Hidden Gems in Vietnam from North to South
Don’t you know that Lan Ha Bay is a great alternative for the touristy Ha Long Bay? There are hundreds of hidden gems in Vietnam that are hardly seen by most tourists. If you want to get an authentic Vietnam experience, the best way is to break off the beaten path and visit any of these eight destinations.
Most people know Vietnam for its bustling cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, or stunning beaches like Nha Trang, Vung Tau, or postcard-worthy tropical islands like Phu Quoc. However, in recent years more and more have started to venture into far Northern Vietnam like Mu Cang Chai or Pu Luong. Explore these hidden gems in Vietnam and you can experience this impressive country and its beautiful people without the masses.
Hidden gems in Vietnam
These amazing hidden gems in Vietnam will surprise you as you see that the only English speaking person will be you. It is just fantastic to travel off the beaten track and see the most beautiful, untouched and breathtaking bays, villages, forests, waterfalls, etc.
Lan Ha Bay
While most travelers put Ha Long Bay – a UNESCO World Heritage Site on their bucket list, Lan Ha Bay seems to be a forgotten paradise in Vietnam. In fact, Lan Ha Bay is an extension of Ha Long Bay in terms of geology, so the two bays share many similar charismatic features. Lan Ha Bay is just perfect for those who seek authentic experiences and stay away from the crowds.
What special about Lan Ha Bay is that all of its islands are covered with greens, even the tiny islets. Lan Ha Bay is recognized as one of the most beautiful bays in Vietnam and a fantastic destination for watersports. Clean and calm waters are perfect for kayaking and swimming at Van Boi Beach, or Monkey Island. You can also explore the fishing scene at Viet Hai Village and Cai Beo Floating Village by a small boat or kayaking.
Mu Cang Chai
Mu Cang Chai is a remote district of Yen Bai Province in the northeast region of Vietnam. This spot is favored by magnificent rice terraced fields and lively Hmong culture. Compared to other touristy areas in Northern Vietnam, Mu Cang Chai still remains amazingly untouched and outstanding.
The best time to visit Mu Cang Chai is from September to mid-October when the rice terraced fields along mountainsides turn yellow and ready for harvest. Hiking is a great way to marvel at the best scenery Mu Cang Chai has to offer. You will pass through layers of rice terraces, tea and corn plantations. If you look for adventurous experiences, ride a motorcycle on the magnificent stretch between Mu Cang Chai town and Tu Le through Khau Pha mountain pass. It is absolutely adrenaline-filling!
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About 160km southwest of Hanoi lies Pu Luong, another hidden gem in Vietnam that is worth your visit. The slow pace in Pu Luong is totally distinct to life in the capital city. Visitors coming to Pu Luong can commute to the natural world and find peace of mind. You can listen to the waterwheels, breathe fresh air, and find yourself surrounded by greens.
Pu Luong in Thai language means ‘the highest peak’. And you should not miss out on a chance to reach the summit of Mount Pu Luong and do a multi-day trek through the entire reserve. But it is not only natural scenery that allures visitors, the Thai people, their unique traditions and their amazing skills in weaving and embroidery are so exciting.
Binh Dinh is a province in the South Central Coast of Vietnam and a gateway to Central Highlands. It is also known as the Martial Land where King Quang Trung defeated the Qing Dynasty in the 17th century. Binh Dinh with its long history and rich culture forms a special characteristic that will evoke the curiosity of any tourist who visits this hidden gem in Vietnam.
If you are a history lover, there are ancient sites to travel back in time to Sa Huynh period. Binh Dinh is home to many Cham towers that have existed since the 11th century but still remained intact. You can also explore Cu Lao Xanh or Green Island, a remote island with amazing emerald waters, Ho Kho Island, Yen Island, Cat Tien Beach, etc.
Located in the south central coast of Vietnam with Tuy Hoa as its capital city, Phu Yen is still a lesser-known destination on most tourist maps. The travel experiences in Phu Yen should not be underestimated with a variety of beautiful beaches, bays and lagoons. Some of the famous names are Vung Ro Bay, Tuy Hoa Beach, and Mui Yen Cape.
Phu Yen stands out from other beach destinations with Ganh Da Dia (literally means The Sea Cliff of Stone Plates). It is a unique collection of large pentagonal rocks piercing the sky, formed by a volcanic eruption millions of years ago. The setting is very scenic and the cliffs are impressive for sightseeing. Da Dia Beach, stretching south of the cliff is good for bathing.
Buon Ma Thuot
Most travelers seem to forget the Central Highland on their itineraries, however, its idyllic rural scenery is really worth your attention. Buon Ma Thuot, a provincial capital of Dak Lak Province is an interesting off-the-beaten-track. Though Buon Ma Thuot does not own ample attractions, everything it has is just enough to fascinate you to make an outdoor trip.
Dray Sap and Dray Nur waterfalls are the two precious assets of Buon Ma Thuot. Breathtaking scenery will indulge all of your five senses. If you love the rainy season in Vietnam, it is a perfect destination as these waterfalls just get mightier under the rain. Don’t forget Yok Don National Park which is the largest nature reserve in Vietnam where you will find a great number of endangered species.
Just 15km off Hoi An’s coastline lies the Cham Islands, a recognized UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Snorkeling, diving, sunbathing, fishing are all possible with turquoise waters and white sandy beaches this hidden gem in Vietnam has to offer. If you plan to dive or snorkel to see colorful corals and marine life, you should go between June and August.
Cham Islands will be much more interesting and vibrant during the time of traditional festivals. You can visit Cham Islands and join in religious culture of the islanders with Cau Ngu Festival which takes place between April 3 to April 4 in the lunar calendar or Yen’s Nest death anniversary which takes place between March 9 to March 10 in the lunar calendar.
Another hidden gem from the Mekong Delta is Chau Doc, a city in An Giang Province. It is located by the Hau River, about 250km west of Ho Chi Minh City. Chau Doc is home to most Cham and Khmer people, making it diverse in culture with unique mosques and temples. The Holy Mother of the Realm Temple on Sam Mountain is the most popular tourist spot drawing millions of visitors to Chau Doc every year.
A rising destination is Tra Su Cajuput Forest which is 30km away from Chau Doc. You will be lured into the huge forest with an amazing aquatic world full of different species. Sparkling sunlight, endless green, pleasant birdsongs – The whole natural world does truly surround you. If you want to dig into the local culture, visit Chau Giang Cham Village or Chau Doc Floating Village to know how Vietnamese, Cham and Khmer live together in harmony.
Stay away from the crowds with these hidden gems in Vietnam that you might not know their existence. They are just interesting and fun as those listed in the travel guides. Discovery prevails in less-visited places and you will know everywhere is just unique and genuine. Now, it’s time for true adventurers to do what most won’t!
© Maika Tours
Written by Trinh Tran
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