Vietnam: Where To Go On Your First Trip



04 HUE


Illustrated map of Vietnam.

Last November I had the chance to visit the beautiful country of Vietnam. In the roughly 14 days that we spent exploring the country, we experienced everything from the bustling streets of the city to the calm quietness of the countryside. I went in with very few expectations and came back more cultured, humbled, and well fed.

Planning a first time trip to Vietnam can be both exciting but also a little intimidating. I say this because Vietnam is HUGE and there are so many things to do and see. In this article, I hope to share with you some of my favorite places that I explored to help narrow down your search.


Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon depending on who you’re talking to) is as rich in history as it is rich in mopeds. Seriously, the traffic here is insane and the energy level is high. Most people who visit either love it or hate it.

HCMC does, however, have the best of both worlds. Take a trip into the past by visiting the War Remnants Museum, the Old Post Office, the Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Opera House (just to name a few). For a more modern experience, explore along Nguyen Hue street where you’ll find anything from international brand stores to boutique shops. To see the city from a different perspective, check out the Saigon Skydeck or take a break at one of the many rooftop cafes. Read more about what to do in this city here.

Traffic in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).

Traffic in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).


If you’ve ever seen a picture of a street glowing with paper lanterns, my best bet is that it’s of the beautiful city of Hoi An. Hoi An is definitely more laid back and a great city to include in your itinerary if you want a place to relax. During the daytime, take a stroll (or even bike) around the historic Old Town and explore the plethora of tailor shops. For lunch, eat some of the best banh mi that Vietnam has to offer at Madam Khanh, The Banh Mi Queen. At night, cross the Bridge of Lights to An Hoi and enjoy snacking on street food while admiring the lantern-lit streets.

Walking around the historic Old Town in Hoi An.

Walking around the historic Old Town in Hoi An.


Located about 50 minutes north of Hoi An is the up-and-coming coastal city, Da Nang. Da Nang is known for it’s beautiful beaches, fresh seafood, and outdoor activities. One of the main things to see in this city are the Marble Mountains: five large hills made out of limestone and marble where you can explore pagodas and hidden caves.

Exploring the Marble Mountains in Da Nang.

Exploring the Marble Mountains in Da Nang.

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If you want a taste of the city life without the chaos of Ho Chi Minh City, then Hue is your place. There is so much history in this former capital city. Top things to do in Hue include visiting Thien Mu Pagoda (Pagoda of the Celestial Lady), touring the Imperial City, and exploring the many picturesque tombs of past rulers. Hue is also famous for it’s bun bo hue (spicy beef noodle soup) so make sure to try a bowl of this delicious soup if you add Hue to your itinerary.

Thien Mu Pagoda (Pagoda of the Celestial Lady) in Hue.

Thien Mu Pagoda (Pagoda of the Celestial Lady) in Hue.


No trip to Vietnam is complete without a visit to Ha Long Bay. Okay that’s a bit of an overstatement since there are so many beautiful places to explore in Vietnam but, Ha Long Bay is really worth the visit.

The best way to experience this UNESCO World Heritage site is by cruising around in a junk boat. Top things to see and do include exploring the many caves hidden throughout the bay, kayaking at Hang Luon, night time squid fishing, and enjoying the view at the top of Ti Top Mountain.

A rare, unobstructed view of Halong Bay.

A rare, unobstructed view of Halong Bay.


The following places were on my list but in order to truly experience Vietnam (without tearing my hair out from the stress of traveling around too much), I decided to save them for next time.

Hanoi - capital of Vietnam.

Sapa - beautiful countryside with cascading rice terraces.

My Son Ruins - abandoned temple ruins.

Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park - home to the largest cave in the world.

Phu Quoc - the perfect beach getaway.

Thanks for reading and I hope this helps narrow down your search for places to visit in Vietnam. For those of you who have been to this country before, what were some of your favorite places? Let me know in the comment section below!