Thanks to its beaches, historic sites, mountain hikes and irresistible food, Vietnam draws travelers from all over the world.
Yet as you navigate the hordes at the most popular destinations in this stalwart of Southeast Asia, you’ll realize the secret is out. Which is why you might appreciate recommendations from three plugged-in, Vietnam based travel writers for experiencing country’s wonders – without the crowds.
Just promise us you won’t share these picks too widely.
Christine Van is a seasoned magazine lifestyle editor and Viet-Kieu American who, for the past two decades, has made Vietnam her home.
If you love coffee, this is your paradise. Buon Ma Thuot, tucked away in the highlands of Central Vietnam, is famous for its coffee culture. Here, you can enjoy guided tours of lush coffee plantations, taking in the aroma of freshly roasted beans. You can even learn how to make your own cup of joe in the Vietnamese style. As the largest coffee-producing region in the country, Buon Ma Thuot is fiercely proud of its primary export and even hosts an annual coffee festival in mid-March.
Yet the wonders of Buon Ma Thuot extend far beyond its coffee culture. Mystical waterfalls like Dray Nur and Dray Sap evoke fairy tales. While swimming isn’t allowed, the lush greenery and the sound of cascading water create a scenery that’s breathtaking to experience from land.
After visiting the waterfalls I usually head back to my uncle’s home nearby. Those without local family could do worse than the Dakruco Hotel, which has comfortable rooms plus an outdoor pool and spa where you can relax after a day of exploring.
To truly immerse yourself in the local culture, a visit to Lak Lake is a must. This serene oasis is surrounded by charming villages and inhabited by the welcoming M’Nong ethnic group, who reside in vibrant settlements of rattan and wooden stilt houses by the water’s edge. Many companies offer canoe tours of the lake, allowing you to interact with the M’Nong people and partake in their cultural traditions, including folk songs and drumming.
End your day with a fabulous meal at Quan Nem Nuong Thanh Loan, where you can enjoy nem nuong dak lak, one of Buon Ma Thuot’s signature foods. This dish features seasoned ground pork mixed with a medley of herbs and spices, all wrapped in fresh rice paper. The rolls are then grilled over hot coals, resulting in a flavorful and slightly smoky taste.
Phan Cac Truc grew up in Vietnam and now dedicates her time to the visual arts, writing and storytelling.
Close to the Cambodian border, Chau Doc is a city in the Mekong Delta that’s home to Chinese, Cham and Khmer communities; the diversity of its residents is apparent across its architecture and cuisine. In addition to Mekong Delta
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The Mount Hood stratovolcano, around two hour’s drive east of Portland, Oregon, is the most transfixing ski destination you’re ever likely to lay eyes on. It’s a perfect snow-topped pyramid, pushing high through the clouds, with a belt of fir trees and pistes that crisscross the forest like strands of a spider’s web. Get closer and you’ll see the pattern is the result of several exciting ski areas: Timberline, Mount Hood Skibowl, Mount Hood Meadows, Summit Ski Area and Cooper Spur. For those who love winter sports, this region always offers another reason to stay longer.
In August 1944, the coastal Breton city of Saint-Malo was nearly wiped off the map. The opening scene of the Netflix limited series All the Light We Cannot See conjures the ferocity of the battle: an American squadron traverses the English Channel in darkness, dodges anti-aircraft fire, then releases its bombs on the Nazi-occupied French port.
“Let it Glow” at Discovery Park of America is a seasonal exhibition that illuminates the park with a vibrant and enchanting display of lights and installations. The park transforms into a magical wonderland, where intricate light arrangements and dazzling spectacles captivate visitors.
After Sri Lanka and Thailand, Vietnam is likely to be the next destination to offer visa-free entry to Indians. According to local media, Vietnam Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism Nguyen Van Hung suggested it allow Indians and Chinese to visit without a visa for a short period. As of now, only nationals of Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland can enter Vietnam without a visa.
Tours and activities operators in Asia expect at least another 6 to 12 months of pent-up travel demand. However, maximizing this opportunity depends on addressing capacity bottlenecks, especially in markets like Japan.
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