You’ll find breathtaking bays, stunning rice terraces and unbeatable scenery. Northern Vietnam’s cultural attractions are just as diverse ranging from the chaotic highland markets to the hill-tribes in the far north. Narrowing down the many options to fit your itinerary can be tricky, but this list can help point you to the region’s top destinations.

Top 10 unique places North Vietnam 1024x684 Top 10 unique places to visit North Vietnam
  • Halong Bay
  • Trang An Ninh Binh
  • Hanoi
  • Sapa
  • Ha giang
  • Ban Gioc waterfalls
  • Pu Luong Nature reserve
  • Mu Cang Chai
  • Bac Ha market
  • Hoang Su Phi

1. Halong Bay

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(See Halong bay map)

One of the best-known destinations in the entire country is Halong Bay. Its reputation is well deserved, because it is truly beautiful. Halong means descending dragons, which is indicative of the silhouette of the limestone outcrops that poke out from the water. Day cruises or overnight boat trips are a spectacular way to experience the beauty of Halong Bay and to see as many of the islands as possible.

In addition to Cat Ba, Quan Lan is a popular stop that is beginning to develop some tourism infrastructure to accommodate a longer stay. You can go swimming, look for caves to explore or find some of the more remote, uninhabited islands while cruising through Halong Bay.

See more: What to do in Halong Bay Tours from Hanoi

2. Trang An Ninh Binh

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(See Trang An map Ninh Binh)

Trang An is the most beautiful tourist area in Ninh Binh. The beauty here is created by nature in a natural way, including mountains, winding around the streams, creating a mysterious and magical beauty.

Trang An – Tam Coc inter-area of Hoa Lu ancient capital is currently planned to be integrated into Trang An scenic complex, which is the first mixed world heritage site in Vietnam with outstanding values of the natural landscape. However, cultural history and geological tectonics are also the places invested to become an international tourism area.

See more: Things to do and see in Ninh Binh

3. Hanoi

Hanoi tour Top 10 unique places to visit North Vietnam

If you only visit one place in Northern Vietnam, it will likely be Hanoi. As the nation’s capital, Hanoi is an exhilarating blend of eastern and western culture. French colonialism is visible through cuisine as well as architecture, particularly in the French Quarter in the Hoàn Kiếm District.

Hanoi is packed with incredible temples, and a visit to the 11th century Temple of Literature is a must-do activity. The side-by-side Ho Chi Minh Museum and Mausoleum are also major attractions in Hanoi, and both are striking buildings from the exterior.

See more: 20 Best Things To Do In Hanoi

4. Sapa

Sapa tour Top 10 unique places to visit North Vietnam

(see Sapa map)

The mountainous town of Sapa is known for its culturally diverse population as well as its proximity to incredible scenery. Sapa itself is home to the members of many hill tribes, including the Hmong, the Dao, the Muong and the Tay. The town also overlooks the magnificent Muong Hoa Valley and its terraced rice fields, which are staggering to behold.

If you want to get an inside look at the local residents and their cultures, then head to Sapa for an overnight trek or a homestay. You can hike out to the more remote villages and then spend the night, dining and learning from the hill tribe residents.

See more: Sapa Tours from Hanoi Guide

5. Ha Giang

Ha giang tour Top 10 unique places to visit North Vietnam

(see Ha Giang loop map)

One of the most remote provinces in the country is Ha Giang. Close to the border with China, Ha Giang Province is known for its green forests and granite mountains. It is an incredible destination to explore ethnic diversity and to participate in outdoor activities like camping or hiking.

As such a scenic province, Ha Giang to home to hundreds of spectacular vantage points. However, few can compare to Ma Pi Leng Pass. Outdoor markets are a regular occurrence in Ha Giang, with residents traveling to attend these weekly or monthly events. One of the most thrilling is the Dong Van Market, which is held on Sundays.

See more: Amazing Hanoi to Ha Giang Road Trip

6. Ban Gioc waterfalls

Ban gioc falls tour from hanoi 1024x649 Top 10 unique places to visit North Vietnam

(see Ban gioc waterfall map)

Right on the border between Vietnam and China is the breathtaking Detian Waterfall (also known as Ban Gioc). The whole area is known as the Detian Scenic Zone, although the waterfalls are certainly the main attraction. Detian is made up of three stages, which makes the scene more dramatic as well as interesting, with small pools and minor cascades along the way.

One of the more unique ways to see the Detian Waterfall is to hire a raft and a guide and get close from the river itself. At the 53rd merestone, it is possible to legally cross between China and Vietnam freely, so you might want to hop across the border just to see the falls from a new perspective.

See more: Things to do in Cao Bang Bang Gioc falls

7. Pu Luong

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(see pu luong map)

Located south west of Hanoi, at about 180km, Pu Luong Nature Reserve is nowadays easily accessible. It is quite central location between some famous areas. Only 40 km from Mai Chau and 140km from Ninh Binh – the Halong bay on land

When you will first arrive to Pu Luong Nature Reserve, it is easy to think that no minorities are living here. Actually, Pu Luong is the living place of ethnic Muong and Thai people. The majority is represented by the Black Thai, one of the biggest minorities in all Vietnam.

They live in traditional wooden stilt house disseminated in small villages or isolated in the mountains. The first floor usually uses as a storage and place for the animals (buffalo, pigs…). The second floor, the living area, is a space divided in two. The biggest room is to take meals, welcome friends and sleep.

See more: Things to do in Pu Luong

8. Mu Cang Chai

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(see Mu Cang Chai map)

Mu Cang Chai’s sheer rice terraces were sculpted over centuries of small-scale cultivation. Each season brings its own charm. 

During the summer, the terraces bulge with ripening rice stems that blanket the hills in a vibrant green. By early autumn, the rice plants have turned a bewitching golden yellow, ready for the harvest. In wintertime, the lonely terraces fill with water, creating cascading rows of reflective infinity pools. Once spring comes, the terraces transform into anthills of activity, as the farmers plant a new crop.

See more: Things to see in Mu Cang Chai

9. Bac Ha market

Bac ha market tour Top 10 unique places to visit North Vietnam

(see bac ha market map)

Just a few miles from the Chinese border is the town of Bac Ha. Bac Ha is very small, and during the week the best way to explore is to check out the town square. There are a handful of local eateries serving delicious, inexpensive cuisine, and there are several vendors selling handmade crafts.

What truly makes Bac Ha worth a visit, however, is the Sunday Market. Every Sunday morning, residents from throughout the region gather in Bac Ha, and it becomes a cacophony of color, sound and vibrancy. The members of the surrounding hill tribes come to shop and sell, making it a fantastic opportunity to see a range of ethnicities in a single, scenic setting.

See more: Bac Ha Sunday Market Travel Guide

10. Hoang Su Phi

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(see Hoang Su Phi map)

Hoang Su Phi is similar to Mu Cang Chai, but with even fewer tourists. It is even the least touristy area in the not too touristy Ha Giang province. That is why this is a great advantage for maintaining the authenticity of this beautiful and unspoilt area.

Hoang Su Phi in Ha Giang, near the Chinese border, is a mountainous area with little tourism. You will find here one of the most breathtaking rice terraces, ethnic groups, mountains and nature.

See more: Hoang Su Phi Ha Giang Travel

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