The ancient capital of Vietnam is a pleasant river city, it has the ruins of a huge walled citadel as its centrepiece. Here at Teacher’s Friend – Vietnam, we consider the monasteries and tombs outside of the city to be the real attraction. These peaceful sanctuaries line either side of the river as you leave the town. Each complex is unique, as they were built to reflect the lives and personalities of the emperors that reigned during their construction. If you know how to ride a motorbike, leave the taxis and tour buses behind and find the monasteries yourself. It will be highly rewarding! If the adventurer inside of you is itching to get out, then know that there are rumours of the lost, buried treasures of dead emperors who took their secrets to the grave. If you find it, be sure to remember your old Teacher’s Friend.

Hoi An

Despite only being a small fishing town, Wanderlust Magazine voted Hoi An ‘The Best City on Earth 2013’. And not without good reason. This atmospheric seaside town is simply magical; tiny ancient fishing huts are lit with fairy lights and colourful lanterns. The old streets are lined with fresh fish restaurants and some of the best tailors in South East Asia. They are often described as the best value tailors on the planet and their skill is remarkable. Get yourself a custom made suit or dress. Have an item you like, but you’d like it in a different colour or material? No problem, the master tailors of Hoi An have you covered. Shopping aside, if you want a great day out, rent a bicycle and take a short ride to the gorgeous (and gigantic) nearby beach. Here you can feast on fresh sea food while you watch the fisherman ride their strange donut shaped boats on the waves. If you ask nicely, they might even let you have a go. Be careful though, the currents on the beach here are deceptively strong!

Phong Nha

One of the most beautiful, untouched locations in Vietnam. Phong Nha national park is full of emerald green rice paddies, blue rivers and a series of gigantic caves ready for exploring. These caves include the recently discovered, jaw-dropping Son Doong, the biggest cave in the world. Don’t expect to visit it though, only a handful of people have entered due to the hefty $2000 entrance fee and one-year waiting list. Fear not, the area holds many other mind-blowing caves, such as Paradise Cave, Phong Nha Cave, and Dark Cave (where you can swim in the pitch black and have epic mud fights). All of which are definitely worth a visit! The road to access Phong Nha was only built a few years ago, so the area is transforming rapidly from an unknown impoverished area to a popular spot for Vietnamese and foreigners alike. This is great because it gives the area a gentle, authentic feel. However, for the same reason it is a very sensitive area, please be responsible when you visit; be friendly and respectful, and please do not give money to begging children.

Nha Trang

Nha Trang is Vietnam’s answer to a party beach resort. If you’re looking for an authentic Vietnamese countryside experience, then this is not the place for you. But if you’re looking for western comforts and some wild parties then Nha Trang is well worth a visit. It is set on a long beach, but for the truly beautiful beaches head outside of town where untouched stretches of golden sand and fun-sized waterfalls make for excellent relaxation spots. Its harbours also host an island, accessible by cable cart, dedicated solely to a waterpark. We can’t vouch for the health and safety regulations there, but it is definitely a lot of fun! If you are in Vietnam for NYE, then Nha Trang is famed for its beach side parties.

The Demilitarized Zone (The DMZ)

The historically rich DMZ offers a startling reminder of the troubles of the Vietnam war. The DMZ divided the north and the south, and the area has a real sense of history about it. If you’re interested in Vietnam’s past, and you should be, then we definitely recommend a visit. Spread across the countryside, there are remains of military vehicles, museums, and huge tunnel systems to visit – if you’re brave enough.

Da Lat

Da Lat is best accessed from Saigon. It is 1500m above sea level on the Langbian Plateau. Its twisting roads and marigold trees make this mountain town a very welcoming retreat. Its unique flora have led to its nickname as ‘City of a Thousand Pine Trees’. The most remarkable feature of the city is its multi-layered waterfalls which make the ideal spot to take the selfie that will make all your Facebook friends jealous. Make sure you hire an authorized guide though, as the falls can be dangerous.

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Written by Alex Sinclair Lack for Teacher’s Friend – Vietnam. All rights reserved.