It’s hard to not fall in love with Vietnam. From the amazing street foods and beautiful landscapes to the once in a lifetime opportunity to live in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam will always have a special place in our hearts.
Whenever we have a free weekend, we love exploring the various areas of Vietnam including the hidden gems and offbeat places. Since many of the smaller cities and islands don’t get as much recognition, we’re excited to share with you our favorite off the beaten track destinations in Vietnam.
While this list isn’t comprehensive, we’re continuing to visit as many places as possible. So far we’ve explored Central and South Vietnam locations and we’ll head back to Northern Vietnam soon! (We went to North Vietnam with on a family trip a few years ago but things do change.) We’ll continue to add to this list that are deemed worthy to visit.
Now, let’s check out these 7 underrated and off the beaten track in Vietnam.
If you have the time to explore Vietnam further, read our insider guide on how to spend 2 weeks in South Vietnam itinerary.
Map of the Offbeat Destinations in Vietnam
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1. Ly Son Island
Never heard of Ly Son Island (Đảo Lý Sơn in Vietnamese)? Neither did we until we did a weekend trip with friends after moving to Vietnam. Located off the South Central Coast, this remote island recently opened up to allow non-Vietnamese tourists to visit so it’s still quiet with visitors. It takes a while to get to Ly Son Island as you need to take a speedboat from Sa Ky Port, but it’s well worth the travel time to spend a few days here.
The island is famous for growing garlic and onions. Due to the rich soil from the volcanic rocks and white sand, the garlic and onions have a pleasant flavor compared to the conventionally grown versions. You’ll get a whiff of the garlic and onion smells when you pass the fields.
It’s recommended to rent a motorbike and explore the small island. It’ll take about 20 minutes to cross the island from the east to the west side.
The top things to do in Ly Son include eating the delicious seafood cooked with the island-grown garlic and onions, swim in the blue waters of the neighboring Be Island (a 15-minute boat ride from Ly Son), visit pagodas, and hike up the Gieng Tien Mountain.
Check out our Ly Son Island guide for more information about things to do in Ly Son, where to stay, where to eat, and how to get there.
2. Quy Nhon
Nestled between Hoi An and Nha Trang of central Vietnam is the coastal beach town, Quy Nhon (Quy Nhơn or Qui Nhơn.) Considering that Quy Nhon is the capital of the Binh Dinh Province, it’s an offbeat destination in Vietnam since we didn’t see too many tourists in the area. The city still maintains an easy-going ambiance with its local lifestyle and charm.
You’ll need to rent a motorbike to explore the various attractions of Quy Nhon and the neighboring areas. From the awesome beach and snorkeling opportunities at Ky Co Beach area to exploring the Cham Towers from the ethnic Cham people, you can easily spend a few days here. (You’ll recognize the architecture of the Cham Towers if you’ve been to My Son Sanctuary, a recognized UNESCO site in Vietnam). The afternoons are brutal with the humidity and heat so head to a couple of cafes to relax.
If you are a runner, there is an International Marathon and also has 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon available in July.
Read our travel guide on the things to do in Quy Nhon and other important information on how to get there, where to stay, and more.
3. Bao Loc
Most visitors bypass this hidden gem, Bao Loc (Bảo Lộc) when they’re heading or leaving Dalat. We understand since Dalat has awesome outdoor activities such as stunning waterfalls to incredible hiking adventures.
What Bao Loc has going for it is their stunning mountainside of coffee and tea plantations. The luscious greenery is gorgeous and a rare find in South Vietnam. Plus, you can buy the local coffee and tea as souvenirs.
While there isn’t a whole lot to do in Bao Loc, you can spend a day or two to explore the nearby Dambri Tourist Area to see Dambri and Dasara waterfalls, Linh Quy Phap An Pagoda, a beautiful Buddhist pagoda, and hang out in the main city area to try the local foods.
Check out our post on what to do in Bao Loc and other travel tips.
4. Cat Tien National Park
Ho Chi Minh City doesn’t have a lot of places to see nature, which is why we recommend a visit to Cat Tien National Park (Vườn Quốc Gia Cát Tiên). Located 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1, it’s one of the best places in Vietnam to visit to get your nature fix. Due to its offbeat location, you won’t see the large crowds in this National Park.
It’s well worth the time to walk through the forest to see the large Tung trees and explore the Botanic Gardens. You can also take tours organized through the National Park such as taking a night safari to see deer, wild pigs, and other animals or go trekking before sunrise to see the gibbons. If you prefer to meet with the locals, consider visiting the ethnic minority group of the Ma, Stieng, and Tay as a day trip.
To help with your planning, read our things to do in Cat Tien National Park post for more inspiration.
5. Mui Ne
Mui Ne (Mũi Né) is a small beach town of Phan Thiet in South Vietnam that is known for kitesurfing and their beautiful sand dunes. While some visitors prefer the attractions and nightlife in Nha Trang, Mui Ne is much quieter and has fewer visitors. Walking along the main road in the evenings seems like a ghost town with many restaurants open but not a lot of visitors.
A popular trip in Mui Ne is to take a Jeep tour either to see the sunrise or sunset and visit the red and white sand dunes, walk along the Fairy Stream, and see the fishing village. We prefer the sunrise tour as you see the morning catch in the fishing village. If you have extra time, take a class or two to learn how to kitesurf or feel free to hang out at the beaches.
If you’re a fan of eating seafood, Mui Ne’s seafood doesn’t disappoint. Check out Seafood Restaurant (Nhà Hàng Chợ Hải Sản) which has a huge variety of fresh seafood that can be cooked to your liking.
Read more about the top things to do in Mui Ne and helpful tips to get to Mui Ne.
6. Can Tho
Most people tend to go to Ben Tre to go to the Mekong Delta as it’s closer as a day trip from Ho Chi Minh City. Yet, we think of Can Tho as a hidden gem to visit in Vietnam even as the fourth largest city in Vietnam.
Many tourists visit the famous Cai Rang Floating Market in the morning which is an awesome thing to do in Can Tho. However, other eco-tourism spots are underrated and not as heavily visited, such as the Con Son Ecotourism Area and My Khanh Tourist Village. The Con Son Ecotourism Area is a new tourist area where you see a fish farm, learn how to make Vietnamese snacks, and wander through the island to see how the locals live. My Khanh Tourist Village is on the outskirts of Can Tho and is a mini theme park with a part zoo and activities.
If you’re interested in visiting Can Tho, read our Can Tho guide on what to expect when visiting this place.
7. Con Dao Islands
Located in southern Vietnam, Con Dao Islands is one of those must see places that you have to visit ASAP. Con Dao Islands is an archipelago of 16 islands with Con Son Island as the only habitable island.
It’s currently underdeveloped with pristine beaches (Nhat Beach is highly recommended), super clean ocean water with corals that are still alive, and no traffic on the roads! You’ll have no problem riding a motorbike or a bicycle here as you’ll encounter very few tourists on the island. It doesn’t feel like you’re in Vietnam. We foresee that this small island will increase with tourism very soon due to the improving transportation options of a one hour flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Con Dao and a 4-hour speedboat ride from Vung Tau.
The best part about Con Dao is to relax whether you go to the beaches or stay at your resort. You can also hike through the forest of the Con Dao National Park. For the history buffs, it’s recommended to visit the various prisons on the island to learn about its dark past as a former prison for 113 years.
Read our guide on the top things to do in Con Dao and other helpful travel tips on how to get to Con Dao.
Which of these hidden gems do you want to visit in Vietnam? Let us know in the comments.
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Featured photo and pin top photo credit: thuhuyen via Depositphotos.com
Can Tho photo credit: filmlandscape via Depositphotos.com