Southeast Asia has an incredible variety of destinations for nature tours, and Vietnam has received increasing amounts of recognition for its dreamlike landscape. This country has natural wonders that sneak up to you. Round a corner, and there it is — a gushing waterfall or a terraced rice field that you never expected. The following destinations make an excellent day trip from some of Vietnam’s larger cities.
Halong Bay is one of the most beautiful stops in all of Vietnam. It’s located in the north, about a three-hour drive from Hanoi. Pillars of limestone jut from the blue-green bay. On a boat tour, your guides will tell you what locals believe the formations most resemble — use your imagination to spot the fighting roosters and the dragon. Boat trips to the bay also stop at caves, which come with man-made stairs and railings to make for easy exploring.
Ninh Binh is often referred to as the Halong Bay of the land, because of the limestone formations that sit on the banks of the lush green river. Admire as your guide handles the oars with their feet. As you drift down the river, you’ll see the above-ground cemeteries that are a normal part of the Vietnamese countryside. Your boat trip also takes you through tunnels that cut through the limestone.
An Binh Island
Take a boat ride down the amber-colored water of the Mekong Delta to An Binh Island. This fertile island has bike paths lined with fruit trees. You can make stops along the way to watch locals weave hammocks and make handicrafts out of reeds. Locals still make most of their livelihood from traditional crafts.
Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake isn’t too impressive as far as lakes go, but it is notable for its location — in the middle of a busy Hanoi roundabout. Near the lake, you can find some of the city’s nicest shopping and most photographable temples and pagodas. The lake’s most notable feature is Turtle Tower, which was built in the 19th century to commemorate the famed warrior Le Loi, as well as the magical turtle that is said to live in the lake and guard his sword.
Thailand gets a lot of attention for its beaches. But you’ll be missing some of the islands Fly to Phuquoc Island, off the coast of southern Vietnam, and see some of Vietnam’s prettiest beaches, with white sands and tropical rainforests. One of the most popular is Long Beach, which is on the west coast of the island. Needless to say, this is an excellent place to order up fresh seafood.
Terraced rice paddies line the mountainsides of northern Vietnam. Take a bus through the winding hills to Sa Pa, and book a stay at a hotel with a breathtaking view of the mountains. Many visitors report that it’s best to visit during the rainy season when the fields are green and lush. Around September, when it’s time to harvest, the fields turn bright gold.
Giang Dien Waterfall
These waterfalls have become a popular day trip destination for those wishing to escape the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh. Spend the night under the stars in the park’s tidy campground. You can swim near the waterfall and hike around the surrounding forest.
Zach Smith is CEO of Anywhere.
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