10 of the most unique experiences you must try when you travel to Vietnam

From gazing in awe at Unesco World Heritage-listed sites to finding your spiritual roots in Central Vietnam. Teeing off at one of Asia’s best golf courses or getting stuck into local dishes like Phở and Bun Cha. When you travel to Vietnam, you’re never far away from a unique experience.

The country is home to some of the most spectacular scenery and jaw-dropping natural attractions in Asia. For example, Vietnam is home to the world’s largest cave in Phong Nha National Park, as well as the stunning “Sky Path” of Hà Giang. Meanwhile, Vietnam’s cities are packed with history, culture and, of course, cuisine – all waiting to be discovered.

So, whether you are a nature lover, a food connoisseur or an adrenaline junkie, try these 10 unique travel Vietnam experiences for a trip you’ll never forget.

Get stuck into Vietnam’s best-loved dish

Phở is known as the quintessential Vietnamese dish. And no travel trip to Vietnam would be complete without at least trying a few different kinds.

The word phở refers to the type of noodle used in the recipe. This is a flat rice noodle, served with medium-rare slivers of beef or boiled chicken in hearty beef stock.

The more popular of the two widely known varieties is Phở Hanoi. Originally from the north, it’s distinguished by a clear broth, dressed with a squeeze of lemon and bird’s eye chilli. On the other hand, the southern iteration called Phở Nam has a murkier broth. It’s served with a bouquet of fresh herbs like bean sprouts, basil and mint.

A bowl of Vietnamese pho
Vietnamese pho is a must-try during any trip to the country

The secret to a good bowl of phở lies in its stock. To explain, the broth is usually infused with fragrant star anise, clove and cinnamon to lend a natural sweetness to the mix. This dish can be found on almost every street corner. It’s mainly a breakfast dish – something which can come as quite a surprise to visitors!

The best places to try phở are Hanoi’s Phở Thin (13 Lo Duc, Hai Ba Trung District) or Phở Hoa in Ho Chi Minh City (260C Pasteur Street, District 3).

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Discover a melting pot of history in Hoi An

If you travel to Vietnam, you can’t miss a trip to historic Hoi An. The city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. The ancient core of Hoi An has retained much of its original architecture and charm. The wooden houses and quaint storefronts are painted a moody yellow, with bougainvillaea vines bursting from French balconies. Meanwhile, on cobbled streets that wind alongside canals, women in Áo dài (traditional Vietnamese garments) can be seen cycling beneath dangling coloured lanterns. It seems like postcard-perfect scenes await around every corner.

A bridge in Hoi An Vietnam
Hoi An is filled with charming architecture

Every Tết (Vietnamese New Year), Hoi An is transformed into a kaleidoscope of colour and light for its Lantern Festival. The celebration lasts for seven days, during which the road from Hoi An Bridge to the Hoai River Square is adorned with thousands of colourful lanterns.

Hoi An also has some of the best wellness experiences in Vietnam. Time in Hoi An – for both locals and visitors – seems to move at a slower pace.  Therefore, days spent in Hoi An are perfect for recharging and discovering local culture. Cooking classes are particularly popular. Meanwhile, workshops teaching traditional handicrafts like lantern making and ceramics are another great way to relax.

Drop into the world’s largest cave in Phong Nha

Travel to Vietnam isn’t all about relaxing. There are also plenty of places to get the adrenaline pumping too. Quang Binh province is one such destination. This is a wild region of barely penetrable jungle in Vietnam’s skinny middle, close to the border with Laos. The area is riddled with hundreds of deep caves, including one of the largest in the world – Hang Son Doong. It contains a cavern so tall that a skyscraper could fit inside it.

Sunlight shines into thePhong Nha Cave in Vietnam
Visit the world’s largest cave in Vietnam

The small town of Phong Nha is the epicentre for the area’s caving adventures – its eponymous cave another UNESCO-listed wonder well worth exploring. Here, you can hire both the guides and the gear you’ll need to descend into the caves.

If going underground doesn’t appeal, the area is also famous for trekking. The surrounding jungle is peppered with stunning waterfalls and an active (and incredibly noisy) population of monkeys and flying foxes.

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Follow in Bourdain and Obama’s footsteps with a bowl of bún chả

A classic northern Vietnamese lunch dish, bún chả became world-famous after legendary chef and travel writer Anthony Bourdain sat down with President Obama to enjoy a bowl together at Bún Chả Huong Lien in Hanoi.

A bowl of Vietnamese Bun Cha
Bun Cha is now one of Vietnam’s most famous dishes

Bún chả might be new to the world but it’s long been a favourite of locals. Because of this, if you wander through the Old Quarter of Hanoi at lunchtime, the streets are filled with the scent of grilled pork. The dish combines chargrilled pork belly and patties with diluted vinegar fish sauce in a harmonious concoction.

First, you put your rice noodles into the fish sauce bowl. Next, add spices and herbs, and then try to get a little bit of everything in one bite. For a hearty upgrade, go ahead and order some nem (fried spring rolls) with your bún chả.

Travel to Vietnam’s fast-paced cities

While Vietnam’s countryside casts a serene spell, its cities have an appeal entirely of their own. Get a taste of urban Vietnamese culture by spending a few days in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. Here you’ll find world-class dining alongside cheap-as-chips street food, ancient pagodas sitting next to five-star hotels and glittering shopping malls around the corner from bustling markets.

A city in Vietnam at night
Don’t leave without exploring Vietnam’s urban playgrounds

First up is Hanoi – a city of lakes. Its historical and cultural treasures will charm those with a penchant for the past. Meanwhile, Ho Chi Minh City has an irresistible energy. The city is home to uber-cool rooftop bars, trendy coworking spaces, and colonial-chic cafes. Don’t forget to hop on a scooter at least once in your visit to truly feel the pulse of urban Vietnam.

Dive into Island Life on Phu Quoc

When you travel to Vietnam, the joy of feeling sand between your toes, sun on your skin and saltwater in your hair is never far away. There are countless beaches to choose from – some well-known, others completely hidden.

In Vietnam, the words ‘Phu Quoc’ are synonymous with sparkling beaches, seafood feasts, and indigo sunsets. Phu Quoc Island and the An Thới Archipelago lure all types, from luxury seekers to young parents to college friends.

Palm tree lined beach on Phu Quoc Vietnam
Find a castaway-style beach on the island of Phu Quoc

Phu Quoc is really one large island (the largest in Vietnam) plus 21 smaller islets. Be sure to hire a boat or join a tour to go snorkelling off the An Thoi archipelago in the south. Here, dazzling white-sand beaches and underwater reefs await. On the main island, there are many beaches to choose from, depending on your preference.

Travel to Vietnam’s Tu Lan Caves

Sơn Đoòng, crowned the biggest cave on the planet in 2009, continues to steal headlines. But that doesn’t mean it deserves all the attention. Phong Nha offers every caving experience imaginable. What do drooping dragon claws and bulging broccoli sprigs have in common? You’ll find formations resembling both in the Tú Làn cave system, one of Vietnam’s most diverse subterranean kingdoms.

Tu Lan Cave Vietnam
Explore the Tu Lan Cave in Vietnam

The Tú Làn cave system is woven together by a network of streams that carve up the countryside. This took place over millions of years, resulting in a collection of caves that are all strikingly different from one another.

This outstretched series of caves is the perfect playground for the Wild Tú Làn Explorer tour, a three-day excursion of a lifetime with Oxalis Adventure Tours. Drift from one outcrop to the next in underground rivers. Marvel at chambers and delve into caves. Stargaze from a campsite deep in the jungle.

Embark on a hiking adventure in Ha Giang

From rich rainforests to rocky peaks, pastoral scenes to surreal landscapes, travel to Vietnam’s Ha Giang region and you will be treated to jaw-dropping sights at every turn. 

The Nho Quế River Viewpoint is one of Hà Giang’s most famous attractions. But the best way to see it comes with a climb. The Sky Path is a steep, small road that snakes uphill through Flower H’mong villages, before curving up the side of the mountain to the neighbouring peak.

Hiking in Ha Giang
Hiking the Sky Path in Ha Giang

Sturdy shoes are a must for a hike on the Sky Path. It covers a total of 500 metres on a breathtaking two-hour walk. The views along the way are unlike any other. They overlook mountain ranges, the Nho Quế River and the historic Happiness Road, which took 1,300 volunteers seven years to build.

Tee off at Asia’s best golfing destination

When Vietnam was named “Asia’s Best Golf Destination” at the 2018 World Golf Awards (one of the golf tourism industry’s most prestigious events) it only confirmed what many already knew. With numerous layouts regularly ranking among the best courses in the region, Vietnam has established itself as a golfing heavyweight for some time now. The country’s diversity is reflected in the variety of its golf courses. These range from tropical beauties to some of the closest equivalents to classic links play in the Far East. 

A man playing golf in Vietnam
Vietnam is home to some of Asia’s best golf courses

Contributing to this portfolio of classy courses are some of the biggest names in golf course architecture. Legends Greg Norman, Jack Nicklaus, and Sir Nick Faldo have had a profound influence on the growth of the game in Vietnam, laying out some of the most notable courses in the nation.

If you travel to Vietnam for holding, the five gold-standard designer courses to play are; the Bluffs Ho Tram Strip, Laguna Golf Lang Co, KN Golf Links – Cam Ranh, BRG Danang Golf Resort and Ba Na Hills Golf Club.

Travel to Central Vietnam to rediscover inner calm

Blessed with long, sandy beaches, rich heritage, and gorgeous countryside, Central Vietnam has a lot to offer travellers. But these days, there’s another good reason to travel to Vietnam too. A string of outstanding retreats and spas have formed a new wellness destination. Here, travellers can come to rebalance their bodies and reconnect with themselves.

Wellness experiences in Vietnam
Relax with one of Central Vietnam’s wellness experiences

Hue’s deep spiritual roots make it ideal for a spiritual retreat. On the other hand, Hoi An’s yoga and healing centres provide physical and emotional release. Meanwhile, in Da Nang, award-winning spas trade on transformative therapies, old and new. 

For more information on travelling to Vietnam visit vietnam.travel

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