If you're the sort of traveler who gets twitchy being indoors, if you count the days until you can put your hiking boots back on or wiggle into some diving gear, Vietnam should be your next vacation destination. Explore acres of lush jungle, discover forgotten Buddhist monasteries high in the mountains, camp in the wild, or go diving in the South China Sea. Whatever your favorite outdoor pursuits are, Vietnam has an adventure ready for everyone.
After a thousand-mile trip from the Himalayas, the Mekong River spreads out into a warm, fertile delta. As you travel down the river and watch traditionally-cultivated rice farms go by, you'll feel as if you've gone back in time. Many commercial cruise companies allow you to book trips of varying lengths. But if you want a more authentic experience, cargo barges frequently allow travelers to rent a bit of hammock space.
Han Soon Dong looks like a cathedral built by Mother Nature. High cavern ceilings arch far overhead; some so big they could accommodate Notre Dame! Start your adventure in the village of Phong Nha in Quang Binh province, where gear and guides are available for hire. On your way to the cave, take in the stunning waterfalls, or snap a selfie with some of the area's monkeys and flying foxes.
Situated along the Perfume River, the small city of Hue boasts a wealth of natural and historical sites. Pagodas, tombs, and beautiful riverbank hills form a circuit, with several other trails branching away. Stick to the river if you like, or explore what remains of the Imperial Citadel. Many services also provide a Hue to Hoi An service. Rent a bike in Hue, ride it to Hoi An, and find your luggage waiting for you once you arrive.
Halong Bay is quite possibly Vietnam's most famous bay. Maybe a little too famous. If crowds aren't your thing, opt for a trip around Bai Tu Long Bay. This bay boasts the same beautiful islands, mysterious caves, and tiny beaches as Halong, but with a fraction of the crowds. Reach the bay via chartered or rented boat, and explore at your leisure.
Home to the Hmong and Black Hmong minorities, Sapa is known for its traditional villages and stunning hiking trails. You can book a multi-day hiking tour, which includes a homestay with a family of friendly, English-speaking villagers. Or take the much shorter Muong Hoa day hike that nevertheless allows you to meet some of Vietnam's friendliest and most hospitable residents while also exploring gorgeous landscapes.
When you're in the mood for a low-key adventure, take the food tour in Hanoi. Learn about the culinary history of Vietnam and the many influences which have gone into her evolving cuisine. Best of all, receive samples of these dishes from vendors along the way. Tours are conducted daily and last about three hours.
Located just outside the capital, the Cu Chi Tunnels were an integral part of the Viet Cong's defensive strategy during the Vietnam war. Today, you can explore these tunnels and learn what life was like for the soldiers. And if you want a little more excitement, the above-ground shooting range allows you to shoot an M16 rifle, AK-47, or M60 machine gun. To ensure admittance on the day, you want to go, book in advance.
In between adventures, plan for some rest and relaxation at Phu Quoc. This tiny tropical island features an array of resorts where you can enjoy white-sand beaches, splash in the warm ocean water, or enjoy a vibrant nightlife. Pollution can be a problem on some parts of the island, so for best results, plan to stay at one of the larger resorts.
This coastal fishing town features breathtaking white and red dunes. Rent a dune buggy and sandboard, and ride the sandy waves. Strong winds make Mui Ni a popular place for kitesurfing and windsurfing, as well. And if you want to see the dunes from another angle, hot air balloons are available to float you over the landscape.
Over 1,400 square miles, the Dong Van Karst plateau is a protected area. It contains several villages, home to seventeen unique ethnic groups, and a wide array of natural wonders. Hike through Ma Pi Leng pass or swing through one of the many markets. For best results, rent or hire a motorbike to get you around. Note that due to Dong Van Karst's proximity to the Chinese border, you'll need to obtain a permit in Ha Giang before visiting.
This mountain is not for the inexperienced climber, as reaching the top takes on average about four days. The peak reaches almost two thousand feet into the sky, and the trail to get there is quite steep at times. Many climbers appreciate this peak, however, for the variety of small streams which make resting periods more rewarding. Guides are recommended but not mandatory.
If you want to climb a mountain but aren't ready to commit to a multi-day excursion, consider Mount Nui Ba Den. The name means 'black virgin' in Vietnamese, and probably refers to the mountain's status as an extinct volcano. The hike takes a few hours to complete, and you can opt for a gondola ride instead of walking. When you're finished, take a slideway down for a full mile!
Rushing rivers have carved majestic canyons in the Dalat region, perfect for rock climbers. Abseil down a waterfall, or slide down a natural waterslide into a pool below. For best results, book a tour with an experienced company. They provide safety equipment and instruct beginners on best practices when rock climbing.
Located just under 40 miles south of Hue, this national park features a variety of trails and campsites. Professional companies conduct multi-day wilderness excursions, or you can set out on your own if you prefer. Camping gear is available for rent if you don't have your own. Bring your own food, however, along with mosquito repellent. The weather is best in summer and autumn.
Several companies will rent you scuba gear in Nha Trang on the coast of the South China Sea, with guides also available to show you the best dive spots. Hon Mun Marine Park features a coral reef, while marine wildlife is abundant at Whale Island. The waters are frequently warm, with great visibility. As the currents tend to be low, this is a good option for beginners wanting to get a bit of experience.