Vietnam is most known for its turbulent wartime history, delicious food, and hyped-up Ha Long Bay. Before arriving in the country and traveling around its countrysides, little did I know that it is also home to some of the most spectacular natural landscapes in Southeast Asia, and charming heritage sites that are worth a peek.

Vietnam’s tourist spots are broadly spread out in its northern, central, and southern regions. The country isn’t overwhelmingly massive, but unless you’re traveling long-term or plan to stick to just one or two regions, you will have to pick destinations to skip or prioritize.

To make it easy for you to decide on where to go, here’s a list of my favorite places to visit in Vietnam:

1. Phong Nha

Well-lit entrace cavern of Paradise Cave in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam

Well-lit entrance cavern of Paradise Cave in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam

Why go — If this is your first time to know about Phong Nha, join the club! Phong Nha–Kẻ Bàng National Park located in Central Vietnam might not be popular as other places featured on this list, but it has something special to offer that is unrivaled not only Vietnam, but all of Southeast Asia, and maybe even the World — it’s massive and insanely beautiful caves.

Plan a trip

Phong Nha hotels & hostels.

Phong Nha tours & discounts.

See morePhong Nha blogs & guides.

2. Ninh Binh

Overlooking Tam Coc in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Overlooking Tam Coc from the viewpoint at Mua Caves in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Why go — Touted as “Ha Long Bay on land,” Ninh Binh is filled with steep karst mountains soaring amidst tranquil rice paddies, meandering rivers, and dotted with temples and ancient settlements. The best way to explore the area is on a scenic boat ride that passes through the mountainscape or by following the riverside path by bicycle. Ninh Binh is two hours away from Hanoi in Northern Vietnam.

Plan a trip

Ninh Binh hotels & hostels.

Ninh Binh tours & discounts.

See moreNinh Binh blogs & guides.

3. Hanoi

Hoan Kiem Lake lit up at night during the Mid-Autumn Festival in Hanoi, Vietnam

Hoan Kiem Lake lit up at night during the Mid-Autumn Festival in Hanoi, Vietnam

Why go — Like Bangkok, there seems to be something interesting to discover at every street corner in Hanoi, especially in the old quarter of the city. It’s one of the best cities in Southeast Asia to explore on foot. In addition to a river that runs through the city center, Hanoi also has scenic lakes that are best viewed from rooftop restaurants or bars with a traditional Vietnamese coffee or chilled beer on hand. Hanoi is a destination worth visiting on its own and not just a flight hub in Northern Vietnam.

Plan a trip

4. Hoi An

Riverside heritage buildings lit up at night in Hue, Vietnam

Riverside heritage buildings lit up at night in Hue, Vietnam

Why go — If you’re planning to visit Central Vietnam, this is a heritage city that you shouldn’t miss. Hoi An is a small and compact town with an old-world charm. The riverside setting is like a more relaxed version of Malacca, but of course Hoi An’s vintage buildings are heavily influenced by Vietnamese, French, Chinese, and Japanese influences. Delicious local food is also a major attraction here. The city’s magical atmosphere comes alive under the romantic sunset light and at night when the houses, temples, and shops are lit up.

Plan a trip

5. Cao Bang

Overlooking Ban Gioc Waterfall and rice paddies in Cao Bang, Vietnam

Overlooking Ban Gioc Waterfall and rice paddies in Cao Bang, Vietnam

Why go — If you’ve read my other best places to visit lists, you may already know about my fascination for beautiful waterfalls. Cao Bang in Northern Vietnam is home to Ban Gioc Waterfall, the most majestic in Vietnam. Half of this massive cascade sits on the Chinese border and is called Delian Waterfall on the other side.

Plan a trip

See also

6. Hue

Minh Mang Imperial Tomb in Hue, Vietnam

Minh Mang Imperial Tomb in Hue, Vietnam

Why go — Hue is central Vietnam was the seat of Nguyen Dynasty emperors and the national capital from 1802-1945. It is home to a massive royal citadel called the Forbidden Purple City, which admittedly sounds more interesting than the actual war-ravaged site. For travelers who love visiting heritage sites, a more tempting incentive to visit Hue are exquisite imperial tombs scattered around the outskirts of the city.

Plan a trip

Special Mentions

7. Da Nang

Half-carp Half-Dragon Statue and Dragon Bridge lit up at night along the riverside in Da Nang, Vietnam

Half-carp Half-Dragon Statue and Dragon Bridge lit up at night along the riverside in Da Nang, Vietnam

Why go — Da Nang is one of the biggest surprises on my first visit to Central Vietnam. It’s a major tourist hub with its own set of attractions and convenient direct domestic and international flight connections. Da Nang is a great place to visit for travelers who aren’t ready to leave their urban comfort zones. The clean, modern, and laid-back city is bordered by a long white sand beach that is lined with top-notch resorts. The riverside area of the city center feels more like a huge outdoor theme park with well-maintained promenades, iconic bridges lit up at night, and the Sun Wheel (giant Ferris Wheel).

Plan a trip

8. Ha Long Bay

Limestone mountains and tour boats in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Limestone mountains and tour boats in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Why go — No doubt Ha Long Bay is beautiful and a natural wonder due to its scale. However, if you’ve been to Krabi (Thailand) or El Nido (Philippines), you might find it overrated as the water that surrounds the bay is simply not as pristine even under the bluest of skies. If you’re already traveling in Northern Vietnam, Ha Long Bay is definitely worth considering, though, it is not a compelling reason on its own to visit the country for.

Plan a trip

See also

9. Ho Chi Minh

City Hall building in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

City Hall building in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Why go — Ho Chi Minh on its own may pale as a travel destination in comparison to other cities in Southeast Asia, but it is a necessary transport hub if you plan to explore Southern Vietnam. In case you find yourself in Ho Chi Minh, the city center offers interesting cultural and urban experiences in addition to worthwhile day trips to the Mekong Delta.

Plan a trip

Note: Destinations featured above are not listed by rank.