Where to travel this December

With the year drawing to a close, it’s time to chill in Vietnam's northern mountains or escape to central beaches.

1. Dreamy Mount Mau Son

Mau Son rises more than one kilometer above sea level in Lang Son Province, 170 kilometers (106 miles) to the northeast of Hanoi. Here visitors can experience spring, summer, autumn, and winter all in a single day.

It is one of the must-go destinations in December and January when vast fields of wild flowers are an incredible sight.

For those who like the chill of winter or simply curious about snow, December-January is the best time to climb up Mount Mau Son.

Between November and March the average temperature here ranges from 7 to 13 degrees Celsius (44 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit). In winter, starting from December, the temperature in Mau Son is always below 0 in early morning and there is often snow, which appeals to many tourists.

2. Flower kingdom in Moc Chau

Photo by Lam Linh

Fog, gardens and forests make the Moc Chau Plateau beautiful at this time of year.

Moc Chau, in the northern highland province of Son La, around 200 kilometers to the west of Hanoi, is a less crowded tourist destination compared with Ha Giang and Sa Pa. 

When you research the best time of year to visit Moc Chau on social media, you might get the same answer: December.

It turns into a kingdom of multicolored flowers at this time of the year, giving tourists a reason to ride their motorbikes up the plateau.

The fields of yellow cabbage flowers, the green of the vast tea plantations and white plum flowers in the shimmering sunlight welcome tourists to the remote place, which is characterized by year-round cool climate and chilly mist.

3. Ninh Binh

With its waterways, limestone karsts and paddy fields coming together in harmony, Ninh Binh Province has been a hidden gem overlooked by foreign tourists for years.

But the home of Hoa Lu, the ancient feudal capital of Vietnam, has become the most famous and Instagrammed travel destination in northern Vietnam since the Hollywood blockbuster, ‘Kong: Skull Island’, was made there in 2016.

Tam Coc is around seven kilometers from Ninh Binh Town, the province's capital. At Van Lam Wharf, hundreds of boats stand ready to take people on a memorable cruise.

A sightseeing ticket in Tam Coc costs VND120,000 ($5) and the only way to go explore the ‘golden season’ is a winding two-hour boat tour along the Ngo Dong River, which costs VND150,000 ($6.5) and requires at least four passengers for a trip.

The cruise proceeds through the scenic landscape, which includes three beautiful limestone caves, Hang Ca, Hang Hai and Hang Ba.

A place that should not be missed is Hang Mua, dubbed Vietnam’s miniature Great Wall of China, around four kilometers away.

Legend has it that King Tran Thai Tong, who reigned from 1225 to 1258, ordered the construction of the Thai Vi Temple, and often visited Hang Mua to enjoy dancing and singing, and hence the name ‘Dancing Cave’.

Hang Mua is located at the foot of Mount Mua, which sits like a large bell. Visitors can walk up white stone steps to the top of the mountain. On both sides of the steps are handrails elaborately decorated with the dragon and phoenix symbols of the Tran Dynasty (1225 - 1400). The Tam Coc landscape spreads out below in all its golden, green and silver splendor. 

The fee for a sightseeing tour of Hang Mua is VND100,000 ($4.3).

4. Da Lat

Situated in a plateau around 1,500 meters above sea level, Da Lat in the Central Highlands enjoys cool weather year round in contrast to Vietnam's tropical climate, making the town ideal for growing temperate flowers.

Da Lat is also dubbed ‘Little Paris’ given its colonial standing as a summer getaway for French officials, who built villas in the hills to escape the heat and humidity of the lowlands.

December is the ideal time to visit the highland town and enjoy some fresh air and chilly fog. There is a special event this year, the biennial Da Lat Flower Festival, from December 20-24 in the towns of Da Lat and Bao Loc.

The eighth edition of the cultural and tourism festival will feature 13 major events including the opening ceremony at Lam Vien Square on the night of December 20, a Vietnam-Korea culture and art exchange program on December 21, a fashion show of silk designs on December 22, and a seminar on the architectural heritage of Da Lat on December 23.

There will also be a tea and silk cultural week in Bao Loc, 130 kilometers from Da Lat and dubbed ‘the Kingdom of tea’ by the French.

Many popular tourist attractions and major streets around Da Lat will wear a floral look, underlining its renown as the ‘City of Flowers’.

The town has been a holiday paradise for long, and is always packed during the holidays and travel seasons.

Accommodation options are aplenty. You can opt for hotels near the downtown area and Da Lat Night Market, which makes transportation convenient. Rooms cost VND150,000 to VND250,000 ($6.5-10.8) per day.

Homestays are also worth considering. You can choose from Jang & Min's house, The Barn Home Farm, Moonrise Garden Dalat, and Dalat Lacasa Homestay II. Prices range from VND70,000 to VND300,000 ($3-13).

5. Quy Nhon

Quy Nhon, a coastal town in the central province of Binh Dinh, was named among the top 10 destinations for a winter escape by British newspaper The Guardian.

Its laidback atmosphere makes it an ideal place for a relaxed getaway where wide sandy beaches remain almost untouched.

Eo Gio and Ky Co, referred to by many as the ‘Maldives of Vietnam’, are currently the top beach destinations in Quy Nhon.

From the downtown area, drive 22 km in the direction of Thi Nai Bridge and you will arrive at Eo Gio Beach, which charges VND25,000 ($1.1) for entry. The long seaside promenade has been compared to South Korea's Jeju Island. The waves are very strong here and it is not advisable to swim. Save your swimsuits for Ky Co Beach.

Ky Co is enchanting with its calm, crystal-clear blue waters, soft yellow sand and pristine state. There are no tourism services here except for a restaurant where you can take a shower and change.

From Eo Gio, you can buy a package tour for VND350,000 ($15) per person to Ky Co. The tour includes a 30-minute motorboat ride, snorkeling in the coral reef and fresh seafood provided and cooked by locals. Tickets to Ky Co Beach cost VND30,000 ($1.3).

Story by Nguyen Quy