South Vietnam

South Vietnam

    
 

Anchored by the metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City, southern Vietnam is out to charm with its pretty coastline, mountain resorts and the flat, seemingly endless rice fields of the Mekong Delta. In the south, you’ll find postcard-pretty scenes of typical Vietnamese villages with thatched roofs, cuisine that showcases fresh fruits and vegetables and a slower pace of life.

 

Con Dao
Phu Quoc
Mekong Delta
Phan Thiet
Nha Trang
Ho Chi Minh City
Dalat

 

Con Dao

    
 

An archipelago of 15 islands, sparsely populated Con Dao is one of Vietnam’s next “It” destinations. Still mostly designated as a national park, Con Son (the largest and only populated island, sometimes called “Con Dao”) is what Phu Quoc looked like 20 years ago. Largely undeveloped, the island has only one main road from the airport to the pier, and lots of pristine beaches with relatively few visitors. Domestic tourists usually come to visit the historic prisons and to pay respects to fallen comrades at the Hang Duong Cemetery, but sun seekers will enjoy the peace and quiet of the island where time seems to stand still.

 
 

Phu Quoc

    
 

Once a penal colony under the French and Americans, the tear-shaped island of Phu Quoc is now known for its white, sandy beaches, clear, turquoise waters and heavily forested interior. Just 15km (9mi) south of Cambodia’s coastline, Phu Quoc’s main claims to fame were its pepper farms and fish sauce factories. Today, it’s an exotic beach destination that’s rapidly getting noticed. Travelers in the know will come and explore the islands to the south for their excellent snorkeling and diving, the island’s many as yet undeveloped beaches and the sleepy north shore, still home to quiet fishing villages and secluded beaches.

 
 

Mekong Delta

    
 

Endless rice fields in every shade of green have earned the Mekong Delta its nickname as “the Rice Bowl of Vietnam”. Its countless palm-fringed waterways are a joy to discover along with its floating markets, fish and shrimp farms and riverside villages. The region’s diverse yet harmonious cultures ― Chinese settlers from the 17th century, Cham Muslims leftover from the Champa Kingdom, and indigenous ethnic Khmer from when the area was once part of the Khmer Empire ― only add to the Mekong Delta’s unique charm.

 
 

Phan Thiet

    
 

Originally a sleepy fishing village, Phan Thiet (and nearby Mui Ne) have emerged as the best beach destination within comfortable driving distance of Saigon, just four hours away thanks to a newly built expressway. The long stretch of white sand and blue-green water between the two towns hosts a wide array of accommodations and eateries featuring fresh, cooked-to-order seafood. There are also a handful of attractions that can be visited on half-day trips including towering white sand dunes, the wild beach and lighthouse of Ke Ga and a Fairy Stream running through a scenic red canyon.

 
 

Nha Trang

    
 

Known for its year-round sunny weather, friendly vibe and the country’s best municipal beach, Nha Trang is Vietnam’s preeminent beach destination. Walk the 4km (2.5mi) boardwalk and watch the locals swimming, playing football and flying kites or take a day trip to visit some of the island’s 19 islands in a protected maritime reserve, making Nha Trang the best snorkeling and diving spot in Vietnam. Recover from the sun and sea with a relaxing day at the Thap Ba Hot Spring Center just north of downtown where you can soak in a rejuvenating mineral-rich mud bath before sampling one of the many fresh seafood restaurants along the beach.

 
 

Ho Chi Minh City

    
 

Hanoi may be Vietnam’s capital, but Ho Chi Minh City (commonly referred to as “Saigon”) is its economic, culinary and cultural center with a population of 8.2 million people and almost as many motorbikes crowding its busy streets. While most of its museums, shopping streets and restaurants are tightly clustered in downtown District 1, visitors will want to make time to visit the surrounding districts including the colorful Chinese pagodas in Cho Lon (Chinatown), the historic Cu Chi Tunnels just north of the city, and the Cao Dai Great Temple, the seat of Vietnam’s only homegrown religion in nearby Tay Ninh.

 

Dalat

    
 

The mountain retreat of Dalit was literally built from nothing on the site of a barren plateau in 1897 by French colonial powers as a highland resort for colonists needing to escape the heat of the lowlands. With its mild year-round temperatures, pine forests and cooling lakes, the city became a playground for the elite. Today, the region still produces some of Vietnam’s freshest, most flavorsome fruits and vegetables as well as prized flowers sold all over the country. Old colonial villas, quaint coffee shops and excellent adventure sports like canyoning and white water rafting beckon visitors to Vietnam’s romantic “honeymoon capital”.

 


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