Go diving with rainbows of fish, climb above lush jungles, sleep on floating junkets or just cuddle a water buffalo – whatever you feel like doing, Vietnam is the perfect destination for adventure lovers. Here’s my list of all the gorgeous things I plan to see and do in ‘Nam this summer.
1. Scubadiving in Nha Trang
The beach capital of Vietnam, Nha Trang is a vibrant town with a buzzing nightlife that spills out onto the sand into the early hours. If you can tear yourself away from the sunny beach bars, however, the crystal-clear waters are the best in the country for snorkelling and scuba diving. Go with Lonely Planet favourites Dive Vietnam, who’ll cruise out with you by boat to the Island of Hon Mun, an unspoilt beauty spot in the Marine Park. Here you can dive amongst delicate flitting fish and beautiful coral (and slightly less beautiful sea cucumbers). They also offer PADI courses if you’re keen to go pro.
2. Climbing on Cat Ba Island
Pack your chalk bag and your climbing shoes and hit up the brilliant Asia Outdoors, purveyors of all things adrenaline-spiked on Cat Ba Island. They offer the perfect mini adventure in Butterfly Valley – trek along the coast of the island into the lush green hills of Kien Minh Village, nestled in a valley surrounded by the jungle, and stop to cuddle some water buffalo, before tackling routes on the nearby limestone cliffs. The climbs are beginner-friendly, and there’s little more spectacular than the dizzying views over Cat Ba National Park from the top.
3. Floating on a junket on Ha Long Bay.
If you’re going to splash out on one experience in Vietnam, make it a stay on the Halong Violet junket in Ha Long Bay. This opulent yet intimate floating hotel, finished in traditional 1930s Indochinese style, is a work of art in its own right, and waking up in one of its six beautiful suites and looking out at the verdant islands and deep caves that dot the bay is a surreal experience. Book a room through luxury travel provider Exsus.
4. Mountain Biking from Hanoi to Ho Chi Min City
Go all ‘I’m a traveller, not a tourist, man’ and take the road less travelling through ‘Nam by biking the length of the country. Fantastic for bragging rights, it’s also a beautiful journey through an ever-changing scenery of rice paddies, viridian jungles and white beaches. Cycling 10-75 miles a day through backroads will let you reach Saigon in a few weeks, and you’ll see a glimpse of rural life that most tourists miss out on.
5. Trekking in Sa Pa
From Hanoi, head north to cooler climbs in the old hill station of Sa Pa. A bustling little town that attracts Vietnamese from all over the area due to its vibrant market, it’s also the perfect base for a trek through some of Vietnam’s most beautiful countryside. Go walking through lush valleys, rice fields and bamboo forests with one of the charming guides from Sa Pa Sisters – this gaggle of friendly Hmong girls specialise in customizable treks to suit different abilities, although the standard is 12-15km a day. On longer walks they also organise homestays in simple but comfortable Giay homes in the valleys.