1. Hanoi Capital
Hanoi became the capital of Vietnam in 1010 under King Ly Thai To, named Thang Long (Ascending Dragon). In 1831, Thang Long was renamed Hanoi, which translates rather poetically to “the city inside the river”.
You will feel a magical vibration while wandering around this thousand year city, with all your senses, it’s hard to explain why. Amble down the labyrinth-like alleys of the Old Quarter, and see the hidden pagodas and temples waiting to be explored. Feel the indomitable spirit of the Vietnamese when visiting historical sites such as Thăng Long Imperial Citadel, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Hoa Lo Prison, One Pillar Pagoda, and Hoan Kiem Lake. Whether it’s the rich culture and heritage shown in the romantic French-influenced colonial architecture or the tantalizing smells of Pho and other tasty street foods wafting through the air, the charm and atmosphere are palpable.
2. Ho Chi Minh City
It’s hard to imagine the sprawling, modern metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City once started out as a small fishing village surrounded by thick forests. Located in southern Vietnam, the economic center and bustling Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in regards to the population. Fondly referred to by its evocative older name of Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City retains a preserved air of its French colonial heritage in the old areas of the city while still reflecting the dynamic modern vibes of a cutting edge Vietnam. Key attractions such as the Notre-Dame Cathedral, Saigon Opera House, Central Post Office, and Ben Thanh Market reflect this colonial heritage, while the War Remnants Museum, Reunification Palace, and preserved Cu Chi Tunnels north of the city lay testament to the fighting spirit and recent history of the ravages of war.
3. Phu Quoc
Phu Quoc is a tropical island, 40 kilometers away from the south coast of Vietnam, in the Gulf of Thailand. With sandy palm-fringed beaches and turquoise water, this island is one of the best beach destinations in Vietnam. The northern part of Phu Quoc is a part of a UNESCO-listed biosphere reserve while the southern coastline is filled with luxury resorts, funky bars, and quaint cafes. Phu Quoc is also famous as the top producer of fish sauce – an essential spice in Vietnamese cuisine.
There is a bunch of activities on this paradise island. Do hiking in the dense forest and look out for wildlife. Tour the fish sauce factory and local villages. Dive the offshore coral reefs, kayak in the bays, watch the romantic sunset, or just lounge on the beach, followed by a fresh seafood dinner.
4. Nha Trang
The coastal resort city of Nha Trang is another gem of Vietnam’s central region. The white sand beaches, shimmering turquoise waters, and luxury accommodation of the lux Ninh Van Bay rival that of Thailand is not only the landscape but hospitality. Come for the world-class beaches and stay for the eclectic cuisine, comprised of fresh seafood and interesting mixes like Bun Cha Ca, a rice noodle dish with grilled fish and jellyfish. It is also possible to discover the legacy of the Champa Kingdom, descendants of seafaring settlers who reached the Southeast Asia mainland from modern-day Borneo and Sumatra. The impact on modern society can be seen and felt at Po Nagar, a Cham-styled temple tower with intricate carvings. The Buddhist Pagoda of Long Son also showcases the heritage of Vietnamese settlers in the region.
Danang, from a transit point, has redefined itself into a worthy destination of Vietnam. Boasting long coastline with beautiful beaches and recently incredible bridges, Da Nang definitely worth a visit. Da Nang is among a few destinations that can offer both beach and mountain. Some of the must-see attractions are My Khe beach, Non Nuoc beach, Son Tra Peninsula, Marble Mountains, Ba Na Hills, Golden Bridge, The world cultural heritage My Son, Linh Ung pagoda. You can find excellent local street food as well as good western restaurants here. The city is located a 40 – minute drive from Hoi An and 2 – hour from Hue, which are both notable destinations.
Situated on the banks of the sleepy Perfume River, the imperial city and ancient feudal capital of the Nguyen Dynasty, Hue, still retains much of its regal and grandeur of the days of old. Home to many UNESCO World Heritage Sites due to the preservation of important historical attractions like the Imperial Citadel, Forbidden Purple City, and beautiful tombs of Emperor Ming Mang, Tu Duc, and Khai Dinh, Hue is the perfect place to start a journey into the ancient and recent history of not only central Vietnam, but the country as a whole. Feel the spirituality in Thien Mu Pagoda, brought to international attention during the Vietnam-American War. Dine on the exquisite and refined way of food preparation with the eponymous Bun Bo Hue, a type of spicy noodle and beef soup named after the city it was created in, and other classics like Bun Thit Nuong and Com Hen.