Vietnam adventure holidays

Vietnam adventure holidays

Vietnam has so much to offer its visitors, from tours of its beautiful landscapes, to full-on adventure experiences for the more intrepid individuals. Where the latter are concerned, here is a run-down of some of the more popular Vietnamese adventure activities.


Whether you are a hardened canoeist, or just someone who fancies dabbling around shores in a kayak, you are spoilt for choice in this beautiful countryside. There are some wonderful bays, marshes and rivers in Vietnam. These offer amazing water visibility, as well as an abundance of marine wildlife to be uncovered. To the north east of Vietnam lies Ha Long Bay, a long stretch of coastline that is world-renowned for its limestone cliffs and islands. This area is a magnet for kayakers, who enjoy the combination of tranquil waters, and the inlets and caves that can be most readily explored by boat. The one not of caution is that some of the natural geology of this area lends itself to unpredictable passages – so travelling with a guide to some of the more obscure islands or cliffs is the recommended option.

Horse riding

Traveling across the countryside on horseback is a very popular pastime in Vietnam. The Vietnamese Hmong is a ubiquitous animal beloved of native riders, and is popular with trekkers of all nationalities. Whether you are wishing to undertake a gentle tour of the interior, or a more vigorous canter along Vietnam's long beaches, horses are ideal. Riding rates are usually charged by the hour, although if you are planning to embark on a full day's sightseeing with your trusty steed, then you can rent accordingly.

Hiking and trekking

The famous Ho Chi Minh trail is a popular visitor draw. This comprises an intricate series of paths, trails, and even tunnels that were used by Vietcong fighters during the long war of resistance against America and their southern government allies in the 1960s and 70s. This trail runs from the north of the country to the south, bypassing the Truong Son mountain range, and concluding in neighbouring western Laos. Nearby Ho Chi Minh you'll come across the extensive Cu Chi underground system, and there are also Vinh Moc tunnels. While the portion of the trail that runs above sea level will take you over some of Vietnam's most breathtaking landscapes, the locations below the ground, while certainly worth a visit for interested parties, can be a problem for claustrophobic visitors.

Water sports

Boasts over 1,800 miles of coastline. This equates to a vast area of beaches with scope for water sports. Near the Mekong Delta to the south of Vietnam, you'll come across Vung Tau and Nha Trang. These resorts have been well geared towards visitors, and contain some of the country's most popular and extensive beaches. Whether you wish to dive beneath the seas, or simply explore the turquoise waters with a snorkel, you can hire equipment from any number of outlets.

Phan Thiet in central Vietnam is another magnet for water sport enthusiasts, while Mui Ne is renowned for its sand dunes. Many visitors gravitate to Ha Long Bay in the north, for its veritable maze of islands and inlets to be explored.

Vietnam experiences – the Mekong Delta

Vietnam experiences – the Mekong Delta

Mekong, to the south of Vietnam, is a lush coastal area known for its large rice fields, and, of course, the diverse wildlife of its delta. It is an extremely fertile area, and as such of vital importance to the Vietnamese economy in that 50% of its overall agricultural output derives from here. In fact, the Mekong Delta produces more rice than Japan and Korea combined.

The Mekong River itself rises in Cambodia, where it splits into two rivers – the Bassac and the First River. By the time it arrives in Vietnam it has meandered into a far more complex system of rivers and tributaries, creating a veritable maze of small canals and rivulets, interspersed with small fishing villages, rice farming communities and floating markets. As much of the surrounding landscape is completely waterlogged, the villages in the Mekong Delta are very often far more readily accessible by river.

For visitors, the best time of year to be visiting the Mekong Delta is during the lunar New Year (known locally as Tet), or during the mid-Autumn festival. During this time, Vietnamese children will release a galaxy of floating candles into the river, on tiny skiffs.

Particularly unusual location in this part of the world is Phu Quoc Island, lying 15 kilometres off the Cambodian coast, in the Gulf of Thailand. This is becoming increasingly popular with Vietnamese visitors, as well as tourists from various parts of the Far East, and beyond. The actual shape of the island is very unusual. It seems to rise from its slender southern tip, almost like a genie being released after countless centuries trapped inside a bottle. As recently as a decade ago Phu Quoc was virtually unknown to outsiders. However, even the best-kept secrets have a habit of becoming public knowledge. Know the island welcomes large numbers of visitors, drawn to its soft white sands, swaying palm trees and mild waters. In fact, Phu Quoc is rapidly becoming one of Vietnam's top beach destinations, rivaling Nha Trang.

It isn't a tiny tropical paradise either, running almost 46 kilometres from north to south. With a land mass of 593 square kilometres, it is Vietnam's largest island – although Cambodia also claims ownership, under the title Ko Tral.

Phu Quoc's natural landscape consists of topography and vegetation that are unique amongst the rest of the delta. The combination of verdant plant life and isolation meant that has been a hiding place for some of Vietnam's most famous historical fugitives. In the late 1700s Nguyen Anh took refuge here while on the run from the Tay Son brothers. In the 1860s Nguyen Trung Truc, the fisherman turned militia leader, holed up here during his guerilla campaign against the French colonists in the Mekong Delta.

For all its turbulent past, the island today is home to some 80,000 charming residents. There is also a sizeable population of indigenous canines – recognizable by the hair running along their spines rather than down! The island is now famous for its natural produce – principally fish sauce (nuoc mam, which is graded like olive oil) and black pepper.

Vietnam vacations – Mekong Delta Cruises

Vietnam vacations – Mekong Delta Cruises

One of the most popular excursions in Vietnam is to embark on a cruise along the Mekong River delta. Forget any preconceptions you might have of huddling together in a rickety old boat – although some visitors may well wish to experience river trips as they've been traditionally undertaken for centuries! Today's Vietnam travel experience offers nothing but luxury as you go on your Mekong River odyssey.

The cruise ships currently plying their trade along this stretch of Vietnam's beautiful countryside are more like floating hotels. A typical example of this would be the riverboat La Marguerite. As well as offering a superb vantage point for the journey, its facilities include a panoramic lounge, a library, a restaurant specializing in local and European delicacies, and the fully appointed Saigon Lounge.

The Mekong Restaurant gives tourists the perfect taste of Vietnamese luxury. The tables are well laid-out, giving visitors the option of dining within the privacy of their own company, or enjoying communal conversations. The team of professional chefs will provide a range of sumptuous dishes from France, Cambodia or, of course, Vietnam. As well as offering a mouthwatering menu of international fare, these chefs also like to specialize in traditional food from the delta itself. This allows tourists to get to taste of the landscape in which they are immersed. While much of the fresh food ending up in Vietnamese kitchens will already be familiar to travellers, some of the local Mekong delicacies will be far less so. Lavish buffets are available on request that can be served withn the restaurant itself; or for more occasions, brought to private tables.

The boat's upper deck posts the ‘Saigon and Panoramic Lounge'. This is where tourists can enjoy the ambience and find a comfortable position to relax on board the vessel. It's a backdrop of soothing music, you can choose from the extensive wine list. The panoramic views of the Mekong River are unparalleled. There is simply no feeling in the world like sipping from you drink while enjoying the fantastic background setting of the sun dappling on the delta waters.

This cruise offers many other facilities. You might be surprised to discover that on board this river-going boat there is a fully-equipped spa treatment centre. This is the perfect venue for relaxing for some serious pampering. And few spa clinics offer the additional luxury of the bed gently rocking to and fro with river currents. Within the room's genteel atmosphere you'll find a range of treatments available, which will help soothe your body, banishing stress.

Another thing the Mekong Delta is renowned for are the floating markets. This is where the locals pile their little crafts with all manner of interesting crafts, as well as exotic fruits and vegetables. After your relatively sedate river extremes, it makes a fantastic contrast to experience these bustling markets, chatting with these river merchants - and having a lot of fun haggling with them over items. You are sure to pick up a variety of exciting gifts and souvenirs that are unique to this part of Vietnam. These trinkets would make for a pefect memento of your holiday, as well as offering a pleasant reminder of your river cruise.

Vietnamese resorts – Nha Trang

Vietnamese resorts – Nha Trang

As far as memorable holidays in Vietnam are concerned, experiences don't come more diverse than visiting the seashore around Nha Trang.

One of the country's best-known diving destinations, Nha Trang is a coastal province roughly right in the middle of Vietnam's eastern coastline. Although this area has been popular with more affluent tourists for some time, increasing numbers of visitors from a diverse range of backgrounds are touching down here. Nha Trang Bay, considered one of the world's most beautiful, has definitely become one of the key stopping-off spots on the South East Asia circuit, attracting considerable numbers of backpackers, too.

The region popular with scuba divers is protected by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The beaches are renowned for their fine, white sand, while the clear seas benefit from all-year round mild temperatures. Bamboo Island (Hon Tre) lies off the shore of Nha Trang. Thia island is an important five-star resort, currently operated by the Vinpearl Group. A cable car system, comprising a gondola lift system, shuttles tourists between the mainland and Bamboo Island.

Annual yachting races start in Hong Kong, stopping over at Nha Trang. In addition, the city also plays host to five-star sea cruises. Amongst the many activities that are open to visitors are island hopping, watersports, various boating activities, and scuba-diving.

One pastime that is a particular hit amongst visitors is sampling the local cuisine. Cooking in this region is famous for its fresh seafood, and mouthwatering barbecued pork, rolled in rice paper. The bird's nest soup on offer in Nha Trang is widely considered to be amongst the best you'll be served anywhere in the country. A longstanding Far Eastern delicacy, these soups have been a staple of oriental cooking for some four centuries. The actual nests themselves are gathered in the wild, as well as being produced in bird farms in the various islands off the coast of Nha Trang.

Kite boarding and scuba diving are amongst the recreational mainstays of the region. If you are looking for adventures to fill your leisure time long after the sun has set over the mainland, there is limited nightlife. However, because Nha Trang has been developed as a tourist hub for a while, the local facilities are amongst the best in this particular stretch of the Vietnamese coast. Towns such as Da Nang, Vung Tau and Mui Ne are all vibrant centres, which are usually busy around the time of the Vietnamese New Year.

The attractions are split between natural draws, such as Monkey Island or Hon Ba Mountain, and interesting organized activities, such as the magical Mystery Tour, or the Palace of Emperor Bao Dai (the final emperor of Vietnam's Nguyen Dynasty, who passed away in 1997). If you would rather keep up to date during your leisure time, then look no further than the renowned Nha Trang Booze Cruise – subtitled the ‘all you can drink party boar'. If you do find yourself overindulging on the fantastic array of tasty cocktails, you can rest assured that the following day it will be easy enough to find somewhere to chill out. There are plenty stretches of golden sand, with seating conveniently arranged by parasols.