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The Best Things to Do in Vietnam

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From ancient kingdoms to reminders of the period of French colonial rule and the "American War," Vietnam is filled with UNESCO World Heritage landmarks and architectural wonders, like royal palaces and fishermen's stilted houses. Add in traditional markets, ethnic villages, and otherworldly landscapes, and you have a country that promises surprises at every turn.
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Words can do little justice to the scenery that awaits travelers to Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Hundreds of forested limestone karst formations rise from emerald-green waters, looking like slumbering creatures ready to stir. The...
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28 Võ Văn Tần, Phường 6, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam
Despite its sobering focus, this museum that looks at the devastating effects of the Vietnam War—known locally as the American War—is very popular. Displays of military equipment and defused ordnance outside the main building are...
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135 Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam
Also known as the Reunification Palace, this Vietnamese landmark was constructed on the site of an old French-colonial governor’s residence. It has a remarkably varied past; it housed Japanese officials during World War II and was later the...
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Chợ, Lê Lợi, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam
Jackfruit and dragonfruit on display at a fruit stand in Banh Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh.
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07 Công Trường Lam Sơn, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam
This spellbinding, Cirque du Soleil–style production at Ho Chi Minh City’s Municipal Theater, also known as the Opera House, turns to rural Vietnam for its inspiration. Mixing muscular acrobatics, visual artistry, juggling, and modern...
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Hòa Thành District, Tây Ninh Province, Vietnam
While this complex for the Cao Dai religion—which was founded in Vietnam in 1926 and combines elements of a number of other faiths—includes offices and a clinic, the real draw for tourists is the great temple. The giant, bright,...
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7, Bitexco Financial Tower, 2 Hải Triều, Bến Nghé, Hồ Chí Minh, 700000, Vietnam
An emblem of the new Vietnam, this 68-story skyscraper, named for a Vietnamese conglomerate and designed by Venezuelan architect Carlos Zapata, is easily identified in Ho Chi Minh City’s skyline—a helipad juts out from near the top,...
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01 Công xã Paris, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Quận 1 Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
There’s a telling local observation that says this municipality of some 7 million people has almost the same number of two-wheelers on its roads. Scooters are an intrinsic part of Ho Chi Minh City’s fabric, zipping down its streets,...
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55 Bát Sứ, Hàng Bồ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Situated to the south and east of Lake Hoan Kiem, the French Quarter has a different feel from the rest of Hanoi—one characterized by a profusion of space. The French began shaping this part of the city in the late 1800s (in part by knocking...
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66 Phố Nguyễn Thái Học, Điện Bàn, Ba Đình, Hà Nội, Vietnam
The Vietnamese capital has a trove of cultural institutions that shine a light on the influences and events that have shaped the country. The Vietnam Fine Arts Museum is the country’s top art establishment, housed in a stately colonial...
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2 Hùng Vương, Điện Bàn, Ba Đình, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam
Though the venerable Vietnamese leader asked to be cremated, Ho Chi Minh's remains now reside embalmed inside this imposing, pillared, gray-granite memorial. His resting place is hugely popular, drawing Vietnamese in droves as they pay their...
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Hanoi, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, Vietnam
Also known as the 36 Streets (though it's made up of more than 36 streets), this neighborhood is a warren of alleys and lanes that was, according to some legends, home to 36 artisans’ guilds; streets here were named after the artisan items...
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Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam
A short drive south of Da Nang, Hoi An is a spellbinding UNESCO World Heritage site, with intact 16th-century architecture that celebrates its origins as a trading port that long welcomed merchant ships from China, Japan, and Europe. The Old Town...
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Da Nang, Hải Châu, Da Nang, Vietnam
The country’s third-largest city, and the largest in central Vietnam, Da Nang has become one of the country’s key ports thanks to its location on both the coast and the Han River estuary. The city itself is a typical bustling...
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Qui Nhơn, Binh Dinh Province, Vietnam
Situated roughly halfway between Da Nang and Nha Trang, Qui Nhon is a quiet coastal town with a curvy beach that is refreshingly low-key. It doesn’t get the hordes that visit Nha Trang to the south (the stretch of sand isn’t quite as...
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Dalat, Lâm Đồng, Vietnam
Vietnamese love the cool climes of this town 5,000 feet above sea level in the highlands of southern Vietnam. Da Lat was "discovered" as a site for a potential town in 1893 by French bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin; before long, it was established...
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Dương Tơ, Phú Quốc, tỉnh Kiên Giang, Vietnam
Situated closer to Cambodia than Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand, Phu Quoc has arguably the best beaches in the country. An international airport opened in 2012, raising the island’s profile and bringing in droves of visitors. Despite this,...
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57B Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam
While the art of puppetry is common throughout much of Asia, Vietnam has the unique discipline of water puppetry. These puppets are carved from wood and then lacquered to protect them from the water. The stage for a show is a pool of water, with...
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Thanh Hoa, Vietnam
A little less than 100 miles southwest of Hanoi, the Pu Luong Nature Reserve opened in 1999 and features limestone mountain ranges running along two sides, separated by a valley that is technically not part of the reserve but is often lumped in...
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Huế, Thua Thien Hue, Vietnam
The royal capital for more than 140 years during the 19th and 20th centuries, Hue is a not-to-be-missed stop on any itinerary in Vietnam. It was a political, religious, and cultural center for the Nguyen dynasty, the last to rule the country...
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Ha Giang, Vietnam
Bordering China and mostly populated by ethnic minorities, Ha Giang province is undoubtedly one of the country’s gems, yet it gets only a trickle of foreign visitors each year. Reasons for this include the distance (it takes a minimum of six...
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Vĩnh Thạch, Vĩnh Linh, Quảng Trị, Vietnam
This labyrinth of tunnels between what were North and South Vietnam during the war is a testimony to the defiance and ingenuity of the Vietnamese resistance. Vinh Moc was a village that the U.S. troops believed to be sympathetic to the Communist...
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Kon Tum Province, Vietnam
An ethnic minority living in the Central Highlands provinces, the Bahnar are as renowned for their musical prowess, achieved with bamboo instruments that include the fiddle and xylophone, as their soaring, thatched-roof rongs (meetinghouses used...
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Buôn Đôn, Đắk Lắk, Vietnam
The biggest nature reserve in the country, Yok Don spreads across 450 square miles next to the Cambodian border and west of the town of Buon Ma Thuot, an important center for Vietnam’s coffee industry. The park is largely a dry dipterocarp...
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tt. Sa Pa, Sa Pa, Lào Cai, Vietnam
Spoken of in almost reverential terms by people that have traveled there, Sa Pa is often seen as a holy grail of destinations in Vietnam. Part of that is because of the environment—a cool mountain town that has lured visitors with its...
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Xuân Trạch, Bố Trạch, Quảng Bình, Vietnam
Spelunking isn’t all about exploring dark, damp places. Case in point: Son Doong. A cave system that boasts the largest passage in the world, Son Doong was first mapped by caving experts less than a decade ago, before it was opened to the...
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Trang An Village, Commune,, Trường Yên, Hoa Lư, Ninh Bình, Vietnam
Described as an inland Ha Long Bay, this sublime area west of the town of Ninh Binh, about 60 miles south of Hanoi, was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 2014 on account of its “spectacular landscape of limestone karst peaks permeated...
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Thom island, Hòn Thơm, Phu Quoc, Kien Giang, Vietnam
The An Thoi Islands, south of Phu Quoc but still part of its marine park, rise from the sea, gentle hills covered by tropical forest. It’s possible to charter a boat and go snorkeling and diving during the dry season (November through...
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1 phố Hoả Lò, Trần Hưng Đạo, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam
Perhaps the most relevant museum in Hanoi for American visitors is the Hoa Lo Prison Museum, popularly known as the "Hanoi Hilton” during the Vietnam War. Its exterior is a strangely cheery yellow, and it was part of a complex built by the...
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40 Nhà Chung P, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam
Though it is just outside the French Quarter, St. Joseph’s Cathedral is one of the most famous landmarks of the colonial era in Hanoi. The neo-Gothic church was modeled after Paris’s Notre-Dame Cathedral and sits on the west side of...
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The two-story Binh Tay Market is an impossible-to-miss Chinatown landmark on the edge of Ho Chi Minh City's District Six; it boasts a distinctive Chinese-inspired clock tower, yet it was a French patron who financed the construction of the market...
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Nguyễn Văn Huyên, Quan Hoa, Cầu Giấy, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam
Anthropologists will especially enjoy the Museum of Ethnology that explores the 54 officially recognized ethnic peoples of Vietnam. Exhibits include a brief primer on each group and information about their folkways; in the museum’s 10 acres...
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Boating Through the Jungle