Vietnam is a place of magic and wonder! Let’s explore it together …
Below are my Top Ten Things to See and Do in Beautiful Vietnam!
Hanoi and surroundings:
- Exploring the Old Quarter of Hanoi – The best-known districts in Hanoi are Ba Dinh (the French Quarter) and Hoan Kiem (the Old Quarter). Both are fascinating but my favorite is the Old Quarter. The streets will be swarming with pedestrians, scooters, bicycles and cars so navigating the chaos can be tricky but well worth it! This area is packed with spectacular colonial architecture, Buddhist temples and pagodas. It is Hanoi’s largest commercial district so the streets are lined with vendors, cafes, bars, restaurants, bakeries and boutiques galore! If you can’t find something you’re looking for in the Old Quarter, you aren’t in the Old Quarter! Although it can be crowded, it is a spectacular adventure and there will be something fun for everyone!
- Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum – This famous mausoleum in Ba Dinh Square is the most visited attraction in Hanoi. Ho Chi Minh is arguably the most iconic and revered political figure in Vietnam, and is known to his people as ‘Uncle Ho’. His body is preserved in the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in a glass case (albeit against his wishes). Started in 1973, the construction of the mausoleum was modeled on Lenin’s mausoleum in Russia. Entrance is free of charge, and visitors are required to dress appropriately out of respect for Vietnam’s departed leader. A visit to the mausoleum is a strange but fascinating peek into Vietnam’s colorful history.
- Kayaking in Halong Bay – Ha Long Bay, in northern Vietnam, is one of the most spectacular sights you will ever see. Dotted with 1,600 limestone islands and islets, the bay covers an area of over 1,500sqkm. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, this surrealistic place is like something right out of a movie. The drive to Halong Bay takes approximately fours from Hanoi, but once there you will be able to explore the limestone caves and karst formations via kayak, see wildlife and take in the magnificence of this famous bay. It is an unforgettable experience for all ages!
- Hiking in Sapa – Hiking in Sapa is one of the most memorable adventures a family can have in Vietnam. You can take an overnight sleeper train from Hanoi to Lao Cai or go by private car in about 5 hours. The area is home to many ethnic minorities including the H’Mong, Dao and Dai. Sapa town was fist developed by the French as a hill station to escape the heat of Hanoi during the hot summer months but the surrounding mountains and the hiking possibilities are the draw to this area. While hiking you will pass tiny wooden houses where piglets, baby chicks and puppies play in the dirt. Village children run out to greet you in droves shouting “Hello” or asking for a high five! But the vistas filled with rice terraces, piercing mountains, orchards, flowers and fields will take your breath away. All the hikes in this area can be tailored to meet the needs of any family, so make this a priority on your trip to Vietnam!
- Hoi An Ancient Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999, offers families a spectacular mix of ornate Chinese temples, a Japanese-designed bridge, wooden shop-houses, French-colonial houses, and old canals. Many of the old shops have been converted into modern businesses but their charm remains. You will find countless tailors, souvenir shops, art galleries, restaurants, and cafés. The wonderfully quaint town of Hoi An is definitely one of our favorites!
- My Son Sanctuary can be visited as a day trip out of Hoi An and it is well worth your time. This Hindu temple complex was also designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 and remains one of the most well-known examples of ancient Champa civilization in all of SE Asia. As a matter of fact, it is believed to be the longest inhabited archaeological site in Indochina. Carpet-bombing by the USA during the Vietnam War destroyed much of the site, but the remaining structures are a testament to this ancient civilization. The complex houses around 70 structures devoted to Hindu gods and goddesses and the most noticeable one, Shiva, was considered the protector of the Champa’s kings. If you enjoy exploring ruins, this is definitely the place to go in Vietnam!
- Imperial City of Hue – The Imperial City of Hue is a set along the northern bank of the Perfume River. Its features include hundreds of monuments dating as far back as 1362. The structures within the Imperial City include the Citadel, the Forbidden Purple City, royal tombs, pagodas, temples, royal quarters, a library and museum – and are commonly referred to as the Complex of Hue Monuments. This site was also designated as one of Vietnams many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The site is host to daily cultural performances that will give families a taste of the dance, dress and makeup of ancient Vietnam. A visit to Hue Imperial City will delight any visitor to this area.
- Cu Chi Tunnels – The Cu Chi Tunnels function now as a huge war museum offering visitors a peak into the underground life of Viet Cong-era soldiers. There are more than 120km of tunnels in all – it is an astounding accomplishment! The tunnels were started around 1948 when the Viet Cong were fighting the French but construction continued throughout the Vietnam War and resulted in a massive collection of tunnels. Today, it is one of Saigon’s most iconic attractions. Families can follow the claustrophobic routes of the underground army and sample a typical meal that the underground soldiers might have prepared for themselves many years ago. It is a fascinating and illuminating experience for all ages, but if you are claustrophobic, it might not be for you!
- War Remnants Museum – The War Remnants Museum was once known as the ‘Museum of American War Crimes’ – which is very telling. The museum first opened to the public in 1975 and is a shocking reminder of the long and brutal war. The museum houses many graphic photographs from the war as well as much American military equipment that was captured by Vietnamese soldiers or that was left behind. A visit to this war museum is a fascinating yet disturbing experience for most people and may not be suitable for children (though they are allowed to enter). I put it on my list because although our love for Vietnam runs deep, a reminder of the war; its devastation and destruction, is a very important part of our adopted children’s histories.
- Mekong Delta Exploration – A day exploring the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam is a must for anyone spending time in Saigon. Leaving the bustling city for My Tho is like a breath of fresh air as you pass through spectacular countryside filled with rolling rice paddy fields and quaint farming villages. Once in My Tho, spend the afternoon exploring the Mekong River in traditional boats. The simple, man-made stilt houses along the banks of the river are a testament to the tenacity of the Vietnamese people in this region. Today is a day to visit local fishing villages, see floating fish farms common to this area, interact with locals of all ages and enjoy the spectacular food of this region. It is an unforgettable day in anyone’s Vietnam adventure!
I hope you enjoyed our favorite things to do and see in Vietnam and are now intrigued enough find your own!
When you are ready to design a Heritage Journey to Vietnam for your family, I’d be thrilled to help you plan it. You can sign up for a 30-minute discovery session by following this link: calendly.com/bambi
I look forward to hearing from you soon!
Bambi Wineland is the mother of two internationally adopted children, a traveler, the