I tried googling “Vietnam off the beaten track” the other day and the top results really disappoint me. Places described as Vietnam off the beaten track in those articles are in fact full of tourists already (think Phu Quoc Island, Ninh Binh, Mekong Delta, etc.).
That’s why I’ve decided to put together these 6 REAL Vietnam off the beaten track destinations that are guaranteed to blow you away. These places are selected by me – a local – and a bunch of other locals who are passionate about showing the hidden beauty of Vietnam to the world. Let’s check them out!
1. Ha Giang
A 3-day Ha Giang trip from Hanoi will take you to one of the most gorgeous mountainous landscapes in North Vietnam. Ha Giang is the northernmost province of Vietnam, where different communities of ethnic minorities live and try to maintain their own cultures. Unlike Sapa, the ethnic minorities in Ha Giang have not been “commercialised” yet, which makes travelling to Ha Giang a much more authentic experience. Staying in a Ha Giang homestay will also allow you to explore the local culture and enjoy the mesmerising landscape this destination has to offer.
Here are some of the most beautiful sights in Ha Giang:
Tips for travelling to Ha Giang
- You need at least 3 days to experience Ha Giang. If you have less than 3 full days to spare, it’s more convenient to go to the touristy Sapa instead.
- Interested to know more? See 5 Best experiences of my own trips to Ha Giang here
- For more information about getting to Ha Giang from Hanoi, accommodation in Ha Giang and so on, check out this Complete Ha Giang Travel Guide here.
2. Mu Cang Chai
Mu Cang Chai is famous for its golden color of rice terraced fields in autumn. Located only 280 km from Hanoi, Mu Cang Chai will wow you with its picturesque landscape, unique H’mong culture and fascinating activities such as gliding competitions, traditional food festivals and musical performances from the local ethnic minorities.
Tips for travelling to Mu Cang Chai
- End of September to beginning of October is the best time to visit Mu Cang Chai. This is the harvest season in which all the terraced rice fields will turn golden. The annual Mu Cang Chai Festival also takes place during this time with activities ranging from gliding to playing traditional games.
- A 2 day Mu Cang Chai itinerary from Hanoi should be enough to enjoy all the sceneries and activities here.
- Interested in visiting Mu Cang Chai? Check out my trip to Mu Cang Chai here.
3. Ta Xua
If you visit Vietnam from December to March, cloud hunting in Ta Xua is an amazing experience that you should not miss. Ta Xua is a range of mountains in Son La Province (around 240 km from Hanoi). During winter time, you can behold mesmerising oceans of fluffy clouds from the tops of Ta Xua mountains. Trust me, this place is surreal! When I saw these breathtaking oceans of clouds for the first time, I thought I was in Heaven!
Tips for travelling to Ta Xua
- The best time for cloud hunting in Ta Xua is from December to March. There are some other weather conditions which can increase your chance of seeing clouds as well, such as high humidity but sunny weather, etc.
- To see more tips for hunting clouds in Ta Xua, plus other info about accommodation in Ta Xua, transportation to Ta Xua and so on, check out my detailed guide about visiting Ta Xua here.
4. Pu Luong
This place might be the most off the beaten track destination among all those that I mention in this blog. When I first visited Pu Luong last summer, I kept wondering to myself how such a beautiful place was still so fortunately unheard of among both Vietnamese and foreign travellers. I mean, look at this breathtaking landscape!
Pu Luong means “the highest mountain” in the local language. This whole area is actually a Nature Reserve with a great diversity of landscape, flora and fauna and ethnic cultures. Things to do in Pu Luong include trekking through the mountainous paths, attending traditional markets of the ethnic minorities, swimming in the various channels or just relaxing and meditating on one of the lower mountain tops. There are lots of things to see in Pu Luong as well, from vast terraced rice fields to huge water wheels by the rivers. During our trip, we stayed at Pu Luong resort, which is a small eco-resort with a swimming pool overlooking the picturesque landscape here.
In addition, the landscape on the way from Hanoi to Pu Luong is also absolutely gorgeous! We passed by lots of green rice paddy fields, dreamy rivers and mountainous scenery. We also bumped into local kids swimming boisterously in a channel under a beautiful bridge. The journey itself is quite rewarding 🙂
Tips for travelling to Pu Luong
- I’ve recently heard that Pu Luong Retreat is going to close down soon 🙁 The other option is to stay at local homestays in Kho Muong, Kit and Nua Villages for as little as 50,000 VND / night. Delicious home-cooked meals can also be provided by your hosts for under 100,000VND / person / meal. This is a great way to explore the local culture at the same time as well.
- Similar to Mu Cang Chai, the harvest season in Pu Luong is also around September – October. If you want to see golden terraced rice fields, come here during this period. However, visiting Pu Luong in the summer is also not a bad idea. Since the climate here is much cooler, going to Pu Luong is definitely a good way to escape the (terrible) summer heat of Hanoi.
- On the way to Pu Luong from Hanoi, you can also visit Mai Chau and Cuc Phuong National Park.
- For more info about travelling to Pu Luong from Hanoi, check out my article about Pu Luong here.
5. Quy Nhon
Quy Nhon has everything that an ideal holiday destination should have: pristine beaches on beautiful islands, breathtaking mountainous landscapes, peaceful fishing villages, fresh (and cheap) seafood, cultural landmarks, etc. And best of all, this coastal town in central Vietnam is totally non-touristy! I can’t believe such an amazing destination like Quy Nhon still remains unpopular among foreign tourists (but this, to some extent, is a good thing!). In fact, Quy Nhon is to me the most underrated destination in Vietnam.
Tips for travelling to Quy Nhon
- Quy Nhon is very accessible with daily flights from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, plus frequent busses and trains from nearby places such as Nha Trang, Da Nang, etc. Accommodations in Quy Nhon range from 5* hotels to local homestays with sea views.
- Seafood in Quy Nhon is to die for! They’re fresh. They’re cooked with delicious local recipes. And they’re priced at just half of what you will pay for in other popular tourist destinations like Mui Ne or Nha Trang!
- For a complete Quy Nhon travel guide with more info about getting to Quy Nhon, what to do and see in Quy Nhon, etc. check out my blog post about visiting Quy Nhon here.
6. Phu Yen
Lying not too far away from the popular Nha Trang, Phu Yen is a true hidden gem (I like to call it a sleeping beauty). Similar to Quy Nhon, Phu Yen also wows tourists with its spectacular coastal landscape and pristine beaches. Some of my most favorite things to do in Phu Yen include:
- Visiting Mui Dien Cape – the easternmost point of Vietnam’s territory
- Being the only tourist at the beautiful Bai Mon beach at 3pm
- Watching cattle grazing on Bai Xep
- Eating fresh seafood prepared by the locals on one of the colorful fishing boats
For those who want to experience somewhere similar to Nha Trang but much less crowded, Phu Yen is the place.
Tips for travelling to Phu Yen
- There are daily flights, trains and buses to Phu Yen from other big cities as well. Tuy Hoa, where most accommodations are located, is the capital city of Phu Yen. Once you’re here, try to EAT as much as you can! The local cuisines are excellent (not just the seafood) and super cheap compared to other big cities.
- Check out my 4 day itinerary in Phu Yen plus more tips about visiting Phu Yen here
Would you like to visit these Vietnam off the beaten track destinations? Or have you visited one of these? If so, I’d love to read about your experiences! Feel free to comment below! 🙂
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