Vietnam is absolutely jam-packed with travel destinations to explore. There are several very popular ones, many of which are featured in our post on popular travel destinations in Vietnam. Expats who have been living in Vietnam for a while, however, may have Visited these destinations and wish to delve a bit deeper into Vietnam’s rich culture. Also, visitors to Vietnam may prefer to visit somewhere without so many tourists and the artificial feeling that often comes with them. For both of these groups, we have put together a list of places to go in Vietnam that even people living in Vietnam for years may not be aware of.
1. Bai Tu Long Bay
Bai Tu Long Bay is similar to the world-famous Halong Bay, except it is not infested with tourism. Whereas it is difficult to get a photo in Halong Bay without a tour boat being visible in the background, you can go to Bai Tu Long and really feel like you have the place to yourself.
2. Tam Dao
There are a lot of beautiful mountain towns in the far north of Vietnam, and Tam Dao is one of the nicest. It does have a decently-sized tourism industry and a lot of the hotels that go with it, but almost all of those tourists are Vietnamese. Like any good mountain town, Tam Dao feels like its own little island above the clouds, and the view down the steep mountain the town is perched atop is visible almost throughout the entire area. Even though it’s isolated, the park at Tam Dao’s center is very pretty and the fresh meats and vegetables you can get at barbecues near the market are incredible.
3. Ninh Binh
Ninh Binh barely qualifies as “off-the-beaten-track”; while it’s not on the same level of popularity as Hoi An or Nha Trang, it is a fairly well-known destination. It is not as mainstream as it undoubtedly will be in a decade, though, so now is your chance to tour its rivers, cliffs, forests, and temples before they become tourist traps. The Trang An landscape complex in Ninh Binh is the highlight of the area, and it has actually been called “Halong Bay on Land.”
4. Buon Ma Thuot
Sapa may get all the attention, but Buon Ma Thuot is arguably an equally amazing mountain town that feels much, much more authentic. Buon Ma Thuot is a paradise for eco-tourism, with things like botanical gardens, breathtaking waterfalls, and plantations as far as the eye can see. It also has some of the freshest, most full-bodied coffee you’ll ever taste.
5. Chao Doc
Chao Doc is a vivacious waterfront village near the border of Vietnam and Cambodia. The peaceful setting makes it an excellent place to just kick back for a few days. The town itself is small and contains a lot of diverse religious history, which makes it a comparatively quick and interesting place to take in.
6. Quy Nhon
Quy Nhon is one of those picturesque beach cities the hero retreats to at the end of an action movie. It is home to some booming business, so the city is wealthy. It has next to no commercial buildup, though, so most of the money goes towards preserving the area’s natural beauty. The water is clear and blue, the beaches are pristine and white, and the forests are deep and green. It’s a great city for nature lovers, as the surrounding area has a lot of cool nature to explore and a great safari park to view some Vietnamese wildlife (much of which has gone extinct in the wild) in its natural habitat. It’s also home to a beautifully preserved former leper colony, which is always a plus.
7. Con Dao
Con Dao is a series of 16 small islets off the coast of South Vietnam. Like most islets, they feel very remote. This helped Con Dao become the site of a large French prison during Vietnam’s colonial era. Nowadays, it means the islands of Con Dao are virtually untouched by the new age sweeping across mainland Vietnam. People who live there really do lead the simple life, and tourists get to swim and snorkel in the crystal-clear water without having to deal with pollution. There are also turtle sanctuaries on the smaller islets.
8. Cat Tien
Cat Tien is a real nature adventure. You’ll feel like you’re in an episode of Bear Grylls as you tromp through the untamed wilderness, complete with large bugs and snakes, in search of some of the most astounding natural features you’ll ever see. You might also spot an elephant or two if you’re lucky.
Since the tourism infrastructure is not very built up in these locations like it is in some of Vietnam, we highly recommend dedicating at least a few days to each of them to get the full impact of the place. For day trips or one-nighters, “ready-made” tourism destinations in Vietnam may be a better choice.
If you would like to find out more about Vietnam you can check out our popular blog which is written by expats who have lived here for many years.