After immersing myself in Vietnam’s rich culture and admiring its breathtaking natural beauty, I’ve compiled a list of the top 17 must-do experiences for anyone traveling to Vietnam.
From hiking in the mountains to cruising on the water, this Vietnam bucket list has something for every type of traveler.
So, let’s dive into this exciting list and get inspired for your own Vietnam adventure!
Table of Contents
Vietnam Bucket List
I’m not gonna bore you with my life story or why I love Vietnam so much. Let’s get straight to the good stuff.
Here’s the top 17 things to do in Vietnam that should definitely make it onto your itinerary.
1. Take a boat ride through Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay is a bay in northeast Vietnam that features thousands of islands topped with greenery. The scenery here is absolutely breathtaking.
Most of the islands are uninhabited and they were formed naturally over millions of years.
You can learn a bit more about Ha Long Bay in the video below:
If you want to visit Ha Long Bay for yourself then you can take a boat tour around the islands which will give you a chance to explore the many caves, beaches and fishing villages in the area.
You can also kayak or swim in the emerald-green waters and take in the beautiful scenery that makes this place so special.
This tour is one of the best rated ones and includes kayaking around the lagoons, a hike up Titop Island for panoramic views, a stop at the beach and a visit to one of the caves.
2. Go trekking in Sapa
Sapa is famous for its breathtaking landscapes and diverse ethnic communities, such as the Hmong, Dao and Tay people.
You’ll get to immerse yourself in their culture whilst enjoying the natural beauty of the region.
Did you know that Sapa is located in the Hoang Lien Son mountain range which is the highest mountain range in Vietnam?
Its highest peak is Fansipan which stands at 3,143 meters tall! Imagine the stunning views you’ll get from the top of the rice paddies below.
You can see what it’s like to go trekking in Sapa in the video below:
To visit Sapa, you can take a bus or train from Hanoi and then hire a local guide to take you on a trek.
Most treks range from one to three days and you can choose from easy to challenging routes.
This top-rated tour includes an overnight stay with a rural hill tribe where you’ll get to learn more about rural Vietnamese life and you’ll spend two days hiking around the area.
3. Visit Hanoi’s Train Street
Train Street is a narrow street in the heart of Hanoi where a train passes through just inches away from the houses and cafes.
Check it out in the video below:
It was once a hidden gem but is now a world-famous attraction.
The street is so narrow that when the train comes, street sellers and cafes have to move everything from the tracks and step aside to let the train pass.
It’s a fascinating and heart-pumping sight to see the train go by at such close proximity whether you’re standing on the street or sitting inside a cafe.
Hanoi’s Train Street is located in the Old Quarter area of the city. Just be sure to keep a safe distance when the train comes by!
This half-day Hanoi jeep tour includes a stop at the famous train street as well as many other famous attractions.
4. Visit the One Pillar Pagoda in Hanoi
The One Pillar Pagoda is a unique structure that was built in the 11th century by Emperor Ly Thai Tong.
The pagoda is built on a single stone pillar and is said to represent a lotus blossom emerging from the water. It’s a symbol of purity and enlightenment in Buddhist culture.
The original pagoda was actually destroyed during the First Indochina War but was later rebuilt in the 1950s.
If you’re interested in visiting the One Pillar Pagoda, it’s located in the Ba Dinh district of Hanoi. The pagoda is open daily from 8am to 5pm and admission is free.
Once you’re there, you’ll be amazed by the beautiful architecture and peaceful atmosphere.
Take some time to soak in the history and significance of this iconic structure. It’s definitely a must-see when visiting Hanoi and should definitely make it onto your Vietnam bucket list.
5. Get lost in nature at the Ba Vi National Park
The Ba Vi National Park is located about an hour outside of Hanoi and is famous for its stunning landscapes and breathtaking views.
It’s home to three peaks each over 1,000 meters tall so is the perfect place to take a hike. Inside the park you’ll find overgrown abandoned buildings, waterfalls, wildlife and beautiful scenery.
If you’re interested in visiting Ba Vi, there are plenty of hiking trails to explore. You can also visit the ancient temple which sits on top of the mountain or take a soak in the hot springs.
The park is open year-round but the best time to visit is from April to September when the weather is a bit cooler.
The easiest way to visit is by booking onto a tour from Hanoi. This top-rated tour includes round-trip transportation from your hotel, an expert English-speaking guide and lunch.
6. Walk across the Golden Bridge in Da Nang
The Golden Bridge in Da Nang is a super unique bridge famous for its stunning design and incredible views of the surrounding mountains.
But here’s the really interesting part – the bridge is supported by two giant stone hands that appear to be holding it up. How cool is that?!
Here’s what it looks like:
The hands are not just for show either, they actually serve as a support structure for the bridge.
If you’re planning a visit, you can get there by taking a cable car ride up to the top of the Ba Na Hills.
The easiest way to do this is by joining a tour like this one that includes round-trip transport from your Da Nang hotel, lunch, all admission fees and an expert guide.
Once you arrive, you can take a leisurely stroll across the bridge and take in the breathtaking views. Well, not too leisurely as the place is usually really busy!
And did I mention that the Golden Bridge is also a great spot for taking Instagram-worthy photos? So you’ll be needing these awesome Vietnam Instagram captions.
7. Check out the world’s largest natural cave in Phong Nha
Phong Nha is famous for being one of the largest and most impressive cave systems in the world with its vast network of underground rivers, stalactites and stalagmites, and enormous chambers.
In fact, it’s so big that they’re still discovering new areas of it to this day!
Phong Nha is where you’ll find the world’s largest cave, Hang Son Doong, which is almost 3 million years old and reaches 9 km in length.
You can take a quick tour of the cave system in the video below:
One interesting fact is that the cave system was actually formed millions of years ago by ancient rivers and oceans.
And get this, during the Vietnam War, locals used the caves as a hideout from bombings!
If you want to check out this awesome cave for yourself, you can take a boat tour through the cave system and explore the various chambers with a guide.
You can also do some hiking in the surrounding national park and even go on a zip line if you’re feeling adventurous. Trust me, it’s an experience you won’t forget!
8. Visit the Hoi An Night Market
One of the most interesting things to do in Hoi An is to visit the night market which is famous for selling intricately designed lanterns!
These kinds of markets have been around for centuries and are a huge part of Hoi An’s cultural heritage.
Hoi An’s Night Market is a bustling hub of activity where you can buy all sorts of lanterns, from tiny ones that fit in the palm of your hand to massive ones that can light up a whole room.
You can also find all sorts of other cool stuff like handmade crafts, local foods and street performers.
The best time to visit is during the Hoi An Lantern Festival which is held once a month. Here’s what you can expect:
To visit for yourself, head to the old town of Hoi An in the evening when the market is in full swing. Bring along your haggling skills as Hoi An can be expensive.
You can walk around and take in all the sights and sounds or even take a boat ride down the river and release your own lantern into the water. It’s a magical experience you won’t forget!
This guided tour includes round-trip transport, a guided tour of the market and a boat ride along the river.
9. Explore the royal tombs in Hue
Another thing you should definitely add to your Vietnam bucket list is a visit to one of the seven royal tombs in Hue.
These tombs were built for the emperors of the Nguyen dynasty and they are truly stunning.
Each tomb is unique and features beautiful architecture and intricate carvings. Some of the most famous ones are the tombs of Khai Dinh and Minh Mang.
Here’s an interesting fact: the tombs were actually built while the emperors were still alive!
They wanted to ensure that their final resting place was perfect so they supervised all of the construction themselves.
The tombs are located about 5-15 kilometers outside of the city so the easiest way to visit is by joining a tour or hiring a taxi.
This top-rated tour will show you all the main tombs and many other top Hue sights. It also includes hotel pick-up/drop-off and an expert English-speaking guide.
10. Visit the My Son Ruins
My Son is an area that was the religious and political center of the Champa Kingdom, which ruled over parts of central Vietnam from the 2nd to the 17th century.
The ruins that remain of this kingdom consist of a complex of Hindu temples and towers that were built between the 4th and 13th centuries.
They’re famous for their intricate carvings and architecture as well as their huge historical significance. The area is really stunning as it’s surrounded by a tropical jungle and towering mountains.
You can learn a bit more about the ruins in the video below:
Despite suffering significant damage during the Vietnam War, the My Son ruins are still incredibly impressive and have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
If you’re interested in visiting, you can take a day trip from Hoi An or Da Nang by booking onto a tour.
This tour from Hoi An is super highly rated and is a great way to learn more about the ruins.
11. Get lost in the rainforest at the Son Tra Peninsula
The Son Tra Peninsula is famous for its beautiful scenery and wildlife. It’s home to a lush forest, pristine beaches and stunning views of the ocean and the entire city of Da Nang.
There’s so much to do in the peninsula including exploring the rainforest, visiting the impressive Linh Ung Pagoda, wandering around the Dong Dinh Museum or seeing the 1,000 year old Banyan Tree.
If you’re interested in visiting then there are plenty of ways to do so. You can rent a motorbike or take a taxi from Da Nang city center.
There are also plenty of guided tours available that will take you to some of the best spots on the peninsula.
And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can even go hiking or camping!
12. Explore the Marble Mountains
The Marble Mountains are five limestone hills located in Da Nang and are a must-see for any traveler visiting the region.
The Marble Mountains are famous for their natural beauty and stunning caves that are filled with intricate Buddhist shrines and pagodas.
Once you arrive, you can climb to the top of the mountains for some breathtaking views or explore the many caves and temples hidden inside.
One interesting fact is that the Marble Mountains are actually named after the five elements: Thuy (water), Moc (wood), Hoa (fire), Kim (metal) and Tho (earth).
13. Go snorkeling on Phu Quoc
Phu Quoc is a beautiful island in Vietnam that’s famous for its stunning beaches, pristine waters and vibrant marine life making it the perfect place to go snorkeling.
Located in the Gulf of Thailand, Phu Quoc boasts a rich history dating back to the early 17th century.
The island also played a crucial role in the Vietnam War as it was used as a prison for political prisoners.
You can learn a little bit more about the island in the video below:
To visit Phu Quoc, you can fly directly to the island or take a ferry from the mainland.
Once you’re there, you can explore the island’s many beaches, go snorkeling to see the stunning coral reefs and marine life or visit the local night market to sample some delicious seafood.
You’ll also find some fun hiking trails, epic mountains and a diverse range of wildlife and animals including the Phu Quoc ridgeback dog which is native to the island.
You can book onto a snorkeling tour on the island or just explore on your own.
14. Visit the Saigon Skydeck for views of Ho Chi Minh City
The Saigon Skydeck is located on the 49th floor of the Bitexco Financial Tower in Ho Chi Minh City, which stands at an impressive 262 meters tall.
The Skydeck offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city and the Saigon River.
One of the most interesting things about the Saigon Skydeck is its design – it’s shaped like a lotus petal and offers 360-degree views.
If you’re interested in visiting the Skydeck, you can buy a ticket at the entrance or you can pre-book online. The queues can be super long so I’d recommend pre-booking.
It’s open daily from 9:30 am to 9:30 pm and you can even enjoy a cocktail at the rooftop bar.
15. Learn about history at the Cu Chi Tunnels
The Cu Chi Tunnels in Ho Chi Minh City were used during the Vietnam War to shelter soldiers, transport supplies and launch surprise attacks on the enemy.
What’s really interesting is that the tunnels were built by hand by the Viet Cong guerrilla fighters using basic tools like shovels and pickaxes.
The network of tunnels stretched for 250 kilometers and even had hospitals, kitchens and living quarters.
Take a quick look at the tunnels in the video below:
If you’re interested in checking it out for yourself, there are plenty of tours available from Ho Chi Minh City.
This Cu Chi Tunnels tour is one of the best as it includes hotel pick-up/drop-off and an expert guide who’ll give you a tour of the tunnels and tell you literally everything there is to know about them.
You can crawl through the tunnels (if you’re not claustrophobic!) and learn about the history and tactics used by the Viet Cong.
It’s definitely an eye-opening experience and a must-see if you’re in Vietnam!
16. Visit the Ben Thanh Market
The Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City is actually Vietnam’s oldest and largest market.
The market is located right in the heart of the city and is known for its bustling atmosphere and wide variety of goods for sale, including clothing, souvenirs and local cuisine.
The market was first established in the early 17th century and has been through several renovations and relocations since then.
The current market building was constructed in the 1910s and has become an iconic landmark of the city.
Take a quick tour around the market in the video below:
If you’re planning a visit to the market, be sure to bring your bargaining skills as haggling is a common practice.
And if you’re feeling hungry, make sure to try some of the delicious street food on offer like banh mi sandwiches and pho noodle soup.
17. Check out the sand dunes of Mui Ne
Another thing that should definitely make it onto your Vietnam bucket list is the majestic sand dunes of Mui Ne which are famous for their stunning beauty and unique landscapes.
Mui Ne’s sand dunes are a product of natural erosion caused by the wind and the ocean.
Take a look at the sand dune of Mui Ne in the video below:
Interestingly, there are several different dunes that each have a different color! Mui Ne features red, white and brown sand dunes.
If you’re interested in visiting the sand dunes of Mui Ne, you can book a tour with a local guide or hire a quad bike and explore the area on your own.
This half-day tour allows you to explore the dunes on a 4×4 quad bike and visit the nearby fishing village.
And that’s it!
Thanks for reading this post on what you should add to your Vietnam bucket list.
I’ve spent hours and hours researching Vietnam so you don’t have to and these experiences should definitely be at the top of your list.