A place where street food reigns supreme, temples touch the sky, and lanterns light up streets, Vietnam is a destination made for nature lovers, culture enthusiasts, and foodies.

Honestly, any short description underplays how magnificent this Southeast Asian country really is. It’s so wonderful, in fact, that it can be daunting planning where to visit and what to prioritize.

Worry not: We’re here to help you craft the PERFECT itinerary by laying out twenty-one of the most beautiful places in Vietnam.

Whether you’re visiting to hike along the ricefields of Sa Pa, sail between stalagmites in Ha Long Bay, or sip on coconuts on Cat Ba Island, Vietnam sure is an outdoor lovers paradise. Not only for nature fans, it’s also a haven of culture and history, home to some of the world’s most famous temples and archeological ruins.

This country has some seriously interesting stories to tell! A good place to start? – Visiting some of the most beautiful places in Vietnam.

Equestrian Statue of Phu Dong Thieu Vuong in the middle of bustling streets, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Let the hustle and bustle begin!
Photo: @joemiddlehurst

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1. Con Dao Islands

Travelling to the Con Dao Islands has many of the classic markers of backpacking Vietnam – peace, tranquility, and unrivaled island beauty.

Part of the Con Dao National Park, these islands include a group of sixteen islands just off the coast of southern Vietnam. Most of the beaches are uninhabited and protected as nature reserves, with their gorgeous tropical foliage, jungle animals, and sea life thriving.

You’re most likely to visit the main island of Con San, which has miles of coastal trails and other outdoor activities to engage in. This is the only island where people live, and it was once home to a French prison for Vietnamese independence fighters.

Head to Con Son Town to visit some of these prison cells, donning infamous tiger cages, for a taste of Vietnam’s colonial history. For some relaxed downtime, this island has some of the best beaches in Vietnam. Seriously, these beaches are super-duper clean, perfect for lounging in the sun and snorkeling. 

When you’ve had enough sun vibes, head for the shaded seafood restaurants lining the beach, where you can dine on the day’s freshest catch. Talk about utopia.

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    2. Temple of Literature, Hanoi

    There is no shortage of beautiful temples to explore in Vietnam. In fact, there are so many, it’s an almost impossible to choose the most beautiful. All I can say is that if you’re backpacking around Hanoi (and it’s likely that you are), a visit to the Temple of Literature is an absolute must. 

    While it’s one of the capital’s top historical attractions, it’s not without good reason. Built over one thousand years ago in an age of sages and scholars, the temple was dedicated to Confucious and was considered Vietnam’s first university. Think of it as the birthplace of Vietnamese education.

    Temple of Literature Hanoi
    The Temple of Literature is Vietnam’s first university.

    Lying across four streets, this really is an impressive feat of architecture to witness – one of the best spots to visit in Hanoi. The temple has five inner courtyards lined with turtle steles, pavilions, and passageways.

    An exquisite example of ancient Vietnamese architecture and a traditional dedication to education, the temple was once used to educate Vietnam’s royals, noble families, and elite members of society. You can really feel the energy of this ancient college.

    3. Sa Pa

    There is something unequivocally beautiful about the Vietnamese traditional way of life. A focus on family, ancestral worship, incense burning, and rich culinary culture is just the tip of the iceberg. If this ancient lifestyle calls your name, be sure to include Sa Pa in your Southeast Asia adventure.

    Hidden in a cloud of mist in the mystical Tonkinese Alps, Sa Pa is a small French town that is seen as the gateway into the mountainous region. The rice-terraced countryside is bordered by dramatic peaks, so it is no shock that this is Vietnam’s premier hiking destination.

    a woman works with a sewing machine in Sapa, northern Vietnam
    Sa Pa’s heartbeat? Its rich local culture.
    Photo: @monteiro.online

    It’s the natural beauty of the rolling green terraces that makes this agricultural region one of the top ten places to visit in Vietnam. If you’re taken in by a good adventure, exquisite views, and exciting nature, add Mount Fan Si Pan to your bucket list of adventures.

    Located in the Sa Pa region, the mountain is Vietnam’s highest peak. The region is most popular with hikers and trekkers, who can follow short hikes or three-day treks between villages.

    I recommend spending some real time in the region, soaking up the culture and exquisite scenery around the Hmong and Dao Hill tribal villages. Sign up for a guided tour around Sa Pa for THE ultimate Vietnamese experience.

    4. Cat Ba, Ha Long Bay

    Ha Long Bay translates to “the place of descending dragons”. Appropriately named, in my opinion! I mean, if you close your eyes and imagine a dragon’s ideal lair, it would look a lot like Ha Long Bay. 

    The Cat Ba National Park is an island, part World Biosphere Reserve, and part golden beache. Surrounded by dramatic limestone karsts, Cat Ba has a small harbor town, but there really isn’t much to do here. 

    Rather, spend your time exploring the wild, rocky island, which is a paradise for hikers and climbers. Oh, and the waters are just as magnificent as the land. 

    Boat crossing South China sea and rock formations in Cat Ba Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

    The entire bay is worth a top spot on this list, with its towering limestone mountains rising seemingly impossibly from the emerald waters below. As popular as the bay might be with tourists, it is absolutely still worth visiting. You can find cozy accommodations, enjoy yummy food, and try lots of activities that really show off the place.

    One of the best ways to discover the entire Ha Long Bay is to jump on an overnight junk (a type of boat that is certainly not junk) boat tour. You can then wake up between the karsts and explore the more than 1600 jungle-topped islands.

    From the island of Cat Ba, you can rent a kayak and explore the kaleidoscope coral reefs, which are well protected by the park system; no wonder it’s one of the most beautiful places in Vietnam.

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    5. Ta Dung Lake

    What better way to get to know inland Vietnam than with a trip to Ta Dung Lake? While most flock to the beaches of Cat Ba and Da Nang, Vietnam’s lakes have a quiet allure waiting to be explored.

    From above, this might be one of the most unique-looking lakes on the planet. Made up of hundreds of small ponds, rivers, and streams, the entire lake region was created by a dam wall. As a response to rising water levels, the nearby dam overflowed and created a lake around mountains and hills, which today include over forty islands.

    A real view of Ta Dung Lake with its lush greenery

    During the wet season, there are also different springs and waterfalls to find deep inside the forest. Camping is also popular here, with fully prepared campsites available to rent. Make sure you check all your camping gear for an epic Vietnamese adventure.

    Ta Dung is also a national park, which is home to plenty of endemic plants and animals. Naturally, it also attracts a huge population of birds. So, if you’re a bird watcher, you won’t want to miss out on this day trip.

    If you squint, the dam looks a bit like Ha Long Bay and has even been called the bay’s equivalent in Vietnam’s central highlands. The best way to explore this unique place in Vietnam is by boat, as you can motor your way between the islands and coves.

    6. Hoi An

    With a sky lit by lanterns and colonial French architecture creating some of the most beautiful streets in the world, Hoi An deservedly holds a place as one of the top ten places to visit in Vietnam.

    Backpackers in Hoi An unanimously acknowledge that it tops the list of the best cities in Vietnam, for obvious reasons. What was once a French colonial settlement is now known as the “city of lanterns”. The city is small, lining the coastline with an intricate network of waterways and rivers. 

    A person on a bicycle with a Vietnamese hat riding past a yellow house with colourful lanterns in Hoi An, Vietnam
    Now this is the Vietnam I came for
    Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

    The Chinese shops, colorful temples, and charming colonial buildings, combined with Vietnamese tube houses and an iconic Japanese covered bridge, reflect the region’s history. Talk about a melting pot! Amidst all this variety, Hoi An has really comfortable accommodations that are as beautiful as the buildings around them.

    The old town quarter is packed with exciting shops where you can get your own bespoke clothing, hand-made to fit. What was once a meeting place for Japanese and Chinese merchants is now packed with international travelers wanting to experience the lantern experience firsthand. And oh boy, is it an experience.

    Cycle under the lantern-lit streets, walk across the iconic covered bridge and release a lantern into the water for the full experience. It really is an atmospheric wonderland that can sometimes feel like a movie set.

    Want to visit Hoi An but accommodation looking a little pricey? Check out where to stay in Da Nang, a nearby city offering much more bang for your buck.

    7. The Mekong Delta

    One of my favorite places in Vietnam, and no doubt one of the most physically astounding, is the Mekong River in the Mekong Delta. It’s a maze of winding waterways that meander through mangrove forests, lush rice fields, and past floating markets.

    It’s Southeast Asia’s most famous river and one of the most productive and cultivated regions on the continent. Other than exploring the Mekong by boat, I suggest you visit the most famous floating markets of Chau Doc, Can Tho, and Cai Rang. Join this 2-day tour around the Mekong Delta to soak up all the special vibes and dive into the local culture. Get ready for an awesome time!

    Locals navigating Mekong River in the Mekong Delta on their sampans
    Sampans are traditional boats used for the transportation of goods and people in the Mekong Delta.

    Let’s be honest; your guides will know what’s up and take you there before you even have to ask. Here, traders, fishmongers, and farmers come to sell and purchase fresh fruit, vegetables, and fish in a colorful exchange of produce.

    It’s also a beautiful place to explore on a bike! You can roll through peaceful local villages where residents live in harmony with their giant water buffalo counterparts. Life here is guided by the ebb and flow of this natural river, which is unlike any landmark you could ever dream of visiting.

    8. Cat Tien National Park

    Spanning across a huge landscape of lowland tropical forest, the Cat Tien National Park is one of the most diverse and beautiful protected regions in Vietnam’s south. Here, you can lay eyes on ancient trees, well-maintained botanical gardens, and endemic and endangered wildlife.

    Canoe around the Crocodile Lake, which, yes, is home to some resident crocs. Surrounded by jungle, this lake is a beautiful way to see the park from a different perspective.

    A green valley with pink flowers at Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam
    You’ll get lost in Cat Tien National Park, just like we did!

    If this terrifies you to the core (I get it, trust me), you could walk or ride a bike along the lush trails, while keeping an eye out for the local wildlife. If you’re wondering what to look out for, you could spot anything from pangolins to elephants to mongeese and even some rare primates.

    I also recommend trekking to the magical waterfalls dotted around Cat Tien town. You can also visit an ancient archeological site housing Hindu temples from the fourth and ninth centuries. Nothing better than a site that blends natural and cultural beauty!

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    9. My Son Ruins

    There really is no place like the My Son Ruins. Located just a short drive from Hoi An, My Son is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that brings the grandeur of ancient Vietnam into the 21st century.

    It’s a cluster of Hindu temple ruins that were built between the fourth and fourteenth centuries by the Kings of Champa. These crumbling temples were actually used for religious ceremonies throughout history.

    My Son Ruins surrounded by lush greenery.
    Standing where they did hundreds of years ago!

    Walking through the ruins, you’ll pass large elephant structures, lotus-inspired stupas, and sacrificial altars. Exploring the temples by foot is the best way to see everything, and you can make your way around in under three hours.

    My Son translates to “beautiful mountain” and is named after the lush jungle-covered mountain that creates the backdrop of the temples. 

    They survived hundreds of years of wild weather and changing powers but were officially destroyed during the Vietnam War. Luckily, a lot was left undamaged, and you can still admire the ancient structures and imagine what the temple complex might have looked like in its heyday.

    10. The Ha Giang Province

    When it comes to the top ten places to visit in Vietnam, Ha Giang Province is no doubt the cool kid on the block. The province lies just northeast of Sa Pa, bordering China, and is a relatively unexplored and, therefore, untainted region. 

    Vietnam’s northernmost province, Ha Giang, is a peaceful area with its unbelievable river canyon landscapes. I’d even go so far as to call this the Grand Canyon of Vietnam, with a narrow, winding river fringed by towering cliffs that ascend into farmland. 

    Mountains and buildings in Ha Giang Province
    Breathtaking views all over Vietnam.

    Serpentine roads snake through the province, descending and ascending rice-terraced hills, canyons and valleys, and rugged peaks.

    Driving along these narrow roads in a car or motorcycle (good vibes, but never considered safe) is an easy way to soak up the natural wonder of the province. Check out our guide on motorbiking in Vietnam to ensure a safe ride.

    Quan Ba Valley, where you will find the Quan Ba Pass (also known as Heaven’s Gate, for obvious reasons once you see it), is one of the most beautiful parts of the province. It features exceptional views over the snaking rivers and terraced rice fields. Seriously, once you see this spot, you’ll understand just why it sits on the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network.

    11. Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park

    Large cave with rock formations located in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam.
    Claustrophobics, this one is not for you!
    Photo: @joemiddlehurst

    A rugged landscape of limestone mountains and deep caves in the Annamite Mountain Range, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is a beautiful place to soak up Vietnam’s gorgeous countryside.

    This park offers an unparalleled caving experience. If you’re an adventurers or a thrill seeker, don’t miss out on the ultimate tour of the Paradise Cave, it’s guaranteed to be the best time of your life!

    12. Ban Gioc Waterfall

    vietnam Ban Gioc Detian waterfall
    Look at the layers!

    Cascading across a 300-meter-wide area in Cao Bang, the Ban Gioc Waterfalls are Vietnam’s best waterfalls and one of its most impressive natural sights.

    Technically, the waterfalls consist of dozens of separate spouts of water concentrated in one part of the Quay Son River, flowing from China.

    13. Son Doong Cave

    Son Doong Cave
    To discover some of the most amazing beaches, you must walk through intricate paths. It’s worth it in the end, obviously 🙂

    Without further ado, I share with you one of my favorite places on this list of beautiful places in Vietnam, the iconic Son Doong Cave.

    Believed to be the largest cave in the world (based on volume), it was only found in 1990. Truly an unbelievable sight to behold; you really can’t miss a visit to this cave in the Ke Bang National Park.

    14. Ninh Binh

    traveller with traditional hat walking in front of a temple in ninh binh
    Imagine Vietnam in a snapshot—that’s Ninh Binh.

    Ninh Binh is a landscape famous for its terraced rice field countryside, ancient mos-clad temples and pagodas, dense tropical jungle, and secret caves.

    It is an oasis for adventure seekers, nature lovers, and anyone who appreciates unique cultural heritage. Best of all, it’s just a short drive away from Hanoi. I recommend taking this guided Ninh Binh tour to explore Mua Cave, ride a boat through the Tam Coc caves, and much more.

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    15. Phu Quoc Island

    An areal shot of Phu Quoc Island's coastline and buildings from a cable car
    The aerial views of Phu Quoc Island have a distinct tropical feel.

    There really are few places that compare to the tropical splendor of Phu Quoc Island. For the clearest water in Vietnam, this pristine beach is a haven for watersports and underwater exploration – perfect for learning how to snorkel or scuba dive. 

    Highly recommended for romantic visits, spend your evenings gazing across the ocean at sunset and your days exploring the remote island jungle or enjoying the panoramic vistas from a cable car.

    16. Mui Ne Sand Dunes

    Man strolling by Mui Ne sand dunes in Vietnam
    Strolling through the red desert, one step at a time.
    Photo: @joemiddlehurst

    Mui Ne is a resort town in Southeast Vietnam famous for its beaches and sand dunes.

    Other than a beach fringed by palm trees and unique rock formations, the Red Sand Dunes are a huge attraction for off-road driving and quad biking.

    17. Ho Chi Minh City

    Buu Long pagoda, Vietnam
    The architectural prowess of Buu Long Pagoda

    The metropolitan center of Ho Chi Minh City is a must-see when visiting Vietnam. Sure, there are many parts of the city that wouldn’t cut this list, but a trip to Ho Chi Minh city is undeniably unique.

    It’s home to some of the country’s most beautiful buildings, parks, and river landscapes. Oh, and make sure to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels to learn about the Vietnam War.

    18. Silver Waterfall, Lao Cai

    Silver Waterfall Lao Cai
    Jungle and Waterfall in Lao Cai

    When it comes to waterfalls, there really are few that compare to the beauty of Silver Waterfall in Lao Cai. Also referred to as Thac Bac, the waterfall plummets from a height of over 200 meters through the dense and lush jungles of Sa Pa.

    19. Nha Trang

    A landscape view of Nha Trang

    As far as coastal cities go, Nha Trang is one of the most unique places in Vietnam.

    Best known for its golden sand beaches and crystal clear water, the city is also home to the Ponagar Temple and Long Son Pagoda. There are also a bunch of hot springs, golf courses, and amusement parks to explore here.

    20. Cao Dai Temple, Long Hoa

    Cao Dai Temple
    Vietnamese temples are a fusion of Chinese, Khmer, and other Southeast Asian architectural traditions.

    Not far from Ho Chi Minh City, the Cao Dai Temple is a sacred temple complex built to honor the Cao Dai faith.

    Although recently built, the exquisite temple really shows off the craftsmanship of the Vietnamese, with delicate carvings and intricately painted columns of dragons, flowers, and geometric patterns. 

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    21. Ba Be National Park

    vietnam Ba Be National Park
    Shades of green, with a pop of blue.

    With postcard-perfect views and many endangered animals, including the Asian black bear and short-tailed pangolin, Ba Be National Park is a beautiful place to visit in Vietnam

    It’s made up of lush forests, towering karsts, and serene lakes. It’s also home to the iconic Ban Gioc Waterfalls, the fourth-largest frontier waterfall on the planet.

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    How to See Beautiful Places in Vietnam

    Getting around Vietnam is pretty easy and safe. The country has plenty of airports, trains, buses, and even boats, as well as a safe national highway network. 

    Man reclining on a bike in a Vietnam street.
    Trust him in everything but a motorbike ride!
    Photo: @joemiddlehurst

    To get from one part of the country to another, flying will be the most convenient option. A cheap flight might cost $30 one-way for the two-hour flight. Travelling by train in Vietnam will be cheaper (around $20), but take longer (35 hours or so). This one is for the rail-die-hards or excessive budgeters.

    Once in a major city, you’ll be able to use public buses to get around and can also call a Grab (Vietnam’s equivalent of Uber) when in Ho Chi Minh city, Da Nang, and Hanoi. A Grab might charge around $3 for a ten-minute drive through these cities.

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    Final Thoughts on Beautiful Places in Vietnam

    Natural beauty, buzzing cities, more culture and history than you could possibly absorb, and a food scene known as one of the world’s favorite cuisines – what’s not to love about Vietnam? It’s true that the country is famous for its natural beauty. But Vietnam truly shows off when it comes to culture, heritage, and religion.

    In a colorful display of vivid cultural dress, shimmering pagodas and temples, and impressive imperial cities, there is a lot to see and even more to learn in Vietnam. 

    For a dose of nature, Ha Long Bay is one of those spots that exceeds expectations. That said, a trip to Hoi An will open you up to a wealth of vibrant culture and history. For me, both of these places were equally (and uniquely) impressive.

    Use these beautiful places in Vietnam to inspire your itinerary planning, and you’re bound for a good time.

    A person sitting on a motorbike looking out over the jungle covered mountains of Vietnam.
    Enjoy Vietnam folks
    Image: Nic Hilditch-Short
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