8 Things To Do In Vietnam | A Traveler’s Guide

When you think of visiting Southeast Asia, possibly the first names that come to your mind are Thailand, Bali, or Singapore. Being surrounded by some of the major touristy nations, Vietnam often gets overlooked. 

Around 4 decades ago, the country suffered from extreme political upheaval due to the American War. But how Vietnam has come out of the shackles of the past is undoubtedly praiseworthy. And slowly, the tourism scene is also flourishing. Attractions in Vietnam are plentiful, ranging from stunning natural landscapes, untouched islets, and quaint villages to war museums, colonial structures, and ancient citadels. While tourists mainly visit the War Museums and the Cu Chi Tunnels, the complex of Hue Monuments, and Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum – there’s a lot more to see and do in Vietnam.

There’s a unique blend of French and Asian architecture that has been drawn from the colonial past and is still nurtured with utmost pride. If you are planning to travel to Vietnam, then the best way would be to backpack as that would give you a chance to mingle more with the locals and know the country more closely.

Here is a compiled list of the things that you must do while traveling in Vietnam:

Ha Long Bay Things to do in Vietnam

Explore the limestone caves in Halong Bay.

Considered among the ‘7 Natural Wonders of the World,’ Halong Bay gained UNESCO World Heritage recognition in 1994. Encompassing roughly 1500 sq km, it boasts clusters of 1600 limestone islands and islets. A mere 4-hour drive from downtown Hanoi, Halong Bay is renowned for its diverse limestone caves, including phreatic, karstic foot, and marine notch caves. As a premier tourist destination, it attracts visitors from around the globe.

A must-do experience for travelers in Vietnam is cruising aboard an old Chinese boat through the tranquil waters of Halong Bay. This immersive journey offers a glimpse into the region’s rich maritime heritage while providing breathtaking views of its majestic limestone formations. Whether exploring caves or admiring the landscape from aboard a boat, Halong Bay promises an unforgettable adventure for all who venture there.

Hoi an lanterns

Experience the brightness of the Lantern Festival in Hoi An.

In Hoi An, labeled ‘Vietnam’s most charming town’ by Lonely Planet, you’ll encounter a captivating blend of architectural styles spanning various epochs. Chinese-style wooden shops and temples intermingle with grand French colonial edifices, Vietnamese residences, and Japanese-inspired bridges and pagodas. This picturesque locale entices throngs of visitors, particularly during the Lantern Festival coinciding with the New Year’s Full Moon night. The festival transforms the town into a mesmerizing spectacle, as thousands of lanterns gracefully drift along the river, casting their shimmering reflections.

If you miss the New Year festivities, fret not, as Hoi An hosts smaller lantern festivals every full moon, ensuring you can still partake in the enchantment of illuminated evenings. Whether you’re strolling through its historic streets or basking in the glow of lantern-lit waters, Hoi An promises an unforgettable experience imbued with cultural richness and timeless beauty.

Mekong Delta Vietnam

Cruise in the Mekong Delta.

In the region affectionately dubbed the ‘rice bowl of Vietnam,’ you’ll encounter a vibrant array of verdant hues that seem to beckon you to pause and savor the moment. Here, life unfolds in harmony with the gentle currents of the mighty Mekong River. The most enchanting mode of exploration is aboard small rafts or cargo boats, which gracefully traverse the waterways, often laden with bountiful harvests of vegetables, fruits, and sacks of rice for sale.

Drifting along the river’s meandering course, you’ll be treated to vistas of lush green paddy fields stretching as far as the eye can see, while farmers toil diligently with their sickles, tending to the precious bounty of the land. As you immerse yourself in this bucolic scene, you’ll find yourself enchanted by the tranquil rhythm of life along the Mekong, where each moment unfolds like a gentle ripple on the water’s surface, inviting you to embrace the beauty of the natural world.

Enjoy a cup of Weasel Coffee in Buon Ma Thuot.

Whether you find it peculiar or divine, one thing’s for certain: you simply can’t overlook the opportunity to savor a cup of Weasel Coffee while in Vietnam. Buon Ma Thuot, nestled amidst stunning landscapes of cascading waterfalls and quaint villages, serves as the epicenter of Vietnam’s thriving coffee culture. Here, coffee aficionados flock to indulge in this unique brew, crafted with the assistance of small, weasel-like creatures known as civets.

These civets consume the coffee berries, swiftly passing them through their digestive tract, and imparting a distinctive bitter flavor to the beans. Sampling Weasel Coffee is a must, if only to experience its singular taste. Attempting to procure this delicacy elsewhere in the world would undoubtedly dent your wallet, making Vietnam the ideal destination to enjoy this coveted beverage without breaking the bank.

pho vietnam

Have a sumptuous bowl of ‘Pho’ in Hanoi.

In Vietnam, you’ll find a steaming bowl of pho, Vietnamese noodles, readily available everywhere, from humble street-side stalls to high-end restaurants. Pho stands as the quintessential dish of the country, crafted from four basic ingredients: clear broth, tender beef quickly boiled, rice noodles, and fresh herbs or green onions. Once you indulge in this flavorful meal, your taste buds will dance with delight, and the savory essence will linger on your palate long after the last slurp.

No journey through Vietnam is complete without indulging in a bowl of pho. It’s not merely a dish but a cultural icon, representing the rich culinary heritage of the nation. Whether you’re exploring bustling city streets or quaint rural villages, the aroma of simmering broth and the sight of steaming bowls of pho will beckon you to partake in this culinary tradition.

snake wine things to do in vietnam

Sip on the snake and scorpion rice wines at the Vietnamese bars.

While it may sound daunting, Snake and Scorpion wine isn’t as perilous as it seems! In Vietnam, it’s a well-known beverage and can even be purchased online as a unique gift or health elixir. Despite its unusual ingredients, the venom and poison from the snake and scorpion are neutralized by the ethanol in the wine, rendering it safe for consumption. This potent concoction is believed to possess remarkable health benefits, particularly for enhancing vitality and overall well-being.

For those intrigued by this exotic libation, numerous bars in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi offer the opportunity to sample Snake and Scorpion wine. Here, adventurous imbibers can experience the distinctive flavors and purported health-boosting properties of this traditional Vietnamese brew. Whether you’re seeking a novel gift or a revitalizing tonic, Snake and Scorpion wine provides a fascinating glimpse into Vietnam’s cultural and culinary traditions.

traffic scenes saigon

Volunteer in Ho Chi Minh City.

Vietnam has had a rough past and the effects of it can still be seen in the country. While development has touched several aspects, there are underprivileged societies as well. While exploring the markets of Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll find children roaming the streets and selling little things to earn some money. You can also spot beggars and pavement dwellers in the capital city. Several organizations like Love Volunteer, Volunteering Solutions, Go Abroad, and others have taken up the cause and inspired volunteers from all over the world to travel to Vietnam to make some difference in the lives of these people. If you want to make your trip more meaningful and exciting, then take time out to volunteer in Ho Chi Minh City.

Sapa things to do in vietnam

Go for a hike around the Sapa mountain villages.

Nestled in the northern reaches of Vietnam, Sapa is a charming mountain village graced by picturesque landscapes and bordered by China. Surrounded by towering peaks, hiking is the ideal way to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of this region. Along the trails, you’ll have the opportunity to forge connections with the indigenous hill tribes who call Sapa home, often serving as knowledgeable guides to the area.

Sapa’s allure lies not only in its stunning scenery but also in its vibrant cultural tapestry. Terrace farms dot the landscape, while quaint huts punctuate the verdant hillsides, creating a scene reminiscent of a postcard-perfect destination. Perched on a lofty mountain ridge at an elevation of 1,650 meters, the town offers refreshing cool air and breathtaking vistas of the Hoang Lien Mountains.

Adding to Sapa’s appeal is the renowned Love Market, a gathering place for the Dao and Hmong tribes to showcase their handmade wares and serenade visitors with love songs in their native tongue. This colorful event provides insight into the rich traditions and vibrant community spirit of Sapa, making it an unforgettable destination for cultural immersion and natural exploration alike.

So if you traveling to Vietnam, then you know what not to miss! And if you have been to Vietnam, let me know your favorite experience 🙂


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