Things to Do in Vietnam Southeast Asia

The 15 Epic Things To Do in Vietnam

Vietnam is a wonderland of natural beauty, vibrant culture, and delicious food. There are more things to do in Vietnam than you could possibly fit in a normal visit.

From scaling spectacular mountains – to exploring the world’s largest cave.

From splashing in turquoise surf – to floating in the muddy Mekong river.

From luxury cruises – to eating street food.

Vietnam has amazed, thrilled, and even inspired us for the year and a half that we’ve lived here. If you’re considering a visit, let us tempt you with the best things to do in Vietnam.

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Cruise in Luxury on Halong Bay

Things to Do in Vietnam - Halong Bay in North Vietnam near Hanoi

Halong Bay is one of the most beautiful places in Vietnam (and Asia). Glassy emerald waters, thousands of pinnacle islands, hidden caves, and a mysterious atmosphere make Halong Bay seem like a fantasy world.

A 3-day luxury cruise is the best way to experience this natural wonder. They include all the nature-loving excursions – like kayaking, swimming, climbing Mt. Tiptop, and exploring caves. AND there are Tai Chi Classes at sunrise. Cooking classes before dinner. Cocktails as you sail into the sunset. Scrumptious meals. And other indulgences.

The whole point of Halong Bay is the surreal beauty, but why not maximize the experience with some luxury.

Hike with a Local on Sapa Mountains

Things to Do in Vietnam - Hike in Sapa with the locals in North Vietnam

The Sapa Mountains are world famous for 3 things: breathtaking views, massive rice terraces, and the mountain tribes who built them. Trekking in Sapa combines all 3 in an unforgettable experience.

The rice terraces are a stunning mix of nature, art, and engineering. They cover several whole mountains, making them look like giant pyramids. Seeing their massive scope in person boggles the mind.

Best of all, the ethnic minorities (who built and maintain the terraces) also serve as hiking guides. Many also offer homestays in their actual homes for the most authentic experience.

Ride a Sampan at Tam Coc

Things to Do in Vietnam - Ride a sampan in Tam Coc

The limestone mountains around Tam Coc are like a Halong Bay on land. The towering pinnacles have sheer walls that shoot out of the ground. Picturesque rice paddies cover the surrounding area. A lazy river winds around the rocky towers and through a few water caves.

The scene is almost as postcard gorgeous as Halong Bay. In fact, many find them even more beautiful – especially when on a traditional Sampan rowboat. The rowers are women, and they row with their feet!

Shop a Floating Market on the Mekong Delta

Things to Do in Vietnam - Floating Market on the Mekong Delta

The Mekong Delta is the “fruit bowl” of Vietnam. It’s lush, fertile, and home to one of Vietnam’s cultural signatures – floating markets. Local farmers use the infinite network of waterways to carry their produce from the rural backwaters to the big markets near Can Tho city.

The markets are a series of small boats where locals trade tons of melons, mangos, and other mystery foods. They literally toss whole loads, by hand, from boat to boat. They are also more than happy to sell tourists fruit one piece at a time.

The Floating Markets are a dying tradition. See them before they lose all their authenticity.

Attend a Full Moon Festival at Hoi An

Things to Do in Vietnam - Full moon festival in Hoi An

Hoi An is a gorgeous “ancient town” that has preserved much of its centuries-old architecture and charm. This Full Moon Festival is both one of the most special AND the most common events. Exploring the living history of Hoi An by day is a highlight of many Vietnam visitors. And strolling at night is even better.

Every night, silk lanterns line the streets and canals of Hoi An. Once a month, they have a Full Moon Festival. Other illumination is extinguished, and only the warm glow of the silk lanterns light your way.

If your visit doesn’t fall on the full moon, don’t fret. Hoi An is almost as gorgeous every evening.

Chase Waterfalls in Dalat

Things to Do in Vietnam- Chase Waterfalls in Dalat in Central Vietnam

If you love waterfalls, Dalat is the place. Located in the central highlands, Dalat has some of the prettiest and most surprising landscapes in Vietnam. There are lakes, pine forests, rolling hills, endless flowers, and a dozen waterfalls!

Each waterfall has its own special features. Some are remote and romantic. Some are powerful and intimidating. Some are the perfect setting for adventures like hiking and canyoning. And some are just too cute, quirky, and kitschy to miss.

There’s a lot to love about Dalat, but you could spend weeks just chasing waterfalls.

Escape to Paradise at Phu Quoc Island

Things to Do in Vietnam - Paradise on Phu Quoc in South Vietnam near Saigon

Phu Quoc Island is a lazy tropical paradise off the southern coast of Vietnam. Set in the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Thailand, Phu Quoc has miles of powdery beaches, a virgin jungle, and resorts for every taste and budget. Phu Quoc is Vietnam’s largest island.

Formerly a “secret” getaway spot, Phu Quoc is quickly growing in popularity, but it’s still easy to find secluded beaches. There’s not much action or nightlife on this island.

Phu Quoc is best suited for relaxation or romance.

Play in Vietnam’s Largest Sandbox at Mui Ne

Things to Do in Vietnam - Sandunes in Mui Ne in South Vietnam near Ho Chi Minh

Did you know that green, tropical Vietnam has a desert? Located a few miles from the beach town of Mui Ne, these massive Sand Dunes are unexpected and lots of fun. There are White Dunes and Red Dunes. The White Dunes are the best.

You can ride ATV’s, Jeeps, and Sandboard sleds. Sunrise is the best time to visit.

Explore the Largest Cave System on Earth at Phong Nha

Things to Do in Vietnam - Cave system in Phong Nha in central Vietnam

Phong Nha is part of the Ke Bang National Park in central Vietnam. There’s a lot to see and do in this nature preserve, but the most outstanding feature is the cave network.

This system is home to the largest cave on Earth, Son Doong Cave. That cave is difficult and expensive to visit (starting price is $3000USD), but many other mind-blowing caves are cheap and easy to explore for regular folks.

There are many affordable day tours and even overnight camping inside the caves.

Climb Marble Mountains Vietnam

Things to Do in Vietnam - Marble Mountains in Danang which is central Vietnam

The Marble Mountains Vietnam is a natural attraction with spiritual importance. These 5 limestone mountains have numerous caves and grottos filled with Temples, Pagodas, and Buddhist statues. The mountains and caves would be impressive as natural features. But the temples inside caves and mountaintop pagodas make this place unforgettable.

There’s even a 400-year-old Lady Buddha carved into a cave. The Marble Mountains are also next to the beach. There are great views of the coast and ocean everywhere, especially from the highest peaks.

Climbing Marble Mountains is relatively easy. It’s moderate exercise, but all walkways are paved and all climbing is on stairs. There’s even an elevator.

It’s a pilgrimage site for Vietnamese Buddhists.  It can get crowded at times, but it’s worth a visit. Marble Mountains Vietnam is located between Hoi An and Danang. For adventure lovers, rock climbing and rappelling tours are available.

See a 1000-Year-Old Water Puppet Performance

Things to Do in Vietnam - Water puppet performances throughout Vietnam

Water puppets are Vietnam’s most famous art form. Created in the Red River delta near Hanoi, this ancient tradition has been alive since the 11th century.

The puppets are wooden figures, hand carved and painted by craftsmen. The performances take place on a water “stage” and depict scenes of Vietnam’s rural way of life.

Performances are accompanied by live music, featuring traditional instruments and songs. There are water puppet shows all over the country. The most famous is Than Long Theatre in Hanoi.

Catch a Show at Saigon Opera House

Things to Do in Vietnam - Opera House in Ho Chi Minh in south vietnam Saigon

The Saigon Opera House is more than an iconic landmark in Ho Chi Minh City. Virtually everyone who visits Ho Chi Minh sees the Opera House on a sightseeing tour, but few actually watch the performance. It’s a wonderful way to experience both historical and contemporary Vietnamese culture.

The best performance is the AO Show. It is a vibrant and acrobatic performance, reminiscent of Cirque du Soleil. The show portrays the history of Vietnam from its agricultural roots, through the war years, and to the modernization of today.

All the sets are made of bamboo, which is as beautiful as it is symbolic. The performance is fun, exciting, and gives a Vietnam visit more context and meaning.

Feel the Heat of a Fire Breathing Dragon

Things to Do in Vietnam - Fire Breathing Dragon in Danang Vietnam located in central Vietnam near Hoi An

Dragons rule Vietnam. They’re the most important mythological creatures here. They cover everything from temples to cereal boxes to tattoos. But there’s only 1 fire breathing Dragon – and you can only see it in Danang.

This massive beast is over 2000 feet long (660m) and shoots fire at 9pm, every Saturday and Sunday. It’s a free public spectacle that draws more locals than tourists.

The Dragon Bridge fire show is only one of many reasons to visit Danang. Danang is the most under-rated city in Vietnam. It has a huge beach, a lovely river, and plenty of fun activities at both.

There are also many interesting attractions in or near Danang. It’s a great as a stopover and as base to explore the central region. And you can see Vietnam’s only fire breathing dragon.

Splash at the Beach

Things to Do in Vietnam- Splash at the Beach in Vietnam

Of all the things to do in Vietnam, splashing, lounging, or other beachy fun are almost unavoidable. With thousands of miles of coastline (and several islands), a gorgeous stretch of sand is almost always nearby.

We’ve already mentioned lazy Phu Quoc Island. Other great beach destinations include Mui Ne, Nha Trang, and Danang.

Mui Ne has the best kitesurfing and windsurfing. Nha Trang has the best diving and snorkeling. It’s also a very lively, urban beach. Danang is a quiet beach with large swaths of white sand and super convenient amenities.

Eat ‘til you Explode

Things to Do in Vietnam - Eat till you Explode in Vietnam

Vietnam has some of the tastiest (and cheapest) food on the planet. You may know much about Vietnamese food, but this is the place to experiment. The Vietnamese can make almost anything delicious. Say yes to it all. And don’t let language and cultural barriers hold you back.

If you want some help getting started, there are food tours and cooking classes almost everywhere. These are some of the best things to do in Vietnam – bar none.

A food tour should be one of the first things you do when in a city. They’ll show you what you need to eat well, eat cheaply, and eat ‘til you explode.

Other Things to Do in Vietnam

We tried to include the best popular highlights and hidden gems on our list, but we had to omit many worthy things to do in Vietnam. There are too many to cover even briefly.

For additional information on these and other things to do in Vietnam, check out other posts on our site.

You can find more detailed planning information, personal accounts, and suggestions from our many trial and error experiences in Vietnam.

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