The southeast Asian travel route wouldn’t be complete without a visit to vibrant Vietnam. From exploring Ho Chi Minh City on the back of a Vespa to drifting through a maze of rivers and swamps along the Mekong Delta, there’s so much to do here. You’ll discover everything from rice paddies and floating markets to French colonial architecture and exhilarating urban culture filled with cool cafes, sizzling street food and fascinating history. There’s plenty of adventure to be had, both in the cities and in more remote areas on isolated beaches, among hill tribes and up in the mountains. You can do all this without emptying your bank account, too – Vietnam is a famously affordable destination. Here are some of the best activities to do here for adventurous travellers.
1.) Phong Nha caves
Experience an epic adventure in the Phong Nha Caves (located in the UNESCO World Heritage Park, Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng). Home to mountains that are 400 million years old, discover a maze of some of the biggest caves in the world as you trek through tropical terrain – ending up in a breathtaking jungle landscape of epic proportions. Choose Son Doong Cave and you’ll be in awe of the natural beauty of the 30-metre tall rainforest and colossal sinkholes that have created openings into the outside world. Explore Hang Tien Cave and you’re privy to a spectacular natural swimming pool, extraordinary stalactites and hidden jungle scenery. These epic treks are made for the adventurous – it’s both challenging and breathtaking as you discover a mysterious and ancient limestone world.
2.) The Mekong Delta
For something a little more sedate but no less adventurous, cruise by traditional sampan boat over the incredible water world of the Mekong River Delta. A journey across this unique area opens your eyes to extraordinary communities of people you just won’t find anywhere else in the world. The Mekong Delta starts in the Himalayas, before winding itself through China and Thailand and moving on through Cambodia before reaching Vietnam. It’s here, on a river cruise, that you’ll find the legendary floating markets that the local economy thrives on. Travel by water through Mỹ Tho’s orchards and pagodas, and Cần Giờ Biosphere Reserve’s wetlands and mangrove forests, before hopping on motor carts to whizz through the jungle’s roads.
3.) Mui Ne sand dunes
It’s all sand between your toes as you prepare to take on the legendary red and white dunes of Mui Ne. Yes, Vietnam has a secret desert feel to it too. Located in a small fishing village on the south coast of the country, this is the place to come when you want an exhilarating adventure surrounded by endless sand. Travel by quad bike across the dunes before sledding down the sand on boards. Prepare to sled over and over again – it gets very addictive. Sunrise and late afternoon are the most beautiful times to come, as the light hits these spectacular geological formations for Instagram-worthy photos.
4.) Cycle through Sapa’s rice paddies
Both an enchanting and invigorating ride, cycling through the rice paddies of Sapa takes you on a challenging mountain bike experience of breathtaking views, undulating valleys and verdant terraced paddies. Starting at the foot of the mountains and reaching almost to the top of them, these impressive tiered fields are located in northwest Vietnam. Alongside cycling and trekking, you can also bed overnight in a homestay for a truly authentic Vietnamese experience.
5.) Venture to the Dong Van Karst Plateau Geo Park
Off the beaten track exploration in the Dong Van Plateau is an adventurer’s dream. Trek to the challenging summit of the Chieu Lau Thi Mountain, take a motorcycle ride through Ha Giang and discover the vibrant culture of the Hmong people. It’s one of the most breathtaking karst landscapes in Vietnam – a natural phenomenon of perpendicular cliffs and bottomless canyons. Expect hair bending turns, archaeological anomalies, outstanding trekking and revitalising freshwater swimming.