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10 Offbeat Places to Visit in Vietnam to Get a Taste of Local Culture

by Melanie Peterson
Vietnam has been one of the most buzzing tourist destinations in the recent past. Because of its diversity, it attracts colossal crowds from all over the world.  You will find all kinds of travelers around because honestly, anybody can find their niche here. If you want to witness mountains, beaches, temples, cathedrals, hidden islands, national parks, jails, tunnels and watch a train run through the streets, Vietnam unapologetically offers it all to you and the best part is that it’s not expensive.

With Vietnam growing as a tourist destination, many cities have slowly evolved into major tourist hot-spots. If you think that’s not your scene and you just want to escape from reality for a while, say no more! What you can find below is a list of carefully curated places that will keep you away from the crowds but also ensure you’re not missing out on the authentic Vietnamese experience that you’re going for.

1. Phu Yen 

These are a group of 8 districts spread across 200 km on the south-central coast of Vietnam. You don’t have to make any tough choices here because it has almost everything you need to call it a perfect getaway by ensuring you don’t compromise on anything crucial.

Take some time out to explore the wonderful beaches that Phu Yen is most famous for or take a boat-trip from Vung Ro Bay to one of the offshore islands. You could also head out to Long Thuay beach to swim in clear blue waters to catch a break. While you’re here, don’t forget to visit Tu Quang’s white stoned pagoda’s whose distinct architectural elements will take you back to the 2nd century.

2. Nam Dinh

This might be one of the most populous places in Vietnam with over 2 million people residing here but it somehow hasn’t found itself in most itineraries. It’s a part of the Red River Delta and this is a well-planned town with a very rich cultural heritage. You might just find yourself getting famous for, well being a foreigner. You wouldn’t mind being featured in selfies, would you?

There’s a cultural feast waiting to be explored here. With it’s Brown Pagoda, Cathedrals, museums, many historical buildings, clean beaches and exquisite local markets, you can sink into the true Vietnamese culture.

3. Cat Ba

This is the largest of the 367 islands in Halong bay and is surprisingly untouched by most tourists. It is wild and rugged as you would expect. You can immerse yourself here for a perfect natural retreat. Most of the land is covered by lush green forests along the coast and the views from its mountains are a real treat to the eye.

You would want to spend a couple of days truly enjoying the place and everything it has to offer. This island has a variety of activities to choose from. You could go on a hike on one of its many mountains or follow the trails that lead to the best sunset spots. Scuba diving and snorkeling are the current favorite among travelers. The Cat Ba National park is also well known for its rock climbing so if you’re a little adventurous, you’re going to enjoy every minute you spend here.

4. Pu Luong Nature Reserve

This enchanting valley is full of surprises. You can find yourself chatting with the friendliest locals while strolling through lush green rice fields. All the bars on your phone might not follow you here so be prepared to just unwind and relax.

The best thing to do while you’re here would be to hike your way down to the dreamy Thac Hieu Waterfall. It beautifully cascades down the hill allowing you to take a refreshing dip. Visiting Mt. Luong is also something you wouldn’t want to miss. You could choose a multi-day trek or go for a short hike with a local guide. Apart from this, you should try out village-hopping where you get to meet different Thai communities and learn about their culture and enjoy the local food for an authentic farm to plate experience.

5. Y Ty

Ever dreamt of chasing clouds? Well, pack your bags (preferably with warm clothes) and head to Y Ty to make your dream come true. This mysterious commune is located 2000m above sea level and has sparsely dispersed mushroom-shaped houses topped with straw. You will be greeted by a flurry of clouds as you get here making you feel like you’re living in the skies.

Getting here from Den Trang via Sapa is the safest and easiest way. The roads are very narrow and dangerous as they cut through jungles and cardamom forests so you would be better off hiring a car with a driver. You may not be able to find a lot of hotels or hostels so you could consider booking a homestay instead.

As you go around Y Ty you will come across astonishing landscapes and apart from the magical cloud chase, Y Ty is also well known for its Saturday markets where you can find native young girls dance their hearts out. You can also pick up a few souvenirs to bring these memories back home.

6. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

Head out to Phong Nha for a wonderfully wild experience. Millions of years of flooding have led to the formation of the world’s largest caves and you can enjoy the beauty of these natural wonders during your stay here. It’s almost like chilling in the wilderness.

Find yourself walking inside Son Doong, the world’s largest cave for an unforgettable experience. It would take you about 4 days to explore the cave fully and this expedition involves camping. These tour tickets usually get sold out almost 6 months in advance so make sure you book this well ahead. If you’re looking at a simpler cave visit, head out to Tu lan, where you can swim in the underground rivers inside the cave. It’s truly magical out there.

7. Ly Son 

Having evolved from one of the 8 calderas of a volcano, this place is rightfully called the Jeju island of Vietnam. It has powerful and enticing topological features which makes it stand out. This island has a cool backstory about its evolution, is famous for different types of garlic and you will find shades of blue waters you have never seen before. This strikes out points in your bucket list that you never even put down.

Speed boats are operating every day from Sa Ky port that takes you to Ly Son. You can also take a cargo ship that carries passengers in case you miss the speed boats.

You can take a 2-hour hike on Mt. Thoi lake and discover the beautiful lake on top of the mountain or you could visit the Cau Cave which is surrounded by garlic fields which is truly as majestic as it sounds or if you’re looking to spice up your Instagram, head out to To Vo gate during dawn or dusk. You’re welcome.

8. Bao Loc

This charming and quiet city is known as the sister city of Dalat. Here you can find majestic waterfalls and coffee and tea plantations. The overall vibe of this place whispers tranquility.

Visit the mesmerizing Dambri waterfall while you’re here to witness the intentensely cascading water that makes this waterfall so popular. You would also not want to visit the picturesque Linh Quy Phap An Pagoda. Bao Loc is also well known for its local cuisine.

9. Con Dao 

These are an archipelago of 16 mostly uninhabited islands in the southern coast. This place could be the best way to escape city life. It has a thriving marine life and you can also find yourself getting lost in its greenery now and then. Apart from being blessed with these beautiful natural elements, it’s home to a couple of prison cells and tiger cages.

The Vietnamese airline VASCO offers regular flights from Ho Chi Minh city and this is the easiest way to get to Con Son, the mainland. Treat yourself with a luxe stay while you’re here. The resorts here have interesting philosophies and it’s always nice to treat yourself with a good spa in these luxurious escape pods.

Island hopping is the best-known activity here. You could also choose to stay by the unspoiled beaches and soak yourself in the sun while enjoying fresh seafood. The prisons and tiger cages have a great historical significance so don’t forget to check them out as well.

10. Tuyen Quang 

Being linked very closely with Vietnam’s struggle for independence, Tuyen Quang is all about the glorious traditions of this revolutionary homeland. This place is home to many ethnic groups and it’s filled with many mountains.

With poetic waterfalls gushing down majestic mountains, Tuyen Quang never fails to surprise you. You could also visit the mac citadel and Relic of Tan Trao to awaken the history buff in you.
Also, there’s a backstory to everything when you’re in Tuyen Quang so don’t hesitate to speak to the locals if you’re in for a folklore treat.

The most complicated part of planning an offbeat itinerary is figuring out the logistics so if you’re worried about not being able to book the right things, reach out to companies like Pickyourtrail that have experienced destination experts who can curate your personalized itinerary and take care of your bookings and visa. You could also choose from a variety of Vietnam packages available on their website.

You’re evidently very invested in making this trip happen if you’ve read this far into this article. I hope this was useful. Have an amazing time chasing clouds and singing in caves. Vietnam is waiting for you. 

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