Vietnam has so much to offer that you could easily spend weeks exploring the country! From natural wonders to well-kept heritage sites – and all of the history and culture in between – here are the 6 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Vietnam that you just can’t miss!
1. Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay, one of Vietnam’s most popular tourist attractions is a World Heritage Site. Did you know that the name “Ha Long Bay” originated from a legend about a dragon that came from the sky to protect the Vietnamese against invaders attacking through the sea by spitting out thousands of pearls? The pearls are the islands and limestone pillars that we see dotted all around Ha Long Bay today.
This iconic bay has more than 1,600 islands and limestone pillars surrounded by emerald sea water, creating a spectacular view with beautiful caves. Most people choose to experience Ha Long Bay on an overnight cruise where they can watch the sunset from the cruise and float amidst the magnificent mountains, but some opt for a day trip instead. You can also swim, kayak, or relax around the bay.
It can be a little tricky to book a boat trip when you’re in Vietnam, so we’d recommend that you book your tour in advance to avoid any problems and hidden fees!
2. Trang An Landscape Complex
Now that we’ve talked about Ha Long Bay, we’re going to talk about Trang An Landscape Complex, also known as the “Ha Long Bay on land” or “Inland Ha Long Bay”.
You can experience the tranquility of the site by riding on one of the traditional sampans (a type of boat) that sail gently along the river and waterways and even through caves on a day tour!
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even take a short trip out of Trang An to the nearby Bai Dinh Pagoda in Ninh Binh. It is the biggest pagoda in Vietnam with 500 carved statues of Buddha, including one that’s made of bronze and 10m tall! The Bai Dinh Pagoda attracts both the locals and foreigners who pay their respects there and have their fortunes told by the monks. After that, you can also visit multiple breathtaking caves that are nearby too. For a fuss-free trip to Ninh Binh and Trang An, check out our Ninh Binh Daily Tour which includes everything we mentioned here!
3. Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park
If you’re looking for somewhere a little less crowded, The Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park is the place to go. It is getting a little more known among visitors and tourists these days, but it isn’t a full-blown tourist destination yet. The park is mostly covered with dense, tropical forest and is well known for its caves. Many endangered animals also roam the area which includes black bears, tigers, and elephants!
The Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park is home to the Son Doong Cave, the largest cave in the world! The cave has its own jungle, river, and ecosystems all within it! There are countless of things to do at Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park! This includes mountain climbing, forest trekking, and exploring the caves by boat!
Many people choose to explore the national park by going on day tours which include a boat ride around the caves. However, if you want to explore the park a little differently, like on a motorbike, we’ve got you covered too 😉 Experience the beauty of the national park on the back seat of a motorbike! Ride along the Ho Chi Minh trail where you’ll get to explore Paradise Cave and Dark Cave.
4. The Complex of Hue Monuments
People often refer to the city of Hue as the “Imperial City”. It is best known for the imperial walled palace, the Complex of Hue Monuments. This is a historical site in Vietnam that was built in 1362, and completed after 203 years. It is also considered to be an important symbol of wealth and power.
If you’re thinking about exploring the whole area and walking between the different sections, it might take quite a while as the place is huge! Unfortunately, parts of the Imperial City was destroyed during the Vietnam War. However, the Vietnamese government has restored and rebuilt a few original buildings. Many people pass through Hue while travelling around Vietnam, mostly on the way to Hoi An, but we think it’s worth the time to stop by and explore this historical site.
One way you can explore the historical site is through a night tour! Try amazing local food, taste the famous Vietnamese coffee and learn about it at the Imperial City. And most importantly, see the lit up citadel at night! Another way you can explore the site is on the back of a motorbike. Ride around Hue City, visiting must-see attractions like Tanh Toan Village, the Imperial City, Tu Hieu pagoda, and Thien Mu pagoda. You can even experience making traditional products yourself at the local village! How cool is that?
5. Hoi An Ancient Town
The Hoi An ancient town sits along the banks of Thu Bon River. It was a busy trading port during the 15th and 19th centuries. The town is very crowded now and is one of the most popular tourists spots in Vietnam! Hoi An has amazing food, shopping, friendly people and a cosy atmosphere. The town has many small alleyways and narrowed streets, and starts to get illuminated by lanterns when night falls.
Hoi An Riverside is one of the best places to be at night because of the thousands of colourful lanterns. You can even take a relaxing cruise along Thu Bon river where you can take in the hustle and bustle of the little ancient town.
Hoi An’s Ancient Town isn’t very big so that means that you can get around it by foot! Almost all of Hoi An’s major attractions are within walking distance of each other. This includes the Japanese covered bridge, the Chinese assembly halls, Guan Yin Temple, the museum of history and culture and the Tran family home and chapel.
6. My Son Sanctuary
This temple complex features stone sculptures of Hindu deities and towers located in the midst of the tropical jungle. The words “My Son” means “beautiful mountain” in Vietnamese and the sanctuary used to be a royal burial ground.
The 71 temple structures were for worshipping the Hindu Gods and Goddesses. It was originally built with wood but was burnt down in a fire later. It was then rebuilt out of brick and limestone, which is much more stable than wood. The temples were subsequently bombed during the most recent war, but thankfully most of them survived. Some of the destroyed temples have been restored.
Though it isn’t as impressive as Angkor Wat in Cambodia, or other temples in Thailand, it is a little different from the other World Heritage Sites in Vietnam, so its definitely still worth a visit!
Check out our travel tips for more guides on where to go for your next holiday!