A travel guide to Vietnam with independent reviews and recommendations. No sponsored content, no advertorial.

Best of Vietnam


Last updated 10 Jan 2011

A travel guide to Vietnam's best things to do - from buzzing cities and a compelling history, through to natural wonders, beaches, rural life and delicious cuisine.

Vietnam,Hanoi,Ba Dinh Square,Hebrard,Colonial architecture,Ministry Foreign Affairs
Photo: Mark BowyerFrench era architecture Hanoi

Travellers to Vietnam are spoiled for options. Get active and then take it easy. Explore food, history and culture and then take a break on the beach. Here are some of our highlights -

Hanoi streets

Walking the streets of Hanoi from the French quarter to the old quarter to the grand boulevards around Ba Dinh Square. Stop for a bowl of pho or bun cha as you go. The architecture is fantastic and the streets are buzzing.

On the bay
Waking up amidst the majestic limestone islets of Halong Bay. It’s well worth spending at least one night on a boat in the bay.

Northern mountains

Trekking the stunning mountain trails around Vietnam's far north between Sapa and Dien Bien Phu with richly diverse montagnarde cultures and stunning scenery.

Mermaid Restaurant,Hoi An,Vietnam
Photo: Mark BowyerHoi An Wontons

Tasty regions
Exploring the rich and varied flavours of Vietnam's regions. Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An, Saigon and the Mekong Delta all sport unique culinary traditions.

Merchant town reborn
The old mercantile town of Hoi An and its legendary army of tailors. Shopping, eating, beaching and chilling are all easily accessed in one of Vietnam’s loveliest spots.

Saigon’s buzz
Chaos abounds but Saigon is more than a friendly face. Utter dysfunction meets loads of atmosphere and some of the most welcoming people you’ll encounter.

Hue,Vietnam,royal tomb,Tombs,Khai Dinh's Tomb,monument
Photo: Mark BowyerKhai Dinh's Tomb, Hue

Cycling the Imperial Capital
Spend a few days getting to know this beautiful quiet town that’s so intrinsically bound up with Vietnam's story. Do it on a bike and enjoy the country lanes and the picturesque riverside views.

Island hops
Phu Quoc Island is the more developed - for better and worse. But there’s still plenty of pristine forest and beautiful beach. Con Dao is Vietnam’s most mellow spot - but it’s haunted by the ghosts of its past as a brutal prison. Many of Vietnam’s best known leaders were once incarcerated here. Thousands more perished.

And the not so good......

No info
There’s a disappointing lack of information at major historical sites. Sometimes nothing is available in English.

An obsession with rebuilding Disneyesque historical sites rather than preserving rundown but atmospheric ruins. This is shaping up as a major problem in Hue.

Proliferation of plastic
It’s everywhere - streets, beaches, rivers and some of the most scenic spots you’ll visit - and thus far, little has been done to address the problem.

Chain smoking
Bars and restaurants are usually engulfed in cigarette smoke. Very few have proper ventilation. You’ll be chain smoking even if you don’t smoke.
Deadly roads
They’re an amusing novelty during your first few days but you’ll tire of having to jump out of the way of cars and motorbikes whether you’re crossing the road or on the sidewalk. Pedestrians are the lowest on the hierarchy of the road. A chronic problem in Saigon and Hanoi.

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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