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Is Vietnam the Most Diverse Country For Backpackers in SE Asia?

From the steep rice terraces of Sapa to the limestone karsts of Halong Bay and the rolling sand dunes of Mui Ne to the buzz of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam has some of the most diverse landscapes in South East Asia. You can be trekking in the mountains one day and sunbathing on a sandy beach the next, then whizzing around on a motorbike through the hectic streets of a buzzing city the following day!

7 Halong Bay Sunset                                                        Sunset at UNESCO World Heritage, Halong Bay

Maybe it’s Vietnam’s spectacular variety that makes it one of the most popular countries in South East Asia for backpackers to travel. If you’re planning to a trip to this country, you’re in for a treat! Here are five reasons why Vietnam has something to suit every backpacker…

1. Mountain Trekking:

Head north from Hanoi via overnight train for some incredible trekking experiences where you’ll walk amidst misty mountains and rice terraces from one hill tribe village to the next. The hill town resort of Sapa is a good starting point, as well as the more remote Mai Chau Valley and Ba Be National Park. If you’re feeling up for the challenge, you may like to try to conquer Vietnam’s highest peak, Mount Fansipan! Also worth visiting are the beautiful central highlands, known as the ‘Alps of Vietnam’ where you can base yourself in the quirky town of Dalat and explore on foot or bicycle from there. Rafting, rock climbing, canyoning and kayaking are also available!

                                                         Views from the Fansipan hike, north Vietnam

2. Beach Bumming:

Tropical white sandy beaches don’t instantly come to mind when you think of Vietnam – with beach hungry backpackers tending to head first to neighbouring Thailand. Don’t fall into the same trap! Vietnam’s long coastline is filled with incredible beaches and islands that will satisfy any beach bum. From the picturesque coves shadowed by impossible limestone cliffs at Cat Ba National Park to the long stretches of sand at Hoi An and Nha Trang – Vietnam is a great place to enjoy sun, sea, sand and cocktails! There’s also the interesting island of Phu Quoc just a few hours south of Ho Chi Minh City with fishing villages and beaches galore!

2 - Beautiful beach Cat Ba                                                                     Beach in Cat Ba National Park

3. City Buzz:

There’s nowhere quite like Vietnam’s capital Hanoi in the north of the country for its intoxicating atmosphere. From the moment you arrive you will be energized by its pulsating vibe and over a thousand years of culture and history. Winding streets, buzzing street life, the smell of spicy street food, eclectic architecture and a million motorbikes make this city an assault on all of the senses. In the south, Ho Chi Minh city has a more cosmopolitan feel – eat crab and drink cheap beer from the street vendors in one area of the city and treat yourself in swanky restaurants, trendy bars and lively clubs in the next!

3 - Buzzing Vietnam Hanoi                                                    Hanoi’s hectic streets as seen from a rooftop bar in the centre

4. Culture, Museums, Art and Food:

Vietnam has an incredibly rich culture that cannot fail to entice visitors. Wander through the streets of UNESCO World Heritage City, Hoi An, appreciating influences from over five centuries of world trading with the Chinese, Dutch, French and Indians. In the nearby city of Hue, don’t miss the ancient Imperial Hue Citadel, an important part of Vietnamese history as well as the ‘Tombs of the Former Emperors’. Vietnam is also home to world famous museums such as the ‘American War Museum’ in Ho Chi Minh City, as well as Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi. Plus, you can even visit the tomb of the worshipped leader, Ho Chi Minh himself in Hanoi. After all that culture, make sure you relax with a bia hoi (beer) and try local delicacies such as pho bo (beef noodle soup), banh mi (vietnamese style sandwich) and goi cuon (spring rolls). Read more about Vietnamese street food here!

4 - Hoi An Vietnam                                       The charming riverside at Hoi An with cafes, restaurants and art galleries

5. Off the Beaten Track:

This incredible country offers plenty of opportunity for off the beaten track adventures. One region, which is only just being discovered by backpackers, is Phong Nha National Park – with amazing scenery, a local way of life and loads of adventure sports such as kayaking, rafting, mountain biking, hiking and caving. Raging rivers, spectacular waterfalls, swimming lagoons, rugged mountains and of course the world’s biggest cave (Hang Son Doong) make this region one of the most exciting adventure capitals in South East Asia.

5 - Phong Nha Nat Park                                                         Incredible landscapes of Phong Nha National Park

What do you need to know before you go to Vietnam?

To enter the country you will need a visa, which needs to be arranged in advance. Do you want to travel to Vietnam and get a totally FREE Visa on Arrival (VOA)? We just discovered this promotion from Vietnam Airlines, which grants you a free Visa when you book any flight. Book flights from 49 USD, this great offer is available until 30th December 2015. (Offer is worth 20 USD / per passenger and a whole lot of time and hassle saved!)

*VOA is actually an ‘approval letter’ – which means you can get a Vietnam Visa stamped upon arrival at an international airport (Da Nang, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh) which will save you time in pre-arranging a visa at a Vietnamese Embassy.

Article by S.E.A Backpacker

Feature illustration by Kirsten Downie

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