From island escapes to the non-stop action, southern Vietnam offers both vibrant urban energy and mellow countryside.
Start off in the sensory overload that is Ho Chi Minh City, a metropolis where humble mom-and-pop shops share street space with modern skyscrapers. Beyond the city limits you will encounter the languid Mekong Delta, where life takes place on water and farmland rolls out as far as the eye can see.
Not far away, Mui Ne lures holidaymakers with a laid-back beach vibe and reputation as the kite-surfing capital of Vietnam. Offshore, islands such as Phu Quoc and Con Dao will welcome you with pristine coastlines and untouched landscapes.
TOP DESTINATIONS IN SOUTHERN VIETNAM
Vibrating with energy, innovation, and traffic – lots of traffic – Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is the economic heart of Vietnam and the main hub of the southern region. A freewheeling, cosmopolitan metropolis, HCMC’s dynamic cityscape draws together old and new Vietnam in the most compact of spaces, representing the city’s past as well as its future.
Top things to do in Ho Chi Minh City
See the top landmarks
Walk down Đồng Khởi street to acquaint yourself with the Notre Dame Cathedral, the city’s Central Post Office, and the Saigon Opera House. On a more local level, Bến Thành Market and the Jade Emperor Pagoda are worth a visit.
Shop small boutiques
Around District 1, a host of old apartments and former office buildings have been repurposed as shopping centers. Decades-old buildings such as 22 Lý Tự Trọng and 42 Nguyễn Huệ are brimming with all kinds of fascinating stores.
Explore the Chinese Quarter
The Chinese neighborhood known as Chợ Lớn is great for exploring on foot. Head for Bình Tây Market, a colossal wholesale trading center, and Thiên Hậu Pagoda, an atmospheric temple that pays homage to the goddess of the sea.
Hop on a motorcycle
Do as the locals do and hop on the back of a motorbike to see the city on street level and feel its energetic pulse. Motorbike tours set off in the evening, when the city is at its most romantic and the sidewalk vendors are out in force.
Eat street food
Ho Chi Minh City locals love to gather around dented metal tables across the city for incredible roadside feasts. Don’t miss highlights such as bánh mì, southern-style savory pancakes (bánh xèo) and broken rice (cơm tấm).
Ho Chi Minh City Weather
Ho Chi Minh City has consistent temperatures year-round, and the weather is generally warm. Heatwaves hit the city from April to May, welcoming the rainy season from May to November. Slightly cooler temperatures emerge in December and January.
Ho Chi Minh City Transport
Travelers can arrive in Ho Chi Minh City by bus, train, or plane. Tan Son Nhat international airport welcomes foreign and domestic arrivals daily, while various bus companies operate shuttles from Phnom Penh and destinations across Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh City also sees a steady stream of train travelers. Taxis are everywhere, but those with a Vietnamese SIM card can use ride-hailing apps like Grab. Local buses cover a good portion of the city. Travelers can also take a boat along the river, for a day trip to Củ Chi Tunnels or the Mekong Delta.
Binh Thuan has long been something of a best-kept secret for local travelers. But, thanks to its picturesque beauty and diverse topography, more travelers seeking unique experiences in nature are increasingly drawn here. Think gorgeous lakes. Gurgling streams. Dreamy, desert-like spaces. Rocky beaches and windswept seas … Binh Thuan has them all. As it was once part of the Cham principality of Panduranga, Binh Thuan is also archaeologically significant. Want to climb some dunes, learn to surf, go camping or see Cham relics? Give Binh Thuan a go…
Top things to do in Binh Thuan
Admire spiritual architecture
Make a mini-pilgrimage to spiritual sites from the past and present. Northeast of Phan Thiet city, you’ll find the 1200-year-old Poshanu Cham Tower temples. Built in the Hoa Lai architectural style during the reign of the Champa Kingdom, these mysterious towers are national monuments. Two Buddhist temples atop Ta Cu Mountain are south of the city: Linh Son Truong Tho and Long Doan pagoda. There you’ll find the biggest reclining Buddha statue in Vietnam.
Surf sand dunes
There are many stretching dunes, sand, and beaches which attract tourists to come, play and snap away. Apart from the stunning photo ops, thrill-seekers can try 4×4 dune bashing, sandboarding, or sand sliding. Head to Bau Trang or Mui Ne to get in on the action.
Catch a wave
Wanting to surf some swells? Mui Ne is Vietnam’s surfing hotspot. Thanks to its fairly consistent waves and lashings of wind, it’s also the best place to learn how to kite-surf.
Head to the hills
Binh Thuan has some hilly and mountainous terrain for adventure-seekers or those wanting cooler, forest-like spaces. Mountain climbers, bikers, or hikers can head to Ta Cu Mountain. Or pack a picnic and rest beside Suoi Hong, the sparkling ‘fairy stream’ that runs between white stalactite hills.
Explore the islands
Go island-hopping to explore some of the province’s most pristine beaches and wild, deserted coastal landscapes. Check out Cu Lao Cau or Phu Quy island, among others.
Binh Thuan Weather
While Binh Thuan has a tropical monsoon climate, it’s considerably arider than the rest of the country. During the rainy season (from May to October), it doesn’t receive as much rainfall as other parts of Vietnam. The weather is generally sunny and windy – so many wind-energy projects have been implemented here. The best time to plan your trip is from November to April.
Binh Thuan Transport
There is no airport in the province yet. So, it’s best to fly to either Ho Chi Minh City or Nha Trang, from there, get a bus or train to Phan Thiet. The main North-South Railway runs through Muong Man Railway Station, just outside Phan Thiet. Use Grab or a taxi to go to the city. For sightseeing, take a motorbike, taxi or bus.
A tiny archipelago off the southern coast, only a small number of travelers wind up in Con Dao. Though the trip requires extra effort, those who commit to the journey are rewarded with some of the country’s most blissful beaches and best snorkeling. Much of the island is covered by the Con Dao National Park. Its dense jungle will give you ample chance to uncover a paradise of your own.
Top things to do in Con Dao
Con Dao travelers are spoiled for choice when it comes to secluded beaches. Take a hike to Bai Ong Dung, a stony coastal spot where you can snorkel close to shore, or head to Dam Trau Beach or Dat Doc Beach for sunbathing.
Sign up for a day trip
Snorkeling and diving excursions on Con Dao reveal some of Vietnam’s best underwater sightseeing. On land, hikers can arrange a guide through the national park office or set off on their own with a national park map.
Visit the Con Dao Museum
Con Dao is home to one of the most infamous former prisons in Vietnam, which was an incarceration facility for the French as well as the Americans. You can get a solid background on the island’s history at the newly built Con Dao Museum.
Have a wellness retreat
There are few places in Vietnam that are more peaceful and relaxing than Con Dao. The Six Senses Con Dao is a stunning, sustainable resort in a private bay, complete with nourishing meals, yoga sessions, and an award-winning spa.
Get on two wheels
The coastal roads of Con Dao are a dream for cyclists and motorists alike. Within the town you can ride under ancient trees and past colonial buildings, and just outside are windy beaches, rocky coastline and jungled-covered slopes.
Con Dao Weather
Con Dao’s coolest weather arrives between September and January while its hottest months are June, July and August. Given the island’s location, Con Dao is also prone to strong winds in December and January. Turtle-hatching season takes place from mid-August to early December.
Con Dao Transport
Flights depart daily from Ho Chi Minh City and land at the island’s modest airport. Your other option from Ho Chi Minh City is to take a bus to Soc Trang and take the two-hour Superdong Ferry to the island. The main town of Con Son is flat and small, making it easy to explore by foot or bicycle. Major sights just outside of town are also accessible by bicycle, including the prison museum and Van Son Pagoda. The rest of the island is best seen by motorbike. Small boats are also available for snorkeling trips.
Phu Quoc’s gleaming white sand beaches have earned it the nickname “Pearl Island,” but the island’s environmental conservation efforts and cultural heritage deserve as much attention as its picturesque sand and surf. Fishing and agriculture remain primary industries, and more than half the laid-back island has been protected by a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 2006.
Home to fish sauce, pepper, and pearls, Phu Quoc offers both luxury and local life, with clean water by day and clear skies at night.
Phu Quoc’s Beaches & Nature
Phu Quoc’s 150-kilometer coastline, with gentle waves and transparent turquoise water, makes it Vietnam’s most popular destination for water sports. If you’d prefer to lounge, head to Long Beach, which spans 20 kilometers of unobstructed sunsets. Further north, dirt roads and secluded resorts keep tree-lined beaches like Ganh Dau and Bai Thom hidden from crowds.
Adventurous travelers can trek the mountain range that spans the length of the island, but even short walks through the evergreen forest reward explorers with waterfalls, rock pools, and caves.
Culture and Heritage
Phu Quoc is famous for its fish sauce, and it is well worth touring a fish sauce factory to see how this fermented treasure is made. For a glimpse into everyday life, visit a traditional fishing village like Ham Hinh to eat fresh seafood at a floating restaurant (try it with locally-cultivated black pepper, another delicacy!).
Travelers interested in local culture and history will enjoy educational sites like Cay Dua prison and temples like Cao Dai, where believers follow a unique religion that synthesizes elements of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Confucianism, Hinduism, Genie, and Taoism.
Phu Quoc Weather – When to Visit
Phu Quoc is warm and comfortable year-round, with an average temperature hovering around 27°C. It is coolest in the dry season between October and March, and hottest in April and May, when the rain begins to take hold. By July, the rainy season is in full swing, bringing cooler temperatures until October.
At first glance, Can Tho seems to be a bustling city, with a stream of commerce flowing continuously down the Hau River. But treat yourself to a room on its leafy banks, dine on its sun-ripened fruits and fresh river fish, glide on sampans through its sultry canals, and you will soon realize Can Tho’s big city facade is just half the story. The other half? Misty sunrises over the water, lazy afternoons swaying in a hammock, and balmy evenings announced by a chorus of insects. Under the Mekong Delta’s blazing blue skies, Can Tho leaves a vivid impression.
Top things to do in Can Tho
Tour the islets
Whether you go by bicycle or sampan, the islets of Can Tho are where you feel the real pulse of local life. Book a community-based tour to lunch with a local family, explore rice paper villages and fruit orchards, and enjoy a taste of pure Mekong Delta charm.
Wake up for the floating markets
It is worth the early morning start to see Can Tho’s morning markets heaving with colorful boats and exotic produce. Cai Rang is the most famous in the area, but ask your local host about smaller floating markets where you can engage with the vendors.
Taste Hu Tieu on a boat
There is nothing like a breakfast of steaming Hu Tieu noodles served on the water in the early morning. Sticky tapioca noodles, crunchy bean sprouts, and thinly sliced pork blend together in a tasty savory broth. Slurp it up surrounded by the sounds of the market.
Binh Thuy ancestral house
Take a step back in time to see how Can Tho’s wealthy merchant families lived. Built in 1870, this brightly painted house has housed several generations of the Duong family and is a fascinating blend of French and Asian architecture.
Relax by the riverside
Can Tho offers several enticing places to stay, where discerning travelers can enjoy a tropical escape by the water’s edge. Spoil yourself at the Azerai Can Tho, relax with heartfelt hospitality at Victoria Can Tho, or try a sustainable homestay experience at Mekong Rustic.
Can Tho Weather
Can Tho has a tropical climate. Summers come with heavy rainfall, and most of the rest of the year is hot and dry. December and January are the coolest months. Rains fall regularly from July to November, and the heat is on from March to June.
Can Tho Transport
The international airport in Can Tho is just 20 minutes outside of the city, with flights arriving from major hubs in Vietnam. Taking passengers on the four-hour journey from Ho Chi Minh City stop at the bus terminal four kilometers outside the town. It is also possible to reach Can Tho via the Hau River, on a cruise from Ho Chi Minh City or Cambodia. Once in town, local taxis are readily available. Cycling is also an option on the islets and roads leading away from the city. Local ferries run regularly between the mainland and islets.
Brimming with lush forests, bustling riverbanks, and brilliant temples, the border town of Chau Doc is a compelling spot to experience the fusion of cultures and colors that make up Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. Chau Doc may surprise you with its hidden treasures: mysterious wetlands, ethnic Cham villages, and atmospheric temples. This small town has fascinating stories to tell you might need to stay a while to hear them all.
Top things to do in Chau Doc
Go on a temple-hopping tour
Around 200 large and small religious sites are sprinkled on the slopes of Sam Mountain. Witness local offerings at Mieu Ba Chua Xu, climb through the warrens at Chua Hang (Cave Pagoda), or admire the architecture of Tay An Pagoda.
Try local dishes
Chau Doc’s food scene stars the best of the land and water. The iconic Bun Ca Bong Dien is always a crowd-pleaser. Snack on Banh Bo Thot Not to satisfy your sweet tooth, and don’t leave without trying a Lau Mam dinner.
Cruise Tra Su Forest
More than seventy types of birds make their home in the Tra Su Cajuput Forest. This is the perfect place to immerse yourself in nature, cruise the flooded forest on a Tac Rang (motorized sampan) and learn about the biodiversity of the region.
Visit the floating village
Take a closer look at local culture with a tour of Chau Doc’s floating village, a 50-year-old fishing community on the Hau River. Houses here are built on rafts and double as fish farms, where catfish and snapper are grown for sale.
Learn about Cham culture
Chau Doc is home to some of Vietnam’s largest Cham communities. Chau Giang and Chau Phong are nested on two islets across the Hau River. Stop by the spectacular Mubarak Mosque, tour ancient stilt houses and sample Cham dishes.
Chau Doc Weather
Chau Doc has two seasons: rainy and dry. The rainy season begins in May and lasts until October, with August to November being the high-water season, perfect for visiting the Tra Su forest and floating villages. From November to April, it is sunny and dry in Chau Doc with blue skies and pleasant breezes.
Chau Doc Transport
To get to Chau Doc, travelers from major cities in Vietnam can fly to Can Tho Airport. From there it’s a three-hour drive to the town of Chau Doc. Those coming from Ho Chi Minh City can also take a direct bus or car for six hours. Luxury cruises run between Can Tho and Chau Doc, and from Cambodia into Vietnam – ideal for travelers who want a slower approach.