Vietnam immediately captivates visitors with its rich heritage and striking natural beauty. Bordered by mountains to the east and the South China Sea to the west, with the Red River and Mekong deltas at the country’s north and south ends, the country’s diverse landscape encompasses white-sand beaches, rice paddies, and lush jungles. Here are some of the best towns and cities in Vietnam, bookable through Culture Trip.
At an altitude of 1.5km (about a mile) above sea level, Đà Lạt offers year-round cool weather and serene mountain scenery. This quaint city was once a favourite retreat of Vietnamese emperors and French colonials eager to escape the country’s summer heat. The European influences are still noticeable in the French colonial architecture found in the city’s central area, where the streets are lined with red-roofed stone buildings. With lovely churches, markets, winding streets and colourful gardens, the city is a wonderful place for strolling. The surrounding area offers lakes, forests and waterfalls – perfect for trekking, biking and rock-climbing.
The largest city in the Mekong Delta, Cần Thơ sits at the meeting point of several different waterways. It’s an ideal base for visiting the nearby floating markets, with canals and rivers filled with an astonishing variety of boats and ships. Cần Thơ’s lovely riverfront is lined with sculpture gardens and some of the region’s best restaurants. The backstreets give rise to a few unique temples and a buzzing night market, plus a short trip outside of the city will bring you to beautiful countryside landscapes covered with rice fields.
Set at a meeting point of a tributary linking the Bassac and Mekong rivers, Châu Đốc is the closest city to the Vietnamese-Cambodian border crossing. Locals are known for being especially friendly, with the city’s pastel-coloured shop fronts adding to its already-cheerful ambiance. With large Khmer, Cham and Chinese communities, the city is also interesting from a cultural perspective. Check out the vibrant main market and then wander along the pretty waterfront promenade nearby. Take the ferry across the river to visit Chau Doc’s largest mosque.
A popular day-trip from Sapa, Bắc Hà also serves as a more low-key base for exploring the country’s northern highlands and hill tribe villages. Set at 1.2km (nearly a mile) above sea level, the town is fringed by cone-shaped mountains. This quiet town comes to life on Sundays when ethnic-minority villagers such as the Dao, Flower Hmong, Tay, Nung and Giay people come to the town for its bustling market. Everything from textiles and handbags to livestock is traded. On many market days, Flower Hmong singers perform captivating songs to entertain market-goers.
Another Unesco World Heritage Site, Huế was Vietnam’s Imperial City and later the capital of the country’s Nguyen emperors. Although the town was devastated by wars with the French and the Americans in the 19th and 20th centuries, it’s still filled with enthralling tombs, temples, and palaces. The Perfume River (Sông Hương) winds through the city, with the Forbidden City looming over its north bank. Dating back to the early 19th century, this citadel stretches for three miles along the town’s waterfront. The Perfume River itself is delightfully atmospheric, dotted with houseboats, long-tail vessels and dragon boats.