Vietnam is the land of history stories and spectacular landscapes. Travelling in Vietnam is often associated with highly renowned sites such as Ha Long Bay, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh City. However, there are still many more secrets off the beaten track to be appreciated in the long-stretching country. Here are the top 10 overlooked but incredible cities in Vietnam that will fill you with a sense of awe.
1. Ha Giang
The first place on the list is Ha Giang, one of the most majestic lands of Vietnam.
Ha Giang is not an adventure for everyone. Known as the Northernmost province of Vietnam and bordering with China, Ha Giang poses an extreme landscape of thrilling peaks and deep valleys. It is claimed to be the ideal route for motorbike trips, which will definitely be your one-of-a-lifetime experience. This precious gem is endowed with amazing weather, vibrant natural colors of its native flora, and the gentle singing of waterfalls and forests all year round.
In Ha Giang, you will encounter the most remote villages and minority ethnic groups with their well-preserved lifestyle and traditions. An outstanding activity of those people is the gathering for colorful flea-markets, typically heard of as Dong Van and Quyet Tien outdoor markets, which is unlike anywhere else you would see. Regarding the sinuous mountainous settings, Ha Giang is also the territory of insane and striking passes – those are known as the most simultaneously picturesque and dangerous ones.
Ha Giang is literally out of this world. You have to go there to see it with your own eyes and feel it with all your senses to really understand the mythical praises flying around this stunning landmark.
2. Lao Cai
Speaking of the Far North of Vietnam, travelers may only know of Sapa without being aware that it is only a tiny part of an immense landscape of Lao Cai Province. Lao Cai has much more to offer other than the so-called over-touristy Sapa.
We locals often see Lao Cai as a “chameleon” which constantly changes its colors: the pinkish color of plum and cherry blossoms in Spring; the white color of fluffy clouds on the blue sky in Summer; the golden yellowness of ripe rice terraces in Autumn and the wooden brown of trees and houses hibernating during Winter. No matter what time you hit up Lao Cai, you can still get the best out of its incredible landscape.
In Lao Cai, there are a number of less-known villages outside Sapa with many exotic festivals throughout the year, and of course, a mind-blowing landscape: Cat Cat, Ta Phin, or Ta Van Village to name a few. After arriving in Lao Cai on one of the most beautiful mountainous train rides in the world, you can get on a motorbike and explore all the authentic minority villages scattered around this highland city. Or you can set out for a trek under the wonderful weather and spectacular natural surroundings.
This little city is packed with unparalleled beauty that is like a mysterious spell put on you, making you fall in love and keep going back to explore and appreciate its charm.
3. Yen Bai
The North of Vietnam is packed with amazing landscapes, and Yen Bai is another name to add to the list. Only about three hours by bus from Hanoi Capital, Yen Bai is an ideal destination for adventurers and nature lovers. This is an agriculture-based province of which rice terraces are the signature. Yen Bai was chosen for the Paragliding Festival where colorful parachutes fly over the golden rice fields, which provides a breathtaking view. Yen Bai is one of the rare places across the country that has a hot spring. What could be better than relaxing in a hot spring embraced by the gorgeous ripening rice terraces? What could be more stunning than the emerald spread of Thac Ba Lake carved into the magnificent limestone mountains?
While in Yen Bai, you can also wander around the gemstone market. Although it is open for only a couple hours a day, the variety and quality of the gemstones are undeniable. The precious stones are found deep in mountain ranges by the indigenous people. The experience in Yen Bai could not be the most luxurious, but surely be the most exclusive during your stay in the S-shaped nation.
4. Quang Binh
Quang Binh is often confused with Quang Ninh – which is the home city of the well-known World Heritage Site and sought-after destination Ha Long Bay; however, Quang Binh is a true gem itself comprising all sorts of landscapes and exciting activities. Here is the place for you to sign up for the cave trekking of your life with various options covering all levels and all lengths of time. Not only being gifted with a marvelous cave system that Son Doong is a part of, Quang Binh also hosts one of the most diverse ecosystems known as Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park. This is also another site recognized by UNESCO. Twice.
Right in Dong Hoi, the heart, and also the capital city of this province, there are underlying beauties to be explored. You will be amazed by Mooc Spring Complex, which is like taken out from a fairytale: a mesmerizingly placid spring running through the vast green surroundings of forests. No matter if you are into a quiet spot to immerse in nature, or are up for some fun activities, this little paradise would either content you.
5. Kon Tum
At No. 5 is Kon Tum – the furthest province on the Western Highlands of Vietnam as well as strategically borders both Cambodia and Laos, which make it accessible through the international border crossing. The charm of this city lies among the free and wild spirit of its people, those who are brought up by the generosity of the immense forests. The lifestyle and traditions are well-preserved throughout generations: people live in communal houses; they socialize and dance around the flickering campfire; they live up the spirit of their long-lasting Gong culture – the traditional instrument and also the soul of the community. Kon Tum cuisine also profoundly reflects the culture of the highlands where food is usually cooked in bamboo tubes and seasoned with wild spices picked in nature.
Some of the precious experiences in Kon Tum could be named are crossing the hanging bridge connecting two iconic minority villages of Bar Nah and Kon Klor; visiting the rusty yet solemn wooden churches; taking a cold dip under the hidden waterfalls.
A highlight of your trip to Kon Tum would be Mang Den (Black Bambooshoot), which is an eco-paradise nestling on the serene highlands – a little gem that could truly give you a glimpse into what the area has to offer.
6. Quy Nhon
Quy Nhon is another underappreciated coastal city in the Central of Vietnam, neighboring Phu Yen but standing out for its unparalleled attraction. This sparsely populated city has an indescribably calm vibe which could either come from the slow pace of lifestyle or the incredibly stillness of landscapes. Among all the beautiful beaches stretching along the coastline, here situated the favored beach of Empress Nam Phuong – the Queen of the last emperor of Vietnam, which is characterized for its egg-shaped stoned seashore.
The cuisine is absolutely amazing with its own way of seasoning – simple yet full of flavors. Some must-try dishes would be fresh fish and shrimp balls noodles and deep-fried seafood pancakes and so much more. You cannot tell whether the landscapes, the food or the people that make you fall in love. It is something about this place gently creeping into your heart and leaving a wave of calmness in you.
Quy Nhon is on its way of getting more and more attention as a beach paradise, so you’d better visit it now before it gets too touristy and mainstreaming.
7. Phu Yen
Phu Yen is truly a gem of Vietnam not only among international tourists but also local travelers. Merely more heard of after its appearance in an epic local blockbuster, where the vast green grass field scattered with yellow wildflowers were chosen and featured for the movie setting, this coastal city in the Central of Vietnam will move all your senses with its incredible natural resources.
Little do you know Phu Yen is praised as the Land of the Rising Sun, where you can get the first sun rays of the day across Vietnam when the sun rises from the horizon of the sea. Owning some of the most beautiful yet understated beaches lying by magnificent cliffs, this is a perfect destination for those who enjoy the serene charms. It can also be known with the only and longest bamboo bridge remaining, which is surrounded by an immense lake and mountain setting and surely gives you chills crossing it.
Phu Yen needs a more extended article to cover all its serenity, but anyway, this is the place for those who are looking for untapped beauty.
8. Buon Ma Thuot
Buon Ma Thuot (or sometimes known as Ban Me) is a city in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. This mountainous location is dominantly populated by selected minority ethnic groups for thousands of years. If you are a nature lover, this is definitely your go-to destination. You will lose yourself in the traditional wooden-house villages and the grand design of its nature. This is the land of rare natural beauty where vast coffee hills meet waterfalls; splendid lakes meet hundred-year-old rock formations.
Buon Ma Thuot is one of the largest coffee producers of the country, so you will have the best cup of coffee at its source. The cuisine here also reflects its people’s spirit which is free and wild – their cooking methods are unique and the ingredients are mainly from nature like free-range chickens and wild boars and accompanied by wild veggies, which will guarantee your overwhelming dining experience.
December to April is the best time to visit. Undergoing development, Buon Me Thuot now facilitates the travelers with its transport system and choices of accommodation while still maintaining its authentic lifestyle outside the city center.
9. Tay Ninh
Located not far from the hustle and bustle metropolis, Ho Chi Minh City, a trip to Tay Ninh could be taken as a pilgrimage to one of the strangest religions: Caodaism. The birth of this religion is a collaboration among three huge historic figures from China, France, and Vietnam namely Sun Vat-sen (a leader of a Chinese Revolution), Victor Hugo (one of the most important poet and novelist of the French Romantic writers), and Nguyen Binh Khiem (the first Vietnamese poet-laureate). You will be impressed by how many Cao Dai temples lining along the roads and flocks of people in white Ao Dai – the Vietnamese traditional dress and also the uniform of this religion – pouring out from the temples after their daily ceremony.
Not only does it carry religious values, Tay Ninh also has a number of beautiful camping spots, which are ideal for a road trip and picnic from Ho Chi Minh City. There are other newly-formed lakes hiding around the base of the Black Virgin Mountain to make sure you will have a varied range of activities to do throughout the day.
10. An Giang
The Mekong Delta is a beautiful girl who is fast asleep; the localities here are still unknown by travelers, even the name. And An Giang is one of those names.
An Giang is a rather big province packing a surprising and charming punch. Bordering Cambodia with the vast Mekong River running through its fertile landscape, this town will amaze you by its agricultural traditions and other religious plus history values. This province is so spread out that will make you want to go back over and over again to fully explore it.
You can start from Chau Doc by boat-rowing in the spooky yet surreal Tra Su Cajuput Forest then getting fresh air on a motorboat while channelling around the floating village and soaking in the natural splendor of the God Lake – the largest freshwater lake in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam.
The overall landscape is dotted with lines of palm trees and countless sophisticated temples in the background of emerald lakes and forests.
An Giang or particularly Ba Chuc was the scene of what is known as Ba Chuc Massacre, where more than 3.000 civilians were killed by the Khmer Rouge forces.
Visiting An Giang will not only give you an unforgettable experience with natural beauty but also contributes to waking up a girl who refuses to wake up!
Above are the top 10 hidden gem destinations in Vietnam in 2021, the following articles will be helpful for you:
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Thank you and meet in Vietnam!