Vietnam is an incredible destination, and there is a seemingly endless amount of amazing hidden gems in Vietnam. Therefore it is more than worth it to venture off the beaten track while exploring the country. So leave behind the popular cities like Hanoi, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh to explore these 10 fantastic locations all over the country.
If you follow globetrotters on social media, you have likely already seen photos of Vietnam‘s stunning landscape and vibrant cities, but these are the more rural areas that you should add to your itinerary. After all, you get to know a country’s true nature by exploring the more unknown parts.
Some of these hidden gems in Vietnam have become more popular in the last two years and it is easy to see why. However, even the most commonly known off-the-beaten-track place still has amazing corners that few venture to, so be sure to explore them alongside places like Mui Ne and Hue.
And in addition to all these great places to see, one does not need a high travel budget in Vietnam.
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The colorful small town of Cốc Pài, also known by the name of its surrounding district Xín Mần, lies west of Lào Cai and east of Hà Giang. This mountainous region of far-north Vietnam is known for green karst mountains, terraced rice paddies, and colorfully dressed members of ethnic minority communities. Xín Mần is one of several appealing alternatives to Sapa, the region’s best-known destination, for travelers who prefer to explore off the beaten path.
A few modest tourist attractions can be found in the surrounding Xín Mần district. The waterfall of Thác Tiên (Fairy Waterfall) lies 20 km south of Xín Mần, and a number of smaller waterfalls can be spotted beside roads in the area. On the way to Thác Tiên, you’ll also find the Nam Dan ancient stones, a fascinating archaeological site where carvings on flat stones suggest an ancient place of status or worship.
How to get to Xín Mần
Getting to Xín Mần is half the adventure. You’ll work your way along dramatic mountain roads, mostly paved, but very curvy and subject to landslides in heavy rain. Public buses run from Hà Giang via Hoàng Su Phì from the east. You may be able to arrange transport from the west via Bắc Hà; check with a tour operator locally.
The boldest option is to rent a motorbike and drive yourself to Xín Mần, as most of the locals do. However, you get there, a visit to Cốc Pài / Xín Mần is sure to be an adventure.
Contributed by Alissa of Exploring Wild
Ha Giang Loop
The mountains of Northern Vietnam are one of the few untouched and still relatively undiscovered places in Vietnam. The Ha Giang Loop is the perfect way to discover this amazing part of the country. You complete the loop in 4 days on a motorcycle. Alternatively, you can go by car, but the most common and in our opinion best way to complete this epic road trip is on a motorcycle.
The loop starts in the town of Ha Giang and winds further North all the way to the border with China. As you drive through the mountains and remote communities, you will find some places where time has stood still for the last 30 years. The scenery is breath-taking as you wind along endless mountain passes. There is an incredible view around every corner.
The lookouts at Heaven’s Gate and Ma Pi Leng are some of the best stops along the trip and one of our favorites was the waterfall at Du Gia where we enjoyed cliff jumping with some of the local kids.
This was a totally wild adventure and we saw so few other travelers during our 4 days. Riding along these windy roads, through untouched and epic scenery with the wind rushing past was an amazing experience and one you definitely shouldn’t miss.
How to get to Ha Giang
The easiest way to get to Ha Giang is to take the bus from Hanoi to Ha Giang.
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Northern Vietnam is all about impressive mountain landscapes, fascinating hill tribes, and quaint towns. Most travelers head straight to Sapa, the tourism center of the northwest, attracted by the iconic rice paddies and Vietnam’s highest peak, Mount Fansipan.
But there is so much more to discover in northern Vietnam. One of these hidden gems in Vietnam is the sleepy town of Bac Ha near the Chinese border. It is the capital of the Flower Hmong, one of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic minorities. And on Sundays, it holds one of Vietnam’s busiest and brightest local markets, attracting ethnic minorities from the surrounding mountain region to sell their goods, exchange the latest news and gossip.
How to get to Bắc Hà
From Hanoi or Sapa, Bac Ha can be easily reached by public transport, by motorbike, with a private driver, or on a guided tour. From Hanoi, travelers can either catch a train or bus to Lao Cai and then hop on a minibus to Bac Ha. And while there even are direct buses from Sapa to Bac Ha, it is also recommended to travel via Lao Cai for better connections.
Contributed by Sara from Sara far away
The small village of Ta Van is no doubt one of the hidden gems of Vietnam. Ditch the touristy town of Sapa and make your way to the countryside for an authentic experience. Discover green rice terraces, meet some local animals, and be a part of a Vietnamese family. Learn about their way of life by partaking in a homestay experience.
How to get to Ta Van
From Hanoi, you will need to take a bus or train to Sapa and then take a taxi to the village in Ta Van. It is quite a journey and can take up to 9 hours. But it is all worth it when you are relaxing with a hot cup of tea looking out of the rice terraces. Just be aware that temperatures here can get into the negative if you are traveling during January and February, so you will need to bring warm clothing!
Contributed by Amy from Backpackers Wanderlust
Cát Bà Island and National Park
While Cát Bà has experienced a surge of tourism in recent years, it is still one of the best hidden gems in Vietnam’s north. After all, a lot of people that visit it tend to miss out on some of the island’s most amazing things. These days Cát Bà town is full of hotels and bars that cater to local and international tourists alike. But the minute you leave the town behind, you get the chance to explore rugged nature.
Explore Cát Bà National Park while hiking to Đỉnh Ngự Lâm peak or treck to the remote Viet Hai village. Be sure to rent a scooter so you can drive around and visit places like the tiny temple close to the Ben pha Gia Luan ferry pier and visit the hospital cave and Trung Trang cave.
While few people know it, Cát Bà is one of the best places to see bioluminescence. After all, the bioluminescent plankton can frequently be observed at four of the island’s beaches. And as the beaches here are clean, it is safe to swim in the sea of stars. It is an amazing experience and you should try to see it while on the island.
In addition to that Cát Bà is the starting point of fantastic Lan Ha Bay cruises that only cost a fraction of the popular Ha Long Bay cruises. The limestone formations are the same and the only actual difference is that the two bays belong to two different provinces. And the fortunate fact that La Ha Bay is not as overcrowded as its popular twin.
How to get to Cát Bà
There are two ways to get to Cát Bà. If you go there from Hanoi via Ha Long, you have to take the ferry. And as the ferry drives through limestone formations, it can be considered as a Ha Long Bay cruise on a budget. Alternatively, you can go to Haiphong first, from where you can take a shorter but less beautiful ferry ride, or opt for the more expensive Cat Ba Cable Car.
Tam Coc is one of Vietnam’s great hidden gems. It’s a small town located within an incredible landscape full of rivers, limestone cliffs, rice fields and temples. You can easily spend day after day exploring this area of Vietnam.
Tam Coc is located in the Ninh Binh province in Northern Vietnam. It’s only a 2-hour drive away from Hanoi and it’s reachable by direct bus to Tam Coc or by train to Ninh Binh.
There are so many things to do in Tam Coc. The highlights are the breathtaking Mua Caves viewpoint, the Trang An boat tour that takes you through the UNESCO World Heritage landscapes, and the great temples in the area such as Bich Dong, Hoa Lu, and Bai Dinh.
Tam Coc is also the perfect place to explore by scooter. So, if you’re brave enough, you can get yourself two wheels and discover the unknown roads and hidden landscapes in the area.
Some people also call Tam Coc and its surrounding areas for “Halong Bay on land” referring to the many limestone cliffs. However, compared to Halong Bay, Tam Coc still remains one of Vietnam’s true hidden gems which isn’t overrun by tourists.
So, if you’re looking for a less touristy place in Vietnam where you can discover untouched nature and incredible landscapes, then Tam Coc is the perfect destination for you.
How to get to Tam Coc
If you are coming from the north, you can take the bus from Hanoi to Tam Coc or from Hai Phong to Tam Coc. Alternatively, you can take the train from Hanoi to Ninh Binh. If you are going there from central Vietnam, you can catch an overnight bus from Hue to Tam Coc.
Explored by Cecilie from Worldwide Walkers
Phong Nha is one of Vietnam’s hidden gems that hasn’t yet been discovered by the masses of tourists. Most of the visitors who come to Phong Nha do it on a day trip from Hue and don’t spend the night in the village. This makes it very peaceful at night.
The Duck Stop is an experience in which you can be the leader of a pack of ducks. The Pub with cold beer is another great remote stop, where you can enjoy fantastic views whilst trying out their grilled chicken with peanut sauce.
The botanical gardens in Phong Nha are like no other you have seen before. The jungle trek leads to a hidden waterfall, so don’t forget to bring your swimsuit to cool down in the refreshing water, after hiking through the humid forest.
How to get to Phong Nha
If you are coming from Hanoi, you can opt to fly to Dong Hoi Airport or take the train to Dong Hoi. From there you have to catch a bus to Phong Nha. Alternatively, you can catch a 10.5 hours sleeper bus straight to Phong Nha. Meanwhile, a bus ride from Hue to Phong Nha only takes 3 hours. Therefore this hidden gem in Vietnam is the perfect stop along the way.
Contributed by Joanna from The World in my Pocket
Tam Thanh Mural Village
Tam Thanh Mural Village is a lesser-known location nearby the more touristic city of Hoi An in Central Vietnam. While there is certainly a shortage of ornate temples and heritage houses in Tam Thanh, there’s still one worthwhile reason to visit: the vibrant collection of street art.
The otherwise sleepy fishing village has only recently been put on the map. This trend of using street art to bring tourism to lesser-visited parts of the country started in Korea and, like K Pop, has caught on in Vietnam.
How to get to Tam Thanh Mural Village
This lesser-known location can be found an hour’s drive from Hoi An and can be visited by tour group, taxi, or by self-driving a car or motorcycle. Don’t forget to visit the Vietnamese Heroic Mother Statue on the way there or back: this 18m statue is an impressive place of worship for local people.
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Within touching distance of the Cambodian border, the sleepy town of Chau Doc boasts a fusion of Chinese, Cham, and Khmer communities, apparent in the temples, mosques, and churches. It may be tucked away from the main tourist trail in Vietnam, but it is a worthwhile stop on a South Vietnam itinerary.
Browse the markets, and enjoy a bowl of pho by the river. But the main reason to visit this hidden gem in Vietnam is to visit the fascinating temples and pagodas of nearby Sam Mountain.
How to get to Chau Doc
To get to Chau Doc you need to first get to Can Tho. You can then take a morning Futa Bus from Can Tho bus station to Chau Doc (3 hours). If you want to visit Sam Mountain you will need to organize a taxi to take you there. Taxis are rather elusive in Chau Doc, and it will be easier to organize through your hotel.
Contributed by Jenny from TraveLynn Family
Con Dao Islands
Located in South Vietnam, Con Dao Islands is one of the most beautiful islands to visit in Vietnam. It is an archipelago of 16 islands with Con Son as the largest and habitable island.
Considering that it’s straightforward to get to Con Dao by a flight or a 4-hour speedboat ferry from Vung Tau or Soc Trang, Con Son is very quiet and not overpopulated with tourists. The tourism infrastructure is still getting developed here.
With little traffic on the road, rent a bicycle or a motorbike to ride around the island. Stop by highlights such as the Con Dao National Park for natural scenery or Con Dao Museum and prisons to learn about the island’s dark past and the use of tiger cages. The beaches are a must-visit as they are the cleanest beaches in the country and not crowded.
Nhat Beach is off of the main road and is a gorgeous place to see the sunset and take an afternoon swim. In the evening, head to the night market in the center of the island to try BBQ seafood, participate in games and hang out.
Accommodations on the islands are mostly guesthouses and boutique hotels, yet you can splurge on luxurious resorts, such as Six Senses.
How to get to Con Dao Islands
The fastest way to get to Con Dao is to fly from Ho Chi Minh to Co Ong Airport on Con Dao. Vietnam Airlines executes several flights per week to the islands. Alternatively, you can catch a bus to Vung Tau and then take the ferry to the islands.
Contributed by Jackie Szeto & Justin Huynh from Life of Doing
How to visit these Hidden Gems in Vietnam?
The easiest way to get around in Vietnam is by taking the train or sleeper buses. Hereby I recommend using 12 Go Asia to look up schedules or if you want to book everything in advance. As some of these places are not right at a bus stop, you can either get a Grab to the location or rent a bike so you can drive there yourself.
Please do not do the latter of you no experience with driving a bike. After all, the traffic in Vietnam can be crazy, and falling into a rice field should be the least of your worries. A Grab ride is rather cheap, so it is better to spend a little more than to risk your life.
Places to see along the Way
Obviously, the bigger cities are also worth a visit and you could easily spend 2 weeks in Vietnam without visiting any of these hidden gems in Vietnam. So fly into Hanoi and spend 2 days in Hanoi, before explore off the beaten track destinations.
Once you reach central Vietnam, you should definitely visit Hue with the Abandoned Ho Thuy Tien Water Park and the Imperial City. Spend a day in Da Nang and see the show at the Dragon Bridge. Then continue onwards to Hoi An with its beautiful Ancient Town and the Night Market. The nearby Marble Mountains and the My Son Sanctuary are also worthwhile stops.
If you explore the hidden gems in Vietnam from north to south, you will eventually reach Ho Chi Minh. Spend a few days here before you leave this wonderful country, but do not forget to explore the Mekong Delta.
Planning a trip soon? Check out these useful websites and resources that I use to plan my own adventures
Which of these hidden gems in Vietnam will you add to your itinerary?
More about Vietnam
If you are making plans for your next Vietnam trip, you might also want to check out the Travel Guide about Vietnam.
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