Vietnam is a fascinating country. This narrow strip of land in Southeast Asia is home to some 90 million people and it boasts mountains, dense forests, tropical beaches and bustling metropolises. It’s no wonder then that the nation is such a popular holiday destination.
The mainland undoubtedly has lots to offer. However, if you want to see a different side to Vietnam, you can step off the more traditional tourist trail and venture to the country’s islands instead. Here is a brief guide to some of the very best.
If you’re seeking a relaxing holiday in Vietnam, it’s well worth checking out the Con Dao islands. Located just 155 miles from the chaotic and cluttered Ho Chi Minh City, this cluster of 16 small landmasses is wonderfully calm. Only the main island is inhabited, but you can visit the other islands too.
Con Dao also has a fascinating, if somewhat disturbing, history. It once housed thousands of prisoners and you can still visit the Phu Hai jail. Built in 1862, it contained 20,000 inmates at one point.
The Cham Islands are another superb spot. Positioned off the central coast of Vietnam, they make a great daytrip from Hoi An and boat trips are available between April and September. While there, you can go diving and visit the small Ong Ngu temple in Bai Lang. This unusual building is dedicated to the whale shark, which was considered an oceanic god by locals until a couple of generations ago.
Further south, you’ll find Phu Quoc. This island is rapidly growing in popularity and a new international airport opened there in 2012. However, it’s still possible to escape the crowds there. For example, Mango Bay boasts a laidback atmosphere. Also, if you can brave the powerful odours, you can visit the island’s fish sauce factory. This is located in the main town of Duong Dong.
Off the northern coast of the mainland, Cat Ba is another fantastic destination. This impressive, mountainous landmass contains a large national park complete with a host of trails. It is also home to the Cat Ba langur, which is one of the world’s rarest primates.
The dramatic landscape makes the perfect setting for a variety of sports too. For example, intrepid climbers can scale the precipitous limestone islets that fringe the islands. If you don’t have a head for heights, you can get stuck into sailing and kayaking instead. You can also visit the Hospital Cave, which was used as a shelter by the North Vietnamese military elite during the war with America.
To make the most of your trips to Vietnam, take full advantage of the travel guide resources available online.
As long as you plan your trips to this incredible country with care, you’ll be able to enjoy the holiday of a lifetime. Whether you decide to head to the islands or you’d prefer to stick to the mainland, you’ll get to see and experience a truly remarkable nation.