These Vietnamese gems are relatively unknown outside the country. Get there now, before the hordes arrive
Situated deep in the highlands of northern Vietnam, not too far from the border with China, Ba Bể National Park is full of misty lakes, dark caverns and remote villages. The park is best explored either on foot or by boat: there are some superb hiking trails that wind through the jungle, and a trip down the river to the magnificent Phong Nha Cave – a huge tunnel passing right through the mountain, with fascinating rock formations – is highly recommended. If time permits, stop off at Dau Dang Waterfall and make the most of the spectacular views.
Little Tien Sa waterfall (Shutterstock.com)
Cát Tiên National Park (also known as Nam Cát Tiên) is located 100 miles northeast of Ho Chi Minh City, in southern Vietnam. It is one of the last remaining refuges for wild populations of elephant, leopard and tiger, and is home to a wide variety of colourful birds.
An hour’s flight from Ho Chi Minh City, Côn Đảo Island offers hidden coves, tropical jungle and charming colonial towns. Despite its sparkling white sand and brilliant blue waters fringed with rich green jungle, Côn Đảo’s beaches are mercifully quiet, clean, and idyllic.
Avoid the “official” Dam Trau Beach – it can be busy with visitors – and, instead search out your own secret idyll and enjoy the spectacular driving routes along Côn Đảo’s coastal roads.
Mai Châu is a rural district located in the Hòa Bình Province, northwest Vietnam, about 65km from the regional capital and about 160km from Hanoi. Home to the Black Thai and White Thai tribes (whose ancestors settled here from Thailand), Mai Châu is known for its beautiful scenery – think emerald-green terraced rice fields, bright cobalt-blue lakes and mist-clad mountains – making it a top location for hiking or cycling.
With its towering peaks, terraced hillsides and stilted villages, Hà Giang Province, situated in North Vietnam by the Chinese border, is the newest addition to the Vietnamese travel scene. Hà Giang has seen little development, and the tribes are welcoming and invite you into their homes, providing first-hand insight into their way of life. Get there now!