The Vietnamese capital is where East meet West and where Chinese and French influences have left their mark in their architecture. Hanoi retains over 600 pagodas and temples and has 18 lakes. The Thang Long Imperial Citadel was built in the 11th century by the Ly Viet Dynasty, marking the independence of the Dai Viet, constructed upon the remains of a Chinese fortress which dated from the 7th century, on reclaimed land from the Red River Delta in Hanoi. This was the centre of regional political power for almost 13 centuries without interruption. Key sites include the One Pillar Pagoda (built in 1049) and the picturesque Temple of Literature (1070) dedicated to Confucius.
Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Gulf of Tonkin consisting of around 1,950 towering limestone islands and tiny islets of outstanding natural beauty. Most of the islands are uninhabited. The names given to the islands are based on their shapes and forms: Human Head Island, Sail Island and Fighting Cock Island. There are some spectacular caves, magnificent palaces with huge stalactites hanging down and stalagmites growing majestically upwards.
Hué was the political, cultural and religious capital of a united Vietnam under the Nguyen dynasty from 1802 until 1945. The Perfume River winds its way through the city giving this unique feudal capital a setting of great natural beauty. Hué was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. Within the Hue Citadel were located not only administrative and military functions of the Empire, but also the Imperial Residence, the Hoang Thanh (Imperial City), the Tu Cam Thanh (Forbidden Purple City) and related royal palaces.
Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is Vietnam’s largest city. Today Ho Chi Minh is very much the heart of the Vietnamese business world whilst continuing to retains its connections to the past, particularly in Cho Lon, Ho Chi Minh’s Chinatown. Here dozens of elegant temples and pagodas can be found. The French also left their marks with some fine colonial-era buildings such as the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office.
During the 16th and 17th centuries Hoi An was a busy trading port attracting merchants from the great navigating nations of the day, the Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese. Hoi An also was an important meeting place of many cultures, such as Champa, Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese. Today Hoi An is regarded as a living museum, an appealing town with historic houses, public halls, pagodas and other structures. Don’t miss the covered Japanese bridge. Cua Dai Beach with white sand and deep blue water is warm and sunny all year round. The nearby Cham Islands are a world biosphere reserve with colourful coral reefs and an abundance of sea life.
The Sapa district is famous for both its fine, rugged scenery and its rich cultural diversity. Sapa is a delightful picturesque town in the Hoang Lien Son mountain range near the Chinese border in northwestern Vietnam, known as “the Tonkinese Alps”. The region is home to many hill tribes, as well as rice terraces, lush vegetation, and Fansipan, the highest peak in Vietnam.
The coastal city of Nha Trang offers 7km of white sand beaches, warm waters and sunshine all year round. Surrounded by archipelagoes, islands and mountains and with a magnificent coral seabed, it is an attractive and appealing destination for a few days of relaxation at the end of your holiday. Hon Tre Island is just 20 minutes away by ferry, one of a group of islands located southwest of Nha Trang.
The “emerald island” of Phu Quoc is the largest in southern Vietnam, located in the Gulf of Thailand. So far, the island is largely undeveloped and offers an appealing combination of laid-back charm, tropical rainforest and untouched remote beaches with calm blue waters and fringed with coconut trees. Phu Quoc is well known for its seafood and fish sauce. The island is linked to the mainland by an airport and by hydrofoil.
There are 16 islands and islets in this stunning archipelago of mountainous rainforest, coral reefs, crystalline waters and lovely beaches. Like many archipelagoes, it has an interesting history. Portuguese navigators first landed here in 1516. England’s East India Company took over the island in 1702 but were ousted by the French in 1721 (who named it Orleans). It was used as a prison island from 1862 until 1975. The Con Dao National Park offers great biodiversity including rare orchids. Sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs between April and November.
The Vung Tau peninsula offers 20km of soft sandy beaches and calm seas, 125km southeast of Ho Chi Minh City, making it popular with residents at weekends. There are five beaches scattered over the peninsula. Bai Truoc, also called Front Beach, is located on the western side of Vung Tau and stands between Nho and Lon Mountains. Vong Nguyet, also called O Quan Beach, is a peaceful cove with good wind, making it popular with surfers. Bai Dau and Dua Beach are both quiet and peaceful whilst Bai Sau, also called Back Beach, has the longest stretch of sand on the peninsula.