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Tuesday, 17/04/2018 - 16:07

30 of Vietnam’s most beautiful tourist destinations

Thanks in part to its serpentine shape and lengthy coastline, Vietnam is home to wildly diverse landscapes. Traveling around the Southeast Asian country, you'll be surrounded by photogenic scenery - from lush rice terraces in northern Sapa to the white sandy beaches of Phu Quoc. Vietnam's architecture is particularly notable, too. As a French colony from 1887 to 1954, the country is also peppered with historic government buildings and merchant houses along crucial trade routes - such as Hoi An, in central Vietnam. That's not to mention the various national parks, floating markets, scenic mountain roads, farming villages, cemeteries, ancient volcanic geological formations and the world's largest cave system.
Here, we've curated 30 of our favorite corners. It's by no means the final word, but it should take you on a travel adventure through beautiful Vietnam.
1. Thu Bon River
From markets to temples, mountain roads and rice terraces, Vietnam is one of Asia's most photogenic destinations. Here, we've curated 30 of our favorite corners, including the Thu Bon River, which flows through central Vietnam.
2. Son Doong cave

Discovered by a Vietnamese farmer in 1991, the 3-million-year-old Hang Son Doong Cave is the largest known cave passage in the world by volume -- it's so big it could hold a New York City block. Located inside UNESCO-listed Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, this mystical subterranean world features a rushing river, enormous stalagmites and otherworldly shards of light. It's open to limited number of visitors each year, with tours conducted by Oxalis from February to August.

3. Sapa Highlands

The mountainous region of Lao Cai Province lures adventure travelers who appreciate fresh air, magical waterfalls, rice terraces, cultural homestays, bamboo forests and challenging hikes. The area is home to Vietnam's highest summit, Fansipan Mountain, which stands at 10,311 feet tall. The best time to visit is April and May, right before the rainy summer season.

4. Can Tho

One of the most picturesque cities along the Mekong River Delta, Can Tho is home to a labyrinth of tributaries, lush landscapes, rice farms, mangroves and colorful floating markets. Famed for their fresh vegetables and fish, these local markets pulse with energy and familial vibes. Set on its own islet in the Song Hau river, the recently opened Azerai Hotel Can Tho organizes boat excursions and provides a low-key place to unwind after a day of exploring.

5. Nha Trang Vinpearl Cable Car

It's not only natural wonders that have made our list. Off Vietnam's central coast, the two-mile-long Nha Trang Vinpearl Cable Car connects Hon Tre Island with Nha Trang. Built across a series of Eiffel Tower-esque structures, the cable car ride provides aerial views of the vast ocean below and towering mountains in the distance.

6. Phu Quoc Island

On the map, Phu Quoc Island is actually closer to Cambodia than Vietnam. Ringed by white-sand beaches, this unspoilt oasis in the Gulf of Thailand recently welcomed the JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa, which was designed by Bill Bensley. From there, it's all tropical jungles, white beaches, snorkeling, diving, kayaking and island-hopping around the 20-some uninhabited islets nearby.

7. Son Tra Nature Reserve

Jutting off the northeastern coast of Da Nang, in central Vietnam, the Son Tra Nature Reserve (aka Monkey Island) is one of the most verdant corners of Vietnam. The millenia-old rainforest plays host to ancient banyan trees, rare flora and peculiar-looking red-shanked douc langurs (pictured here). Located inside the park, the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort provides daily trekking trips into the lush forest.

8. Hoi An

Located on Vietnam's central coast, Hoi An is one of the country's top tourist destinations. But the steady stream of travelers doesn't take away from the charm of this 15th-century trade port. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hoi An's Old Town is brimming with handmade lanterns, rickshaws, graceful low-rise merchant houses, tailor shops, fresh markets and hole-in-the-wall eateries that will transport you to a bygone era.

9. Dong Van Karst Plateau

A UNESCO Global Geopark located in the northeastern corner of Vietnam, Dong Van Karst Plateau is dotted in limestone peaks and canyons. Around beautiful Ha Giang province, travelers will experience indigenous village life, spot ancient flora and fauna, and maybe even summit one of the 550-million-year-old mountains -- the tallest of which is Mieu Vac Mountain (6,466 feet).

10. Cao Dai Temple

Located in Long Than village, northwest of Ho Chi Minh City, the Cao Dai Temple was built in 1955. Caodaism promotes world peace and posits that all religions are the same. Inside the colorful domed temple, you'll see tributes to every divinity from Jesus to Buddha, as well as ornately carved pillars and pretty blue ceilings. Travelers are welcome to visit one of the services, which take place twice daily and often feature a mix of Vietnamese music and choir singing.

11. Ganh Da Dia

Along the central coastline, north of Nha Trang, the Ganh Da Dia (meaning the "Cliff of Stone Plates") National Heritage site showcases mysterious basalt rock columns. Thousands of years ago, volcanic explosions formed the hardened lava outcrops, which now resemble fish scales.

12. Hanoi Opera House

Erected by the French colonial administration between 1901 and 1911, Hanoi's Opera House was modeled on the Palais Garnier in Paris and is one of the architectural landmarks of Hanoi. Nowadays, the Opera House hosts a variety of events, ranging from classical concerts and operas to contemporary stage performances and folk music by Vietnamese artists. The largest theater in Vietnam, its audience's hall has a capacity of 600 seats.

13. Highway QL4D

Connecting the northern provinces of Lai Chau and Sapa, the infamous QL4D is a bumpy ride. The mist-kissed road wraps around steep cliffs, while trucks whiz at cavalier speeds. The views pay off big time, as the potholed road passes by Alpine scenery, a series of waterfalls and the Tram Ton Pass - aka "Heaven's Gate" - which is the highest road in Vietnam.

14. Than Uyen Terraces

Hidden away in the sparsely populated Lai Chau province of northwestern Vietnam, the Than Uyen rice terraces and tea plantations wind across the countryside in concentric patterns. The glistening scenery makes for a beautiful drive, hike, or remote homestay tour. It's particularly idyllic during tea harvesting season from September to November.

15. An Bang Village

Set on a beach outside of Hue, Vietnam's ancient imperial capital in central Vietnam, An Bang Village is known as the "City of Ghosts." The unusual 250-hectare cemetery houses hundreds of opulent family tombs that come to life with vibrant tile pillars, regal lion motifs and sparkling dragons that dazzle in the sun. Built by local fishermen, the luxury tombs cost tens of thousands of dollars to craft - usually funded by well-off relatives who live overseas.

16. Halong Bay

Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, Halong Bay is home to thousands of craggy karst rock formations, grottoes and islands -- most easily explored on an overnight cruise. Not surprisingly, the photogenic landscape draws millions of travelers to northeastern Vietnam every year.

17. Con Dao Islands

Sitting pretty off the southeast coast of Vietnam, the Con Dao archipelago is loved for its colorful coral reefs, diving sites and clean beaches -- some of which double as turtle nesting sites between June and September. When it comes to accommodations, Six Senses Con Dao provides an environmentally sensitive homebase in the heart of this natural wonderland.

18. Ban Gioc Falls

Straddling the border of China and Vietnam, the Ban Gioc Falls can be found along the Quay Son River in northern Vietnam (about 169 miles north of Hanoi). Formed thousands of years ago, the main waterfall thunders from 98 feet at its highest point - and nearly 1,000 feet at its widest. Once you've paid the entry fee (bring your passport to register), you can take a bamboo raft close to the falls or swim in the beautiful jade-green pools.

19. Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica

At the heart of Ho Chi Minh City's historic District 1, the 200-foot-tall (60-meter) Notre Dame Cathedral towers above a field of sunflowers. Constructed from 1863-1880 by French colonists, the neo-Romanesque architecture style and dramatic spires recall the namesake cathedral in Paris. The landmark is currently undergoing renovations, and is expected to re-open to travelers in 2019.

20. Dalat Central Highlands

Sitting at an elevation of 4,900 meters above sea level, Dalat has become synonymous with misty valleys and its "eternal springtime" climate. The city itself is all French boulevards and colonial-era architecture, but the surrounding landscapes are the real draw. The natural landmarks range from rolling mountains to dense pinewood forests, sinuous roads and powerful waterfalls.

21. Jungle Beach

On a peninsula just north of Nha Trang, on Vietnam's Central Coast, Jungle Beach is one of those untouched getaways that will make you seriously consider relocating to a tropical island. The island's clean water, soft sand and trek-worthy jungle interior check every box for an eco-oriented holiday.

22. Trang An Grottoes

Part of a massive eco-tourism complex in southern Vietnam, the Trang An grottoes are best explored by boat. A maze of rivers and caves, the UNESCO World Centre is defined by its craggy limestone facades and jade green water. The surrounding area was once occupied by Neolithic hunters and gatherers, and is now home to tiny villages, pretty paddy fields, temples and hiking trails.

23. Linh Phuoc Pagoda

Completed in 1952, just outside of Da Lat city, the Linh Phuoc Pagoda stands tall at 118 feet - making it Vietnam's highest bell tower. But even more notable are the intricate mosaics along the facade and corridors. Around the temple grounds, there's also an enormous glass dragon sculpture, which was crafted from thousands of broken bottles.

24. Hue

Sitting on the banks of the Perfume River in Central Vietnam, Hue served as the capital during the Nguyen Dynasty, from the mid-1500s until 1945. The city still remains the historic and cultural epicenter of Vietnam, retaining its imperial feel thanks to a clutch of royal palaces, shrines and theaters all housed in the UNESCO Complex of Hue Monuments. One of the top landmarks is the 19th-century Thien Mu pagoda, pictured here. Elsewhere in the city, you'll encounter Art Deco colonial-era buildings, such as La Residence hotel - formerly the home of the French Resident Superieure.

26. Cat Ba Island

A wonderland of caves and waterfalls, Cat Ba Island is Halong Bay's largest atoll. While the main town has been pockmarked by concrete hotels, it doesn't take much more than a bicycle to get beyond the island's commercial center. Across the 135-square-mile island there are several untouched beaches, nature treks, mangroves, rock climbing, lakes, forts and caves to explore.

27. Ngo Dong River

Part of the UNESCO Tràng An Scenic Landscape Complex, south of Hanoi, the Ngo Dong River is one of the most serene sights in Vietnam. Best experienced aboard a local rowboat, a two-hour trip along this enchanting river will pass through the Tam Coc cave system - a series of three caverns, including the stalactite-studded Hang Ca cave - and incredible karst scenery all around.

27. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

A UNESCO World Heritage, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is heaven for spelunkers. Located in northern Vietnam, the area is home to more than 300 caves, imposing karst mountains, jungle treks, and underground rivers that feel like they've been plucked from an eerie fairytale. It's here where you will find the storied Son Doong Cave, which has been named the largest cave system in the world.

28. Bac Son Valley

Surrounded by cone-shaped mountains and peaceful rice paddy scenery, the Bac Son Valley in northern Vietnam is impossibly pretty. Throughout the countryside, you'll encounter small villages - usually inhabited by Tay ethnic communities - as well as homestay opportunities, hiking and long stretches of flat terrain that's ideal for biking. The best time to visit is late July and early August, when the ripening rice fields glow in vibrant shades of green and gold.

29. King Khai Dinh Tomb

Tucked away in the mountains near Hue, the imposing King Khai Dinh Tomb (aka the Tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh) is a beautiful combination of French and eastern architecture. While the tomb is smaller than the mausoleums of previous leaders, the interiors are nothing if not elaborate - picture dragon-embellished ceilings, porcelain artwork, stone statues, and even an imperial court.

30. Cuc Phuong National Park

Another beauty in Ninh Binh Province, Cuc Phuong National Park is the country's oldest nature reserve, opened in 1962. To reach the visitor center, travelers can trace a paved road on bike, motorbike or car. From there, a hike along one of the designated pathways will lead you past caves, fossils, ancient trees -- including one incredible tree that's 1,000 years old. In addition to the vibrant flora, there are more than 135 mammals in the park -- think clouded leopards, langurs (a type of primate) and Asian black bears.