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6 places you NEED to visit in Vietnam

Vietnam has long been a favoured haunt for backpackers – and it's little wonder. The fragrant food markets, leafy tea plantations and generous stretches of unspoilt coastline have no trouble winning over travellers.

Planning a trip? From the famous limestone stacks of Ha Long Bay to the chocolatey waterways of the Mekong Delta, here are six must-visit spots on your Southeast Asian adventure.

1. Mui Ne, Phan Thiet

6 places you NEED to visit in Vietnam
Photo by Huy Hoàng
You don’t need to travel all the way to northern Africa or the Middle East to set foot in a desert-like landscape. You can do that in Vietnam as well! The sand dunes of Mui Ne, a coastal resort town in the south of the country, are an unknown, yet amazing, destination in Vietnam. There are, in fact, two different areas of sand dunes in the area: the White Sand Dunes and the Red Sand Dunes. The White Sand Dunes resemble the hills of sand associated with places like the Sahara—it’s a great place to go off-road driving; while the Red Sand Dunes are set in a canyon-like landscape—a surprising sight in a place like this.

2. Halong Bay

6 places you NEED to visit in Vietnam 1
Photo by Suzanne Farrell
With its aqua-green water and cluster of limestone rocky outcrops rising from the water like sea dragons, Ha Long Bay resembles a scene from a fantasy story. Located about 130 km (80 miles) east of Hanoi in northern Vietnam, this otherworldly bay features more than 2,000 jungle-covered islands pitted with intriguing caves, grottoes, sinkholes and lakes. Many of the islands have been sculpted over the centuries by natural processes into fantastic formations.

3. Ho Chi Minh City

6 places you NEED to visit in Vietnam 2
Photo by Tokeisan
Lying along the Siagon River near the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City was formerly known as Saigon and served as the capital of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Today, Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city of the reunified country, offering plenty of reasons to visit, from its blend of historic and modern attractions to vibrant shopping, dining and nightlife.

4. Hanoi

6 places you NEED to visit in Vietnam 3
Photo by David Boyland
For the last century, Hanoi has the Indochina and Vietnam Wars to emerge as the booming capital city of a reunified Vietnam. At the heart of Hanoi is its Old Quarter, an open-air museum of historic Asian and French colonial architecture that has largely remained intact despite the bombings of the Vietnam War. Here among scenic tree-lined boulevards, tourists can browse busy markets, sip coffee at quaint cafes and visit prominent sites like the Grand Opera House, the Presidential Palace and Saint Joseph Cathedral.

5. Hoi An

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Photo by timobalk
Located off the coast of the South China Sea in South Central Vietnam, Hoi An is a beautiful, old city dating back 2,000 years to the Champa Kingdom. The city’s historic architecture, traditional culture and textiles make it a popular destination in Vietnam. At the heart of Hoi An is its atmospheric Old Town which is small enough to walk around easily. The narrow, winding lanes of the Old Town are lined with beautiful old architecture, traditional wooden houses and hundreds of tailor shops selling clothing, shoes, bags, souvenirs and custom-made services.

6. The Mekong Delta

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Photo by Quangpraha
Colorful floating markets, fruit orchards, rice paddies, sugar cane groves, bird sanctuaries and quaint villages are all what draw many to the Mekong Delta in southwestern Vietnam. Nicknamed “Vietnam’s Rice Basket,” the Mekong Delta is an agricultural region made fertile by the maze of canals and streams fed by the Mekong River. Stretching from the Gulf of Thailand to Ho Chi Minh City, the Mekong Delta feeds more than a third of the country from its rich plantations, orchards, rice paddies and fish farms.

What places would you add to this list? See  more attractions destinations at: http://www.viettravelmagazine.com/search/label/Destinations
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