Top 10 things to do in Vietnam

Fly around city streets on the back of a scooter in search of soul saving sustenance or enjoy a day or two on-board an antique junk boat as it glides between sandy coves; whatever fills your banh mi, our top 10 things to do in Vietnam guide gives travelers a tempting taste of things to come. We’ve sifted through our favourite family, small group and tailor made tours to find a diverse range of cultural, adventurous and intrinsically Vietnamese activities so all you have to do is sit back, relax and read on, as Southeast Asian dreams swirl like the steam from a freshly served bowl of pho.

1. Vietnamese cooking classes

Fresh, flavoursome and so darn moreish, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t thought of rolling your own before. Learn how to cook classic Vietnamese dishes, like spring rolls, and adding an essentially aromatic activity to any itinerary. Hoi An is a great location to take a cooking course with ingredients bought at the local market and chopped and cooked beside the river, or immerse yourself with a full cooking and food vacation.

Our top selling trip: Vietnam Small Group Vacation, a Food Adventure
Read more: Cooking and food vacations guide

2. Junk boat cruise in Halong Bay

Halong Bay is roughly four hours from Hanoi but a world away in terms of peace and tranquillity. One of the best ways to further cultivate the calm is to board a traditional wooden junk boat – a small multi cabin sailing ship – and relax as the crew steer between crescent shaped coves, green grottoes and limestone karst islands, such as Ti Top, before anchoring for a night under the stars.

Our top selling trip: Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh vacation in Vietnam

3. Hanoi highlights urban adventure

Hanoi’s highlights come thick and fast, although crossing roads to get a closer look can be something of an art form. See the sights, including the Temple of Literature, tea houses, Hoa Lo prison museum and Hoan Kiem Lake, on an urban adventure tour with a local guide and you’ll be navigating the streets in no time whilst others are still watching wave after wave of scooters whizz by.

4. Travel by train

This classic Southeast Asia train journey takes passengers on-board Vietnam’s historic Reunification Express from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City on an all-encompassing hop on/hop off itinerary. There's as much fun off the rails as on with nights afloat on Halong Bay, guided motorbike tours of Hue, a free day for cycling or cooking in Hoi An, and sunshine, sand and snorkelling in Nha Trang.

Our top selling trip: Reunification Express Vacation, Vietnam
See all our trips: Vietnam railway vacations

5. Dragon boat cruise along the Perfume River

Another, more sedate, means of discovering Hue’s highlights is onboard a colourfully carved dragon boat as it journeys along the Perfume River en route to Emperor Tu Duc's royal tomb and a Buddhist monastery where you’ll alight for lunch. The Perfume River is so called due to the spring blossom and autumnal leaves that fall into the water from the fruit orchards that align the river’s banks.

6. Hire a bike in Hoi An, & beyond

Turn your attention to two wheels in Hoi An rather than tailoring a new suit and you'll soon be pedalling past paddy fields all the way to Cua Dai Beach. Alternatively, if you're certain that cycling is your thing, why not join a small group on a cycling tour of Vietnam that will take you all the way from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City pedalling an average distance of 50kms per day.

Our top selling trip: Vietnam cycling vacation, small group
Read more: Vietnam cycling vacations travel guide
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Vietnam or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

7. Explore the Mekong

Crossing the Mekong River by sampan – flat-bottomed boat – is as authentic a Vietnamese activity as you can get, although tuk tuk tours around remote rural villages run a very close second. Of course, being invited into a family’s home on the Mekong Delta is also really worthwhile, with chances to help with the cooking or just kick about with the kids guaranteed to linger longer than any five-star alternatives.
Our top selling trip: Vietnam vacation
See all our trips: Mekong Delta vacations

8. Vietnamese hill tribe vacations

Trekking to rural villages tucked away amongst the terraced rice paddies and jungle-clad slopes in northwest Vietnam is an experience that will last a lifetime. Dao and Hmong people have long lived in the Sa Pa region and staying with a family, helping to cook, play with the kids and practise Vietnamese, also helps to keep traditional customs and lifestyles alive through sustainable tourism.

Our top selling trip: Vietnam Hill Tribe Trek & Homestay
See all our trips: Vietnamese hill tribe vacations

9. Take it all in

Traveling from top to toe in Vietnam is definitely recommended. Not only will you get to compare the major cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh but you'll also be treated to the highlights of Halong Bay, Hue and Hoi An, along the way. Two weeks gives you enough time to take it all in rather than whizzing from one location to the next, especially if you include a couple of domestic flights instead of lumpy, bumpy, and often lengthy, overland travel arrangements.

10. Cu Chi tunnels

From the French to the Americans, Vietnam is littered with the remnants of invaders past and visiting the Cu Chi tunnel complex, just outside Ho Chi Minh City, remains the region’s most intriguing and often most humbling draw. Learn about life in the tunnels as you crouch and crawl in spaces or stroll through dimly lit subterranean corridors that have been widened for Western waists.
Written by Chris Owen
Photo credits: [Page banner: Fré Sonneveld] [Top box - floating village: Edgardo W. Olivera] [Hanoi highlights - Temple of Literature: Paul Mannix] [Dragon boat cruise along the Perfume River: David McKelvey] [Explore the Mekong: Anne Lin] [Hike in Pu Luong Nature Reserve: Hoa Nguyen]