Spectacular traditional dress and a lively atmosphere make the ethnic minority markets a must – especially those in Bac Ha and Can Cau.
Vietnamese temples and pagodas reflect the country’s diverse range of religions: Long Son Pagoda in Nha Trang is a good example.
The most important festival in the Vietnamese calendar, Tet sees the New Year ushered in with colourful flower markets, spectacular fireworks and exuberant dragon dances.
Look out for the spiked booby traps that Vietnamese guides reveal for visitors to the Cu Chi tunnels.
Bia hoi bars are fun, friendly, cheap and a great way to mingle with the locals. Order a bia hoi (lager-like draught) in any of the back lanes in the Old Quarter of Hanoi.
The former capital’s historic citadel, mausoleums and gardens are idiosyncratic enough to impress even the most jaded traveller.
Enjoy a performance of mua roi nuoc, an art form developed in the Red River Delta around Hanoi.
Visit one of the many Hoi An tailors who can rustle up a made-to-measure silk dress or suit in just a few hours.
Trek in the northern mountains around Sa Pa – a small market town perched on a plateau facing Fan Si Pan, Vietnam’s highest peak.
Paddle the serene waters of Lak Lake in a dug-out canoe or take a guided trek into the surrounding forests before a sunset feast overlooking the water.
With its rich cultural heritage, beautifully preserved merchants’ houses and slow pace of life, Hoi An is a captivating place to spend a few days.
Slow the pace down with a trip to the countryside and experience a lifestyle little changed in centuries. For more information, see the section on Far North.
Putter through this fertile farming region, surrounded by classic Vietnamese scenery.
The quintessential Vietnamese mode of transport gives you an up-close view of street life. For more information, see the section on local transport.
The thousands of limestone islands jutting out of these silent waters have been dubbed the eighth natural wonder of the world.
Unspoilt beaches lined with coconut trees circle the island. You can also sail south to the unspoilt An Thoi islands for fine snorkelling.
The legacy of French rule can be found in the impressive examples of colonial architecture, such as Hanoi’s Opera House.
Music is the most important of all Vietnam’s performing arts and a traditional performance should feature on every itinerary. For more information, see the section on music and theatre.
Markets such as Binh Tay are good grazing grounds for snacks. Have a soup, spring roll, sticky rice cake – or even a baguette filled with pâte–to keep you going while you shop.
Rock-climbing, kitesurfing, kayaking and mountain biking are just a few of the heart-pumping activities awaiting thrill-seekers.
Vietnam’s most charismatic indigenous religion goes in for exuberant architecture and ceremonies.
Spend the night in a communal house (rong) where timeless ceremonies are performed and village decisions made.
Soak up the atmosphere at a street kitchen and have your plate piled high with a selection of fresh food for next to nothing. For more information, see the section on street food.
Take a snorkelling trip in the emerald waters of the outlying islands around Nha Trang, or simply chill out on the beach.