If you’re planning to visit Vietnam soon, you may be wondering where to visit Vietnam for the first time. In this guide, we have put together the most popular and best Vietnam destinations for first-timers. This guide will offer you a taste of everything; a culinary adventure, cultural immersions, vibrant cities, and breathtaking nature. If you’re looking to get off the beaten path in Vietnam, you may want to check out these destinations!
Ho Chi Minh City
First on this list of where to visit in Vietnam for the first time is Ho Chi Minh City. Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is a thriving metropolis. It is the biggest city in the nation and provides a variety of entertainment options for tourists. You should start by visiting the War Remnant Museum. Through a variety of images, artefacts, and exhibits, the museum offers an insight into the history of the Vietnam War. It provides a powerful emotional and reflective experience. Essential day trips from Ho Chi Minh City include the Cu Chi Tunnels and a Mekong Delta tour. The Cu Chi Tunnels beneath the earth were crucial in the Vietnam War. Learn about their design, function, and Viet Cong soldiers usage of them by taking a guided tour. Be sure to take advantage of the shopping options in well-known markets like Ben Thanh Market. Take strolls around Nguyen Hue Walking Street in the evening or go out and have a good time on Bui Vien.
Places to visit / landmarks: War Remnant Museum, Ben Thanh Market, Bui Vien, Nguyen Hue Walking Street, Cu Chi Tunnels, a day trip to the Mekong Delta, Bitexco Tower
Activities: Food & motorbike tour
You will be in awe of Dalat’s beautiful beauty at every step. There is a lot to see and do in this area, which is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty, from gushing waterfalls to lush green valleys. The tranquil Tuyen Lam Lake, the colourful flower fields of the Valley of Love, and the magnificent Elephant Waterfall are just a few of the stunning sights that are ready to enchant your senses. Due to Dalat’s well-preserved early 20th-century French colonial architecture, entering the city feels like opening a time capsule. Discover famous sites like the Domaine de Marie Church or Bao Dai Summer Palace. If you’re looking for adventurous activities, Dalat offers thrilling canyoning expeditions, the chance to climb the difficult Langbiang Mountain, or the chance to go mountain biking via beautiful routes.
>>> Read more about things to do in Dalat here <<<
Places to visit / landmarks: Clay Tunnel, Linh Phuoc Pagoda, Crazy House, Elephant Falls, Flower Garden
Activities: Trekking, canyoning, eating Dalat pizza, exploring by scooter or bicycle, boat ride on the lake
Hoi An is a quaint and beautiful city that is well-known for its restored Ancient Town. Hoi An offers so much to do that you could easily stay for weeks. It is also among the top tourist destinations in Vietnam. It makes sense that the ancient town of Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its well-preserved architecture, little streets, and historical structures dating back to the 15th century, it provides an insight into the city’s rich history. The town is an incredibly fascinating site to explore because of its distinctive fusion of Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and European influences. Hoi An is a cultural melting pot, as seen by the variety of its traditions, rituals, and celebrations. You can attend traditional Vietnamese cooking classes or lantern-making workshops in addition to witnessing traditional rites and touring ancient sites. Whilst in Hoi An, you could also take day trips to places like the famous hand bridge at Ba Na Hills, Danang, and Marble Mountain.
Places to visit / landmarks: Ancient Town, Japanese Bridge, An Bang beach
Activities: Basket boat ride, cooking class, lantern making, get clothes tailor-made, take a day trip to Ba Na Hills
Hue is a lovely city in central Vietnam that is well-known for its historical significance, cultural richness, and breathtaking natural surroundings. The Imperial City, which served as the Nguyen Dynasty rulers’ home, is Hue’s top tourist destination. You may find the ornate royal tombs of the Nguyen Dynasty along the Perfume River. The Tomb of Khai Dinh and the Tomb of Tu Duc are two well-known examples. The Thien Mu Pagoda, a well-known landmark of Hue that is situated on the riverbank, can be visited while on a boat ride along the Perfume River. The abandoned water park in Hue has become a well-liked tourist destination in recent years.
Places to visit / landmarks: Hue Imperial City, Royal Tombs, Thien Mu Pagoda, abandoned water park
Activities: Boat ride on the Perfume River
Vietnam’s capital city, Hanoi, is a captivating travel destination with a fascinating history and lively culture. With several monuments and sites that honour its past, Hanoi is a city rich in history. Don’t forget to see Hoa Lo Prison, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, and The Temple of Literature. Wander around the city’s central Hoan Kiem Lake for picturesque lakes and grassy areas. Hanoi is renowned for its street food scene as well. Don’t pass up the chance to sample regional cuisines such as egg coffee, banh mi (a Vietnamese sandwich), pho (a soup of noodles), and bun cha (grilled pork with noodles). In addition to being enjoyable in and of themselves, don’t miss exploring the vibrant street food markets like Dong Xuan Market or the Night Market.
Places to visit / landmarks: Temple of Literature, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Hoa Lo Prison, Hoan Kiem Lake, Train Street.
Activities: Take a food tour, party in the Old Quarter
Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay, one of Vietnam’s most well-known tourist destinations, is located in Quang Ninh Province. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Ha Long Bay is a place where the artistic side of nature is fully revealed. Vietnam’s natural beauty lies in this. Imagine being in the middle of a scene that seems like it belongs in a dream, with thousands of limestone karsts and isles rising sharply out of the emerald waters. Ha Long Bay provides a multitude of thrilling activities for those in search of adventure. Like exploring remote beaches and secret caves, or kayaking through secret lagoons.
Activites: Kayaking, relaxing, enjoying seafood treats
With its verdant mountains, terraced rice fields, and quaint valleys, Sapa is renowned for its stunning landscapes. When the fields turn a golden yellow during the rice harvesting season (September to October), the views are particularly breathtaking. In Sapa, trekking is a well-liked activity. You can visit communities of ethnic minorities and explore the nearby villages. Fansipan Mountain, Muong Hoa Valley, and Cat Cat Village are popular trekking routes. You can discover more about the Hmong, Dao, and Tay people, as well as other ethnic minority groups, by trekking these routes. The highest peak in Vietnam, Fansipan Mountain, is also located in Sapa. The “Roof of Indochina” is the name given to it. Climbing the 3,147-meter mountain is an option for those seeking adventure and excitement.
Places to visit / landmarks: Visit ethnic minorities as part of a tour, Fansipan Mountain, Sapa town centre
Activities: trekking tours and enjoying local delicacies
How long do I need to see these 7 destinations?
You could easily spend weeks or even months in these destinations as they all have so much to offer. However, you would need at least 15 nights to complete all 7. You also need to factor in the time it takes to travel between destinations. To travel between destinations, you can take flights, go by train, or book buses. For more information on transport options in Vietnam, check out this post.
- Ho Chi Minh City – 3 nights
- Dalat – minimum 2 nights
- Hoi An – 4 nights
- Hue – 1 or 2 nights
- Hanoi – 2 nights
- Ha Long Bay – 1 night
- Sapa – 2 nights
If you prefer to go at a slower pace or have less time, we recommend you stick to one or two areas. For example, stick to Central Vietnam and South Vietnam, or focus solely on the North. Don’t try to travel from North to South in a short space of time as you will spend a lot of time travelling.
Essential resources for travelling in Vietnam
Travel Insurance – It’s a good idea to have insurance, particularly if you’re going to be riding a motorbike. Our personal choice is Safteywing. You can opt for automatic monthly payments, just like a subscription. It can be purchased whilst already travelling and there is no cap on travel duration.
Visa – You are highly likely to need a visa for Vietnam. iVisa is a fantastic website that is super easy and quick to use. You can quickly make a visa application online.
Accommodation – Booking.com is our go-to when looking to pre-book accommodation online. Booking.com tend almost always to have the best rates and a FREE cancellation policy for most properties.
Overland transport – Our go-to website for overland transport is Bookaway. They have routes all over Vietnam and host a range of transport modes and companies. It is easy to book online and have your ticket sent to your phone.
Tours & Activities – If you want to book tours and activities for Vietnam online, make sure to check out Get Your Guide. Get Your Guide takes the stress out of booking activities abroad. You will also find a range of benefits, such as skip-the-line passes, lunch included in your tours, and so much more.