HomeAsiaSoutheast AsiaVietnamVietnam – 9 Best Places to Visit for First-timers 397 sharesWhere to go in Vietnam? See the best natural sights, heritage sites, cities, food spots and things to do for first-time travelers. By Marcos Detourist. Updated on January 15, 2017.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 entrance cavern of Paradise Cave in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, VietnamWhy 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 tripPhong Nha hotels & hostels.Phong Nha tours & discounts.See more — Phong Nha blogs & guides.2. Ninh Binh Overlooking Tam Coc from the viewpoint at Mua Caves in Ninh Binh, VietnamWhy 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 tripNinh Binh hotels & hostels.Ninh Binh tours & discounts.See more — Ninh Binh blogs & guides.3. Hanoi Hoan Kiem Lake lit up at night during the Mid-Autumn Festival in Hanoi, VietnamWhy 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 tripHanoi hotels & hostels.Hanoi tours & discounts.See more — Hanoi blogs & guides.4. Hoi An Riverside heritage buildings lit up at night in Hue, VietnamWhy 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 tripHoi An hotels & hostels.Hoi An tours & discounts.See more — Hoi An blogs & guides.5. Cao Bang Overlooking Ban Gioc Waterfall and rice paddies in Cao Bang, VietnamWhy 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 tripCao Bang hotels.See more — Cao Bang blogs & guides.See also Thailand – 8 Best Places to Visit for First-timers Hong Kong – 7 Best Places to Visit for First-timers Laos – 5 Best Places to Visit for First-timers Cambodia – 5 Best Places to Visit for First-timers6. Hue Minh Mang Imperial Tomb in Hue, VietnamWhy 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 tripHue hotels & hostels.Hue tours & discounts.See more — Hue blogs & guides.Special Mentions7. Da Nang Half-carp Half-Dragon Statue and Dragon Bridge lit up at night along the riverside in Da Nang, VietnamWhy 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 tripDa Nang hotels & resorts.Da Nang tours & discounts.See more — Da Nang blogs & guides.8. Ha Long Bay Limestone mountains and tour boats in Ha Long Bay, VietnamWhy 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 tripHa Long Bay hotels & resorts.Ha Long Bay tours & discounts.See more — Ha Long Bay blogs & guides.See also Asia – 11 Top Countries to Visit For First-timers Singapore – 16 Best Sights & Things to Do for First-timers Malaysia – 8 Best Places to Visit for First-timers North India – 14 Best Places to Visit for First-timers9. Ho Chi Minh City Hall building in Ho Chi Minh, VietnamWhy 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 tripHo Chi Minh hotels & hostels.Ho Chi Minh tours & discounts.See more — Ho Chi Minh blogs & guides.Note: Destinations featured above are not listed by rank.Don’t leave yet. There’s more!1-Day Ho Chi Minh Itinerary — Saigon DIY Walking Tour1 Month Solo Travel in Northern India: A Survivor’s…Cebu Pacific Promo & Booking Tips for First-Timers…3-Day Grand Adventure Tour of Iligan, City of Majestic…Discover more blogs and travel tips in:Ho Chi MinhVietnamNinh BinhHanoiHuePhong NhaHoi AnDa NangHa Long BayCao BangSoutheast AsiaAsia See all placesFind more posts about:Best PlacesBest TravelBest Things To DoLeave a Reply Cancel replyYour email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *CommentName * Email * Website Comments Manuel Sia saysOctober 16, 2015 at 10:48 pmThanks for sharing your travel to Vietnam. Been to Saigon in 2011 and been wanting to go to Hanoi. Never knew about the other worth visiting places until you shared your wonderful pictures. Is it hard to tour Halong Bay? Would it be just fine skipping Halong Bay when I go to Hanoi?Reply Marcos Detourist saysOctober 16, 2015 at 11:23 pmMy pleasure Manuel :) There are still more potentially worthy places to visit in Vietnam. I want to go back as well, particularly, for Sa Pa and Da Lat. I booked an overnight boat cruise in Ha Long Bay for $80. I had a very bad experience with both the booking and tour agency. Touring Ha Long Bay is easy since you just have to turn up at the travel agencies in Hanoi or Ha Long City at least a day before (or book online). It’s finding a decent tour agency / boat operator that is the tricky part.If the weather is too cloudy or rainy, I would skip Ha Long Bay. I enjoyed Ninh Binh and Phong Nha a lot more than Ha Long Bay.ReplyAdventure Starts HereDiscover travel guides and blogs about the Philippines and beyond.