This long sliver of a country provides memories you won’t easily forget – from your first bowl of delicious steaming pho to gliding past the mysterious rocky outcrops aboard a junk on Halong Bay. Busy cities from north to south provide a fascinating glimpse into Vietnam’s history, whilst islands such as Phu Quoc offer a stunning beach break.
This gorgeous country curves in a thin and elegant S-shape down the eastern side of the Indo- China peninsula, stretching almost 2,000 kilometres from the Gulf of Tonkin down to the Mekong Delta, with an almost unrivalled run of sandy beaches. The northern Red River Delta is the cradle of Vietnamese culture and home to the ancient city of Hanoi with its combination of broad tree lined boulevards and narrow alleyways packed with goods. To the east of Hanoi, on the Bay of Tonkin, is Halong Bay, where limestone outcrops soar out of the morning haze to create breathtaking vistas. Along the northwest border with China and Laos, there are lush, mountainous areas such as Sapa where many of Vietnam's colourful indigenous tribes live. The mountains widen out to form the Central Highlands, often referred to as the backbone of Vietnam. The colonial town of Dalat is on a plateau in the highlands, surrounded by lakes, forests, waterfalls and an abundance of flora. Much of the coast is fringed with white sandy beaches, beautiful bays and fishing villages. Hoi An is a dreamy backwater port on the central coast, full of peaceful wooden shophouses, and further inland over the Hai Van Pass is Hue, the Nguyen imperial city. The beaches of Vietnam along Nha Trang, Phan Thiet and the beautiful island of Phu Quoc are perfect for relaxation. The Mekong Delta in the south of the country is the 'rice bowl' of Vietnam and is home to women in conical hats, floating markets - where fruit and vegetables are piled high on wooden boats - and brilliant patchworks of rice paddy. Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon) buzzes with energy; it is a city that never sleeps, where French colonial buildings and modern skyscrapers jostle for space. Vietnam is moving forward; the north and south reunified in 1986 and the government began to relax its rigid centralist control, although both regions still tend to preserve their distinct identities