Vietnamese travel destinations that won plaudits in 2018

Not a month went by this year without praiseworthy mention of one or more Vietnamese destinations in international media.

With an estimated 15 million foreign arrivals, 2018 has been a highly successful tourism year for Vietnam. The nation’s growing popularity has been reflected throughout the year in various international travel publications.


People shop at Hanoi's Quang Ba flower market. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

The American news site CNN urged holidaymakers around the world to explore Hanoi’s flower market in the lead up to Tet, the Lunar New Year festival, Vietnam’s biggest and most important holiday. 

The Quang Ba Flower Market, which opens on Au Co Street in Tay Ho District every day from 3 a.m., was among 15 best places in the world to celebrate the Year of the Rooster, alongside with Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong, the Raohe Night Market in Taipei and Gyeongbokgung Palace in South Korea. 

Quang Ba is the largest and oldest flower market in Hanoi which works at frenetic space during Tet as shoppers hurriedly prepare large volumes of fresh flowers.

Vietnamese people have a long tradition of offering fresh flowers to deities and their ancestors during the holiday to pray for luck and peace for the new year. 


Old houses are seen across the Hoai River in Hoi An. Photo by Shutterstock/Tang Trung Kien

The charming towns of Hoi An and Sa Pa were included in the top 10 must-go places in Southeast Asia by Rough Guides, the U.K.-based travel publication.

Hoi An is a gentle and tranquil old town by the river that used to be a rendezvous for Japanese, Chinese and Western traders during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Motorbikes are banned in the town center, so visitors can stroll calmly through streets lined by yellow houses with old red-tiled roofs or take a cycling tour outside the town into the countryside with paddy fields and temples.

Sa Pa Town. Photo by Shutterstocks/minhnhat

Around 300 kilometers (186 miles) from Hanoi, Sa Pa has grown in popularity as a highlands tourism destination where one can walk around at leisure or go on strenuous mountain treks.

The town is home to famous Saturday night “love market”, which becomes a colorful exhibition of local ethnic minority culture. A gothic stone church in the center of the town built by French missionaries, Mount Fansipan, and terraced rice fields are sights that draw thousands of visitors year after year.


Gold sand stretches a beach in Con Dao Island. Photo by VnExpress/Meo Gia

Dat Tham Beach on Con Dao, an island off the southern coast of Vietnam, was among the U.K. newspaper Independent’s list of “10 eco-friendly beaches in Southeast Asia that tourists haven’t ruined yet.”

With the likes of Da Nang, Nha Trang and Mui Ne now packed with tourists, Dat Tham Beach, protected by the Con Dao National Park, is one of the few undeveloped stretches of sand left in Vietnam that are awakening foreign tourists’ interest with its untouched beauty, the Independent noted.

To get to the beach, visitors have to register at the park’s office a few days in advance before starting a six-kilometer hike.

Con Dao is a collection of 16 islands and islets in the southern province of Ba Ria - Vung Tau, around 230 kilometers (143 miles) southeast of HCMC.

The paradisiacal archipelago was once home to a prison used by the French during the Indochina War.


Visitors gather outside St. Joseph's Cathedral in Hanoi center. Photo by VnExpress/Anh Trung

Vietnam’s capital city, Hanoi, came in 12th on travel site TripAdvisor’s list of the world’s top 25 destinations, alongside Paris and Rome.

The biggest highlight of the Vietnamese capital is its Old Quarter, once a collection of 36 guild streets, several of which still retain the original trade.

Hanoi is also home to the popular Vietnamese Women's Museum and the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, which is home to 15,000 exhibits, 42,000 movies and photos featuring the diversity of 54 ethnic groups that reside in Vietnam.


A beach in Cam Ranh Bay in the central province of Khanh Hoa. Photo by Shutterstocks/thinhnguyen

The country's deep-water bay, Cam Ranh, was named among the world’s seven best destinations for May by top travel magazine Condé Nast Traveler.

Cam Ranh, an hour south of its much busier sister Nha Trang in the central province of Khanh Hoa, is developing a reputation for its beaches, several of which have pristine stretches.

Last June, the Cam Ranh International Airport put into operation its $163 million international passenger terminal to bring in more overseas visitors to the pristine bay. 


Saigon's night splendor is seen from above. Photo by Shutterstocks/Tokin

Leading international travel guide publisher Lonely Planet ranked Saigon third in a list of top ten places to visit in Asia.

With more than seven million foreign tourist arrivals in 2018, the city’s popularity has continued to rise with its skyscrapers, French colonial buildings, war relics and vibrant nightlife.

International visitors to HCMC spent $145 a day on average and stayed for 5.21 days last year, according to a survey on the city’s tourism market carried out by its tourism department and the General Statistics Office.


Lan Ha Bay is dotted with floating fishing houses. Photo by Shutterstock/John Vu

The New York-based travel site Thrillist named Lan Ha Bay, relatively unknown sister of the world-famous Ha Long Bay, among the places to go in Southeast Asia before “the hordes arrive.”

The 7,000-hectare wide bay sits to the east of Cat Ba Island in the northern city of Hai Phong, and is home to around 400 islands.

Cai Beo fishing village, said to be the oldest of its kind in Vietnam and considered a living museum of Vietnamese fishing culture, is still a mostly overlooked treasure here.

The floating village, with around 300 households living on catching and/or farming fish, consists of dozens of floating houses rising above clear green waters against glistening rocky mountains and blue skies.


The Golden Bridge at Ba Na Hills near Da Nang. Photo by Shutterstocks/hoami

The U.S.-based Time magazine listed Vietnam’s Golden Bridge in its list of top 100 World’s Greatest Places for 2018.

Images of the two giant hands holding up the 150 meters long bridge at Ba Na Hills near the central city of Da Nang went viral and received international plaudits just months after it opened to tourists in June this year.

Designed by Vu Viet Anh, design principal at TA Landscape Architecture, the bridge quickly became the hottest destination on Instagram, the world's top photo sharing network.


A north-south train runs along a road in Vietnam. Photo by Shutterstocks/tonkin

The U.K. travel guide publisher Lonely Planet selected the journey on the country’s north-south rail link one of the best scenic routes in the world. 

The trip of more than 1,000 miles that winds north-south down Vietnam’s coast, connecting Hanoi and Saigon and all points in between in 36 hours, offers beautiful views along the way.

“Traveling over a thousand miles from Hanoi in the north to Ho Chi Minh City in the south, there is no more atmospheric way to haul into Vietnam’s twin metropolises. And there’s no better way of exploring all the glories in between,” Lonely Planet noted.

For many, a three-day journey from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City can be too long. But travelers who want something different than an easy one-hour flight are rewarded with stunning scenery throughout the journey, particularly in central Vietnam.


An Thoi Islet off Phu Quoc Island in the southern province of Kien Giang. Photo by Shutterstocks/mytran

U.K. newspaper The Telegraph unveiled a list of 10 beaches unspoiled by the tourism boom, and two from Vietnam showed up.

The An Thoi Islet off Phu Quoc Island in the southern province of Kien Giang Province and Binh Lap Island in the central province of Khanh Hoa have escaped overcrowding, coral damage and waste triggered by “overtourism” of the sort that pushed Thailand’s Maya Bay to close down indefinitely.


Mount Fansipan is the tallest on the Hoang Lien Son mountain range. Photo by Shutterstocks/Khoa Nguyen Dang

The U.S.-based National Geographic said the Hoang Lien Son Mountain Range was among the 28 best travel spots in the world to visit in 2019.

Around 195 miles northwest of Hanoi, Hoang Lien Son stretches 180 kilometers between Lao Cai, Lai Chau and Yen Bai provinces.

Vietnam’s grandest mountain range offers year-round cool weather and has become a popular tourist attraction in recent years. The newly installed cable car system on Mount Fansipan, has drawn an increasing number of tourists to the area.


Da Nang at night. Photo by Shutterstocks/thanhvan

Da Nang, home to Asia’s most beautiful My Khe Beach, and a neighbor to the popular ancient town of Hoi An, was named among top 10 trending global destinations for 2019 by Australian travel website Finder.

Several new international flight routes have been launched to connect Da Nang with other Asian destinations, including mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea.

Story by Nguyen Quy

Videos contributed by Banhhe and Nguyen Dong