We were lucky enough to visit Vietnam for 2 days when we went on a South East Asia Cruise a few years ago and were completely taken aback by the spectacular beauty, culture and friendliness of the locals.
It really was an unforgettable trip and we have always vowed to go back to this beautiful country. We were docked just outside Ho Chi Minh City and decided to go on a day excursion to the city taking in many of the tourist attractions and cultural sights.
Visiting Vietnams Architecture
Our first stop was Ho Chi Minh City Hall, a stately old French colonial building built in the 20th century.
It is a prominent landmark in the city, the largest and most populated in Vietnam (which was formally known as Saigon).
Just around the corner is the Independence Palace, which is definitely worth a visit. The grounds are extensive and inside you will find antique furniture, secret rooms and a command bunker.
It is like the building is frozen in time, back to when the North Vietnamese Army crashed through the gate.
Pagodas and Temples
Ho Chi Minh City has plenty of magnificent Buddhist temples that you can visit, some dating back centuries. We were taken to visit the Jade Emperor Pagoda which is dedicated to the Taoist god known as the King of Heaven.
The walls are lined with woodcarvings and each room was filled with large coils of smoking incense.
After a bowl of Pho for lunch, we visited the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon which was established by French colonists and has two towers which soar to 40 metres.
Our final stop was just around the corner at the History Museum of Ho Chi Minh City and probably my favourite visit.
The museum itself is located in a beautiful botanical garden and I spent just as much time outside exploring as I did inside looking at the many artefacts and pieces, some of which date back nearly 4,000 years.
We only managed to spend 24 hours in Vietnam and I would love to go back one day.
One of the trips I would love to do is to go on a trekking route in the surrounding countryside and I have done a little research into this.
Trekking in Vietnam
In recent years, trekking in Vietnam has become increasingly popular among adventure travellers. Thanks to its long history and varied geography, Vietnam offers many beautiful trekking routes with different levels of difficulty.
Those who prefer a comfortable walk can take a route through one of Vietnam’s cities, as we did. This way you can experience the charm of the exotic Vietnamese culture and the daily local life.
You can discover the historical architecture, visit the landmarks and monuments of the main cities and take a break in one of the many parks.
For adventurers looking for a more challenging hike, the trails through the countryside are more suitable. Here, you can admire the beautiful landscapes with views over towering mountains, the highland valleys, the pristine coastline and beautiful rice fields as you hike.
Vietnam has something for everyone, regardless of your experience or physical condition with some of the best routes detailed below.
I also found out about the importance of applying for your Vietnam visa before departure.
The mountainous area of North Vietnam offers the most spectacular trekking tours, starting your trekking adventure in Hanoi. Mount Fansipan (Phan Xi Păng) is the highest peak in Vietnam at 3,143 metres and is one of the toughest hikes in Vietnam.
The trail requires climbing over large rocks and stairs, so you need to be in good shape. This hike takes at least 6-12 hours, but you can also do it in 2 days or take the cable car down on the way back.
Fansipan is known as the “Roof of Indochina” because it is the highest peak in Indochina (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia). To reach this peak, most hikers take the Tram Tom route, through a beautiful area with trees, flowing streams and unusual flowers.
Once you reach the top, you can explore the new Sun World’s Fansipan Legend. There are temples, Buddha statues and other great sights to visit.
Muong Hoa Valley – Lao Chai and Ta Van Valley
Sapa, located in the Lao Cai province, features many beautiful hiking trails. A lot of hikers travel to this area to see the rice fields and experience the life of the local people (the Hmong, Dao, Xa Pho, Tay and Day).
There are many trekking routes in Sapa, but the Lao Chai and Ta Van valley in Muong Hoa is ideal for beginners. The route, on a paved path, is mostly flat with slopes and mud trails through the rice fields.
Depending on how much time you are going to stay in Sapa, you can visit Lao Chai and Ta Van from Sapa on a day trip or in 2 days. If you go for 2 days, you can spend the night and have dinner with a local family at a homestay.
Hang Én Cave
Most travellers visit Central Vietnam to relax on one of its stunning beaches, but the region also offers a number of incredible hiking trails. Phong Nha is known for its hundreds of limestone caves.
Pay a visit to the Hang Én cave, located in Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park and the third-largest cave in the world. Son Doong, just 2 kilometres from Hang Én, is the largest.
It is perfect for beginners, as you can take as much time as you like for the hike. The fact that you sleep in the cave at night makes it a unique experience.
Cat Tien National Park
Cat Tien National Park is a perfect place to take a walk through nature from Ho Chi Minh City or Dalat. It is a peaceful national park surrounded by wildlife and trees.
There are two hiking trails that are worthwhile. Hike through the forest area to see the giant Tung Trees and Uncle Dong Redwood tree. The trail is flat and not difficult.
The second trail leads to Crocodile Lake (28 km). If you don’t want to do the whole route in one day, you can stay overnight at a Ranger’s Station.
Prepare and apply for your Vietnam visa
If you want to discover any of these beautiful hiking trails in Vietnam, you will need a visa. You can now apply for a Vietnam e-visa online.
That way, you save the $25 to $50 you normally have to pay for the stamping fee in the case of a visa on arrival. Moreover, you will avoid the long queues on arrival at the airport in Vietnam.
The Vietnamese Embassy actually advises against getting a Vietnam visa on arrival. When planning your hiking route, keep in mind that you are not allowed to arrive at all airports in Vietnam with your visa.
You can find out in advance which locations are allowed to travel in and out of the country and whether you meet the other conditions of the Vietnam visa here.
I didn’t know this when we went on our initial cruise, but thankfully the Cruise company sorted out our visa for us. I know that next time we decide to visit Vietnam, we will make sure we sort out our visas before leaving the UK.
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