An Adventure Traveller's Guide to Vietnam

Boating through caves in Vietnam | © Pitikorn Ingmaneekan/Shutterstock
Boating through caves in Vietnam | © Pitikorn Ingmaneekan/Shutterstock

From stunning karsts to sandy dunes, wherever you are in Vietnam, you can count on there being a beautiful horizon just around the corner and countless opportunities to sate your curiosity. Thrill-seekers visiting the area will have a variety of activities to choose from to get their adrenaline pumping. If you have a keen sense of adventure, here are some of the top things to do in Vietnam.

Hit the road

There are few experiences more liberating than exploring vast expanses of land on two wheels – and a country as vibrant as Vietnam makes for quite the road trip. A popular option for tourists is to ride a motorcycle from north to south or vice versa. Travelling by motorbike is one of the best ways to see the beautiful vistas that this enchanting land has to offer, and allows you to experience a sense of freedom like no other.

Unsure of whether or not you’re up to such a long journey? Perhaps a shorter motorcycle venture is more appealing, such as the Hai Van Pass. A 21km route etched into the mountains, it connects Hue to Da Nang, providing gorgeous views of the sea and rolling hills that stretch on for miles.

Motorcycle traveller on the hills near Hoi An, Vietnam | © Ser Borakovskyy/Shutterstock

Trek the terrain

Vietnam offers some of the best hikes in Southeast Asia, and walking through the country is a great way to experience every hidden facet it has to offer. A popular destination for trekking is Sapa. From here, it’s possible to go on simpler journeys, like the trek to Cat Cat village or – if you’re really up for the challenge – the climb up Mount Fansipan, a mountain that’s over 3,000ft tall.

On your trek, you’re sure to encounter many hill peoples, such as the Hmong and Dao, who will be more than happy to act as guides or sell you their handicrafts. If you’re eager to gain more in-depth knowledge about their way of life, daily practices and traditional culture, why not opt to conduct a homestay program with them?

Sapa’s rolling hills | Petr & Bara Ruzicka/Flickr

Seek out the subterranean

Few things are more adventurous than caving – and thrill seekers visiting Vietnam will be happy to know that it just so happens to be home to the world’s largest cave. First discovered in 1990 by a local farmer, Vietnam’s Hang Son Doong remained lost for a further 18 years due to the man losing his bearings on the way home. It wasn’t until 2013 that the 5km-long cavern was opened to the public. It is so large that it has its own river, jungle and even climate, all hidden beneath the surface.

With several overnight tour options available, including both climbing and trekking opportunities, it’s not for the faint-hearted – though it’s worth noting every tour will see you safe in the hands of qualified guides who have extensive knowledge of the terrain and will help you every step of the way. Once inside, you’ll be able to marvel at the ancient fossils, enchanting stalactites and, of course, all the weird and wonderful insects that you might expect to find below the Earth’s surface.

Hang Son Doong | © Nguyen Tan Tin/Flickr

Surf the sand… or the sea

While it might not have the paradise-like beaches that its neighbour Thailand is famous for, Vietnam still has plenty to do by the coast – and surfing is a popular pastime here. What’s more, if you’re looking for something a little different, in the coastal town of Mui Ne you’ll find a number of sand dunes on which it’s possible to go sand boarding. If board sports aren’t for you, why not rent a quad bike here and explore the vast expanse of dunes?

The white sand dunes of Mui Ne, Vietnam | © Det-anan/Shutterstock

Wonders of the water

Most tourists dream of exploring Halong Bay on a junk boat, but nothing quite beats kayaking your way around. The bay offers some of the best views in the world, and provides an unforgettable experience for those who choose to paddle around the karsts, watching the fish swimming idly below. Canoeing also allows you stop off and explore the various islands dotted around the area.

Located in Vietnam’s central highlands, Da Lat is home to some of nature’s finest waterfalls, which you can even abseil down if you’re brave enough. There’s also canyoning and mountain climbing opportunities – no wonder it was known as the playground of the French during colonial times.

The Da Lat region of Vietnam | © xuanhuongho/Shutterstock

To discover Vietnam on your own off-the-beaten-track holiday check out Intrepid’s range of Vietnam trips here.

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