The geographic heart of the nation, central Vietnam is packed with historic sights and cultural interest, and blessed with ravishing beaches and outstanding national parks. Marvel at Hue and its Imperial Citadel, royal tombs and excellent street food. Savour the unique heritage grace of riverside jewel Hoi An, and tour the military sites of the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ). Check out Danang, fast emerging as one of the nation’s most dynamic cities. Also emerging as a must-visit destination is the extraordinary Phong Nha region, home to three gargantuan cave systems (including the world’s largest cave), and a fascinating war history concealed amid stunning scenery. Enjoy well-earned downtime on the golden sands of An Bang Beach or learn to cook central Vietnamese cuisine, the nation’s most complex. With improving highways, and upgraded international airports at Hue and Danang, access to this compelling and diverse part of Vietnam has never been easier.
Vistas. This is Vietnam's big-sky country; a place of rippling mountains, cascading rice terraces and the winnowed-out karst topography for which the region is famed. Halong Bay's seascape of limestone towers is the view everyone's here to see, but the karst connection continues inland, to Ba Be's sprawling lakes and the knobbly topped peaks of Ha Giang, until it segues into the evergreen hills of the northwest highlands. Not to be outdone by the scenery, northern Vietnam's cultural kaleidoscope is just as diverse. In this heartland of hill-tribe culture, villages snuggle between paddy-field patchworks outside of Sapa and the scarlet headdresses of the Dzao and the Black Hmong's indigo fabrics add dizzying colour to chaotic highland markets. The twisting ribbon-roads winding north from Hanoi reveal a rural world far removed from Vietnam's horns-a-honking big-city streets. If you're up for some road-tripping, this is the place to do it.
In some ways, Vietnam is a lot like the rest of South East Asia, with a cuisine focused on rice and seafood. Yet it has many of its own unique charms that make it a fascinating destination for anyone seeking a bit of adventure. Those few weeks in South Vietnam were some of the most entertaining, and enlightening, of my life so far. That’s why I’m writing this piece really, I want to share the magic of this incredible country along with some of my own tips for travelling in Vietnam.