Vietnam has always been a beautiful place but its complicated history has kept it under the radar for a long time. Now that the country is booming, travelers are starting to come in droves to explore everything that it can offer. There is so much to do and so many great spots to see.
Make sure that you dedicate enough time for your trip to fully appreciate this incredible Southeast Asian destination. Travel its length from north to south, stopping at the most popular sites along the way. Here are our recommendations for the perfect 2 weeks in Vietnam:
Northern Vietnam: Hanoi and Ha Long Bay
Most people will probably land at the capital of Hanoi. It’s a wonderful place to begin the adventure as it showcases how far Vietnam has come in the modern era without forgetting the past. The Old Quarter has been well-preserved with colonial architecture and historical monuments. The Thanh Ha wet market is just a short walk away and is perfect for hungry tourists. Try the street food from pastries to noodle soups to grilled meats on a stick. Once full, head over to the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology to learn about the country’s incredible diversity. Don’t forget to see the water puppet show!
A trip to the Temple of Literature and National University will allow you to see the links between religion and scholarship in the country’s early history. This old Confuscian temple was the center of learning from the 10th to the 17th century. If you would like to venture outside the city, then drive north to the Thanh Chuong Palace to see antiques, ceramics, sculptures, and other cultural gems. To the east is Duong Lam which was Vietnam’s first ancient village. Today it is a commune with preserved houses, nice greeneries, and memorials to two past kings who were born here.
After a tour of the capital and nearby sites, you might be yearning for a change of pace. Ha Long Bay is the perfect respite. This UNESCO World Heritage Site features towering limestone pillars and clear emerald waters. There are about 2,000 islets of varying sizes scattered across the Bay. These were formed over 500 million years in changing conditions. The area has excellent biodiversity featuring 60 endemic faunal species and 14 endemic floral species. For those who love nature and adventures, there is nothing better than sailing, swimming, snorkeling, spelunking, and diving around the bay.
Central Coast: Hue, Da Nang, and Hoi An
Now it’s time to head to the central part of Vietnam’s long coastline, where three famous tourist towns are clustered. The first is Hue which is home to many historic sites including the Imperial Citadel. This old capitol continues to be a striking a complex thanks to restoration efforts. Ornate gates, gardens, tombs, temples, and a moat await visitors. Meanwhile, the royal Tomb of Minh Mang overlooks the Perfume River and tells meaningful stories. If you are up for a trail hike, then head to Bach Ma National Park. It is a challenging trek but the falls and lake at the end are great rewards.
Move over to the neighboring town of Da Nang where new experiences await. The Marble Mountains are the most popular destination. It promises amazing views from the top, as well as gardens, temples, and carvings. Inside the mountains are caves with large statues and lots of lovely details. The Lady Buddha, perched up a hill, is a sight to behold. It overlooks the beach and the city in picturesque fashion. As for the Dragon Bridge, come at night on weekends to see the lights reflecting on the water and the head breathing fire.
Last on this stop is Hoi An, a favorite among travelers because of the area’s many charms. It has an ancient town located along the banks of Thu Bon River that comes alive at night with colorful lanterns. This was a major trading post in the 16th century. It is filled with shops and restaurants that cater to large crowds. If you would like a more chill vibe, then go to the An Bang Beach. Relax under an umbrella while you sip a drink, eat delicious food, and watch the waves.
Southern Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, and Phu Quoc
Finally, you have made it to the last leg of the journey. First among the southern destinations is Nha Trang which is still located along the coast. It is known for its superb dive sites, clean beaches, and interesting nearby islands. Go to the Vinpearl Land Nha Trang for some fun and recreation. This massive amusement park rivals the best in the world. If you would rather see sacred sites, then there’s the Po Nagar Cham Towers. It is an active temple where locals come to pray. At the end of the day, you can rest at Nha Trang Beach which has white sand and blue waters.
Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, is one of the most important urban centers in the country. It has retained many of the French colonial buildings and broad boulevards, though the latter is often crippled with traffic. The War Remnants Museum is a memorial to the turbulent past that provides a local perspective on historical events. The Cu Chi Tunnels are a must-see as well. This was used as a military base of the Vietnamese resistance against the US. Don’t forget to check out the delectable treats at the Benthanh Street Food Market.
It’s been a long two weeks and you could spend your last days shopping for souvenirs or just resting at your hotel. However, if you would like to explore more of the south, then Phu Quoc is a good stop. It is an island far to the east that offers as escape from the usual tourist traps. Goon a tour of the Phu Quoc Countryside to experience how real farmers work and live in the area. There’s a cooking class using local pepper and some samples of the native delicacies. Art lovers can go to the Gallery of Contemporary Art for the exhibits and the refreshments. Families can take a trip to the Vinpearl Safari Park which is the site of Vietnam’s biggest wildlife conservation efforts.