Places to explore in North Vietnam

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A place of rippling mountains, cascading rice terraces, and karst topography, Northern Vietnam is full of great places to visit. Here are the top places you must explore when in Northern Vietnam.

Hanoi

Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, is a diverse and bustling city. With much to offer, this city is one of the country’s top tourist hot spots. Hanoi offers French-colonial architecture, a rich food culture, and a long history.

The beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake is the living cultural, historical, and spiritual heart of Hanoi – a must-see place to visit!

North of Hoan Kiem Lake, is the ancient Old Quarter. This charming part of the city offers an insight into the complex and long history of Hanoi. It’s a wonderful place to wander, with its maze of small streets and a jumble of shops. There are many little temples like Bach Ma temple, and markets selling great Vietnamese street food. 

Halong Bay

Located in the Gulf of Tonkin, The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay is the most visited destination in all of Vietnam, known for its spectacular scenery. Home to sparkling emerald waters, caves, traditional floating villages, towering limestone islands, and hundreds of tiny islands – many of them only inhabited by monkeys! 

The region is popular for scuba diving, rock climbing, and hiking, particularly in the mountainous Cát Bà National Park.

Explore the majestic Halong Bay and what this beautiful place has to offer by kayak, and take in the stunning scenery. Sea kayak expeditions take visitors past islands named for their shapes, including Stone Dog and Teapot islets.

Cat Ba Island

Cat Ba Island is the largest island in Halong Bay, and is home to plenty of hotels, restaurants, and bars. 

Spend a day relaxing on Cat Ba Island’s beaches and enjoy popular activities like swimming, snorkelling, and diving. Take some time exploring around the island by trekking, caving, and rock-climbing, specifically at the Cat Ba National Park. 

Haiphong

Cross from Cat Ba Island is Hai Phong – a major port city in northeastern Vietnam. Hai Phong is a lovely city that retains a colonial look, lined with French colonial-era landmarks such as the neoclassical Opera House and Queen of the Rosary cathedral, dating to the 19th century.

Hai Phong is full of many great places to visit including temples, shrines, pagodas, and mausoleums. The city is home to Du Hang Pagoda, an elaborate Buddhist temple, and Hai Phone Museum, which showcases the city’s long history.

Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh is a small city in the Red River Delta of Northern Vietnam – one of Vietnam’s hidden gems, 100km southeast of Hanoi.

Ninh Binh is an ideal base for exploring the nearby karst scenery like Tam Coc (three caves). This UNESCO World Heritage Site has limestone formations tower above rice paddies, and is considered one of the most picturesque spots in all of the north.

Take a ride on a rowboat and marvel at the rugged karst terrain, mountain goats, and lush foliage as you glide along Tam Coc’s peaceful river waterways through a series of dark grottoes. 

Cycle through the traditional villages and rice paddies of Tam Coc. Then climb the 500 stone steps to reach the peak of Huang Mua Cave and witness an unreal panoramic view of the countries and the Ngo Dong river.

Whilst in Ninh Binh, check out Vietnam’s oldest national park, Cuc Phuong National Park. It’s one of Southeast Asia’s largest virgin rainforests, filled with primitive caves, and thousands of butterflies.

Sapa

Sapa is a great place to visit in North Vietnam, famous for its towering peaks, steep rice terraces, and picturesque villages nestled between every breathtaking view. 

The town of Sapa is surrounded by Vietnamese Alps, including the 10,326 ft Mount Fansipan – the highest mountain in the country! Explore above the clouds at the top of Mount Fansipan to experience the surreal views over the valleys of Sapa. 

Hike scenic trails in Sapa past flowing waterfalls and colourful traditional markets. 

Ha Giang province

Ha Giang is a province in northern Vietnam, bordering China. It is known for its forested limestone and granite mountains. Unlike Sapa, which has seen a great amount of tourist development in recent years, Ha Giang provides a more authentic experience. 

Ha Giang is a great place to explore, perfect for curious travellers wanting an off-the-beaten-track experience. 

An adventurous way to see the area is by motorbike. Stop off and wander through minority villages and farmland, along rocky mountainside.

The Perfume Pagoda

The Perfume Pagoda is a vast complex of Buddhist temples and shrines, built into the limestone Huong Tich Mountains.

Small rowboats take you past several Buddhist temples, which are all active places of worship, until you arrive at the base of the main complex. At the heart of the complex lies the Perfume Pagoda (also known as the Perfume Temple) in the Huong Tich Cave. An ambitious climb of hundreds of steps lead up to the Perfume Pagoda.

There are many pagodas to visit, each offering a different shrine. The Perfume Pagoda attracts pilgrims and tourists seeking good luck. Check out Touring Highlights provider of self-guided holiday tours.