Mu Cang Chai rice terraces. Photo by Lee Starnes
In the heart of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, you’ll find a sleepy set of railroad tracks that gently carve through a chaotic mix of apartments and houses. The easiest entry is via Trần Phú street. Snap a picture of the train lumbering down the street, take a selfie on the tracks or sip coffee at one of the many cafes along the railway. The trains come in at 3pm and 7pm daily.
Built in 1902 by Parisian architects Daydé & Pillé, the Long Biên Bridge spans the width of Hanoi’s meandering Red River. Trains, motorbikes, and pedestrians still cross this historic steel bridge into the Old Quarter each day. Come in the early morning or just before sunset for incredible shots of the bridge and Banana Island below.
TIP: Sirin Cafe opposite the bridge entrance offers photographers an aerial perspective and Hanoian-style cà phê sữa đá.
Though the trek there may not be so glamorous, the sweeping panorama of Halong Bay as seen from the summit of Bài Thơ mountain is one of the most Instagrammable views in Vietnam. Hike through the humid jungle to reach the top, and make sure to bring plenty of water!
Some 500 steps stand between you and the impressive Tam Cốc viewpoint at Múa Caves. A cascading dragon and tiered pagoda are embedded high on the limestone karsts. Combine these with the spectacular panorama of the river system and submerged rice paddies below, and you have Instagram gold. Be sure to arrive early to beat the heat and the crowds.
Bích Động Pagoda is as picturesque as they come, however it’s the ornate entranceway that you’ll remember most. A colourful gate and narrow stone bridge beckon across a sea of lotus blossoms. Just behind, the backdrop of jungle-clad mountains creates a scene that would spark anyone’s wanderlust.
TIP: Visit Bích Động when the lotus flowers bloom in the beginning of July for an even more magical pic.
Firmly off the beaten path on Vietnam’s Northern border, you’ll meet the thundering Bản Giốc waterfalls. These powerful tiered falls surrounded by jutting mountain peaks have emerged as one of Vietnam’s most mesmerising scenes. Don’t forget to bring your passport as these falls sit on the border between Vietnam and China.
Motorbiking is a major draw in the mountainous Northern province of Hà Giang. Along with the thrill of winding roads, you’re in for astounding landscapes, particularly when you reach Mã Pí Lèng Pass. The emerald green Nho Quế river bisects dramatic cliffs and tiered rice fields, forming an awe-inspiring canyon.
TIP: For a special shot, visit in October or November when the buckwheat blossoms are in full bloom.
This tree-lined, lantern-lit thoroughfare in Hội An is a prime photo spot. On Trần Phú, all the quintessential elements of Hội An are accounted for: blooming bougainvillea, silk lanterns, and ochre-painted shophouses, packaged quaintly together. Early morning before 8am is the sweet spot if you want to have the streets all to yourself.
The ethereal hands of Bà Nà Hill’s Golden Bridge deliver one of Vietnam’s most surreal photo opps. These larger-than-life appendages support a gilded pedestrian bridge that looks out over the Ba Na Mountains and sweeping coastline below. Framed with flowering hydrangeas, and full of unique photography angles, the bridge is a must-visit for savvy Instagrammers.
Up the steep whitewashed steps of Khải Định Tomb you’ll be greeted by a mix of Vietnamese and French architecture. You’re bound to want to snap a few pictures at the gates and courtyard before entering the tomb itself. Inside the details are astounding, from the porcelain mosaics on the walls to the mural of nine dragons on the ceiling.
As one of Vietnam’s four sacred animals, dragons have long been an important symbol of Vietnamese folklore. Today in up-and-coming Danang, this mythical animal gets a modern update. Take a gander as you zoom across this impressive bridge or admire it from the riverside -- either way you can’t go wrong!
TIP: Make sure to visit the bridge on weekends at 9pm as this metal dragon breathes fire and water in a spectacular showcase.
With dreamy rivers, lotus ponds, and forested hills all around, it’s no wonder why the Nguyen Kings chose Huế as the site for their feudal capital. The moated Imperial City in the centre of town is full of photogenic possibilities. Crumbling archways and ornate mosaics cover the architectural wonders scattered within the complex.
The seaside dunes of Mũi Né are a striking chance of scenery in tropical Vietnam, but that just makes the pictures even more outstanding. Explore in style with a guided jeep excursion or opt for a barefoot wander at sunrise. Either way, the photos and will be more than worth it! The Fairy Stream nearby, where red and white sand dunes meet, is another unusual spot photographers love.
Tân Định Church in Ho Chi Minh City takes pretty in pink to a whole new level. In 1877 Tân Định served as an orphanage and boarding school for over 300 of the city’s youth. Today it serves parishioners in the city from 5am to 5:30pm, and is a favourite spot for popping pictures on Instagram.
TIP: The best views of this rosy facade can be found across the street -- just watch out for the traffic!
For drone aficionados holidaying at JW Marriott’s Phú Quốc Emerald Bay Resort and Spa, getting ‘the shot’ of the resort’s Shell Pool is a must-do. This quirky pool adds a hint of playfulness to the typical luxury hotel shots seen on Instagram. The rest of the hotel is pretty easy on the eyes as well.
This old apartment block has been given new life as one Ho Chi Minh City’s trendiest retail spaces. Hip cafes, fusion restaurants, and tiny boutiques have taken up residence on every floor, making this a perfect stop for a snap and a snack. Grab a bubble tea at ShareTea across from Apartment 42 and climb to the second floor to snag a shot of the apartment's now-famous facade.
Drift past coconut groves and cruise mangrove forests: the best way to see the Mekong Delta is definitely on a sampan. You can easily spend a whole day learning about the delta’s vibrant ecosystems and exploring its caramel-coloured canals. Don’t forget to pack your nón lá hat for that iconic shot.
Sunworld’s record-holding cable car soars over fishing boats, jungle-covered islands and sparkling seas en route to Phú Quốc’s Hòn Thơm (Pineapple Island.) You’ll have 20 minutes each way to appreciate the spectacular views below and snap as many videos and photos as you can. Just don’t forget to sit back and enjoy the ride.