North Vietnam travel guide 

Northern Vietnam is packed with amazing places to visit! For your first trip, you’ll have plenty to keep you busy for days between the bustling capital, terraced rice fields, and of course, the famous Halong Bay. Let me give you a quick rundown of the must-sees:

Weather in North Vietnam

North Vietnam has a subtropical climate with four distinct seasons. It’s generally much cooler than the south, especially in the mountainous areas. Here’s a quick breakdown:

Spring (February to April):

  • Mild temperatures
  • Occasional light rain
  • Can be quite humid

Summer (May to August):

  • Hot and humid
  • Frequent rain showers
  • Occasional typhoons

Fall (September to November):

  • Cooler temperatures
  • Less rainfall
  • Generally considered the most pleasant season

Winter (December to January):

  • Cool to cold, especially in the mountains
  • Dry
  • Can be quite chilly in Hanoi and even see frost or snow in places like Sapa

A few key points to remember:

  1. The weather can vary significantly between coastal areas, Hanoi, and the mountains.
  2. Halong Bay is best visited in the spring or fall to avoid summer storms and winter chills.
  3. If you’re heading to the mountains (like Sapa), be prepared for much cooler temperatures year-round.
  4. The rainy season typically runs from May to October, with July and August being the wettest months.
  5. Despite the rain, summer can be a great time to visit for lush green rice terraces.

Remember, weather can be unpredictable, so it’s always a good idea to check current conditions before your trip. Pack layers, especially if you’re visiting different regions!

Highlights of Northern Vietnam:


It is like an urban jungle! It’s this wild mix of tradition and modernity that blows every traveler’s mind. You’ll be spoiled for choice with all the museums, pagodas, temples, and colorful markets. Trust me, you won’t get bored!

About an hour and 15 minutes from Hanoi, Duong Lam village is worth a visit for its centuries-old houses. It’s perfect for a day trip to discover a truly unique place.

Halong Bay:

Vietnam’s superstar attraction, is a real spectacle with its thousands of limestone islands and islets. To avoid the crowds, try Bai Tu Long or Lan Ha Bay instead. The best way to experience it? A 2 or 3-day cruise to really soak in this natural paradise.

Ninh Binh:

A landlocked Halong Bay. With rice fields scattered among karst peaks, you’ll feel like you’re traveling back in time. The boat ride is a must, but there’s so much more to see: Bai Dinh Temple, the breathtaking view from Mua Peak, and don’t forget a bike ride through the villages to get a taste of local life.


 It immediately comes to mind, when you think of terraced rice fields in Northern Vietnam,  immediately comes to mind. Even if the town has lost some of its charm, the surroundings are still gorgeous. The treks are amazing, and the views are jaw-dropping.

Ha Giang:

For the more adventurous, it  is becoming increasingly popular. It’s probably where you’ll find the most impressive landscapes in Vietnam. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to meet ethnic minorities and discover colorful local markets.

Mu Cang Chai:

This is a photographer’s paradise, especially in September-October when the golden rice fields are ready for harvest. Don’t miss the famous “Photographers’ Road” and Khau Pha Pass!

Mai Chau Valley:

Incredibly charming with its surrounding mountains. Despite tourism development, you can still find quiet spots. A bike ride or a hike in the valley is perfect for observing local life.

Ban Gioc Waterfall:

Incredible sight! It’s the largest waterfall in Vietnam. You can even get close on a raft, but no crossing – on the other side, it’s China!

Ba Be Lake:

Vietnam’s largest natural lake, is surrounded by limestone peaks and primary forests. A boat ride to Puong Cave or a jungle trek is the perfect mix of relaxation and adventure.

Dien Bien Phu:

Thisis a must-visit for the history lover. It’s like stepping back in time to the heart of the war with the French. As a bonus, the region is home to many ethnic minorities.

There you have it – plenty of ideas to plan an amazing trip to Northern Vietnam!


You know how mass tourism can sometimes make it hard to tell the difference between a tourist trap and real local life? Well, if you’re looking to really dive into the heart of Vietnam, I’ve got some spots for you that’ll give you a proper taste of the country’s folklore, local traditions, and minority communities living life at their own pace.

These places I’m about to list? They’re the real deal. We’re talking about experiencing Vietnam away from the usual tourist crowds. You’ll get to see a side of the country that’s steeped in tradition and authenticity. It’s perfect if you want to immerse yourself in the local culture and get a glimpse of how Vietnam’s diverse ethnic minorities live their day-to-day lives.

So, if you’re up for an adventure that goes beyond the typical tourist attractions, stick around. I’m about to share some hidden gems that’ll give you a much more genuine Vietnamese experience. Trust me, these places will show you a Vietnam that’s rich in culture, full of fascinating traditions, and home to communities that still keep their age-old ways alive.

Ready to go off the beaten track and discover the real Vietnam? Let’s dive in the North Vietnam travel guide to find hidden gem!

Off-the-beaten-path destinations 

Hey, want to discover some hidden gems in Northern Vietnam? Let me tell you about some amazing spots that most tourists miss out on:

Thac Ba Lake:

Picture this – about 160km north of Hanoi, there’s this unique lake with tiny forested islands that look like giant mushrooms. It’s super peaceful. You can take a boat ride, watch local fishermen at work, enjoy a stunning sunset, and even take a dip in the crystal-clear water. The Dao people living around the lake are incredibly friendly and love sharing their traditions with visitors.

Pu Luong Nature Reserve:

This place is starting to catch on, and for good reason! They call it “Little Sapa,” and it’s got everything you could want. The best part? There are two rice harvests a year, so the terraces look gorgeous almost year-round. You can trek up Mount Pu Luong, camp out, and catch an amazing sunrise. If you’re feeling adventurous, try bamboo rafting or mountain biking. Don’t miss the hidden village of Kho Muong with its awesome bat cave!

Ta Xua:

This spot is super popular with Vietnamese folks but still pretty undiscovered by international tourists. The climb to the mountain top is breathtaking, with this dense, moss-covered jungle that looks straight out of a fairy tale. If you’re lucky, you might catch the “sea of clouds” at dawn. Oh, and on your way back, you can soak in the Tram Tau hot springs – perfect after a long trek!

Hoang Su Phi:

If you’re into rice terraces, this place will blow your mind. It’s in Ha Giang province, and the village of Ban Luoc has terraces that stretch for 1500 meters of elevation! The cool thing is, the hamlets are right next to the rice fields, so you can really soak in the local culture while enjoying the view.

Tam Duong:

This district in Lai Chau province is home to 14 different ethnic minorities. It’s got a bit of everything – mountains, waterfalls, rice fields. For the hardcore trekkers, you can climb Pu Ta Leng, Vietnam’s second-highest peak. Don’t miss the beautiful Tac Tinh waterfall – it’s perfect for a picnic and a swim.

Tu Le:

Just an hour from Mu Cang Chai, this charming village is surrounded by mountains and rice fields. It’s super chill and you won’t see many tourists. You can bike around to other villages and local markets, or hike up the mountains for some killer views. It’s a great place to stay with a local family for a night.

La Pan Tan:

This place is developing quickly because of its amazing location near Mu Cang Chai. The rice terraces here are stunning. You can camp under the stars or stay in comfy bungalows. It’s a great alternative to the more touristy Mu Cang Chai.

Da Bac:

This village in Hoa Binh province offers incredible views of the Black River surrounded by lush mountains. The Dao people here are super welcoming, and hardly any tourists come here, so the culture is really authentic.

Binh Lieu:

During the golden rice season, the landscapes here are just breathtaking. It’s known as the “golden carpet.” You’ll see lots of different ethnic groups, and the hikes are fantastic. It’s a great stop before or after a Halong Bay cruise.

Cao Bang:

Everyone knows about Ban Gioc waterfall, but there’s so much more to see in Cao Bang province. The rice fields between karst peaks and black rocks are stunning. Don’t miss visiting a Nung minority village – they’re known for their amazing needlework and knife-making. Oh, and try the Cao Bang sausages (Lap son) – they’re famous in Northern Vietnam!

There are a few more spots I could tell you about, like Lang Son with its huge market, Tay Phuong village with its ancient houses and pagodas, Nam Dinh province with its French influence and craft villages, the bustling coastal city of Hai Phong, and Co To island for some beach time in the north.

These places will give you a real taste of Vietnam away from the tourist crowds. Ready for an adventure?


Let me tell you, Vietnam is a food lover’s paradise! The cuisine here is absolutely mouthwatering and incredibly diverse. But here’s the thing – there’s a big difference between what you’ll find at street food stalls and what you’d eat in a Vietnamese home.

When it comes to street food, you’re in for a treat. It’s quick, it’s cheap, and it’s bursting with flavor. You’ll find all sorts of delicious snacks and meals that you can eat on the go.

But if you’re lucky enough to experience a traditional family meal, that’s a whole different ballgame. These meals are usually a bit more elaborate and follow a specific structure. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Rice is the star of the show – it’s the foundation of most meals.
  • You’ll have a variety of vegetables – Vietnamese cuisine is big on fresh, crisp veggies.
  • There’s almost always a soup or broth – it’s like a warm hug for your stomach.
  • You’ll get some meat and/or fish dishes – these are often the highlight of the meal.

And for dessert? It’s usually pretty simple but refreshing. You’ll likely be served a plate of fresh, juicy fruits. Trust me, after a flavorful meal, there’s nothing better than biting into a ripe mango or a slice of dragon fruit.

Oh, and don’t forget about the tea! It’s common to sip on some fragrant tea with your fruit dessert. It’s the perfect way to end a meal and aid digestion.

So whether you’re grabbing a quick bánh mì from a street vendor or sitting down to a family-style feast, you’re in for a real culinary adventure in Vietnam. Just come hungry and with an open mind – your taste buds will thank you!

Main dishes:

Ready for the main event? Here are some must-try dishes:

  1. Pho Bo: The classic! It’s a soup with white noodles, herbs, and sliced beef. You can also find Pho Ga (chicken) and Pho ngan (swan).
  2. Bun Cha: You get a broth with pork meatballs, sliced papaya, and carrots. It comes with a separate bowl of noodles and a mix of herbs. So tasty!
  3. Cha Ca: They fry delicious fish pieces right in front of you. It’s served with fresh noodles, peanuts, herbs, and fish sauce (nuoc mam).
  4. Bun Rieu: A soup with tomatoes, tofu, and fresh noodles.
  5. Pho Cuon: These are fresh noodle rolls filled with salad, herbs, and beef. You dip them in sauce – yum!
  6. Banh Cuon: Steam-cooked crepes topped with fried onions and served with broth. They can be plain or filled with mushrooms, eggs, or beef.
  7. Lau (hotpot): Vietnamese fondue! It’s a super fragrant broth (lots of types to choose from) with meat or seafood. You can get Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, or Thai style.
  8. Bun Dau: Originally a vegetarian dish with just tofu, fresh noodles, and herbs. Now it often comes with meat and spring rolls too. It’s traditionally served with Mam tom sauce (fermented shrimp sauce – it’s an acquired taste!).

There you have it! A crash course in Vietnamese cuisine. Don’t be afraid to try new things – that’s half the fun of eating your way through Vietnam!

What to See and Do?

a) Activities:

Let me tell you, Northern Vietnam is packed with amazing things to do! You’ll never get bored here.

Must-try activities

  • How about a 2 or 3-day cruise in Halong Bay? Pro tip: try Bai Tu Long or Lan Ha Bay for a less crowded experience. Trust me, waking up to that misty, otherworldly landscape is something you’ll never forget!
  • Fancy a bit of local flavor? Take a traditional sampan boat ride through the Tam Coc or Trang An nature parks. It’s like gliding through a painting!
  • When in Hanoi, you’ve got to stroll through the Old Quarter. Get lost in the maze of the 36 streets, each traditionally dedicated to a specific trade. It’s shopping heaven, but watch out – your wallet might get a bit lighter!
  • If you’re up for some adventure, go trekking in the northern mountains. The terraced rice fields in places like Mu Cang Chai, Sapa, Hoang Su Phi, or Pu Luong will blow your mind. Seriously, the views are Instagram gold!
  • Want to channel your inner Bear Grylls? Try a jungle trek where you’ll learn about local plants and their health benefits. Who knows, you might discover the next superfood!
  • For a cultural deep-dive, spend some time with the local ethnic minorities. Their traditions and way of life are fascinating.
  • Get hands-on with local crafts. You could try your hand at sewing, rice planting and harvesting, making lanterns or those iconic conical hats, or even traditional fishing. It’s a great way to appreciate the skill behind these age-old crafts.
  • For the ultimate local experience, spend a night in a homestay. Nothing beats sharing a meal with a Vietnamese family!
  • Need some zen? Soak up the spiritual vibes in a pagoda or temple. It’s a great way to slow down and reflect.


Adrenaline junkies:

I’ve got you covered too! You could try tandem paragliding, rock climbing, rafting, or even spend a night camping under the stars in the jungle.

There’s something for everyone here, whether you’re after relaxation, adventure, culture, or a bit of everything. The hardest part will be fitting it all in! Much more activities depending on your taste, North Vietnam is a fantastic playground

b) UNESCO Sites:

Hey, did you know Northern Vietnam is home to some seriously impressive UNESCO World Heritage Sites? Let me give you the lowdown:

First up, we’ve got four sites that made it onto the World Heritage list, plus one that’s been named a Global Geopark.

Of course, everyone’s heard of Halong Bay. It’s the poster child for Vietnam’s natural beauty, and trust me, those limestone karsts rising out of emerald waters are even more spectacular in person.

Then there’s the Trang An Landscape Complex in Ninh Binh province. Picture this: a maze of waterways winding through towering limestone cliffs, peppered with ancient temples and caves. It’s like stepping into a mystical Chinese painting!

Now, for some hidden gems. The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long in Hanoi doesn’t get as much attention, but it’s a fascinating peek into Vietnam’s royal past. Same goes for the Ho Dynasty Citadel in Thanh Hoa. If you’re a history buff, these places will make you feel like you’ve time-traveled.

Last but definitely not least, there’s the Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark in Ha Giang province. This place is mind-blowing! It’s Vietnam’s first recognized geopark, and when you see the otherworldly landscapes, you’ll understand why.

So, to recap, here are the UNESCO sites you should add to your Northern Vietnam bucket list:

  1. Halong Bay
  2. Trang An Landscape Complex
  3. Imperial Citadel of Thang Long in Hanoi
  4. Ho Dynasty Citadel in Thanh Hoa
  5. Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark in Ha Giang

Each of these places tells a unique story about Vietnam’s natural wonders and rich history. Whether you’re into breathtaking landscapes or ancient cultures, these UNESCO sites have got you covered. Just don’t forget your camera – you’re going to want to remember these views!

Related Posts

Whatsapp chatMessengerHotlineEmail