Vietnam is one of the most diverse countries in Asia. Here you will find impressive mountains, waterfalls, long stretches of sandy beaches, bustling cities and a unique culture. Go south and you will find Vietnam’s biggest city “Ho Chi Minh City”, formerly known as Saigon. There is also the paradise island “Phu Quoc” which has charmed many internationals and Vietnamese alike. But although I do advise people to go explore the south of Vietnam, there are many reasons why you should visit the northern parts:
1. Ha Giang (and Sapa)
Does smoky mountains, big rice fields and magnificent landscape impress you? Then you should definitely visit the province Ha Giang and afterwards go to Sapa. Ha Giang borders to China, and is one of the most beautiful places in Vietnam and is still relatively untouched by mass tourism. Although foreigners are starting to find their way to this northern gem, it is still less frequented by tourists. Almost 90% of the population belong to an ethnic minority, which leaves me to reason number two.
2. Meet the ethnic minorities
If you want a unique and valuable experience while traveling in Vietnam go up north to meet the ethnic minorities in the country. Ha Giang is a great place to meet them, since almost 90% of the population belongs to an ethnic minority, and has their own cultures and lifestyle. Learn more about their traditional practices and habits while being blown away by the nature up north. In Sapa you can meet the Hmong, which are one of the largest ethnic minorities in the country. This is a once in a lifetime experience and will surely leave you impressed.
3. Halong Bay
A trip to Vietnam should always involve Halong Bay. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is not difficult to see why it has been classified as it. The bay is dotted with 1,600 limestone caves. There is an abundance of tour operators who will more than gladly welcome you in one of their boats – be selective! Even if it will cost you a bit more, you want to get the best experience while cruising around Halong Bay. I met many people who were disappointed just because they were cramped inside a small boat with too many people in it. Halong Bay is an incredible natural wonder and should be enjoyed in the right way.
4. The Food
The food is another very good reason to visit the northern parts of Vietnam. Although the food is great in the whole country, there are some specialties up north that should not be missed. The famous “pho”, noodle soup, originates from the north and there is a debate on where you can find the best pho – north or south? I guess it’s up to your taste buds. But you should not miss out on trying pho from the north.
5. Hanoi – the capital city of Vietnam
End your northern trip with a visit to the intriguing capital city of Vietnam. Hanoi is a bustling city, full of movement and life, where you will always find something to do. The city never sleeps and it is here where you will see all the famous motorbikes on the streets. Try to cross the streets without feeling your heartbeat pumping faster. If you like cities, then you will surely like Hanoi. It is very difficult to not be charmed.
Although I do recommend traveling throughout the country, I think the north has so much to offer that it would be a waste to not spend at least a few days in this part of the country. Many people rent motorbikes in Vietnam and travel across the north since transportation can get a bit tricky as further north you get. However, it is doable with public transportation as well.
Did we inspire you to travel to the northern parts? We hope so! Before you come, make sure to apply for an E-Visa or Visa on Arrival if you wish to stay in the country for longer than 15 days. This however, the e-visa applies to around 46 countries throughout the world, so if you are not sure whether or not you can apply, contact your embassy.