My thoughts on the 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites I visited in Vietnam

I visited Vietnam last year for one month and I had the wonderful opportunity to visit three out of eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Vietnam. All three sites were incredible and unique. This is just one of many reasons why I loved traveling around in Vietnam – it is so diverse and there is always something to explore! Before I started traveling, I applied for an E-Visa. Since I am a Swedish citizen, I am eligible for one. There are two other options though – applying for a Vietnam visa on arrival or go to the Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate.

Although I recommend seeing all three of these sites, if you only have a limited amount of time, it can be a bit difficult to cover all of them. These are my impressions from the three sites.

1. Halong Bay

Tourist junks in amazing Ha Long bay on a sunny day
tourist junks in amazing Ha Long bay on a sunny day, UNESCO world heritage sight, Vietnam

When I decided to travel to Halong Bay, I didn’t really know what to expect. Yes, I had heard that there were many limestone formations and that it was very popular to go on an overnight cruise, but it didn’t really excite me a lot. I even thought of skipping it! But a fellow backpacker convinced me to go and I am so happy she did. This turned out to be one of the highlights of my trip. Not only is the scenery gorgeous, but the overnight cruise itself was so much fun because you got to meet other travelers and you got to see so much of the area. The history of the place is fascinating too. Combine everything together and you get a trip that you will never forget. We got to swim, eat good food, get to know new people and enjoy some of Vietnam’s natural wonders.

2. Hoi An Ancient Town

Peaceful Hoi An ancient town from high view
Peaceful Hoi An ancient town from high view

Hoi An is difficult to describe. It’s a place you just have to see for yourself in order to really appreciate it. You can say it is a sleepy, quiet and small town, but that doesn’t do it justice. The atmosphere is very cozy and special, the food is amazing, there are so many souvenirs you’ll want to buy that you will consider checking in an extra bag on your way home and if you want to see hundreds and hundreds of lanterns at night lighting up while you are eating… then you will love this city. This is my favorite amongst the UNESCO World Heritage Sites I visited in Vietnam. Even if the town is small, there is so much to do. I even extended my trip for 2 extra days because I loved it so much. The ancient town is a must when you go to Hoi An – and don’t forget to try the famous Banh Mi!

3. My Son Sanctuary

My Son - Ancient Hindu temples of Cham culture in Vietnam near the cities of Hoi An and Da Nang.
My Son – Ancient Hindu temples of Cham culture in Vietnam near the cities of Hoi An and Da Nang.

Going to My Son was not in my plans nor did I think it would be in my travel itinerary. I arrived to Hoi An and saw a little note in my hostel saying “Trips to My Son”. This of course peaked my interest and next thing I know, I booked a trip from Hoi An to visit the My Son Sanctuary.

It was developed from the 4th – 14th century and before the war destroyed most of it, there were many beautiful temples there. It used to be the religious and political capital of the Champa Kingdom, which traces back its cultural heritage from Indian Hinduism. During the war, most of it got destroyed, but you can still see the remains of it and it is still a worthwhile trip to see this important piece of history.

All in all, I really enjoyed seeing all three sites, but if I would not have a lot of time, I would skip My Son and only go to Halong Bay and Hoi An. But if you do have time, go see all of it. There is so much incredible history, landscape and culture behind it, so make yourself a favor and go see it for yourself. You will thank me for it later.

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