Most travelers to Vietnam are attracted by the country’s wonderful natural beauty: From the green rice fields in the north to the fascinating bustle of the Mekong Delta in the south. Vietnam however is also a country with a long history and ancient traditions. It has many historic attractions and old temples. An overview of the most amazing tourist attractions in Vietnam.
Blending both Vietnamese and European design elements, the architecture of the Khai Dinh Tomb in Hue has been described as Buddhist as well as Roman Gothic. Constructed in the 1920s, the tomb was commissioned by the Emperor of Vietnam as his own future tomb. The entrance of the complex leads to the Honour Courtyard, and then on to the main building called the Thien Dinh. Khai Dinh’s final resting spot is clearly marked by a bronze statue surrounded by beautiful murals.
Under French rule, the Con Dao Islands were known as the Devil’s Island of Indochina, a place where thousands of prisoners of war were kept. Today, this group of 16 islands off the southern coast of Vietnam has a completely different purpose. Visitors come for the beautiful beaches and the abundance of scuba diving and snorkeling spots. However, the history of Con Dao can still be explored at some of the prison buildings that still stand.
South of Da Nang, Vietnam, are the Marble Mountains. These five peaks are named after the five elements of earth, water, wind, fire and wood. The mountains are picturesque on their own, but they are also home to countless caves, some of which house incredible Buddhist sanctuaries. Some caves contain Confucian or Buddhist shrines, and others were used as sanctuaries and hospitals during the Vietnam War.
In Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, stands the stunning Notre Dame Cathedral. Built in the late 19th century, the cathedral is brick, neo-Romanesque and clearly influenced by European architecture of the same time period. In fact, many of the materials used in construction were imported directly from France. While the exterior is impressive, the interior is also worth exploring. Look for the surviving stained glass panels as well as carved tiles and a statue of the Virgin Mary.
In the Ninh Binh province of Northern Vietnam is Tam Coc, which translates to English as three caves. The three caves are nestled in a scenic landscape of limestone cliffs and rice paddies, and the river winds through the region. The caves are called Hang Cả, Hang Hai, and Hang Ba, and they serve as the area’s main attraction. Guided boat tours take you to the caves and along the Ngo Dong River, which is often dotted with floating vendors capitalizing on the tourist trade.
The most scenic spot in Da Nang is arguably My Khe Beach. Also known as China Beach, this was where US servicemen were helicoptered in for R&R during the Vietnam War. These days people come here however for tis pristine white sand, blue water and sunny skies. Visitors can rent a lounge chair on the sand, relax in the shade under a thatched umbrella or rent a kayak from nearby vendors. Many hotels and cafes are within walking distance of My Khe Beach, making it a hub for visitors as well as locals in search of incredible views.
One of the largest caves in the world, and certainly the largest in Vietnam, is Hang Son Doong. Approximately three million years old, Hang Son Doong Cave is an incredible destination unlike anywhere else on the planet. The cave is enormous, and it is possible for dozens of people to camp within it at a time. Bright blue water pools are located in the cave, and a river runs through it. Lush greenery lines the walls, thanks to erosion that lets in beams of sunlight. The cave is ethereal, and guided tours are available to best explore this amazing landmark.
In the city of Hanoi, there is an incredible temple dedicated to Confucius. Built in the 11th century, the Temple of Literature honors scholars and the many academic achievements of the Vietnamese, past and present. The Temple of Literature was even the site of the very first university in the nation. Among countless statues of Confucius and his disciples, there are impressive pagodas and a pond known as the Well of Heavenly Clarity.
Once a week, the quiet town of Bac Ha becomes a hub of culture and trade in Northwest Vietnam. Residents from the surrounding villages and valleys flock to Bac Ha, and the roads are filled with buses packed with tourists. Visiting on a Sunday means watching locals in their traditional ethnic dress, sipping the juice from fresh coconuts and browsing countless stalls. Shoppers can find everything for sale in Bac Ha, including water buffalo, delicious Hmong and Thay cuisine, brightly colored fabrics and fragrant spices.