Vietnam’s premier resort town. It is very popular with Russian tourists on package holidays. The vibe here is very different from other coastal towns and villages in Vietnam.
While it might not be the backpacker paradise you dreamed about or the sleepy beach town, the beach here is very beautiful. It’s also a great place to chill out for a few days and just relax by day and party by night. Have some cash to spare? Why not splurge on a few nights at the stunning Six Senses resort?
33. Escape to Paradise on Phu Quoc Island
Phu Quoc is similar to Mui Ne in that it is not what people imagine when you ask them to picture traveling in Vietnam. Located off the southern tip of this unusually long country, Phu Quoc is a hidden paradise unknown to many and loved by those in on the secret.
Think unspoiled beaches lined with palm trees with perfectly positioned hammocks hanging between them, fresh coconut cocktails, and sleepy beach bungalows that open right onto the soft sand. Much of the island is still an immense jungle, while the rest is covered in perfect beaches and turquoise water perfect for snorkeling.
34. Visit a Traditional Fishing Village
There are fishing villages the entire length of the Vietnamese coastline, and they are all equally interesting. It is interesting to see both men and women at work, catching, sorting, and drying the fish.
You can also do snorkeling and fishing tours or sunrise photography tours that bring you to small fishing villages. Here, you’ll see these fishermen out in their traditional wooden boats at the crack of dawn as they begin the day’s work.
You can choose to get involved and actually try your hand at fishing or just watch the action from a safe distance. A visit to a fishing village is a must on your list of things to do in Vietnam as it’s a first-hand look at how a large proportion of the population makes a living.
Top tip: Visiting early in the morning or at sunset is best for perfect views.
35. Get Some Tailored Suits Made To Fit in Hoi An
Hoi An is the number one town in all of South East Asia to get a tailored suit or dress. There are tailor shops lining the streets and their turnaround of two to three days is incredible. You can walk in on the day of your stay, choose what fabric you prefer, and they will measure you up then and there.
You will have to stick around for a few days to return for more measurements and to give the thumbs up to work done. But after three days, you will have a totally unique suit, dress, skirt, or even swimsuit made to fit.
Top tip: Give yourself at least three full days here if you want to get clothes tailored.
36. Chill by the Pool at Sunflower Hotel
Instead, they simply listen to what other travelers are saying or, in some cases, they already know the ‘in’ place in each town and city. Complete with a bar, sun loungers, and a swimming pool, this is a great spot to spend a few days if you want to relax, make friends, and party the night away!
Top tip: Book in advance. They are almost always fully booked.
37. Explore the World’s Largest Caves in Phong Nha
Phong Nha, a National Park in Vietnam and a UNESCO World Heritage Site situated in Central Vietnam, is home to some of the world’s biggest caves. A cave explorer’s paradise, the area is also home to the oldest karst mountain in Asia, which is said to have formed over 400 million years ago.
One such cave, Son Doong, is said to be the largest cave in the world and was only re-discovered seven years ago by a team of explorers. Once you’re done exploring the caves, the area is also a great place to go mountain biking, bird watching, and hiking.
There are many great hostels and homestays in the area to rest your weary head after a day of exploring, such as the Village House Hostel, the most popular spot with adventurous backpackers.
38. Abseil Down a Waterfall in Da Lat
Located high in the mountains, 4,900 feet above sea level, Da Lat is famous for its surrounding pine forests and cascading waterfalls. In contrast to the rest of Vietnam, the weather here is always cool and misty, with year-round spring temperatures.
One of the best ways to appreciate this beautiful destination is to visit the various waterfalls, and if you’re feeling extra brave, to abseil down one of them. Just make sure you sign up with a licensed guide and tour company such as Dalat Canyoning, as there have been accidents in the past. One of the best ways to see this part of Vietnam is to rent a motorbike and spend a few days exploring.
39. Get a Lesson in Fashion
The hill tribes of Vietnam are some of the most interesting people you will meet on your trip, and their traditional dress alone is enough to make you smile. Their garments are a rainbow of colors and intricate patterning and stitching.
Spend a few days up North with the Hmong, Lu, or Red Dao people and find the answers to all your fashion questions. Here you can see distinct and eye-catching traditional garments being worn and shown off by women, men, and children alike.
Take a tour of the Women’s Museum in Hanoi or Ethnology Museum to get a deeper understanding before trekking to the North. Here you’ll see thousands of traditional garments from different time periods.
40. Row Across Lak Lake in a Dugout Canoe
While dug-out canoes can be found in many rural towns and villages in Vietnam, crossing Lak Lake in one of these traditional boats is a truly unique experience. These canoes are a symbol of this lake, and you find them in so many photos that document this area both in the past and present.
It’s a great way to get back to nature and experience life on the lake as the locals do. The lake is in the Central Highlands and is the largest body of water in this part of Vietnam. Trips cost about $15 an hour to cross the lake in a canoe, and it is worth every dollar!
Top tip: Please don’t opt to take an elephant ride to cross the lake. While it may be offered to you at an affordable fee, elephants’ spines go under severe stress through this.
41. Cruise Ha Long Bay on a Junk Boat
Ha Long Bay, one of the world’s new seven wonders, is best viewed from the deck of a traditional junk boat. Set sail into one of the most beautiful bays in the world, and admire the scenery that looks like it’s from another world.
You can make the day or overnight trips, where you get to sleep on the boat and wake up to the sun rising above the bay. Legend has it that the bay of dragons (or descending dragon if you directly translate) was formed when dragons were called in to defend the Vietnamese from invaders.
These dragons dropped giant emeralds into the bay to form an invincible wall to stop the invaders. After thousands of years, these emeralds grew into the islands you see today. Or so they say.
42. Photograph Sapa’s Terraced Rice Fields
Sapa, in the very North Vietnam and not far from the Chinese border, is famous worldwide for its incredible terraced rice fields. This sea of green is most spectacular during the summer when the rice is being harvested, and it’s fascinating to watch the farmers working their way up the seriously steep mountains, harvesting the rice one giant step at a time.
This area of Vietnam is much cooler than the rest of the country and is even prone to snow showers in the winter. I stayed in the wonderful Topas Eco Lodge, where they served me breakfast with a view of my dreams (pictured above).
Bring your camera and spend a few days taking photos of this spectacular terrain from every angle possible. It’s impossible to take a picture here that you won’t totally love.
Top tip: Try not to visit in winter. The fields are brown, and the weather is seriously cold.
43. Spread the Love at Hanoi Gay Pride Festival
Way back in 2012, the country had its first-ever Pride Parade. It was an eye-opening experience for many and soon became an annual event.
In true Hanoi fashion, the parades take place on motorbikes and bicycles. Everyone rides around the city together displaying colorful rainbow flags, t-shirts, and signs with positive captions.
Stuart Milk, the global LGBTQ+ rights activist and founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation, was also there to help with proceedings, which was a real treat. The parade was very different from others I have attended around the world, and it is still in its early stages.
If you happen to be in Vietnam over the summer, try to fit this into your schedule and help make history.
44. Hike up the Marble Mountain in Danang
Marble mountain, just outside Danang city, is one of the main stops on the Hue to Hoi An bike ride. You can opt to hike up to the top (it literally only takes about 15 to 20 minutes), or you can pay to take this great big glass elevator up to the top.
At the top, there is a beautiful Pagoda and a temple, with incredible views of the surrounding area, out as far as the beach. You can then spend another hour exploring the cave and hiking back down the mountain. A great place to stop for an hour or two, and there are also some beautiful marble souvenirs to be bought.
45. Explore the My Son Temple Complex
There are some debates on when this temple was completed. What we do know is that building started in the 4th century. It was completed either in the 13th or 14th century and has over 70 temples and tombs. The grand My Son Sanctuary in Central Vietnam is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the top sites to visit in Vietnam.
These ruins are the most important buildings of the My Son civilization and are also a remarkable architectural achievement that dates over 10 centuries.
Spending a full day here is like taking a step back in history as you learn how early civilizations lived, how they prayed, and how they died. A unique historical and cultural site that has to be seen with your own eyes. You can either stay nearby or visit on a day trip from Hoi An.
46. Be a Vietnamese Farmer for the Day
This is a Vietnam unique tour that might sound a little random but fun all the same. Many rural Vietnamese towns offer visitors the chance to try their hand at working as a farmer for the day. You will be an apprentice to a local farmer and will learn how to plant rice, how to fertilize the fields, ride or steer a buffalo, and many other essential farming skills.
You can do either a full day or half day (it’s hard work), and it’s a great chance to interact with locals on a deeper level and to understand how hard their work really is. One thing is for sure: It will make you appreciate that bowl of rice you eat for dinner a lot more when you see how difficult it is to grow and harvest!
47. Take an Outdoor Shower in the Mountains
This was one of the highlights of Sapa. There was an outdoor shower right up in the mountains allowing you to wash off all the dirt and sweat from hiking while enjoying one of my favorite views in the world.
Not all eco-lodges have this type of faculty but if you find one, make sure to make the most of it. It’s a real once-in-a-lifetime feeling taking a shower while gazing down at the terraced rice fields as clouds move in across the mountains and valley below.
48. Take a Photography Tour of Hanoi
As previously mentioned, Hanoi is one of the most vibrant, colorful, and energetic cities on earth. One of the best ways to fully appreciate the beauty of this city, to find unique buildings and secret streets, is to take a photography tour of the city.
There are many to choose from, but a sunrise tour is best as you get to see the city in a new light, plus the golden hours are best for photography. Vietnam In Focus offers a range of photography tours, which include stops at the main markets and the lake, dinner, and drinks.
Top tip: Ask before you snap a picture. People are people, not photography subjects for your portfolio.
49. Spend 17 Hours on an Overnight Train
If you don’t plan on buying a bike and riding it the length of Vietnam, traveling by train is by far the next best way to see the country. There’s a daily train that runs the entire distance from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh, but you would be crazy to make that trip in one go.
The longest journey you take will probably be between Hanoi and Hoi An, unless you have plans to see places in between. This 17-hour overnight ride is a lot of fun, especially as you can open the windows on the train to take photos as you whizz past busy road crossings, quiet coastal villages, and towns you’ve never heard of.
The first and second-class beds aren’t bad at all and come with complimentary bottles of water, a blanket, and even charging sockets for your electronics.
Top tip: Try to book early and get a bottom bunk bed. Once you arrive, check out these fun things to do in Danang before heading onwards.
50. Step Back in History at the DMZ
As mentioned previously, when traveling in Vietnam, it is incredibly important to understand what happened in the past and the atrocities that took place to these beautiful people before you can understand modern-day Vietnam.
Visiting the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that once divided North and South Vietnam will open your eyes to how difficult life must have been for people living on both sides of the border at the time and what a tragic past this once broken country suffered.
A visit here will allow you to walk through the Vinh Moc tunnels used to shelter people from the constant bombings. Villagers also used the tunnels to move their village 30 meters underground, deep enough to avoid the bombs being blasted by the American soldiers. They were a huge success, and no villagers lost their lives in these amazing tunnels.
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Table of Contents
- 50 Unique Things To Do & Places to Visit in Vietnam
- 1. Find the Pool With the View
- 2. Spend a Night at a Traditional Homestay
- 3. Cycle Through the Rice Paddies in Mai Chau
- 4. Party All Night at Hanoi Backpacker’s Hostel
- 5. Learn How To Ride a Buffalo
- 6. Buy a Cheesy T-Shirt and Wear It With Pride
- 7. Walk Down Hanoi’s Famous Train Street
- 8. Spend an Evening at Beer Corner in Hanoi
- 9. Make Friends With a Hmong Family
- 10. (Window) Shop at the Rural Food Market
- 11. Enjoy a Glass of the World’s Cheapest Beer
- 12. Do a Vietnamese Cooking Class
- 13. Treat Yourself to Some Daily Pho
- 14. Jump off a Boat in Halong Bay
- 15. Go on a Vespa Adventure in Hoi An
- 16. Overeat on a Food Tour of Hanoi
- 17. Kayak Through Caves in Cat Ba National Park
- 18. Attend the Ho Chi Minh Opera House
- 19. See Ho Chi Minh From a Rooftop Bar
- 20. Ride the Hai Van Pass on a Motorbike
- 21. Light a Lantern in Hoi An
- 22. Drink Some Snake Blood Shots
- 23. Visit the Ho Chi Minh War Remnants Museum
- 24. Crawl through the Cu Chi Tunnels
- 25. Travel the Mekong Delta in a Traditional Boat
- 26. Taste Your First Egg Coffee
- 27. Watch a Water Puppet Show
- 28. Eat Dinner at the Side of the Street
- 29. Tour Hue’s Imperial City in a Carriage
- 30. Go Quad Biking in Mui Ne
- 31. Slide Into the Natural Pools at Elephant Springs
- 32. Have a Beach Day in Nha Trang
- 33. Escape to Paradise on Phu Quoc Island
- 34. Visit a Traditional Fishing Village
- 35. Get Some Tailored Suits Made To Fit in Hoi An
- 36. Chill by the Pool at Sunflower Hotel
- 37. Explore the World’s Largest Caves in Phong Nha
- 38. Abseil Down a Waterfall in Da Lat
- 39. Get a Lesson in Fashion
- 40. Row Across Lak Lake in a Dugout Canoe
- 41. Cruise Ha Long Bay on a Junk Boat
- 42. Photograph Sapa’s Terraced Rice Fields
- 43. Spread the Love at Hanoi Gay Pride Festival
- 44. Hike up the Marble Mountain in Danang
- 45. Explore the My Son Temple Complex
- 46. Be a Vietnamese Farmer for the Day
- 47. Take an Outdoor Shower in the Mountains
- 48. Take a Photography Tour of Hanoi
- 49. Spend 17 Hours on an Overnight Train
- 50. Step Back in History at the DMZ