Although many westerners still imagine Vietnam through the lens of war, it is in reality a country filled with captivating natural beauty and tranquil village life. Its highlands and rainforest regions, far from being devastated, continue to yield new species and team with exotic wildlife. Its islands and beaches are among the finest in all of Southeast Asia, and its cuisine is very possibly the most delicious you will ever find. Over two decades have passed since Vietnam was officially united, and in that time it has done a remarkable job of healing its wounds. Today, this gracious and graceful country is an outstanding travel destination.
Vistas. This is Vietnam’s big-sky country; a place of rippling mountains, cascading rice terraces and the winnowed-out karst topography for which the region is famed.
Not to be outdone by the scenery, northern Vietnam’s cultural kaleidoscope is just as diverse. In this heartland of hill-tribe culture, villages snuggle between paddy-field patchworks outside of Sapa and the scarlet headdresses of the Dzao and the Black Hmong’s indigo fabrics add dizzying colour to chaotic highland markets.
The geographic heart of the nation, central Vietnam is packed with historic sights and cultural interest, and blessed with ravishing beaches and outstanding national parks. Marvel at Hue and its Imperial Citadel, royal tombs and excellent street food. Savour the unique heritage grace of riverside jewel Hoi An, and tour the military sites of the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ). Check out Danang, fast emerging as one of the nation’s most dynamic cities. Also emerging as a must-visit destination is the extraordinary Phong Nha region, home to three gargantuan cave systems (including the world’s largest cave), and a fascinating war history concealed amid stunning scenery.
Start off in the sensory overload that is Ho Chi Minh City, a metropolis where humble mom-and-pop shops share street space with modern skyscrapers. Beyond the city limits you’ll encounter the languid Mekong Delta, where life takes place on water and farmland rolls out as far as the eye can see.
Not far away, Mui Ne lures holidaymakers with a laid-back beach vibe and reputation as the kite-surfing capital of Vietnam. Offshore, islands such as Phu Quoc and Con Dao will welcome you with pristine coastlines and untouched landscapes.