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A country with a rich, sometimes violent, history, Vietnam has more than enough sites and experiences to keep travelers entertained and interested for a lifetime. Go the outdoor route and spend time soaking up the sun hiking, climbing, or exploring on a boat. Go the urban route, and see temples that have seen more than you could ever imagine, and have stood the test of time, evidence of a country’s rich past. Whatever you could want, Vietnam has something to offer you.

Read on to hear some of our top picks for things to do and sights to see while in Vietnam!

Ha Long Bay

Clear emerald waters, towering mountains, and a lush green rainforest all contribute to why Ha Long Bay is one of the top rated things to do in Vietnam. The clear waters give tourists a great opportunity to take boat or sea kayak tours, and the impressive landscape and fun- shaped islands dotting the waters make the expeditions interesting enough for even the pickiest explorer. Don’t want to be on top of the water? Well, get in! The clear water also lends itself to dazzling scuba diving expeditions. Don’t want to be near the water at all? Climbing and hiking are two of the most popular activities in the area as well.

The Imperial City, Hue

With construction beginning over 200 years ago, the Imperial City Hue is a sight to behold. The walled palace, located within the citadel of the Imperial city Hue, is impressive both in size and method of construction. In many of the large stone walls, there are still bullet holes to be seen, remnants of the Vietnam War. A palace that has seen its fair share of wealth, violence, and bloodshed, the Imperial City Hue is not a site to be missed.

The Marble Mountains

Also known as the “Five Element Mountains”, the Marble Mountains are a cluster of five marble and limestone mountains located in Vietnam. They are aptly called the “Five Element Mountains” due to each mountain being named after an element: Kim (metal), Thuy (water), Moc (wood), Hoa (fire), and Tho (earth). Out of the five of the mountains, it is possible to climb to the top of Mt. Thuy. All five mountains have caves and tunnels to explore, as well as several Buddhist sanctuaries.

The Cu Chi Tunnels

For a little more immersive of a history experience, take a visit to the tunnels of Cu Chi. These tunnels were used extensively during the Vietnam war, and provided shelter and strategic hiding for the Viet Cong soldiers during the war. The tunnels were not just a method of shelter, however, but were integral in the Viet Cong’s war strategy. Used as both shelter and underground routes connecting one part of the country with another, these tunnels are vastly complex and housed hundreds of North Vietnamese fighters at one time, and also contained hospitals, food storage space, and weapon storage. Though at the time of the Vietnam War the tunnels were rife with booby traps and infested with vermin and poisonous insects, the (safe) part of the tunnels have since been restored and preserved, and are now open for the public to explore. There are now low power lights illuminating stretches of the tunnels, and many sites display different kinds of booby traps that were used in the tunnel warfare.

Pagoda of the Celestial Lady

A historic temple in the city of Hue in Vietnam, the Pagoda of the Celestial Lady is considered an unofficial symbol of the city. With its towering seven- stories, the pagoda is a giant, recognizable by anyone that is familiar with the area. The Pagoda was constructed in 1601, supposedly because of the vision one of the governors at the time had of a woman (a Thien Mu, or “celestial lady”) dressed in red and blue sitting at the site of where the Pagoda now stands. The governor was told that a pagoda would be erected by a lord at the site, and would be used as a site to pray for the country’s prosperity.

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Hopefully, you’re not new to the delicious-ness that is Vietnamese food. Whether you’ve tried Pho (pronounced ‘fuh’), fresh spring rolls, or are even just familiar with the ubiquitous Vietnamese peanut sauce, Vietnamese food is a strong contender for being one of the most delicious cuisines in the world. This list of “top Vietnamese foods” could have easily been much, much longer, but alas, you’ll just have to travel to Vietnam yourself to try all the foods on this list and more!

Delicious Noodles and Soups

Noodles. Soups. Noodles with Soups. Noodles and Soups. The Vietnamese are no stranger to the endless flavor combinations that noodles and soup make. From phở (vietnamese noodle soup) to bún bò huế(beef vermicelli soup), to hủ tiếu (rice noodle soup) and bún riêu (crab and tomato noodle soup), Vietnamese cuisine offers no shortage of noodle and soup combinations. Each one of these soups taste different and have their own complex profile of spices and flavors, so try them all! Even between soups with the same base, you can usually get different noodles, from flat and wide rice noodles to vermicelli noodles. Slurp away! 

Bánh Mì

The Vietnamese version of a sandwich, the French influence on Vietnam is evident in this dish with the use of a fresh, crispy baguette. This is not your typical ham- and- cheese- on- white, however. With lots of layered meats in various forms, the bánh mì is literally a flavor and texture explosion! Layers typically include pork liver pate, crispy ham, sweetened barbecued pork, steamed pork, chilies or jalapenos, fresh cucumbor, pickled daikon and/ or carrots, and springy cilantro. Add one, or add them all. Either way, you won’t be dissapointed. 

Spring Rolls

Spring Rolls are like the best kind of snack or appetizer. Say goodbye to greasy appetizers, and sticky starters, spring rolls are literally spring fresh and leave you feeling satisfied. A thin rice paper wrap is rolled tightly around an assortment of crunchy lettuce, carrots, vermicelli noodles, and usually has some kind of protein– typically shrimp and pork, although there are many places that also offer tofu as a vegetarian alternative. Dip it in fish sauce or that delicious peanut sauce!

Cơm Tấm

A Vietnamese equivalent to the American grilled cheese sandwich, or the UK’s fish and chips, Cơm Tấm is considered to be “comfort food”. Translated as “broken rice”, this dish started off as what farmers would make using their broken rice grains left over after milling. Though in the past, the broken rice grains were considered “lower- grade” than the normal long grain rice, restaurants are now having to break their own rice grains in order to keep up with the demand. Served with a fried egg, steamed pork, and a sweet, crispy slice of pork, the dish gives you a full flavor profile of salty, sweet, and sour. Accompanied by pickled carrots and daikon, as well as a side of fish sauce, this dish is everythng you could ever want in one meal. 

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