Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and a thousand year old city that fascinates with its blend of East and West, French colonial past and Chinese influence. Because of the city's many well preserved cultural landmarks, it is considered as the main cultural center of Vietnam.
Some of the best known or most interesting landmarks and attractions include:
- the History Museum - includes artifacts from Vietnam's prehistory and history - starting from 1st and 2nd millennia BC as well as the history of the Communist Party,
- Temple of Literature - founded in 1070 and become country's first university a few years later; considered a fine example of Vietnam's architecture,
- Ngoc Son Temple - located on the lake, is reached via wooden Huc Bridge,
- the Old Quarter - the best place to experience shopping in Hanoi; it's home to various merchants and artisans, specializing mainly in silk shops, restaurants serving Vietnamese delicacies as well as souvenir shops; a night market which is open from the evenings of Friday up to Sunday,
- West Lake - situated in the west of Hanoi, is the largest lake in Hanoi; the oldest pagoda in Vietnam, Tran Quoc Pagoda, built in 541 AD, is located on the island of the West Lake,
- Quan Thanh Temple - built in Ly Thai To Dynasty (1010 - 1028), dedicated to Tran Vu Saint,
- Hoan Kiem Lake - a park in the center of town; a favorite leisure spot, considered the most beautiful lake in the city,
- Vietnam Museum of Ethnology - dedicated to scientific research and the enhancement of the cultural and historical heritage of the 54 ethnic groups of Vietnam; a special attraction within the museum is an open-air exhibition, which has houses of some ethnic groups, including their inhabitants in costumes,
Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum
Located in Hanoi, the mausoleum was constructed between 1973 and 1975 and houses the embalmed body of Vietnam's national hero, Ho Chi Minh, who led the country's resistance forces and declared independence in 1954. The place is open only in the mornings, between 8am and 11am and closed on Mondays and Fridays. The entrance is free but expect very long lineups. The mausoleum is closed for about two months at the end of each year when the body is taken for a maintenance.
The imperial city of Hué
The city of Hue, situated in the central region of Vietnam, is one of the best places in Vietnam to learn the history of the country. It was the imperial capital city until 1945 when Ho Chi Minh's government took over. The city is home to numerous temples, tombs, pagodas and palaces. Recommend places to visit are the Royal Mausoleums with tombs of several Vietnam's emperors (Minh Mang, Khai Dinh, Tu Duc, Gia Long, Dong Khanh and Thieu Tri) and the walled Imperial Citadel - Hue's prime attraction - a complex of temples, pavilions, moats, walls, gates, shops, museums and galleries.
The main landmark in Hue is the Perfume River, with the old city and the Citadel on the north side and the newer city, including most hotels and restaurants as well as the Royal Mausoleums, on the south side.
Mekong Delta and River Markets
For visitors to the south of Vietnam, exploring Mekong Delta is a total must.
The delta, a network of rivers, streams and canals, is the place that produces most of country's rice corp. Tourists can explore local tropical fruit orchards, bonsai gardens, flower markets, fish farms, bird sanctuaries, impressive Khmer pagodas, and the famous river markets that are delta's prime attractions and an essential part of life in the south.
Cuc Phuong National Park
This national park, located approximately 120 km (75 mi) southwest of Hanoi, is
Vietnam’s largest national park, covering an area of 22,200 ha / 54,857 acres. The park remains one of the last tropical primeval forest reserves on Earth and it's home to hundreds of species of fauna and flora, many of which extinct everywhere else in the world.
Lodging (from $5 to $25 per night) is available for those who want to stay more than a day, for example when taking a two day trek across the park. Park tour guides are available for a reasonable fee. The best time of the year to visit the park is during the dry season, from November to February.
Dalat is a town located in the South Central Highlands of Vietnam, a former French colonial hill station. The town attracts many tourists with a beautiful alpine scenery, blue skies, fresh air, flower-filled parks. The park-like, green scenery plus the French style architecture of many houses and hotels makes Dalat a very unique place when compared to the rest of Vietnam. Dalat is famous for its coffee shops, and is extremely popular with domestic tourists and honeymooners.
Dalat is also a good base for trips into the surrounding tranquil highlands and
the place to go if you want to visit interesting tribal villages that are located nearby. Some of the villages, like Lat Village and the Chicken Village (with a huge statue of a chicken) are pretty close to Dalat itself.
Halong Bay is one of Vietnam's most beautiful areas, world famous for its fascinating limestone formations, sheer cliffs, caves, grottoes, arches and scores of small islets.
Popular activities in the area include kayaking - perfect for exploring the fauna and flora of this beautiful place of 3,000 islands and islets.
Vietnam is a favorite shopping destination famous mostly for silk, lacquerware, trinkets or clothes. Excellent tailors, available almost everywhere, can make you a suit withing a few days!
Beaches and Resorts
Vietnam has excellent beaches to offer.
The best beaches are mostly in the southern half of the country. Some of the best known include:
China Beach - near the Non Nuoc resort,
Vung Tau - southeast of Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, or, Hon Chong - near the border of Cambodia. Many places offer excellent snorkeling or scuba diving opportunities.