For those looking to add a little adventure and exploration to their next trip, then venturing beyond the well-known cities and heading to the North of Vietnam could be one of the more rewarding ways to do it. Striking landscapes, rich cultural diversity and world-class cuisine – all add to what gives this part of the country its distinct and enviable character. Escape from the chaos and humidity associated with Vietnam’s cities and head off the beaten track in a country that will not fail to impress with some of the very best unexplored and rewarding spots in the region.
The Northern regions of Vietnam are best reached from Hanoi’s International Airport, which is easily connected from Ho Chi Minh City via Vietjet. Vietjet currently operate 20 daily flights to Hanoi from Ho Chi Minh City from 5.55am through to 9.55pm (local time). From Singapore, Vietjet operate daily return flights to Ho Chi Minh City at 1.00pm (local time), with plans to add a second daily flight from Singapore in May.
With its surprising quaint small town charm, Hanoi is a gateway to some of Vietnam’s most iconic and stunning scenery. Offering cooler temperatures, be sure to explore the quirky backstreets of the city’s old quarter, known for its eclectic blend of French and Vietnamese architecture. Coffee culture is taking off here with a wonderful array of boutique coffee shops opening up around the central Hoan Kiem Lake. The city is steeped in history too, echoes of a turbulent past. Visitors can become immersed in the depth of culture that resonates throughout this humble, busy city.
From Hanoi, if fun and action is your calling, take an overnight train from the city’s central railway station and escape to Sapa, in the North West mountain region of Vietnam. With its cascading rice terraces and misty peaks, this area is a sight of extraordinary beauty. Originally a hill station settled by Vietnam’s French colonists, Sapa now serves as a trailhead for hikers seeking the beauty and thrills of the mountains. Views from the town are often shrouded by thick rolling fog across the peaks; however the region is known to see all four seasons in just one day, so the chance of blue skies can’t be discounted. Sapa is home to a wealth of culture and diversity which lends itself to a vibrant and bustling market each Saturday. Here the town comes to life with colourful goods and delicious produce on offer. The best time to visit is between August and December, when there is more guarantee of clearer skies.
For something a little more relaxing, head out of Hanoi to the east and find yourself amongst more than 2,000 mystical karst islets rising up from the Gulf of Tolkin to form the famous Halong Bay, arguably one of the most staggering coastal scenes in Southeast Asia. A trip to Halong Bay offers a magical addition for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. Check into your very own suite, aboard one of the many iconic junks and set sail on an awe-inspiring journey into the heart of the bay. From here, wake up to breath-taking views of the mysterious islands, which are collectively known as the Bay of Descending Dragons. As your boat sails around the area, you can enjoy many other activities such as kayaking, caving and a visit to some of the local floating markets, or simply relax on deck. With some formations dating back more than 250 million years, Ha Long Bay has been voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and certainly makes for a once in a lifetime experience.