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The ten best destinations in Vietnam

July 12, 2012

Globalgrasshopper, a popular site for international tourists, has listed the top ten must-see destinations in Vietnam.

1. Son Tra Peninsula

Son Tra Peninsula, about 10km from the central city of Danang, is a special gift of the god to Danang. It is an ideal place for tourists to travel to the city to get away for the day and enjoy the real feeling of a different Vietnam.

Son Tra looks like a mushroom of which the cap is Son Tra Mountain and stalk is a beautiful sandy beach that affords an ideal area for bathing, swimming, playing sports and fishing.

Son Tra acts as a giant screen protecting Danang from storms and cyclones coming from the sea. Son Tra is put under the national protected forest regulation since it is a natural preservation area.

The peninsula is famous for its plentiful plants and fauna as well as the attractive scenery. It is said that fairies used to come here for singing, dancing and playing chess, so Son Tra is also called Tien Sa.

On this mountain, there still remain more than 30km² of natural forests, nearly 300 types of plants and several hundred kinds of fauna, including rare animal. From the top of the mountain, you can get a panoramic view of Danang City, Marble Mountains, Ba Na – Mount Chua.

Suoi Da (Stone Stream) lies by the side of the mountain, fine sandy surfaces run round the peninsula, several breaks of waves are running steadily up and down and washing up on the stones heaped up around the seaside. All are attractive spots for tourists. It is so majestic, so romantic, so wide and really beautiful.

2. Royal tombs of Nguyen dynasty

The Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945) is the last of the Vietnamese dynasties. In total, there were 13 emperors, only seven of which had tombs however: Gia Long, Minh Mang, Thieu Tri, Tu Duc, Duc Duc, Dong Khanh and Khai Dinh.

The seven imperial tombs are located in a hilly region southwest of the Citadel. The tombs of Minh Mang, Tu Duc, Dong Khanh and Khai Dinh belong to the major touristic destinations in Hue.

Each of the tombs was constructed during the reign of the emperor it was named after. All the tombs are equipped with statues and monuments in perfect Feng Shui harmony to create a natural setting, in the architecture of which the respective emperor’s philosophical tendencies are often reflected.

The general elements incorporated in all the tombs are: walls, triple gate (Tam Quan Gate), Salutation Court, Stele House, temples, lakes and ponds, pavilions, gardens, and finally the tomb.

King Khai Dinh tomb is considered the most beautiful.

3. Phu Quoc Island

Phu Quoc is part of the southern province of Kien Giang province. The island is 50 km long (from north to south) and 25 km wide (from east to west at its widest part).

Surrounded by more than 40 km of white beaches decorated with coconut palms, Phu Quoc is Vietnam’s largest island. Its western coastline is sparsely populated while the interior is largely covered with jungle and mainly deserted.

A stay on Phu Quoc Island would not be complete without visiting one of the factories producing nuoc mam (fish sauce), one of the most popular ingredients of the Vietnamese cooking as well as one of the pearl farms with panels describing the formation of pearls and shops selling pearl jewelry.

The island has a unique species of dogs, the Phu Quoc ridgeback, which has a ridge of hair that runs along its back in the opposite direction to the rest of the coast. Much of this island’s nature is still protected.

Around 70 percent of the island, an area of 31,422 hectares, became a national park in 2001. The rainy season on Phu Quoc is from July to November and the peak season for tourism is midwinter, when the sky is blue and the sea is calm.

4. The Mekong Delta

The Mekong Delta is the region in southwestern Vietnam where the Mekong River approaches and empties into the sea through a network of distributaries.

The Mekong delta region encompasses a large portion of southwestern Vietnam of 39,000 square kilometers. It has recently been dubbed as a ‘biological treasure trove.’ Over 10,000 new species have been discovered in previously unexplored areas of Mekong Delta.

The region lies immediately to the west of Ho Chi Minh City, roughly forming a triangle stretching from My Tho in the east to Chau Doc and Ha Tien in the northwest, down to Ca Mau and the East Sea at the southernmost tip of Vietnam.

It displays a variety of physical landscapes, ranging from mountains and highlands to the north and west to broad, flat flood plains in the south.

This diversity of terrain was largely the product of tectonic uplift and folding brought about by the collision of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates about 50 million years ago.

The soil of the Mekong River basin consists mainly of sediment, deposited over thousands of years as the river changed its course due to the flatness of the low-lying terrain.

Coming to the delta, visitors will discover the daily life of local people and diverse landscape.

5. Tram Ton Pass (Heaven Gate)

Tram Ton Pass is Vietnam’s highest mountain pass. On a clear day, the view is spectacular.

Don’t be deterred by mist in Sapa. Conditions on the pass are frequently different to those in town. The temperature can also rise quite a bit on the pass as you break away from the cooler air of Sapa.   

Thach Bac (Silver) waterfalls are a compulsory stop for local tour groups and can be pretty busy. The falls are beautiful but probably only warrant a visit if time permits and in conjunction with a visit to Tram Ton Pass 3km further along the road.

6. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

Phong Nha-Ke Bang is a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site in the central province of Quang Binh, about 500 km south of Hanoi.

The park is noted for its cave and grotto systems as it is composed of 300 caves and grottos with a total length of about 70 km, of which only 20 have been surveyed by Vietnamese and British scientists; 17 of these are located in the Phong Nha area and three in the Ke Bang area.

After April 2009, the total length of caves and grottoes is 126 km. Before the discovery of Son Doong Cave, Phong Nha held several world cave records, as it has the longest underground river, as well as the largest caverns and passageways.

The park derives its name from Phong Nha Cave, containing many fascinating rock formations, and Ke Bang forest. The plateau on which the park is situated is probably one of the finest and most distinctive examples of a complex karst landform in Southeast Asia.

This national park was listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 2003 for its geological values. The world’s largest cave, was discovered by a team of British cave explorers in April 2009.

7. Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a popular travel destination, located in Quang Ninh province. The bay features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes.

Ha Long Bay has an area of around 1,553 km2, including 1,960–2,000 islets, most of which are limestone. The core of the bay has an area of 334 km2 with a high density of 775 islets.

The limestone in this bay has gone through 500 million years of formation in different conditions and environments. The evolution of the karst there has taken 20 million years under the impact of the tropical wet climate.

The geo-diversity of the environment in the area has created biodiversity, including a tropical evergreen biosystem, oceanic and sea shore biosystem. Ha Long Bay is home to 14 endemic floral species and 60 endemic faunal species.

Historical research surveys have shown the presence of prehistorical human beings in this area tens of thousands years ago.

The successive ancient cultures are the Soi Nhu culture around 18,000–7,000 BC, the Cai Beo culture 7,000–5,000 BC and the Ha Long culture 5,000–3,500 years ago.

Ha Long Bay also marked important events in the history of Vietnam with many artifacts found in Bai Tho Mout, Dau Go Cave and Bai Chay.

In 1994, the core zone of Ha Long Bay was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, and listed for a second time.

8. One-pillar pagoda

One Pillar Pagoda is a historic Buddhist temple in Hanoi. It is regarded alongside Perfume Pagoda, as one of Vietnam’s two most iconic places of worship.

The pagoda was built by King Ly Thai Tong, who ruled from 1028 to 1054. According to the court records, the king was childless and dreamt that he met the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, who handed him a baby son while seated on a lotus flower.

The King then married a peasant girl that he had met and she bore him a son. He constructed the pagoda in gratitude for this in 1049 by erecting a pillar in the middle of a lotus pond, similar to the one he saw in the dream.

The structure was built of wood on a single stone pillar 1.25 m in diameter, and it was designed to resemble a lotus blossom, which is a Buddhist symbol of purity, since a lotus blossoms in a muddy pond.

In 1954, the French Union forces destroyed the pagoda before withdrawing from Vietnam, it was rebuilt afterwards.

9. Da Dia Rapids

Da Dia (Stone Plate) Rapids are located in Tuy An District, the south central province of Phu Yen.

With strange rock formations, foamy rapids, a fissure with multi-colored fish and a deep cave, Da Dia Rapids was listed as a National Heritage Site by the former Ministry of Culture and Information, now the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Da Dia Rapids is a baffling and beautiful riddle of nature, and set in stone for all time. It’s like a giant jigsaw, irritatingly made of the same shaped pieces, and forming a solidified structure that has proved more than just a curiosity for thousands.

The stones in Da Dia Rapids are bazan stones of dark black and light yellow. There are stones of different sizes with different shapes such as round, pentagon, and polygon and so on.

In the middle of the rapids, there is a small fissure filled with rain and sea water. In this fissure, rocks stick out at odd angles. Hence, when travelling to this area, visitors can also enjoy the fresh air and refresh after a long drive.

Visiting Da Dia Rapids – you will have the chance to learn about many species of marine creatures, especially jam seaweeds.

10. Hue ancient capital

On December 11, 1993, UNESCO recognized the architectural ensemble of Hue as a World Cultural Heritage site.

That was the first time a Vietnamese city had ever received such a title. Hue was the capital of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945), the final feudal regime of Vietnam.

Situated 638 km to the south of Hanoi, only with 6,777 hectares in area and 280,000 in population, this historical ancient capital has become one cultural and tourism center of Vietnam and the world.  

The most amazing thing about Hue is the blend of royal-folk architecture and romantic nature.

This romance is all evident in the beauty of the Huong River, Ngu Mountain, chanties and folklore songs, ancient citadels, palaces, temples, pagodas, ancient garden houses, special cuisine only found in Hue, court music and dancing, Hue chanties on the Huong (Perfume) River and especially in the souls of the people here.

Beautiful nature, ancient architecture, and elegant people are combined together to make Hue a heaven of poems, music and paintings, and a World Heritage site that serves as an everlasting inspiration for generations of artists.

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