Tips For Capturing Great Photos in Hoi An

It’s no longer a secret, there are so many photo opportunities in Hoi An. One of the top photo tour galleries in Vietnam can be found in the picturesque city! Whether you’re an avid photographer with many years of experience or an amateur enthusiast, this article provides some advice and recommended locations to help you to capture some great photos in Hoi An!

If  you want to grab some great shots, our top tip is to avoid peak tourist hours. In the morning, try arriving between 5-8AM before most visitors enter the old town, or at night after the tour buses have left. Lunch is another favorable time slot if you want to capture more sunlight. Sunset and dusk; on the other hand, possess a certain mystical air in the old town that shouldn’t be missed.

In this article, I will try to list the most photo-worthy points of interest in the old town, along with a few places farther out. You won’t be able to cover all of them if you only have one day in Hoi An but this shouldn’t be an issue for most travelers.

Hoi An Photo Slideshow:

Top photo opportunities for a Hoi An Photo Tour: 

(click on a link below to jump straight to the location):

  1. The Japanese covered bridge.
  2. The old town as a city of gold/yellow.
  3. Hoi An Bougainvillea and arbors.
  4. Hoi An relics.
  5. The river roads.
  6. The lantern town.
  7. The French Quarter.
  8. The view from above.
  9. The traditional villages.
  10. Other points of interests and structures.

 


 

1. The Japanese covered bridge

And iconic relic in Hoi An, the Japanese bridge is probably the most photographed structure by both locals and visitors. Lighting plays a big role here as some of the best photos include the early morning sky or the changing artificial lights at night. The early morning really brings out the quaintness of the town in general. Sometimes you can catch a local vendor balancing a shoulder pole on the way to her regular selling spot, or even more rare, see a small boat in the canal. On one such occasion after a flood, I’ve seen some local boaters rowing their boats close to the entrance of the Japanese bridge. For some great photos in Hoi An, try to catch reflections in the water. Also, see if you can get a shot from the Nguyen Phuc Chu pedestrian street on An Hoi Islet across the river.

 

Japanese bridge is the most popular site to get great photos in Hoi An

Morning at the bridge:

 

Some other bridges of note nearby:
The Quang Truong and An Hoi bridges connect the old town with An Hoi Islet to the south. On the islet, you can find the pedestrian street of Nguyen Phuc Chu, the night market on Nguyen Hoang street, and the Nguyen Hoang Pier where the tourist boats dock. Farther to the east is the Cam Nam bridge (at Hoang Dieu street) that leads to the Cam Nam islet. You can get a broader view of the river from here for a another photo opportunity.

morning view of Japanese Covered Bridge

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2. The old town as a city of gold/yellow

The march of time has left some wondrous marks on the old town, most notably on its ochre walls, which are predominantly yellow, with a few others of contrasting blue, green, or simply weather-beaten and covered with moss, mold, and mildew. The aged, bright yellow make for fantastic backgrounds for great photos in Hoi An.

Hoi An Yellow Walls
The Nostalgic Wall at the corner of Hoang Van Thu and Nguyen Thai Hoc (near the Museum of Folklore) is quite popular with Vietnamese tourists from all over the country. The alleyways, on the other hand, are quite underrated by many. There are relatively few of them (in comparison to Hanoi and Saigon) and they are easy to navigate so don’t hesitate to explore these fabulous gems.

Cho Hoi An

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3. Hoi An Bougainvillea and arbors 

 

Bougainvillea plants Hoi An

In contrast to the old walls, the thriving Bougainvillea plants and a variety of arbors and hanging vines bring a different charming element and vibrant feel to the town. You will find them everywhere, the alleys included so pay attention for the opportunity to snap some great shots.

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4. Hoi An relics

 

Old Hoi An House

 

A good number of these ancient buildings line up the main road of Tran Phu while others spill out into the nearby streets.

– The major Chinese assembly halls: Fukian, Chiuchow, Cantonese, Hainan, Trung Hoa.

– Cultural/religious relics: Cam Pho and Minh Huong commune houses, Quan Cong temple (or Ong Pagoda), Van Duc Pagoda, Nam Quang Tu Pagoda, Ngoc Cam and Ngoc Chau monastery.

– Old houses: Tan Ky, Duc An, Phung Hung, Quan Thang, Diep Dong Nguyen, Tran family, Nguyen Tuong family. (Note: The stretch near the Tan Ky house on Nguyen Thai Hoc is quite pretty, no matter the time of day.)

– The Vinh Hung Heritage Hotel on Tran Phu itself is an old house built by a Chinese merchant some two centuries ago — could be an interesting overnight stay for those with a propensity for the past.

– The Ba Le well is a Cham relic. It was drilled at least 700 years ago. These days, the story of The Ba Le Well is one of the delightful old hired hand; he’s near ninety years old and still makes some thirty trips daily, carrying water from the well to various establishments around town. In fact, a photo-hunting trip with him through the alleys can be quite interesting. He’s very much part of the soul of the old town, especially considering how he’s the sole support to his wife and his mentally ill son.

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5. The river roads

 

 

Hoi An River at dusk

 

Remnants of the past they are, the river roads remain very much a great part of the landscape of the town. With its numerous economic establishments, the banks of the Hoai river revel in both memories of the old days and a vibrant collage of modern images. Among them are eateries, coffee shops, hotels (some are French-Indochina structures), the Hoi An market, the fabric and cloth market, one of the boat docks, the An Hoi sculpture garden, the brand-new Cultural Impression Park (as of March 2018), the Nguyen Phuc Chu walking street that leads to the Nguyen Hoang night market on An Hoi Islet, and the second night market (also brand-new) at Tran Quy Cap on the side of the Hoi An market. Photo ops are plentiful, with more of them when you reach the outer branch of the Thu Bon river at either end of An Hoi Islet. Within the confine of the old town, the little coffee place on the river bank (at the corner of the side street leading toward the Japanese bridge) is a good spot to observe a beehive of activities in the morning. The main Hoi An market at the other end of the town is another opportune location to get some great photos in Hoi An.

boats in Hoi An

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6. The lantern town

 

Silk Lanterns in Hoi An

 

By now you’ve seen plenty lantern images in the old town. They are everywhere, but especially along the main streets that run parallel to the river, and at the Nguyen Hoang night market on An Hoi Islet. The best spots are probably around the area of the An Hoi Bridge. Also, if you can time your arrival to coincide with one of the major festivals, all the better.

You can learn more about the festivals here:

http://hoian-tourism.com/category/what-to-see/local-festivals

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7. The French Quarter

 

Tran Phu street in Hoi An

 

There’s not really a French quarter in Hoi An, but you can find a good number of French-Indochina structures (from the late 19th century going forward) in the south side of the old town. Starting at the east end of the Japanese bridge, head south to the river bank and hang a left. Shortly after the An Hoi Bridge, the road becomes Nguyen Thai Hoc, where you can find some handsome buildings in that mold. Arguably, that’s the most beautiful stretch of road in the old town. Many of these buildings have both a front and a rear entrance, with the latter one on Bach Dang, the street that runs along the Hoai river. The Tan Ky old house (though not a French-Indochina structure) is an example of a merchant house with an entrance on the south side facing the river for the ease of loading and unloading goods. Nguyen Thai Hoc ends at the Hoi An market, but Bach Dang continues on, along the river, until it reaches Hoang Dieu (the Cam Nam Bridge). After that the Hoang Dieu intersection, Bach Dang becomes Phan Boi Chau. The presence of French-influenced architecture continues on and spills out onto the two roads to either side. On Nguyen Duy Hieu, The Hill Station Deli and Cafe is a fine example of such structures as is the Brother’s Cafe Restaurant on Huyen Tran Cong Chua (along the river).

To the north side of the old town, the Hoi An Historic Hotel on Tran Hung Dao was a good example of a French-Indochina structure at one time; however, after several alterations, the ground/courtyard is probably all that remains of the old allure. On the way to the beach, on Cua Dai road, the Indochine Hotel enjoys a great setting (next to a quiet smaller river and among paddy fields) that is truly quintessence French-Indochina charm. At downtime, try the top floor of the dining room (in a separate building) or simply roam the ground. Shortly after the Indochine Hotel, you need to cross the Phuoc Trach Bridge to get to the beaches. This bridge is also a good spot to get some great photos in Hoi An.

Sunset view from the Phuoc Trach bridge

Sunset view from the Phuoc Trach bridge

 

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8. A view from above

 

Hoi An from the rooftops

If you like photography from higher up, a few buildings mentioned above offer some great locations; among them are the Phung Hung old house and the Indochine Hotel.If you want to kick back over a coffee or a drink, The Chef, Faifo, and Bread Break are there for the choosing. The first two situate on Tran Phu, and the last one is on Nguyen Thai Hoc.

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9. The traditional villages

No visit to Hoi An is complete without a trip to the countryside. Here are a few of my favorites:

Thanh Ha is a traditional pottery village on the bank of the Thu Bon river, to the west side of town, reachable by both land and water. It’s also a fishing village, with a market that operates some time between 3:00 A.M. and sunrise. It now also features a very interesting museum/display space called the Terracotta Park where you can find clay replicas of famous edifices from around the world. If you head to the My Son ruins, you will pass by the northern edge of the village.

woman making pottery in Thanh Ha Village

 

The Phuoc Kieu bronze-casting Village is farther west from Thanh Ha, almost to National Highway1. To me, the most intriguing articles here are the gongs that the highly artistic craftsmen have forged for the various ethnic groups from the central highlands over hundreds of years. It’s fascinating how they are able to reproduce the different sounds of a whole set of gongs according to the requirements of dissimilar tribal groups.

The village of “Mi Quang” Phu Chiem: (the noodle specialty of the Quang provinces — administratively, these provinces used to include both Hoi An and Da Nang) is just to the west side of Highway 1 across from the Phuoc Kieu Village. If you get here around three o’clock in the morning, you can watch the whole village in action; well, almost. The local joke is such that if you arrive at the Cau Lau Bridge (which is the old bridge that runs in tandem with the one on Highway 1,) you would meet the entire female population of the village. In actuality, they simply charter a couple of minibusses to take them to the big cities like Da Nang and Tam Ky where they have arranged for a space to set up shop. Some members of this traveling band use their own transportation — the motorbike, or even their own feet. I had learned the story of a middle-aged woman who, up to five years ago, still walks some 30km every day, rain or shine. These scavenger hunts, obviously, are for the hardcore photographers. For others, they are simply trifles to ponder on the road to My Son.

abandoned brick factory in Cam Kim

The Kim Bong woodcarving and carpentry Village lies on Cam Kim Island to the south side of town, which is also just a short bike or boat ride. The Cam Kim Bridge connecting the island with An Hoi Islet is a great spot to marvel at the wide open space of the river; the view at sunset is simply drop-dead gorgeous. Besides wooden handicrafts, the highly skilled craftsmen at Kim Bong have further made a name for themselves from large-scale building projects not just in the old town, but all the way to the royal palaces in the Hue ancient citadel and beyond. On the other hand, Kim Bong traditional boat-building facilities are now just a tiny fraction of its heyday. The Cam Kim Commune is also known rice paper making.

Fishing boat being made in Kim Bong Village

The Triem Tay Village is on the same island of Cam Kim, to the west side (though not under the authority of Hoi An). Not too long ago – at the turn of the last decade, erosion had decimated so much of the land that most of the men were forced to seek jobs elsewhere. Thanks to the effort of a Vietnamese-French architect, Quoc Bui, it’s now a beautiful ecotourist village. On top of that, people were able to grow bamboo and sedge to resurrect their traditional sedge-mat weaving craft. In the village, you can also find a 300-year old home of the Vo family. If you go on a bike ride, a nice lunch spot is BenXua, which I had pinned on this map:
https://goo.gl/maps/wuyXqyQSTS12

 

The Tra Que Village to the east of town grows organic vegetables — don’t forget to visit the water wheel and the gallery nearby. This huge garden in Tra Que is a popular location for tour operators to take guests to for great photos in Hoi An.

 

The Cam Nam Island/Commune is accessible via the Cam Nam Bridge at the end of Hoang Dieu street as mentioned above. It’s known as a corn-growing area and old-fashioned baby clam harvesting.

The Cam Thanh Commune lies to the north of Cam Nam Island and to the east of the old town. It looks like part of the mainland but is actually a group of islets. Known locally as the Mekong of Hoi An, the commune is bound by three rivers, with a number of dissecting canals — all lined with water coconuts. Recently, it was turned into an ecotourist zone where you can experience the traditional basket boats.

 

 

 

– There are also several other fishing villages like An Bang (at An Bang Beach), Thanh Nam (at the Cua Dai Estuary), and Duy Hai (to the other side of the river mouth). Cua Dai bridge connecting the two sides of the river is obviously another great spot for photography.

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10. Other points of interests and structures

the Atlas Hoi An Hotel

the Atlas Hoi An Hotel

 

These last places each has its own traits: from balconies to roof terrace, old structures and artifacts, traditional performances to craft demonstrations:

– The museums (History and Culture, Trading Ceramics, Sa Huynh, Folklore).
– Hoi An Blossom Handicraft Workshop, XQ Hoi An.
– The Hoi An Silk Village.
– The Atlas Hotel, designed by the well-known architect Nghia Vo, made the recent top ten list of Green Buildings as selected by Construction Global:

– The Vinahouse Space (Vinahouse Craft Village), boasts a collection of traditional Vietnamese houses and is located near both the Phuoc Kieu and Phu Chiem Villages. In the same vicinity, you will also find the captivating bamboo bridge of Cam Dong and a series of local bistros/restaurants that specialize in a delicious roasted calf (be thui).

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We hope you enjoyed reading this article, and it helps you capture some great photos in Hoi An! If you want to explore the areas outside of old town and visit areas that most travelers to Hoi An never get to see, you may consider booking a Hoi An scooter tour with XO Tours or their unique evening walking food tour.

The Art of Finding the Best Tailors in Hoi An

With over 400+ tailor shops in Hoi An today, it’s not so easy to find the best tailors in Hoi An. So what is a traveler with limited time to do? 

 

One of the best tailors in Hoi An measuring cloth

 

If we go back in time 15 years, Hoi An was a picturesque coastal town well-known for its needle masters: the quality was no less than exceptional, prices seemed reasonable and options were limited to some extent. The tailoring scene we face when visiting Hoi An today has drastically changed for the worse: being offered discounts from every place you walk in (hotels, restaurants or taxi drivers), commissions are given along the production line which worsens the final output, leaving the end consumer with an inferior product at a price that doesn’t match the value. Let alone the fact that most of the ‘tailor shops’ aren’t doing the actual tailoring; these places are simply showrooms displaying samples and bolts of fabrics, outsourcing the sewing to workshops or needle masters at the markets. Besides the evident disadvantages of going through a middleman, the end result is nowhere near what you thought bespoke clothing would look like. All in all, it is not an easy task getting high-quality tailor-made clothes made in Hoi An nowadays. 

In this article, we want to give you a clear picture of what the tailoring maze involves, no sugar coating nor beating around the bush. That being said, we would like to offer some tips on how to choose the best tailors in Hoi An, one that fits your expectations as well as your budget because, after all, there are a rare few shops that deliver what they promise. You just have to do your homework beforehand and know exactly what tailor-made dress, suit or shirt you are craving for.

Watch the video below to learn more about our picks for the top 5 Hoi An tailors:

Tips to finding the best tailors in Hoi An

  1. Know what you want
  2. Take your time
  3. Learn about the process and fabrics
  4. You get what you pay for
  5. Recommended tailor shops in Hoi An

 

  1. Know what you want

Buying bespoke clothes in Hoi An gets overwhelming because the options are endless. You can have absolutely anything you like made: dresses, suits, shirts, shoes, high heels…any color, any style, any size. Be very specific with your tailor. If you have a clear idea about your tailored piece of clothing, spend some time drawing it out to the last detail. If you are not a really good drawer, then consider finding a picture on the internet that looks exactly like the one you want. It might sound contradicting to copy an existing design when you are getting tailor-made clothing, but sometimes sticking with a cut that already works is best for starters. You can add more details or garments later in order to come up with your dreamed couture design, but make sure you know what you want.Back to Contents

  1. Take your time

colorful fabrics in a tailor shop in Hoi An

Following your gut feeling when offered a great discount at the tailor shop across the street from your hotel is tempting, but trust us when we recommend you to take your time on this one. Average stays in Hoi An last for 2-3 days, leaving visitors with only a couple of nights to shop around the streets of the Old Town. If you are planning on getting bespoke clothing and you don’t want to settle for low-quality garments, you should order your designs as soon as you arrive. Ideally, you would like to have three fittings (tailor-made clothes don’t come out perfect the first time) for any item you get, which will put you on a stretch in terms of time. With this in mind, make sure that before you pick your shop, you have talked to a few tailors, compared prices, tested different materials (more about this on the next point) and even bargained a bit.
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  1. Learn about the process and fabrics

A variety of cloth at a tailor shop in Hoi An

As mentioned before, it’s a long road ahead for those who want to get top-quality bespoke clothing in Hoi An. After you have done your primary research, your next decision lies with picking the right fabrics for your design. At the end of the day, it is the material that you use what makes the item falls or not fall as intended. A simple test would be to hold the fabric against you and decide whether or not this style fits your taste. Similarly, make sure you test what is offered to you as they have many flowing silk-like fabrics in Hoi An that are actually synthetic. How to tell the difference? Synthetic material melts while silk burns so ask them to do the burn test if you are hesitant.

Next, you will have to answer many questions from the shop assistant who is doing the measuring in order to decide on the small details. Getting asked the right questions is always a good indication that you have come to an experienced tailor shop.

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  1. You get what you pay for

A tailor in Hoi An sewing

This is what we meant when we talked earlier about expectations meeting final outcome. With such a fierce competition all across Hoi An’s tailor shops, visitors tend to focus on price or even bartering rather than working about the quality and workmanship at stake. The rule of thumb for a successful tailoring experience in Hoi An is that you get what you pay for. If you have a tight budget and don’t especially care about details or fancy designs, you will probably be pleased with just any shop. On top of that, remember that prices are overall lower in Vietnam and this also applies to clothes. Before you know it, you will find yourself indulging on custom-made garments for a much cheaper price than back home.

On the contrary, if you are willing to pay extra for superior bespoke clothing, Bebe Tailor, A Dong Silk, Yaly Couture and Kimmy Tailor are in our opinion the best tailors in Hoi An. We have been told by friends who have tried their services that they are the only shops that employ in-house needle masters, resulting in better service and quality all together. These four shops are probably among the most expensive in Hoi An, but we believe quality comes at a price and they sure deliver it. Even at these top-of-the-line shops, make sure you try to bargain in order to get a 10-20% discount off the quoted price, especially if you are getting several items made.

We’ve reviewed Bebe Tailor, A Dong Silk and Yaly Couture below, listing their strengths and weaknesses so that you can decide which one suits your style and needs best.

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Recommended tailor shops in Hoi An

 

Bebe Tailor

Be Be tailor shop

Trustworthy and quality-driven are two traits that perfectly describe Bebe Tailor. With more than 15 years of experience, they now have three different stores around Old Town area where they can take on one thousand orders a week (all done in-house) easily. Having the tailors on-site for small adjustments during the multiple fittings makes the whole process a lot easier. Above else, clients highlight their friendly and attentive staff who take care of every step of the way the second a potential customer walks in, guiding you through the entire purchase (from material selection to garment delivery). Quick turnaround and impeccable post-purchase customer service are also strong suits at Bebe Tailor.

Our friend Roberto had 2 suits and 5 shirts made here within 48 hours and couldn’t be happier with the final outcome. “Their service is fast and professional. When I got back to my accommodation, I found a small stain on one of the shirts. I called in and they quickly arranged for a replacement. If you are looking for tailors with an eye on detail, this is your go-to shop”, he told us.

Strengths: quick turnaround, post-purchase customer service, extensive catalogue with plenty of styles

Weaknesses: on the expensive side, cheaper fabrics can lead to disappointment, buttons come off for some clothing

 

A Dong Silk

A Dong Silk tailor shop

Back in 2005, A Dong Silk was the first tailoring outlet in Hoi An to register as a company. It now has a staff of 70 employees between their two stores offering a professional and pleasant tailoring experience that woes its customers. Personal sales assistants at A Dong Silk excel at giving personal advice before, during and after the purchase; making clients feel confident about their choices thus avoiding second guesses. All staff members speak great English (some French too) and are very acquainted to foreign fashion trends. They keep measurements for years and go the extra mile to make a client happy, shipping garments internationally if needed. If you already know your measurements, you can order online through their website through a seamless process that allows for countless customisations.

Our friend Maria came to Hoi An with the idea in mind of getting her wedding dress made during her visit. “I knew it had to be made at A Dong Silk due to the previous reviews I had read about their wedding dresses. I showed them a photo of a design I liked back in Spain and they came up with an exact copy of it for half the price. My personal assistant, Hong, made the whole experience very special and that is something I will never forget about my wedding dress nor my trip around Vietnam”.

Strengths: professionalism, eye for detail and very knowledgeable advice by personal assistants, value for money

Weaknesses: pushy to close the sale at times, less catered to Asians, tend to be old style

Yaly Couture

Is Yaly Couture the best tailor in Hoi An?

Born from a small market stall run by Mrs. Quynh, Yaly Couture has grown to be one of the most reputable bespoke shops in Hoi An. Apart from clothing, they set themselves apart from competition by designing bespoke shoes. Yaly takes craftsmanship to the next level by offering luxury couture fashion to a high-end clientele. They claim to stock the finest and the most extensive range of fabrics in Hoi An updated regularly, carrying some difficult to find cashmeres or top-of-the-line wools. Yaly prides themselves in keeping up with the latest fashions trends by providing their team of 300 tailors with the best training programs, assuring exemplary service and ongoing innovation. Their 3D body scan is a clear example of that: they register your measurements with this modern equipment so you can order online even after getting back from your travels in Vietnam. On top of that, customers consider shopping here a breeze since their process seems streamlined and easy for those who have never bought bespoke garments before.

Our friend Mario came to Yaly looking for an unique bespoke suit. “I had this weird design in mind that thought was unachievable in a place like Vietnam. They took all my requests in stride and came up with the suit that I exactly asked for. Later on, I was happy to find out about their international shipping since I will be getting more clothes made after this delightful experience”

Strengths: fashionable, top-of-the-line fabrics, 3D body scan for measurements and recurrent purchases

Weaknesses: small details are off at times, multiple fittings required, high price on certain fabrics

We hope this article helps you with your research before visiting the mecca of bespoke clothing in Vietnam. We couldn’t stress enough the fact that competition is fierce these days, hence the tailoring experience can turn out to be an overwhelming one. When feeling strained by indecision, remember that all this time is spent indoors, away from the sun, instead of enjoying the beauties of the Old Town. We recommend you to stick with reputable tailor shops that carry on their long-standing tradition and satisfied customers for a hassle-free stay in Hoi An.

If you want to fill up the time in between your clothes fittings with some fun activities, consider booking one of our amazing Hoi An day trips. To learn more about our thrilling “Riding with the Nguyens” scooter tour and our belly busting “Dinner with the Nguyens” walking food tour, please visit our XO Tours Hoi An website by clicking HERE!

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How long to travel in Vietnam: The perfect itineraries

Vietnam Itinerary

Vietnam Itinerary: How long should you stay at each location in Vietnam?

 

Because of the high cost of airfare from Europe and the USA and the low cost of traveling through Vietnam, travel goers are planning trips here for longer than they would in other parts of the world. Multiple weeks are the norm and visits longer than a month are not uncommon in planning a trip to Vietnam. This leads to a very common question among people planning their Vietnam vacation, “How long should I spend in each place?” This blog post hopes to answer these questions and help you design the perfect Vietnam itinerary!

We’re going to give you a quick breakdown of the major places to visit in Vietnam, what there is to see and do, and how long you might need to budget in your vacation. These are rough estimates based on how much there is to see and do in a place. Be sure to adjust them to your own preferences. If you like peace and quiet and your Vietnam vacation is meant to be relaxing, get out of Saigon or Hanoi and get to Phu Quoc or Cat Ba island. If you’re a foodie with a penchant for adventuring, you’ll have a different itinerary than a beach bum who enjoys the sun and the surf. We’ll tell you which places appeal to which groups and let you make up your mind.

These length estimates are full days, not including travel time. If traveling by train (we recommend it!) or bus (we don’t recommend it!), always try to book a night trip for anything over 4 hours. Not only will it save you valuable vacation days, but it might also save you money on a hotel room for the night.

Best Vietnam Travel Itineraries

Recommended length of stay in parentheses

  1. Hanoi (2-week trip: 2-3 days, 4-week trip: 4-5 days)
  2. Sapa (2-week trip: 1-2 days, 4-week trip: 2-3 days)
  3. Haiphong, Ha Long Bay (1-2 days), Cat Ba Island (3-4 days)
  4. Phong Nha (2-week trip: 2-3 days, 4-week trip: 4-5 days) 
  5. Hue (2-week trip: 1-2 days, 4-week trip: 2-3 days)
  6. Hoi An (2-week trip: 2-3 days, 4-week trip: 4-5 days)
  7. Da Lat (2-week trip: 1-2 days, 4-week trip: 2-3 days)
  8. Mekong Delta (1-2 days)
  9. Nha Trang (2-week trip: 2-3 days, 4-week trip: 4-5 days)
  10. Saigon (2-week trip: 2-3 days, 4-week trip: 4-5 days)
  11. Phu Quoc (depends on your love for beaches)

 


Hanoi

  • 2 weeks in Vietnam: 2-3 days

  • 4 weeks: 4-5 days

What is great about Hanoi?

Shopping, history, food

Who should skip Hanoi?

If you need tranquility. Or if you only have time for one city, visit Hoi An.

Vietnam’s capital city provides plenty of interesting sites, tasty meals and great places to shop. The negative side is the high level of pollution, frenetic traffic and the fact that the narrow streets of the old quarter weren’t designed to accommodate large crowds. A few days wandering the old quarter, visiting Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and drinking ‘bia hoi’ by Hoan Kiem Lake are a must for any Vietnam traveler, but you don’t need to budget more than 5 days in Hanoi.

From Hanoi, go to: Sapa, Ha Long Bay

Vietnam Itinerary

Ha Noi street in old quarter

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Sapa

  • Traveling for 2 weeks: 1-2 days

  • 4 weeks: 2-3 days

Vietnam Itinerary

The terraced hills of Sapa, The Tonkinese Alps

 

What is great about Sapa?
Opportunity to meet ethnic minority tribes, seeing incredible landscapes, shopping for interesting goods

Who should skip Sapa?
If you don’t like high-pressure sales tactics (see alternative suggestions below)

Sapa is a visually stunning town north of Hanoi, famous for terraced rice fields and ethnic minority tribes. Since becoming a major tourist destination, Sapa has become saturated with repetitive gift shops and overly insistent trinket sellers. The sights make up for it, though. Tour operators offer homestay and hiking packages with transportation from Hanoi. Unless you are on a tight budget and have lots of time, you should take this option.

If you want to get off the beaten path and explore, instead of going to Sapa visit the villages of Mai Chau for the Ethnic minorities and Mu Cang Chai for the beautiful landscapes.

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Haiphong, Ha Long Bay, Cat Ba Island

  • 1-2 days (unless you’re going to Cat Ba Island)

Ha Long Bay - the Bay of Descending Dragons Vietnam Itinerary

a fishing house, the beautiful sunset and a cruise from Ha Long Bay

 

What is great about Ha Long Bay?
Beautiful sights, good seafood

Who should skip Ha Long Bay?
If you’re looking for sandy beaches, nightlife or culture

Ha Long Bay is one of Vietnam’s major attractions, but Haiphong and Ha Long City aren’t. The best way to see Ha Long Bay is with a tour package from Hanoi. If you’re making your own way and want to avoid the crowds, visit Bai Tu Long Bay, 30 km to the east. Unless you’re visiting Cat Ba island, the longest you need to spend in the area is the length of your cruise.

Cat Ba island does offer some interesting attractions for visitors. If you like the outdoors, you can budget 3-4 days for boat tours, trekking, kayaking, climbing, national parks, and some small caves and beaches.

vietnam itinerary

 

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Phong Nha

  • If traveling for 2 weeks: 2-3 days

  • 4 weeks in Vietnam: 4-5 days

 

Outdoor adventures and incredible nature from Phong Nha Ke Bang Vietnam itinerary

Phong Nha Ke Bang will bring you to outdoor adventures and incredible caves

 

What is great about Phong Nha – Ke Bang?
Outdoor adventures, incredible caves, interesting Lao/Viet food, friendly locals

Who should skip Phong Nha – Ke Bang?
If you can’t be without global cuisines or cell phone reception

Phong Nha is the adventure capital of Vietnam. From the world’s biggest caves to motorcycle rides through the park, Phong Nha provides a lot of opportunity for getting your thrills, seeing the sights and making memories that will last a lifetime. A trip to Paradise cave is a must for all visitors, offering spectacular geology, as is the exploration of the surrounding Phong Nha Ke-Bang National Park. Local tour operators offer tours that show off many of the other caves in the area, from 1-day trips to 4 or more. Beyond caving, you can also spend time in Phong Nha trekking, bicycling, kayaking, swimming, and camping.

There is a twice-daily bus that connects Hue to Phong Nha. Other buses also run to Hanoi or Hoi An.

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Hue

  • If traveling for 2 weeks: 1-2 days

  • 4-week itineraries: 2-3 days

Ancient temples, buildings, compounds and foods to explore in Hue Vietnam itinerary

ancient temples, buildings, compounds and foods to explore in Hue

 

What is great about Hue?
Emperor’s tombs, food fit for a king

Who should skip Hue?
If you have kids, You don’t like history

Hue is the former imperial capital of Vietnam and the seat of the Nguyen dynasty. There are ancient temples, buildings, compounds and gardens to explore. There is the Perfume river promenade to stroll along in the evening. Not really a wealth of modern entertainment here though, beyond wandering the city or taking in a movie. Try the famous imperial cuisine, unique to Hue and some of the best in Vietnam. Hue also has a rich tradition of vegetarian food, a great stop for non-meat-eaters.

hue architecture Vietnam itinerary

Hue Architecture from the Empire

 

If Hoi An is on your itinerary, consider a motorcycle tour between the two as a smart way to travel.

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Hoi An

  • If traveling for 2 weeks: 2-3 days

  • 4 weeks: 4-5 days

 

Hoi An's lanterns, ancient town street and the famous Cao Lau noodle dish

The Ancient Town of Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage site

 

What is great about Hoi An?
Well preserved architecture, pretty sites, family-friendly experiences

Who should skip Hoi An?
If you’re not buying souvenirs or suits, you want nightlife, hate touristy cities

The old Town of Hoi An is UNESCO World Heritage site, a remarkably well-preserved port with examples of Cham, Chinese and Vietnamese architecture. Hoi An is the best place in Vietnam to visit if you have young children, it’s safe, fun and easy to walk around. Unfortunately, it’s also become completely reliant on the tourist trade. Walking down any street in the city, you will be greeted with cries of “Come Inside My Shop! Buy Something!”. Prices for everything from food to transportation are much higher in Hoi An than most places in Vietnam. There is some tasty food, from some of the best banh mi in Vietnam to a regionally unique noodle dish called Cao Lau which can only be made using water from a specific well in the city.

Have you taken the popular Ho Chi Minh to Danang train option (Hoi An is only 30km by bus)? Need to stretch your legs a bit? after that long journey? XO Tours’ offers a fun walking food tour and a thrilling scooter tour that takes guests far away from the touristy ancient town and into the beautiful surrounding countryside! You can learn more about our Hoi An Tours by clicking HERE!

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Da Lat

  • If traveling 2 weeks: 1-2 days;

  • 4 weeks: 2-3 days

Waterfall, colorful garden adn Dalat nightlife

The Da Lat Highlands is the best way to escape hot weather in Vietnam

What is great about Da Lat?
Pretty architecture, mid-sized city life, cool weather

Who should skip Da Lat?
If you’re short on time.

Da Lat used to be a place for the French rulers to play, relax and escape the weather. It’s been built to feel similar to the French Alps and nowhere is this more visible than walking around the lit up city center at night. Vietnamese tourists in Da Lat leave loaded to the gills with flowers, coffee, fruit, wine and the many other products of the region. There are mountain biking and trekking trips offered, as well as the can’t miss one day canyoning experience, where you’ll get to repel down waterfalls.

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Mekong Delta

  • Plan for 1-2 days

Vietnam itinerary

Floating Market in Mekong Delta, Vietnam

 

What is great about the Mekong Delta?
River life, tasty food, incredible produce

Who should skip the Mekong Delta?
If you don’t like a slow pace of life

Tourists in the Delta enjoy the relaxed pace, watching local life along the river and trying the specialty dishes and regional produce.The floating markets of Can Tho have become a tourist destination instead of a working market, but, like Hoi An, it can still be fun to see. With the flat land, minimal traffic and lots to see out on the road, this might be the best part of Vietnam to explore by bicycle.

The Delta is often visited as an organized tour from Ho Chi Minh City. For an authentic tour to the Mekong Delta we would recommend booking a private tour with either Drive Vietnam or Water Buffalo Tours if budget is not an issue. Most of the group tours have very touristy itineraries and all visit the exact same places (coconut candy factory, bee farm, picture with a python, pony cart ride, etc.)

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Nha Trang Itinerary 

  • 2 weeks in Vietnam take 2-3 days

  • 4 weeks: 4-5 days recommended

Nha Trang Ocean Activities

What is great about Nha Trang?
beaches, scuba diving, waterfalls, nightlife

Who should skip Nha Trang?
If you hate crowded beaches

Nha Trang is Vietnam’s number one resort town. If you like the quiet beach life, go to Phu Quoc, but if you want sand and sun during the day and dancing and drinks at night, come to Nha Trang. Every water sport you could want is available in Nha Trang, along with some of Vietnam’s best beaches. Even if the weather’s bad, there are plenty of other options for entertainment, including cooking classes, theaters and bowling. In recent years, the city has attracted hoards or Chinese and Russian tourists, so much so that many restaurants and hotels have signs and menus written in these languages.

Nha Trang white sand beach

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Saigon Itinerary

  • If traveling 2 weeks: 2-3 days

  • 4 weeks in Vietnam: 4-5 days

 

Saigon's cityscape, Ben Thanh market and City Hall

Saigon’s cityscape, Ben Thanh market and City Hall

 

What is great about Ho Chi Minh City?
Amazing street food, great nightlife, back alley wandering

Who should skip Ho Chi Minh City?
If you hate big cities.

Saigon has so much to offer, even though it has a limited number of tourist sites. You don’t need to get to the War Remnants Museum, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Reunification Palace and the Cu Chi tunnels but all of them are worth a visit, depending on your interests. Skip the tourist trap Ben Thanh market and make your way to Ba Chieu market in neighboring Binh Thanh district. The food is much better, the sellers are less pushy and the prices are much more reasonable, though communicating can be a bit difficult. Nowhere in Vietnam offers better nightlife than Saigon, ranging from the world-famous club Apocalypse Now (called Apo by locals) to good sky bars such as Chill and amazing alternative venues like Saigon Outcast. During the day, be sure to get out of district 1; the food is the worst in the city and the priciest.

Alternatives to District 1?

Explore Districts 3, 4 and 8 for great food, Phu Nhuan for amazing coffee shops and District 5 (Cho Lon) for Chinese temples and giant markets.

Short on time but super hungry? Book one of XO Tours’ Saigon street food tours and we will show you the best that Ho Chi Minh City has to offer in a few hours.

Saigon Cityscape with the iconic Bitexco tower

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Phu Quoc

  • Itinerary length: how much do you like beaches?

See-through water in Phu Quoc and Barrels of Fish Sauce that's in the making

See-through water in Phu Quoc and Barrels of Fish Sauce that’s in the making

 

What is great about Phu Quoc Island?
Sand, sun, surf

Who should skip Phu Quoc Island?
If you’re not a beach bum

Phu Quoc is the place to be in Vietnam for relaxing alone on the beach and it’s one of the most beautiful island in Vietnam. Though it gets more and more developed every year, it is still much less modern than Nha Trang or Phuket, Thailand. It also may be the best place in Vietnam to rent a scooter, as the traffic is minimal and the island is easy to get around. If you’re a fan of the culinary arts, be sure to visit the local pepper farms and fish sauce makers, both of these products are the best in the world and well worth taking home as souvenirs. Snorkeling, diving and night fishing tours are also fun.

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Final advice:

If you have 2 weeks or less in Vietnam, we would recommend sticking to locations in either north or south of Vietnam and not to try to cover the entire country. Vietnam is too big, and there is way too much to do, to try to fit in the entire country into such a short trip. You would spend so much time traveling that you wouldn’t have much time to enjoy each of the unique locations. We recommend only including a maximum of 3-4 locations for a 2 week Vietnam itinerary.

We hope you found this blog post helpful in creating the perfect Vietnam itinerary for your trip!

8 Reasons Hoi An Should Be Your Next Travel Destination

 

8 reasons Hoi An Should Be Your Next Travel Destination because of Food, Rice Fields, Beach and Silk Lanterns

Ask anyone who has spent time in Hoi An, the popular UNESCO World Heritage former trading village located in the middle of Vietnam’s sprawling coastline, and they’ll likely give you many reasons why this should be your next travel destination: souvenir shops, restaurants, ancient places, hip-looking coffee shops, nearby rice paddies and much more.

Considering both Hoi An’s size and population, this picturesque town has quite a lot to offer to its visitors. Whether you are a traveler passing by for a few days or someone who wants to explore the ins and outs of this historical destination, you will have your hands full with all sorts of entertainment.

8 Reasons to Visit Hoi An

So, why should you include Hoi An in your travels around Vietnam? Here is a list of 8 compelling reasons that will make you wish that you’d never visited this town in the first place because you will not want to leave afterward!

  1. Tailor Shops
  2. Silk Lanterns
  3. Art Street
  4. Local Food
  5. Rice fields and Tra 
  6. Que Village
  7. Beach
  8. Hoi An Impressions

Map of Featured Places


 

  1. Tailor Shops

When visiting Hoi An, you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity of getting a bespoke suit ,  custom fitted shoes or a tailor-made dress. While needle masters in Savile Row (London) are quite renowned around the world, Vietnamese tailors also produce top-of-the-line designs that meet Western standards while using the finest fabrics. Yaly, Bebe, Kimmy and A Dong Silk are some well known Hoi An Tailors that offer quick turn around, and good service.

tailoring shop

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  1. Silk Lanterns

Silk lanterns are everywhere in Hoi An. The reason why has to do with the legacy that Chinese and Japanese left back in the 15th and 16th century when this town used to be Vietnam’s busiest trading port. Some locals will tell you they hang them in front of their homes to bring health, happiness and good luck. The truth is that lanterns give Hoi An a charming and distinctive character at night when visitors wander around Ancient Town admiring the gorgeous street lighting. Every month on the night of the full moon, the Lantern Festival takes place while all transports (even bicycles) are banned from roaming the streets. Our recommendation is to pre-book a table at a riverside restaurant to watch all the fun go by.

Hoi An colorful silk Lanterns

Silk lanterns in Hoi An

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  1. Art Street

Originally named Courbert Street during the French times, Phan Boi Chau is considered the art and culture street in Hoi An. Once the main street of the French Quarter, the buildings along this avenue reflect French architectural styles with its shops and houses aligned in rows on a broad street. As a matter of fact, as you roam the numerous galleries and cultural spaces on Phan Boi Chau, look out for details of French architecture such as arches, pillars, balconies and the French-style wooden shutters. Here is a little secret: Mr. Duong who owns the house at 25 Phan Boi Chau has many stories to tell about the history of the area. You can ask at the March Gallery if he is available for a short tour.

street art in Hoi An

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  1. Local Food

Hoi An also ranks pretty high on the food scene since it showcases a handful of regional dishes that you won’t find anywhere else in Vietnam. Cao Lau is probably the most renowned local delicacy and will not be found anywhere else but Hoi An. Why? Apparently, the water used for cooking the broth comes from an ancient well (called Cham well) that gives this dish its scrumptious, unique taste. Regardless of the water source, this is a must-try meal that you won’t find anywhere else but Hoi An. Besides this bowl of goodness, other local must-try dishes are Bánh Bao Vạc (White Roses), Com Ga (Chicken Rice) or the Mango Cakes sold on the streets. However, our all-time favorite is Banh Mi Hoi An. Unlike other versions of the popular Vietnamese sandwich, this one seems to have an acquired taste that we haven’t found anywhere else. Apparently, the key to a great Banh Mi is in the owner’s secret sauce. If so, head to Banh mi Phuong at 2B Phan Chu Trinh and try it yourself.

Mi Quang Noddle in Hoi An with green lettuce, shrimp and chicken

traditional food in Hoi An

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  1. Rice fields and Tra Que Village

One of the most common things to do in Hoi An is cycling around town. While riding your bicycle in the Ancient Town can be a daunting task depending on the time of the day, we recommend heading over the surrounding countryside and enjoy the colourful rice paddies that are just a short ride away from the city centre. If you want to witness the real local experience, do it during the early morning (6-7 AM) when the sunlight shines beautifully over the fields creating amazing textures and colours. If you ride your bicycle along Hai Ba Tung street for about 3km, you will not only find rice paddies but also discover Tra Que Village, a uniquely quaint area of Hoi An full of vegetable gardens and ponds. You will get a glimpse into the country life as you watch the farmers cultivate, care for and harvest their produce. Plus you will suddenly come to the realisation why local dishes taste so good: it’s all about the greens!

Green Rice Field with Sunset in Hoi An

Green Rice Field with Sunset in Hoi An

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  1. Beach

Like all of the above wasn’t enough, it turns out that this town is also a beach destination. In fact, if you keep cycling past Tra Que Village on Hai Ba Trung, you will end up at the nicest spot on Hoi An’s coastline: An Bang beach. Only 4 kilometres away from the city centre, head over here in the afternoon to cap off a busy day of sightseeing and souvenir shopping. Whether you want to sit back and relax under a sun umbrella or enjoy yourself knee deep in the water, this is the go-to beach in Hoi An since the once-popular Cua Dai beach is now suffering from severe erosion. On a clear day, you will be able to spot Da Nang’s coastline and its tall buildings, or even the mountains in Son Tra Peninsula if you get really lucky.

Hoi An beach with fishing boat and blue sky

Hoi An beach with fishing boat and blue sky

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  1. Photography

This picturesque town is a photographer’s paradise. It doesn’t matter whether you are an avid photographer or someone who recently started taking pictures, your camera will fall head over hills in love with Hoi An. Its colonial buildings with wooden structures, the quays and canals that make up the townscape and the locals hanging out at every other corner simply make the best scene for your shots. And if you don’t believe us, pay a visit to the French photographer Rehahn’s gallery/museum called ‘Precious Heritage’ (located on the aforementioned Art Street, Phan Boi Chau) where visitors can enjoy looking at his beautifully taken photographs of Hoi An (where he is settled) as well as the shots of the 54 ethnic groups scattered across Vietnam.

Hoi An a perfect place for photography

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  1. Hoi An Impression Theme Park

The latest addition to the entertainment scene, Hoi An Impression Theme Park is a long way off being finished but the lovely open-air theatre is already showing the play ‘Hoi An Memories Sceneries’. The show covers the history of this commercial trading port while offering a glimpse of what life would have been like from the 15th to the 19th century. Apart from the cast of over 500 actors and a 25,000 square meters, the lighting and sound put together an incredible show that makes this play an unforgettable experience that you don’t want to miss out.

Looking for things to do near Hoi An? Check out Ba Na Hills and the Golden Bridge.

 

Outdoor theater

 

We hope you enjoyed reading about the 8 reasons to Visit Hoi An! Once you’re done with everything on this list you might consider exploring the beautiful surrounding countryside! XO Tours offers an amazing morning motorbike tour and fun evening walking food tour that explores the island of Cam Kim, which has virtually been untouched by tourism. On both tours, you’ll get to each some delicious local food, while getting to meet the local people in their homes and places of work! You can book one or both of our Hoi An tours by clicking HERE. We hope to see you in Hoi An soon!

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5 Incredible Islands in Vietnam

When it comes to tropical islands in Southeast Asia, Vietnam is often overlooked in favour of Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia. But, as we shall see in this XO Tours Blog, the islands in Vietnam are equal to its neighbors in natural beauty, historical interest and, most importantly, wow factor. What’s more, because the beach-seeking masses tend to flock to other nations in the region, this leaves Vietnam’s pearls in the ocean relatively quiet in comparison. North, south and central regions all boast alluring islands, where velvet seas lap the white sands of hidden coves, and rugged, jungle-covered interiors form a mesmerizing tropical backdrop. Transport to these specks in the ocean is improving and so too is the infrastructure on the islands, making them more accessible and comfortable than ever before. These islands will integrate themselves in your perfect Vietnam itinerary.

 

white sand and blue sea in a Vietnamese island

 

In this XO Tours blog, we’ve summarized the charms of 5 of Vietnam’s islands, including practical information to help you on your way. Click on an island from the list below to read more about it:

Here are the 5 Incredible Islands in Vietnam!

 


 

CON DAO ISLANDS:

Why go?

Isolated, seldom-visited yet easily accessible and utterly beautiful, Con Dao is a candidate for Vietnam’s best-kept secret (so don’t tell anyone else!). The main island of Con Son is rugged and jungle-covered. At several points around the island, the rocks give way to soft sand backed by jagged, windswept mountains, like a scene from Jurassic Park. Once a penal colony run by the colonial French, many Vietnamese consider this a haunted island; stalked by the ghosts of tens of thousands of political prisoners who died while incarcerated here from 1862 to 1975. But, although the past is commemorated in the museums (including the prisons themselves), Con Son’s future is all about pleasure: frolicking in the gin-clean waters, ambling under palms on the beach, trekking through the jungled interior, enjoying Vietnam’s best diving, strolling along the romantic seafront promenade backed by fading French villas, or pampering yourself in ultra-luxurious resorts.

 

white sand and blue sea in Con Dao Islands, Vietnam

Beautiful beach on Con Dao

 

What to do?

Beaches are few but very scenic. They are best explored by renting a scooter or bicycle and riding the deserted coast road. Trekking is fabulous on Con Son Island, thanks to new walking trails through the jungles and mountains, which are all part of the national park. Visiting the prison museums will open your eyes as to what this beautiful island was once like for thousands of political prisoners, who were held in appalling conditions. Former inmates include some of Vietnam’s most famous revolutionaries. Diving (by far the best in Vietnam) and boat trips to the outlying islands is easily arranged. And simply walking along the seafront promenade of old Con Son town is a highlight: nowhere else in Vietnam will you find empty, quiet and charming streets like these (see image below).

 

Where is it?

Con Dao Archipelago is a group of 15 rugged islands, 80km off Vietnam’s southeastern-most coast.

 

When to go?

Being right out in the middle of the ocean, the Con Dao Islands get hit by both the northeast and the southwest monsoons. The best time to visit is from early spring to mid-summer (February to July). During this time of year, the water can be calm and clear as glass, and winds are relatively light, although monsoon downpours are common.

 

How to get there?

There are two options: by air or sea. The islands are just a 45-minute flight from Saigon. Vietnam Airlines flies 4 to 6 times daily in both directions on a propeller aircraft. By boat it’s a 12-hour voyage on a small, cramped vessel, departing Vung Tau every couple of days. The journey begins at dusk and ends at dawn. Boats are often cancelled due to rough seas.

 

seafront promenade with coffee with a breathtaking view in island, Vietnam

Seafront promenade of old Con Son town, Con Dao image source: Tom Divers

 

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CAT BA ISLAND:

Why go?

Cat Ba is a large and arrestingly beautiful Vietnam island in the middle of Halong Bay. From here there are marvelous vistas of the surrounding spectacle of limestone monoliths rising out of the blue sea. The island itself is a fantasy world of shimmering jungles, soaring limestone peaks, exotic bays and hidden coves. Staying on Cat Ba Island is a way to beat the crowds that descend on Halong Bay, mostly on overnight cruises. On Cat Ba Island, you can explore Halong Bay at a more leisurely pace, without being herded around like cattle from place to place on a tourist boat.

 

between blue sea and mountain Cat Ba Island in Vietnam

Cat Ba Island, Vietnam

 

What to do?

Cat Ba is excellent territory for outdoorsy travellers. Hiking or biking in the rugged national park, kayaking in the gorgeous bays, and some of the best rock climbing in Vietnam (see image below), make it one of the best overall destinations for adrenaline seekers. But, for those with less energy, Cat Ba offers several lovely stretches of sand to relax on, and short boat trips to Lan Ha Bay, where isolated limestone islets prick the seas of the Gulf of Tonkin. A quick jump in the balmy waters and a seafood lunch on the beach is all the energy you’ll need to expend.

 

Where is it?

Cat Ba is the largest island in Halong Bay. It’s located 45km east of Haiphong and 50km south of Halong City. The island is surrounded by small limestone islets that make up the dramatic land-and-sea-scape that Halong Bay is famous for.

 

When to go?

Late autumn, just after the monsoon storms have passed and the holidays are over, is the best time to visit Cat Ba Island. November is our favourite month on the island, but the middle of spring (April and May) is also good. In the summer months, humidity is high, tropical downpours frequent, and tourist numbers (both foreign and domestic) are at their highest. In the winter months, it can be cold, drizzly and misty.

 

How to get there?

Cat Ba Island is most easily reached from Haiphong. There are usually four daily sailings in both directions on hydrofoils; the journey takes 1 hour. There is a ferry from Tuan Chau Island, just south of Halong City, but it docks at the ‘wrong’ end of Cat Ba Island, from where there is only skeletal transportation to the main town. Cat Ba Island is also well-connected to Hanoi thanks to an excellent bus-and-boat link operated by Hoang Long Buses.

 

climbing with a beautiful landscape blue sea in Cat Ba Island, Vietnam

Rock climbing on Cat Ba Island

 

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PHU QUOC ISLAND:

Why go?

Vietnam’s most talked-about island, Phu Quoc has long been touted as the next Phuket. For years it’s been the darling of backpackers looking for long, deserted, tropical beaches to chill-out on. But now, with the completion of massive new infrastructure (an international airport and extensive road network), the island is firmly on the radar of mass tourism. The beaches are bright, the water is blue, the interior is green, and there are a great number of accommodations to choose from. Getting here is easy from anywhere in Vietnam and, increasingly, from regional hubs across Southeast Asia too. This is Vietnam’s biggest island and, despite all the development, there’s still room for exploration and finding your very own stretch of sand to lie out on.

 

white sand, turquoise sea and palm tree in Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam

White sand beach on Phu Quoc Island

 

What to do?

The number-one ‘activity’ on Phu Quoc is lying on the beach under a palm tree, with a book in one hand and a cocktail in the other; broken only by fresh seafood meals and swims in the balmy, mirror-flat Gulf of Thailand. The island is covered by a dense canopy of jungle, of which the majority is part of Phu Quoc National Park. For a taste of the damp, life-filled jungle, take a trip to one of the waterfalls, or arrange a trek in the national park. Rent a scooter to explore the coastal and inland roads: you’ll be rewarded with stretches of empty beach, isolated fishing hamlets, and tidy little pepper farms. Diving, snorkeling and boats to outlying islands make an excellent day trip. At night, try a squid fishing trip on a wooden boat, complete with fresh-caught seafood dinner on-board. Local life can be experienced by taking an early morning stroll around the chaotic fish market in Duong Dong town (see image below).

 

Where is it?

Located in the Gulf of Thailand, Phu Quoc is one of the most westerly points in Vietnam. 50km off from the southwestern Mekong Delta, it’s closer to Cambodia than Vietnam.

 

When to go?

By far the best time of year to visit Phu Quoc is the dry season, between December and April. During this time, the sea is as still and calm as an infinity pool. The skies are blue, the sun is warm, but mornings and evenings are fresh and cool. Temperatures begin to soar in late spring, and from July tropical downpours are common, seas get choppy and water can be murky.

 

How to get there?

Phu Quoc’s new airport receives dozens of domestic and international flights every day. Within Vietnam, there are direct flights to the island from Saigon and Hanoi. Competition among airlines keeps prices reasonably low. Because flights from Saigon to Phu Quoc are so regular, it’s easy to connect from any major city in Vietnam. An increasing number of regional hubs also fly direct to Phu Quoc, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. Phu Quoc is also connected to mainland Vietnam by boat: both the Mekong Delta towns of Rach Gia and Ha Tien have several daily services to the island.

 

traditional seafood market in Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam

Fish market in Duong Dong town, Phu Quoc Island

 

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CHAM ISLANDS:

Why go?

A tiny collection of islands just off the coast of central Vietnam, the Cham Islands have been accessible to foreign tourists for some years now. Despite being within easy reach of one of Vietnam’s most famous tourist spots,Hoi An, development has been slow. Only the largest island is inhabited and it’s here that you’ll find tantalizing ribbons of white sand, blue bays and densely forested hills. Most of the tourism here is based around day trips on boats from Hoi An, including beach-hopping, snorkeling and seafood lunches. However, for more intrepid travellers, it’s possible to escape the day-tripping crowds by travelling to the islands independently via public boat and then camping on the beach. But you’ll need time and patience to do this.

 

wooden dock though a turquoise sea in Cham Islands, Vietnam

Wooden dock on Cham Island

 

What to do?

Diving, snorkeling and swimming are the most popular activities on and around the islands (see image below). Most day tours from Hoi An have snorkeling equipment. Diving can be arranged through The Dive Bar in Hoi An. Cycling around the island on its beautiful (but very steep) coastal roads is the best way to explore the beaches. Hire a bike from Hoi An and take it on the public ferry to the island.

 

Where is it?

The Cham Islands are around 20km off the central Vietnamese coast, east of Hoi An and Danang. There are 8 islands in this mini-archipelago, but only one, Hon Lao, is inhabited but this is known to most travellers simply as Cham Island.

 

When to go?

Late spring to late summer is best: the weather is warm and sunny most days, but there are still plenty of tropical downpours around. During the winter months, seas can be rough and temperatures pretty chilly (for Vietnam). Avoid weekends and public holidays, when the island’s beaches become crowded with domestic tourists.

 

How to get there?

Many tour operators in Hoi An can arrange day trip packages to the Cham Islands, including transport. Alternatively, there is a daily local ferry (2 hours) leaving Hoi An in the morning, which allows you to travel to the islands independently. You can even take a bicycle with you to amble around the island on two wheels.

 

snorkeling in Cham Islands, Vietnam

Snorkeling around Cham Islands

 

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QUAN LAN ISLAND:

Why go?

Quan Lan is one of the thousands of islands that make up Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay. What makes Quan Lan special is that, despite being easily accessible, extremely scenic, and having a handful of decent accommodation options, it receives a tiny fraction of the tourist traffic that has, in many cases, ruined the experience of other islands in the bay. Quan Lan is a thin slither of an island, with excellent beaches along its eastern shore, and two small, sleepy hamlets at its southern and northern tips. Its sandy bays are wide are long, the sea is blue and calm, local fishermen are friendly, and seafood is superb. If you want to experience Halong Bay off-the-beaten-track, Quan Lan is what you’re looking for.

 

isolated beach with white sand and turquoise water in Quan Lan Island, Vietnam

Isolated beach on Quan Lan Island

 

What to do?

Quan Lan Island’s main appeal is its slow pace of life and lack of things to do. Cycling or riding a scooter along the length of the island on the only road is a great way to explore. Swimming and relaxing on the beaches will occupy most of your time. But there are a couple of historical sites too: the ruins of Van Don, which was once an important trading post, lie in the northeast of the island, and there’s an attractive, two hundred-year-old pagoda in the south (see image below).

 

Where is it?

Quan Lan is a long and slender island in Bai Tu Long Bay (just northeast of Halong Bay). Its western shore looks out over other limestone islands in the bay, while its eastern shore looks onto open sea.

 

When to go?

As with Cat Ba Island and the rest of Halong Bay, Quan Lan is at its best in late autumn and high spring. The summer months can get busy with holidaymakers from Hanoi, and prices rise accordingly.

 

How to get there?

Quan Lan can be reached from either Halong City, on the mainland, or Cai Rong port on Van Don Island. The latter has the most frequent ferry connections to Quan Lan. There are at least four separate sailings in both directions each day. Journey time is about 1 hour. From Halong City there is only one fast boat a day to Quan Lan Island (90 minutes).  But the journey through the limestone karsts in the bay is glorious.

 

traditional Vietnamese pagoda in Quan Lan Island, Vietnam

Pagoda on Quan Lan Island

 

We hope you enjoyed this blog post showcasing the best 5 Islands in Vietnam! If you’re more interested in beaches, please read our post about the “Top 5 Best Beach Destinations in Vietnam.”

Looking for more travel tips, and great things to do in Vietnam while you are here? Bookmark our blog, leave a comment on a blog post or on our facebook, we’d love to hear from you. Hope you join us in Vietnam soon!

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