Forget the crowds of Halong Bay, the queues to enter the Cu Chi Tunnels and the battle of clothing vendors in Hoi An. We share with you those lesser known, lesser visited sites in Vietnam that you probably didn’t know existed. Add these to your next trip wish list!
1. Bach Ma National Park
A former French Hill station which stretched over 40,000 hectares of untouched nature and home to some of the most spectacular hiking trails, waterfalls and an abundance of wildlife. Love a good jungle walk? This is your place to explore on foot. Need to cool off? Why not take a dip at Five Lakes, where you can bathe in the cool waters.
2. Dine with Monks
When in Hue, enjoy a traditional vegetarian style meal in a local pagoda, where you will have a chance to chat with monks and learn about Buddhism, gaining an insight into their daily lives.
3. Vinh Moc Tunnels
Forget the crowded Cu Chi Tunnels, and venture to the Vinh Moc Tunnels. Previously used during the Vietnam War to escape the bombings, local villagers lived underground in this labyrinth of tunnels which spread over three levels. These tunnels are still accessible and are still in their original form. You will find far fewer tourists here than the crowded Cu Chi Tunnels.
4. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
Never heard of it? Great! This is why we love it. Secret underground rivers, karst mountains, tangles of lush untouched jungle and an elaborate network of caves. Did we mention it is also a UNESCO World Heritage site? Home to the oldest karst mountains in Asia, the Thien Cave and Phong Nha Cave are two places well worth exploring here.
5. Camp in Hang En Cave
Venture into the wild jungle and trek through river streams and through lush valleys until this impressive cave emerges on the horizon. Can you think of a more incredible place to camp? Spend your afternoon swimming in the turquoise waters before enjoying a BBQ served with local rice wine as swiftlets flap overhead.
6. Wilds of Lai Chau and Moc Chau
Tea plantations in Vietnam? That’s right. Moc Chau in northern Vietnam is famed for its tea. The area between Moc Chau and Lai Chau is the perfect place to discover hidden backroads and experience the ‘real’ Vietnam. You will encounter very few travellers in this region making it all the more special and here the rural dwellers will find you just as fascinating as you find them.
7. Ban Pho Village
Here in Ban Pho, life is simple. The villagers are known for their generosity, kindness and warm hearts. A Flower Hmong village clinging to a mountain cliff-side, and home to around 500 thatched homes. This secret of the Sapa highlands is one of the most spectacular – rich in culture and tradition coupled with a tranquil village backdrop.
Looking for more unique experiences in Vietnam? Check out range of small group tours.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.