best places to visit in Vietnam

Best Places To Visit In Vietnam?

Despite being two nomadic Vietnamese, (you will be surprised that) we have been struggling to answer a simple question: “Which are the best places to visit in Vietnam?”, especially when we have to make personal recommendations to our foreign friends … Hmmm, what will they be?

Who would say no to a beach holiday

No answer may satisfy all of the different personalities, but let us try to put up a list of our top favorite places to visit in Vietnam from our local perspectives.

For us, it is important to keep a nice balance between visiting the hustle and bustle of big cities (Ha Noi, Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City) and adventuring on the daring off-beaten paths (Pleiku, Chau Doc, Phan Rang – Thap Cham, etc.)

That will help you see both sides of our nature, people, and food … yes, food! And you don’t leave Vietnam with an incomplete impression that Vietnam is so overwhelming with countless homo sapiens on their two-wheeled vehicles. 

vietnam traffic jam
There are more than 45 million registered motorbikes in Vietnam in 2017

Our 5 Best Places To Visit In Vietnam

We are pretty sure that you have been Googling about the best places to go in Vietnam this whole week, and you probably know most of the must-visit places. Here, we won't repeat those popular destinations, but we will include them in our suggested itineraries in this post. 

Oh, wait! What are those popular best places to visit in Vietnam? 

  • Ha Noi: The capital of Vietnam, rich in culture and food
  • Ha Long Bay: World Heritage and a must-go spot
  • Ho Chi Minh City: The most bustling city and the gateway to the Mekong Delta
  • Fansipan Mountain (Sapa): Magnificent sights
  • Mui Ne (Phan Thiet): Sand dunes, wind and waves
  • Nha Trang: Vietnam’s most popular beach destination
  • Phong Nha – Ke Bang: If you have heard about the Son Doong Cave and the blockbuster ‘Kong: Skull Island', you will know.
  • Hue: The ancient kingdom of Vietnam
  • Phu Quoc: The pearl island with pristine coastline
  • Da Lat: The dreamy highland with rapid urbanization (which we don't like)

Those are the already-known most visited destinations in Vietnam, and today you will learn some new best places to visit in Vietnam from the Two Nomads One World. Ready to jump in?

Pleiku has plenty of rolling tea plantations

1. Pleiku 

Similar to Vinh Long in the South and the nearby Pakse in Laos, Pleiku is normally considered as a shortstop to go somewhere else by most travelers. Due to limited promotional efforts, Pleiku is way underrated in the eyes of foreign travelers. In the first 3 months of 2019, only 3,700 foreigners visited Pleiku, which made this least densely populated province a more hidden gem for any adventurous souls. 

Sandwiched between Dak Lak and Kon Tum, Pleiku is bordered by a mystical T’nung Crater Lake (Bien Ho) with a vast plain of rice fields and verdant tea hills on the route to the sacred Chu Dang Yah volcano. 

It is best to rent a motorbike to stroll around, because the wind, the sky, the green field, and perhaps the smell of cow dung make up all of the unique experience that you may stumble upon this absolute nowhere. 

Top 3 places to visit:

  • T'nung Lake
  • Buu Minh Pagoda. This pagoda is such a stone thrown from T'nung Lake. You will soon discover the brilliant tea hills and coffee farms on the way.
  • Pleiku Market
Tnung lake

We also want to highlight that you should consider to visit Pleiku between the end of October to the end of March, because Pleiku is famous for wild sunflowers and coffee flowers. The wild sunflowers bloom around November, while coffee plants flower mostly in February. And they are amazingly beautiful! 

Top 3 foods to try: 

  • Dried Noodles (Pho Kho): You might have known that Pho (the inarguably most famous Vietnamese dish) is usually a bowl of soup with noodles, meat and herbs inside. Pho Kho (also called as Two-Bowled Pho) has two separate bowls of noodles and soup. The cooked dried noodles are often seasoned with soy sauce and vinegar.

    • Pho Kho Ngoc Son: 15 Nguyen Thai Hoc
    • Pho Kho Hong: 24 Nguyen Van Troi
  • Roasted Chicken With Rice (Com Ga Rô-Ti) at My Tam Restaurant: It is interesting to know that this restaurant has been receiving a lot of negative comments from the locals about selling roasted chicken, but not the rô-ti ones?! Therefore, we want to help make a little defence for this long-standing restaurant. “Gà Rô-Ti” or Rô-Ti Chicken in Vietnam is hugely different from any Rotisserie Chicken you've ever tasted before. Vietnamese people use coconut milk and fish sauce to season the chicken meat before sautéing it. We believe that the first restaurant owner might have used the word “Rô-Ti” from Poulet Rôti (French Roast Chicken), but not Rotisserie or the Vietnamese-styled Rô-Ti. Next time when a Vietnamese friend asks you to cook a Rôti Chicken dish, ask him whether he wants coconut milk. If yes, sauté it; otherwise, roast it. You will be fine, chef.
    • My Tam: 3 Quang Trung Street
  • Bamboo-Tube Rice (Com Lam) with Grilled Chicken: We have seen the somewhat similar Com Lam in our neighbor countries (Cambodia, Laos). To make Com Lam, you pour the sticky rice and a little bit of salt in a young bamboo tube, and cook it. The best way to enjoy Com Lam is together with grilled forest chicken and lightly roasted peanuts.

      • Bazan Restaurant: 480 Le Duan Street
You dont visit Pleiku without trying its famous coffee

Top 3 things to experience:

  • Ride a scooter from the city center to Chu Dang Yah Volcano. The paddy fields are breath-taking, and you may stop to say ‘Hi’ to friendly ethnic farmers.
  • Try sweet soup at Che Ba Dung. Cheap and tasty, yet you should be careful of the level of sugar intakes.
  • Sip morning coffee at Thu Ha Coffee. With a long history standing, this place does not only offer irresistible iced Robusta-blended milk coffee (ca phe sua da) but also establish a nice ambience of a high-landed coffee culture. 
We got this whole private beach to ourselves on Green Island

2. Quy Nhon 

Quy Nhon is another underrated beach destination on our list, and it takes only 4 hours to travel from Pleiku by bus. This lesser known beach city is wonderful for many reasons: beautiful coastlines, snorkeling spots, sand dunes, street food vendors, delicious local cuisines, caring people and local fishing ports (yes, we love fishing ports!)

What is the first thing to do here? To dive in the food paradise!

You can easily jump in any street food vendors along the Xuan Dieu Street and Huyen Tran Cong Chua Street, which offer various seafood delicacies, including sea urchins, shellfishes, flower crabs, and tiger prawns.

This cost us $4 can you believe

A stone's throw from there, Quy Nhon’s Food Street (open from 2pm till late), located at the Ngo Van So Street, should be your next stop to get indulged in other authentic dishes, like grilled ‘nem’ (mixed pork meatball) and jellyfish noodles. 

There is also a lively Night Market nearby (86 Le Duan Street, Ly Thuong Kiet, Quy Nhon) to visit, should you need a long leisure walk to help your stomach digest all the food. This market opens from 6pm to 10pm, and offers different local products and beyond. Besides, the Surf Bar near the front beach is also a recommended place to chill out. 

Local people head to the beach for a morning swim

The most common way to explore Quy Nhon is to book a combined tour through a local travel agency to visit Ky Co Beach, Eo Gio Cliff, Hon Kho Snorkeling Spot, and Phuong Mai Sand Dune in a day. The tour is very affordable (about $20/person) and includes a 9-seafood dish lunch, as well as all entrance tickets. However, if you want to book a tour that picks you up from the city, you will have to pay extra for the transportation. In our case, we rented a bike and took a wonderful 20-kilometer trip through Thi Nai’s sea crossing bridge to Nhon Ly, where the tour starts at around 8am. 

Eo Gio is the most Instagrammable spot in Quy Nhon

For a more daring adventure, you may visit Cu Lao Xanh (Green Island), 17 km from Quy Nhon. There are two ways to go: speed boat and slow fishing boat. The former will take about 20 minutes, while the latter 2 hours. We chose to leave with the slow boat, because we wanted to enjoy the sea views in the morning (while we were still full of energy) and took the speed boat back in the evening. The one-way ticket for fishing boat will set you back $1.5/person. 

Snorkelling at Ky Co Beach

If you want to try the wooden boat like us, make sure that you will be at the Quy Nhon Fishing Port before 8am or 1pm. There are only 2 scheduling times to the isolated Green Island. If you miss it, you can always take the speed boat. The one-way ticket is also affordable ($9/person), and cheaper if you book the return ticket ($15).

What do we have in Green Island? We will let the photos do the talking. 

Top 3 places to visit:

  • Ky Co Beach: Snorkeling, water sports, and beautiful beach are the highlights of this place.
  • Eo Gio Cliff: It is fortunate that you are able to visit both Ky Co Beach and Eo Gio Cliff in one go.
Stunning view to the entire Cu Lao Xanh from the top of the lighthouse
  • Green Island: We love this place a lot. Most of the time, we were the only survivors on the island with all those private beaches and sea stones. You can also catch a superb view to the ocean from the top of the lighthouse, but be careful! Before entering the lighthouse, you are advised to call the lighthouse keepers so that they can chain the dogs for your visit. Also, there are only a few small family-run food businesses, which only cater to the tour-booking visitors. Therefore, since you can barely communicate effectively in Vietnamese, it is so important that you bring food along, or immediately try booking your lunch with one place when getting off the boat. One more thing: you can rent a scooter here. Despite how broken and ancient it may look, that scooter is perhaps your only choice. The last thing: If you are crazy enough to ride the scooter up to the lighthouse, remember to use the first gear (Gear 1) when you go downhill and may God be with you.

Top 3 foods to try:

  • Bun ca (Fish noodles): In the past, Phuong Teo and Ngoc Lien (located nearby on the same Nguyen Hue Street) used to be equally popular, but it seems that more hungry eaters choose Ngoc Lien nowadays. At Ngoc Lien, you may try different dishes from jellyfish to fishball or fish fillet noodles. The unique thing about the fish noodles in Quy Nhon is that the local people put shredded green mango slices on top. You may not find the same practice elsewhere.

    Bun ca Thuy
  • Banh xeo tom nhay (“Jumping” shrimp pancake): Actually, you should not expect to see the shrimps to jump while being cooked. “Jumping” is simply a local term to indicate the freshness of the shrimps, which are the main ingredient of this very local dish.
  • Nem nuong: You may wrap those golden brown meatballs with rice paper, sliced starfruit and cucumber to make fresh summer rolls, or simply dip the ‘nem' in soy sauce to elevate the taste.
Doesnt seem too scary huh

Top 3 things to experience:

  • Ride a bike to the lighthouse at Green Island
  • Morning swim at the beach with local people: Quy Nhon people are so friendly and connected in a way that we are unable to describe in words. It is surprising that a lot of local people visit the beach in the early morning to exercise. If you don't mind getting up early and strike up some new friends, join them.
  • Run through Thi Nai Bridge. There is an annual marathon event in Quy Nhon, started from Year 2019, that you may not want to miss when visiting this beach city.
  • Night squid fishing: Ending your day on a fishing boat to catch some naughty squids sounds like a dream to many of us, the experience seekers.
Vinh Hy Bay from afar

3. Phan Rang – Thap Cham 

Sandwiched between two most visited beach destinations in Vietnam (Nha Trang and Mui Ne), Phan Rang – Thap Cham (PRTC) is often neglected by most visitors but we will try to convince you otherwise. 

In fact, you will be immersed in so many possible activities around this area. Located at just 6 kilometers away from PRTC to the North, Ninh Chu is one of the top 9 beaches in Vietnam with 10 km curving coastline.

Should you fancy a more thrilling experience, we would recommend the Vinh Hy bay located in Vinh Hai village (42km from PRTC). Surrounded by white sand beaches, rocky mountains and mysterious caves, you can throw yourself in different activities such as snorkeling to see coral reefs, embarking on a glass-bottom boat, fishing and climbing.

Vinh Hy is a natural harbor on the coast road where local fishing boats ply their trade. On the way here from PRTC, you will ride past many salt fields with layers of mountains set in the background. This is a perfect place to take a selfie, especially in when the rising sun and the morning fog makes the scenery look enchanted.

Going further on the Nui Chua Coast Road (DT702), you may occasionally greet different flocks of hungry goats and sheeps, which have no sense of traffic rules. When you see them, you have possibly reached the vineyard area where you may pay a visit and enjoy those local delicacies (made from grapes, of course)!

Moving forward, you are close to discover one of the top-notched wedding photography destinations in Vietnam: Hang Rai (the Otter Cave). With the Mars-like surface, Hang Rai is located within the Nui Chua National Park and attracts eyeballs for many reasons. The early tides at dawn creates an awe-inspiring scenes, while the romantic last lights of sunset will imprint in your mind forever.

Hang Rai is one of the most popular venues for pre wedding photoshoot

Going up and down hill, Vinh Hy Bay opens up with beautiful sea view. The seafood at the beginning of the day is as fresh as it comes, a further delight of spending time here. This is clearly one of the best places to visit in Vietnam!

PRTC does not stop there. You can also find sand dunes, waterfalls, forest (you need to book tours with the team at Nui Chua National Park) and ethnic minority.

Top 3 places to visit:

  • Hang Rai (the Otter Cave)
  • Vinh Hy Bay
  • Po Klong Garai Temple

Top 3 foods to try:

  • Mini pancakes with meatball sauce
  • Soft thin vermicelli noodles with boiled pig organs
  • Goat hotpot (beside the hotpot, you may order different goat meat dishes here)
Scenic view on Vinh Hy Binh Tien Pass

Top 3 things to experience:

  • Hop on a motorbike and ride to Vinh Hy Bay (from PRTC): Renting a motorbike is easy and cheap ($5-7/day) and the road condition is quite good. You should get up early for different good reasons: witness the sunrise at Hang Rai, avoid the exceedingly hot sunlight, and have more exploring time.
  • Adventure further: A stone's throw from Vinh Hy Bay is Binh Tien Beach. Apart from having another beautiful beach, the road towards Binh Hung Island offers surprisingly breath-taking views.
  • Kitesurfing at Phi Kite School

Check out our super detailed guide to Phan Rang – Thap Cham here!

 4. Hoi An 

Having the convenience of an international airport in Da Nang, most visitors will choose to come to Da Nang firstly, before advancing to Hoi An (only 29 km away). 

Although this ancient town has a lot to offer from fascinating history to charming sightseeing, we decide to put it at the bottom of our list. Why? Read on.

Hoi An, the UNESCO World Heritage, has recently received numerous international praises and claimed itself as one of the top places to visit in Vietnam. Today, it attracts a huge influx of visitors that you can no longer appreciate those beautiful yellow ancient houses or even worse, move around comfortably.

A few years ago when Hoi An was not so bustling and Thu Bon River was not full of curious lantern droppers, it is such a blessing to stroll along the breezy river bank while the sun is setting on your head. But we have a tip for you! Read on. 

hoi an thu bon river

Since Hoi An is small enough to travel around on foot, we recommend you to rent a bicycle (or you can get one for free at some local guesthouses and hotels). To avoid the hectic tourism schedule, we urge you to visit the ancient town in the early morning, when things are still calm and delightful. 

best places to visit in Vietnam
Avoid the rush hour and indulge yourself in the flow of time Hoi An is still among the best places to visit in Vietnam

After a ramble, you must have been hungry and it is a perfect time to pay a visit to the nearby Banh Mi Phuong while the queue is still short. Banh mi (you may think of it as crunchy Vietnamese sandwich) is an important part of Vietnamese life, because it is cheap, fast, and easy to make. Above all, banh mi is tasty with different herbs and chili bursting inside your mouth, in a good way though.

Then, you can cycle your way up to Tra Que Vegetable Village to appreciate our typical countryside. You may also enrol in some cooking courses here to join the locals to pick herbs and prepare Vietnamese food on your own. 

Despite the well-known cramps at night, it is worthwhile to revisit the lantern-lit town and feel the evening breeze before the sun sets. Apart from wandering around, you should join an English-speaking tour to understand about the fascinating history of Hoi An, throw yourself in ‘bai choi' (a folk art game – learn how to play), eat ‘cao lau', sip beers in front of the Thu Bon River, and call it a day.  

Top 3 places to visit: 

  • Ancient Town
  • An Bang Beach
  • Tra Que Vegetable Village

Top 3 foods to try: 

  • Banh Mi Phuong
  • Com Ga Ba Buoi
  • Cao Lau

Top 3 activities to experience:

  • Play Bai Choi
  • Cycling to explore the surrounding villages
  • Ride the cute buffalo and take selfies

Oops, we nearly forget to warn you that Hoi An does flood towards the end of the year. You should check the weather forecast before booking a trip here. 

Da Nang

We believe that most Vietnamese people love Da Nang for different reasons. This energetic city is located at the heart of the middle part of the country with many beautiful natural landscapes. The people of Da Nang are open, kind-hearted, resourceful with a lovely accent. 

However, Da Nang is getting a lot of attention resulted from recent promotional successes of Hoi An and Ba Na (the Golden Bridge), and attracting a never-ending stream of tourists (mostly from Korea and China). Though this is a good thing for the city’s growth, we personally feel that it is not a good time to visit Da Nang and Hoi An right now as a backpacker. 

(Picture to show the crowd on the Golden Bridge)

Top 3 places to visit:

  • Ba Na Hills
  • My Khe Beach
  • Con Market

Top 3 foods to try:

  • Thit heo 2 dau da
  • Cha bo
  • Mi Quang

Top 3 activities to experience: 

  • Stand-up paddle at Man Thai Beach
  • Discover Nam O Beach
  • Witness the Dragon Bridge spitting water and breathing fire 

These are our personal 5 favorite best places to visit in Vietnam, but do not let this off-the-beaten-track list stop you from visiting other incredible spots such as Can Tho or Fansipan Mountain. You may find more interesting reads about Vietnam here: 

  • Your tailor-made travel itineraries to Vietnam

We hope this list of the best places to go in Vietnam has inspired you to travel to our country in the near future.

Hẹn Gặp Lại! (which means ‘See you again' in Vietnamese – now you’ve learned a phrase)

Originally posted 2019-05-20 14:51:35.

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