How to Be a Non-Touristy Tourist in Vietnam

Robert - MWI | October 30, 2019

Did you know that more than 15 million people visit Vietnam each year? That’s a lot of tourists to wade through if you’re trying to experience authentic Vietnam. Some of the best places to visit in Vietnam aren’t the places visited by the average tourist. Of course, any place that attracts a lot of tourists may have longer lines, excessive wait times, and offer a less authentic experience.

If you are looking for things to do in Vietnam, why not explore the hidden gems and lesser known Vietnam points of interest? By stepping off the proverbial beaten path, you can experience the stunning beauty of Vietnam nature, learn about traditional Vietnamese culture, and avoid the crowds. Win/win!

15 of the Best Places to Visit in Vietnam

The following Vietnam points of interest are great places to visit that aren’t as popular as the standard Vietnam travel fare. While some of them may be more remote, you might be surprised at how accessible many of these Vietnam travel spots are. To start, you might want to explore some of the stunning islands that Vietnam has to offer:

1. Cham Islands, Part of Cu Lao Cham Marine Park

If you love the peaceful quality of a tropical island and want an alternative to tourist traps like Hawaii’s Waikiki, try the Cham Islands in Vietnam. Located near the town of Hoi An in the South East Asia Sea, the Cham Island chain can be reached via an hour-long boat trip.
Recognized by UNESCO as a World Biosphere Reserve, the Cham Islands are part of the Cu Lao Cham Marine Park and consist of eight small islands. Sparkling aqua blue waters and lovely beaches await you on the Cham Islands. A natural coral reef provides the perfect spot for exploring underwater wonders via snorkeling and scuba diving.

2. Bai Tu Long Bay, the Northeast Portion of Halong Bay

The world-famous Halong Bay is certainly still a treat in Vietnam, but it can be busy. If you want to avoid crowds and experience a quieter, more serene aspect of Vietnam Nature, Bai Tu Long is the place to visit. Filled with clean and often deserted beaches, Bai Tu Long Bay spans 100km and travels up to meet the border to China. With beautiful limestone karst mountains covered in green, meeting breathtaking water views – without all the tourist boats – Bai Tu Long will not disappoint.

3. Co To Island in the Gulf of Tonkin

Co To Island is actually an archipelago, or a group of many small islands, the main island being Co To Island, along with the smaller Co islands, Thanh Lam island, and many more. Located off North Vietnam near Van Don Station and Quang Ninh Province, Co To Island features soft white sand that contrasts with the aquamarine ocean waves. You can also explore lighthouses, a quaint fishing village, and forests.

4. Con Dao Island, the Mysterious Island

Con Dao Island is a lesser known destination, but it is an amazing place to experience wildlife in Con Dao National Park. Exploring coral reefs and fishing are just two popular activities here. Unfortunately, the secret may be out: In 2011, Con Dao was named by Lonely Planet as one of the “Top 10 Mysterious Islands.”

5. Nam Du Islands, Part of Kien Giang Province

Another stunning archipelago to check out, the Nam Du Islands are approximately 60km from the Vietnamese mainland. While these 21 islands don’t boast tons of white sandy beaches, they are still quite beautiful – if not some of the most breathtaking you will ever see. Offering stunning panoramic views, the Nam Du archipelago is often called the “mini Halong Bay.”

6. Ly Son Island, Quang Ngai

Do you love seafood as much as you love beaches? Try Ly Son Island, found in Northeast Vietnam, the only island district in Quang Ngai. Seafood, seaweed delicacies, Vietnamese garlic salad, and even salted anchovies are just some of the island fare you can experience here.

7. Bình Ba Island, Cam Ranh Bay

A mere 20km from mainland Vietnam, Bình Ba Island is located in Cam Ranh Bay. Also known as “Lobster Island,” this is another great place to visit if you love seafood. Lobster here is not only affordable but plentiful, and it is considered to be the best in all of Vietnam.
Additionally, Bình Ba Island is a great place to tour for its historical significance in the French colonial era of the 1940s. Explore bunkers, cannons, and even a tunnel built into a mountain. Don’t forget to check out the amazing palaces while you are at it.

8. Pleiku – The “Best Sleeping City” of Vietnam

If you are looking for an urban experience in Vietnam without all the stress, try Pleiku, also known as the “best sleeping city” of Vietnam. With a population of around 450,000, Pleiku offers many shops, restaurants and attractions. Located in a valley in central Vietnam, you can also experience some beautiful scenery and nature hikes.

9. Kon Tum, Connecting to Laos and Cambodia

For an authentic experience of rural Vietnam, visit the Kon Tum province, located in the Central Highlands. Connecting with the countries of Laos and Cambodia (the Indochina Fork), the KonTum area has many natural wonders to see.
If you would like to experience Vietnam nature beyond just the beaches, this is a great place to visit. To the north, you can see the highest granite mountain range found in Southern Vietnam. Beautiful forests and rivers host exotic wildlife and rare birds. Kon Tum is also known for its red basalt soil. Other points of interest are the Dak To Hot Spring, Kon Tum Museum, Wooden Church, and Ho Chi Minh Trail.

10. Trang An Grottoes

The Trang An Grottoes are actually a series of caves and waterways that are accessible by small boat. Located in Ninh Binh province, Trang An is close to the ancient Vietnamese capital of Hoa Lu. More visitors tend to visit the caves nearby in Tam Coc, but because of this, hawkers and vendors often ruin the experience by bothering people in the boats to sell lunch. For this reason, travelers in the know prefer Trang An, which is quieter, less commercial, and just as, if not more, beautiful.

11. Ban Gioc Waterfall, Cao Bang

While famous in Cao Bang province, the Ban Gioc Waterfall is not a typical spot for international tourists. Yet, this stunning waterfall backed by limestone hills is a must-see. Nearby, the fantastic Nguom Ngao cave features fascinating collections of stalagmites and stalactites.

12. Pu Luong Nature Reserve

The name “Pu Luong” is Thai for “highest mountain.” Four hours southwest of Hanoi, the Pu Luong Nature Reserve is a wonderful place for ecotourism. This amazing area boasts quaint villages nestled among forests, rice paddy terraces, and Vietnam’s unique mountain landscape. Bamboo is also abundant in this area, which is rich in natural resources and plays an important role as part of a vast watershed.

13. Ha Giang Province

For people who love mountains, Ha Giang Province should be on their bucket list. Located in the Vietnamese northwest highlands, Ha Giang is a place with meandering roads winding through rocky but green-covered mountains and serene valleys. Filled with traditional Vietnamese terraces, Ha Giang is also a producer of buckwheat.
Iconic places to visit include the Dong Van rock plateau, recognized by UNESCO, the mansion of the Vuong family, the majestic Lung Cu flag tower (Vietnam’s “North Pole”), and the “Happy Road.” Also known as the Happiness Road, the Ha Giang Loop is absolutely breathtaking and to best experience it, plan three days by motorcycle.

14. Ba Be Lake, Bac Kan Province

For people who love freshwater lakes, Ba Be Lake is exceptionally special. It was formed by geological changes many millions of years ago. These geological events also created stunning limestone mountains and karsts, along with mesmerizing caves. Imagine boating or kayaking through a watery wonderland surrounded by mystical mountains and green jungles.

15. Dien Bien Phu, More Than Just a Battlefield

Dien Bien Phu province in Northwest Vietnam is well-known as the location of “The Battle of Dien Bien Phu,” fought between the French and the Viet Minh communist revolutionaries in 1954. This battle was considered to be a major turning point in the war, as the French were defeated. For those interested in history, relics from this battle can be seen here.

But Dien Bien Phu has much more going for it. As an example of diverse Vietnam nature, it cannot be beat. Beautiful mountains, lush forests, and winding rivers are all there, with plenty of lakes and caves to explore. You can also visit a 150km rice paddy field in Muong Thanh valley.

Looking for Things to Do in Vietnam?

If you are looking for non-touristy Vietnam points of interest, you have many options. From Vietnam’s many beautiful islands and beaches to its inland wonders, the best places to visit in Vietnam are often the least known. Enjoy Vietnam nature, culture, and adventure by trying some of these lesser known travel destinations.