Named among the fastest-growing cities in the world, the explosion of youthful energy in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh continues to create fascinating by-products.
A city with character to spare, Hanoi is embracing its creative roots via contemporary galleries, artsy cafes, and live performances. Travellers can dip their toes into the underground current through several excellent art tours. Not the arty type? Hanoi’s atmosphere is most palpable among its lakes, markets, and ancient Old Quarter.
In Ho Chi Minh City, visitors can sample Saigonese style in thoughtful boutique hotels and converted apartment buildings. A raft of insightful new tours are peeling back the city’s frenetic veneer, laying bare everything from Vietnamese calligraphy to underground tunnels.
It may seem counterintuitive to seek wellness in a nation once wracked with war; but give it a chance and Vietnam will prove its remarkable power to heal. The former Imperial City of Hue, also the birthplace of Buddhism in Vietnam, is a serene spot to undertake a wellness journey. The pine-covered hills surrounding the city shelter Zen houses and mossy pagodas where travelers can learn meditation and take long walks in nature.
On the other side of the Hai Van Pass, Da Nang boasts some of Vietnam’s most reputable spas and wellness resorts, where no one will blink an eyelash at a request for sound bowl healing. For an extended retreat, the storybook town of Hoi An welcomes weary travelers with yoga classes, soothing countryside, and healthy dining.
Much has been made of majestic Ha Long Bay and spectacular Sa Pa, but few travellers scratch the surface of Northern Vietnam’s treasures.
Only a few hours from the capital, Ninh Binh is more dreamscape than anything else. Sheer limestone cliffs rear up from the plains, and travelers take breathtaking paddleboat rides beneath forested banks and dripping grottoes. Even deeper into the wild, Pu Luong Nature Reserve in Mai Chau overflows with natural springs and tropical jungle.
For long-distance motor biking, Ma Pi Leng Pass presents the most spellbinding stretch of asphalt in the country. A close second in the most photogenic category is Yen Bai Province. More than 31 ethnic minorities live in this area, where rice terraces cascade steeply down the mountainsides in breathtaking symmetry. Thanks to a handful of remote lodges, travelers can now sleep tight in any of these fertile frontiers.
A watery maze of dense rice paddies and winding rivers, the Mekong Delta is a world of its own. The River of Nine Dragons is where the waterway splinters into nine separate branches -- nourishing fruit orchards, flower farms, and floating villages – on its way to the sea.
Often packaged as a daytrip destination, the Mekong Delta is more accessible to travelers than ever. Five-star resorts offer a comfortable base for exploring; but there are also mangrove cruises, weekend camping excursions, and multi-day motorbike tours designed by Vietnamese riders. Firmly on land or floating with the current, days in the Delta are flush with wildlife, historical sights, and authentic encounters.
Beachcombing in Vietnam used to mean getaways such as Mui Ne and Nha Trang. In 2018, savvy travelers willing to venture further will find pristine shores aplenty.
Near the UNESCO-listed Hoi An Ancient Town, An Bang Beach is quietly having a moment. Sandy lanes just behind the shoreline shelter private pool villas and boutique guesthouses, and a handful of cool arrivals have recently made space for themselves among the beachfront restaurants. A short boat ride away, the Cham Islands suggest castaway nights, complete with campsites and starry skies.
Also in Central Vietnam, the laidback city of Quy Nhon flies under the radar, despite having some of the nation’s best beaches. Local and low-key, holidays here feature fresh seafood, dips in the ocean, and windswept boat rides. Finally, the calm waters and soft currents of Phu Quoc promise Vietnam’s ultimate beach bliss.