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Vietnam’s Off the Beaten Track Destinations

Hidden Gems in Vietnam

This section of Vietnam’s off-the-beaten-track destinations caters to adventurous travellers who want to get off the tourist trail during their holiday. While Vietnam has some very famous sites well worth visiting, it has somewhat diluted the authenticity of the whole experience, especially in prominent locals such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Halong Bay.

Fortunately, there are still plenty of hidden gems that still retain that raw edge of local life, allowing you to experience Vietnam’s tranquil countryside, breathtaking mountain ranges, and uninhabited islands. If you’ve grown tired of Hanoi’s chaotic traffic or Nha Trang’s overcrowded beaches, read on for our helpful guide of the more exotic destinations in Vietnam.

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    1

    Con Dao Islands

    Southern Vietnam
    Con Dao Islands

    Con Dao Islands comprises 16 uninhabited islets just off the southern coast of Vietnam, each of which offers expansive beaches shaded with evergreen trees. The main island was once the site of a French-run prison for Vietnamese involved in the independence movement, but today it’s a popular spot for snorkelling, swimming, and diving. The more remote Con Dao Islands are also renowned turtle breeding sites, so if you’re visiting between June and September, you may even get a chance to watch turtles lay their eggs. Read More...

    • Location: Ba Ria – Vung Tau Province (230 kilometres from Ho Chi Minh City)
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    2

    Son Tay Town

    Northern Vietnam
    Son Tay Town

    Son Tay Town is home to Duong Lam Ancient Village, where you can find almost 1,000 traditional Vietnamese houses made from laterite, mud, soil, and rice husks. Located 60 kilometres west of Hanoi, this local village dates back to the 17th century and is known for its verdant and peaceful landscape – perfect for those looking to get away from the often chaotic Vietnamese capital. Visitors can also visit several temples, tombs and shrines, such as Mong Phu Temple, which commemorates national heroes King Ngo Quyen and King Phung Hung.

    • Location: 60km west of Hanoi
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    3

    Cham Islands

    Central Vietnam

    Cham Islands are a cluster of eight islets just off the coast of Hoi An, one of which is a protected marine park where you can enjoy a day of snorkelling or scuba diving. A two-hour boat ride from Hoi An Ancient Town, these islands can only be visited during the dry season (March to September) as waters can get rather rough during the monsoonal months. Homestays and guesthouses are available on Hon Lao (Cham Islands’ sole inhabited islet) for those looking to stay on the island, though we highly recommend renting a tent right on the expansive beach. Read More...

    • Location: Quang Nam Province
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    4

    Fansipan Mountain

    Far North Vietnam
    Fansipan Mountain

    As the tallest peak in Vietnam, Fansipan Mountain offers breathtaking views of mountain ranges and countryside within north-western Vietnam, as well as glimpses of Yulong Mountain in China. Located 9 kilometres southwest of Sapa Village, it’s a popular spot for hiking enthusiasts and travellers looking to experience the hospitality of the Giay, Hmong and Red Dao hill tribes. These families are more than happy to offer you a place to stay at their homes, where you can enjoy authentic regional dishes, dress up in local costumes, and try your hand at working in the fields. There are also guesthouses and hotels in Sapa.

    • Location: 9 kilometres southwest of Sapa, Lai Châu Province
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    5

    Bai Tu Long Bay

    Far North Vietnam
    Bai Tu Long Bay

    Bai Tu Long Bay is a popular alternative to Halong Bay due to their shared locale and similar geographical features, but you’ll find that it’s less crowded with tourist boats. Only selected tour companies are authorised to arrange daytrips to this UNESCO-listed bay, which houses forest reserves, limestone carves, and attractions such as Vung Vieng Village, Tra Gioi Beach, Da Xep Park, Cong Dam, and Thien Canh Son Cave. If you’re lucky, you might be able to spot rare wildlife such as dugongs during your cruise through Bai Tu Long Bay.

    • Location: northeast of Halong Bay
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    6

    Chao Doc

    Mekong Delta, Southern Vietnam
    Chao Doc

    Chau Doc is a riverfront city located close to borders of Vietnam and Cambodia. Known for its pastel-hued shopfronts and peaceful setting, many visitors from Phnom Penh often travel to this city by boat. Attractions in Chau Doc include a floating market, mosques, Buddhist shrines and temples, and the Tra Su Bird Sanctuary, where visitors to see over the reserve and the stunning countryside from a 23-metre high observation tower. Chau Doc is 250 kilometres west of Ho Chi Minh City, approximately six hours away via public bus.

    • Location: Hau River, An Giang Province
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    7

    Quy Nhon

    Central Vietnam
    Quy Nhon

    Quy Nhon, capital of Binh Dinh Province, is a developing port town with an expansive public beach that’s relatively quiet during the day, but becomes lively with locals enjoying a leisurely stroll or bicycle ride along the promenade. Offering an authentically local experience, there’s virtually no gimmicky restaurant or bar in this quiet town and if you’re looking to do some sightseeing, notable landmarks here include the Binh Dinh Museum, Thap Doi Cham Towers, and Long Khanh Pagoda. Read More...

    • Location: Binh Dinh Province
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    Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park

    Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is a popular option for adventurous travellers looking to explore its many limestone caves and grottoes. Set within the Quang Binh Province, it’;s home to the world’;s largest cave, Son Doong, with sections reaching up to 200m in height, as well as Paradise Cave, which boasts spectacular shapes of limestone stalactites and stalagmites. Entrance to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park costs VND 40,000, plus additional fees (between VND 80,000 and VND 150,000) to enter the caves. Hiking, mountain-biking, and cave expeditions are regularly organised by tour operators in Vietnam. Read More...

    • Location: Quang Binh Province (about 500km south of Hanoi and 260km north of Da Nang)
    • Price Range: VND 40,000
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