Last Updated on April 29, 2021
Two small countries in Indochina, Vietnam and Cambodia are widely famous for their picturesque landscape, tropical palm-fringed beaches, mythical karst caves, French Colonial buildings, and amazing Khmer architecture. Vietnam and Cambodia can be visited almost all year round and be perfect for all types of travelers. Not convinced yet? My article below will introduce you to the six best places to visit in Vietnam and Cambodia and help you sure about whether to pick these 2 countries for your next holiday.
Not only as the center of the political, cultural, historical, and social-economic quintessence built up over a thousand years of national construction of Vietnam, Hanoi, the capital is undoubtedly a must-see spot in your journey in Vietnam. Hanoi has enough interesting things for you to discover in several days, from ancient temples, beautiful sunset on the lake, colorful local markets, unique museums, to French colonial architecture. Besides, Hanoi is a heaven of tasty street food. Let’s treat your inner foodies with numerous local cuisines including Bun Cha, Pho Bo (Beef Noodle), Vietnamese Banh Mi, and Che (Vietnamese sweet bean soup). To discover Hanoi, you should take a cyclo tour which takes you around 36 Streets of Hanoi Old Quarters, pass through many famous tourist attractions including Hoan Kiem Lake, Turtle Tower, Temple of Literature, Ba Dinh Square, Tran Quoc Pagoda, and Thang Long Citadel.
Best time to visit:
You can visit Hanoi all year around. Please note that from June to the middle of September, there are often heavy rains which may cause a flood in the city
What to do in Hanoi
- Take a cooking class
- Try the world-famous egg coffee
- Take a cyclo around Hanoi’s Old Quarters
- Go shopping in Dong Xuan Night Market
- Grab some Vietnamese Beer at Ta Hien Street
- Discover the heaven of street food
- Biking around West Lake and savor the beauty of romantic sunset
- Visit Bat Trang Ceramic Villages
- Explore the Duong Lam Ancient Villages
Located along the banks of the Huong River, Hue is one of the most romantic and charming towns of Vietnam. Being the seat of the Nguyen Dynasty from 1802 to 1945, Hue was designed as a World Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO in 1993. The highlight of Hue is The Empire City with palaces and shrines and The Forbidden Purple City, once the residence of the royal family and severely destroyed during the Vietnamese War.
Traveling to Hue, you should visit Thien Mu Pagoda – the historic temple built on a hill overlooking the Perfume River, and some royal tomb such as Minh Mang Tomb, Tu Duc Tomb, etc. When the night falls, let’s embark on the Dragon Boat in the Perfume Rivers, savor the sparkling, charming natural beauty while listening to the Hue Chamber Music. Also enjoying all cuisines and specialties in Hue is such a great experience as it is famous for the delicate imperial cuisine. And, the affordable street food offered by vendors is also hard to resist. Let’s taste “Com hen Bun Bo Hue and the heaven of cake here.
Best time to visit
From January to August is the most suitable time to visit Hue. For the rest of the year, there is often rain which makes it a bit more difficult to visit – make sure to pack proper footwear.
What to do in Hue
- Visit the Imperial Citadel and Forbidden City
- Go Biking along Perfume River
- Discover the Huyen Tran Temple
- Journey to Bach Ma International Airport
- Enjoy Hue Chamber Music
- Admire the charming beauty of the city from Dragon Boat
- Explore Hon Chen Temple
Despite just a small town in the mountainous northwest of Vietnam, Sapa has always been listed as one of the must-see destinations in Vietnam.
Coming to Sapa, tourists will be amazed by the magnificent mountains looming in front of their eyes. Steep hills, the golden rice terraces, and the marvelous mountain peaks are an irresistible appeal to visitors.
If you are an adventure-lover, Fansipan peak – the summit of Indochina crowned with a headdress of ice will be an amazing experience.
Besides enjoying the stunning landscapes, Sapa is also an ideal place to get closer to Vietnamese tribal groups such as H’ Mong, Tay, and Dao. Visiting the villages like Ta Van, Ta Phin or Cat Cat, following them to the rice terraces, or going to the local market and even making local dishes will be meaningful moments.
Some must-try dishes are Sapa Cap Nach Pigs, Thang Co, Khang Gai Dried Meat in Sapa, Sapa Fructus Crataegi Wine, Sapa Chinese Black Mushroom, Sapa Pau Play Day Cake and many more.
Best time to visit
You can visit Sapa almost all year round as in each season, Sapa has its beauty. If you’d love to admire the magnificent golden rice terraces, let’s visit Sapa in September and early October. If you love trekking, visit Sapa from February to May when the temperature is pretty comfortable.
What to do in Sapa
- Visit Notre Dame Cathedral
- Trekking to some ethnic villages including Muong Hoa Village, Cat Cat Village
- Conquer Fansipan Summit
- Explore Hoang Lien National Park
- Go shopping for some handicraft in the local markets
- Join the Sapa Love Market
- Dine with the locals
4. Halong Bay
Listed as a New World Seven Wonders, what comes to visitors’ minds when thinking about Halong Bay is spectacular scatter of islands with towering limestone pillars and tiny islets jutting out from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. What is more astonishing than sitting on the boat, chatting with friends or family, sipping wine and enjoying fresh seafood under the romantic night in Halong Bay? In my opinion, a Halong Bay cruise is a must-do for anyone visiting Vietnam.
One of the most satisfying things when coming to beaches and especially a world natural wonder is sunbathing and swimming. The clear blue water, white smooth sand beaches twinkling under the golden sunshine and fresh air create a wonderful landscape for swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, fishing, or kayaking.Also, numerous exciting activities like snorkeling, diving, swimming or sunbathing will satisfy all visitors from kids to adults. Those who enjoy nature will love the view and appreciate its beauty. Or renting out a junk to stay overnight to just enjoy the quietness and beauty of Ha Long Bay is not a bad idea.
Moreover, taking a deeper discover into floating villages, visitors will find out a lot of interesting features of the daily life of Halong Bay’s locals. They live there and make ends meet from the diversified supply of marine life.
Last but not least, there is no better way to witness Halong Bay fantastic limestone karsts and caves from the seaplane. Just imagine how amazing it is when all the famous islands, almost all famous landscapes of Halong Bay like Dau Go Cave, Tuan Chau Island and so on will be in our eyes. But it is quite expensive, so consider carefully!
Best time to visit
You can visit all year round except June to September. During these months, Halong Bay often suffers a lot of tropical storms and typhoons which may cause cancellation of all cruise trips.
What to do in Halong Bay
- The best thing to do in Halong Bay:
- Embark on a Halong Bay Cruise
- Discover beautiful karst cave
- Visit Cat Ba Island and Bai Tu Long Bay
- Take a cyclo tour to visit some local villages
- Get sweet burn while relaxing and swimming in the Monkey Island
- Go hiking to Cat Ba National Park
- Check out Hon Trong Mai – The Fighting Cocks Island
- Go night squid fishing
- Go hiking on Ban Sen Island
5. Hoi An
As one of the oldest cities in the country, Hoi An attracts millions of tourists every year for its unique architecture, colorful lanterns, and ancient streets perfectly dotted with unobtrusive street vendors. It is also the best place for foreigners to get a deeper understanding of Vietnamese lives, traditions, and customs. Hoi An is an ideal destination for all types of travelers as it offers you a wealth of activities. If you love discovering the culture, let’s take part in a cooking class to prepare Vietnamese Cuisine by yourself, visit Tra Que Village – the lush-greenery herbal village to learn more about the local lives. If you favor outdoor activities, try the crazy dancing boat on the Thu Bon River, get some sweet burn on An Bang Beach, go fishing with local people, or visit Coconut Forest and experience to be a farmer and a fisher in one day.
Hoi An is also famous for its diverse and excellent food as one of the 25 most attractive destinations for foodies around the world. Don’t miss Hoi An Chicken Rice, Mi Quang, Cao Lau and White Rose in Hoi An.
Best time to visit:
It’s better to visit Hoi An during the dry season that lasts from February to July
What to do in Hoi An
- Take a cooking class
- Take a picture in the Japanese Covered Villages
- Relax on the An Bang Beach and Cua Dai Beach
- Explore the Cham Island
- Visit My Son Sanctuary
- Admire the colorful street lit up by hundreds of flower lanterns
- Try to ride a buffalo like a local farmer
- Experience the life of local farmer and fisher for one day
6. Siem Reap
Being the seat of the Khmer Empire from the 9th to 15th century and the closest city to Angkor Complex, Siem Reap is the fastest growing place in Cambodia. The main draw of any trip to Siem Reap is visiting Angkor Wat – the massive temple of an intricate stone building with the ornate design. Being the largest temple of the complex, Angkor Wat is pictured on Cambodia’s flag and become a national symbol. Located only 4 kilometers to the north Angkor Wat is the Angkor Thom – the last capital of the Khmer Kingdom. Angkor Thom, as its name suggests, is a “big city” or “great city” with a wealth of ancient temples and historical interests. Angkor Thom boasts 126 giant stone faces and is home to Baphuon Temple – the three-tiered temple mountain built in the 11th century, Ta Prohm – a beautiful state of ruins with a giant tree and its massive roots, Bayon – the richly decorated Khmer temple located at the heart of Angkor Thom. In addition to the hauntingly beautiful ruins down the road, Siem Reap offers a wealth of activities such as watching the traditional Apsara Dance, join the show at the Phare Circus, grab a beer while enjoying Cambodia’s delicious street foods and visit the Relics of Human Cruelty in Wat Thmei.
Best time to visit
From September to December is the best time to visit Siem Reap when the temperature is cooler and the sky is clear, which make it perfect for viewing sunset and sunrise in Angkor Wat.
What to do in Siem Reap
- Temple-hopping in Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom
- Take a hot air balloon ride to view the beautiful ruins
- Visit Kampong Tralach Floating Villages
- Watch Apsara dance show
Abroad with Ash
Tuesday 19th of November 2019
This was very helpful as I'm in the very early stages of researching Vietnam and Cambodia for an upcoming trip. I think I'm most excited about Hanoi :)