Photo Credit: Nathan O'Nions

The mountains in the north are a popular destination in Vietnam, with trekking the preferred way to take in all the wonderful surroundings and visit the indigenous villages. Ha Long Bay is often explored by overnight cruise, which can include kayaking through the caves. Those wishing to get up close and personal with the limestone karsts can go rock climbing. The coast offers an abundant amount of things to do such as scuba diving, snorkeling or sunbathing on the beautiful shores.

Those that prefer land activities can explore the Dalat area by elephant, while the more adventurous can hop on a motorcycle tour. Cooking classes are a fantastic way to learn the art of Vietnamese cuisine, while a bicycle trip through the countryside allows you to burn off the calories. No trip to Vietnam is complete without a boat cruise down the Mekong and a shopping adventure in Ho Chi Min City.

Sapa Sisters Trekking Adventures specializes in hiking in the Sapa Valley. The company is run by local Hmong women and visitors can choose treks lasting from one to three days complete with a home stay. Tours can also be arranged in the Central Highlands through Dalat Tour, which takes travelers to see waterfalls, the jungle or to the peak of Langbiang Mountain.

Visitors who prefer to explore Vietnam on two wheels can arrange guided motorcycle tours through Dalat Easy Rider or My Tiger Tour Motorbike Tours, both family-run businesses. They take visitors off-the-beaten-path in Southern Vietnam and around the Central Highlands. Experienced riders can drive themselves or first-timers can enjoy whizzing around on the back of a chauffeured motorbike.

Ha Long Bay is best navigated by river cruise through Ha Long Junks, which offers both one-day and overnight sails in comfortable, mid-range ships. For a more luxurious experience, it doesn’t get much better than Indochina Sails.

The Mekong Delta is one of Vietnam’s most popular destinations and the best way to experience this region is by boating along the famous river. Bao Duyen Tourist is an eco-friendly company that specializes in day trips that stop at small islands to watch the locals make crafts and to taste delicious coconut candy. Mekong Eyes offers similar tours but on larger, more comfortable vessels.

Hanoi’s Thang Long Water Puppet Theater offers visitors the chance to watch a traditional water puppet show. The wooden puppets dance and sing folk tales. Performances are in Vietnamese, but the visual far outweighs the narration.

Scuba enthusiasts will find it easy to get their fix while in Vietnam thanks to its many beautiful stretches of shoreline. Jeremy Stein’s Rainbow Divers offers diving from both Nha Trang and Con Dao Island, while Octopus Diving goes off the coast of Nha Trang. Both of these operators offer fun dives, discovery dives and certification. It is also possible to explore the waters of Hoi An with Cham Island Diving.

Numerous places throughout Vietnam offer cooking classes where visitors can learn the art of preparing delicious cuisine. Many of these lessons include a trip to the market, which is an experience all in itself. In Hanoi, try Hidden Hanoi, while in Hoi An opt for Gioan Riverside Restaurant Cooking Lessons. The best part is getting to taste your creations afterward.

Vietnam is famous for its shopping, which one can do at nearly every turn. One of the best places is in Ho Chi Minh City at Chợ Bến Thành (Ben Thanh Market), Saigon Square and Chợ Bình Tây, which sells predominantly wholesale goods. The northern hill tribe villages in the Sapa Valley also have some unique souvenirs, while the floating markets in the Mekong Delta are more for novelty than actual purchases. Mystic Sampans offers tours of the floating markets.

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