The Wanderlust Guide to the best of Vietnam

Everything you need to know about this most magical – and tasty – destination

5 mins

Vietnam boasts stunning landscapes – the karst outcrops of Halong Bay and the hilltribe-settled mountains around Sapa spring to mind – as well as beaches, charming colonial towns, the fascinating villages of the Mekong Delta and lush national parks.

Windsurf at Mui Ne, chill on tropical Phu Quoc Island, roam the historic streets of Hoi An, delve into the Viet Cong tunnels at Cu Chi and settle in for a water-puppet show in capital Hanoi – and those are just the headline acts.

As infrastructure improves and hitherto-remote areas open up to travellers, more of Vietnam’s treasures come to light – explore the hills around Ninh Binh, visit the Cham temples of Quy Non or meet the tribes of Ba Be National Park – so be prepared to look beyond this page and the Vietnam guidebooks, and discover your own gems.

 Halong Bay (Wanderlust)

Looking for inspiration?

Well, what kind of trip are you looking for?

Nick Boulos sings the praises of the islands of Vietnam – “sprinkled across the bay like roughly cut diamonds … each pure and perfect and wild, with exotic foliage clinging to vertical walls that soared skywards from the water.”

Claire Boobbyer recommends a trip through Dalat and Ban Don to explore the hill tribes of De Ktu. It’s an intriguing mix of elephant catchers and 'weasel' coffee, she says.

Mark Stratton lays out the case for Hoi An. It’s the best city in the world, he says: the most complete ancient centre in Vietnam, great shopping and cuisine, and golden sandy beaches close to hand. What’s not to love?

Halong Bay is justifiably one of Vietnam’s most popular sites. Maybe a little too popular. Luckily Robert Reid has out this handy guide together to ensure you get the most of this UNESCO-protected wonder without the crowds.

Katherine Tanko says that if you really want to get away from it all, head to the hills around Sapa. But maybe avoid the local Love Market. Unless, of course, you fancy the idea of marrying a Dao farmer.

Still can’t decide? Then don't. Nick Ray has created a handy Vietnam Travel Blueprint to help you soak up everything the country has to offer.

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Finding paradise islands in Vietnam – Nick Boulos

A journey through Vietnam’s Central Highlands – Claire Boobbyer

Hoi An: The best city on earth – Mark Stratton

Travel Icon: Halong Bay – Robert Reid

High society in Sapa – Katherine Tanko

Vietnam Travel Blueprint: 4 ways to soak up the sights – Nick Ray

 Vietnam (Wanderlust) 

Vietnam’s secrets revealed

With a destination as popular as Vietnam, it’s always good to get a little ‘insider information’ that allows you to really get under the country’s skin.

Christine Fieltz lists five alternative things to do in Halong Bay while the crowds are queuing on the docks.

Dan Ault gives a step-by-step guide to uncovering the ‘real’ Ho Chi Minh City that will save you a bundle and see you eating well.

And for the best first 24 hours in Hanoi, simply follow David Lloyd Buglar’s extensive guide. He’ll get you settled in, steer you away from the scams, and have you tucking into the best street food the capital has to offer within a couple of hours of stepping off your plane.

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5 alternative things to do at Halong Bay – Christine Fieltz

Top 10 Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City ­– Don Ault

First 24 hours: Hanoi – David Lloyd Buglar

 Vietnamese food (Wanderlust)

Tantalize your tastebuds

Vietnam is justifiably famous for its food – it's tasty, satisfying and incredibly cheap. And there is no better place to indulge, says Claire Jones, than Hoi An. Straddling the culinary influences of both north and south, and with a handful of unique specialities, it’s the culinary capital of Vietnam and Claire is keen to spill its tastiest secrets.

While we’re sharing secrets, David Lacroix, the executive chef at the Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort and Spa, wants you to have these three traditional Vietnamese recipes. Just don’t tell anyone that it was him that gave them to you...

Gordon Ramsey is in a sharing mood too, offering up these Vietnamese recipes from his South-East Asian cookbook. And Ian Walker reveals how to make that most iconic of Vietnamese dishes – pho.

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5 mouth-watering moments in Hoi An – Claire Jones

3 suppers from Hoi An – David Lacroix

Gordon Ramsey’s Vietnamese recipes – Gordon Ramsey

How to make Vietnamese pho – Ian Walker

Cao Dao Temple (Alpsbabe)

Capturing it all on film

With bustling street markets, retina-searing colours and iconic landscapes, Vietnam is a photographer’s dream. It has certainly inspired our readers. Just look at this amazing selection of images they have posted.

One of the most photographed sites in the country is the gaudy Cao Dai Temple, just down the road from the legendary Chu Chi tunnels. Make sure you read Steve Davey’s article on photographing places of worship before you go.

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Photography tips: Places of worship – Steve Davey

Vietnam Readers’ Photos

Vietnamese Hawkers (Wanderlust)

Everything you need to know

Ready to start planning your trip? Our Vietnam Travel Guide is the perfect place to start. Make sure you drop by our Vietnam Essential Info page too, for more everyday (but equally vital) information.

If you have a particular question about Vietnam, pop over to the myWanderlust Forum, where our knowledgeable community our ready to spring into action and share all that they know. Or check out the questions people have already asked about Vietnam. The answer to yours might already be there.

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Vietnam Travel Guide – The Wanderlust Team

Vietnam Essential Info – The Wanderlust Team

myWanderlust Forum

myWanderlust Vietnam

Vietnam Q&A

Hoi An (Wanderlust)

Ready to go?

Here’s a selection of fantastic tours offered by our partners. From cycling trips to culinary and cooking adventures, there’s something to suit every budget.

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Our Trip Finder can help you find adventures in Vietnam

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