Hanoi – a colourful city marked by a clash of sights, sounds and tastes. There is never a dull day when you can slurp up delicious pho or egg coffee while watching the busy world go by.
However, there is more to Northern Vietnam than just Hanoi. Away from the crowd and traffic symphony of the city, there are many breathtaking natural gems out there that seem eager to take hold of your heart. Here are 5 places that should be on your list if you want a day or weekend getaway outside Hanoi.
1. Halong Bay
It is no wonder Halong Bay is listed by UNESCO as a World Natural Heritage Site – this seascape in the Gulf of Tonkin is absolutely beautiful. Legend has it that Halong Bay was created by a great dragon from the mountains, whose tail formed the valleys and its 2,000 islands and limestone islets. Most people come to this natural wonder to stay on a cruise, bask in the sceneries, go kayaking and explore some of its caves.
2. Ninh Binh
For a glimpse of rural Vietnam, head to Ninh Binh. Known as the “Inland Halong Bay”, its captivating limestone cliffs stretch along the rice fields. It is home to Tam Coc, which is part of the wonderful Trang An Landscape Complex, as well as the old capital of Vietnam, Hoa Lu. Some of the best ways to see Ninh Bing is to cycle or ride a boat.
Book a tour to Sapa
Filled with mountains, ethnic villages and spectacular terraces, Sapa is a picturesque spot in the Lao Cai Province. Located 350km away from Hanoi, travellers who want to get off the beaten track in Vietnam come here for hiking excursions and to visit the local ethnic minorities like the Hmong, Yao, Tay, Zay and Xa Pho.
4. Duong Lam Ancient Village
Duong Lam Ancient Village is the first ancient village in Vietnam. Tucked in Son Tay Town, Hanoi, you can take a step back in time amidst the beautifully-preserved buildings and restored relics like the Mia Pagoda, Phung Hung Temple, Ngo Quten Temple and Mong Phu communal house.
5. The Perfume Pagoda
Located 60km from Hanoi, The Perfume Pagoda is one of northern Vietnam’s famous pilgrimage sites. Surrounded by lush greenery and streams, it consists of Buddhist temples and shrines upon the hills. The stalactites and stalagmites is said to bring good luck, which attracts pilgrims and travelers into the pagoda.